Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

The Two Witnesses, Part Deux

A year and a half ago, I posted this blog post about the two witnesses of Revelation 11. I posited that potentially these two would be Elijah and Enoch, since these are the two men that have never tasted death (Hebrews 9:27). But I heard a talk recently that makes me think that a more popular view is correct. Let me explain.

At the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17), two men appear with Jesus. One is Elijah, whom is prophesied as a forerunner of Christ’s kingdom in Malachi. Jesus even references this question from Peter in confirming that Elijah would come back. I think it’s safe to say that Elijah would be one of these witnesses.

The other is Moses. He’s more of an interesting character, because he died before entering the Promised Land, but we don’t know where he is buried. Why? The Lord Himself buried Moses. In fact, Jude 9 tells us that Michael was sent to contend with Satan for the body of Moses. Why would He do this for a dead body? Perhaps because He had plans for that body, and didn’t want it desecrated.

But there’s one other thing that in my laziness I never read until it was brought up in a message I heard today. In Revelation 11, these two witnesses are given two distinct powers: 1) “They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying,” and 2) “They have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.” (Revelation 11:6).

For those of you who know your Old Testament history, who was given the power to shut the heavens and keep it from raining in Israel. Answer: Elijah. Who was given the power to turn the waters into blood and cast plagues? Answer: Moses. Seems rather convenient that these guys have the same power, no?

So I think it’s safe to say I’ve amended my position a bit, and believe that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 are Elijah and Moses. It doesn’t mean this is for certain the way it’s going to happen, but the pieces of the puzzle fit rather nicely together if this is how it were to happen. Man, God is awesome. We ought to remind ourselves of that more often than we do.

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God Is Working! Are You Becoming?

“God’s will has far more to do with who you are becoming than it has to do with what you do for God.” –Afshin Ziafat

At my church this weekend, we continued our study of the Crimson Thread through the Old Testament by discussing the Passover story in Exodus 12. While there are many clear parallels between what happened at Passover, the Passover seder held by practicing Jews, and the death of Jesus Christ, one thing stuck out to me as I was reading, and the original language of the text bore an awesome discovery.

Exodus 12:5 (NASB) says thus: “Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.” Now the easy way to read this is to point to the “unblemished male” and parallel it to Christ that way, because Christ is “the Lamb, unblemished and spotless.” (1 Peter 1:19) Only a man without any blemishes (i.e. sin) could be the sacrifice needed to bear the sins of man. This makes perfect sense.

However, what I found goes a step further, and I hope it makes sense to you, the reader, as well. The Hebrew word for “unblemished” is tamiym, which means “complete, whole, entire, sound.” This hit me as rather striking, given Christ’s final words on the cross, “It is finished.” (emphasis mine) Christ had made His purpose and sacrifice complete, the same way the Passover sacrifice was to be complete.

I pointed this out to WIFE, and she took it one step further by pointing out Philippians 1:6 — “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (emphasis mine) This same completion, this unblemishing that was true of both the Passover lamb in Exodus and of Jesus Christ as He became the sacrifice for all mankind, is being worked out in us! What an awesome picture of both the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and the ultimate glorification we will see upon passing from this life into eternity. We are being made “unblemished” and “complete.” How can you say anything but “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” to that kind of awesome promise?

So when we are seeking out God’s will for our lives, let’s take to heart both the quote above and the promise that follows. We should make it our aim to focus less on doing and more on becoming, so that God’s sanctifying work is evident in us.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” — Ephesians 3:20-21

Suffering For Christ’s Sake

You know how many critics of the Bible talk about how dis-jointed or inconsistent it is? I wonder how many of these critics have turned to God’s Word when going through something in their lives. I mean when things get really tough, when you start to wonder if you’re doing things the right way, when you’re really beating yourself up over how you are living, where do you turn?

I have re-confirmed recently that the truth that is found in God’s Word is as potent today as it was to those reading in first-century AD (or CE, for you science lovers). When you need counsel or advice, the Bible is overflowing with encouragement, help, understanding and affirmation.

I commented to WIFE the other day that life seems to be getting harder and harder. I figured this was OK; I remember hearing the quote, “Life is hard, then you accept Jesus, then life gets harder and then you die.” So I assumed that suffering was a part of the Christian life, and I ought to learn to deal with it so that I could gain Christ. WIFE was not so easily convinced (in all sincerity, wives are awesome this way, aren’t they?).

She first asked how long I’ve felt this way, which upon realization has led me to some separate convictions that I’ll keep to myself for today. Then after the message we heard at church this week, she hit me with another conclusion that she gleaned from these verses. In Matthew 25 (the parable of the three servants, or the parable of the talents), the master responds to the good work from the first two servants this way, according to the NLT: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” Note what the reward is for being faithful. It’s not money, notoriety, success, comfort. It is more responsibility!

And it is this conclusion that is both interesting and challenging. God doesn’t reward our faithfulness with the easy path, as WIFE put it. He puts more things in front of you, expecting you to be faithful in those things as well. And He only places them there because He knows you are capable, given how you handled the few things you were given previously. In a position of leadership in some areas, this struck me as rather relevant.

But my wife went even one step further with the challenge, which I will now posit to you, the reader: knowing that the reward for faithfulness is more responsibility, more work, more suffering, do you still want to be faithful with what you are given? Think about this in some specific terms, like money for example. If you give to God a little, and He blesses you with an abundance, is this a reward for your good service, or a challenge to do even more with the extra money you’ve been given? And are you willing to answer that call?

To tie all of this up neatly, God pointed me to the podcast of Afshin Ziafat, a pastor from whom I heard a message while on vacation in Dallas, TX. Two weekends ago, the topic of the message was “Knowing God’s Will,” which I think we can all agree we would love to be able to do. I’m not even through with the podcast, but in listening and reading along I was so convicted that I stopped the recording and had to write this blog.

The verse he uses as a starting point for what I’m sure is going to be a great rest of the message is 1 Peter 4:1-2, which says, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” So the suffering that I feel like I’m going through is part of seeing the will of God fulfilled, and He wouldn’t have me do it if He didn’t subject Christ to the same types of suffering! What reason do I have to feel like MY life is hard, to focus inward on myself? Rather, I am to “arm myself with the same attitude” as Christ, so that I can be a conqueror of sin and the “evil human desires.”

So Lord, today I accept the responsibility You have tasked me with, and I thank You for showing me that my suffering is not needless but also pales in comparison to knowing You and fulfilling Your plan. Help me have a desire to not care how hard my life gets, as long as it serves You and Your people. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray this, amen.

God Is Love

Reading Francis’ Chan’s “Crazy Love” last night, there was a simple exercise that sort of pushed me hard in the chest. I took it a step further, and it taught me a great lesson. If you’re reading this, try doing the same thing.

The exercise is based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13, which says,

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Ok, now take every instance of the word “love” or “it” and replace that with your own name (i.e. Adam is patient, Adam is kind). Now step back for a second and see how many of those phrases make you feel like a liar or that you’re stretching the truth to pigeonhole yourself in there. For me, things like “does not boast,” “is not proud,” “keeps no record of wrongs,” are areas that I have to say “Oops.”

That’s where the exercise ends in “Crazy Love.” But let’s go one step further. Now replace the same words “love” and “it” with “Christ.” Does He fit the mold? If our goal as Christians is to emulate Christ, then find the areas that Christ makes the phrase truthful and you don’t, and those are the areas you need to work on in your Christian walk. Go for it!