Sunday Sermon Notes: September 25, 2022

Matthew 24:35-51

Unlike the section we’ve been studying, the last part of chapter 24 is not difficult to understand as long as we remember to keep it in its proper context. As we discovered back at the beginning, verse 34 signals transition from the first part of the question that the disciples put to our Lord in verse 3 to the second. Verse 35 then picks up with a new subject: Jesus’ coming and the end of the age.

The Day and Hour Unknown

Jesus makes very clear the fact that nobody knows when He will return. There will be no signs, no check lists, and no way to discover when He will return until it happens. The section from verse 35 through verse 41 uses the days of Noah to show a comparison to His coming; people will be surprised. Notice also that for those who are not prepared to enter into the ark, for those who have not heeded the call to righteousness, this will be a day of doom. Verses 40 and 41 use the picture of two people; one is taken and one is left. This has caused some problems with interpretation, but when taken in the context of the entire passage (35-51) it becomes most likely that Jesus is indicating that one will be taken to judgment, and the other left alone. This seems to be the strongest interpretation in context, even though many commentators liken it to a “rapture” scenario seeking to apply 1Thessalonians 4 here. A case can be made, and you are free to choose your favorite. The most important point is to remember that Jesus will return, and we will all be surprised when He does.

Verses 42 and following repeat and reinforce the fact that Jesus’ return will come at a time when it is not expected, and begins to assert the imperative of readiness on our parts. This will be the entire theme of chapter 25, and goes on to a major covenant priority: our need to keep the terms of the New Covenant to live our lives as Christ would live. If we keep faith with our Covenant, we will be surprised and delighted at His coming. If we do not, then when He comes, we will be surprised and horrified.

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Sunday Sermon Notes: September 18, 2022

Matthew 24:5-15

So much has been written of this passage! It’s kind of troubling, isn’t it? Wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes… what does it all mean?

Surely this is talking of the present day. Surely, we need to worry that the end is coming; what will we do?

First of all, don’t forget CONTEXT.

Second, why must we arrogantly assume that everything is about us? (It isn’t)

This is a great time to quote one of my boyhood heroes:

The only thing new in the world is history that you don’t know.”

Harry S Truman

Many recent authors and speakers have made much of this passage to attempt to put Matthew 24 into the future, and out of context. Almost to a man, they write about these verses saying that they refer to a time when there have been the most wars, the most earthquakes, the most famines and so on…

Kindly take note of the less exciting fact that Jesus simply didn’t say that! And… try to force yourself to keep the context in mind: “When will these things happen…?” (The destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem)

Were there wars, rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem? Were the faithful being persecuted during this time? Were there false teachers during this time? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES!

When the Roman Emperor Caligula ordered his statue erected in the Temple and the Jews of the city reacted by rebelling against the Romans, do you suppose they weren’t talking about a war when the news got back to Rome? According to the first century historian Josephus, they were so concerned that many neglected to even till their fields.

Nation will rise up against nation… When the Jews and Syrians clashed in Caesarea, the Syrians drove the Jews from the city, and the death toll amongst the Jews was staggering, which is one of the reasons that the Jews attacked in Syria. Before the Roman garrison could respond, the killings numbered in the hundreds of thousands, and Josephus has recorded it all for your reading… This was not the only example of war, rumors of war and nation rising against nation in the region of Judea during this period. Also, during this period, during the short reign of Claudius, there were the beginnings of civil war in Italy and elsewhere, which would obviously make the “evening news” in Judea.

Famines?

Acts 11:28 is interesting to remember: “One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)” This fact is confirmed by Josephus, Tacitus and Eusebius among others.

Earthquakes? During the period between the Discourse and the fall of Jerusalem, history records quite a few, maybe even a record number in the Roman world: All in all, there are 15 recorded during this time, in places such as Rome, Italy, Judea, Syria, Asia Minor and Crete among others.

Persecution? OK, don’t even pretend that persecution didn’t take place during this period! It is well documented in the New Testament, along with the false teachers and the rest of it. Note verses 13 and 14:

but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Verse 13 gives the main point: stand firm in all things, and you will be saved. In the last lesson we saw exactly how that took place; Jesus was good and reliable in His words.

Verse 14 takes us back to the Covenant priority: and the Gospel will spread throughout the world, even though there are to be difficulties.

Finally, the end will come: remember the context: the end is that of Jerusalem.

 Matthew 24:15-28

Synopsis

In this section, Jesus tells the disciples what the people of God will need to know when Jerusalem is besieged in 70 AD. Verses 15-16 give a sign of warning to the people regarding the time to flee the region, giving a reference to Daniel’s prophecy; that will be discussed below. When this sign appears, the people in Judea are to flee to the mountains, and along this route, they can travel through the back country all of the way to Lebanon behind the Roman advance to safety.

