Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Perseverance and godliness

Passage: 2 Peter 1: 1-15
Text: Vv. 5-6 ‘For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness’
Some helpful definitions:
**Add to your faith: or, WBC: ... “by your faith to produce virtue” ... The meaning of the clause must be: “by means of your faith supply virtue”. NIBC: ‘A more literal translation of vv. 5–7 would run: “In (en) your faith richly provide goodness’.
**Make every effort: NIBC: ‘be lavish in the time and effort … put into developing … Christian [life] ...
**Perseverance and godliness: EBC: Perseverance is the ability to continue in the faith and resist the pressures of the world system (cf. Lk 8:15; Ro 5:3; Heb 12:2). ‘Godliness’ is piety or devotion to the person of God. BST: Godliness is ‘a very practical awareness of God in every aspect of life’.
Focus: Stories are legion and legendary of the loyalty of dogs to their masters; i.e., Red Dog’s loyalty to Hamersley Iron bus driver John Grant is a recent one – an example of devotion to the person.
Perseverance and godliness:
1.     Persevere in faith – {in order to trust in the Person} Heb 10: 35-36: ‘So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised’; 12: 1-2: ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’

a.       Example: Faithfulness to marriage vow, so sincerely and passionately made at the beginning, in light of later realities like ‘married to job’, ‘to ministry’, ‘to car’ or ‘to computer’.

b.       Devotion to the person of God means ongoing confidence and trust in him.

2.     Persevere in prayer – {in order to commune with the Person} Eph 6: 18 {KJV}: ‘Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints’ (Col 4: 2: ‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful’; 1 Thess 5: 17: ‘pray continually’; Luke 18: 1-8).

a.       Example: Perseverance in marriage communication, especially in times of preoccupation, conflict, actual offence and misunderstanding.

b.       Devotion to the person of God means ongoing communication and communion with him.

3.     Persevere in praise – {in order to honour the Person} – Heb 13: 15: ‘Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess [give thanks to] his name.’ Eph 5: 19-20: ‘Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,   20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Col 3: 17: ‘And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’ 1 Thess 5: 16-18: ‘Be joyful always;   17pray continually;   18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’

a.       Example: Faithfulness in thankfulness and praise of husband/wife, especially when, through familiarity, irritations set in.

b.      Devotion to the person of God means ongoing praise and honour of him.

                                                   i.      The message of Psalm 50 especially vv. 14-15, 23: ‘“Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfil your vows to the Most High, 15and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me”  “… 23He who sacrifices thank offerings honours me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”’

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pondering the Psalms

Psalm 23
‘The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. {2} He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, {3} he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. {4} even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. {5} You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. {6} Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.’

This psalm is about friendship with God and the journey of life.
·         The LORD: Yahweh was the covenant God whose special name, LORD, was given to Israel as a token of his commitment to them as their God. His revealed nature was love, goodness, mercy, faithfulness and forgiveness (Exodus 3 and 34). This LORD was David’s Shepherd, pastor, friend, and companion.
·         Since this LORD was David’s shepherd, he would/could never be in want, that is, he would find all he needed for meaningful existence.
·         David wrote the psalm for the people of God so that they could make it their own because it rightly applied to them. We are God’s people through Jesus, so the psalm also applies to you and to me.
·         Since the LORD Jesus (I am the Good Shepherd) is my (your) Shepherd, I (you) will have everything required for a meaningful and fulfilling life.
·         The term ‘he makes me’ speaks of our shepherd leading us, even gently coercing us, to lie down. This means he urges us to cease from our activity, our work, our striving, our restlessness, our anxiety, our struggling, and etc., so that we may take the time to enjoy the rich pastures and still tranquil waters of his presence and company.
·         The term ‘he makes me’ also indicates a continual process. He constantly draws us away to rest in his presence.
·         To lie down speaks of trust, rest and surrender or submission. We hand over the reigns of control to the Shepherd of our souls.
·         He (not we, nor anything we could do) provided these rich pastures (note the number of uses of the word ‘he’); he wants us to enjoy them. Rather, he wants us to enjoy him. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”, says the catechism.
·         It is in the quietness and cessation from activity, when we take time to be with Jesus, that we are restored. The word ‘soul’ here refers to the whole person and could be translated, ‘he restores me’.
·         Out of the union and fellowship we enjoy with Jesus, and the resultant restoration, he keeps us on the right path. The pathway of life on which we walk is the right one, the one God has planned for us. This assurance comes from our fellowship, friendship, and companionship with Jesus.
·         For his name’s sake we often read to mean, ‘he does it for himself’, i.e., to maintain his honour, but that doesn't portray the full picture. The fuller understanding is that the Lord keeps us on the right path of life according to his dependable and reliable nature, which is loving, good, merciful, faithful and etc.
·         Even when that right pathway leads to ‘death valley’ we are still assured that it is the right pathway because the reality, tangibility, awareness, perception of his presence assures us (his rod and staff).
·         But there’s more: Our shepherd, pastor, companion, friend is also a host who provides rich feasts along the way. These feasts are lavish to the point of our cup brimming over.
·         The feasts, which are regularly enjoyed, are in the presence of enemies. Two ideas exist here: one, that there are enemies which threaten our existence that are always present. Second, that in spite of the bitterness (enemies) of the past, injuries which though past are still present, the Shepherd still lavishes upon us the banquet of his presence.
·         There’s even more yet because the Shepherd also pursues us with his love and goodness so that we are not only led to richness, we are pursued by richness. We are surrounded on every hand by the lavish provision of God through our Lord Jesus.
·         Finally, all the days of our lives we will know and enjoy the presence of the Lord, remaining with him forever.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Michael Wilcock on Rev 20: 1-3 - Binding of Satan

