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The Forgotten Third: Developing a Relationship with God the Holy Spirit — What Do We Learn from the book of Revelation about the Holy Spirit?

There are two ways of approaching the doctrines of the Scriptures. One way is to collect all the data throughout the Bible into logical categories (called “systematic theology”). The other way is to work through individual books of the Bible, collecting the data on a particular subject (this is called “biblical theology,” although the term is used in other ways in less than conservative circles). When we ask, what do we learn from the book of Revelation about God the Holy Spirit, we are taking a kind of biblical theology approach. Our conviction in these posts is that, while some believers overemphasize the Spirit, others overlook Him. We want to do neither, but long to have a balanced view of the Third Member of the Trinity.

What do we find when we unit-read (read straight through at one sitting) the book of Revelation?

What do we learn from the book of Revelation about God the Holy Spirit?

Ch. 1- 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” We learn of John being “in the Spirit.”
Ch. 2- 7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.   11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death. 17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Ch. 3- 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The Spirit of God speaks to the various churches.

Ch. 4- 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. We learn of John being “in the Spirit.”

Ch. 14- 13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

Ch. 17- 3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. We learn of John being “in the Spirit.”

Ch. 19- 10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.” Here the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of prophecy.

Ch. 21- 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. We learn of John being “in the Spirit.”

Ch. 22- 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Here we have the Spirit and the Son speaking.

There is no doubt that the book of Revelation is a challenging book to understand. But we do see the Spirit leading John in what he wrote. This same Spirit has much to say to the churches.

How do we hear the voice of the Spirit today? We now have God’s completed Word. The Spirit’s primary instrument to speak to the churches today is the written Word of God. The real question is: Are we listening to the Spirit?

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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Why Should We Believe Anything at All? (Part 2)

In preparing for my next trip to speak at Cedarcroft Bible Chapel in New Jersey (from January 26 to February 4), I want to focus on the two messages I will give on Sunday morning. Both will be entitled —

We considered the fact that we all believe many things.  No person is without a “worldview,” a way of looking at life and at God and at self.  But what should be one’s authority for developing a correct worldview?  Some suggest REASON, some EXPERIENCE.  Other think one’s ECCLESIASTICAL TRADITION ought to suffice.  We suggested that our final authority ought to be God’s revelation to us — the Word of God, the Bible.

But Christianity is not alone in claiming SUPERNATURAL REVELATION!  What about the Mormon’s claims that the Book of Mormon is also the Word of God?  What about Islam that says the KORAN is God’s infallible Word?  What about Christian Science which says that SCIENCE AND HEALTH WITH KEY TO THE SCRIPTURES is the Word of God?

The fact is that merely claiming a book or books to be supernatural revelation from God is not enough.  What are the reasons one should believe one and reject the others?

“Don’t you know the Scriptures?”

There are many reasons that the Bible (composed of 66 books) should alone be regarded as God’s Word:  historical reliability, fulfillment of prophecy, the unity of the Bible, the testimony of the Lord Jesus to the Old Testament and His prediction of the New Testament to come.  In the final analysis, the Bible’s credibility comes down to the question — “Who was and is Jesus — and why should He be trusted?”

If Jesus is God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, then His view of the Bible ought to be my view of the Bible.  If the Bible is my final authority in life, then the way I look at reality and at God and at myself ought to be derived from the teachings of God’s Holy Word.

In our next post, we will draw certain conclusions (if the Bible is our final authority) about the first five areas of theology (introductory matters, Bibliology, Theology Proper, Christology, and Pneumatology.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2019 in doctrine

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (23:7-29) Religious Language, Betrayal, and Sovereignty!

Don’t you just love it when people use religious language for their own purposes? Saul hears of David’s intervention for the citizens of Keilah and he says, “God has delivered him into my hands!” (v. 7). Saul gathers his forces to go down and besiege David and his men.

