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9/17/2023     Yesterday     Tomorrow

Daniel 7 - 9

Daniel 7

Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts

Daniel 7:1     In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. 2 Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4 The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. 5 And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ 6 After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.   The little horn is the anti-christ.

The Ancient of Days Reigns

9 “As I looked,

thrones were placed,  4 and 24 elders around the Father's throne
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;   God the Father
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
10  A stream of fire issued  fire is judgment
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.

11 “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed   ( See Rev 19:19-20 ) and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.   ( See Rev 20:10 for what happens to the devil, satan.)

The Son of Man Is Given Dominion

13 “I saw in the night visions,  ( 13-14 is the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ. Rev 19 )
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14  And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

Daniel’s Vision Interpreted

15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 17 ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’   We will reign and rule with Christ.  Rev 20:4

19 “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, 20 and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. 21 As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22  until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.

23 “Thus he said:

‘As for the fourth beast,
there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24  As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise after them;   the little horn
he shall be different from the former ones,
and shall put down three kings.
25  He shall speak words against the Most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
for a time, times, and half a time.   a time, 1 year, times, 2 years and a half = 3.5 years
  3.5 years, see Dan 12:7, Rev 12:14, Rev 13:5 (42 months) Dan 9:27, Rev 11:2-3
26  But the court shall sit in judgment,
and his dominion shall be taken away,
to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27  And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’

Burnt Offering / Dan 7:27

28 “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.”

Daniel 8

Daniel’s Vision of the Ram and the Goat

Daniel 8:1     In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. 2 And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. 3 I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.

5 As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. 7 I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.

9 Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10 It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12 And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14 And he said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

The Interpretation of the Vision

15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”

18 And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. 19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. 22 As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power. 23 And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. 24 His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. 25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. 26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”

27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

Daniel 9

Daniel’s Prayer for His People

Daniel 9:1     In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8 To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

Gabriel Brings an Answer

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

The Seventy Weeks

24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator."

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Does the Center Hold?

By Keith Mathison 2/1/2009

     If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “A Calvinist evangelist? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Calvinism undermines evangelism.” This accusation has been repeated so many times that few make the effort to argue it. Instead, it is simply assumed. Never mind that some of the church’s greatest evangelists have been Calvinists. One need only be reminded of men such as George Whitefield, David Brainerd, or “the father of modern missions,” William Carey. “Yes,” we are told, “these men were great evangelists and Calvinists, but that is because they were inconsistent.” But is this true?

     The fact of the matter is that Calvinism is not inconsistent with evangelism; it is only inconsistent with certain evangelistic methods. It is inconsistent, for example, with the emotionally manipulative methods created by revivalists such as Charles Finney. But these manipulative methods are themselves inconsistent with Scripture, so it is no fault to reject them. In order for evangelism to be pleasing to God, it must be consistent with the whole system of biblical teaching. But what does such evangelism look like?

     A classic answer to that question is found in R.B. Kuiper’s little book God Centred Evangelism. This book surveys the entire biblical scope of teaching on the subject of evangelism. Kuiper defines evangelism quite simply as “the promulgation of the evangel.” It is, in other words, the proclamation of the gospel. Kuiper explains that his book “is a plea for God–centered, in contradistinction to man-centered, evangelism.” The book, then, presents a theology of evangelism.

     The first chapters set forth some of the essential theological presuppositions for God-centered evangelism. Kuiper explains that God Himself is the author of evangelism, in that before the foundation of the world, He planned the salvation of sinners. This leads directly into chapter-length discussions of God’s love, His election of sinners, and His covenant. After setting forth these basic theological foundations, Kuiper then deals with various biblical aspects of evangelism, beginning with the sovereignty of God and the Great Commission.

     In the Great Commission, Jesus commands His followers to make disciples of “all nations.” The scope of evangelism, then, is universal. The gospel is to be proclaimed to all. If we truly believe what Scripture tells us about the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation, then the urgency of evangelism will become evident. A number of heterodox theologies undermine the urgency of evangelism by teaching that unbelievers will get a “second chance” after death. There is, however, no biblical warrant for such teaching, and to assert it is pure presumption.

     Our primary motivation for evangelism should be love of God and love of neighbor. Those who love God will joyfully obey His commission to evangelize and disciple. Those who love their neighbor will desire nothing greater for them than eternal life. Their aim will be to see God glorified through the salvation of sinners like themselves in order that the church would grow.

     The God-ordained means of evangelism is His own Word. It is through the proclamation of God’s Word that the Holy Spirit effectually works faith in men’s hearts. The specific message of evangelism is the gospel. Paul summarizes this message in 1 Corinthians 15:3–5: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” When those who hear the gospel ask what they must do to be saved, Scripture tells us that the answer is: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

     In the final chapters of his book, Kuiper surveys issues such as zeal for evangelism, the biblical method of evangelism, cooperation in evangelism, resistance to evangelism, and the triumph of evangelism. He reminds us that we can proclaim the gospel with great hope, looking forward to seeing the fruits of our evangelism, a time when “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” will stand before the throne of the Lamb, clothed in white and crying out, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9–10).

     For too long, the church has attempted to achieve a worthy goal through worldly means. Let us heed Kuiper’s plea and leave man-centered Madison Avenue methods behind. May we fulfill the Great Commission in a God-glorifying manner.

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Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.

Keith Mathison Books:

For All the Saints

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 9/1/2009

     Unity matters. However, so does diversity. Indeed, unity and diversity unite in the very nature of God. God is three persons united in one essence. The world around us fails to see how God’s creation reflects the Trinity, and it always therefore either veers toward the imposition of the one or the disintegration of the many. It either blurs or destroys distinctives in the first case, or in the second, it fragments because, in the words of T.S. Eliot, the center cannot hold. It either dies the death of a single tone, or death by cacophony.

     As such, we ought to celebrate both unity and diversity, the one and the many, three persons and one essence. God, after all, does the same. The God we worship, God in three persons, knits together the church as one body. The God we worship calls out a people where there is no more Jew or Greek. Most importantly of all, He unites us with Himself through the atoning work of His Son. On the other hand, our God is likewise the God of divisions. Even as far back as the garden of Eden we see God at work dividing. He divided day and night, land and water, man and animal. And each day He saw what He had done, both creating and dividing, and called it good.

     That division hit its apex also in the garden. There God promised another division when He spoke to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring” (Gen. 3:15). This same division comes to its ultimate fruition at the end of all time when Jesus will separate the sheep and the goats for all eternity.

     Even as the serpent, from that time forward, has been busy trying to sow division among the people of God in order to destroy the unity we enjoy in the faith, so he has been busy trying to blur the chasm that separates the two seeds. He has encouraged the seed of the serpent to see themselves as God’s children when they are not. He has encouraged the seed of the woman to see themselves as at peace with all men when we are not. He has encouraged us to forget the war and to forget that those who walk among us outside the kingdom are not our kin but our enemies. Unity with them is, according to God’s judgment, an abomination.

     It may well be that the worst fruit of this confusion is simply a blurring of our calling. Because we fail to see the great divide between sheep and goats, we look at the world as a neutral place. Worse still, we look at our own telos, or purpose, in neutral terms. We measure success in our lives by the same standards as those outside the kingdom, seeing our faith as something we add to our lives rather than seeing our faith as our lives. We are, in a word, worldly. We who are called to walk by the Spirit too often are one flesh with the world. We deny that we have been called out, set apart — that we are to be separate from the world, to be holy. We refuse to follow the command of the Captain of our army who told us to set aside the petty concerns of the world and to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

     We will not seek first the kingdom of God until we come to realize that this kingdom is at war with the kingdom of men. God declared war in the garden in response to the attack of the serpent. At Calvary our Lord won the definitive victory, having His heel bruised even as He crushed the serpent’s head. Since Jesus walked out of His tomb victorious, our calling has been to be about the mop-up operation. He has already overcome the world, and so we, being of good cheer, go and make the victory known. We bring heaven down to earth by doing His will here as our spiritual fathers do His will there.

     Of course, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. Of course, we are called to love our enemies. Of course, we are to seek, as much as is possible, to live in peace and quietness before all men. Such does not mean, of course, that we are not called to wage war. Such does not mean that we have no enemies. Such does not mean that all men are content to live in peace and quietness with us. We love our enemies by waging war. Our very peace and quietness rattles them like so much artillery bombardment. Indeed, we lose the war precisely when we lose our peace. And in turn, we fail to enjoy peace when we cease to wage war.

     We who have been called out are different from the world. Our loyalty is toward another King, and our citizenship is in another kingdom. We, His body, are united together. But we are divided from the rest of the world by a chasm as wide as the east is from the west and as thin as a scarlet thread. We are one, and we are promised this victory parade (from Wm. How’s “for all the Saints”):

     From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast, through gates of pearl streams in the countless host, singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Alleluia! Alleluia!

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

     R.C. Sproul Jr. Books |  Go to Books Page

What Stories Do

By Sally Lloyd-Jones 5/01/2013

     Almost overnight, my eight-year-old niece went from being a vivacious little girl who sang her way through life — as if she were singing the soundtrack of her own life the movie — and became a frightened, withdrawn child who spoke so softly you could barely hear her. It was as if she were literally losing her voice, losing herself. And then we found out she was being bullied at school.

     Later, she told me that she thought she wouldn’t get in trouble if she tried not to be herself. It broke my heart, and I wished she had a book to read before school to hear what God says about her, not what those bullies were saying about her. So I thought I better write one — it’s called Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, and it has become a book of hope for children.

     Children look to us for everything. But in all that we’ve given children, have we forgotten to give them hope? Have we left them in despair, looking at what they should do but don’t? Looking at who they should be but aren’t? How, then, do we give hope to children?

     By helping them take the focus off themselves and put it back on God where it belongs. By telling them truths such as these:

God holds the oceans in the palm of his hand. If he can hold the oceans, he can hold you. (p. 106)
If God cares for the tiniest sparrow— how much more must he care for you, his child? (p. 152)
If Jesus can calm a storm on a lake, he can calm the storm in your heart. (p. 181)
God sees not just who you are— but who he is going to make you. (p. 145)

     We give hope to children when we tell them what matters most.

     They don’t need to be told to try harder, believe more, or do better. That just leaves them in despair. Taken by itself, the moral code always leaves us in despair. We can never live up to it.  We don’t need a moral code — we need a Rescuer.

     When I go to churches and speak to children, I ask them two questions: First, “how many people here sometimes think you have to be good for God to love you?” They tentatively raise their hands. I raise my hand along with them. Second, “How many people here sometimes think that if you aren’t good, God will stop loving you?” They look around and again raise their hands.

     These are children in Sunday schools who know the Bible, and yet they have somehow missed the most important thing of all. They have missed what the Bible is all about. They are children like I once was. I thought God couldn’t love me because I wasn’t doing it right.

     How, then, do we help them? What can we do?  We can teach children that the Bible is not about them.

     The Bible isn’t merely about them and what they should be doing. It’s about God and what He has done. It’s not merely a book of rules telling you how to behave so that God will love you. It’s not merely a book of heroes that gives you people to copy so that God will love you.

     Most of all, the Bible is the Story — the story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. And in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost Him — God won’t ever stop loving His children with a wonderful, neverstopping, never-giving-up, unbreaking, always, and forever love. Are we telling children the Story — or teaching them a mere lesson?

     My niece didn’t need another lesson. What she needed to know was that she is loved — with a wonderful, never-stopping, never-giving- up, unbreaking, always, and forever love. What she needed was to be invited into the Story. What she needed was to meet the Hero and become part of His magnificent Story. That is because the rules don’t change you. But the Story — God’s Story — does.

     How, then, do we instill a love for God in children? Simply by telling them the Story — the Story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. By telling it well. Telling it faithfully. Telling it simply. Telling it without dumbing it down. Telling it without explaining it to death. Telling it without drilling it down into a moral lesson.

     Stories don’t tell the truth confrontationally. They don’t coerce you. They don’t argue with you to believe them. They just are. The power of the story isn’t in summing it up, drilling it down, or reducing it to an abstract idea. The power of the story isn’t in the lesson. The power of the story is the story.

     When God sent the prophet Nathan to King David (2 Sam. 12:1-4), Nathan didn’t confront David with a sermon about his sin but told him a story. David didn’t see it coming. The story got by his defenses.

     That’s the thing a true story does — it doesn’t come at you directly and raise a wall of defense. It comes around the side and captures your heart.

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     Per Amazon | Sally Lloyd-Jones is a Brit who came to the US in 1989 "just for a year." She's still here.

