“I Am The Way, the Truth and the Life.”

Our last post began a series on the “I Am”s of Jesus.  We started with His statement in John 8:58, where He said that He was the I AM of Exodus 3:14. We showed in that post that the New Testament over and over asserts the deity of our Lord.  Though He was truly human, He was at the same time truly divine.

He is God.

Our post today is about what we consider perhaps the second-most important of His “I Am”s.”  Although, with these two exceptions, I don’t really know that you can rank them in some kind of order.  They are all the Word of God.  And by that I don’t mean that they are just in the Bible.  I mean that they were spoken by that One Who said, “I AM.”  They are the Word of God –

Himself.

The first “I AM” we noted asserts His deity, without which what He said and did otherwise has little meaning.  This saying lays down once and for all how one may approach God.

We live in an age of great pluralism and “diversity”.  It seems everything must be “tolerated,” everything, it seems to me, except for the truth.  It’s considered “bigotry” for Christians to insist their religion is true and others are not. Especially in matters of religion, we’re to be “tolerant” and accepting of beliefs other than our own.

As a Christian, I agree with this last statement – to a point.  As Peter put it, there are some things in the Christian faith which are hard to understand, 2 Peter 3:16.  Not every true believer sees eye-to-eye about them with every other true believer.

There are some things, however, which are non-negotiable.  The deity of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of them.  Any religion that denies that cardinal truth is false, no matter what else it might have, no matter how much other “truth” it might have.  This includes a lot of “Christianity.”

Another non-negotiable truth is the subject we’re studying in this post, namely, how does one approach God?  Or to put it another way, how does one get to heaven?  How is one saved?

Or is everyone already on their way to “a better place,” as widely believed?  Do “all roads lead to heaven”?

John 14 continues a conversation that began in John 13:31.  The Passover meal the Lord and His disciples had eaten was pretty much over.  The Lord had instituted His Supper, or communion.  Judas had left to betray the Lord, and the Lord began to say some things which the disciples couldn’t understand.

Without our getting too much into it, the Lord began to say that He was leaving – going away.  He was going to prepare a place for them.  Peter wanted to know where He was going, John 13:36.  Jesus replied that Peter would have to wait to follow Him, that he couldn’t do so right now.  Peter wanted to know why not?  He was willing to die for the Lord.  This is when Jesus uttered His famous prophecy about Peter’s denials of Him, v. 38.

The chapter break is unfortunate.  I believe 14:1-4 were addressed to Peter as a result of the Lord’s prophecy and continues what was said at the end of ch. 13.  The Lord wasn’t “down-playing” what Peter would do, but rather showing him that what he did wouldn’t mess up what the Lord was doing.  He was leaving – Peter’s denial was part of that, – but He was leaving in order to prepare a place for all of them, John 14:1-4.

He said the time was coming when they would all be with Him.  They knew where He was going and they knew how to get there, v. 4.  At this, Thomas piped up and said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?”

In the original language, Jesus said, “I, I am the way….”  It’s emphatic.  There’s only one way to get where He was going.  He’s it.

For those who believe that “all roads lead to heaven,” – with the exception of this one “road,” – they do all lead to one place.  But that place isn’t heaven.

Jesus made three claims about Himself in John 14:6.

1.  I am the way….

We hear a lot about the “plan of salvation.”  I understand what’s being said, but salvation isn’t found in “a plan.”  It’s not about some method or ceremony or ritual.  Salvation is found in a person.  There’s not a three-step or a twelve-step or a twenty-two step way to be saved.  There is only a “one-step” way to be saved:  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…,” Acts 16:31.

Salvation is to be had only through the Lord Jesus Christ.  He alone is “the Way.”  Salvation isn’t about “getting religion,” or joining the church.  It isn’t about observing “the sacraments,” or about arguing about how many of them there are.  That is important, but it isn’t “the way.”  It isn’t about some preacher or Christian personality.  

Jesus continued His statement by saying, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

“Through Me.”

Oh, that raises the hackles!  I’ve heard the Lord Jesus Himself referred to as a bigot because He said that.  If He’s not Who He said He was – if He’s not God, then He’s worse than a bigot.  He’s a false prophet, just like all the rest of those who claim to be someone special or to have something special or to know some special way to get to God or to know some other god beside the God of the Bible.

But Jesus is God.  His word therefore carries divine authority and we ignore it at our peril.

Peter put it like this in Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

“No other name under heaven.”

As I was reading this verse just now, I was struck by the context.  Peter and John had been arrested in the Temple for preaching in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. We have to remember that the Crucifixion wasn’t just some ancient memory, far removed from their time, as it is from ours.  It had only been a few weeks since Jesus had died and risen again.  Many of those in the audience, and many of those who arrested Peter and John, had been witnesses of them or had been active in seeking the Lord’s death.  So it was still a pretty raw memory.

And here were Peter and John rubbing salt in the wound.

Furthermore, Peter had healed a man who had never walked, and he was there with them.  In the Temple, he had been with them, as well – walking, leaping and praising God.  I’m sure that went over well with the straight-laced authorities.  Think about it.  This man had never even crawled, Acts 3:2, but there he was, walking and leaping!  He didn’t have to “learn how.”  He was healed and he knew how! His healing was what had given Peter the occasion to preach. Anyway, the Sadducees and others wanted to know by what name the man had been healed, v. 7.  They were probably trying to get Peter to say something that they could use to accuse him of using magical arts, or sorcery, which were against the law.

Peter replied, …by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. … Nor is there any salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” vs. 10, 12.

Notice that Peter said, “By Him this man stands here….”  It isn’t just saying “the name” that saves us.  “Jesus” isn’t some kind of magical formula, some “abracadabra,” that will open some door for us.  No, no, it’s Jesus Himself Who is the Savior.  His name may be that name above every name, Philippians 2:9, but it’s before HIM that we must bow, and it’s before HIM that every knee will eventually bow.

2.  I am the truth….

This seems a strange statement.  How can a person be an abstract thing like “truth?”

I think the Lord meant that everything about Him – everything He was, everything He did, everything He taught and said, was true.  He was truth incarnate.  He could even say to Philip that having seen Himself, one had “seen” the Father.  Now, this doesn’t mean, as some believe, that Jesus IS the Father, but rather that what one saw in Jesus was what one would see in the Father, if the Father came to earth as a human.  Jesus was God incarnate – God in the flesh.

That is the truth.

But He had said He was leaving.  What then?

In John 14:16, Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth….”