David, with Abiathar’s help, consults the ephod. David asks the Lord, “Will the citizens of Keilah give me over to Saul? Will Saul come down?” The Lord answers David: “He will.” And the Lord says that the citizens of Keilah will turn him and his men over to Saul.

David and his 600 men leave Keilah and stay in wilderness strongholds. We read that “Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands” (v. 14).

Jonathan, Saul’s son, went to David and “helped him find strength in God” (v. 16). They make a covenant before the Lord.

The Ziphites rat out David and promise to deliver him into Saul’s hands. Saul’s response: “The Lord bless you for your concern for me” (v. 21). Another use of religious language for his own selfish purposes! Saul commissions the Ziphites to get more information on David’s whereabouts.

Saul is just about to attack David and his men when Saul is told of a Philistine raid and breaks off his pursuit of David. David then goes and lives in the strongholds of En Gedi.

Some takeaways for me:
1. Religious language can be used by anyone, for any purpose!
2. Some people, out of fear, are ungrateful and will turn on believers when they feel threatened.
3. God is sovereign and did not give David into Saul’s hands. He is sovereign with you and me too!
4. We, like Jonathan, are to help one another “find strength in God”!
5. God can use events and calamities to rescue His servants.

True, we are not being pursued by sword-bearing soldiers who would love nothing more than to separate our heads from our bodies. But we have real enemies nonetheless, and need friends to encourage us and God’s Word to comfort us!

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2018 in I Samuel 23

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (23:1-6) Revelation, Fear, and Victory!

Wouldn’t it be great if you could inquire of the Lord — and He would answer you directly? David learns of the Philistine’s attacking the people of Keilah and looting their threshing floors. David asks the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?”

The Lord clearly responds, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” (vv. 1-2).

But David’s men are fearful. They say, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!” (v. 3). Apparently they had not heard the Lord’s voice in telling them to attack the Philistines.

David condescends to his men and inquires a second time of the Lord. The Lord repeats His command: “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” (v. 4).

David and his men obey, fight the Philistines, inflict heavy losses on them, and save the people of Keilah (v. 5). Obeying the Lord is always the right choice!

But how did David know what to do?  [I’ve used several commentaries to help with the rest of this post]. We are  told parenthetically: “Now Abiathar son of Ahimelek had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.” (v. 6). One commentator says that in his fright and flight Abiathar came down with the ephod in his hand. Not the linen ephod on his back which the priests in common wore, but the ephod with the Urim and Thummim in his hand. It is likely that this wasn’t just any ephod; this was the ephod of the High Priest, which had the breastplate of judgment (Exodus 28:15) attached to it (Exodus 28:28). The breastplate had in it a pouch with two stones, known as the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30). When David inquired of the LORD, he probably asked Abiathar to use the Urim and Thummim.

How did the priest use the Urim and Thummim to inquire of the LORD? The names Urim and Thummim mean “Lights and Perfections.” We aren’t sure what they were or how they were used. Most think they were a pair of stones, one light and another dark, and each stone indicated a “yes” or “no” from God. The idea is that High Priest would ask God a question that could be answered with a “yes” or a “no,” reach into the breastplate, and pull out the stone indicating God’s answer. This ephod, with the Urim and Thummim, was more helpful to David than a thousand soldiers, because it helped him discern the will of God.

Many Christians today would consider the Urim and Thummim as crude tools of discernment — sort of an Old Testament “Magic 8-Ball.” In fact, using the Urim and Thummim was superior to the tools many Christians today use: relying purely on feeling, or on outward appearances, or simply using no discernment at all. The key to the effectiveness of the Urim and Thummim was that God’s Word gave them. In seeking God through the Urim and Thummim, one was really going back to God’s Word for guidance, because it was the word of God that commanded their place and allowed their use. Today, if we have the same focus on God’s Word, He will guide us also. One old preacher was asked to explain the Urim and Thummim. He said, “Well, this is how I understand it. When I need to know God’s will, I get out my Bible and I do a lot of usin’ and thummin’ through my Bible, and God always speaks to me.” More Christians would know God’s will if they did more usin’ and thummin’!

