Prophecy: A Ram, A Goat, And A Little Horn

Daniel 8 records a vision of Daniel.  This vision is said to have occurred in the third year of the reign of Belshazzar (Daniel 8:1).  Belshazzar was co-regent with his father Nabonidus (cf. Daniel 5:7, 29).  He was the last of Babylon’s rulers, before it fell to Persia [Babylon’s rulers between Assyrian rule and Persian rule: (1) Nabopolassar (626-605 B.C.)  (2) Nebuchadnezzar II (606-562 B.C.) (3) Evil – Merodach (562-560 B.C.) (4) Neriglissar (560-556 B.C.)  (5) Labashi-Marduk (556 B.C.)  (6) Nabonidus (556-539 B.C.) \  Belshazzar (c. 550-539 B.C.)].  The third year of his reign would be c. 548/547 B.C..  The vision foretells of coming kingdoms, and difficult times to come in Israel’s future.  The intent, no doubt, is to build the faith of future generations.

A Ram 

“Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and there, standing beside the river, was a ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last” (Daniel 8:3).

The ram with two horns is Medo-Persia (Daniel 8:20).  Media was more ancient.  Persia was more powerful.  The two would be united under Cyrus the Great.  Cyrus was the son of Cambyses, King of Persia; he was the grandson of Astyage, King of Media, through his mother.

I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him; nor was there any that could deliver from his hand, but he did according to his will and became great” (Daniel 8:4).

Don Simpson comments, “The three directions mentioned directs our attention to Persia’s greatest conquests: 1.  Babylon, Syria, and Asia Minor to the west; 2. the regions around the Caspian Sea to the north; and 3. Egypt and Ethiopia to the south” (Simpson, A Textual Study of the Book of Daniel, p. 100).

A Goat

And as I was considering, suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.  Then he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing beside the river, and ran at him with furious power.  And I saw him confronting the ram; he was moved with rage against him, attacked the ram, and broke his two horns.  There was no power in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled him; and there was no one that could deliver the ram from his hand” (Daniel 8:5-7).

The male goat is Greece (Daniel 8:21).  Greece moved with speed.  It is as if the feet of this animal does not even touch the ground.  Greece moved with fury against Persia.  Persia’s two earlier attempts to conquer Greece had infuriated them (492-490 B.C. and 480-479 B.C.).  Greece defeated Persia at the Battle of Gaugamela, October 1, 331 B.C..

The notable horn between the eyes of the goat is its first king (Daniel 8:21).  The is Alexander the Great.

Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven” (Daniel 8:8).

Alexander’s kingdom ultimately, was divided into four parts, between four generals.  (1) Cassander controlled Macedonia and Greece.  (2) Lysimachus controlled Thrace and much of Asia Minor.  (3) Seleucus controlled Syria and vast areas to the east.  (4) Ptolemy controlled Egypt and areas to the South.

A Little Horn

And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land… by him the daily sacrifices were taken away… Because of transgression an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifice… How long will the vision be concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled under foot?  And he said to me, ‘For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed‘” (Daniel 8:9-14).

The little horn is the Seleucid King, Antiochus IV, Epiphanes.  He ruled from 175-164 B.C.. He went south into Egypt, east into Elymais and Armenia, and into the Glorious Land, Israel (see Rex Turner Sr., Daniel: A Prophet of God, p.159).  The horror of his reign, on Israel, is well documented (1 Maccabees 1, 2 Maccabees 5, Josephus Antiquities 12; Josephus War 1).  “He carried away the golden vessels and treasures of the temple, putting a stop to the sacrifices.  He polluted the altar by offering up swine on it, knowing this was against the law of Moses.  He compelled the Jews to give up their worship of God and to stop circumcising their children.  Those who persisted were mutilated, strangled, or crucified with their children hung from their necks” (Josephus, The Essential Writings, p. 209-210).  He made the sanctuary desolate (1 Maccabees 1:41).

Why did God allow this?  The answer is, “because of transgression” (Daniel 8:12, 23).  God used this evil man to punish Israel.  “His power shall be mighty but not by his own power” (Daniel 8:24).