“The Spirit of truth.”

Jesus refers to Him by this title here and in John 16:13:  …when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth….”

“He will guide you into all truth.”  Not away from it, but into it.  Not to ignore it, or to downplay it, but to embrace it.

He’s not the “Spirit of experience,” or “the Spirit of emotion,” but of truth.  That’s not to say there isn’t “experience” or “emotion,” but they’re not themselves to be the focus.

Jesus further said of the Spirit, “He will glorify Me,…”  Literally, He said, “Me He will glorify.”  It’s emphatic.  The Spirit isn’t here to glorify Himself.  He’s not here to emphasize His gifts, nor to exalt believers.  He’s here to glorify the Lord Jesus.

There are groups which emphasize and exalt the Holy Spirit, or “Holy Ghost,” but their focus is misplaced, because the Spirit’s mission is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, and focus people on Him, not on Himself.

There is something else.

For some time, we have seen increasing efforts to bring all religions together into one big, happy family.  There are even some now who are trying to bring about a hybrid Christianity-Islam.  They call it “Chrislam.”

There might be a unity of organization or even of religious belief, but this isn’t the unity of the Spirit Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:3.  You can’t have that without the unity of the faith he talks about in 4:13.  That means unity in the truth of the Word.  Anything which which denies the Word is a unity in error, not in truth.

That is why John warned us in 1 John 4:1, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  “Test” = “examine, try.”  In other words, don’t be gullible.  As Isaiah 8:20 puts it in another connection, To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and His mission is to glorify the Lord Jesus.  And He does so through the written Word.  That’s why it’s so important to study the Word and to know as much of it as possible.  How can we know “error” if we don’t know “truth.”

There’s so much, much more we could say on the subject of the Spirit, but we must go on.

3.  I am the life….

In Colossians 3:4, Paul referred to the Lord Jesus as our life.

How is He “our life”?

There’s a really difficult portion in John 6:51-58, which has some bearing on this.  This is where the Lord talks about eating His body and drinking His blood.  And in His institution of the Lord’s Supper, He says of the bread, “Take, eat, this is My body,” and of the cup, “This is My blood…,”  Matthew 26:26, 28.

From these verses, some have concluded that we actually partake of the Lord’s body and blood in communion, though they do divide it as to who gets which.  However, in John 6:63, the Lord said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”   In other words, the merely physical is of no use.  There must be the working of the Spirit if things are to get done.  And in the institution of the Lord’s Supper, after saying, “This is My body,” etc., the Lord is careful to refer to the fruit of the vine, Matthew 26:29.  The elements hadn’t changed.

It’s clear that, when our Lord said, “This is My body,” that He meant “this represents My body,” and the same of the “fruit of the vine.”  They are representative, not “real.”

So, what do they represent?

The bread represents the life He lived in the body.  That perfect, sinless, righteous life that fully and completely obeyed the Law of God with no slip or shortcoming and satisified its every requirement.  And the fruit of the vine represents the death He died in the body.  

That sacrificial death which forever satisfied the demands of a broken Law.

That life we could never live – even if some claim they do.

That death we would never die – we could never pay for, atone for, even one sin, let alone the countless sins of which we are guilty, to say nothing of atoning for the sins of others.  Besides, that death itself would be sin, because we would be saying that Christ’s death isn’t enough.  Indeed, anything we say we have to do beside, or in addition to, the death of Christ is sin, because we’re saying that the death of Christ isn’t enough.  By faith, we’re to receive that life and death as our only hope before God.  He did for believers what we could never do for ourselves.  We can add nothing to it.  We dare add nothing to it.

Oh, listen, there is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death, Proverbs 14:12; 16:25.  Only Christianity has a Cross.  Only Christianity has a Resurrection.  Only Christianity has a Savior.  That may be “narrow,” but truth is always “narrow.”

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1.

I AM

On Easter, my wife and I attended our son-in-law’s church.  He was beginning a series on the “I AM” sayings of our Lord.  Because it was Easter, the message was about Jesus’s saying, “I am the resurrection and the life,” John 11:25.

Very appropriate.

His message inspired me to begin a similar series here on the blog.  However, I’m going to start with what I believe is the “I AM” that validates all the others and makes them true.  If it’s not true, then the others don’t matter.

That “I AM” is found in John 8:58.

John 8 records one of the frequent discussions our Lord had with the religious leaders of Israel.  This particular episode wound up with a heated exchange, at least on the part of the leaders, because Jesus seemed to be making light of their descent from Abraham, v.33-59.  This was something that was very precious to them.

We see this in Matthew 3:9, where John the Baptist told those who were coming to his baptism not to count on their descent from Abraham.  He said to them, “…do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”

The climax of the discussion in John 8 is in v. 58, where Jesus exclaimed, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

There are those who say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  However, those Jews who heard Him on that long ago day recognized what Jesus was saying.  No doubt, the verse we know as Exodus 3:14 came to their minds, where Moses was questioning God about being sent to Egypt to bring out the nation of Israel.  He finally asked God who he was to say had sent him.  God replied, “‘I AM WHO I AM.’  And He said. ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’.”

The Jews recognized that that was precisely, exactly, what Jesus was claiming:  that He was God.

He was I AM.

In John 8:59, that’s why they tried to stone Him – and why they couldn’t.

But that’s not the only time or the first time Jesus and the Jews crossed swords, as it were, over Who He was.

John 5:18 is the first record we have of such a discussion.  One of the things that really irked the Pharisees was that the Lord Jesus would not pay any attention to their views of how the Sabbath was to be observed.  I’m sure that Jesus healed and ministered to people every day of the week, but John seems especially to pick out things Jesus did on the Sabbath.

John 5 is the record of the man healed after 38 years of lying helpless.  Unlike modern “healers,” our Lord made no spectacle of His healing.  He had no advertising, sought no crowds, allowed no fanfare, but did His work and, in this case, was gone.  The man who was healed didn’t even know who Jesus was until Jesus found him later.

As this man was carrying the pallet on which he had lain for so many years, “the Jews,” probably the Pharisees, stopped him because he was “working” on the Sabbath.  They seemed unimpressed and uninterested in the man’s healing, but were focused on what they considered an infraction of the Sabbath.

John 5 seems to occur very early in the Lord’s ministry.  The Pharisees confronted Him about His own “working” on the Sabbath.  In fact, v. 6 says that they wanted to kill Him for doing so.  In v. 17, Jesus responds, in effect, that God, His Father, had been working until now, and now it was His turn.