     Born in Kampala, Uganda, raised in East, and West Africa and at a boarding school in the New Forest, the first book she ever remembers reading all the way through was THE COMPLETE NONSENSE by Edward Lear. Things have not been the same since.

     She lives in Manhattan and enjoys dividing her time between the front half of her apartment and the back.

Sally Lloyd-Jones Books:

The Coming of the Kingdom part 27

By Dr. Andrew Woods 01/26/2015

Evangelical Confusion

We began scrutinizing New Testament texts that "kingdom now" theologians employ in their attempt to argue that the kingdom is a present reality. The purpose of this examination is to show that none of these passages, when rightly understood, teach a present, spiritual form of the kingdom. In last month's article, we began to scrutinize the typical texts from the Book of  Acts used by "kingdom now" theologians.

Jesus Currently Reigning On David's Throne?

Perhaps the primary reason advanced by "kingdom now" theologians in their attempt to equate God's present work in the church with the present, spiritual manifestation of the Messianic kingdom is that following His Ascension Christ supposedly took His seat on David's Throne in heaven. From this regal position He now orchestrates the spiritual Messianic kingdom through the church. As we shall see, "kingdom now" theologians build much of their case from  Acts 2. However, in general, it is far better to reject the notion that the Davidic Kingdom is present in any sense today and instead to maintain that the Davidic Kingdom will not be inaugurated until the millennial age. At least six reasons exist in support of this conclusion.

First, in the last article, we noted that the Old Testament consistently depicts the Davidic Throne in terrestrial rather than celestial terms. Second, because of this scriptural portrayal of the Davidic Throne, we observed that to argue that the Davidic Throne is now manifesting itself in this age from heaven is to place under unnatural duress the notions of progress of revelation and literal or normal, grammatical, historical hermeneutics. Progressive revelation is the idea that, although latter Scripture can clarify, explain, or specify what earlier Scripture has said, latter Scripture can never change the original promise. In the last article, we noted how both Amillennialists and Historic Premillennialists, by embracing a present, celestial interpretation of the Davidic Throne and Kingdom, depart from a normal understanding of progressive revelation. However, they are not the only ones.

Progressive Dispensationalists are those who maintain that the Davidic Kingdom is present in spiritual form. While still holding to a future or "not yet" earthly reign of Christ following Christ's Second Advent, Progressive Dispensationalists still argue that the Davidic Kingdom is "already" here in spiritual form. Thus, they also contend that Jesus now reigns from David's Throne in heaven over the church. They argue that "The Davidic throne and the heavenly throne of Jesus at the right hand of the Father are one and the same." [1] However, it is only possible to transfer David's Throne from earth to heaven in the Progressive Dispensational system if one a priori embraces a new hermeneutical methodology known as "complementary hermeneutics." This novel interpretive approach allows mere "crucial linking allusions," or "pictorial descriptions" of Jesus as the heir to David's Throne to expand the original terrestrial promise of the Davidic Throne so that it now encompasses a current spiritual form of the Davidic Kingdom with Jesus presently ruling from a celestial Davidic Throne. [2] Here is how Progressive Dispensationalists define "complementary hermeneutics": "the New Testament does introduce change and advance; it does not merely repeat Old Testament revelation. In making complementary additions, however, it does not jettison Old Testament promises. The enhancement is not at the expense of the original promise." [3]

Lightner explains why complementary hermeneutics is not the same thing as progressive revelation. "'Complementary hermeneutics' must not be confused with the historic orthodox doctrine of progressive revelation. The latter truth means that God revealed His truth gradually, sometimes over a long period of time. What was revealed later never changed the original revelation, however. The meaning and the recipients of the original promise always remain the same." [4] In other words, because Progressive Dispensationalists believe that the New Testament actually thrusts new meaning into an Old Testament passage rather than simply amplify or clarify what was originally there, complementary hermeneutics cannot be properly categorized as progressive revelation. Only by buying into the presupposition of "complementary hermeneutics" (that the New Testament based on mere allusions to Jesus as the Davidic heir in His present session adds meaning to or changes the original promise), and in the process rejecting a proper view of progressive revelation, is such a "Davidic kingdom now" theology even remotely possible.

Furthermore, one wonders what havoc could be wreaked upon other biblical doctrines if complementary hermeneutics were consistently applied. Ryrie asks whether the hermeneutic of Progressive Dispensationalism when consistently applied, might one day be used to argue for post-tribulationalism. After all, if the Davidic allusions of  Acts 2 can be used to extend the Davidic Covenant into the Church Age, then why cannot the temple allusion of  Revelation 11 be similarly used to extend the church, which the New Testament consistently portrays as a temple, into the Tribulation period? [5]

The authenticity of New Testament interpretations must be judged by their harmony and congruence with prior revelation. Determining what is true by its conformity to prior revelation is a principle that is taught throughout Scripture ( Deut. 13:1-5; Acts 17:11; Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Thess. 5:21; 1 Cor. 14:29; 1 John 4:1; Rev. 2:2 ). Because standard Progressive Dispensational interpretive methodology changes the original promise by placing Jesus on David's Throne in heaven in the present, based upon mere allusions to Him as Davidic heir despite the terrestrial nature of the original promise, the Progressive Dispensational system and theology are suspect. Hence, only through a departure from progressive revelation can any theological system involving a present celestial reign of Christ from David's Throne be sustained.

Third, no New Testament verse or passage clearly puts Christ on David's Throne in the present age. There is no single, irrefutable New Testament passage substantiating the doctrine that Jesus is currently reigning on David's Throne. The New Testament merely depicts Christ's present position as a return to the preincarnate glory that He experienced with the Father from eternity past ( John 13:3; 17:5; Acts 3:13 ). The fact that Christ is presently experiencing this glory as the ultimate heir to David's Throne does not necessarily mean that His Davidic Kingdom has been inaugurated.

An interesting parallel is found in the career of David. An interim period transpired between David's anointing as king ( 1 Sam. 16 ) and his actual enthronement ( 2 Sam. 2; 5 ). During this interim period Saul was still reigning as king. People were forced to chose to either walk by sight and follow Saul or walk by faith and follow David. They did the latter by trusting God's promise that the anointed David would one day reign after Saul had been deposed. A similar interim period exists between Christ's anointing as the Davidic heir and His enjoyment of glory at the right hand of the Father ( Acts 2:33-35 ) and when He will actually rule on the Throne of David during the Millennium ( Matt. 25:31; Rev. 20:1-10 ). [6] During this present interim period a Saul-like entity, Satan, is reigning as king ( Luke 4:5-8; John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 1 John 5:19 ). Thus, people today are being similarly forced to choose to either walk by sight and follow Satan or walk by faith and follow a David - like individual, Christ. They do the latter by trusting God's promise that the anointed Christ would one day reign after Satan has been deposed.

Moreover, rather than describing Christ's present position as reigning on David's Throne, the New Testament simply describes Christ's present position as being at the right hand of the Father ( Acts 7:55-56; Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22 ). Other passages indicate that Christ was caught up to God's throne following His ascension ( Rev. 12:5 ) but the New Testament never calls God's celestial throne David's Throne. In fact, 60 years after His Ascension Christ, in  Revelation 3:21, drew a sharp distinction between His present position on His Father's celestial throne and His future, terrestrial Davidic Throne. In  Revelation 3:21, Jesus says, "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne." Regarding this verse, Couch makes the following observation: "Christ is here saying that, those who are spiritually victorious, will be rewarded (future tense of didomi) by joining Him in His earthly Messianic reign, just as He overcame (aorist or past tense) and sat down (aorist or past tense) with His Father on His throne." [7] Putting all of the pieces together, we can safely surmise that in  Revelation 3:21 Christ's throne refers to His future Davidic terrestrial throne while the Father's throne refers to the celestial throne of God ( Ps. 110, Dan. 7 ).

The early chapters of  Acts are frequently appealed to in order to demonstrate the present, celestial Davidic enthronement of Christ. Yet in  Acts 1:6-7, the disciples asked the Lord if He was now going to restore the kingdom to Israel. Such a restoration is a reference to the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. In verse  7, Christ responded, "It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority." Of this response, Pentecost observes, "This passage makes it clear that while the covenanted form of the Theocracy has not been cancelled and has only been postponed, this present age is definitely not a development of the Davidic form of the kingdom." [8]

Continue Reading (Part 28 on Sept 18 web page)

[1] Darrell Bock, "Evidence from Acts," in The Coming Millennial Kingdom: A Case for Premillennial Interpretation, ed. Donald Campbell and Jeffrey Townsend (Chicago: Moody, 1992), 194.

[2] Darrell Bock, "The Reign of the Lord Christ," in Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church, ed. Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 49, 51.

[3] Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock, Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, ed. Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 392-93.

[4] Robert Lightner, Last Days Handbook: Revised and Updated (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 210.

[5] Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody, 1995), 175.

[6] Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 440.

[7] Mal Couch, "Progressive Dispensationalism: Is Christ Now on the Throne of David? (Part I)," Conservative Theological Journal 2 (March 1998): 43.

[8] Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come: Tracing God's Kingdom Program and Covenant Promises Throughout History (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1990), 269.

     Dr. Andrew Woods Books

Note I copied this article from The Bible Prophecy Blog.

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A Pastor’s Love for Christ

By Nicholas Batzig 5/01/2013

     Dr. John H. Skilton was professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia for almost fifty-eight years (1939–1998). He was one of the most scholarly men in the church. Rumors have circulated over the years that he had memorized the entire Greek New Testament, together with every textual variant. His doctoral dissertation, “The Translation of the New Testament into English, 1881–1950,” which he lost on a public bus in Philadelphia and then reconstructed from memory, shows something of his unique breadth of knowledge in theology and linguistics. In addition, John served as the editor of The Westminster Theological Journal from 1968 to 1973.

     While John’s commitment to biblical scholarship is certainly worthy of the highest commendation and imitation, it is not that for which he is most affectionately remembered. When John retired from full-time professorship in 1973, he opened his home in the Vietnamese section of Philadelphia to missionaries, pastors, believers, neighbors, and the homeless. Quite appropriately, this place of mercy and love became known as “The Skilton House.” Some of my fondest childhood memories were spent observing this man, whom I’ve subsequently heard others refer to as “the most loving man I’ve ever met.”

     What was the secret to John’s greatness in ministry? Was it his intellectual acumen? Was it personal ambition? Was it a desire to bring about change in the world? While all of these things have their place, at its core, the secret to John’s greatness in ministry was a heart full of love for the Christ who first loved him (John 11:5; 13:1, 32; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20; 1 John 4:19). Like the Apostle John, Dr. Skilton was a model of what it means for a minister to express love for the Lord and His people in ministry (John 15:9–13; 13:34–35; 1 John 2:5; 2:15; 5:1). Every pastor ought to carry out Christian service from a heart full of love for God.

     Sadly, many in the pastorate often neglect this all-important aspect of ministry. It is far too easy for a minister to slide into a mode of fleshly dependence and self-interest. This becomes the modus operandi when love for God is forsaken. When we are motivated by self-interest, then pride, worldly pursuits, discontentment, complacency, or discouragement begin to characterize our ministry. When internal enemies battle for the driver’s seat of the heart, love for the church tends to wane as well.

     Ministers may inadvertently neglect love to God for a variety of reasons. An awareness of how far short we fall of God’s command to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength may sometimes lie behind a neglect of love for God. We may adopt a sinful complacency since we know that we will inevitably fail to love God as we ought. For others,  an overemphasis on the objective truth of Scripture to the neglect of the subjective experience of it in our lives  can lead to lovelessness toward God in the heart. No matter how spiritually aware of personal weakness or doctrinally sound pastors may be, we are ever in danger of falling into this trap.

     So what can ministers do to cultivate an unswerving love for Christ? The loveless heart will be cured only when we know and are convinced of the love that Christ has for unworthy sinners like us. The Apostle Paul taught that this was the secret to his self-sacrificing ministry (2 Cor. 5:14). He expressed his own experiential grasp of Christ’s love for him when he wrote, “The life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Love for God will always be absent until we remember our sinfulness and look in faith to the crucified Savior who loved us and gave Himself for us.

     We also see how love for Christ flows from the love of Christ in the account of the sinful woman who came to Jesus in selfless abandonment and brokenness (Luke 7:36–50). Our Lord explained that “she loved much” because her sins had been forgiven, but “to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:47). So it is for ministers of the gospel. The pastor who knows that he has been forgiven of much will love much, but he who forgets how much he has been forgiven will love little.