“Go, and attack the Philistines, and save Keliah!” By all outward appearance, this was a crazy thing to do. First, David had 400 men whose had thin resumes and bad credit reports (everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him, 1 Samuel 22:2); not exactly a regular army! Second, David had enough trouble with Saul, and he didn’t need to add trouble from the Philistines – one enemy is usually enough! Third, this would bring David wide open out before King Saul, and expose him to that enemy also. This was a dangerous course of action!

Then why do it at all? David had two great reasons: the command of God, and the need of the people. David was willing to spend himself, to endanger himself, so that he obey the command of God, and meet the need of the people.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2018 in I Samuel 23

 

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The Theology of Jesus: Part 2 Bibliology

Bibliology, the study of God’s revelation to man, is our next theological category to consider. What did the Lord Jesus believe about general and special revelation, the canon of Scripture, the truth of God disclosing information about Himself?

We are on a strange quest to ask what the Lord Jesus’ theology was. What did He say and teach about issues such as the nature of God’s Word and man’s response to it? We are using a systematic theology approach, attempting to collect the data in logical categories.

These posts can’t be exhaustive because we have ten areas to cover! We can only hit one or two highlights in each division of theology. We’ve seen (in the first area of prolegomena) that the Lord Jesus put the highest premium on the issue of belief. Belief was such a critical matter to Jesus that He actually allowed His friend Lazarus to die so that others would believe in Him!

Systematic theology divides this topic into two sub-divisions: general revelation (God communicating truth about Himself to all people everywhere) and special revelation (God communicating truth about Himself to a select group).  In terms of general revelation (its three avenues being nature, human nature, and human history), we have many references by the Lord to nature as He refers to animals, plants, locations, weather, natural disasters, etc.  He used the objects of nature to drive home spiritual points about a relationship with Himself.  He made evident the care of God when He said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Mt 6:28-29).

Perhaps this is why the most frequent analogies Jesus makes to the natural world are from farming, fishing, vineyards and shepherds: human beings working together with nature, transforming the raw materials of nature into food and drink and clothing. The images Jesus uses are dominated by a picture of the environment that shows human beings using, domesticating and cultivating nature for their own use: mustard seed, yeast, bread, sowing and seeds, vineyards and vines, new and old wine, sheep and goats, the good shepherd, the sheepfold, the flock, weeds among the wheat, fishermen, a net full of fish. (https://incommunion.org/2004/12/11/jesus-and-the-natural-world/)

Jesus also appeals to man’s human nature (conscience, for example) as He tells a parable such as the parable of the tenants in Matthew 21 (v. 40- “What will he do to those [wicked] tenants?”).  When He is anointed by a sinful woman, Jesus, after telling the story of two debtors’ being forgiven, asks Simon the Pharisee “which of them will love him more?” (Lk. 7:42).  The conscience was important to the Lord Jesus — and He appeals to it often.

The Lord also uses human history to speak of God’s actions in His creation.  He affirms the historicity of Adam and Eve (Mt. 19), makes reference to the Noahic flood (Mt. 24:37), refers to the real existence of Jonah (Mt. 12:40), and alludes to the history of the Jewish nation (Jn. 8:33).