V. 18 shows the Jews’ response to this:  Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 

The Jews understood quite well what the Lord was saying.

He was God – and they tried to kill Him for it.

John 10:31-39 records yet another time when the Jews tried to kill Jesus for His claims.  Without going into all the details, our Lord asked the Jews why they were trying to kill Him.  They answered, “…for blasphemy,…because You being a Man make yourself God,”  v. 33.

Unlike His modern detractors, these Jews clearly understood that Jesus claimed to be God.

In fact, that ultimately was why He was crucified.

In John 19:7, which records part of the Jews’ skirmish with Pilate over what to do with Jesus, they said, “We have a law, and according to our law, He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”

That is, the Jews were saying to Pilate that Jesus didn’t just claim to be related to God, as believers might say that they are “the children of God,” but that He was God.

The God Who is the I AM.

As He hung on the Cross, the chief priests, along with the scribes and elders, mocked Jesus:  “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him, because He said, ‘I am the Son of God’,”  Matthew 27:43.

Perhaps you’ve seen that movie in which the Hulk confronts Loki.  Loki is outraged that the Hulk isn’t giving him the homage that he requires.  He shouts at the Hulk, “Enough!!  You cannot treat me like this!  I am god!”  Then he disappears from the screen.  The next thing you see, the Hulk has him by the heels and is slamming him into the roof of the building they’re on.  He does this a few times, then holds him up and looks at him.  Then he slams him a couple of more times, and leaves him crumpled on the roof.  As the Hulk stomps off, he mutters, “Puny god!”

Now I am in no way comparing the imagination and special effects of Hollywood with the reality and horror of the Crucifixion.  But our Lord’s enemies, in effect, were saying this of Jesus:  “Puny God.”

After all, though He had claimed to be God, yet here He was, hanging on a Cross.  To their way of thinking, that wasn’t how God would act!

How little they understood of what was going on!

There were some there, though, who did have an inkling of who the Lord was.

In Mark 15:39, after witnessing all that went on, and probably having seen other crucifixions as well as the crucifixion of the two men with Jesus, the centurion, who was possibly in charge of the crucifixion detail, said of Jesus, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

Then there was the repentant thief who called Him, “Lord,” Luke 23:42.

Luke 23:50-54 records Nicodemus coming to Pilate and asking for the body of Jesus.  We fail to realize the significance of what Nicodemus did.  We just see him asking for a body, but the truth of the matter is far different.  It was Passover time and those who had been ceremonially defiled by touching a dead body were forbidden to take part in the Passover.  To knowingly defile oneself was even worse, Numbers 9:6-14, esp. v. 13.  In effect, because Nicodemus – as well as Joseph of Arimathea – knowingly touched the dead body of Jesus, he forever put himself under a curse if Jesus isn’t who He said He was.  It was all or nothing as far as Nicodemus was concerned.

Then there’s John 1:1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  Not “a god,” as false cultists and others teach, but God.

The “I AM” of the Old Testament.

Finally, Paul in Philippians 2:5-11, taught that Christ did not think it robbery to be equal with God.  The word translated “robbery” could be translated “selfishly clung to.” This doesn’t mean that Jesus thought equality with God was something to be grabbed, as it were, as cultists teach, as if it weren’t already His, but that it wasn’t something to be held on to.  That is, the Word laid aside His dignity and rights as God to come to this earth to die as Man.

It is clear that the New Testament over and over testifies to the deity of the Lord Jesus as well as to His humanity.

If He wasn’t, and isn’t, God, then nothing else about Him matters.

 

Understanding The Revelation.

As I began this post, I intended to make it a two-post series.  With all the discussion of the Revelation, I knew that two posts wouldn’t be enough really to understand the book, if that’s even possible before it’s all over and done with.  I just wanted to lay a basic foundation. The first post was to be about the importance of the book and its interpretation.  The second post was to be an overview of the contents of the book.  The more I thought about it, though, and even wrote, the more I realized that I had two choices for the outline of the book.  I could just give a bare outline of the book, sort of like its skeleton, but I don’t know that that would really say much about the book.  In order to do any kind of justice to the subject, I needed more than that.  For me, that would probably wind up being several thousands of words.  For the time being, I’ve decided just to do the first post on how to interpret the book.  I have done a couple other posts on the first chapters of the book.  I am thinking tentatively of a series on the seven churches.  There’s a lot there.  For the rest, there’s really a lot there.  I may or may not jump in.

I.  The Importance of the Book.

A.  It’s the only prophetic book in the New Testament.  Nearly every other book in the New Testament has elements of prophecy, but Revelation is the only book called “a prophecy,” 1:3; 10:11; 22:7, 10, 18, 19, the climax of which will be the second coming of Christ, 1:7; 3:11; 16:15; 19:11; 22:7, 12, 20.

B.  It’s necessary to complete the revelation of Pauline eschatology.  Paul revealed many prophetic truths – the Revelation puts them all into perspective.  Indeed, Revelation is the capstone of all Biblical prophecy.

C. It fully reveals Christ’s present relationship to His churches and His prospective relationship to the world.  It’s the fulfillment of Philippians 2:9-11 and is the answer to the question in 1 Peter 4:17, 18.

D.  It’s the only NT book in which is given a blessing for the fulfilling of our responsibilities toward it, 1:3; 22:7.  This responsibility is three-fold:  to read, to hear, and to keep.  The Greek word translated, “keep,” doesn’t mean simply to possess, but in the words of Newell,

“Now the sense of the word ‘keep’ is its primary one of  ‘watching over,’ ‘guarding as a treasure,’ as well as its secondary one, ‘to give heed to.”  We cannot ‘keep’ a prophecy as men might ‘observe’ a law.  The prophecy will  be fulfilled whether we pay attention to it or not.  But there is divine blessing if we give heed to it and jealously guard its very words!”  (Revelation, p. 7, emphasis his.)

There are several Scriptures which build on the foundation of prophetic insight in their teachings as to is to be what our outlook on this present evil world, Galatians 1:4.  Two of the more notable ones are 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 and 2 Peter 3:11-14.

1 Thessalonians tells us that the Christian life is to be one of activity and anticipation.  This “activity” is two-fold, to turn from idols and to serve the living and true God.  Many rejoice in the fact, at least to their own minds, that they have fulfilled the first of these, that is, they “don’t drink or chew or have friends who do,” but fail to realize that the other side of the coin, as it were, is “serving the living and true God.”  As Paul put it, presenting their bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord, Romans 12:1, 2..

