Seeing the Son of Man: How Reading Daniel and Revelation Together Illumines Both

The number of connections between Daniel and Revelation are numerous and normally observed by readers of both books. A point that is more easily missed or misunderstood is “how” Daniel is used by John, when records the revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:1). As most commentators have observed there are few, if any, quotations from the Old Testament in Revelation. Instead, John combines imagery and language from all over the Old Testament as he records the words of Jesus.

A good example of how this works is seen G. K. Beale and Sean McDonough’s commentary on Revelation. Describing the glorious vision of Christ among the lampstands in Revelation 1:13–16, they demonstrate how John’s words form a kaleidoscope of Old Testament images, but especially images from Daniel 7, 10, and 12. The number connections, and pieces from different passages, may be missed by the casual reader of Revelation, but when we see just how much John depends on Daniel, or Jesus as he reveals himself to John, we begin to appreciate the intra-biblical connections and arrive at a better reading of both books.

As I go to preach Daniel 10 this Sunday, I offer their Beale and McDonough’s full quotation as an argument for why the figure in Daniel 10:5–6 is a revelation of the preincarnate Christ and an example of how we should read Revelation and other apocalyptic books like it.

Often, images in apocalyptic literature are supplied by previous Scripture. Accordingly, to understand the meaning of an apocalyptic vision in the Bible, and especially in Revelation, one must know the many inspired passages that they draw upon. Likewise, when texts like Daniel 10 have a clear vision of Christ in places like Revelation 1 (i.e., passages that come later with a clearer referent to who is in view), they receive light from the later, greater revelation, thus informing who this glorious but enigmatic figure is. Continue reading

A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ: Why the Sufficiency of Scripture Means Rejecting Secular Sociology

aaron-burden-9zsHNt5OpqE-unsplashBut I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
— 2 Corinthians 11:3–4 —

In his book, Doctrine of the Atonementnineteenth century evangelist and pastor James Haldane wrote about the ways Scottish churches fused biblical doctrine with modern philosophy. In his opening chapter, he makes a case for a pure and undiluted biblical orthodoxy, over against those who unite Scripture with philosophy. He writes,

True philosophy consists in our sitting at the feet of Jesus, and receiving the truth as He has been pleased to reveal it. The Scriptures teach us, that the understanding of fallen man is darkened, and that the Holy Spirit alone can illuminate its inmost recesses with the light of truth. (22)

Though written more than 150 years ago, Haldane’s words still ring true. In his day, various Enlightenment philosophies, especially those arguing for morality sans biblical revelation, were infiltrating the church. As an evangelist, he saw thousands come to Christ who had received instruction in their churches on morality, but had not on Christianity. And in response, Haldane exposed the errors of combining biblical Christianity with worldly philosophies, a pastoral practice we should continue today.

Sociology Can Be a Vain Philosophy

In our day, the fusion of truth and error is equally pernicious, but perhaps more difficult to discern. For, instead of seeing a fusion of Christianity and Enlightenment philosophy, which we have been trained to observe and reject, it is more often the case that we see the fusion of Christianity and sociology. Sociology has become a leading assistant in churches today who are employing diversity training and all other forms of cultural awareness. Continue reading

On Reading Genesis: Four Approaches with Many Resources

close up photo of bible

January 1, 2021. 

With the new year comes the chance to begin a new Bible reading plan (or to continue your reading plan from last year). If the new year leads you to Genesis, as the Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan does, you might be looking for some resources to aid in your reading—especially, if your plan does not give you a day-by-day, play-by-play. To that end I am sharing four reading strategies, with some helpful resources to listen and read. Be sure to read to the end, as some of the most helpful resources come at the end. Continue reading

Reading for Scripture Saturation in 2021: (Re)Introducing the Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan

Jesus washing the feet of Saint Peter on Maundy Thursday

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
10  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
11  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
12  Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes!
— Psalm 119:9–12 —

With 2020 ending and 2021 approaching, you may be thinking about how to read the Bible in the new year. I hope so. The Word of God is not a trifle; it is our very life (Deut. 32:47). Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4). With that in mind, we should aim to read the Bible and to read it often!

