“Taking The Offering”

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:  “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering.  From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.  And this is the offering which you shall take from them:  gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.  And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”  Exodus 25:1-8 NKJV

This is the second post in the series on the Tabernacle, a building which was central to Israel’s covenant relationship with God from shortly after she was redeemed from Egypt until the reign of Solomon.  The Tabernacle was the second most important building in Israel’s history, surpassed and replaced only by the Temple built by Solomon centuries later and was the focal point of Israel’s relationship with and worship of God.  It was the meeting place between God and man.

Instructions for the Tabernacle and the details of its construction are found in Exodus.

Its importance may be seen in a couple of things.

1. The amount of space devoted to it.

About 50 chapters are given to it, either wholly or in part.

2. Four chapters in Hebrews teach us something of its meaning, especially of the priesthood and sacrifices.  The writer of Hebrews told us that he could have written more about the building itself, Hebrews 9:5, but he was concerned mainly with pointing us to the Lord Jesus and His once and only sacrifice for sins.

In the verses before us, we note –

1. the origin of the plans for the tabernacle, v. 1.
2. the offering of materials for the tabernacle, vs. 2-9.

1. the origin of the plans for the tabernacle, v. 1,
And the LORD spoke to Moses.

Moses didn’t dream this up on his own.  Nor did the LORD ask him for his opinion, his input or any thoughts he might have on the matter.  No, no.  God told him that this was what He wanted him to do.

I think we could learn something from this.  I was privileged to go to Bible College.  I’m thankful for that experience.  Because of it, I’m sitting here, married, writing this post.  Granted, the water has flowed under a lot of bridges since then, but it was a starting place.  The thing is, we studied a lot of books about the Bible, but little from the Bible itself.  Now, I understand the importance of “books” and that men write down their knowledge and wisdom from the Scripture.  After all, that’s what this blog is.  But I pray that it isn’t just about my knowledge or wisdom.  My goal is always to be guided by the question, “What does the Scripture say?” Romans 4:3, emphasis added.

It’s a sad fact that only a small portion of professing Christians faithfully read the Bible.  Granted, there’s a lot there.  And much of it is about times and customs which might be strange, perhaps even repugnant, to us.  Nevertheless.  Let me encourage you.  Read the Bible through, then read it again.  And again.  Even if you only read one chapter a day, that’s one chapter more than many.  And as you read faithfully, it will begin to come together for you.  This doesn’t deny the necessity of the Spirit’s enabling us to understand; He won’t work if there is no effort on our part.  You feed your body every day.  Please, feed your soul.

This brings us to

2. the offering of materials for the tabernacle, vs. 2-9.

First, it was to be a willing offering.

This was not to be compulsory, like the tithe.

Second, it was a designated offering.

Though voluntary, there was only certain things to be offered.

Third, it was a reminder, “My offering.”

That is, not only was it an offering to the Lord; it was a reminder to the Israelite of where he had gotten the items from in the first place.  Cf. David’s prayer as he commissioned his son Solomon to build the Temple.  In 1 Chronicles, and speaking to God, he said,

“Who am I, and who are my people,
That we should be able to offer so willingly as this?

For all things come from You,
And of Your own we have given You.”

That last phrase could be translated, “Of Your own hand we have given You.”  Concerning this idea, Moses commanded Israel, “And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…,” Deuteronomy 8:18, emphasis added.

Since the tabernacle speaks so eloquently of the person and work of the Lord Jesus, we want to think about how each of these materials might foreshadow Him.

a. gold, silver, bronze, v. 3.

These were very expensive and precious.

I Peter 2:6, 7, Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes in him shall not ashamed.  Therefore, to you who believe, he is precious,” emphases added.  To me, the glory of heaven won’t be the streets of gold or the pearly gates; it will be that the Lord Jesus is there.  His presence will make a hovel glorious.  His absence makes a mansion insignificant.

b. blue, purple and scarlet thread, fine linen and goats’ hair, v. 4.

