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Showing posts with the label #Advent

No, seriously: When’s Jesus returning? He’s taking forever!

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2 Peter 3.1-9. I’ve been writing about the scriptures on Jesus’s second advent, or second coming. And of course I had to point out we don’t know when that’ll be. The events which were meant to come before his return, happened. There’s nothing left to hinder it—so it can happen at any time. This being the case, people want that day to be today . Right now. ’Cause they’re suffering, or ’cause current events are awful, or ’cause they’re in a hurry to live under Jesus’s direct rule. Either way, come Lord Jesus! But he hasn’t yet. And sometimes people give up hope of him ever returning. Which was the mindset Simon Peter had to deal with in his second letter. 2 Peter 3.1-4 KWL 1 Now this, beloved: I wrote you a second letter in which I awaken you to a purely-thought reminder— 2 to remember the words the holy prophets and your apostles foretold, commands of our Master and Savior. 3 Know this first: In the last days, mockers will come to mock, following however their

When is Jesus returning?

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Jesus is returning. But when? That’s the question every Christian asks, whether it’s in the front of the back of our minds. When’s Jesus coming back? Sooner rather than later, we hope—though considering the past 20 centuries, he’s taking an awfully long time to get round to it. What did Jesus himself have to say about it? Well, this. You’re not gonna like it. Mark 13.32-37 KWL 32 Nobody’s known about that day or the hour. Neither the heavenly angels, nor the Son. Just the Father. 33 Look. Stay awake. You don’t know when it’s time. 34 It’s like a person abroad, who left his home. He empowered his employees to do their jobs— and he ordered the doorman so he’d stay awake. 35 So stay awake! You don’t know when the master of the house returns. Evening? Midnight? Sunrise? Morning? 36 When he suddenly arrives, don’t let him find you asleep. 37 What I tell you, I tell everyone: Stay awake!” In short: “I dunno. And even if I knew, I’m not telling. You just need to

The Son of Man’s returning. And everyone will see it.

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When Jesus returns, it’s not gonna be a secret second coming. It’s not gonna be an event which only takes place metaphorically, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim; where they believe God’s kingdom began in 1914 but Jesus isn’t coming to earth till the final battle. It’s not gonna be a secret gnostic event, which only the chosen few know about. It’s not gonna be a secret rapture, where the Christians vanish and go to be with Jesus, and the rest of the planet has to wait seven years. It’s not secret. It’s nice and visible and obvious. As Jesus himself describes. Matthew 24.23-28 KWL 23 “Then when anyone might tell you, ‘Look! Here’s Messiah!’ or ‘ He’s here!’ don’t believe it: 24 Fake messiahs and fake prophets will arise, and will give great signs and wonders to deceive you . If possible, to deceive God’s chosen people too. 25 Look, I’m forewarning you 26 so when people tell you, ‘Look, he’s in the wilderness!’ you don’t go out; ‘Look, he’s in the inner room!’

Jesus describes his second coming.

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The first hint we have that Jesus is arranging a second coming —that he’s not taking possession of his kingdom during his first coming—appears in the Olivet Discourse, the bit in Mark 13, Matthew 24-25, and Luke 21, where Jesus answered his students’ question about a future disaster he’d just casually referred to. Mk 13.1-2, Mt 24.1-2, Lk 21.5-6 In each gospel’s version of the discourse, Jesus brought up the persecution of his followers, a particular time of great suffering which’d take place in Jerusalem, and fake Messiahs and prophets who’d try to lead them astray. But afterwards, this: Mark 13.24-27 KWL 24 “But in those days after that suffering: ‘The sun will be darkened and the moon won’t give its light.’ Ek 32.7 25 The stars will be falling from the skies; the heavenly powers will be shaken. 26 Then people will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ Da 7.13 with great power and glory. 27 Then he’ll send angels, and gather together his chosen ones fro

It’s 4 January. It’s still Christmas. And this fact annoys you.

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All the way back in 2016, my church decided it was time to begin our 21-day Daniel fast on the first Sunday of the month. Specifically this was Sunday, 3 January 2016. Welcome back from the holidays, folks; no doughnut for you. “Really not appropriate to schedule a fast for a feast day,” I pointed out to one of my fellow church attendees. SHE. “Feast day? This is a feast day?” ME. “It’s still Christmas.” SHE. “Christmas was two Fridays ago.” ME. “Christmas began two Fridays ago. And ends tomorrow. It lasts 12 days, remember? ” SHE. “ What lasts 12 days?” ME. “Christmas. Remember the song? ‘On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…’ and each day the singer just kept getting more and more birds? ’Cause Christmas has 12 days.” SHE. “Who celebrates it for 12 days?” ME. “ I celebrate it for 12 days. I’m still eating cookies.” SHE. “Well, you can do that if you like. I took the tree down the day after Christmas.” ME. “You mean the second day of C

The Son of Man.