How long would this last?  The answer is 2,300 days (Daniel 8:14), or literally 2,300 evenings and mornings (see E.S.V.).  (1) Some understand this as 2,300 days.  The ESV Study Bible reads, “perhaps signifying the period from 170 B.C., the death of Onias III, the high priest, to December 14, 164 (B.C.), when Judas Maccabeus cleansed and rededicated the temple cf. 1 Maccabees 4:52.”  (2) Some understand this as 2,300 evening and morning sacrifices.  That is: 1,150 days.  This is just over 3 years.  Josephus indicates that the temple was desolate for 3 years (Josephus Antiquities 12.7.6).  (3) Some believe that the number is figurative.  Don Simpson comments, “The number is 2,300 days, which is about 6 years and 4 months.  This is short of seven years… The fact that the number falls short of seven may give reason to interpret it as just short of a complete number” (Simpson, p. 102).  These time were difficult. They came close, but did not destroy Israel.  Regardless of the view the point to keep in mind is that this would not continue forever.  It would not last.

But he shall be broken without human means” (Daniel 8:25).

God’s providence brought him down.  He died of disease and in pain (2 Maccabees 6). We’re told “worms swarmed out of the body of this man… the man that thought a little before he could reach the stars of heaven, no man could endure to carry, for the intolerable stench” (2 Maccabees 9:10).  He was no God.  He was a man who died in a shameful state.

A Great Lesson

Always remember that God is ultimately in control.  He gave man this power, and He took it away.  May we remember, “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (Daniel 4:17, 25).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Deceiving Men

Abe Lincoln is credited with saying: “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” There is no solid evidence that Lincoln ever said these famous words, which are credited to him.  Whether he did or not, these words do compose a good proverb.

Let us consider a story of someone deceiving a man, who was not known for being gullible, and certainly not a bleeding-heart.  Edgar H. Smith Jr. was the deceiver.  William F. Buckley Jr. was the deceived.

On March 04, 1957 Vickie Zielinski, a 15-year old from Ramsey, New Jersey, disappeared during a walk home from a friend’s house.  Her remains were found the next day, near a sandpit, in nearby Mahwah, New Jersey.

Evidence soon pointed to Edgar Smith (b. 1934).  He was arrested (March 06, 1957) and convicted of first-degree murder.  He was sentenced (May 28, 1957) to die in the electric chair.

While on death row, in 1962, Smith began to correspond with William F. Buckley Jr., the founder of National Review.  Buckley began to have doubts about Smith’s guilt. The state’s time-line troubled Buckley.  Buckley wrote, “By the time I had completed my investigation, I was convinced that at the very least there was reasonable doubt to Smith’s guilt, and eventually, I became persuaded that Smith was innocent.  I was not alone” (Buckley, Right Reason, p. 186). In time, Smith wrote over 2,900 pages of letters to Buckley.

Smith spent 14 years at New Jersey State Prison.  In 1971, Smith was successful with his 19th appeal.  His confession was ruled to have been obtained under duress.  Smith was offered a plea deal.  If he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, he would be released on parole.  He accepted, and as released on December 06, 1971.

Smith was, for a short while, in demand.  He made appearances on radio and TV shows (including Buckley’s Firing Line, the Mike Douglas Show, the Merv Griffin Show).  He spoke on lectures for colleges and universities.  He wrote books.  One of which argued for penal reform.

Then, Smith’s true character was revealed.  On October 01, 1976 he kidnapped a 33 year-old woman, Lefteriya Lisa Ozbun, in San Diego, California.  She escaped, but not before being stabbed by him (she would survive). There were eyewitnesses to the escape, who could identify Smith. Smith fled.  Later, he phoned Buckley’s office. Buckley was not there, but in Albuquerque lecturing.  Buckley’s secretary took down Smith’s contact information, and passed it to Buckley.  Buckley immediately turned it over to the F.B.I.. Smith was arrested, October 13, in Las Vegas, Nevada.  he was found guilty of kidnapping with the intent to rob, and attempted murder.  On April 26, 1977 Smith was sentenced to life in prison.  During the trial, Smith admitted to killing Zielinski by smashing her skull with a large rock.

Buckley lived to regret his belief in, and help of Smith. He would write, “It would seem plain that Edgar Smith must never be released from custody” (ibid, p.212).

Smith showed no remorse for anything.  He said of Buckley, “I don’t have much sympathy for Bill Buckley. He got his two-hour TV show” (ibid, 211).