The coupling of activity and anticipation also shows us what is to be our attitude toward the coming of the Lord.  We’re not, as some have, to quit our jobs, sell all our possessions, put on white sheets, and go to live on a mountaintop, waiting for the Lord to come and pick us up.  No, no, while waiting for Him, we’re to be productive in the things of God, leaving the fulfilling of His purpose to Him.  We’ll have more to say about this shortly.

2 Peter also tells us what is to be our attitude in this life.  It is to be, “as then, so now.”  In other words, many Christians seem to have the attitude that, since we’ll be perfect only in heaven, there’s little need to be concerned about it before we get there.  It is true that perfect and complete holiness won’t be ours until we get to heaven, but it is also true that God begins the work before we get there.  He begins it in this life, as soon as we’re converted.  Heaven will, as it were, reveal the unveiling of His masterpiece, but He begins the work in this life.  The things that happen to us now are His brushstrokes as He makes us into the likeness of His Son.

The eternal world is described by Peter as one in which righteousness dwells, 2 Peter 3:13.  There are two thoughts in this.  First, there is “permanence.”  Righteousness is very fleeting on this earth and is often covered up or done away with.  Not so in eternity.  Second, “dwells” carries the idea of “being at home.”  Sin and evil are at home in this world, righteousness is often viewed as an unwelcome intruder.  Not so in eternity.  Therefore, wrote Peter, we’re to strive to be holy in this life, 2 Peter 3:11, 14.  “Holiness” isn’t about some “experience,” or about belonging to a particular denomination or group.  True Biblical holiness is about conformity to the will of God.  It’s the demonstration of the character of God in the life of the believer.  Imperfectly, to be sure, but something longed for by those who know the true God.

In 2 Peter 3:12, Peter tells us we’re also to be hasting unto the coming of the day of God.  This doesn’t mean that we can do something to hasten it, or that we can delay it, for that matter, but rather that we’re eagerly to wait for it and to look forward to it, as a young child might to a promised treat, or on a long journey, wanting to know, “Are we there yet?”

This doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to set dates or anything foolish like that, but to realize, and to wish, that today might be the day when the Lord returns.

D.  It’s the only NT book which includes a curse against those who tamper with its contents!  For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:  If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book, Revelation 22:18, 19.

Regardless of what one thinks about what these verses mean, or even what the book itself means, it’s a serious thing to approach the book with anything but the utmost reverence and respect.  God will not have His Word to be meddled with, mocked, or misused!  It’s neither to be sensationalized nor minimized.

II. Interpretation of the Book

 It’s said that Satan especially hates three books of the Bible:  Genesis, because it records God’s denunciation of him, Deuteronomy, because the Lord Jesus defeated him with it during Satan’s testings of Him in the wilderness, and Revelation, because it reveals his ultimate defeat and eternal doom.

This may or may not be true, but it’s certain that he has caused a great deal of controversy over how to interpret the book.  Generally speaking, there are four main schools of thought about this.

A.  Preterist.

According to this view, all the Revelation was fulfilled, except possibly the last two chapters, during the early history of the church.  There are those who hold that even they have been fulfilled.  Preterists believe the book to be, “A Tract for Troubled Times,” instructing the early believers to hold fast during the troubles they were facing, and would face, and encouraging them that these troubles would not be permanent.

B.  Historicist.

This view teaches that all Revelation has a continuous fulfillment throughout the Christian era.  In other words, the various things in the book, such as seals, trumpets, bowls, etc., don’t refer to specific events or details, but “to principles that are operating throughout the new dispensation,” (Wm. Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors, p. 54.)  Thus we can understand the expression “a huge mountain all ablaze” that was “hurled into the sea,” as representing all maritime disasters happening during this age.

C.  Allegorical or Spiritualizing.

According to this view, Revelation portrays through symbol the conflict between good and evil.  John is said not to have expected a literal fulfillment of his words.  We’re not supposed to, either.  Wm. Ramsay states the following:

“In the figurative or symbolic language of the Apocalypse hardly anything is called by its ordinary and direct name, but things are indirectly alluded to under some other name, and words have to be understood as implying something else than their ordinary connotations….”  (The Letters to the Seven Churches, p. 111.)

Then he goes so far as to assert that “the most dangerous kind of error that can be made about the Apocalypse is to regard it as a literal statement and prediction of events,” p.112.

We want to deal with this view a little more than with the others because it has had such an impact on Church history and on current views of The Revelation.

The allegorical method had its roots in the ancient Greek culture of Alexandria.  It arose as the result of a dilemma the Alexandrian Greeks faced in reconciling the difference between their philosophical heritage and the often immoral and grotesque stories about their gods.  This dilemma was resolved by treating the religious stories allegorically, that is, as not literally true, but as merely illustrating the virtues or as describing the struggle between good and evil.

The Alexandrian Jew also had two traditions to reconcile.  His religion had come down from Moses and the prophets.  Yet, in Alexandria’s cosmopolitan atmosphere, he soon learned of the great Greek philosophical tradition.  How could he embrace both?  It’s true that we can say that he shouldn’t have.  He should have rejected Plato and clung to Moses, but we’re not talking about what should have happened, but about what did happen.  The Alexandrian Jew did as the Alexandrian Greek had done before him; he interpreted Plato literally and interpreted Moses allegorically, thus making Moses teach the philosophy of Plato.

Jewish allegorism arose about 160 B.C. and, though not originating with him, was popularized by a Jew named Philo, who believed in the divine origin of Greek philosophy.  He taught that every Scripture had both a literal and an allegorical meaning.  The literal meaning was for the weak-minded, while the allegorical meaning was for the advanced.

About 180, the allegorical method was advanced in Christian circles by Pantaneus, then by Clement of Alexandria and by Origen,

The allegorical method

“owes its origin to the Alexandrine Fathers Clement and Origen, who applied it generally in the interpretation of Scripture.  They applied it even more readily in this instance [the interpretation of The Revelation], as it furnished them with the possibility of denying the millennial reign of Christ, to which they were opposed.  By this method all the prophecies in the book are deprived of any prophetic meaning, thus becoming general spiritual principles for the aid and comfort of the Christian in his unceasing fight against evil.  This method was adopted by the rationalistic schools as being agreement with their aversion to the prophetic and, consequently, the supernatural character of the content of Scripture.”  (George A. Hadjiantoniou, New Testament Introduction, p. 340.)