Verses 17-20 underscore the need for haste in their flight from the region. It is important to note that he said “in Judea” and not in Jerusalem which is the capital of Judea. This is because by the time they see the sign he referred to, it will be too late for Jerusalem, as we shall see.

Verses 21 and 22 detail just how horrible the coming siege will be, and gives the believers the hope that the horror will be cut short so that they may be able to escape destruction. In verses 23-25, Jesus warns the believers not to be fooled by rumors, and urges them to stick with what he is telling them, ending with the note that they will be spared from Jerusalem’s doom. In verse 25, He reinforces the thought that He is giving them advance warning of the situation. Our text ends with a curious section from 26-28, where Jesus warns that some will be fooled into thinking that the destruction of Jerusalem is the end of the world and the time of his coming. This is clearly not the case, and the believers mustn’t be fooled, for when He does come, it will not be in secret.

The Sign

The sign in our text is “the abomination that causes desolation,” and is used by Daniel in describing military attacks on Jerusalem in chapters 9, 11 and 12. To a Jew, “abomination” would be something that defiles something that is holy. A Gentile army surrounding the Holy City would be a possibility. “Desolation” means emptiness, so what we are looking for is a gross defilement that results in emptiness.

Looking to the Olivet Discourse as recorded by Luke, we find the answer:

When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Luke 21:20-24

By comparing Matthew 24 to Luke 21, we see that the sign they were to look for was when a Gentile army surrounded the Holy City of Jerusalem, and this happened in 66 AD. A question may arise as to why Matthew refers to Daniel, and Luke does not.

Remember that Matthew’s Gospel is the Gospel written for the Jews, and Luke’s was the one written for the Greeks. Frequently, Matthew refers back to prophecies that are fulfilled, while Luke just spells out what happened. This is because the Jews were aware of the prophets, and by reminding them of the prophecies that are fulfilled, Matthew is lending credibility to Jesus Messianic claim. Luke’s audience is largely ignorant of Jewish tradition, and such comparisons would be of little value to those readers; Luke spells things out that Matthew relates to Scripture. Thus, we come to see that what Jesus is giving as a signal to flee the area is the Roman siege at Jerusalem; those outside the city are to flee immediately, and those within the city will have to wait for another sign for deliverance…

This signal comes in verse 22: those days will be cut short!

History of the Siege

At this point, it is useful to give a brief synopsis of the history of the siege of Jerusalem. This history is told by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus who not only wrote the history of the Jewish people from Genesis to the time shortly before their last war of destruction, (65-70 AD) Antiquities of the Jews, but another volume entitled The War of the Jews which gives his eyewitness account of the entire Roman campaign against the Jews, including his eyewitness account of the siege of Jerusalem. The war began when the Emperor Caligula commanded that his statue be erected in the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem. This so outraged the Jews that they flew to arms and began to attack Roman outposts, beginning in Syria, and spreading throughout the region. A large Roman army under Vespasian began its counter assault in that region, and then moved through Galilee destroying all Jewish opposition in its wake. After ravaging the north, Vespasian returned to Rome, where he participated in a coup that overthrew Caligula (who was insane) and was replaced by Cestius, who was the general who began the siege. Josephus tells of the horrors of this period, and to read his account is truly disturbing. The believers trapped in the city, recalling the words of Jesus must have wondered how they were going to be able to flee as the conditions grew steadily more desperate; then a miracle― The Romans suddenly withdrew!

According to Josephus, while the Jews celebrated their divine deliverance, the Christians fled to the hills and escaped.

What had actually happened was that the general Titus had arrived in the region with reinforcements. Cestius withdrew, joined up with Titus, and with Titus (the higher-ranking officer) in command, they soon returned to finish the job, only this time there were no Christians in the city: they had all fled because they had been forewarned by none other than Jesus Himself! “See, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matt. 24:25)

As Josephus tells the story, and he was no supporter of the Christians, not a single Christian died in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. The Jewish deaths were over 100,000.

By the time the Romans launched their final assault, there was no resistance, and they had only a mop up operation; murdering the last of the survivors who couldn’t get away. According to Josephus, the Romans discovered to their delight that the Temple itself was full of gold. In fact (as we know) it was inlaid with gold within the wood framework of the stone construction. To render the gold from its structure, Josephus tells that the Romans set it ablaze, and then pried the stones loose from one another to get at the melted gold that had fallen, leaving not one stone upon another. (Matt. 24:2

Putting it all together

We have at this point completed the first section of the Discourse, and a fairly awesome picture is before us:

  1. There will be difficulties, these are normal and a regular part of life on this earth. There will be wars, famines, earthquakes, calamities and persecutions; even false teachers, but hold firm in your faith, and you will be delivered. Most importantly, the Gospel of the Kingdom of Christ will go forth. (5-14)
  2. When the day of God’s judgment comes, our Lord will see you through its peril. If you are in the countryside, when you see the sign, get out. Flee through the mountains to the north. If you are in the city, hang in there for the Lord will deliver you, too. When the time comes, flee to the mountains of the north. Those who are followers of the Lord will be saved; those who are not will be judged. (15-28)
  3. When God’s judgment against those who have refused to follow Him comes, it will be terrible to behold for it will be sure and complete. Those who claim to follow Him, but who do not really, will be devastated, for God will not be mocked, nor will He be fooled by performing the old rituals after they have been rendered obsolete by the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. (29-33)
  4. This will all be completed within the natural lifetimes of those who heard Him say it, even though that is not necessarily mean they will all live to see it. (34)
  5. Even though this has all been accomplished by the end of the year 70, there are lessons for us to draw from this text as well. What could they be? Well, for that you’ll need to wait for the next lesson!
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Sunday Sermon Notes: September 11, 2022

Today’s Text: Matt. 24:29,34,35, 36

How many questions did they ask in Matthew 24:3?

No interpretation of this text will succeed until we determine how many questions the disciples actually asked in Matt. 24:3. In simply looking at the question, we have three possibilities that we identified last week, but there is really no way to determine which is correct by only considering verse 3. There are two ways to figure this out: One way is to look at our favorite Millennial theory and see what everyone else says about it and go from there. Using this approach, we find that the premillennialists say there’s one question, the postmillennialists claim three questions and the amillennialists claim two. The other two theories (which are not very common theories) claim one.

The other way to determine how many questions are asked is to examine the structure of the answer to determine how many questions Jesus answered. Since we are not advocating any of the three main (or the two smaller) theories, the approach we will take is to figure out how Jesus answered and let the chips fall where they may. In interpreting the Bible, this is the best approach to any difficult text because it allows for the possibility, likelihood actually, that none of the theories are right one hundred percent of the time. Please note that if we come up with an answer that differs from your favorite theory, that does not mean that the whole theory is wrong, and if we come up with an answer that matches your theory, it doesn’t mean that your theory is entirely right. We are entirely neutral in here.

In searching the text for transitional clues, we come across four verses that are indicative of transition. (Transition denotes the grammatical change in the language that indicates that the response to the question is moving on from one topic to the next by changing the subject.) In this case, there are 4 such verses: 29,34, 35and 36. Verse 35 is indicative of time which is the key to the first part of verse three: “…when will this happen…” “This” relates to what was said in verse two, where Jesus was telling them that the Temple will be destroyed, “…not one stone will be left on another…” Verse 34 says: “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Verse 34 appears to be what you might call a time stamp. The time stamp feature here is “…this generation will certainly not pass away until…”. Assuming that He means the generation that was alive at the moment He said this, it would appear that He was referring to the destruction of the Temple which occurred in 70 AD. If we could find Jesus saying the same thing about something else, we could tie this down for certain. As luck would have it, Jesus said substantially the same thing in Matthew 16. Right after Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, and right after Jesus said that this was the rock upon which he would build His church, Jesus was telling the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things, including death. Peter and the others had great difficulty understanding that Jesus could both die and build His Kingdom. The problem was that they were assuming the wrong kind of Kingdom; they were looking for an earthly kingdom based in Jerusalem that would re-establish the glory of old Israel. Of course, Jesus had plans that were quite different, because His plan was to build a heavenly Kingdom that was not of this world. This is confusion shared by many Christians to this day.

In 16:28, Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” It is universally understood that Jesus was referring to the church and the Day of Pentecost when He said this, and it is universally understood that He was referring to those who lived at the time He said it, and for all of the same reasons, His reference to the generation living in verse 34 is indeed those who were living at the time.

If we are correct in our understanding of verse 34, then it should be followed by a change of subject. This is found in the very next verse: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”(v. 35) If Jesus meant to indicate that the topic between verses 4 and verse 34 was the destruction of the Temple (and Jerusalem) then this is definitely transition to another topic.: “Heaven and earth shall pass away”.

Verse 36 appears to be another time stamp: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” If this is the beginning of an answer to a second question, then “that day” must follow after a change of subject. Verse 35 has a change of subject from “…when will this happen…” to “…what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (question in v. 3) I include these two together because there isn’t any more transition after this. This change of subject takes us from the destruction of the Temple to heaven and earth will pass away. At this point, we have a thesis that the disciples asked two questions in verse three because that’s how many questions Jesus answered. This would indicate that to Jesus, there were two issues raised, and that His coming and the end of the age are the same thing, or will be simultaneous. Before we can be absolutely certain that our thesis is correct, we need to check out verse 29, which might cause a problem, based upon the rules of internal consistency. Internal consistency means that our case does not contradict itself, and that we do not support our case with supposition that is the same as our conclusion. Verse 29 sounds to many to be speaking of the end of the world, and many would take it to indicate that the entire passage refers to the end of the world, even though it appears to start with the destruction of the Temple.