The Fourth Vision: The Devil (20:1–3)

The controversies which have raged around this passage have been referred to already in the introduction to this Scene. What we shall consider here is the meaning of Satan’s thousand years of imprisonment when seen in the context of the rest of Scripture.

On the face of it, the millennium has certainly not arrived yet. Television, radio, and the papers remind us daily (though not in these words) that Satan is alive and well and living on planet earth. How can he be said to be bound and sealed in the bottomless pit? This fourth Vision must surely therefore depict an event which is still in the future, like the battle of Vision 3.

But what exactly is said here, and what does the rest of Scripture have to say about it?

First, the deed: Satan is seized and bound. Whatever interpretation may seem to be placed on this by the writings of commentators or by the state of the world around us, Christ’s own words must carry the greatest weight; and it is there, in the teaching of Christ, that we find the only other biblical reference to the binding of Satan. All three synoptic Gospels relate the parable of the ‘strong man, fully armed’, who ‘guards his own palace’ so that ‘his goods are in peace’.1 The story goes on to describe the coming of ‘one stronger than he’, whose object is to plunder the strong man’s property. The newcomer ‘assails him and overcomes him’, says Luke, and ‘binds’ him, say Matthew and Mark. Now we know from the context that this story was told expressly to illustrate something which happened to Satan, and which happened to him at the time of the incarnation. With Christ’s first coming, the kingdom of God had come, and he went about casting out evil spirits to demonstrate precisely this—that Satan, for all his strength, had been seized and bound. We may still question what was actually implied by his ‘imprisonment’, since he seems to have continued very much at liberty; but there is no escaping the fact that the same word and action, the ‘binding’, link Revelation 20:2 with Mark 3:27.

Secondly, the object: Satan is thrown bound into the pit in order ‘that he should deceive the nations no more’. Here again, it may seem quite untrue to say that he is even now prevented from deceiving the nations, and indeed has been unable to do so ever since the time of Christ; surely he does still deceive them, and this also indicates that the millennium is yet to come?

But again, consider what is said about the nations in the rest of Scripture. Their blessing will come through the seed of Abraham, their light through the promised servant of the Lord; and when Christ is born, the aged Simeon recognizes that the baby in his arms is himself the Seed and the Servant, a light for revelation to the nations as well as glory for Israel.1 During the earthly life of Jesus, the undeceiving of the nations is foreshadowed by the visit of the wise men, and exemplified by his contacts with a Roman centurion, a Canaanite woman, and a company of Greeks.2 The same pattern is repeated in the life of the church: ‘men from every nation under heaven’ come to its cradle on the day of Pentecost, and its career is marked by the conversion of Samaritans, Romans, and Greeks.3 Alongside Christ’s prediction that the gospel will be preached to all nations, so often understood as something which will be achieved only shortly before his second coming, we have to place Paul’s startling claim, that already, in the middle of the first century, it ‘has been preached to every creature under heaven’.1 What do the apostle’s words imply? Clearly, the worldwide evangelism of which he speaks cannot mean an actual preaching to each individual race, let alone to each individual person. But what has happened is that the gospel has been made available for the nations in general, instead of being restricted to the Jews. Since the time of Christ it has been a universal gospel, in a way that it never was before in ‘the times of ignorance’ (Acts 17:30).