I tell this story for a reason.  It is not simply to recount the criminal life of Edgar Smith Jr..  It is not to speak negatively of William F. Buckley Jr..  It is to point out that it is possible to deceive men.

However, may we always remember that one cannot deceive God.  Do not try.  “God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).  “God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16). “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

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Prophecy: Squeezed In A Vise

Have you ever felt like you were being squeezed in a vise?  Life is not always easy.  Job’s assessment: “Man who is born of women is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Sometimes this trouble comes from our faithfulness to God.  Paul warned, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Daniel 11 foretells how Israel would be squeeze between the south (Egypt) and the north (Syria).  Let’s notice…

Persia

Behold three more kings will arise in Persia, and the fourth shall be far richer than them all” (Daniel 11:2).

This prophecy occurs in the first year of Darius the Mede (Daniel 11:1).  If this Darius the Mede is Ugbaru, then date is 539 B.C. (cf. Daniel 5:30-31).  If this Darius the Mede is Gubaru, then date is 538 B.C..  Either way, Cyrus is reigning.

Five Persian kings are mentioned: (1) Cyrus II (the Great) 539-530 B.C. is now reigning. After him will come four more Persian kings in this prophecy… (2) Cambyses II 530-522 B.C. (3) Bardiya (Smerdis or Pseudo-Smerdis/ Gaumata) 522 B.C. (4) Darius I (the Great) 522-486 B.C. (5) Xerxes I 485-465 B.C.  This one would be far richer than the others who followed Cyrus (a.k.a. Ahasuerus, Esther 1).

…by his strength, through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece” (Daniel 11:2).

Xerxes tried to invade Greece (480-479 B.C.).  His effort was great.  Herodotus lists 58 nations, or peoples, subject to Xerxes, who composed this invading force into Greece (Heroditus Book 7).  However, the invasion failed.

Greece

Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will” (Daniel 11:3).

This is Alexander the Great.  He, in rage, moved against Persia (Daniel 8:7).  He defeated Persia at the Battle of Gaugamela, October 1, 331 B.C..

And when he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not among his posterity nor according to his dominion with which he ruled” (Daniel 11:4).

Alexander died in June 323 B.C.  He was 33 years old.

He left no heir to reign.  His wife, Roxana (from Bactria, located in modern-day Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan), gave birth, after his death, to his son Alexander IV. However, one of the generals, Cassander, had Roxana and the child killed (c. 310 B.C.).

Alexander’s kingdom was, ultimately divided into four parts, between four generals.  (1) Cassander controlled Macedonia and Greece.  (2) Lysimachus controlled Thrace and much of Asia Minor.  (3) Seleucus controlled Syria and vast areas to the east.  (4) Ptolemy controlled Egypt and areas to the south.

It is these last two divisions, we are going to focus on in this study.  Israel was geographically located between Egypt and Syria, in an area greatly contested over, by these two powers.

Kings of The South and The North

Daniel 11:5-45, by prophecy, speaks of power ebbing and flowing between these two powers over a period of one and a half centuries (323-164 B.C.).  At time, Egypt (the South) was stronger (Daniel 11:7-9, 10-12, 29-30).  At times, Syria (the North) was stronger (Daniel 11:5, 13-17, 25, 40-43).