     All pastors can slide into seasons of lovelessness in ministry. We would be wise to heed the words of one whose life and ministry was preeminently characterized by love to Christ:

     We must ever guard against doing what is formally right without putting our heart in what we are doing… . We must remember that though we bestow all our goods to feed the poor and have not love, it profits us nothing. Be not like those who draw nigh to God with their mouth and honor Him with their lips, but whose heart is far from Him. Let us keep … our hearts with a faith that works by love — a faith that is genuine and true, which joyously and spontaneously expresses itself in deeds of compassion and love. (John H. Skilton, Think on These Things)

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     Rev. Nick Batzig is pastor of New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Richmond Hill, Ga. He is editor of The Christward Collective.

By John Walvoord (1990)

Prophecy In The Pauline Epistles |  Romans

     In the epistle to the  Romans, the apostle Paul, guided by the Spirit, stated the basic theology of Scripture, including Old Testament revelation, but also the new revelation that came through the first coming of Christ. Many of the major doctrines of the Christian faith are to some extent revealed in the Old Testament, but fuller revelation came with the declaration of God’s purpose to call out the church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, forming a new entity that the Old Testament had not predicted.

     The theology of the church provided a new, more comprehensive statement. Accordingly, in the epistle to the  Romans, the apostle Paul presented the doctrine of sanctification, the relationship of God’s present purpose in the church to His declared purposes for Israel, and the major principles of Christian life, which are the practical applications of the great doctrines of theology. As Paul was especially concerned with how the doctrine of the church related to the promises given to Israel, three chapters were devoted to this ( Rom. 9–11 ).

     It is probable that the epistle to the  Romans was preceded by  1 and  2 Thessalonians, Galatians, and  1 Corinthians. Having already stated, particularly in the  Thessalonian epistles and in  1 Corinthians, the doctrine of the rapture of the church, Paul did not consider it necessary to restate this doctrine in the epistle to the  Romans.

     As the epistle concerns itself primarily with the theology that existed at the time of Paul’s writing the epistle, the book does not provide an extensive prophetic outline of the future. Only occasionally in  Romans are future events predicted, but those that are mentioned are of essential character, including prophecies concerning Israel that will be fulfilled after the present age. Though the epistle to the  Romans emphasized the situation at the time Paul lived, as is always the case, doctrine realized in the present has an implication and fulfillment in the future. Accordingly, when the epistle touches on prophecy, it deals with important future events.

The Implications of a Doctrine of Sin to Future Divine Judgment

     Romans 2:5–16. The doctrine of sin and guilt always has a present application, while also implying future judgment. In dealing especially with Gentile sin and rebellion against God, Paul revealed that there will be certain divine judgment. He stated, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger” (vv.  5–8 ).

     Earlier in this chapter Paul argued that all men have fallen short of God’s moral standards and that therefore they should not pass judgment on others. He summarized, “So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (v.  3 ) Since all have sinned, as Paul made clear later in this epistle, salvation is by faith and by grace.

     There is, however, a different quality of life in those who are saved from those who are not saved. Those who persist in being unrepentant, as Paul stated, face certain judgment from God. In speaking of “the day of God’s wrath” (v.  5 ), Paul was not referring to any specific day though, as Scripture unfolds the series of judgments that will characterize the judgment of all men, the final judgment will come at the end of the millennial kingdom ( Rev. 20:11–15 ). Those who are saved have a different quality of life that demonstrates they have come to God in repentance and faith. Accordingly, their manner of life will be rewarded and result in eternal life. The life of doing good and receiving eternal life is obviously not possible unless a person believes and accepts the truth of God’s gospel ( Rom. 2:6–8 ).

     Though Paul was dealing primarily with Gentiles, he made it clear that Jews are in the same situation: “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism” (vv.  9–11 ). The difference between Jew and Gentile is that the Jew has been given the revelation of the Law and the Gentile has not, but this does not change the fundamental requirements of doing what is right in God’s sight.

     Paul specifically addressed the distinction between those who sin who know the Law and those who do not: “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it those who obey the law who will be declared righteous” (vv.  12–13 ).

     Paul used the word law in a number of different senses in his epistles. The point he made is that those who are under the Mosaic law who are Jews will be judged by it; but that the Gentiles have a general moral law, and if they are living in the will of God, they will, to some extent, conform to the Mosaic law in its moral teachings.

     Paul stated, “(Indeed, when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares” (vv.  14–16 ).

     Because all men have a conscience that to some extent distinguishes right from wrong, and because God deals with the hearts of men, even if they are not Jews under the Mosaic law, they will be judged on the moral code they recognize as witnessed by their conscience.

     In dealing with the day of judgment, Paul had in mind that God will judge Christians at the time of the rapture, as brought out in his previous writing in  1 Corinthians 3:11–15; 9:24–27. The unsaved, however, will not be judged finally until after the millennial kingdom. In life, however, God also deals judgment to those who rebel against Him, and they experience the wrath of God as it is expressed in history. The final judgment, however, will determine the ultimate destiny of the soul. This will be especially evident at the great tribulation preceding the second coming of Christ.

Reconciliation through Justification

     Romans 5:9–11; 6:8; 8:1. Having demonstrated the need for salvation because of the universal condemnation described in  Romans 1:18–20, and having expounded the doctrine of justification, Paul then turned to the wonderful reconciliation that justification provides: “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” ( 5:9–11 ).

     Justification has declared the one who trusts in Christ to be righteous in his position before God because God sees him in the person and work of His Son. The argument is that if we were saved from God’s wrath by justification in time, how much more, having been reconciled, will Christians enjoy salvation in this life and the life to come!

     Later, Paul revealed further light on this subject of being seen in the life of Christ: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears then you also will appear with him in glory” ( Col. 3:3–4 ). Justification as a particular act of God occurs at the moment of salvation. Thereafter, we enjoy justification because God sees us through His Son. This will become especially evident in the final judgment. Not only have we been justified already but we also have been reconciled to God by the death of His Son ( Rom. 5:11 ).

     Here, as in all of his discussions on salvation, Paul made clear that salvation is something God does for those who trust in Christ, and justification and reconciliation are true for every believer from the moment of his salvation. The enjoyment of it in time and eternity demonstrates the wonderful fact of salvation in Christ.

     A similar thought of how salvation is manifest in life is expressed in  Romans 6:8, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Just as death precedes resurrection, so those who are identified with Christ in His death are also identified with Him in His resurrection. This is a present benefit as well as a guarantee of future blessing. The one who is in Christ will not come into condemnation ( 8:1 ).

Prophecy of a Believer as Son and Heir Inheriting Glory

     Romans 8:12–39. The true believer in Christ is described as having no condemnation (v.  1 ) and as one who is living under the control of the Holy Spirit. Even though this does not produce a perfect moral life, it nevertheless characterizes the believer who is living under the new nature rather than the old (v.  13 ). Present experience of salvation is the forerunner of that which is prophesied. If the believer is now a child of God (v.  17 ), then he is also the heir of God (v.  17 ). As such, we may share some sufferings in this present life, but we also will share in the glory to come.

     Contrasting our present suffering with future glory helps a Christian to realize what Paul stated: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (v.  18 ). The sufferings of a Christian are paralleled by sufferings in the world as a whole, for all creation is groaning and suffering like a woman giving birth (vv.  22–23 ). When a Christian experiences suffering, he all the more anticipates the full meaning of being adopted as a son of God. Though this takes place in our present life, when God recognizes a Christian as His son, it gives a basis for hope that ultimately the sufferings will cease and makes it possible to hope patiently (v.  25 ). Even though a Christian may not know how to pray under some circumstances, the promise is given that the Holy Spirit will pray as his intercessor (vv.  26–27 ).

     Having been saved, a Christian enters into the divine process of ultimate glorification described by Paul: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (vv.  29–30 ).

     On the basis of God’s sovereign work for a believer, which will not be consummated until he is presented perfect in glory, Paul stated the great truth that a Christian can “know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (v.  28 ). The point is that a Christian was predestined before he was saved, and he was called and justified when he was saved. Now being justified and declared righteous by God, his next state will be one of glorification.

     All of this, of course, is based on grace because a Christian has been chosen, and his salvation has been possible because God did not spare His own Son (v.  32 ). There is no danger of a Christian ever coming into condemnation and being declared lost. This is because he is seen in Christ who died and was resurrected and is supported by His present intercession in heaven: “Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (v.  34 ).

     The complete safety of the believer is presented in the classic conclusion of this chapter, in which Paul declared that nothing can separate a Christian from the love of Christ (v.  35 ). While it is true that a Christian may face death and suffering as a martyr, it is also true that a Christian conquers through Christ who loves him.

     Paul declared his own faith and the content of every Christian’s faith: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv.  38–39 ). This detailed summary covers the whole gospel experience of man. Like all other aspects of our salvation, it is based on grace rather than reward. But having entered by faith into the grace that is in Christ Jesus, the believer has the certain hope that what is promised will certainly be fulfilled.

God’s Mercy Is under His Sovereign Will

     Romans 9:10–33. The doctrine of the sovereignty of God, so firmly embedded in history and prophecy, was discussed at length by Paul, who used Jacob and Esau as illustrations. Concerning this important point in God’s manifesting His choice of Israel as a special nation, Paul declared, “Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls — she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’” (vv.  10–13 ).

     The quotation referring to Jacob being loved and Esau being hated is derived from  Malachi 1:2–3. This must be understood in the wider revelation of the entire Bible because  John 3:16 declares that God loves the world, which would include Esau. In other words, the choice is relative. Jacob He loved in advance, and Esau He did not. Now Paul brings up the question as to whether this is unjust: “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” ( Rom. 9:14–16 ).

     Using the illustration of Pharaoh, Paul pointed out that God’s hardening of an unrepentant sinner is often based on an additional offering of forgiveness. As in the case of Pharaoh, Paul wrote, “‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’

     Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (vv.  17–18). As Paul pointed out, the way God hardened Pharaoh’s heart was by giving him repeated opportunities to yield to the will of God regarding Israel. The final chapter was written when Pharaoh pursued them into the Red Sea and was drowned. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart came not from the heart of God but from the heart of Pharaoh.

     Paul used another illustration to demonstrate why God is sovereign. Describing a potter making a clay pot, he asked the question, “‘Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (vv.  20–21).

     The process of enduring with patience those people who are destined to the wrath of God is justified by the fact that this makes the riches of the glory of His grace all the more evident, both for Jews and for Gentiles (vv.  23–24 ).

     Recognizing the importance of this is a major doctrine of Scripture. Paul then quoted from  Hosea 2:23: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one” ( Rom. 9:25 ). This passage calls attention to a fine point in exegesis in which interpretation and application are different. The passage quoted is to show that God in general is sovereign in His mercies, whether to Jew or Gentile. The quotation from  Hosea 2:23, however, is in reference to Israel who, because of her sins, was declared not to be the people of God and then in grace is restored. The fact that he is here referring to Israel, not Gentiles, as interpretation is concerned, is brought out in his further quotation of  Hosea 1:10, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God’” ( Rom. 9:26 ). Paul used this illustration of God’s mercy with Israel, however, to support his concept of mercy also given to the Gentiles and, while not interpreting the book of Hosea, to make an application. At stake is the distinction made throughout Scripture that Israel is separate from Gentile nations, and this must be understood in this passage.

     Further light is given from the book of  Isaiah 10:22–23 ): “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality” ( Rom. 9:27–28 ). Even for Israel, the covenanted people, only those who come to the Lord will be received in mercy and grace, and probably the great bulk of the nation will be lost.

     Paul further supported this in a quotation from  Isaiah: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah” (v.  29 ).

     As a conclusion to this complicated argument, Paul stated that the Gentiles, even though not the favored people of God, will have righteousness as they turn to God, but the people of Israel, who would normally be considered the ones who should pursue the law of righteousness, will not attain it because they have not put trust in Jesus Christ. “What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’ As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame’” (vv.  30–33 ).

     Christ as the stone is presented in Scripture in various characterizations. He was the smitten rock ( Ex. 17:6; 1 Cor. 10:4 ); He was portrayed as the foundation and chief cornerstone of the church ( Eph. 2:20 ). Here, as is also true for the Jews at His first coming, He is a “stumbling block” (cf.  1 Cor. 1:23 ). He will be the stone that is the capstone of the corner when He comes in His second coming ( Zech. 4:7 ). According to  Daniel 2:34, He will be the smiting stone that destroys Gentile power. Also in verse  35, he will be the stone that expands and fills the earth when He takes over the earth as His kingdom. To unbelievers also, He is a crushing stone ( Matt. 21:44 ).