But what did the Lord Jesus say about special revelation?  First of all, there is no question that He affirmed in the strongest terms possible, the divine authority of the Old Testament Scriptures.  He affirmed the authority of the Old Testament in His confrontation with Satan (Mt. 4:4), described the imperishable nature of God’s Word (Mt. 5:18), said that the Scripture cannot be broken (Jn. 10:35), appealed to Scripture when confronting false doctrine (Mt. 22:29), said that God’s word is “truth” (Jn. 17:17), declared the historicity of Jonah (Mt. 12:40) and Noah (Mt. 24:37-38) and Adam and Eve (Mt. 19:4-6), saw the creation story as reliable (Mk. 13:19; Mt. 19:4), made reference to the Law and the Prophets as canonical (Mt. 5:17), used Moses and all the prophets to explain the things concerning Himself (Lk. 24:27), and referred to the entire canon by mentioning all the prophets from Abel to Zechariah (Mt. 23:35).   Wow. (https://carm.org/what-did-jesus-teach-about-old-testament)

And, in terms of the divine canon (the collection of inspired books making up the Bible), Jesus clearly predicts the coming of the New Testament when He says the following in the Upper Room Discourse (John 14-16):

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (Jn. 14)

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. (Jn. 15)

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (Jn. 16)

This “Spirit of truth”, this “Advocate, the Holy Spirit,” “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” From those words in John 14 we may infer that the Holy Spirit would “carry along” (2 Pe. 1:21) the Apostles and help them remember what Jesus had said to them. It would be their job to record the teachings of Jesus.

This same Spirit, Jesus says, “will testify about me.” (Jn. 15:26). How would the Holy Spirit most likely do that? We suggest it would be by inspiring the New Testament writers in their work.

But Jesus states He had “much more” to say to the disciples. The Spirit to come would “guide [them] into all the truth.” (Jn. 16:13). He would tell them “what is yet to come” (Jn. 16:13). But there is cooperation between the Son and the Spirit. Jesus says, “He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” (Jn. 16:14). The Spirit “will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (Jn. 16:15)

So, the Lord Jesus had much to say about bibliology.  As the Word, He embodied God’s communication to man, as the writer to the Hebrews tells us in his first chapter:
Read over John chapter one and take a few notes on the Lord Jesus as “the Word.”  Why would the Creator desire to communicate to His rebellious creation?  Feel free to post your Comment below. (to be continued)

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2018 in the theology of Jesus

 

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Babylon Bee: “God, Speak to Me!”

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2018 in Bible

 

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Back to the Basics! Bibliology #1 The Logic of Revelation!

“You’ve made God in YOUR image! That’s what you’ve done!”, my friend John said to me. Rejecting biblical Christianity, he charges followers of Jesus with fashioning a god in their own likeness, with qualities they would wish in a deity.

I’m not sure John is all that wrong. It is certainly possible to think of God as WE want Him to be, rather than as He discloses Himself in the Scriptures. But when Christians think clearly, they recognize that God is not created, but discovered. Better put, God reveals Himself to us. We wouldn’t have the sense to search for Him.

Logically, if we have been made by an infinite, personal Creator, does it not make sense that He would want to communicate to His creatures? And that is what biblical Christianity claims. God has communicated Himself to us in the Bible.

The idea of revelation is that God gives us a massive amount of information about Himself and His ways in the literature of the Scriptures. If we want to get to know God, we must get to know His Word!

If someone really wanted to get to know me, they could talk directly to me. They could interview my wife. They could ask questions of my friends. And, if they were, for some inexplicable reason, really desperate to get to know me, they could read the books I have written.

The God of the Bible can be known!  He is not some deistic deity who wound up the world and then went away on vacation.  He is intimately involved in His world and wants to be intimately involved in my world.

The Apostle Paul prays in the book of Ephesians: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Eph. 1:17)  Are you seeking to know Him better?  Are you praying for others to have the same goal?

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2018 in bibliology

 

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Time for a Great Cartoon! (worry)

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 8.08.21 AMHow do we determine what really matters?  We are notoriously over-concerned about minutiae and under-concerned about the deepest issues of life.  The real question is:  How do we ascertain the deepest issues of life?Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 7.39.22 PM

For the follower of Jesus, the answer is quite simple.  God has revealed His values in His Word, the Bible.  And we don’t have to worry about what He has revealed to us; we simply need to pursue His heart and HIs mind with all our strength.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in values

 

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