Israel was in a bad spot.  Consider: (1) “He shall stand in the Glorious Land with destruction in his power” (Daniel 11:16).  Antiochus III, the Great, of Syria (223-187 B.C.) took control of Israel (c. 197 B.C.).  (2) “There shall arise in his place one who imposes taxes on the glorious kingdom” (Daniel 11:20).  Seleucus IV, Philopator of Syria (187-175 B.C.) heavily taxed the Israelites to pay tribute to Rome (cf. 2 Maccabees 3).  (3) “He shall stir up his power and his courage against the King of the South… While returning to his land with great riches, his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant; so shall he do damage and return to his own land” (Daniel 11:25-28).  Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, of Syria (175-164 B.C.) plundered Egypt (170-169 B.C.).  He also, on his way home, and suspecting disloyalty in Israel, plundered the temple in Jerusalem, killed 80,000, and took 40,000 prisoners in the space of three days (1 Maccabees 1:21-28; 2 Maccabees 5:11-21).  (4) “He shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter.  For ships from Cyprus shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage… then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation” (Daniel 11:29-31).  Antiochus IV again invaded Egypt in 168/167 A.D..  He was defeated.  Rome and Cyprus had allied with Egypt.  Antiochus took his anger out on Israel, as he returned home (1 Maccabees 1:31-ff; 2 Maccabees 5:25-26; 6:1-ff).  He instructed them to leave their own law (1 Maccabees 1:43).  He burned copies of the Bible (1 Maccabees 1:59).  He prohibited Jewish religious practices (1 Maccabees 1:47-48, 51, 63-64).  He made idols and encouraged sacrifice to such (1 Maccabees 1:45, 50).  (5) “At the time of the end the King of the South shall attack him; and the King of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind… He shall also enter the Glorious Land” (Daniel 11:41).  Don Simpson suggests that this refers to the end of the Ptolemy Kingdom with Mark Anthony and Cleopatra being defeated by Octavian (Augustus) at the battle of Actium in 31 B.C., followed by Roman rule being settled in Judea (Don Simpson, The Book of Daniel, pp. 142-145).  However, Rex Turner Sr. understands this as a recapitulation or overview of things leading to Antiochus’ downfall (Turner, Daniel: A Prophet of God, pp. 255-256).

There were great temptations to not remain faithful to God in the days of Antiochus. Some Jews “joined themselves to the heathens, and were sold to do evil” (1 Maccabees 1:16).  “Many Jews consented to his service: and they sacrificed to idols, and profaned the Sabbath” (1 Maccabees 1:45).  “Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery” (Daniel 11:32).

How to Respond

1.  Stand for truth and teach others.

“The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.  And those of the people who understand shall instruct many” (Daniel 11:32-33).

When evil abounds, may we continue to stand for truth, do God’s will, and teach others to do the same.  Such is our duty.

2.  Remember the big picture.

“For many days they shall fall by the sword and flame, by captivity and plundering (Daniel 11:33). Yes, the righteous do suffer, at times, in this life.

However, consider the big picture. “And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by the sword and flame, by captivity and plundering…And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to everlasting shame and contempt.  Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 11:33; 12:2-3). “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35). “Be faithful until death, and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How Many Resurrection Days? (or Weep Not As Those Who Have No Hope)

Premillennialists believe that there will be two resurrection days, separated by 1,007 years.  They typically teach: (1) The righteous dead will be raised and the righteous (both dead and living) will be raptured from the earth.  (2) Tribulation will last 7 years on earth (some place tribulation before the 1,000 years.  Others place it after the 1,000 years).  (3) Jesus and the righteous will reign on this earth for 1,000 years.  (4) Then, the unrighteous dead will be raised.  This is the theory.

However, the Bible, in plain language, seems to teach all will be raised in the same hour. Consider: (1) John 5:28-29 – “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection or life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”  This is to happen in an hour (a short period of time).  This passage does not hint at there being two resurrections, separated by 1,007 years.  (2) Acts 24:15 – “There will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.”  There is no indication in this passage of there being two resurrection days, separated by 1,007 years.

The doctrine of two resurrection days, separated by at least 1,000 years is inferred by premillennialists from Revelation 20.  This chapter is highly figurative (I believe that the language refers to the resurrection of the cause.  See article, Revelation: 1,000 Years).

When asked where two resurrections are taught in plain language, in a non-figurative passage of the Bible, some premillennialists appeal to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  After all, it says, “the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).  Does this not imply two resurrections?

No, it does not.  Such is not the context.  The context does not concern those “in Christ” and those “outside of Christ.”  It concerns “the dead in Christ” and those “who are alive and remain” when Christ comes (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  The righteous (dead and alive) are in view.  The unrighteous are not under consideration in this context.

 Let’s consider this beautiful section of Scripture.

I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

I do not want you to be ignorant.  This is common wording used by Paul (see: Romans 1:13; 11:25; 1 Corinthians 10:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13).  This is something, which Paul really wants them to understand.

Some had fallen “asleep.”  This language is found many times in the Bible (cf. Matthew 27:52; John 11:11-13; Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; etc.).  It is a reference to death.  The body is said to fall asleep (cf. Matthew 27:52).  It is language from an earthly vantage point.