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Something Jesus calls himself… which reminds us he’s Messiah. One of Jesus’s favorite ways to refer to himself is as the Son of Man. It was a way of saying, yet not overtly saying, he’s Messiah. Y’see, people of Jesus’s day who knew their bible would immediately catch the meaning. And people who don’t know the bible—didn’t then, don’t now—would simply assume it’s an odd choice of words, and ignore it as irrelevant. Same as they do Jesus’s parables. The meaning comes from Daniel . In his book, Daniel described various apocalyptic visions of the then-distant future. (Most of it is most definitely in our past, ’cause the angels explicitly stated it had to do with the Persian and Greek empires—though you’ll still get a few End Times loons who insist it has to do with the future of Iran and the European Union. Anyway.) Daniel was informed about Messiah’s first coming, as well as his second. In one of his visions, where the Ancient of Days judged the world, Daniel saw what he iden

Christ is born in Bethlehem.

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Where Micah foretold Messiah’s birthplace. Around 5 BC , a crowd of Zoroastrian astrologers came to Jerusalem looking for “the newborn king of Judea,” Mt 2.2 freaking out the province largely because its paranoid king, Herod bar Antipater. Mt 2.3 They knew it was only a matter of time before Herod starting killing people over it. As he later did. Figuring he oughta learn where Messiah was expected to come from, Herod turned to Jerusalem’s head priests and scribes. Matthew 2.4-9 KWL 4 Gathering all the head priests and scribes of the people, Herod was asking them, “Where’s Messiah born?” 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem, Judea. This was written by the prophet: 6 ‘You, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are in no way the least of Judah’s rulers: A leader will come from you who will shepherd my people, Israel.’” Mc 5.2 7 Then Herod, secretly summoning the Zoroastrians, grilled them on the time the star appeared. 8 Sending them to Bethlehem, he said, “Go search carefully for

Jesus, our Immanuel.

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Why “fulfillment” isn’t about when predictions come true. Isaiah 7.14 Matthew 1.22-23 KWL 22 All this happened so the Lord’s word through the prophet could be fulfilled, saying, 23 “Look, the maiden will have a child in the womb, and they will declare his name Immanúël , which is translated ‘God with us.’” Is 7.14 This one’s probably the most famous “Messianic prophecy”… which, it turns out, isn’t. Seriously, isn’t . Back in 735 BC , King Radyán of Damascus, Aram ( KJV “Rezin the king of Syria”) joined forces with King Peqákh ben Remalyáhu of Samaria, Ephraim ( KJV “Pekah the son of Remaliah”) to attack Jerusalem. 2Ki 16.5 Laid siege to it. Didn’t look good. The prophets Isaiah ben Amóch and his son Sheüryahsúv had come to King Akház ben Yotám ( KJV “Ahaz son of Jotham”) with good news from the L ORD : Aram and Ephraim’s plans would come to nothing. Isaiah 7.10-17 KWL 10 The L ORD ’s word to Akház, saying, 11 “Request a sign from your L ORD God, made deep

Messiah and Melchizedek.

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How some obscure Old Testament priest-king got so mixed up with Jesus. Psalm 110 is a Messianic psalm , a psalm about God’s mešíakh /“anointed [ruler],” one of the kings of ancient Israel. Since Jesus is the last Messiah, it applies to him too. I’ll discuss the whole psalm another time, but today I’m gonna zoom in on just this one verse: Psalm 110.4 KWL The L ORD swore, and isn’t turning back from it: “You’re a priest, eternally, in the manner of Melchizédek.” Melchizédek (Hebrew melkhí chédeq /“king [of] rightness”) is probably a title, not a name. He appeared once in the bible; he never appeared again, but he sure got everyone’s attention: David in this psalm, and the writer of Hebrews in her interpretation of the psalm. The Canaanite king Khedorlaómer of Elam, and his allies, conquered Sodom and dragged its people into slavery. Among them was Lot ben Haran, the nephew of Avrám ben Terah, whom the L ORD later renamed Abraham. Ge 17.5 So Avrám took his private army

The first prophecy of a savior.

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The first time a savior was foretold in the Old Testament. We have no idea whether Genesis was the first written book of the bible. Some Christians speculate Job was (and they’d be totally wrong; Job was written in a later version of biblical Hebrew, and took place in Edom). Others figure Moses wrote his psalm before he wrote the bible. In any event the first hint we have in the scriptures that humanity might need a savior, is found in Genesis 3—the story of humanity’s fall. As the story goes: Eve and Adam, the first humans, lived in paradise. God told ’em not to eat off a particular tree. A serpent tempted Eve to eat off it anyway, and Adam followed suit. The consequence: They couldn’t live in paradise any longer, ’cause the Tree of Life was there. They were driven out; Adam was cursed to fight nature in order to gain his sustenance, Eve was cursed with painful childbirth and male domination, and the serpent was cursed like so: Genesis 3.14-15 KWL 14 The L ORD God tol

The magi and the monstrous king.