Verse 29 says:

“Immediately after the distress of those days ” ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”

Let’s begin by noting the difference in tense between “that day” in verse 36 and “those days” in verse 29. The fact that verse 29 refers to a plural number of days and verse 36 refers to a single day would lend significant credence to our thesis: they are talking about different things. Even with that said, and the fact that the grammar is different between “those” and “that”, verse 29 is a tough one to understand. The method we use in determining what is intended will be to examine other passages in the Bible to see if we can find a trend as to the intended meaning that we can apply to this verse to ensure that our thesis is correct.

Once again, the difficulty that we must face is related to how we understand prophetic language. There are two schools of thought on this subject. The first school of thought is the Apocalyptic school which asserts that these are word pictures intended to transmit meaning about things through the use of descriptive language which reveals something to the reader. The second school is the Literalist school which asserts that everything must be taken literally; if the sun, moon and stars are said to fall, then they will fall. In looking at other passages, we should be able to discern which approach is correct. If the Apocalyptic school is right, then so is our thesis. If the Literalists are right, then our thesis may or may not be right. Let’s check out one passage to see if we can get an idea: Isaiah 13:1-22 deals with God’s wrath and judgment against Babylon, in context the highlights are as follows:

v. 1 An oracle concerning Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz saw:…

v.6 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty….

V. 9 See, the day of the LORD is coming —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger— to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.

V. 10 The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light….

V. 13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the LORD Almighty, in the day of his burning anger.

For the full effect, you should read the entire passage. For now, note that two things are very clear: First, the sun, moon and stars are said to be darkened, and second, God’s judgment is being poured out. As we will see next week, this is a common connection in Bible prophecy. Isaiah is talking about the destruction of Babylon in chapter 13, and God’s judgment on them. In Matthew 24, Jesus is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem and God’s judgment upon the Jews. This, along with the change from plural in 24:29 to singular in 24:36 is enough to determine that we are dealing with two questions being under discussion in the Olivet Discourse: One relating to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in particular, and the other being of Jesus’ coming and the end of the age. As mentioned, we will look at some more Old Testament passages next week which will solidify this position. In the meantime, let’s prepare for that by taking a quick look at Literalism.

Literalism

This school is based upon a reverent respect for Scripture which is both admirable and worthy of praise. Sadly, however, it is taken to an extreme when it is applied to prophecy where it is inappropriate. We use a literal approach much, maybe most of the time. We certainly do so in works of history for example, which the Gospels, Acts and the Old Testament books of history, including the Pentateuch are. We also use it in understanding the Epistles. It does not work in passages of prophecy, however; they were not intended to be understood that way, and this approach results in problems of internal consistency as well as non-starter errors. Here’s the sort of problem we run into: Clearly, in Matthew 24 Jesus begins talking about the destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was destroyed within the time guidelines He set forth. Yet a literal interpretation says that He must have been talking about something else because the sun, moon and stars are still up there. What was He talking about then? Isaiah 34 relates to the destruction of Edom, using much the same language Jesus used about Jerusalem. Edom was destroyed in 72 AD. But, since the sun, moon and stars are still up there, “Edom” must mean something other than the Kingdom of the Edomites, which has been it’s meaning throughout the entire Old Testament. If Edom doesn’t mean Edom, then what does it mean? If it doesn’t mean what it should mean, then what does it stand for? The catch is that as soon as you say that it stands for something else, it is no longer literal, thus you have defeated your own presupposition and your internal consistency crumbles into dust. This is why I say that Literalism doesn’t work with these prophetic passages. A literalist will run into this problem each and every time he uses it in prophecy.

Conclusion: Matthew 24:3 contains two questions which were answered by Jesus: First, when will the Temple be destroyed, and second, what will be the signs of His coming and of the end of the age?

Next week, we will examine the entire section from 24:29-31 along with Old Testament passages that shed light on its meaning.