While there is nothing wrong with sorrowing over the loss of a loved one to death (John 11:35; Acts 8:2; 9:39; 20:36-38; Philippians 2:25-27), Paul did not want them to sorrow as those who have no hope.  There is one true hope every Christian should have (Ephesians 4:4), and that is eternal life with God (1 Thessalonians 5:8; Titus 1:2).

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

If they believed that Jesus was raised from the dead, then they should have no problem accepting that the dead ill be raised.  “If” (ei) sometimes carries the meaning of “since” (cf. Acts 4:9).

God will bring the dead with Jesus.  Bring them where?  The answer is to heaven (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; cf. 4:15-17).

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trump of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).

When Jesus comes, some will be asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:16).  They will be raised (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:52).  “The dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

When Jesus comes, some will be alive (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  All (whether asleep or alive) will be changed (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53).  “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  Note: “We” does not imply that Paul expected to be alive when Jesus came.  In other passages, Paul identified himself with the dead (1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14).

Here is the comfort.  It will not matter if we are alive or not when He comes.  The dead will not miss out on anything; whether alive or not, the righteous are told that we shall “meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Some spend a great deal of time speculating about the details of that great day; However, It seems to me that it is wise to spend more time preparing for that day, than speculating about the details of that day. While it is good to study what the Bible teaches on this subject, Let us ask: Are we ready for the judgment day?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Potter and The Clay

The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying: ‘Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.’  Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel.  And the vessel that he made was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.  The the word of the LORD came to me, saying: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” (Jeremiah 18:1-6).

Jeremiah was told to take a field trip to the potter’s house (the definitive article seems to suggest a particular potter’s house).  He did so.  There, he saw the potter making something at the wheel [lit. wheels KJV, ASV.  Wayne Jackson explains, “There were upper and lower disc connected by an axle; the lower was turned with the potter’s feet, while the upper wheel held the vessel for molding.  (Jackson, Jeremiah and Lamentations, p. 44)].  When the vessel did not turn out as expected, he molded it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

The potter had sovereignty over the clay vessel.  If it did not turn out as he desired, he could break down the wet clay and reshape it (Jeremiah 18:4).  He could even shatter the finished product, if he wished (Jeremiah 19:1-2, 10-11).  He could re-purpose the vessel.

Let us also consider, the potter worked with the clay that he had.  Sometimes the quality and consistency of the clay was not good.  Sometimes the clay was not pliable.  Sometimes there were impurities in the clay (e.g. pebbles).

The point?  God was likewise, sovereign over Israel.  “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” (Jeremiah 18:6).  “Thus says the LORD of host: ‘Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel'” (Jeremiah 19:11).

Let us consider this: Is the clay responsible for its condition?  Can it of its own volition decide to change?  The answer is no, if we are speaking of clay.  However, these people and this nation could change.  God said, “The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.  And the instant I speak concerning a kingdom to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight,  so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.  Now therefore, speak to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you.  Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good”‘” (Jeremiah 18:7-11).  They were responsible for their condition, and they could change. Moreover, man can change (cf. James 4:8; Ezekiel 18:30-33; 2 Chronicles 30:18-19).

Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Romans 9:21).

God is sovereign.  This is the main point. Adam Clarke comments, “Hath not God shown, by the parable of the potter, Jeremiah 18..that he may justly dispose of nations, and of the Jews in particular …?” (Clarke, Vol 6, p. 114).

What about the clay?  It is important to keep Jeremiah 18 and 19 in mind when interpreting this passage.  Foy Wallace Jr. comments, “The simple truth… is that man makes his own clay – character – God uses it.  So man may of choice be kind of clay molded into honor – or dishonor” (Wallace, Commentary on Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, p. 42).  Robert Taylor Jr. comments, “The potter does have power over the clay relative to one vessel made unto honor and another unto dishonor.  But the clay is not totally passive by any means.  God, let it be stated reverently, can only work with the clay that is available.  Look at two men in the Old Testament who were contemporaries – Moses and Pharaoh.  Moses was of pliable clay and willingly became a vessel of honor in the Lord’s service.  Pharaoh was of sorry clay – hardened in pride, selfishness and stubbornness – and was a vessel of dishonor” (Taylor, Studies in Romans, p. 169).  David Lipscomb comments, “In this (Jeremiah 18 B.H.) it is clearly seen that the potter purposed to make of the clay a vessel unto honor, and it was only when the clay marred in his hand and showed its unfitness to be so made ‘that he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it'” (Lipscomb, Commentary on Romans, p. 179).