It seems therefore to be quite in accord with Scripture to see in the millennium of Revelation 20:3 a period during which Satan is no longer able to keep in his custody the nations which, till Christ came to bind him and steal them away from him, were altogether in his power. With this would agree the links which Christ makes between the casting out of Satan and the visit of the Greek enquirers (Jn. 12:20–32), and between Satan’s downfall and the early evangelistic campaign of Luke 10:17, 18. Every time we see a new convert added to the church, Satan’s inability to deceive the nations is proclaimed afresh.

The ‘thousand years’, which on our view began with Christ’s first coming, are thus still in progress, and are equivalent to the ‘three and a half years’ during which the witnesses of Scene 3 preach in the world and the woman of Scene 4 survives in the desert. But at the end of that period there will come a time, according to verse 3b, when ‘for a little while’ Satan will be freed from the restraints which the church age has placed upon him.

There are parallels to this end-of-millennium release which are readily to be found both in Revelation and elsewhere, and which support the interpretation we have been following. In Scene 3 God’s two witnesses, who have preached unhindered for three and a half years, are then silenced for three and a half days (see pp. 105 f.). In Scene 4 we saw the beast from the sea revive after it had been fatally wounded; and though we have taken this to be a perennial characteristic of Satan’s godless society (pp. 124 f.), we should not be surprised to find it is true also as the over-all pattern of Satan’s own career. In Scene 6, the period of the seven heads, which to John is present, is followed by the period of the ten horns, which to him is future, and seems again to indicate a great resurgence of evil at the end of time (pp. 164 f.). So here in Scene 7. ‘When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations’ (verses 7, 8).

Paul describes in 2 Thessalonians 2 what will immediately precede the return of Christ: ‘The rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed’ (verse 3). For the present, a divine power ‘is restraining him’, though in some respects, of course, ‘the mystery of lawlessness is already at work’ (verses 6, 7). But when the restraints are off, the world will see again ‘the activity of Satan … with all wicked deception’ (verses 9, 10). Paul’s non-symbolic predictions tally so remarkably with the symbolic prophecies of Revelation 20 that it is hard to see how the two passages could refer to different circumstances.

If the Thessalonians passage describing the end of the church age is indeed parallel to the Revelation one describing the end of the millennium, it settles the relationship between millennium and parousia; for in it we are told that it is the glorious second coming of Christ—‘the epiphany of his parousia’ (as the phrase in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 could be translated)—which will put an end to the last outbreak of evil, which in its turn (according to the chapter before us) will have brought to an end the thousand years’ restriction on Satan’s activity.

It will again be obvious that the order in which John receives his Visions is not the order of the events of history. Vision 3 takes us on to the end of the age, then Vision 4 takes us back to the beginning. The fact that John saw the beast destroyed before he saw Satan bound has nothing to do with the order in which these things actually happen. That must be determined by what each Vision is found to mean in the light of the rest of Scripture. Compare, for example, the millennium of Visions 4 and 5 with the chapters in Ezekiel to which it is linked by the use of the names Gog and Magog (20:8). The sequence of events in Revelation 20 is the defeat of Satan, the resurrection of the saints to a thousand-year reign, the rebellion of Gog when Satan returns, and the last battle, followed in 21 by the establishment of the new Jerusalem. The last chapters of Ezekiel show a remarkable parallel: the defeat of Edom and the resurrection of Israel to prolonged peace (35–37), then the rebellion and defeat of Gog (38, 39), followed by the vision of the new Jerusalem (40–48). The interesting thing is that the invitation to the birds, which formed Vision 2 (way back in 19:17 f., apparently ‘before’ the downfall of Satan and the millennium), is, according to Ezekiel, an invitation to pick the bones of Gog (39:17 ff.), after the last rebellion of Vision 5. John (or Ezekiel, or both) is less concerned with chronology than some of his commentators are.

Wilcock, M. (1986], c1975). The message of Revelation: I saw heaven opened. Reprint. Originally published: I saw heaven opened. Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 1975. The Bible speaks today (187). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-Varsity Press.