With regard to Ramsey’s comment above, I don’t think there is any more “dangerous” way to interpret any Scriptures than to say that it has “to be understood as implying something else than [its] ordinary connotations”!  Certainly, there are difficulties in interpreting prophecy, but in the Scripture, prophecy is about predicting events, things which must…come to pass, not just laying down “principles.” And in the other Scriptures, if God didn’t mean what He said, why didn’t He say what He meant?  That can be applied to prophecy very often, as well, especially in the Old Testament.

Having said that, we understand that “prophecy” sometimes refers simply to the preaching of the Word, without any predictive element.  That’s not the case with The Revelation.

4.  The Futurist View.

This view holds that most of Revelation is yet future, even to our own time.  Futurists accept Revelation to employ language generally to be understood literally.  This doesn’t deny the use of symbols; it does deny that everything is symbolic.

Premillennialism, or the doctrine of the Millennium and an earthly kingdom of our Lord, which is what all this is really about, is accused of being of recent origin, the 18th or 19th centuries.  This isn’t true.  Under the name “chiliasm” (from chilias – “thousand,” Revelation 20), it was the belief of the early church, though there are some differences.  In his book, The Millennium, Loraine Boettner claims that this means nothing:

“As far as its presence in the early church is concerned, surely it can be argued with as much reason that it was one of those immature and unscriptural beliefs that flourished before the Church had time to work out the true system of Theology as that its presence at that time is an indication of purity of faith.  In any event, so thoroughly did Augustine do his work in refuting it that it practically disappeared for a thousand years as an organized system of thought, and was not seriously put forth again until the time of the Protestant Reformation.” (p. 366.)

There are some interesting things here.  The “thousand years” to which he refers from Augustine to the Reformation are known as “The Dark Ages,” a time in which the Scriptures themselves almost disappeared, let alone a difficult subject like prophecy.  I believe the adoption of the allegorical method led directly to this dismal time in church and human history.  I further believe that the Reformation itself would never have come, humanly speaking, if Luther and Calvin and others hadn’t restored a measure of literalism to their expositions of Scripture.

In his Bondage of the Will, written in 1525 to answer a volume written by the humanist scholar Erasmus on the subject of free-will, Luther had this to say:

 “…let this be our conviction:  that no “implication” or “figure” may be allowed to exist in any passage of Scripture unless such be required by some obvious feature of the words and the absurdity of their plain sense, as offending against an article of faith.  Everywhere we should stick to just the simple, natural meaning of the words, as yielded by the rules of grammar and the habits of speech that God has created among men; for if anyone may devise “implications” and “figures” at his own pleasure, what will all Scripture be but a reed shaken with the wind, and as a sort of chameleon?”  (p.192.)

In his commentary on Galatians, written about 1548,  explaining Galatians 4:22-31, (the “allegory” of Sarah and Hagar,)  Calvin had this to say:

“Again, as the history which he [Paul] quotes appeared to have no bearing on the question, he gives it an allegorical interpretation.  But as the apostle declares that these things are “allegorized “(‘allegoroumena’), Origen, and many others with him, have seized the occasion of torturing the Scriptures, in every possible manner, away from the true sense.  They concluded that the literal sense is too mean and poor, and that under the outer bark of the letter, there lurk deeper mysteries, which cannot be extracted but by beating out allegories.  And this they had no difficulty in accomplishing; for speculations which appear to be ingenious have always been preferred, and always will be preferred by the world to solid doctrine.” (p. 135.)

This doesn’t mean that the Reformers themselves had any use for or agreement with chiliasm.  They thought as little of it as had Augustine before them.  Calvin classed chiliasts with Origen, no compliment to them.  He never did a commentary on The Revelation.  And Luther said, “My spirit cannot adjust itself to this book.”

Reformed scholars today, though willing to expound The Revelation, have about the same attitude toward premillennialism as their ancestors had toward chiliasts.  I remember reading one author who sneered at such for having only a “Bible college” education, as opposed to those who had spent years studying in seminary.  No wonder.  If God doesn’t mean what He says, especially about the future, then, no doubt, it would take a considerable amount of “learning” to decipher what He does mean.

And I admit that many of those with whom I might otherwise agree have given them plenty of reason to dislike this viewpoint.  In spite of the fact that, even after centuries of trying and failing, no one ever successfully giving the date on which the Lord will return, people will still insist on “setting dates.”  History is littered with the wreckage of such attempts.

Nevertheless, we believe that the futurist interpretation is the only one which makes sense of the intent of God in giving us this book.  No doubt, for those who received it originally, it was “a tract for troubled times.”  But we believe that it is also a “testimony for terminal times.”  That is, when the end times do come, the Revelation will testify by the unmistakable fulfillment of its predictions as to the truthfulness and authority of the Word of God, both the written word, and that personified in the Son of God:  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, Revelation 19:10.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus, Revelation 22:20.

David and Bathsheba.

Like Jephthah and his daughter, here is another incident in the Bible which causes skeptics and unbelievers to sneer at and to speak against God.  It’s one of the things which make unbelievers say that the Bible is pornographic.  I doubt, however, that you’ll find the Bible for sale on “adult” websites.  It shows the consequences of actions like David’s, not only in this life, but in eternity.

In our post on Jephthah, we said that God doesn’t sugarcoat life.  He doesn’t hide the defects of His people.  David is a classic example of this.  Though “a man after God’s own heart,” his own heart, in common with the rest of us, was “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” Jeremiah 17:9.  And he wasn’t a very good father, 1 Kings 1:6.  Maybe he was too busy being “king.”  It’s easy to do that, to get so wrapped up in the trivial things that we forget the important things.Perhaps we can learn some things from this sordid affair, recorded in 2 Samuel 11, 12.

David’s Conduct, 2 Samuel 11.  

1.  David wasn’t where he was supposed to be.

2 Samuel 11:1 says that it was the spring of the year, when kings go out to battle….  Joab and the army was in Ammon, besieging the city of Rabbah.  David, however, remained behind in Jerusalem.  We don’t know why, so there’s no reason to go there.  He certainly wasn’t supposed to be there.

2.  He looked where he wasn’t supposed to look.

V. 2 says it was evening and David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of his house.  Perhaps he had gone to bed and couldn’t sleep.  Perhaps it was later in the evening.  So he got up and went outside to what was probably a deck or porch on the house, to take advantage of the cooler evening air.  We’re not to imagine that he was scrambling around on the roof itself.  From that vantage point, as he was walking back and forth, he could see the surrounding neighborhood.  To his surprise, there was a woman, bathing after the end of her cycle, v. 4.  Apparently, he didn’t just look away.