What if God, wanting to show his wrath and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called…?” (Romans 9:22-24).

What if God allows a vessel worthy of destruction to survive for a while (e.g. Pharaoh)? What’s it to you?  God is sovereign.  He may tolerate such for a while to demonstrate something or to accomplish His purpose.

It seems, to me, that some may have misinterpreted Israel’s continued existence, as evidence that the nation of Israel was a vessel of honor. The continued existence of the nation was not proof of her future being one of honor.

It is the called (i.e.Those who have accepted the call of the Gospel. All are, in one sense, called by the Gospel 2 Thessalonians 2:14 cf. Mark 16:15-16) who are vessels of honor. The called are made up of both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 9:24).

Question: Are we allowing God to mold us into the kind of vessel He wants for honor and glory?

“Have thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the potter, I am the clay.      Mold me and make me after Thy will,  while I am waiting, yielded and still”         (Song: Have Thine Own Way by Adelaide Pollard)

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The Church: God’s Field, God’s Building and God’s Flock

You are God’s field” (1 Corinthians 3:9).

Paul was writing to “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2).  He referred to them as “God’s field” (1 Corinthians 3:9).  Why is the church metaphorically referred to as “God’s field”?  (1) It has to do with ownership.  The field did not belong to Paul or to Apollos.  They were merely laborers in the field that belonged to God.  Paul explained, “We are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field” (1 Corinthians 3:9).  Again, he explained, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful'” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).  Far from either Paul or Apollos owning the field, they were workers in the field, and were accountable to God.  Therefore, no one should say, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos” (1 Corinthians 3:4).

(2) It has to do with the source of spiritual life.  Paul planted (1 Corinthians 3:6); he worked with them first, spending one and a half years there (Acts 18:1-18).   Apollos watered (1 Corinthians 3:6); he came, after Paul, to Corinth (Acts 18:27-19:1a).  However, it was God who gave the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).  “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11).  It is God who supplies seed to the sower (2 Corinthians 9:10).  Paul and Apollos planted and watered the seed, the word of God at Corinth.  However, it is God who supplied the seed, making possible spiritual life.

(3) It is about fruitfulness.  God wants us to be productive.  Jesus said, “The sower sows the word… these are the one sown on good ground,  those who hear the word, accept it,, and bear fruit: some thirty fold, some sixty, and some a hundred” (Mark 4:14-20).  Those with good hearts bear fruit.  The numbers may differ due to opportunity and ability.  But, the good heart bears fruit.  Paul instructs Titus, “let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).

You are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).

Paul was writing to “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2).  He referred to them as “God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).  Why is the church metaphorically referred to as “God’s building”?  (1) It has to do with ownership.  The building (the temple in context of 1 Corinthians 3:9-17) did not belong to Paul or to Apollos.  They were merely builders of the building that belonged to God.  Paul explained, “I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it… If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him” (1 Corinthians 3:10, 17).  The builders are accountable to God.  The building belongs to Him.  He purchased it, at great cost (Acts 20:28).

(2) It has to do with being a dwelling place for God.  Paul asked, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Holy Spirit miraculously indwelled the church at Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:4-7; 1 Corinthians 12-14).  People could see something of the nature of God, His power and wisdom, manifest in them.  All Christians should “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) by letting “the word of Christ dwell” in the richly (Colossians 3:16).  Can people see God in us?

The church is not a physical building.  It is not composed of boards, bricks and mortar, stone, metal, or other such materials (cf. Acts 8:1-3).  [Some have suggested that the church could be considered such as a metonymy, the place of the assembly being put for the assembly.  However, the church is not literally, a physical building.  Moreover, the Bible never speaks of the church in this way].  However, the church is a building.  It is a building which is made up of “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5).  Its foundation is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).

“O Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, Pure and holy, tries and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living Sanctuary for You/ Lord teach your children to stop their fighting, Start uniting all as one. Let’s get together, loving forever, Sanctuary for you” (Song: Sanctuary).

“Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me. All His wonder passion and purity; O my Savior divine, All my being refine, Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me” (Song: Let the Beauty of Jesus by Albert Orsborn/ Tom M. Jones).