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How Jesus’s birth got the attention of the powerful… and the infamous. Matthew 2.1-18. Both Mešíakh /“Messiah” and Hrístos /“Christ” mean king . It’s a fact most Christians forget. Either we translate these words literally and assume they only mean anointed , or we mix ’em up with the meaning of “Jesus” and figure they mean savior . We treat Christ like Jesus’s surname, and forget it’s his title. And we forget you couldn’t just wander around ancient Israel and call yourself Messiah or Christ. There were other people who laid claim to that title. Powerful people. Homicidal people. Like Herod the Great, who was only “great” because of all his building projects; as a human being Herod was a monster. Emperor Augustus used to joke he’d rather be Herod’s pig than his son. Herod did execute two of his sons, and since Edomites didn’t eat pork, Augustus’s comment was quite apt. How’d baby Jesus get on Herod’s bad side? Well, you might know parts of the story, and if you don’t I’m g

The prophets who recognized Jesus.

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Why Joseph and Mary went to temple, and the people they encountered who had “words of knowledge” about Jesus. Luke 2.21-40 Luke 2.21-24 KWL 21 Once eight days were fulfilled, Joseph circumcised him and declared his name Jesus, which the angel called him before he was formed in the womb. 22 Once the days were fulfilled for Mary’s purification, according to Moses’s Law, they took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, 23 just as it’s written in the Lord’s Law: “Every male who opens a womb will be called holy to the Lord.” Ex 13.2, 12 24 And giving a sacrifice, according to the saying in the Lord’s Law: “A pair of doves, or two young pigeons.” Lv 12.8 Jesus followed the Law. If he didn’t, he couldn’t be described as without sin, He 4.15 because sin is defined by the Law. Ro 3.20 And though, as an infant, he couldn’t yet do anything on his own to actively follow the Law, he had Law-abiding parents who took care of it for him. As instructed in the Law, eigh

The sheep-herders’ vision of the angels.

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“Go tell it on the mountain!” isn’t actually part of the story. Sorry. Luke 2.8-20 The same night Jesus was born, a bunch of angels appeared to some nearby herdsmen, scared the bejesus out of them, told them Christ had just been born, then let ’em watch the angels rejoice at what their Lord had done. Nice. As usual I’m gonna pick apart that story in some detail, ’cause our average Christmas stories tend not to know the background (or care) and therefore miss significant things. Luke 2.8 KWL Sheep-herders were in that area, keeping watch over their flocks that night. Starting with the poiménes /“pastors,” the shepherds, or sheep-herders. Most preachers like to point out these were rough, dirty, low-class people. These weren’t like your refined upper-class Pharisees, the sort of people who thought they should be the ones to receive God’s birth announcement when their foretold Christ (or Messiah, or anointed king) had come. Nope; God hadn’t sent angels to those jerks. He se

Christ the Savior is born.

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I know; I should’ve stalled this article till Christmas, right? Nah. Here y’go. Early present. Luke 2.1-7 Luke 2.1-3 KWL 1 This happened in those days: A ruling, to survey the whole Empire, went out from Augustus Caesar. 2 This first survey happened during Quirinius’s leadership of Syria, 3 and each and every one was traveling to their home towns to be surveyed. Some bibles refer to this apo-gráfesthai /“write-up,” as a census. But it wasn’t just a head count. The United States takes censuses every decade to figure out how many representatives each state should get, but the Romans and other empires took censuses to figure out exactly how much tax money they should expect from their territories. Historians were a little confused because for a long time they couldn’t find records of a specific Roman survey round the time of Jesus’s birth (roughly 7 BC or so). They assumed surveys were rare , something that’d have a lot of documentation around it. But surveys were regula

How Joseph became Jesus’s father.

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I know; people say Jesus’s foster father. Nope; adoptive father. Matthew 1.18-25 Luke tells of Jesus’s birth from Mary’s point of view; Matthew from Joseph’s. In Luke she received a message from an angel. Now Joseph had to receive a message for himself. ’Cause obviously he didn’t believe Mary. Matthew 1.18-19 KWL 18 The genesis of Christ Jesus was like this: His mother Mary was promised to Joseph. Before she came to be together with him, she had a child in her womb from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her man Joseph was righteous. Not wanting her to make a scene, he wished to secretly release her. Greek myths abound of stories where Zeus disguised himself as traveling salesmen or geese or bulls golden rain, and impregnating all sorts of loose ’n freaky Greek women with his hybrid spawn. And now here it seemed Mary was trying to tell him a Jewish variation of that same myth: “The Holy Spirit did it. Seriously.” Moderns like to assume the ancients were stupid, and actually b

The birth of John the baptist.