There have been those who blame Bathsheba for all this.  They say she deliberately put herself where David could see her.  I think that unlikely.  It was evening, so people would be asleep, or at least inside.  She would have more privacy for this very personal action.  We admit, this is all conjecture because the Bible doesn’t give us any detail.  (If this were pornography, “detail” would be the main thing.)  The point is, David saw her, and wanted her.

3.  He did what he wasn’t supposed to do.

V. 4 says that David sent messengers, …and she came to him….  Giving her the benefit of the doubt, we believe she came in innocence, not knowing what David had in mind.  It’s unlikely the messengers knew or said anything about it. Beyond that, we really can’t say.  She came to him.  Why or what she was thinking really doesn’t matter as far as Scripture is concerned.  Scripture is concerned with the result of this one evening.  A result which is with us even this very day, as I write or you read.

She became pregnant.

Having satisfied his desire, David probably thought that was it.  She returned to her house, v. 4.  He sent her home.  After all, she wasn’t married to him.  It was just a one night affair.  

I have no desire to turn this into some Hollywood production, some “Fifty Shades of David,” glorifying and exploiting the vile things humans can do.   From here on in, things get really ugly, as if they weren’t already, though in the end, there is a surprising “twist.”  Hollywood has no monopoly on “I didn’t see that coming!”

Trying to cover his sin, David sent for Uriah, her husband, on the pretext of finding out how the battle he was absent from was going.  Really, he hoped Uriah would go home to his wife, so that he would be assumed to be the father of the child his wife was carrying, vs, 4-13.

When that didn’t work, he set Uriah up so that he would be killed in the battle, vs. 14-25.

With the husband gone, there was still the problem of the child.  After the requisite time for Bathsheba mourning her husband,  David brought her back to his house and married her, vs. 26, 27. She bore the son.

But…. In his instructions to Joab about Uriah, it was obvious that David wanted Uriah dead, v.15.  After the thing was done, and messengers had relayed the news to David, he told them to tell Joab, “Do not let this thing displease you [be evil in your sight]….” But….

David was trying to cover up and hide what he had done, but he forgot there was Another who was watching what went on: But the thing that David had done displeased [was evil in the eyes of] the LORD, v. 27.  There are no “cover ups” where God is concerned.

Nathan’s Confrontation, 2 Samuel 12.

David no doubt thought that he had “gotten away with it.”  After all, it was just a little fling.  Folks forget that it was a “little” thing that got our first parents thrown out of Paradise, and plunged the whole race into the mess it’s in.

God sent His faithful prophet, Nathan, to David with a story about a rich man who disdained to take from his own riches to prepare for a traveling visitor.  Rather than do that, he took the one “treasure” belonging to a poor neighbor.  This poor man had a lamb, which was very much the family pet, and the rich man took that to take care of his guest.  A lot of people, I suppose, could identify with the poor man and the animal “family member.”  Strange how attached we can get to a dog or cat or horse….

Anyway, David was understandably upset at the injustice of all this and decreed that the man, worthy of death, should restore the lamb fourfold to his injured neighbor.

Just in passing, OT justice knows nothing of a “debt to society.”  It talks, as here, of a criminal’s debt to his victim.

David likely was completely unprepared for what Nathan said next:

“YOU ARE THE MAN!”

That was one time when “you the man” wasn’t something David wanted to hear.

Telling all that God had done for David and, if that wasn’t enough, He would do even more, Nathan accused David of despising all that and stealing the one treasure of a poor man for his own pleasure.

Unintended Consequences,

David found out that he hadn’t gotten away with it, after all.  Though he wouldn’t die, he would still suffer the consequences of his sins. Unbelievers look down on David, and on God, for that matter, because God forgave these horrific acts simply out of His grace.  There was no sacrifice which could be given to atone for adultery or murder, the things of which David was guilty.  Yet God “put away” David’s sin.  What folks often tend to overlook, though, is the fact that God didn’t “put away” the consequences of that sin.

In writing of Israel’s experience with God, Psalm 99:8 puts it like this: You were to them God-Who-Forgives, though You took vengeance on their deeds.

In other words, God may forgive the adultery which breaks up a marriage without restoring the marriage.  He may forgive the drunkenness which caused an accident without restoring the limb that was lost because of it,.  There are consequences to every action, good or bad.  Sometimes they are significant, as in David’s case.  In his case, there were several more or less immediate consequences to what he did.  Perhaps some of them weren’t directly related to what he did, but God had taken His blessing off the family.  They suffered because of what David did.

1.  The baby conceived in this union would die, 2 Samuel 12:14.

You might ask, “Why should the baby suffer for what the parents did?”  A lot of children suffer for the sins of their parents:  a drunken father or dissolute mother.  That’s actually nothing new.  There are consequences, and it isn’t always a guilty party who suffers. In this case, Nathan gives us the answer:  it was because what David did gave “great occasion [opportunity] for the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.”  If the child were alive, then his very presence would be a continual reminder of David’s sin, and a continual reproach because of it.  The boy was taken away from all that.

2.  The sword would never depart from David’s house, 2 Samuel 2:10.

Two of David’s sons were literally killed.  Amnon was killed by one of his brothers for the rape of that brother’s sister, Tamar.  Tamar was another innocent victim, and, as far as the record tells us, never received justice.  As we said, David wasn’t a very good father.

Though we’re told nothing further about her, it’s entirely possible that she was prevented from marrying because her virginity had been stolen from her.  She had been disgraced.  It’s nothing today, but, back then, a girl’s virtue was her most precious possession.  It’s a shame that today’s society in general places no value on it at all, valuing promiscuity rather than purity.

When Amnon was killed, David though all the royal sons had been murdered, 2 Samuel 13:30-33.  The fact that only Amnon was dead was probably little comfort. The other son who was killed was Absalom, who decided that he would stage a coup and take over the throne, 2 Samuel 15-18.  When he was killed, David was almost overcome with grief.  

Though we don’t know, one of the contributing factors to Absalom’s rebellion might have been David’s refusal to punish Amnon for his sin against Tamar, Absalom’s sister. Another contributing factor might have been David’s treatment of Absalom after he killed his brother, 2 Samuel 13:37 through ch. 14.  Absalom had fled the country and lived abroad for three years.  Though Absalom was finally able to return, thanks to the efforts of his good friend, Joab, the commander of Israel’s army, he was forbidden to see the king.  Joab again intervened, but it seems the reunion wasn’t very cordial.