“Into my heart, into my heart, Come into my heart, Lord Jesus; Come into today, come in stay; Come into my heart, Lord Jesus/ Out of my heart, out of my heart, Shine out of my heart, Lord Jesus; Shine out today, shine out alway; Shine out of my heart, Lord Jesus” (Song: Into My Heart by Harry D. Clarke).

The elders who are among you I exhort… Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers… over those entrusted to you” (1 Peter 5:1-2).

Peter wrote telling the elders to care for the flock of God among them (that is, in the local church of Acts 14:23), as shepherds care for sheep.  He referred to the church as “the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2).  Why is the church metaphorically referred to as “the flock of God”?  (1) It has to do with ownership.  The flock did not belong to the elders. The flock belonged to God.  They were merely under-shepherds entrusted with caring for the flock (1 Peter 5:1-4).  They were accountable for the flock (Hebrews 13:17 – cf Ezekiel 34; Genesis 31:39; Exodus 22:10-13 cf. Amos 3:12). Jesus is the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).

(2)  It has to do with following Jesus.  Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice… and they follow me” (John 10:27).  Guy Woods points out the context, saying, “His ‘sheep’ are those who, unlike the unbelieving Jews, hear his voice and are obedient to his word” (Woods, The Gospel According to John, p. 219).  Robert Taylor Jr. offers this insight, “Palestinian shepherds (then and now) LED – not DROVE – their sheep.  The sheep followed his voice.  A traveler in that land many years ago told a shepherd that the sheep simply recognized his garments – not his voice – and this followed.  They exchanged garments; the sheep paid NO heed to the traveler now in their master’s garments.  Instead, they followed the shepherd when he spoke though clothed in the traveler’s apparel.  The lesson is sharp, cogent, clear and decisive.  Christians hear and heed His voice – not the voice of another” (Taylor, Studies in the Gospel of John, p. 148).  Are we following Him? J.W. McGarvey comments, “In the East, sheep are not driven, but led, and  each sheep has and knows its name. Disciples also are led. There is no rough road or thorny path which the feet of Jesus have not first trod” (McGarvey, The Fourfold Gospel, p.469). He is our perfect example. Are we following Him? Sheep of one flock sometimes became mixed with sheep of other flocks, for example – when placed at night into a common sheepfold. How could the sheep be sorted? J.W. McGarvey comments, “The mingled flocks are separated by the calling voices of the several shepherds” (ibid). We live among many who follow something or someone other than Jesus. Are we following Him or another voice?

“Who will follow Jesus?  Who will make reply, I am on the Lord’s side; Master, here am I?  Who will follow Jesus?  Who will make reply, I am on the Lord’s side; Master, here am I”  (Song: Who Will Follow Jesus, Standing For The Right by Eliza Hewitt).

“Where He leads I’ll follow, Follow all the way;  Where He leads I’ll follow, Follow Jesus ev’ry day”.  (Song: Where He Leads I’ll Follow by W.A. Ogden).

(3) It has to do with care and provision.  Good shepherds care for their sheep.  “The LORD is my Shepherd I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).  He provides proper guidance – “He leads me” (Psalm 23:1-2).  He provides for needs – food and water (Psalm 23:2, 5), protection and care (Psalm 23:4-5), comfort (Psalm 23:4), goodness and mercy (Psalm 23:6).  Good shepherds hazard their lives for the sheep under their care (cf. 1 Samuel 17:34-35).  Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Jesus is both a sacrificial lamb and a shepherd.  “For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).  May we follow the Lamb to living fountains of water, and the good things God has in store for His sheep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Church: The Kingdom of Christ

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13)