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Sunday Sermon Notes: September 4, 2022

A brief Introduction to the Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24-25

Any time you are engaged in Bible study, you must ask yourself the following questions. I’ve included the answers for this text:

  1. Who is speaking?    Jesus (and his disciples in v. 3)
  2. Who is the author?  Matthew
  3. Why was this written (or spoken in this case?) For the edification of the followers of Christ
  4. When did this take place?   C.34 AD
  5. Under what covenant?       Old Covenant (Its last full day)

Once these questions have been answered, it is important to reflect on several things, since this is an unusually difficult passage.  The first thing to reflect upon is simply the fact that the language is the difficult language of prophetic passages that we refer to as “Apocalyptic” or “Prophetic”:  This type of literature must be understood correctly to mean a specific thing, namely that it reveals something. The word “Apocalyptic” comes from a Greek word meaning “to reveal”. It does not mean the end of the world, or a terrible catastrophe, as it is often used in common speech― it may or may not contain those things. Next, it is important to realize that Jesus is here speaking to his disciples, and that He may or may not have been overheard by others. Verse 3 says they came up to Him privately.  This could mean that they were entirely alone, but the Mount of Olives is not necessarily a private place.  Anybody could walk by if they wanted to. In speaking to them, it is not likely that He would tell them things that they could not possibly understand, or that they would not actually need to know.  There would be no particular expectation that they would transcribe what He told them and then rush to the library to consult their commentaries to figure Him out.

Finally, to fully comprehend this passage, it is necessary to keep in mind the following:

  1. Much has been written about this passage by scholars and by purveyors of certain ‘end time’ theories. For the most part, these good folks have attempted to make this passage fit into a theory, either claiming that it supports their position or that it defeats someone else’s position.  Very seldom is it actually studied by Christians as a passage other than in the context of an already accepted theory. The result of this sad fact (trying to make the text fit into a previously held theory) is that many commentators get it entirely WRONG!
  2. If you want to understand this passage of Scripture for what Jesus actually said here, you MUST forget everything you think you know about it.  If you do not do so, you will miss one of the most amazing and frankly enlightening passages recorded in the Gospels.  Our position for the purposes of this study is that Matthew 24 and 25 neither support nor defeat any end time theory.  You have the opportunity to understand the most difficult passage in the entire New Testament if you will drop the idea that it is “Millennial” in nature: it is not.
  3. Even more than usual, the context of this passage is utterly crucial in understanding it.
  4. The passage can be understood by all Christians if they are willing to forget their pre-conceived notions and look at what it actually says, especially including its grammatical construction.

Context

As mentioned above, the context of this passage is of utmost importance.  This context is set up from Matthew chapter 21 through chapter 23; chapter 24 follows immediately at the conclusion of those events. For convenience, here is a brief synopsis of those chapters:

Chapter 21:

In verses 1-11 we have the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem; Palm Sunday.  This is followed by the second cleansing of the Temple in vv. 12-16. After that He goes to Bethany to spend the night (V. 17). The next day He returns to the city and curses a fig tree en route (18-22). When He reaches the Temple area He runs into the Pharisees who demand to know by what authority He cleansed the Temple on the previous day. He asks them to answer a question first, which they find too hot to handle, and then says that since they didn’t answer His question, He won’t answer theirs (27). This is followed by giving the parable of the son in the vineyard (28-32) and the wicked husbandman (34-45) and applies both of the parables. They would have arrested Him at that point, but they feared the crowds (46).

Chapter 22:

This chapter opens with the parable of the wedding feast (1-14). In verse 15 they decide to set a trap for Him, and the rest of the chapter is a series of questions they ask in this effort, each of which He handles so as to make them look foolish (16-33). Jesus gives them one last question and they fall into a trap, saying that the Christ will be the son of David.  Jesus, quoting from Psalm 110 asking why, then did David call him “Lord”. They ended the conversation.

Chapter 23:

Now, Jesus, addressing the crowd, no doubt in the hearing of the scribes and Pharisees, launched into a major denunciation of them, followed by seven awesome woes upon them (1-36) and ends with His lamentations over Jerusalem (37-39). Chapter 24 picks up with the disciples asking Him about Jerusalem.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

Matthew 23:37-39

In these words, Jesus shows His sorrow that Israel would not follow God, and leads to His discussion of what the consequence would ultimately be. 

 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Matthew 24:1-3

Matthew 24:1-3; Points of Interest

v. 1:Immediately after this lamentation, Jesus was leaving the area, and His disciples call His attention to the massive structure of the Temple. Obviously, they were struck by His words.

v. 2:Jesus answers them by telling them that the Temple would be utterly destroyed; there can be no doubt of what He was referring to here.  Understand something about the Jewish view of the Temple:  Not only was it a massive structure that takes up an entire mountaintop, it was the dwelling place of God on the earth. God dwelt in the Holy of holies, the holiest place into which nobody could enter except for the High Priest, one day per year, under strict ceremonial requirements. If the High Priest failed to do it exactly right, or if anyone else attempted to enter through the veil into the Holy of holies, they would be struck dead immediately. The idea of this structure, and of God’s dwelling place being destroyed was, to say the least, traumatic to the Jewish psyche. In fact, this was not the first time that Jesus had spoken of the destruction of the Temple. When He had first cleared the Temple, He had said “destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days”. As we know from John’s Gospel, they had taken this literally, and it appears that they may have connected the two events in their minds. John relates that it was only later that they had come to realize that He had spoken of the temple of

His body (John 2:19-22).  How could they have understood that He referred to His body?  They did not yet understand that His body had become the dwelling place of God at His incarnation; God had changed address! In Matthew 24, they still did not understand this, and they did not begin to get it until his resurrection.  They completely understood by the Day of Pentecost.

v. 3:The disciples asked a question… it looks like they equated destroying the Temple with the end of the world.  This shouldn’t surprise us, since it would surely be the end of the Jewish world. The question for us to figure out is this: How many questions did they actually ask?