“Blue” speaks of His heavenly origin.
“Purple” speaks of His royalty.
“Scarlet” speaks of His sacrifice for sins.
“Fine linen” speaks of His righteousness.
“Goats’ hair” speaks of His “ordinariness”.  He wasn’t born in a palace, but in a stable.  He didn’t live among the privileged of His day, but among ordinary folk.  The common people heard Him gladly, Mark 12:37.  Rulers rejected Him.

c. rams’ skin dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood, v. 5.

“Rams’ skins dyed red” speaks of the shedding of His blood.  Rams were one of the few animals accepted for the Israelite to sacrifice.  For the believer, the Lord Jesus is the only acceptable sacrifice.
“Badger skins” speaks of His permanence.  There’s some discussion about how this word in the original should be translated.  Some might translate it as “dolphin”.  Dolphin skin would be waterproof and would last.  The word might also refer to protection.  Dolphin skin would protect the tabernacle from the rain.  The LORD protects His people so that even death cannot ultimately harm them.
“Acacia Wood” speaks of His indestructibility.  Acacia wood was extremely durable.  After 2000 years of unbelievers and skeptics doing their worst, the Lord Jesus still has those who believe in and follow Him.  If He tarries another 2000 years, He will have those who believe in and follow Him.

d. oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense, v. 6.

Olive oil was used to provide light in the tabernacle.  This speaks to us of the ministry of the Spirit as He shed the light of the Gospel into our hearts and minds, “For it is the God who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the fact of Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 4:6.  Without that ministry of the Spirit, for all our religion and learning, we remain in darkness.

Spices were used both in the anointing oil and in sweet incense.  This wasn’t just for the sake of pretty smells, but to cover the odor of death that permeated the area around the bronze altar and that came from the continual application of blood to it.  In fact, it was forbidden to make incense simply to smell it.  Exodus 30:37, 38 says, “But as for the incense you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition.  It shall be to you holy to the LORD.  Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.”

The altar of incense was inside the tabernacle, next to the veil which separated the holy place from the most holy place.  The most holy place contained the Ark of the covenant and the mercy seat, where God spoke to His people.  The placement of the altar tells us that, apart from the Lord Jesus, there is no access into the presence of God.  It is significant that Scripture tells us that when Christ died, the veil of the Temple, which succeeded the tabernacle and which, we are told, was several inches thick, was torn in two from top to bottom, Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45.  The fact that three Gospels record this incident emphasizes its importance.  Only Matthew and Mark record that it was torn from the top down.  Only God could tear that curtain.  Only the Lord Jesus can atone for sin and open the way to God.  Did He not say, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6?

There are innumerable religions and churches, many roads to religion.  There is only one road to heaven.

Which road are you on?

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“King of kings and Lord of lords”

King of kings, and Lord of lords,
|:King of kings, and Lord of lords,:|
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
Kings of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!

This is an excerpt from Handel’s “Messiah”, arguably one of the most well-known works in the world, at least the western world.  Handel was familiar with the Scripture and put to music what it says in verses like the ones below.

1. 1 Timothy 6:15, where this title is connected with His appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords (emphasis added).  Cf. His own time with His statement in Luke 17:22 about the days of the Son of Man.  We believe the appearing of our Lord will end the attempt by the antiChrist to subvert this world and will usher in a time of peace and righteousness this world has never known.

2. Revelation 17:12, 14, where the title is connected with the appearance of ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast….  These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings….
In the words of Daniel 2, the stone will smite the image on its ten toes and destroy them and it.

3. Revelation 19:11-16, where the title is connected with heaven opened, followed by a description of Him and His activities, Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron….  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

So, you see, this title is associated with His return to this earth to rule them (“the nations”) with a rod of iron (emphasis added).  As it too often happens now, “the nations” strike Him, through His people,”with a rod of iron.”  When He returns, this will not happen!