     All of these illustrations combine to emphasize the sovereign character of God and on the other hand, the responsibility of man to respond to God’s message of grace and salvation. The same truth that saves one will condemn another. Taken as a whole,  Romans 9 accounts for the extension of the gospel to the Gentiles because the Jews did not respond in faith to Jesus Christ. This sets the stage for  Romans 10, dealing with Israel’s present opportunity, and  Romans 11, Israel’s future restoration.

The Opportunity of Salvation in the Present Age

     Romans 10:8–21. Though it is true that God has temporarily set aside Israel as a nation and moved in Gentiles for their blessing in the present age, it is also true that every individual, whether Jew or Gentile, can be saved by coming to Christ. Paul speaks of the word of faith that is the message of salvation, “‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame’” (vv.  8–11 ).

     Not only is the gospel open to all, but both Jews and Gentiles can be saved in the same way: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (vv.  12–13 ).

     Here there is a repetition of the truth also extended in  Romans 9:33 that individuals who trust in God, whether Jews or Gentiles, can be saved. Accordingly, though Israel as a nation has been temporarily set aside, and progress in its prophetic program as outlined in the Old Testament has stopped, individual Jews can still be saved in exactly the same way that Gentiles can be saved.


Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times

The Look of Faith (Prayer)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     OUR Father, we have listened to Thy gracious words. Truly Thy paths drop fatness. Wherever Thou art, mercy abounds. Before Thy feet rivers of grace spring up. When Thou comest to man it is with the fulness of pardoning love. Thou hast bidden us come to Thee and seek Thee while Thou mayest be found. We would come now. May Thy holy Spirit help us ! May Jesus lead the way and be our Mediator now !

     Blessed be Thy name ; there are many who sought Thy face many years ago. We have since then tasted that Thou art gracious, and we know by a delightful experience that Thou dost indeed give milk and honey to such as trust Thee. Oh! we wish we had known Thee earlier.

     Lord, Thou hast been full of truth and faithfulness to us throughout every step of our journey, and though Thou hast not withheld the rod of the covenant from us, we are as grateful for that this morning as for the kisses of Thy lips. Thou hast dealt well with Thy servants according to Thy Word. Blessed be Thy name for ever and ever.

     But there are some who have never come to Thee ; they are hearers, but hearers only ; they have listened to gracious invitations thousands of times, but they have never accepted them. Say unto them, " Thereto hast thou gone, but no further shalt thou proceed in thy carelessness and trifling.

     Here shalt thou stay and turn unto Thy God." O Saviour, Thou hast all power in heaven and earth, therefore Thou canst through the preaching of Thy Word influence the hearts of men. Turn them, and they shall be turned. Oh ! do it this day.

     We would now in our prayers come ; as we came at first would we come again ; we would renew our vows, we would again repeat our repentance and our faith, and then look at the brazen serpent and touch but the border of Thy garment. We would begin again. O, Lord, help us to do it in sincerity and truth. And first we: do confess that we are by nature lost and by practice ruined. We are altogether as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. We would lie at those dear pierced feet bleeding at heart because of sin, wounded, mangled, crushed by the fall and by our own transgression. We confess that if Thou shouldst number our sins upon us and deal with us accordingly we should be sent to the lowest hell.

     We have no merit, no claim, no righteousness of our own. Oh! now, dear Saviour, we look up to Thee. Oh ! that some might look for the first time, and those of us that have long looked would fix our happy gaze again upon that blessed substitutionary sacrifice wherein is all our hope. Dear Saviour, we do take Thee to be everything to us, our sinbearer and our sin-destroyer. We have not a shadow of a shade of a hope anywhere but in Thyself, Thy life. Thy death, Thy resurrection, Thine ascension, Thy glory, Thy reign. Thy second advent ; these are the only stars in our sky.

     We look up to Thee and are filled with light. But O Thou dear, dear Saviour, we dare not turn to ordinances, we dare not turn to our own prayers, and tears, and almsgivings, we dare not look to our own works, we only look to Thee ; Thy wounds, Immanuel, these bleed the balm that heals our wounds, Thy crowned head once girt with thorns, Thy body once laid in the silent tomb, Thy Godhead once covered and concealed from man, but now resplendent amidst triumphant hosts. If we can perish trusting in Thee we must perish, but we know we cannot, for Thou hast bound up our salvation with Thy glory, and because Thou art a glorious Saviour for ever, none that trust in Thee shall ever be confounded.

     But we do trust Thee now. If all our past experience has been a mistake, yet we will begin at the cross today ; or if we have never had any experience of Thee before we would begin today. Oh ! hear Thou, hear Thou the prayer :—

          " Dear Saviour, draw reluctant hearts,
          To Thee let sinners fly."

     By His agony and bloody sweat, by His cross and passion, by His precious death and burial, we beseech Thee hear us now! We plead with Thee for some that are not pleading for themselves. O Spirit of God, let it not be so any longer. Now sweetly use Thy key to open the fast-closed door, and come into men's hearts and dwell there that they may live. We have a thousand things to ask. We should like to plead for our country and for all countries ; we shoud like to plead with Thee for the sick and for the dying, for the poor and for the fatherless. We have innumerable blessings to ask, but somehow they all go away from our prayer just now, and this is our one cry : Save, Lord, we beseech Thee, even now send salvation ! Come Holy Spirit to open blind eyes and unstop deaf ears and quicken dead hearts.

     Father, glorify Thy Son that Thy Son may glorify Thee. Holy Spirit, do Thine office and take of these things of Christ and reveal them unto us. We gather up all our prayers in that salvation through the blood of the Lamb. Amen.

Let No Man Tear Asunder

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 6/01/2013

     My favorite theologian of all time is wont to argue that the defining task of the theologian is to make distinctions. That’s what we do. We bring clarity through precision, precision through distinction. The man who may well be my favorite theologian’s favorite theologian, Francis Turretin, published his three-volume work Institutes of Elenctic Theology (3 Volume Set) as a sort of systematic theology by contrast. Each point is broken down, compared and contrasted, and examined in light of its opposite.

     One could argue that theologians are here following the path of their Maker. We serve a God who delights in distinctions. Reading through the creation account, for instance, we see not only the creation of light, but the separation of light and darkness, not only the creation of land, but the separation of land and sea, or land and sky.

     On the other hand, the same God who delights in distinctions warns us against tearing asunder what He has brought together. He is a God who brings people of every tongue and tribe together into a holy nation, a royal priesthood. He makes of many grains one loaf.

     Reformed theologians especially are given, at least when dealing with the critical issue of our salvation, to razor-thin distinctions. The links in our chain of the ordo salutis, or “order of salvation,” are strong, unbreakable, but nevertheless rather small. There is good reason for this, but also some danger. Sometimes the wedges we drive between concepts go too deep.

     Consider faith and repentance. There is good reason to see these as two distinct things. With one, we look with hope to the provision of God in Christ. With the other, we acknowledge and confess our need for that work. Hypothetically, one could affirm that Jesus died for sinners and miss the glaring truth that the one making the affirmation is a sinner. One could more easily recognize the reality of his sin but know nothing of the provision in Christ. Thus, the two are two, and both equally needful.

     On the other hand, one could argue that the two things are actually one, or at the very least that they flow from the same source. Faith is indeed the coming together of understanding, agreement, and trust. But on a more fundamental level, faith is simply this — believing God. Faith is displayed when God speaks and we say, “Amen.”

     The devil, of course, knows that God is true. He is quite informed on the sacrifice of Christ. He knows to his very core, from the very longing of his heart by which he misses those who slipped through his fingers, that Jesus came to save sinners. He is also quite well aware of what and who he is — a sinner. All of this knowledge will make his eternity that much more painful.

     Faith and repentance, then, might be at their closest when we confess that, as He says, we are sinners, and as we cry out, as He has commanded, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). God says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and we say, “Lord, Your judgments are true.” When God says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15), we do not merely affirm our agreement, but we sing it with hallelujahs and amens.

     For all the important nuances, for all the valuable precision, the simple truth of the matter is we fell in the garden because we failed to believe God. All sin is a failure to believe God. The good news is that we are rescued from our sins by believing Him, both His judgment and His promise. That is, we are gifted with faith and repentance.

     Just as we can make theology more complex than it need be, just as we are called, in seeking orthodoxy, to say our amens to what God has revealed about Himself, so we can make the living of our lives in faithfulness, the seeking of orthopraxy, more complex than it need be. Here, too, we are to say our amens about what God has revealed about His promises for us, about His law. He commands that we not worry about what we will eat or wear, and we are called to repent of our fears and believe His promises. He commands us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and we are called to repent for our pursuit of personal peace and affluence, and to believe His promises.

     It is true that God is true and all men are liars. It is true, in turn, that every man is miserly while God is extravagant. Were we wise, we would repent expansively, even as we would believe with both deep conviction and broad expectation. Our sin is simple — we do not believe God, and so do not obey God. The solution is simple — believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household (Acts 16:31). We do not merely believe this once and then nevermore; rather, we believe it both evermore and evermore.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

     R.C. Sproul Jr. Books |  Go to Books Page

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 104

O LORD My God, You Are Very Great

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
2 covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
3 He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;
4 he makes his messengers winds,
his ministers a flaming fire.

5 He set the earth on its foundations,
so that it should never be moved.
6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At your rebuke they fled;
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.
8 The mountains rose, the valleys sank down
to the place that you appointed for them.
9 You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.

ESV Study Bible

The Blessing of Persecution

By Cal Thomas 6/01/2013

     “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33; NIV).
     “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11; NIV)
     In 1997, while in Hong Kong to write about the British handover of that city to the mainland government, I visited the pastor of one of the largest house churches in China with a missionary friend who knew him. Pastor Lamb, as he was called, was in his 70s at the time. He told me he had spent half his life in prison for preaching the gospel. I asked him if the Public Security Bureau still came around to observe his activities.

     “Not so much now,” he replied.

     “Why not?” I asked.

     “Because,” he said, “every time they threw me in prison, the church grew.”

     We Americans know nothing about such persecution. We think we are being persecuted when a newspaper editorial criticizes us, or someone uses the Lord’s name in vain in our presence, or calls us religious fanatics. Most of the world understands persecution in terms of jail, torture, beheadings, and ostracism from family and friends.

     Jesus said, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).

     In effect, this means that if you are being persecuted, it isn’t you they are persecuting; rather, it is Jesus in you who is their target. Jesus exposes sin. He is the “smell of death” (2 Cor. 2:16) to those who are perishing, as my pastor, Dr. Robert Norris, once preached in a sermon. People don’t like the smell of death, which, it might be argued is their smell, not ours, because we are alive in Christ and they are dead in their sins. Some try to get rid of the “smell” by persecuting believers.

     The small price I have paid for my faith—angry letters to the editor, some cancellations of my column by a few newspapers (though many more retain it), the social cost of not being invited places because as one person admitted to me, “I was afraid you would start quoting Bible verses”—is nothing compared to my fellow believers in the rest of the world today and throughout history.

     If one seeks to live a life pleasing to God, one will be persecuted, according to no less an authority than Jesus. It is not something to be avoided; it is something to be accepted if the persecution is for the right reason.  It (Persection) validates our life in Christ and His life in us.

     Note that Jesus said in Matthew 5 that we are blessed if we are persecuted by those who “falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” If we are persecuted because of a judgmental attitude, a condemning spirit, or just because we behave in a boorish fashion towards unbelievers, then we get no “credit” from Jesus.

     Suffering is a companion to persecution. Only masochists enjoy suffering, but if one is a follower of Jesus, it comes with the territory. If we seek to avoid persecution and suffering, we are denying Christ because He said we will be persecuted. By seeking to accommodate ourselves to the world in order to avoid persecution and suffering, we are keeping Jesus bottled-up inside and not allowing Him to get out where He can turn our suffering into a powerful witness.

     We live in a relativistic age that says to all of us: you have your “truth,” I have my “truth,” and whatever makes you feel good ought to be fine with everyone else. That this philosophy has produced a social train wreck has not deterred those who believe and behave this way to change their minds.

     If you presume to speak of the truth, as in “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6), you will be called all sorts of things. I have been. So was Jesus.

     The price one pays for public criticism in my business is nothing compared to the rewards that are to come. I have not won many prizes or awards and don’t expect to. My rewards are not denied; they are just deferred. The rewards Jesus gives are far more valuable than any framed document, gold statue, or large check the world can offer.