According to 2 Samuel 14:32, Absalom thought he had done nothing wrong in dealing with Amnon.  After all, he had acted when his father hadn’t.  He had avenged his sister.  He was angry that David hadn’t treated him better.

3.  There would be adversity in the family, 2 Samuel 12:11, 12.

Though there was a lot of trouble in the family, these verses refer specifically to Absalom’s almost successful attempt to overthrow his father.  The whole story is found in 2 Samuel 15-18.  The specific detail of vs. 11, 12 is found in Absalom’s actions in 2 Samuel 16:20-22.

Contrariety,

Here is what I meant by “the twist” at the end of the story.  From this woman, illicitly taken and then married after the murder of her husband, Solomon was born, who became heir to the throne.  We’re not told why.  Cf. Joseph’s experiences and his explanation  of them in Genesis 50:20.

Some might look sideways at this, thinking, “That’s not very fair!”

It’s a conceit of believers and unbelievers alike that God can do and must do only those things which we approve – and only in ways we approve.  But He does what He wants, and He asks neither our opinion nor our approval.

I’d never really thought about it before, but perhaps this, too, is part of the “judgment” on David’s family.  None of his other 18 sons were privileged to sit on the throne.  Only a few of them have anything told about them, but if they’re any example of the rest, none of them were fit to rule.

________

Though, as we said, God doesn’t sugarcoat or ignore the failings and sins of His people, but then, neither does He dwell on them.  In 1 Chronicles 20:1, a parallel account, although there is a reference to David’s staying behind in Jerusalem, there is no mention of what he did there.

When God forgives, He also “forgets,” not that it’s wiped from His memory, or ours, for that matter, but that He no longer holds it against us.  Indeed, He treats us as if we’d never sinned, but had always obeyed.  This is the glory of justification, that He declares righteous in His sight those who are anything but righteous.

Is that “fair”?

Not at all.

If we got what was “fair,” we’d all be in hell.

David would be.

But because of God’s love toward us and His immeasurable grace, He gives us what could never be ours otherwise.

How could He do that?

Because He gave to Christ what could never have been His otherwise – our sins.

Tomorrow is Easter.  I really hadn’t planned it this way, but that’s how it’s worked out.  Easter isn’t about bunnies and clothes and Easter egg hunts for the little ones.  Nor, as some insist, is it a celebration of paganism, though that may or may not be where some current practices come from.  It’s about the resurrection of the One who came to take away our sins, so that they would no longer be held against us.

Naaman, the Syrian

Naaman is the person on the other side of the graciousness of his wife’s servant girl, which we discussed several posts ago.  The story is in 2 Kings 5:1-18.  Scripture paints quite a picture of him.

He seems to have been a lot less willing to receive a blessing than she had been to give it.  Or perhaps it was because he thought the God of Israel, or at least His prophet, was like Burger King:  you got it your way.  Lotta people just like him today.  Turned out he was wrong.

1.  He got the message wrong, vs. 3-5.

The servant girl pointed him to the prophet in Samaria, v. 3.  Naaman went to his own king, and told him what the girl had said, v. 4.  Scripture does say that he told the king what the girl had said.  But the king got it wrong, because he was going to send an embassy to the king of Israel.  Granted, we don’t know all that was involved in this.  Perhaps it was something of a matter of diplomacy.  After all, Syria and Israel were enemies.  (Things haven’t changed much, have they?).

Furthermore, the message to Israel’s king was wrong, as if Israel’s king could heal Naaman.  That’s not what the girl said.  Naaman was to go to the prophet in Samaria.  But the king didn’t mention that.

There are a lot of people today who believe that the answer to our problems is political.  Just get the right people in office and that will take care of it.  However, our problems aren’t political.  They’re not even economic or environmental.  Those problems are the result of our real problem, which is spiritual and moral.  We’ve told God that we’ll do things our way for the last 60 or so years in this country.  God said, “Let’s see how that works out for you.”

I don’t agree with those Christians who can’t be bothered to get involved, even to so much as vote.  But any “solution” that doesn’t deal with the root problem in our society is just a band-aid on a deadly cancer.

The king sent Naaman with an embassy to the king of Samaria, with an expensive gift.  But the things of God aren’t for sale.  A wing for a children’s hospital, large sums spent to better the poor of the world – these might be needful in their place, but they have no spiritual effect, except to make things worse for us, because we tend to trust them instead of God.  Massive amounts of money given to missions might be needful, but what is the mission?

And the king of Samaria got it wrong, too.  He was concerned that his enemy was picking a fight.  It apparently never occurred to him to seek out “the prophet in Samaria” for help.

2.  He got the method wrong.

When Namaan finally got to the prophet, he expected a show.  He thought, “He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over place, and heal the leprosy,” v. 11.

He was furious when the prophet merely sent him a message to go wash in the Jordan seven times, v. 10.  Elisha couldn’t even be bothered to deliver the message in person.  This also made Naaman mad.

He wanted to know why the rivers of his native country weren’t good enough.  I’ve never seen the Jordan River, but I’ve heard that, as rivers go, it isn’t all that impressive.  And I certainly know nothing of the rivers Naaman mentioned.  But Naaman wanted to do things his way.

The Gospel message, in effect, is “Wash in the blood of the Lamb, and be clean.”  Cf. Revelation 1:5.  This doesn’t mean literally, but is a figure of speech.  It means to trust in the Lord’s death for sin and sinners.  It means to put our faith in Him and what He did on the Cross.

Today is Good Friday.  A lot of people will do the things they do on this day without stopping to consider what the day means.  It’s the day the Lord Jesus was put on a Roman cross.  It’s the day that He became the only sacrifice for sin that is successful.  It’s the day that God marked, “PAID” to the sin debt of believers.

Yet a lot of people want to know why their own “rivers” aren’t good enough.  They look to the river of good works, or or some rite or ceremony.  Their mom or grandma or father was a Christian.  They belong to the church.

Etc., etc.

But there’s only one “river” that can cleanse from sin:  the river of blood the Lord shed for sinners on the Cross.  He Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.  Our times, all about “diversity” and “pluralism,” don’t like what they call such bigotry.  But it’s still true that “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13, 14.

There only ever has been, and ever will, one way of salvation.

3.  He did get what he was looking for.

It’s a good thing that his servants were wiser than he was.  He was willing to do some great, heroic act to be healed.  His servants wanted to know then, why he wouldn’t just “wash and be clean?” v. 13.