This question is critical, because the answer to this question will determine how we interpret the entire answer.  Certain theories require certain answers here.  One of them requires this to be one big three-part question, or they can’t quote it to support their theory.  In truth, we will need to decide before we continue with our study.  The possible choices are: one question, two questions, or three questions.

The way to figure out the answer to this is to carefully study the grammatical structure of Jesus’ answer to determine how many questions Jesus answered.  Accordingly, next week, that is precisely what we will undertake to do.

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Sunday Sermon Notes: August 28, 2022

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:7-11

In approaching this text, you can go one of two ways. The first and most common way of looking at it is to analyze it line by line and word by word.  The second is to read it in its entirety and ask yourself what Peter is getting at. Both approaches should take us to the same place, but sometimes we become sidetracked in the details and forget why we are looking in the first place. Thus, for this lesson, let’s use the second and less common method.  What’s Peter trying to say here?

I think it is something like this: Set aside selfish things so that you may glorify God.

Let’s go back and check…

He starts by telling us that time is short, so let’s get serious: The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.  Yes, this is an easy one… Then he reminds us to love one another with fervor.  Such love is never selfish, for selfish, ‘what I can get out of it’ love, is never “fervent.” This is even clearer when you read the second part of the sentence, for it points directly to forgiveness. Forgiving those whom we love fervently is a selfless act. Here’s how Peter put it:  Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 

Then he tells us to be hospitable without complaint, and since the Greek word can also be rendered as “generous” it’s clear once again that Peter wants us to be selfless. Here are his words:  Be hospitable to one another without complaint. “Without complaint” seals this one for me, how about you?  He goes on to mention that we have each received a special (spiritual) gift from God, and then tells us to use it for the building up of the Body as good stewards, not for our own advancement.  As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Now it gets really interesting. If we speak, we are to speak as though our words were the Word of God, so I see that they are not just my own words, my own thoughts any more. If we serve, we should serve like we are serving from God’s strength and not our own.  This would seem to imply that we are to serve for God’s purpose, since He supplied our strength: whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; nothing of me here…

Finally, we have arrived at the “why” part, so that God will be glorified: so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Looking back to where we started, I’d say we got it just about right―  living for Jesus in love is all about God and other people, and not at all about me. Lord, may each of us take this message from your Word to heart…

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Sunday Sermon Notes: August 21, 2022

  1. Spiritual Gifts and the Character of God

Spiritual Gifts go a long way in revealing the character of God. So, before we get into our lesson, let’s have a look at what they will reveal to us about God. To begin, consider the following:

  1. God is generous

            He is a generous God: He gives us gifts beyond our own human potential, power and abilities.  To put it another way, He is a generous giver to provide things for you in life that will enable you and I to travel farther in life, to enjoy life more, do more in life, to have greater impact, and to experience more joy and fulfillment than we could have ever known without Him.

  1. God is creative

            God created all of these gifts; they are His idea. He initiated all of these gifts and He chooses the individual who receives the gift and how it is manifested through them.

  1. God is industrious

            God is on a mission.  He has a purpose and a plan, and the gifts are tools to accomplish that, and He is allowing us to help.

  1. God has given gifts to His people

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,
    he took many captives
    and gave gifts to his people.”

Ephesians 4:7-8

Our God, who set aside the glories of heaven and came down here to the earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, did a great deal more than just to provide for our Salvation.  Yes, I know that sounds a little strange, but He actually did. He had a plan, a really big plan, to build His Kingdom on this earth, and as incredible as it may seem, He wanted each one of His followers, you and me, to have a role in building it to achieve His Purpose for creating Mankind. Doing that rises beyond human limitations, and to ensure that we could each play our parts in this great project, He gave each of us a spiritual gift to help us through.

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (4:9-13)

Can you see His plan in these verses? He spread His gifts through the Body of Christ, so that some would teach and train others, while still others would fill supporting roles, so that when each does his part, the Kingdom is built up.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (4:14-16)

As each one of us does their part in building up the Body of Christ, we all become mature followers of Christ, no longer infants in the faith, but strong, mature and steadfast people who can withstand the perils of this life. We will be sustained in His love, steadfast in His strength and guided by His wisdom as we carry though our lives in Christ. I don’t know about you, but to me, this is the best news I’ve ever heard anywhere… and we haven’t gotten to our glorious eternity yet!