      Deferring rewards and gratification is the antithesis of the spirit of our age, or any age.  Believing there is something better ahead is viewed as fanaticism and “pie in the sky” by those who are perishing. To the rest of us, it’s called faith.

     Only Jesus could claim to have overcome the world, and because He did, we can accept persecution, suffering and criticism, knowing He will wipe away every tear and make all things new. Great will be the reward of those who think, believe and act this way, not in spite of persecution, but because of it.

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     Cal Thomas is America’s most widely syndicated op-ed columnist, appearing in more than 500 national newspapers. Thomas is a forty-year veteran of broadcast and print journalism, and has authored more than ten books, including Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That Is Destroying America, co-authored with Bob Beckel. Thomas has worked for NBC, CNBC, PBS television, and the Fox News Channel, where he currently appears on the media critique show Fox News Watch.

The Continual Burnt Offering (Romans 8:1)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

September 17
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.    ESV

     In Romans 7 we have a man renewed by the Spirit of God, but struggling under law, hoping thereby to subdue or find deliverance from the power of the old Adamic nature. In Romans 8 we have God’s way of deliverance through the death and resurrection of Christ with which the believer is identified before God. The chapter begins with “no condemnation” and ends with “no separation.” All who are in Christ Jesus are accepted in the Beloved and as free from every charge of guilt as He is Himself. He paid our penalty on the cross. Now we are linked up with Him in resurrection, not under law but under grace.

No condemnation! Blessed is the word!
No separation! Forever with the Lord.
By His blood He bought us,
Cleansed our every stain;
With rapture now we’ll praise Him,
The Lamb for sinners slain.

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

  • Grieve Holy Spirit
  • Psalm 19, Part One
  • Part Two

     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Are you being stretched?
     (Sept 17)    Bob Gass

     ‘All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize.’

(1 Co 9:25) 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. ESV

     When you’re being stretched spiritually, your faith in God grows. When you’re being stretched mentally, your old ideas are challenged and replaced with new ones. When you’re being stretched relationally, selfishness dies and love grows. So, are you being stretched right now? God allows us to have stretching experiences that prepare us for the race He has called us to run in life - and every so often your soul will ‘hit the wall’. No amount of strength and no amount of pressing will move the problem. This is soul stretch! Often, these moments aren’t the real test; they are just warm-ups that prepare us for future challenges. They are points of reference designed to keep us from panicking when we’re in the midst of the real race. Remember that God never allows a person to run for Him, or with Him, who hasn’t been stretched in their thinking, their faith, and their ability to live and love. So, when you face a problem that just won’t move, remember to take a deep breath and remind yourself that God is stretching you. It’s the stretching of the soul that enables us to face situations we think will kill us, but don’t; to endure times when we think we won’t make it, but do. Sooner or later we will all face difficult times and relationships, but they are just the deep knee bends of life. So, when it feels like you’re being stretched to breaking point, don’t quit. See it for what it is - preparation for running and winning your God-assigned race in life.

Luke 17:20-37
Ps 94-96

UCB The Word For Today
American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     “Done… the seventeenth day of September, in the year of our LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven.” This was the last line of the U.S. Constitution, which was approved this day. A study done by Professors Donald Lutz and Charles Hyneman, examining nearly 15,000 writings of the fifty-five men that wrote the Constitution, including newspaper articles, pamphlets, books and monographs, reported that the Bible, especially the book of Deuteronomy, contributed 34% of all direct quotations. When indirect citations were included, they found 94% of all quotations referenced by the Founders were derived from the Bible.

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves,
we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table
which we did not spread.

The sun, the earth, love, friends,
our very breath are parts of the banquet….
Shall we think of the day as a chance
to come nearer to our Host,
and to find out something of Him
who has fed us so long?
--- Rebecca Harding Davis

Character is supreme in life, hence Jesus stood supreme in the supreme thing - so supreme that, when we think of the ideal, we do not add virtue to virtue, but think of Jesus Christ, so that the standard of human life is no longer a code but a character.
--- E. Stanley Jones

It looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves, and each other, this is an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that, if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror, seems to have worked to make us ‘good,’ and worse than that, there is no reason why anything should.
--- Arthur Allen Leff (an unbeliever)

O Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, give us a seed right with Thee! O God, give us our children. A second time, and by a far better birth, give us our children to be beside us in Thy holy covenant
--- Alexander Whyte

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 11.

     That Upon The Conquest And Slaughter Of Vitellius Vespasian Hastened His Journey To Rome; But Titus His Son Returned To Jerusalem.

     1. And now, when Vespasian had given answers to the embassages, and had disposed of the places of power justly, 25 and according to every one's deserts, he came to Antioch, and consulting which way he had best take, he preferred to go for Rome, rather than to march to Alexandria, because he saw that Alexandria was sure to him already, but that the affairs at Rome were put into disorder by Vitellius; so he sent Mucianus to Italy, and committed a considerable army both of horsemen and footmen to him; yet was Mucianus afraid of going by sea, because it was the middle of winter, and so he led his army on foot through Cappadocia and Phrygia.

     2. In the mean time, Antonius Primus took the third of the legions that were in Mysia, for he was president of that province, and made haste, in order to fight Vitellius; whereupon Vitellius sent away Cecinna, with a great army, having a mighty confidence in him, because of his having beaten Otho. This Cecinna marched out of Rome in great haste, and found Antonius about Cremona in Gall, which city is in the borders of Italy; but when he saw there that the enemy were numerous and in good order, he durst not fight them; and as he thought a retreat dangerous, so he began to think of betraying his army to Antonius. Accordingly, he assembled the centurions and tribunes that were under his command, and persuaded them to go over to Antonius, and this by diminishing the reputation of Vitellius, and by exaggerating the power of Vespasian. He also told them that with the one there was no more than the bare name of dominion, but with the other was the power of it; and that it was better for them to prevent necessity, and gain favor, and, while they were likely to be overcome in battle, to avoid the danger beforehand, and go over to Antonius willingly; that Vespasian was able of himself to subdue what had not yet submitted without their assistance, while Vitellius could not preserve what he had already with it.

     3. Cecinna said this, and much more to the same purpose, and persuaded them to comply with him; and both he and his army deserted; but still the very same night the soldiers repented of what they had done, and a fear seized on them, lest perhaps Vitellius who sent them should get the better; and drawing their swords, they assaulted Cecinna, in order to kill him; and the thing had been done by them, if the tribunes had not fallen upon their knees, and besought them not to do it; so the soldiers did not kill him, but put him in bonds, as a traitor, and were about to send him to Vitellius. When [Antonius] Primus heard of this, he raised up his men immediately, and made them put on their armor, and led them against those that had revolted; hereupon they put themselves in order of battle, and made a resistance for a while, but were soon beaten, and fled to Cremona; then did Primus take his horsemen, and cut off their entrance into the city, and encompassed and destroyed a great multitude of them before the city, and fell into the city together with the rest, and gave leave to his soldiers to plunder it. And here it was that many strangers, who were merchants, as well as many of the people of that country, perished, and among them Vitellius's whole army, being thirty thousand and two hundred, while Antonius lost no more of those that came with him from Mysia than four thousand and five hundred: he then loosed Cecinna, and sent him to Vespasian to tell him the good news. So he came, and was received by him, and covered the scandal of his treachery by the unexpected honors he received from Vespasian.

     4. And now, upon the news that Antonius was approaching, Sabinus took courage at Rome, and assembled those cohorts of soldiers that kept watch by night, and in the night time seized upon the capitol; and, as the day came on, many men of character came over to him, with Domitian, his brother's son, whose encouragement was of very great weight for the compassing the government. Now Vitellius was not much concerned at this Primus, but was very angry with those that had revolted with Sabinus; and thirsting, out of his own natural barbarity, after noble blood, he sent out that part of the army which came along with him to fight against the capitol; and many bold actions were done on this side, and on the side of those that held the temple. But at last, the soldiers that came from Germany, being too numerous for the others, got the hill into their possession, where Domitian, with many other of the principal Romans, providentially escaped, while the rest of the multitude were entirely cut to pieces, and Sabinus himself was brought to Vitellius, and then slain; the soldiers also plundered the temple of its ornaments, and set it on fire. But now within a day's time came Antonius, with his army, and were met by Vitellius and his army; and having had a battle in three several places, the last were all destroyed. Then did Vitellius come out of the palace, in his cups, and satiated with an extravagant and luxurious meal, as in the last extremity, and being drawn along through the multitude, and abused with all sorts of torments, had his head cut off in the midst of Rome, having retained the government eight months and five days 26 and had he lived much longer, I cannot but think the empire would not have been sufficient for his lust. Of the others that were slain, were numbered above fifty thousand. This battle was fought on the third day of the month Apelleus [Casleu]; on the next day Mucianus came into the city with his army, and ordered Antonius and his men to leave off killing; for they were still searching the houses, and killed many of Vitellius's soldiers, and many of the populace, as supposing them to be of his party, preventing by their rage any accurate distinction between them and others. He then produced Domitian, and recommended him to the multitude, until his father should come himself; so the people being now freed from their fears, made acclamations of joy for Vespasian, as for their emperor, and kept festival days for his confirmation, and for the destruction of Vitellius.

     5. And now, as Vespasian was come to Alexandria, this good news came from Rome, and at the same time came embassies from all his own habitable earth, to congratulate him upon his advancement; and though this Alexandria was the greatest of all cities next to Rome, it proved too narrow to contain the multitude that then came to it. So upon this confirmation of Vespasian's entire government, which was now settled, and upon the unexpected deliverance of the public affairs of the Romans from ruin, Vespasian turned his thoughts to what remained unsubdued in Judea. However, he himself made haste to go to Rome, as the winter was now almost over, and soon set the affairs of Alexandria in order, but sent his son Titus, with a select part of his army, to destroy Jerusalem. So Titus marched on foot as far as Nicopolis, which is distant twenty furlongs from Alexandria; there he put his army on board some long ships, and sailed upon the river along the Mendesian Nomus, as far as the city Tumuis; there he got out of the ships, and walked on foot, and lodged all night at a small city called Tanis. His second station was Heracleopolis, and his third Pelusium; he then refreshed his army at that place for two days, and on the third passed over the mouths of the Nile at Pelusium; he then proceeded one station over the desert, and pitched his camp at the temple of the Casian Jupiter, 27 and on the next day at Ostracine. This station had no water, but the people of the country make use of water brought from other places. After this he rested at Rhinocolura, and from thence he went to Raphia, which was his fourth station. This city is the beginning of Syria. For his fifth station he pitched his camp at Gaza; after which he came to Ascalon, and thence to Jamnia, and after that to Joppa, and from Joppa to Cesarea, having taken a resolution to gather all his other forces together at that place.

     The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 25:1-10
     by D.H. Stern

1     These also are proverbs of Shlomo;
     the men of Hizkiyah king of Y’hudah copied them out:
2     God gets glory from concealing things;
     kings get glory from investigating things.
3     Like the sky for height or the earth for depth
     is the heart of kings—unfathomable.
4     Remove the impurities from the silver,
     and the smith has material to make a vessel.
5     Remove the wicked from the king’s presence,
     and his throne will rest firmly on righteousness.
6     Don’t put yourself forward in the king’s presence;
     don’t take a place among the great.
7     For it is better to be told, “Come up here,”
     than be degraded in the presence of a nobleman.

     What your eyes have seen,
8     don’t rush to present in a dispute.
     For what will you do later on,
     if your neighbor puts you to shame?
9     Discuss your dispute with your neighbor,
     but don’t reveal another person’s secrets.
10     If you do, and he hears of it, he will disgrace you,
     and your bad reputation will stick.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                What’s the good of temptation?

     There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man. --- 1 Cor. 10:13.

     The word ‘temptation’ has come down in the world; we are apt to use it wrongly: Temptation is not sin, it is the thing we are bound to meet if we are men. Not to be tempted would be to be beneath contempt. Many of us, however, suffer from temptations from which we have no business to suffer, simply because we have refused to let God lift us to a higher plane where we would face temptations of another order.

     A man’s disposition on the inside, i.e., what he possesses in his personality, determines what he is tempted by on the outside. The temptation fits the nature of the one tempted, and reveals the possibilities of the nature. Every man has the setting of his own temptation, and the temptation will come along the line of the ruling disposition.