It’s pretty much always been true that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.

And it’s still true that the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, 1 Corinthians 1:18.

But there are some who, wiser than the intelligentsia of the world, will come to that river and wash in it and be clean.

Naaman was finally willing to do it God’s way.

He wasn’t just healed of his disease.  Scripture says that his flesh was restored like that of a little child and he was clean, v. 14, emphasis added.  Now, here was a man probably in his forties or fifties, a man who’d led a hard life, much of it outdoors and much of it in battle.  He probably bore the scars and evidence of that life.  I don’t want to read into it more than the Scripture says, but it’s possible that those were all gone and his skin was as soft as a little child’s.

He got more than he expected.

Likewise, for those who wash in the river of the blood of the Lamb, we get more than we expected.

Now that doesn’t mean health and wealth and all the stuff prosperity preachers preach.  I believe it’s very likely, considering the way things have gone recently, that it will soon cost to be a faithful Christian.  It already does in a large part of the world.

Things I would never have believed possible not all that long ago are happening, and they’re not going to go away.

But neither is God.

There is coming a time when, as Peter put it, we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, or, is at home, 2 Peter 3:13.

I have very little hope for this present world.

My hope is in God.

 

On Christian “Personalities”

There are many in the church today like those the Lord mentioned who love the best seats, etc., etc.  Many years ago, there was apparently an complaint in a religious paper that “Christian workers” weren’t receiving enough honor.  Amy Carmichael wrote a poem responding to all such fleshly pride.

MEDALS AND HONORS?

Medals and lighted titles?  Who but is ashamed
That such, for such as we, should ever be claimed
As our just due?  Perish the paltry plea,
The sordid thought.  Oh how little, how little have we
Done for our kind; that little, how faultily.
And yet what joy to do it!  Has the day
When “The Offscouring of All Things” could be
An apostle’s title wholly passed away?

Ah, but if one among us covets famed
Great Orders – recognitions – let him lay
Close to his heart two ancient words, and say
Them over and over till he be
Somewhat attuned to them:  Gethsemane
The first:  the second, Calvary.

More Than An “April Fool.”

April 1, at least in the US, is known as “April Fool’s Day.”  It’s a day when people like to play jokes on other people, to “prank” them, though anymore that doesn’t seem to be limited to one day of the year.  In Luke 12:13-21, our Lord told of a man who was more than an “April fool.”

This incident in the Lord’s life happened because someone asked Him to arbitrate a dispute over an inheritance.  Jesus replied that He wasn’t here for such things, that there was more to life than a lot of “things” and the desire for more of them was to be avoided.  In v. 23, He said, “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.”  This echoes something He said in Matthew 6:25, “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”   I don’t think He meant that we should ignore physical needs; He was just telling those who were listening to Him, and us, that they’re not to be all we focus on.

And Paul, warning Timothy against the love of “things,” wrote, having food and raiment, let us therewith be content (KJV).

In Matthew 6, which contains similar teaching, Jesus continued, “…seek first the kingdom of God AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS…,” emphasis added because we tend to forget that part of what He said.  The best we can do can never be anywhere near good enough.  We must have “His righteousness” if we are to stand before God uncondemned.  

Then Jesus told a story to illustrate what He meant.  “There was a man….”  Perhaps not a real man, in that the Lord had a specific individual in mind, but certainly a representative man, because there were a lot like him around.  Still are.  Always have been.

He was a very successful man.  The story centers around what he did about it.  Liberals see only a condemnation of covetousness.  Is that all?

The Lord wasn’t scolding this man for planning or for possessing, but for planning too far ahead.  For not planning enough.  For being possessed by his “things.”

The man was a “fool” because –

1.  He considered the body, but forgot the spirit.

He was getting ready to take it easy; to enjoy his “golden years.”  He did have a little knowledge that there is more to us that just an animate body.  He referred to his “soul.”  Without getting further into the discussion about whether man is two-part or three-part, let me just say this.  The body enables us to live in this particular world, breathe its air, walk its surface.  Our soul is what makes us conscious of this world, the things which are around us, the warmth of the Sun, the coolness of water splashed on our face.  Our spirit is that which makes us understand that there is more to existence than just this world.  It’s that which makes us ask with the old song by Peggy Lee, “Is That All?” and know that it isn’t.  To know that we’re not the highest being in existence, even if we don’t or won’t admit it.

2.  He considered time, but forgot eternity.

He was looking forward to “many years,” but God said, “Tonight.”  The only breath we’re guaranteed is the one we have right now.

3.  He considered “goods,” but forgot God.

He apparently already had plenty.  The text speaks of “barns” – plural.  But that wasn’t enough; he was going for bigger and better.  He farmed, but apparently never thought about where the rain and sun that nourished his crops came from, to say nothing of the ground in which they were planted and the strength he had to take care of it all.

4.  He considered riches, but forgot righteousness.

The Bible does not condemn wealth.  In fact, in the OT, it was often a sign of God’s blessing.  That’s what puzzled the disciples when the Lord told them how difficult it was for  a rich man to enter heaven.

This man wasn’t condemned because he was rich.  He was condemned because he never considered his standing before God.  I don’t want to read more into the story than what’s there, but surely that’s at least implied by God’s statement to him that his soul would be required of him.  There would be an accounting of his life.

Hebrews 9:27 says, it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment….  So then, death isn’t “the end.”  It’s just a transition into a different plane of existence.  Science fiction, and some religion, talks about “ascending to a ‘higher plane’,” whatever that is, but Scripture talks about leaving this temporal life, this life confined to a body, and entering one beyond this body, one in which righteousness, justice and truth are paramount.  One in which God will be the ultimate “reality,” and our relationship to Him is determined by our relationship to the Lord Jesus.

Easter is this coming Sunday.  In the frenzy of sunrise services, easter egg hunts, and new clothes, it’s reality will largely be forgotten.  That reality is that the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to redeem sinners.  He lived the life we could never live – a perfect, holy life, and died the death we could never die – a death that paid for sin.  We could never pay for even one sin, let alone the uncountable number of sins we’ve committed.  He rose from that death, proof that He had conquered it.  He told His disciples to proclaim to the world that eternal life was to be had through faith in Him.

Only through faith in Him.

In short, this man in the story forgot everything that really matters, that is really important to our being.  He lived for the moment, but forgot that moment when he would leave this life and face God.

He was more than an “April Fool.”