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Sunday Sermon Notes: August 14, 2022

1 Corinthians 12

  1. Introduction 12:1-3
  2. Many Gifts, One Spirit 12:4-6
  3. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (12:4-6)
  4. Many Manifestations of the Same Spirit 12:7-11
  5. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
  6. It takes many body parts to make one living body. 12:12-26

Using the human body as a metaphor, Paul describes how the manifestations of the Holy Spirit work together in His people to bring about a living organism; the Body of Christ.

  1. Every member of the Body of Christ is important, needed and inter-dependent. 12:27-31
  2. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

  1. Love is the ingredient that binds us all together in One Body. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (13:1-3)

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. (13:8-10)

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Sunday Sermon Notes: August 7, 2022

Romans 12:3-8

Paul set out his proposition in verses 1-2, that we offer ourselves as living sacrifices and be transformed by the renewing of our minds as a response to grace− in verses 3-8 we have our first lesson on how to go about it: Serve the body of Christ in humility.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (12:3)

So, it would seem that the first step in the transformative process is that we adopt an attitude of humility. Right away, we can see that not being conformed to this world was something Paul was very serious about (v. 2) for in this age of “game”, “swagger” and “bling” humility is very much out of style. Verse 4 uses the metaphor of our bodies in the same way that Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 12, another spiritual gifts passage, as he shows that each of us has a unique part to play in the Body of Christ. While this is easy enough to grasp, he takes another shot at the attitudes of this world in verse 5 when he says each member belongs to all the others. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Christians bristle at that one.

In verses 6-8 Paul refers to spiritual gifts that each of us has received by the Holy Spirit.

I hope you will consider this carefully: In a context of humble service, a context that is not only counter-intuitive but also counter-cultural for most of us, Paul tells us to exercise our spiritual gifts in humble service to the Body of Christ. Think about the magnitude of the implication of this…

Not only are we to adopt an attitude of true and honest humility, not only are we to consider our positions as members of and belonging to the Body of Christ, but we are to serve the Body of Christ. Yet even more striking than that, we are to rely upon our spiritual gift from God in our service, which is to say that we are not to rely on our own strength, ability or talent, but on God’s grace alone.

How are we to live as Christians? We are to rely on God in all things to serve His purpose and not our own to build His Kingdom.

Romans 12:9-16

Paul continues in these verses with his discussion of our response to grace. Here, he sets the tone with verse 9: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Our response to God’s grace must be one of love, both love for God and love for others, and this love must be sincere. It is interesting that Paul should modify this sincere love statement with the concept of hating what is evil and clinging to what is good; it would appear that in our sincere love, we are to maintain the highest of ethical standards, not allowing ourselves to misuse our new freedom.

So then, what does love in action look like in practice?

Paul begins shedding light on this question in the verses that follow, first of all with an emphasis on what we should do to put love into action:

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves (12:10). Because our response to grace is that we love others, we should be devoted to one another, and we should put others ahead of ourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (12:11). Because our response to grace is that we love God, we should serve Him with enthusiasm always. Because our response to grace is one of love, our attitudes should reflect that love for God and other people: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (12:12). Since we have a whole new attitude because of the grace we have received, our love should result in generosity toward other people: Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality (12:13).

In the next three verses, his emphasis shifts slightly, but he is still speaking of sincere love:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Romans 12:14-16

As we read these verses, notice that they are not things that are common in this world. I’ve never met someone who blessed their oppressors, for instance; have you? I don’t always see people rejoicing with their friends who are rejoicing, for all too often a person sees their friend rejoicing while harboring resentment because their friend was fortunate in an area where they hadn’t been as fortunate. Harmony is surely lacking in our world, while pride and conceit are commonplace; and so many decline to associate with the less fortunate. Real sincere love is a very rare thing in our world, but within the church, it is supposed to be a given.

Romans 12:17-21

In 12:1-16 Paul has discussed our response to grace with a series of short statements that stem from the theme of sincere love, but in 17 ff. he seems to focus on one particular subject: Revenge. While the previous section can be said to deal mostly with our relationships within the Body of Christ, this section would seem more (hopefully) to deal with those outside of the Body of Christ. Paul set up his new theme in verse 17:  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. Our natural human inclination when we have been harmed or insulted is to strike back, to get even, to Tweet, but that is not the reaction of sincere love, and it has been rendered obsolete by grace.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (12:18). We are not to stir up trouble or carry on in a provocative manner with other people, we should not be tossing insults and unkindness around, nor should we be looking for disputes, for our response to grace makes that kind of living hypocritical. God has forgiven us, He has shown love and mercy to us; do we honor Him by stirring up trouble with other people?