      Temptation is a suggested short cut to the realization of the highest at which I aim—not towards what I understand as evil, but towards what I understand as good. Temptation is something that completely baffles me for a while, I do not know whether the thing is right or wrong. Temptation yielded to is lust deified, and is a proof that it was timidity that prevented the sin before.

     Temptation is not something we may escape, it is essential to the full-orbed life of a man. Beware lest you think you are tempted as no one else is tempted; what you go through is the common inheritance of the race, not something no one ever went through before. God does not save us from temptations; He succours us in the midst of them (Heb. 2:18.)

My Utmost for His Highest
There (Pieta)
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                There (Pieta)

They are those that life happens to.
  They didn't ask to be born
  In those bleak farmsteads, but neither
  Did they ask not. Life took the seed
  And broadcast it upon the poor,
  Rush-stricken soil, an experiment
  In patience.
              What is a man's
  Price? For promises of a break
  In the clouds; for harvests that are not all
  Wasted; for one animal born
  Healthy, where seven have died,
  He will kneel down and give thanks
  In a chapel whose stones are wrenched
  From the moorland.
              I have watched them bent
  For hours over their trade,
  Speechless, and have held my tongue
  From its question. It was not my part
  To show them, like a meddler from the town,
  Their picture, nor the audiences
  That look at them in pity or pride.

Selected poems, 1946-1968
Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     A similar maxim appears above, as the fourth entry in Exodus: “Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?” These midrashim are similar in two respects. First, each speaks about destroying a useful source of drinking water. In Exodus, the Midrash asks, “Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?” whereas this Midrash text instructs, “Don’t throw a stone into the cistern you drank from.” Second, in both cases, it is Moses who is asked to be the instrument of destruction or retribution. In each case, Moses refuses.

     However, there are differences between the Midrash texts. Aside from style and language, the biggest contrast would seem to be in the enemy. In the Exodus story, the enemy is Egypt; God wants Moses to turn the water of the Nile into blood. In the text above, it is the Midianites. God tells Moses to avenge the Midianites.

     Couldn’t the Rabbis of the Midrash have been more original? Aren’t they guilty of a kind of plagiarism in using two so similar epigrams and two comparable stories about Moses?

     We cannot judge them by today’s literary standards. In the ancient world, good ideas were shared and reused, often without attribution. Thus, the phrase “nation shall not take up sword against nation” is best known from Isaiah 2:4. However, it also appears in Micah 4:3, which, while “later” in the way the Bible is now set up, is actually earlier chronologically. Isaiah likely heard this beautiful phrase and repeated it in his prophecy. There was no stigma attached to this appropriation.

     In addition, we can understand why the Rabbis repeated a good idea if we compare the obvious well/cistern images to the subtle and indirect symbol in the phrase “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” It’s doubtful that this latter image is universally comprehensible without explanation. On the other hand, in a world of scarce water supply and in the days before public plumbing, the local well served a crucial, life-giving function. Everyone would understand the image of a well or cistern, and thus it would be used again and again.

     This reminds us that the Rabbis weren’t afraid to reuse a good idea in various formats (while making sure to quote the source). They went back to the well and found additional inspiration from the very same thought. As we study midrashim—in this volume as well as in other texts—we would do well to follow the example of reusing and recycling precious resources. We believe that this is precisely what the Rabbis would have us do.


     “Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?” “Don’t throw a stone into the cistern you drank from.” What’s the difference between a well and a cistern? In Hebrew, the words are very similar.

     בְּאֵר/Be’er is a well or a spring; בּוֹר/bor is a cistern or a pit. A well has a source of water and fills up on its own. A cistern, on the other hand, whether it’s a hole in the ground or a man-made crater, has no water in it naturally. It must be filled by human hands.

     When the Rabbis taught “Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?” they were teaching us not to damage the world that God gave us. When the Rabbis say “Don’t throw a stone into the cistern you drank from,” they’re teaching us not to wreck our own handiwork: Don’t damage the contents of the cistern—that otherwise empty container that you yourselves filled up.

     With a cistern, we get out only if we put in. Otherwise, it remains empty. This is similar to education, where we reap benefits only to the extent of our involvement and participation. College courses may be wellsprings of knowledge, but they are really closer to cisterns of learning. If we fill the courses with our hard work and interest, then we may be enriched in return. On their own, college courses are only hollow vessels, waiting to be filled.

     Exercise can make us healthier, stronger, less susceptible to illness and stress. Yet, we would do well to remember that exercise is like a cistern: It is an empty vehicle waiting for what we put into it. It is not in the divine realm but in the human sphere. God fills wells around us; we humans are responsible for supplying the cisterns of life.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Take Heart
     September 17

     Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
--- Matthew 14:29–30.

     Peter began to sink when he began to fear. ( Wind on the Heath (Morrison Classic Sermon Series, The) ) And Scripture tells when he began to fear: it was when he took his eyes off his Lord. There is not a trace that the wind had grown more fierce while the disciple was walking on the water. It had been just as fierce, and the waves had been just as boisterous when he had sprung from the gunwale of the boat. But then he had thought of nothing but the Master and had eyes for nobody except the Master; as long as that continued he was safe. Looking to Christ he could go anywhere. The very sea was as a pavement to him. Looking away from Christ he was as other people, and the perils that surrounded him were terrible. And then he regretted the rashness of his venture and saw nothing around him but the seething waters, and so Peter began to be afraid and beginning to be afraid, began to sink.

     That is true of every kind of life. It is true especially of spiritual life. In the perilous calling of the spiritual life, to lose heart is to lose everything. And that is why the Lord is always saying to us, “Give me your heart,” for only in his keeping is it safe. It is a simple message—looking to Jesus—yet it is the message of salvation. To trust in him and to keep the eye on him is the one secret of all Christian victory. When we have failed to do so in the stress of life, as all of us, like Simon Peter, fail, then there is nothing left but to cry with Peter, Lord, save me.

     And so I close by saying that when Peter began to sink, his Savior was not far away. Immediately, he put out his hand and grasped him. My brother or sister, just beginning to sink, will you remember that Christ is at your side? All human help may seem very far away; remember that he is not very far away. He is near you now, near you where you sit. You need him greatly and he is there for you. Cry out now, “Lord, save me,” and he will do it, completely, for you!
--- George H. Morrison

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     The Rat Pit  September 17

     Soon after the Civil War, reporter Oliver Dyer wrote that if all the bars, prostitution houses, and gambling dens of New York City ran along one street, it would stretch 30 miles. Each night on that street, he said, there would be a murder every half mile, a robbery every 165 yards, six outcasts at every door, and eight preachers barking the Gospel. And Dyer pronounced barkeeper John Allen the “wickedest” of the city’s wicked.

     A minister, reading the story, entered Allen’s bar on Water Street to witness to him. To his surprise, Allen, though not converted, was seized by pious pangs and offered to open his saloon to daily prayer meetings. Hundreds began flocking there. Newspapers puffed the story, and Allen became a media sensation. He soon announced his bar would become a house of worship, adding that since he was now famous he intended to join a church … someday.

     The success of the meetings led organizers to rent the nearby rat pit at Kit Burns’s Saloon, a makeshift amphitheater with seats rising above a pit in which scores of rats were released. Dogs were turned loose, and bets taken on the number of rats they could kill within a certain time. Burns’s son-in-law often ended shows by jumping into the pit and killing surviving rats with his teeth. Kit Burns cleaned the blood from the floor each day and rented out his pit for prayer. As soon as services ended each afternoon, rat shows resumed (to “ratify” the prayers, Burns quipped).

     On September 17, 1868 John Allen, basking in publicity, prepared to leave on a “Lecture Tour” of New England. He made it to Connecticut before getting so drunk he was ejected. Public interest plunged, and within a month Allen took his saloon back. But Christians rented another building down the street, and it became the first home of the McAuley Water Street Mission.

     That’s not all. Kit Burns’s place was eventually transformed into a home for reformed prostitutes, the bar becoming a chapel and the rat pit becoming … a kitchen.

  Turn to the LORD! He can still be found.
  Call out to God! He is near.
  Give up your crooked ways and your evil thoughts.
  Return to the LORD our God.
  He will be merciful and forgive your sins.
--- Isaiah 55:6,7.

  Jerusalem, on your walls I have stationed guards,
  Whose duty it is to speak out day and night,
  Without resting.
  They must remind the LORD and not let him rest
  Till he makes Jerusalem strong
  And famous everywhere.
  --- Isaiah 62:6,7.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - September 17

     "Bring him unto me." --- Mark 9:19.

     Despairingly the poor disappointed father turned away from the disciples to their Master. His son was in the worst possible condition, and all means had failed, but the miserable child was soon delivered from the evil one when the parent in faith obeyed the Lord Jesus’ word, “Bring him unto me.” Children are a precious gift from God, but much anxiety comes with them. They may be a great joy or a great bitterness to their parents; they may be filled with the Spirit of God, or possessed with the spirit of evil. In all cases, the Word of God gives us one receipt for the curing of all their ills, “Bring him unto me.” O for more agonizing prayer on their behalf while they are yet babes! Sin is there, let our prayers begin to attack it. Our cries for our offspring should precede those cries which betoken their actual advent into a world of sin. In the days of their youth we shall see sad tokens of that dumb and deaf spirit which will neither pray aright, nor hear the voice of God in the soul, but Jesus still commands, “Bring them unto me.” When they are grown up they may wallow in sin and foam with enmity against God; then when our hearts are breaking we should remember the great Physician’s words, “Bring them unto me.” Never must we cease to pray until they cease to breathe. No case is hopeless while Jesus lives.

The Lord sometimes suffers his people to be driven into a corner that they may experimentally know how necessary he is to them. Ungodly children, when they show us our own powerlessness against the depravity of their hearts, drive us to flee to the strong for strength, and this is a great blessing to us. Whatever our Morning’s need may be, let it like a strong current bear us to the ocean of divine love. Jesus can soon remove our sorrow, he delights to comfort us. Let us hasten to him while he waits to meet us.

          Evening - September 17

     “Encourage him.” --- Deuteronomy 1:38.

     God employs his people to encourage one another. He did not say to an angel, “Gabriel, my servant Joshua is about to lead my people into Canaan—go, encourage him.” God never works needless miracles; if his purposes can be accomplished by ordinary means, he will not use miraculous agency. Gabriel would not have been half so well fitted for the work as Moses. A brother’s sympathy is more precious than an angel’s embassy. The angel, swift of wing, had better known the Master’s bidding than the people’s temper. An angel had never experienced the hardness of the road, nor seen the fiery serpents, nor had he led the stiff-necked multitude in the wilderness as Moses had done. We should be glad that God usually works for man by man. It forms a bond of brotherhood, and being mutually dependent on one another, we are fused more completely into one family. Brethren, take the text as God’s message to you. Labour to help others, and especially strive to encourage them. Talk cheerily to the young and anxious enquirer, lovingly try to remove stumblingblocks out of his way. When you find a spark of grace in the heart, kneel down and blow it into a flame. Leave the young believer to discover the roughness of the road by degrees, but tell him of the strength which dwells in God, of the sureness of the promise, and of the charms of communion with Christ. Aim to comfort the sorrowful, and to animate the desponding. Speak a word in season to him that is weary, and encourage those who are fearful to go on their way with gladness. God encourages you by his promises; Christ encourages you as he points to the heaven he has won for you, and the spirit encourages you as he works in you to will and to do of his own will and pleasure. Imitate divine wisdom, and encourage others, according to the word of this Evening.

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     September 17


     Words and Music by Philip P. Bliss, 1838–1876

     He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering … He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. (Isaiah 53:3)

     A life of praise is not something that can be worked up. Rather, it is a remembrance and a response to Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf. As we reflect on who Christ is and what He has accomplished for us, what He provides in our daily lives as an advocate before God, and what He has promised for our future, our hearts are melted before Him. We bow at His feet in humble adoration and proclaim with all sincerity, “Hallelujah, What a Savior!”

     It is said that the word Hallelujah is basically the same in all languages. It seems as though God has given this word as a preparation for the great celebration of heaven, when His children from every tribe, language, people and nation shall have been gathered home to sing their eternal “Hallelujah to the Lamb!”

     Philip Bliss, along with Ira Sankey, was one of the truly important leaders and publishers of early Gospel music. Before his tragic train accident death at the age of 38, he wrote hundreds of Gospel songs, many of which are still widely sung today. “Hallelujah, What a Savior!” is one of the best and most enduring of the songs produced by Bliss. The first four stanzas present Christ’s atoning work simply and clearly. The last stanza, “When He comes, our glorious King,” is in an entirely different mood, joyful and triumphant in its anticipation of the praise that will continue throughout eternity —“Hallelujah, What a Savior!”