The word translated “rule” is very interesting.  It isn’t the usual word associated with the reigning, the “rule”, of a king.  The word John used means “to shepherd,” and is a form of the word translated “shepherd” in John 10, the “Good Shepherd” chapter.  What John actually wrote is, He will shepherd the nations with a rod of iron (emphasis added).  How this fits in with the Reformed idea that Jesus will return to this earth, there will be the final judgment, and then the eternal state begins, and all this on the very same day He returns, is unclear.  Perhaps that’s because the idea is unScriptural.  Why would “a rod of iron” be necessary is all that’s left for Christ to “rule” is saved people – in eternity?  And what does Scripture mean which says that Christ will rule in the midst of His enemies, Psalm 110:2?  What kind of a king would he be who “rules” in the midst of his enemies, and they don’t know it or ignore or reject him?   How is that to rule?  Especially if those enemies have been made his footstool?  And how does a “rod of iron” fit into the idea that Christ’s kingdom is only His spiritual rule in the hearts of His people?  Revelation 20:11 isn’t the only verse which talks about Christ’s reign on this earth.  Both Revelation 19 and 20 talk about it, to say nothing of the many Old Testament verses which foretell a worldwide time of peace and righteousness, something which can’t honestly be said to be fulfilled in “the church,” though many try, or to be simply pushed ahead into “the eternal state.”  There is a great deal more to Christ’s kingdom than many are willing to admit.

Where is there, right now, on this earth, a single kingdom or government which bows to the Lord Jesus as “King of kings and Lord of lords” and seeks to govern by His Word?

 

“At The Right Hand of the Father”

This continues our side trip into some questions and ideas about “the kingdom”.  In Daniel 2:44, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that the God of heaven was going to establish an eternal kingdom.  Reams of paper and gallons of ink, to say nothing of gigabytes of data, have been used to explain what that is.  Our last post dealt with the idea that this kingdom can never be an “earthly” one.

The post today deals with the question, “Yes, but isn’t Jesus already reigning at the right hand of the Father?”

Without a doubt, the New Testament is clear that the Son is seated at the right hand of the Father.  The question is, What is He doing there?

Scripture tells us.

Leaving aside our Lord’s statements during His trial before the Sanhedrin that they would see Him sitting on the right hand of power, here are the verses which teach that He is at the right hand of the Father.

1. Acts 2:33, “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God.”  This is Peter’s explanation on the Day of Pentecost about the events of the day and relating them to the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus.

2. Acts 2:34, “For David did not ascend into heaven, but he says himself, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ‘  Here he quotes Psalm 16:8-11.  This is an important testimony.

3. Acts 5:31, “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”  Compare Acts 2:36. Christ was not an executed criminal, but had been exalted to be a Ruler, in order for Him to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  As grateful as we ought to be that mercy has been extended to us Gentiles, never make the mistake of believing that we have taken over all the promises and prominence given to Israel.  Whatever was given to them still belongs to them.  Note carefully the present tense in Paul’s listing of the advantages of being a Jew in Romans 9:3-5.

4. Acts 7:55, 56, The dying Stephen sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God, a phrase which is repeated twice.  Though in this one instance He is standing, Jesus is still “at the right hand of God.”  Some have suggested that this single recorded instance of His standing is because He is waiting to receive the first martyr of the church.

5. Romans 8:34, Who is He who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  Paul here tells us that Christ is not “reigning,” but interceding for His people.  His work as High Priest, begun on Calvary, isn’t finished.  His work as “King” hasn’t yet begun.

6. Ephesians 1:19-21, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality….
Here Paul taught the Ephesians that the power that regenerated and saved them was the same power that resurrected the Lord Jesus and brought Him back to heaven.  That’s the same power that saves us.  It isn’t without reason that the Bible likens salvation to a creation, a resurrection, a birth.  That same power that created the heavens and the earth and called forth Lazarus from the tomb is the same power that calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light – an effective, irresistible power.  

7. Colossians 3:1, …where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  The complete verse says, If then you are raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  This verse isn’t so much about where He is right now, as it is about where we are right now.  Are we, like people of the world, content with the paltry things this world offers, or are we like those of whom the book of Hebrews speaks, These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, Hebrews 11:13.