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.

Romans 12:19-20

If we are harmed by another, even if it is a violent attack; our response is to show God’s mercy and love to the other party, it is not for us to avenge the wrong we have suffered. If avenging or retribution or punishment is required, that is God’s job, and since God has been faithful in dealing with us, He can be counted on to be faithful in the final disposition of our having been wronged.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (12:21).

There, that’s the “official” lesson portion− now let’s get real.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2

This is not empty talk; there are serious implications in these words. These injunctions require a response to grace, a response that brings about a whole new way of living and thinking, and more than anything else, they require that we trust God like never before. Yet God has given us His Spirit, and through His Spirit in us, we have the strength and fortitude we need to live the lives He has intended for us to live as citizens of His Kingdom. As each of us uses his or her spiritual gifts for the benefit of the entire Body of Christ, we will have not only the Holy Spirit in us to help us through, we also have the Holy Spirit at work in all of the other members of the Body to encourage, console and empower us to do our parts, to God’s great glory.

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Sunday Sermon Notes: July 31, 2022

Introduction to Spiritual Gifts

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

The point of beginning in any study or discussion of spiritual gifts is this: All followers of Jesus Christ receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at the time of their baptism, thus, each of us has the gift, and the spiritual gift is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When we speak of “spiritual gifts” we are really referring to the manner in which the Holy Spirit chooses to manifest Himself in our lives― if we understand this, we are halfway home. Now, let’s consider a few things…

  1. The first and last commands of Christ: Follow Me and Make Disciples
  2. Why you should care about spiritual gifts.

So, there you have it; you should care about spiritual gifts because an understanding of what they are and which ones you have will tell you a great deal about God’s plans for your life as a follower of Jesus Christ! Gone is resentment about why I do this and he gets to do that, and the baggage centering around holy obligation, duty and transactional love, for there is simply no greater joy in this life than to exercise our spiritual gifts to advance the building of the Body of Christ.

  1. . All Christians have a spiritual gift.

            Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

1Peter 4:10

Note that Peter uses the word “each” so that includes everyone.  It’s very important that we recognize that the spiritual gift that all Christians receive is that of the Holy Spirit Himself. What we commonly refer to as “spiritual gifts” are actually the ways in which the Holy Spirit is made manifest within each of us. The most important question is this: Are we using our gift in ministry?

  1. Here’s how we know that for sure:

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Acts 2:38-39

God gave us spiritual gifts to glorify Himself;

God has given us gifts so that we might exalt His name, that we might do things that will glorify Him.

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:11

It is way too easy for us to get caught up in being busy or to build something up and forget that our purpose is to give glory to God.  When this happens, we sometimes get the idea that our ministry is ours and not His. The result is that we often come to resent anyone else becoming involved in it, and this is not how we make disciples, for making disciples always leads us to teach others to take our place.

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Sunday Sermon Notes: July 24, 2022

John’s last letter. So short, so telling. John is writing to his friend and brother Gaius.  He seems to have been a leader in the church, and even though there are other mentions of men with this name in Scripture, it was a very common name; we can’t be sure if he has other mentions or not.  Gaius was obviously serving others, and sharing God’s love with them. He was hosting a group of missionaries, apparently, and these workers were people he didn’t know.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.

3 John 2-8

Gaius is the kind of Christian who is worthy of imitation.  He is serving in love, he is putting others first, he is doing the kinds of things we should be doing.  But there is another guy who comes up in the letter…

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

 Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.

3 John 9-12

This dude Diotrephes is all too common in our time, and obviously they had this sort of nonsense going on even in John’s day.  Did you catch what John said about him at the beginning? He said that Diotrephes “loves to be first.” Well that about sums it up! Do you know others who love to be first?  They are the important ones, they are the ones who can’t be inconvenienced, they are the ones who always have the last word, who always get their way, and who must always be in charge− they want to be the bride at every wedding, and the corpse at every funeral.  No doubt you are reminded here of the words of Jesus when He said the first will be last and the last will be first.

This Diotrephes won’t welcome the Apostle to the church, and kicks others out for welcoming the strangers that Gaius has taken in. Diotrephes seems to have much to say about others. A bunch of nonsense (or gossip) is being spread about people like John himself, who should be given the respect they are due.  I wonder if Diotrephes is doing this because he must be in the spotlight, and just can’t handle it when someone else gets attention.

Maybe we’ll never know the exact motivation, but I think we recognize the person, and John is telling us not to emulate them or their behavior.  Who can argue with that advice?

Finally, another good guy is mentioned: Demetrius.  So, there you have it, two brothers who are serving faithfully, and one bad apple.  It seems that the bad apple makes the most noise, but the faithful servants are making a difference for the Gospel.  I’d say there might be a lesson in this for us to learn.

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