     “Man of Sorrows!” what a name for the Son of God, who came ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah, what a Savior!
     Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood-—Sealed my pardon with His blood: Hallelujah, what a Savior!
     Guilty, vile and helpless we, spotless Lamb of God was He; full atonement! can it be? Hallelujah, what a Savior!
     Lifted up was He to die, “It is finished,” was His cry; now in heav’n exalted high: Hallelujah, what a Savior!
     When He comes, our glorious King, all His ransomed home to bring, then anew this song we’ll sing: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

     For Today: Isaiah 53:3-6; Philippians 2:7–11; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 2:24

     Carry your “Hallelujah, what a Savior!” with you into every situation. Reflect often on Christ’s atoning work on your behalf and the glorious promise of His return.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
The Existence and Attributes of God
     Stephen Charnock


     Psalm 102:26, 27.—They shall perish but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old as a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

     This Psalm contains a complaint of a people pressed with a great calamity; some think of the Jewish church in Babylon; others think the Psalmist doth here personate mankind lying under a state of corruption, because he wishes for the coming of the Messiah, to accomplish that redemption promised by God, and needed by them. Indeed the title of the Psalm is “A prayer of the afflicted when he is overwhelmed, and pours out his complaint before the Lord;” whether afflicted with the sense of corruption, or with the sense of oppression. And the redemption by the Messiah, which the ancient church looked upon as the fountain of their deliverance from a sinful or a servile bondage, is in this Psalm spoken of. A set time appointed for the discovery of his mercy to Sion (ver. 13); an appearance in glory to build up Sion (ver. 16); the loosing of the prisoner by redemption, and them that are appointed to death (ver. 17); the calling of the Gentiles (ver. 22); and the latter part of the Psalm, wherein are the verses I have read, are applied to Christ (Heb. 1.) Whatsoever the design of the Psalm might be, many things are intermingled that concern the kingdom of the Messiah, and redemption by Christ.

     Some make three parts of the Psalm. 1. A petition plainly delivered (ver. 1, 2): “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee,” &c. 2. The petition strongly and argumentatively enforced and pleaded (ver. 3), from the misery of the petitioner in himself, and his reproach from his enemies. 3. An acting of faith in the expectation of an answer in the general redemption promised (ver. 12, 13): “But thou, O Lord, shalt endure forever; thou shalt arise and the mercy upon Sion; the heathen shall fear thy name.”

     The first part is the petition pleaded; the second part is the petition answered, in an assurance that there should in time be a full deliverance. The design of the penman is to confirm the church in the truth of the divine promises; that though the foundations of the world should be razed, and the heavens be folded together, and the whole fabric of them be unpinned and fall to pieces, the firmest parts of it dissolved; yet the church should continue in its stability, because it stands not upon the changeableness of creatures, but is built upon the immutable rock of the truth of God, which is as little subject to change, as his essence.

     They shall perish, thou shalt change them. As he had before ascribed to God the “foundation of heaven and earth” (ver. 25), so he ascribes to God here the destruction of them. Both the beginning and end of the world are here ascertained. There is nothing, indeed, from the present appearance of things, that can demonstrate the cessation of the world. The heaven and earth stand firm; the motions of the heavenly bodies are the same, their beauty is not decayed; individuals corrupt, but the species and kinds remain. The successions of the year observe their due order; but the sin of man renders the change of the present appearance of the world necessary to accomplish the design of God for the glory of his elect. The heavens do not naturally perish, as some fancied an old age of the world, wherein it must necessarily decay as the bodies of animals do; or that the parts of the heavens are broken off by their rubbing one against another in their motion, and falling to the earth, are the seeds of those things that grow among us.

     The earth and heavens. He names here the most stable parts of the world, and the most beautiful parts of the creation; those that are freest from corruptibility and change, to illustrate thereby the immutability of God; that though the heavens and earth have a prerogative of fixedness above other parts of the world, and the creatures that reside below, the heavens remain the same as they were created, and the centre of the earth retains its fixedness, and are as beautiful and fresh in their age as they were in their youth many years ago, notwithstanding the change of the elements, fire and water being often turned into air, so that there may remain but little of that air which was first created by reason of the continual transmutation; yet this firmness of the earth and heavens is not to be regarded in comparison of the unmovableness and fixedness of the being of God; as their beauty comes short of the glory of his being, so doth their firmness come short of his stability.

     Some, by heavens and earth, understand the creatures which reside in the earth, and those which are in the air, which is called heaven often in Scripture; but the ruin and fall of these being seen every day, had been no fit illustration of the unchangeableness of God. They shall perish, they shall be changed. 1. They may perish, say some; they have it not from themselves that they do not perish, but from thee, who didst endue them with an incorruptible nature; they shall perish if thou speakest the word; thou canst with as much ease destroy them, as thou didst create them. But the Psalmist speaks not of their possibility, but the certainty of their perishing. 2. They shall perish in their qualities and motion, not in their substance, say others. They shall cease from that motion which is designed properly for the generation and corruption of things in the earth; but in regard of their substance and beauty they shall remain. As when the strings or wheels of a clock or watch are taken off, the material parts remain, though the motion of it, and the use for discovering the time of the day, ceaseth. To perish, doth not signify alway a falling into nothing, an annihilation, by which both the matter and the form are destroyed, but a ceasing of the present appearance of them; a ceasing to be what they now are; as a man is said to perish when he dies, whereas the better part of man doth not cease to be. The figure of the body moulders away, and the matter of it returns to dust; but the soul being immortal ceaseth not to act, when the body, by reason of the absence of the soul, is incapable of acting. So the heavens shall perish; the appearance they now have shall vanish, and a more glorious and incorruptible frame be erected by the power and goodness of God. The dissolution of heaven and earth is meant by the word perish; the raising a new frame is signified by the word changed: as if the Spirit of God would prevent any wrong meaning of the word perish, by alleviating the sense of that, by another which signifies only a mutation and change; as when we change a habit and garment, we quit the old to receive the new.

     As a garment, as a vesture. Thou shalt change them, ἐλίξεις, thou shalt fold them up. The heavens are compared to a curtain (Psalm 104:2), and shall in due time be folded up as clothes and curtains are. As a garment encompasseth the whole body, so do the heavens encircle the earth. Some say, as a garment is folded up to be laid aside, that when there is need it may be taken again for use; so shalt thou fold up the heavens like a garment, that when they are repaired, thou mayest again stretch them out about the earth; thou shalt fold them up, so that what did appear shall not now appear. It may be illustrated by the metaphor of a scroll or book, which the Spirit of God useth (Isa. 34:4; Rev. 6:14): “The heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled together.” When a book is rolled up or shut, nothing can be read in it till it be opened again; so the face of the heavens, wherein the stars are as letters declaring the glory of God, shall be shut or rolled together, so that nothing shall appear, till by its renovation it be opened again: as a garment it shall be changed, not to be used in the same fashion, and for the same use again. It seems, indeed, to be for the worse; an old garment is not changed but into rags, to be put to other uses, and afterwards thrown upon the dunghill; but similitudes are not to be pressed too far; and this will not agree with the new heavens and new earth, physically so, as well as metaphorically so. It is not likely the heavens will be put to a worse use than God designed them for in creation; however, a change as a garment, speaks not a total corruption, but an alteration of qualities; as a garment not to be used in the same fashion as before. We may observe, that it is probable the world shall not be annihilated, but refined. It shall lose its present form and fashion; but not its foundation: indeed, as God raised it from nothing, so he can reduce it into nothing; yet it doth not appear that God will annihilate it, and utterly destroy both the matter and form of it; part shall be consumed, and part purified (2 Pet. 3:12, 13): “The heavens shall be on fire and dissolved; nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth.” They shall be melted down as gold by the artificer, to be refined from its dross, and wrought into a more beautiful fashion, that they may serve the design of God for those that shall reside therein; a new world wherein righteousness shall dwell: the apostle opposing it thereby to the old world wherein wickedness did reside. The heavens are to be purged, as the vessels that held the sin-offering were to be purified by the fire of the sanctuary. God, indeed, will take down this scaffold, which he hath built to publish his glory. As every individual hath a certain term of its duration, so an end is appointed for the universal nature of heaven and earth (Isa. 51:6): “The heavens shall vanish like smoke” which disappears. As smoke is resolved and attenuated into air, not annihilated, so shall the world assume a new face, and have a greater clearness and splendor; as the bodies of men, dissolved into dust, shall have more glorious qualities at their resurrection; as a vessel of gold is melted down to remove the batterings in it, and receive a more comely form by the skill of the workman.

     1. The world was not destroyed by the deluge: it was rather washed by water, than consumed; so it shall be rather refined by the last fire, than lie under an irrecoverable ruin.

     2. It is not likely God would liken the everlastingness of his covenant, and the perpetuity of his spiritual Israel, to the duration of the ordinances of the heavens (as he doth in Jer. 31:35, 36), if they were wholly to depart from before him. Though that place may only tend to an assurance of a church in the world, while the world endures; yet it would be but small comfort, if the happiness of believers should endure no longer than the heavens and earth, if they were to have a total period.

     3. Besides, the bodies of the saints must have place for their support to move in, and glorious objects suited to those glorious senses which shall be restored to them; not in any carnal way, which our Saviour rejects, when he saith, There is no eating, or drinking, or marrying, &c. in the other world; but whereby they may glorify God; though how or in what manner their senses shall be used, would be rashness to determine; only something is necessary for the corporeal state of men, that there may be an employment for their senses as well as their souls.

     4. Again, How could the creature, the world, or any part of it, be said to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, if the whole frame of heaven and earth were to be annihilated (Rom. 8:21)? The apostle saith also, that the creature waits with an “earnest expectation for this manifestation of the sons of God” (ver. 19); which would have no foundation if the whole frame should be reduced to nothing. What joyful expectation can there be in any of a total ruin? How should the creature be capable of partaking in this glorious liberty of the sons of God? As the world for the sin of man lost its first dignity, and was cursed alter the fall, and the beauty bestowed upon it by creation defaced; so it shall recover that ancient glory, when he shall be fully restored by the resurrection to that dignity he lost by his first sin.

     As man shall be freed from his corruptibility to receive that glory which is prepared for him, so shall the creatures be freed from that imperfection or corruptibility, those stains and spots upon the face of them, to receive a new glory suited to their nature, and answerable to the design of God, when the glorious liberty of the saints shall be accomplished. As when a prince’s nuptials are solemnized, the whole country echoes with joy; so the inanimate creatures, when the time of the marriage of the Lamb is come, shall have a delight and pleasure from that renovation. The apostle sets forth the whole world as a person groaning; and the Scripture is frequent in such metaphors; as when the creatures are said to wait upon God, and to be troubled, the hills are said to leap and the mountains to rejoice (Psalm 104:27–29); the creature is said to groan, as the heavens are said to declare the glory of God, passively, naturally, not rationally. It is not likely angels are here meant, though they cannot but desire it; since they are affected with the dishonor and reproach God hath in the world, they cannot but long for the restoration of his honor in the restoration of the creature to its true end: and, indeed, the angels are employed to serve man in this sinful state, and cannot but in holiness wish the creature freed from his corruption. Nor is it meant of the new creatures, which have the first fruits of the Spirit; those he brings in afterwards, groaning and waiting for the adoption (ver. 23); where he distinguisheth the rational creature from the creature he had spoken of before. If he had meant the believing creature by that creature that desired the liberty of the sons of God, what need had there been of that additional distinction, and not only they, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves? Whereby it seems he means some creatures below rational creatures, since neither angels nor blessed souls can be said to travail in pain, with that distress as a woman in travail hath, as the word signifies, who perform the work joyfully which God sets them upon. If the creatures be subject to vanity by the sin of man, they shall also partake of a happiness by the restoration of man. The earth hath borne thorns and thistles, and venomous beasts; the air hath had its tempests and infectious qualities; the water hath caused its floods and deluges. The creature hath been abused to luxury and intemperance; and been tyrannized over by man, contrary to the end of its creation. It is convenient that some time should be allotted for the creature’s attaining its true end, and that it may partake of the peace of man, as it hath done of the fruits of his sin; otherwise it would seem, that sin had prevailed more than grace, and would have had more power to deface, than grace to restore things into their due order.