8. Hebrews 1:3, …when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….  Note carefully the words, “by Himself.”  He doesn’t need “the saints,” or Mary, or the church, or “the sacraments” to save His people.  By Himself He paid the awful penalty.  By Himself He purged, “cleansed,” “put away,” our sins.  He says, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28.  You won’t find rest at the front of a church, or in baptismal waters, or in ritual or routine.  Only in the Lord Jesus is there salvation from sin.

9. Hebrews 1:13, to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?  This is the second time this Psalm has been quoted in this connection.  Our Lord quoted it in Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 21:41-44 to confound the Pharisees in their attempts to trip Him up.  The fact that this incident is recorded in all three Synoptic gospels is of some significance.

10. Hebrews 8:1, …We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven….  Again, the reference to Christ as High Priest.  He is not yet “King”.

11. Hebrews 10:12, 13, But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifices for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  Again, and this cannot be emphasized enough, one sacrifice for sin.  One sacrifice.  One.  One.  ONE!!!

12. Hebrews 12:2, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Cross was no walk in the park for the Son of Man.  Even He only “endured” it.  We really have no idea what the Son of God “endured” on that day, with our glib and powerless Christianity, our sanitized pictures, our pretty crucifixes, blasphemous as these are because the cross is empty, and the death of Christ was a horrible and ugly thing, because of which, by faith, God saves us.  The early church was accused of turning the world upside down.  I’m afraid it must now be said that the world has turned the church upside down.

13. 1 Peter 3:21, 22, …Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.
What does this mean?  Weren’t they already subject to Him?  They were subject to Him as God, but He laid all that aside when He came into this world to live and die for His people.  At the Ascension, His humanity and human nature were exalted to the same level as His deity and divine nature.  A real human being is seated at the right hand of the Father, a Being who is fully Human and, at the same time, fully God.  To Him, to this Man, this God-Man, angelic beings were brought into subjection.  That cannot yet be said of humans.  The time is coming when it will be.  The question is how and when that will happen.
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These verses certainly teach that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.  But notice how He Himself characterizes this in Revelation 3:21, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (emphasis added).  Right now, according to the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus is seated with His Father on His Father’s throne.

So, when does He sit on His own throne?

Hear His own words in Matthew 25:31-34,

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will divide them one from another, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right hand…,” emphasis added.

The Lord Himself calls Himself “the Son of Man” at the time of His Second Coming.  It isn’t until then, when He returns to this world, that He sits “on the throne of His glory.”  His sitting on His own throne as King is connected with His Second Coming, not His Ascension.

Matthew 19:28 also bears witness to this.

So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory….”

The rest of the verse answers a question that Peter had, which has no bearing on our subject.  In the part we read, our Lord referred to “the regeneration”.  I believe that  Scripture teaches a regeneration of society just as it teaches the regeneration of an individual.  We call this, “The Millennium”.  If one asks, “Why?” I believe it is to answer once and for all the idea of some that all that is needed is the proper education, or the right economic conditions, or some other improvement, and men will finally show that, at heart, they are basically good people.

Yet, Scripture tells us that, after 1000 years of the most perfect government and environment this fallen world has ever known, Satan will have no trouble fomenting a world-wide rebellion, Revelation 20:7-10.  This will demonstrate once and for all that man is not basically good.  He is basically evil.
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In our next post, we’ll discuss the title of our Lord Jesus:  “King of Kings”.

Daniel 7:9-18: Your Throne, O God, Is Forever And Ever

In the first 8 verses of this chapter, Daniel was given a preview of the four world empires which have impacted, or will yet impact, Israel.  This part of his vision reminds us of what he told Nebuchadnezzar in 2:28.  Kingdoms come and go; they may go on a rampage for a while and ravage the earth, but watching over all things on earth, there is a God in heaven.  This is a theme Scripture never tires of.  Further, there is a kingdom coming which shall not pass away, and…which shall not be destroyed, v. 14.  The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream introduced us to this kingdom, 2:44.  This vision expands on that vision.  In the first part of this vision, there are three scenes:

1. There is a scene of unimaginable solemnity, vs. 9, 10.

From the confused mayhem on earth, we are suddenly transported into the measured order of a courtroom:  “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated,” v. 9.