In one sense (as above), the church and the kingdom are used as synonyms.  Consider: (a) Christians, in the first century, were in the kingdom (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9).  (b) The church and the kingdom are entered the same way in the New Testament.  The church is entered by baptism (1 Corinthians 12:13 cf. Ephesians 1:22-23; Acts 2:47).  The kingdom is entered by baptism (John 3:5).  (c) Jesus seems to equate the church with the kingdom (Matthew 16:18-19).  (d) The kingdom was to come with power, in the lifetime of some who heard Jesus speak (Mark 9:1).   Power was to come while the apostles tarried in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49).  Power was to be received with the coming of the Holy spirit (Acts 1:8).  The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, following Jesus’ ascension (Acts 2:4).  The church was established on that day (Acts 2:40-47).  The gospel did not come in word only, but also in power, and in much assurance (1 Thessalonians 1:5).  Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).  The kingdom existed in the first century (Colossians 1:13).  (e) One like the son of Man was to receive a kingdom after he came with clouds to the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:13-14).  Jesus ascended with clouds (Acts 1:9-11).  He is now exalted to the right hand of God (Acts 2:33).  “God has made this Jesus… both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).  (f) The coming Christ was to be a King – Priest (Psalm 110:1-4; Zechariah 6:12-13).  Jesus is now High Priest (Hebrews 3:1; 8:1).  He is a priest, after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:5-6; 6:19-20; 7:20-21).  Melchizedek was a King – Priest (Hebrews 7:1).

The Kingdom is used in different senses in the Bible: (a) In one sense, the Kingdom may refer to God’s authority or rule over all (Psalm 103:19; Matthew 13:47-50; 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16).  (b) In another sense, the Kingdom may refer to God’s people.  I believe that God, in this sense, has always had a kingdom.  Israel was His kingdom (Exodus 19:6; Luke 21:43).  (c) In another sense, the kingdom, today, is the church (see previous paragraph).  The seed of this kingdom is the word of God (Luke 8:11 cf. Matthew 13:18-19).  (d) Finally, the kingdom, at times, refers to heaven (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 4:18; 2 Peter 1:10-11).

Here are a few things to keep in mind about the kingdom.  First, “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven” are used interchangeably (Luke 7:28 cf. Matthew 11:11; Mark 1:14-15 cf. Matthew 4:12-17; Luke 18:15-17 cf. Matthew 19:13-15).  Second, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Christ are used interchangeably (Mark 9:1 cf. Matthew 16:28; Ephesians 5:5).  One day, Christ will deliver the kingdom to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).  Third, there is a sense in which the kingdom came in 70 A.D. (Luke 21:31-32 cf. Matthew 22:7).  Drew Leonard suggests, “A.D. 70 was a declaration, an exhibition, a display, a vindication of what had been in effect since Acts 2!” (Leonard, A.D. 70 – Taking a Look at Hyper-Preterism, p. 149).  The fact that the kingdom came in some sense in 70 A.D. does not mean that the kingdom was not present from Pentecost, in c. 30 or 33 A.D.

Now to the issue of this article: Why is the church referred to as the kingdom?  (1) It has reference to authority.  A kingdom implies a king.  The church is not referred to as an anarchy.  The church is not referred to as a democracy.  The church is not referred to as a representative republic.  The church is not referred to as an oligarchy.  The church is a kingdom.  Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).  He has asked, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).  Do we allow Him to truly reign?

(2) It has to do with territory and subjects.  Consider these passages: (a) “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘see here!’ or ‘see there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).  Burt Groves comments, “No marching army would conquer Rome, and no earthly monarch would sit on a throne… In the kingdom of God’s dear Son.  Men voluntarily submit to His rule” (Groves, The Gospel According to Luke Commentary, p. 182).  (b) Jesus was asked by Pilate if he was King of the Jews.  Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).  Jesus is King.  However, His kingdom is very different from the kingdoms of this world.  His kingdom was no physical threat to Rome.  It is a spiritual kingdom, not a physical kingdom.  It is the rule of Christ in the hearts, souls, and minds of men.  It has no geo-political boundaries. Discipleship is available to all men, regardless of nationality (cf. Matthew 28:18-20).  Are we allowing Him to truly rule within us?

(3) It has to do with citizenship.  The Bible speaks of the book of life (Exodus 32:32; Malachi 3:16; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19).  Some think that this is an analogy from the ancient city rolls.  Foy Wallace Jr. has written, “This book of life is an allusion to a registry for worthy citizens, but names of deceased citizens are erased” (Wallace, The Book of Revelation, p. 98).  This seems to fit.  We are told, “There shall by no means enter it… but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:7).  “Our citizenship is in heaven…” (Philippians 3:20).

When the roll is called up yonder, When the roll is called up yonder, When the roll is called up yonder, When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there” (Song: When the Roll is Called up Yonder by James M. Black).

 

 

 

 

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