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John’s birth both fulfilled and inspired prophecy. Luke 1.57-80 When Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and announced he’d have a son, the confirmation of its prophecy was Zechariah would be mute áhri is iméras géniti távta /“until the day this one is born.” Lk 1.19 Problem is, if you’re a biblical literalist —you insist the bible be interpreted as literally as possible—it’s not literally what happened. Zechariah was mute for more than a week after John’s birth, and didn’t speak till his circumcision. Doesn’t matter what logical gymnastics you use to prove Gabriel didn’t really mean John’s birthday, or that “the day this one is born” can be fudged to mean a week or so (an exactitude such people won’t apply to the six days of creation). Gabriel’s prophecy was fulfilled, but not with the precision any literalist demands. As is true of every prophecy—and all of scripture. But let’s not poke that bear any further. On to the bible! Luke 1.57-61 KWL 57 Time came for Elizabeth to

Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.

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In which both of them prophesy to one another. Luke 1.39-56 When I teach from the gospels, it tends to throw people. Y’see, most of the interpretations we hear in American churches are based on cessationism , the belief prophecy and miracles only happened in bible times, and don’t anymore. As a result of this false, faithless belief, popular Christian culture isn’t familiar with how prophecy works. So when they read about prophets in the bible, they don’t understand what these people are doing. Either people don’t recognize what they’re saying is prophecy, so they miss it altogether; or people interpret everything based on how they imagine prophecy works—and they’ve got some pretty immature ideas. Starting with why Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth. I kid you not: I’ve heard it preached Mary went to Elizabeth because she wanted to hide her pregnancy. ’Cause that’s what women did in the past when they got pregnant outside of marriage: They went to “visit relatives” for

How Mary became Jesus’s mother.

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Some of the story behind Mary of Nazareth. Luke 1.26-38 Last week John’s birth was foretold; this week Jesus’s. Goes like so. Luke 1.26-38 KWL 26 In Elizabeth’s sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a Galilean town called Nazareth, 27 to a young woman affianced to a man of David’s house, named Joseph; a young woman named Mary. 28 Entering, the angel said, “Hail, your honor! The Lord ’s with you. You’re blessed above all women. ” 29 She was alarmed by this message, and was speculating about what this greeting meant. 30 The angel told her, “Don’t fear, Mary: You’ve found grace with God. 31 Look, you’ll conceive in your womb. You’ll give birth to a son. You’ll name him Jesus. 32 He’ll be great. He’ll be called the Most High’s son. The Lord will give him his ancestor David’s throne. 33 He’ll be king over Jacob’s house in the age to come . His kingdom will never end.” 34 Mary told the angel, “How will this happen?—since I’ve not been with a man.

One heck of a birth announcement.

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In the other gospels John just shows up. In Luke he’s miraculous. Luke 1.5-25 Most Christians vastly underestimate the importance and significance of the prophet John bar Zechariah, whom we more commonly know as St. John the baptist. Largely it’s because we see John as a minor figure, and kinda weird. He showed up, made a lot of noise, preached obedience and repentance… and once Jesus showed up, he faded away. (Or got arrested and beheaded. Same difference.) His only purpose was to point to, and baptize, Jesus, and that done, he died. Others figure John’s a much bigger deal than that. But only because they believe—incorrectly—that John was the first prophet to appear in 400 years. Supposedly after Malachi finished the Old Testament, God went dark. For four centuries he said nothing and did nothing. Then John shows up, and wham : Prophecy’s back! Revelation is back! The miracles turned back on! God is up to something. Yeah, that’s entirely wrong. ’Cause The apocrypha , th

The word became human, and explains God.

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This is the reason he came to us. Not atonement; he could’ve done that invisibly. But to reveal God. John 1.14-18 John 1.14-18 KWL 14 The word was made flesh. He encamped with us. We got a good look at his significance— the significance of a father’s only son—filled with grace and truth. 15 John testifies about him, saying as he called out, “This is the one I spoke of! ‘The one coming after me has got in front of me’—because he’s first.” 16 All of us received things out of his fullness. Grace after grace: 17 The Law which Moses gave; the grace and truth which Christ Jesus became. 18 Nobody’s ever seen God. The only Son, God who’s in the Father’s womb, he explains God . We Christians have had the darnedest time translating and explaining this passage, because while it’s in really simple Greek, it’s deep. It’s profound. It tells us the word of the L ORD , the Son of the Father, God of God, God from the Father’s womb (usually translated “bosom” because human fath