This isn’t a throne of fellowship, such as described in Exodus 24:9-11,

Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel.  And there was under His feet a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.  But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand.  So they saw God, and they did eat and drink. 

Israel had not yet rebelled against God and broken the Mosaic Covenant; once that happened, we read of no further such “fellowship.”  In fact, they were shut out from the presence of God and had to come before Him through an intermediary – the tabernacle and the sons of Aaron and the priesthood.

Nor is it the throne of grace, such as is now available to the children of God for them to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, Hebrews 4:16.    It isn’t the throne of God’s providence, which Ezekiel saw, Ezekiel 1:26-28, nor of His glory, which Isaiah saw, Isaiah 6:1-3.

It’s a throne of judgment:  the books were opened.

This description reminds us of a similar description in Revelation 20:12, where John records,

“I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things written in the books,” emphasis added.

In our apostate day, with its unScriptural and humanistic views of the “love” of God, we have forgotten the other side of Paul’s admonition in Romans 11:22, …consider the goodness and severity of God.  People give no thought at all to the fact that they will stand before God and give an account of everything they’ve ever said, done or thought in their lives.  Every bout of drunkenness, every act of immorality or perversion, every tiny lie or twisting of the truth “just a little bit,” every act of greed or injustice.  Every commission, where they’ve done something they shouldn’t; every omission, where they didn’t do something they should have.  Every secret thing.  Every single thing….

Even Christians will give an account to God, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.  Some seem to have the attitude that, since God has forgiven them because of what Christ did on the Cross, it doesn’t matter what they do.  They can live like the world and do what the world does, and it’s ok.  I was working next to such a group of people one day.  Their conversation was about the filthiest things imaginable.  In the midst of this verbal sewage, somehow the conversation got around to religion and the grace of God, and one of them said, “God loves us unconditionally.”  This is undeniably true, but I don’t think she meant it as the Scripture means it.  There is most certainly nothing in us that can cause God to love us, no “condition” we can meet.  The “reason” He loves us is always found in Him, never in us!  At the same time, when we are taught by the Spirit that we are objects of His love, that knowledge makes us want to please Him, not ourselves.  One of the other workers mentioned her enjoyment of a certain “gospel concert.”  It’s a terribly sad, terribly frightening commentary on the state of modern Christianity that professed Christians can wallow in moral filth in one breath and talk about “the love of God” in the next breath and see no inconsistency.

The froth and frivolity of much of what passes for “church” in our day – the “mega-churches,” the “mega-personalities” – would disappear in an instant if we could but get a vision of that One who sits on an eternal throne, high and lifted up, Isaiah 6:1.

On the other side of the ledger, there will be the revelation of and reward for the good things the saints have done, the sacrifices, the service to God which are often ignored, ridiculed or forbidden in this world.  Peter wrote to some people that believers have a living hope, not in this world, but in the fact that there is an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven….ready to be revealed in the last time, I Peter 1:3-5.  Along this same line, Paul wrote that even the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now, Romans 8:21, 22.

Not forever, and, we believe, not much longer, will this world thumb its nose at its Creator God and His Christ, even as Daniel shows us in the next verses.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

2. There is a scene of unimpeachable severity, vs. 11, 12.

This is a continuation of the scene of judgment.  The beast, certainly a man of great presence and power, has set himself against heaven, speaking pompous words, about which more will be said in a minute.  For now, all his braggadocio will come a halt, and he himself is slain, and [his] body destroyed and given to the burning flame.  He had been able to conquer some of his fellows, and had spoken great and proud things, but could not stand against the Ancient of Days.