     5. Again, Upon what account should the Psalmist exhort the heavens to rejoice, and the earth to be glad, when God “comes to judge the world with righteousness” (Psalm 96:11–13), if they should be annihilated and sunk forever into nothing? “It would seem,” saith Daille,“to be an impertinent figure, if the Judge of the world brought to them a total destruction; an entire ruin could not be matter of triumph to creatures, who naturally have that instinct or inclination put into them by their Creator, to preserve themselves, and to effect their own preservation.”

     6. Again, the Lord is to rejoice in his works (Psalm 104:31): “The glory of the Lord shall endure forever; the Lord shall rejoice in his works;” not hath, but shall rejoice in his works: in the works of creation, which the Psalmist had enumerated, and which is the whole scope of the Psalm: and he intimates that it is part of the glory of the Lord which endures forever; that is, his manifestative glory, to rejoice in his works: the glory of the Lord must be understood with reference to the creation he had spoken of before. How short was that joy God had in his works after he had sent them beautified out of his hand! How soon did he repent, not only that he had made man, but was grieved at the heart also, that he made the other creatures which man’s sin had disordered! (Gen. 6:7.) What joy can God have in them, since the curse upon the entrance of sin into the world remains upon them? If they are to be annihilated upon the full restoration of his holiness, what time will God have to rejoice in the other works of creation? It is the joy of God to see all his works in due order; every one pointing to their true end; marching together in their excellency, according to his first intendment in their creation. Did God create the world to perform its end only for one day; scarce so much, if Adam fell the very first day of his creation? What would have been their end, if Adam had been confirmed in a state of happiness as the angels were? ’tis likely will be answered and performed upon the complete restoration of man to that happy state from whence he fell. What artificer compiles a work by his skill, but to rejoice in it? And shall God have no joy from the works of his hands? Since God can only rejoice in goodness, the creatures must have that goodness restore to them which God pronounced them to have at the first creation, and which he ordained them for, before he can again rejoice in his works. The goodness of the creatures is the glory and joy of God.

     Inference 1. We may infer from hence, what a base and vile thing sin is, which lays the foundation of the world’s change. Sin brings it to a decrepit age; sin overturned the whole work of God (Gen. 3:17); so that to render it useful to its proper end, there is a necessity of a kind of a new creating it. This causes God to fire the earth for a purification of it from that infection and contagion brought upon it by the apostasy and corruption of man. It hath served sinful man, and therefore must undergo a purging flame, to be fit to serve the holy and righteous Creator. As sin is so riveted in the body of man, that there is need of a change by death to raze it out; so hath the curse for sin got so deep into the bowels of the world, that there is need of a change by fire to refine it for its master’s use. Let us look upon sin with no other notion than as the object of God’s hatred, the cause of his grief in the creatures, and the spring of the pain and ruin of the world.

     2. How foolish a thing is it to set our hearts upon that which shall perish, and be no more what it is now! The heavens and the earth, the solidest and firmest parts of the creation, shall not continue in the posture they are; they must perish and undergo a refining change. How feeble and weak are the other parts of the creation, the little creatures walking upon and fluttering about the world, that are perishing and dying every day; and we scarce see them clothed with life and beauty this day, but they wither and are despoiled of all the next; and are such frail things fit objects for our everlasting spirits and affections?

     Though the dail employment of the heavens is the declaration of the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), yet neither this, nor their harmony, order, beauty, amazing greatness and glory of them, shall preserve them from a dissolution and melting at the presence of the Lord. Though they have remained in the same posture from the creation till this day, and are of so great antiqcity, yet they must bow down to a change before the will and word of their Creator; and shall we rest upon that which shall vanish like smoke? Shall we take any creature for our support like ice, that will crack under our feet, and must, by the order of their Lord Creator, deceive our hopes? Perishing things can be no support to the soul; if we would have rest, we must run to God and rest in God. How contemptible should that be to us, whose fashion shall pass away, which shah not endure long in its present form and appearance; contemptible as a rest, not contemptible as the work of God; contemptible as an end, not contemptible as a means to attain our end! If these must be changed, how unworthy are other things to be the centre of our souls, that change in our very using of them, and slide away in our very enjoyment of them!

     Thou art the same. The essence of God, with all the perfections of his nature, are pronounced the same, without any variation from eternity to eternity; so that the text doth not only assert the eternal duration of God, but his immutability in that duration. His eternity is signified in that expression, “Thou shalt endure;” his immutability in this, “Thou art the same.” To endure, argues indeed his immutability as well as eternity; for what endures, is not changed, and what is changed, doth not endure; but “Thou art the same” doth more fully signify it. He could not be the same if he could be changed into any other thing than what he is; the Psalmist therefore puts not thou halt been, or shalt be, but thou art the same, without any alteration. “Thou art the same;” that is, the same God; the same in essence and nature; the same in will and purpose. Thou dost change all other things as thou pleanest, but thou art immutable in every respect, and receivest no shadow of change, though never so light and small. The Psalmist here alludes to the name Jehovah, I Am; and doth not only ascribe immutability to God, but exclude everything else from partaking in that perfection. All things else are tottering; God sees all other things in continual motion under his feet, like water passing away and no more seen; while he remains fixed and immovable; his wisdom and power, his knowledge and will, are always the same. His essence can receive no alteration, neither by itself, nor by any external cause; whereas other things either naturally decline to destruction, pass from one term to another, till they come to their period; or shall at the last day be wrapped up, after God hath completed his will in them and by them, as a man doth a garment he intends to repair and transform to another use. So that in the text, God, as immutable, is opposed to all creatures as perishing and changeable.

The Existence and Attributes of God

The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. CLXIV. — I OMIT to bring forward that truly Achillean Scripture of mine, which the Diatribe proudly passes by untouched — I mean, that which Paul teaches, Rom. vii. and Gal. v., that there is in the saints, and in the godly, so powerful a warfare between the spirit and the flesh, that they cannot do what they would. From this warfare I argue thus: — If the nature of man be so evil, even in those who are born again of the Spirit, that it does not only not endeavour after good, but is even averse to, and militates against good, how should it endeavour after good in those who are not born again of the Spirit, and who are still in the “old man,” and serve under Satan? Nor does Paul there speak of the ‘grosser affections’ only, (by means of which, as a common scape-gap, the Diatribe is accustomed to get out of the way of all the Scriptures,) but he enumerates among the works of the flesh heresy, idolatry, contentions, divisions, &c.; which he describes as reigning in those most exalted faculties; that is, in the reason and the will. If therefore, flesh with these affections war against the Spirit in the saints, much more will it war against God in the ungodly, and in “Free-will.” Hence, Rom. viii. 7, he calls it “enmity against God.” — I should like, I say, to see this argument of mine overturned, and “Free-will” defended against it.

     As to myself, I openly confess, that I should not wish “Free-will” to be granted me, even if it could be so, nor anything else to be left in my own hands, whereby I might endeavour something towards my own salvation. And that, not merely because in so many opposing dangers, and so many assaulting devils, I could not stand and hold it fast, (in which state no man could be saved, seeing that one devil is stronger than all men;) but because, even though there were no dangers, no conflicts, no devils, I should be compelled to labour under a continual uncertainty, and to beat the air only. Nor would my conscience, even if I should live and work to all eternity, ever come to a settled certainty, how much it ought to do in order to satisfy God. For whatever work should be done, there would still remain a scrupling, whether or not it pleased God, or whether He required any thing more; as is proved in the experience of all justiciaries, and as I myself learned to my bitter cost, through so many years of my own experience.      But now, since God has put my salvation out of the way of my will, and has taken it under His own, and has promised to save me, not according to my working or manner of life, but according to His own grace and mercy, I rest fully assured and persuaded that He is faithful, and will not lie, and moreover great and powerful, so that no devils, no adversities can destroy Him, or pluck me out of His hand. “No one (saith He) shall pluck them out of My hand, because My Father which gave them Me is greater than all.” (John x. 27-28). Hence it is certain, that in this way, if all are not saved, yet some, yea, many shall be saved; whereas by the power of “Free-will,” no one whatever could be saved, but all must perish together. And moreover, we are certain and persuaded, that in this way, we please God, not from the merit of our own works, but from the favour of His mercy promised unto us; and that, if we work less, or work badly, He does not impute it unto us, but, as a Father, pardons us and makes us better. — This is the glorying which all the saints have in their God!

     Sect. CLXV. — AND if you are concerned about this, — that it is difficult to defend the mercy and justice of God, seeing that, He damns the undeserving, that is, those who are for that reason ungodly, because, being born in iniquity, they cannot by any means prevent themselves from being ungodly, and from remaining so, and being damned, but are compelled from the necessity of nature to sin and perish, as Paul saith, “We all were the children of wrath, even as others,” (Eph. ii. 3.), when at the same time, they were created such by God Himself from a corrupt seed, by means of the sin of Adam, —

     Here God is to be honoured and revered, as being most merciful towards those, whom He justifies and saves under all their unworthiness: and it is to be in no small degree ascribed unto His wisdom, that He causes us to believe Him to be just, even where He appears to be unjust. For if His righteousness were such, that it was considered to be righteousness according to human judgment, it would be no longer divine, nor would it in any thing differ from human righteousness. But as He is the one and true God, and moreover incomprehensible and inaccessible by human reason, it is right, nay, it is necessary, that His righteousness should be incomprehensible: even as Paul exclaims, saying, “Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. xi. 33). But they would be no longer “past finding out” if we were in all things able to see how they were righteous. What is man, compared with God! What can our power do, when compared with His power! What is our strength, compared with His strength! What is our knowledge compared with His wisdom! What is our substance, compared with His substance! In a word, what is all that we are, compared with all that He is!

     If then we confess, even according to the teaching of nature, that human power, strength, wisdom, knowledge, substance, and all human things together, are nothing when compared with the divine power, strength, wisdom, knowledge, and substance, what perverseness must it be in us to attack the righteousness and judgments of God only, and to arrogate so much to our own judgment, as to wish to comprehend, judge, and rate, the divine judgments! Why do we not, here in like manner say at once — What! is our judgment nothing, when compared with the divine judgments! — But ask reason herself if she is not, from conviction, compelled to confess, that she is foolish and rash for not allowing the judgments of God to be incomprehensible, when she confesses that all the other divine things are incomprehensible? In every thing else we concede to God a Divine Majesty; and yet, are ready to deny it to His judgments! Nor can we for a little while believe, that He is just, even when He promises that it shall come to pass, that when He shall reveal His glory, we shall all see, and palpably feel, that He ever was, and is, — just!

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Dan 7:1–8
     Word Biblical Commentary

Revelation 13:1     And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads; and on its horns were ten diadems, and on its heads were blasphemous names. 2 And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And the dragon gave it his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of its heads seemed to have received a death-blow, but its mortal wound had been healed. In amazement the whole earth followed the beast. 4 They worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

     Dan 7:1–8 was interpreted in various ways in early Christian texts. Barn. 4:4–5 quotes Dan 7:24 and then 7:7–8, both of which deal with the ten horns and the small horn of the fourth beast, in an enigmatical passage referring to a series of Roman emperors. Similarly, in 4 Ezra 11:1–12:39, Ezra dreams of an eagle who emerged from the sea (et ecce ascendebat de mari aquila) with twelve wings and three heads (11:1). This eagle is the fourth beast, representing the fourth kingdom that was part of the vision of Daniel (4 Ezra 11:36–46; 12:11). Though nothing in the description of the fourth beast in Dan 7:7–8, 19–27 suggests identifying it with an eagle, the eagle was probably chosen because it clearly represents Rome (Myers, Esdras, 295–96). There are no demonstrable literary or exegetical traditions that link Rev 13:1–18 with 4 Ezra 11:1–12:39, though it is significant that both authors reinterpret the vision in Dan 7:1–9, both are concerned with a single beast, and both use the beast to symbolize Rome. 2 Apoc. Bar. 39:5–7 and some early Christian authors express the view that the fourth beast of Dan 7 represents Rome (Hippolytus de Ant. 25.1–3; 28.1; see Irenaeus Adv. Haer. 5.25.3). The os leoni, “mouth of a lion,” image may allude to Roman imperial power, since the lion was a symbol used for the Roman emperor (Ant. 18.228). The Paul of 2 Tim 4:17 was rescued ἐκ στόματος λέοντος, “from the mouth of the lion” (a phrase used in Ps 22:21 [cf. Heb 11:33] for rescue from great danger), referring to Roman imperial authority, which early Christian tradition equated with Nero (Eusebius Hist. eccl. 2.22.4).

Revelation 6-16 (Word Biblical Commentary 52b)

Daniel 7-9
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     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

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