3. There is a scene of indescribable majesty, v. 13, 14.

In my opinion, these verses form one of the most wonderful passages in the Old Testament.

a. The approach of One like the Son of Man, v. 13.

In contrast to the “beasts” of the earlier part of the vision, here we have One who bears the image of humanity.  We have the advantage over Daniel here, because we know that this One is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  “Son of Man” was one of His favorite titles, used by Himself of Himself many times during His earthy sojourn.  It’s a phrase which means so much more than just “human.”  It carries with it a hint of the Divine.  And of a truth, the Son of Man is also the Son of God.  He is the God-Man, God manifested in humanity.

b. The ascendancy of One like the Son of Man, v. 14.

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom.  What the “beasts” fought over and killed for will be freely given to the Lord Jesus in order that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.  Universal dominion is granted Him, something coveted by the “beasts,” but never really attained.  Not only will this kingdom be universal; it will be eternal.  It’ll never disappear nor be taken away, as were the preceding kingdoms described by Daniel.

Acts 4:32-37: Generosity….

32] Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.  33] And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  And great grace was upon them all.  34] Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35] and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

36] And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37] having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  (NKJV)

These verses have been used by some to promote communal living, whether voluntary or required, as in communism.  We saw in Soviet Russia that communism doesn’t work, though there are increasing numbers, mostly younger people never exposed to the evils of that system, who want a socialist form of government.  As for voluntary forms of community living, there is no particular Scripture forbidding it, but neither is there a Scripture requiring it.  In the case in Acts, we will see that it didn’t work.

In Acts, the shared experiences of these people gave them a bond and a unity.  Remember, it still hadn’t been all that long since Pentecost.  Quite possibly, many of these had seen and heard the Lord Jesus and had witnessed the horror of His crucifixion.  Some of them might even have been among the 500 who saw the resurrected Lord, 1 Corinthians 15:6.

Further, there is a bond in the Spirit that the world cannot duplicate.  This bond has nothing to do with material things or ideas and philosophies put forth by the world.  It has to do with the Lord Jesus, who He was and what He did.  This is the bond these believers in Acts had.

This bond opened their hearts and their hands so that there was an open sharing of their possessions.  No one said, “This is mine!”  Though these words have been used to justify communism or other socialist ideas, nothing could be farther from the truth.  In the first place, this was voluntary.  No one was forced to do this.  Second, there was no government involvement or intrusion.  There was no outside compulsion for these believers.  Nor did they require others than themselves to do this.  And, it did not work, as we’ve said.

But it wasn’t just about “possessions.”  With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, v. 33.  As I write these words, it is Sunday, the day the early church rejoiced in the Resurrection.  Perhaps there was also an anticipation that the Lord was going to return very soon.  Perhaps this was part of what was in the mind of the early believers; the Lord was coming back and they wouldn’t need “things.”  Their hope was in the next world, not this one, cf. Philippians 3:19-21.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I toured the mansion that had belonged to the owner of the Oliver Plow Co.  In this day when too many people think that milk comes from the dairy section of the store and vegetables from the produce section, that may not mean much, but the Oliver Plow was a giant in farm implements in its day.  Oliver was a competitor with John Deere, perhaps a more familiar name.  Anyway, this house was ornate and beautiful and filled with treasures.  It bore the marks and personality of the lady who had lived there until her late 90s.  But nobody lived there anymore.

Our house is much more modest, and is not likely to be turned into a museum.  But there is coming a day, perhaps not so far off, when a “for sale” sign will be out in the front yard, and someone else will sit in this room and look out the window at the cardinal, the blue jays, the red-headed woodpecker, and the robins, sparrows and squirrels who share the yard with us.  Perhaps other children or grandchildren will run up and down the hill in back.  I don’t know.  We won’t live here anymore.

I don’t know where that lady is as I write about her.  She’s been dead for 20 or more years.  If the unbeliever and skeptic is right, she isn’t anywhere and her bodily remains have decayed into dust and bones.  (If you have recently suffered a loss, I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to add to your grief.)

For the believer, Scripture has a much brighter promise:

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens….For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.  Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord,
2 Corinthians 5:1, 4-8, emphasis added.

“The resurrection.”

These early believers had a hope beyond this world and the grave.  But they had something else as well, something I don’t think we value like we should in this day of “free will,” and “human potential.”  Great grace was upon them all, v. 33.  Without the grace of God, we’re just animated bodies, capable perhaps of doing great things, but still wrapped up in this world.  Even if we believe in some sort of “higher power,” the most we’ll ever have is “religion.”  Without the grace of God, the Bible is just another holy book and Christianity is just another world religion.

But the grace of God comes in with resurrecting and creating power, and, in some incomprehensible way we are made new.   To one degree or another, we see that the Bible is truth, and this world is just a bus stop on the way to eternity.

The practical effect of all this to the early church was that there was not anyone among them who lacked, v. 34.  Needs were met and there was no lack to any of them.

Sadly, that’s not the end of the story.

Acts 3:1-10, An Incident of Healing.

1] Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer.  2] And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of those who entered the temple;  3] who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.  4]  And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.”  5] So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.  6] Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you:  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”  7] And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.  8] So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them – walking, leaping, and praising God.  9] And all the people who saw him walking and praising God.  10] Then they knew it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. 

Our post today isn’t so much about this man and his miraculous healing, though we look at it, but about the idea of healing and those who claim to have that gift and ministry.  Before we start, I do believe in divine healing.  God can heal any disease or deformity.  He often does.  I just don’t believe in “divine healers,” for reasons given in the post.

In ch. 2:42-47, we have a general statement about the activity of the early church, as well as the attitude of the people and rulers toward it.  We believe chapters 3 and 4 give only one incident out of many which could have been given.

Some general observations:

1. It is obvious that God can, and does, “heal.”  This isn’t in question at all.  What is questionable is the way some approach it as a “ministry.”

2. Whether in the Gospels or in Acts, healing seem to have been given to those obviously and absolutely without hope, humanly speaking, Luke 8:43; John 5:2-5, etc.  The Lord or the disciples never just cured a cold.

3. Perhaps because of this “selectivity,” as well as their obviousness, these healings were indisputable.  The evidence was open and available to all, cf. Acts 4:14.

4. These healings were almost always public.  In our text, it was right in the temple area, a place thronged with people, v. 1.  Even in the raising of Dorcas, Acts 9:36-42, though the actual miracle was done privately, v. 40, there was a public presentation of her immediately afterward, v. 41.

5. From this incident in Acts 3, we note a certain decorum, if you will.  Even though the healings were public, there was a certain restraint.  There was no sensationalism, no “circus atmosphere.”  The early church did not mount an advertising campaign to capitalize on these marvels.  There were none who wanted to be known as “healers.”

6. In line with the above, these healings were spontaneous.  There was no advance preparation, publicity or promotion by the church.  They did not get together a “healing crusade.”  There seems almost to be an “off-handedness” about the whole things, as if “healing” were not preeminently important.  In the case before us, Peter and John were on their way to worship and, if there had been no commotion, would have  simply continued on their way.

7. The healings were done in order that Christ might be glorified and the Gospel verified, Acts 3:13; Mark 16:18.

8. Perhaps most importantly, these healings were healings.  There was nothing like what I heard about from a preacher friend.  One of his friends, in a wheelchair, was complaining of a certain ache.  He went to a “healing meeting.”  When my friend next saw him, still in the wheelchair, he exclaimed, “I’ve been healed!”
“What do you mean?” questioned my friend.
“I don’t ache any more!” was the reply.
If this gentleman had truly been healed after the New Testament manner, he would not have needed the wheelchair!

Acts 2:1-13: Pentecost…Fully Come

1] When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  2] And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  3] Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  4] And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5] And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.  6] And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in their own language.  7] Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?  8] And how is it that we hear, each one in our own language in which we were born?  9] Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  10] Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoing Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,  11] Cretans and Arabs – we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”  12] So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

13] Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” 

Acts 2 records a watershed event in the history of the church:  the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.  Unlike those instances in the OT where the Spirit came upon God’s people for a limited time and a specific task, for example, 2 Chronicles 15:1, the Spirit came upon these believers to indwell them permanently.  Like the Crucifixion, it was a one-time event.  Christ doesn’t have to die for each new generation and the Spirit doesn’t have to come in such an overt way for them.  Christ has died and the Spirit has come.  He indwells each believer as a guarantee of each believer’s final arrival in heaven and as the “firstfruits” of our relationship with God as His children:

2 Corinthians 1:22, who [God] also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 5:5, Now He who has prepared us for this very thing [the victory of eternal life over mortality, vs, 1-4] is God, who also has give us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Ephesians 1:14, who [the Spirit] is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

In these three verses, the KJV has “earnest” for “guarantee.”  I think I like this word better.  An “earnest” is a down-payment on something, or at least that’s what it used to be called.  At least to me “guarantee” doesn’t really have the same impact.  When my wife and I bought our present house, we had to give the owner some money to seal the deal, as it were.  It was our “earnest.”  This was our promise to buy the house, which we did.  It was also his promise to sell us the house.  By the grace of God, we now own it free and clear.

The Holy Spirit is God’s down payment, if you will, on the eternal blessings He has promised to His people.  But, unlike our lengthy time of paying for the house, the payment for our redemption was made all at once by the Lord Jesus on Calvary.  By the grace of God, salvation is ours, free and clear.

In the case of the house, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t “upkeep”.  I need to get out and mow the yard once more before winter gets here.  We recently had the house painted.  We’ve had the roof replaced and the sewer lines cleaned out.  But the house is ours.

So it is with salvation.  There is “upkeep”.  This does NOT mean that we have to “keep” it or else we might lose it.  It’s ours, free and clear.  But, as with the house, there are things to do as Christians:  prayer, Bible study, fellowshiping with other believers, faithfulness during the week and not just on Sunday.

On this first Pentecost, what happened to the believers?  They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance, v. 4.

“Other tongues.”  What does this mean?  Was it just gibberish, or “angel tongues,” or something else?   Luke clearly tells us.  In v. 5, the crowd drawn by the sound of the “rushing mighty wind,” v. 2, heard them speak in their own language, v. 6.  Then Luke lists 17 languages understood by those who heard the disciples.

This astonished the crowd because it was evident that these disciples were Galileans, v. 7.  Galilee was in the northern part of Israel, next to Gentile territory.  In fact, it was called Galilee of the Gentiles, Isaiah 9:1; Matthew 4:15.  Galileans were considered uncouth and ignorant, without learning and speaking even their own language clumsily and without grace.  Yet here were these men, speaking foreign languages, and, we might imagine, doing so quite fluently, though Luke doesn’t specifically tell us that.

This brings us to what they were talking about: the wonderful works of God, v. 11.

“The wonderful works of God.”

We’re not told which of these works are included, but I think there’s a lesson here, nonetheless.  Our world and culture is awash with skepticism and unbelief.  We’re told that this world just happened, that it evolved from nothing into the wonder we see all around us.  There is no God, no rhyme or reason for anything, it just happens.  The Bible is just another religious book, subject to human wisdom and scholarship.  There are no absolutes (except that one!), everything is just what culture and society say and accept.  We see the results of that teaching in the degeneracy and violence all around us.

We need to return to a Biblically-based preaching and teaching.  This world didn’t just happen; in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, Genesis 1:1.  Man didn’t “evolve” from lesser creatures; he was created as a direct and unique act of God, Genesis 1:26, 27.  Death entered for no other reason than man sinned, Romans 5:12.  There are absolutes; man is accountable.  There are a heaven and a hell, and there’s only one way to enter the one and to escape the other:  faith in the Lord Jesus, Acts 4:12.

Some received the message, others mocked, saying, “These men are drunk!”

Lord willing, we’ll see Peter’s response to this jibe in our next post.  Continue reading