Truly, the Bible is not a book to read once, or even once a year. It is meant to be imbibed and inhabited, adored and adorned, studied and savored. Mastery of the Bible does not mean comprehensive understanding of Scripture; it means ever-increasing submission to the Master who speaks in Scripture. This is why in the closing days of the year, it’s good to consider how we can saturate ourselves with Scripture in the next year.

Personally though, I wonder if our daily reading plans help us with this idea of Scripture saturation. Often, such plans call for reading single chapters from various parts of the Bible. And the daily routine can invite checking the box without understanding the book. So my question has been: does such reading help us or hinder us in our Bible reading? Continue reading

Let Us Fix Our Eyes on Heaven and the Christ Who Reigns There: A New Year’s Reflection on COVID Regulations and Social Justice

clouds dark dramatic heaven

As we prepare to welcome 2021 this week, this post is meant to consider how the largely unexpected and unprecedented events of 2020 have impacted us, especially the church and its pastors. May the Lord give us wisdom to keep our eyes fixed on Christ and courage to say so.

At the time of America’s founding, heterodox pastors attacked the doctrine of hell, while many of the Founders appreciated religion for its earthly and civic benefits. A century later, theological liberals exchanged the reality of heaven for the earthly message of the fatherhood of God and brotherhood of mankind. In the last century, prosperity preachers have promised heaven on earth, while many pragmatic pastors have made earthly success as important as—and often more important than—entrance into heaven.

Looking from the past to the present, it shouldn’t surprise us that the message of heaven has been threatened. Going back to Eden, there have always been those who have doubted God’s judgment and misjudged God’s eternal gospel. Movements like the social gospel, the prosperity gospel, and liberation theology have, in various ways, exchanged the glories of heaven for “Christian” messages that focus on the here and now. And always, when heaven is lost, the lost suffer.

Today, we are seeing a de-emphasis on heaven in a new way. Unlike theological liberals who might affirm universalism where everyone goes to heaven or deny the reality of hell, some evangelicals are mis-stepping with heaven on the basis of their ministerial focus. Without abandoning their orthodox confessions, Bible-believing churches are veiling heaven by focusing their attention on matters related to earth.

In 2020, you don’t have to be a “liberal” to downplay heaven in your daily living. You don’t have to preach a message of prosperity to illicitly transport heavenly blessings to earth. You don’t even have to deny Scripture to lose the heavenly mission of the church. In fact, you can hold firmly to the faith and lose heaven by doing nothing at all. The cultural winds of 2020 are that strong! Here’s what I’m getting at: Unless you realize how the events of this year are causing pastors and churches to focus almost exclusively on earthly matters, you will lose heaven—if not its doctrine, than its declaration.[1]

In what follows, I will highlight two cultural winds that are blowing Christians off course. Instead of preaching the glories of heaven and discipling the nations to obey all the Lord of heaven has commanded, churches are being tempted to give all their attention to (1) COVID regulations and (2) social justice. As a result heaven is assumed and not asserted. My argument, then, is that without Spirit-empowered effort, focus on these earthly concerns will cause us to mute the message of heaven. And if this is not corrected by faithful pastors, the reality of heaven—not just its emphasis—may soon be lost by some too. Continue reading

What Does It Mean That Jesus is the ‘Son of David’? Nine Stars in the Constellation of Jesus’s Kingdom

three kings figurines

This month, Track 2 in the Via Emmaus Reading Plan—which is going to get a refresh before the new year—takes us through the book of Luke. And as I reading Luke this month, I am also looking at Volume 6 in the Scripture and Hermeneutics Series, Reading Luke: Interpretation, Reflection, Formation. In one essay, “Kingdom and Church in Luke-Acts,” Scott Hahn traces the theme of Jesus’s Davidic kingship in Luke and Acts. Then bringing order to his observations, he identifies a “constellation of concepts, locations, and institutions that were immediately related to David, his legacy, and [to] one another” (299).

For those interested in studying the theme of Jesus as the Son of David, or knowing what Jesus kingship and kingdom are like, it is imperative to see how Scripture speaks of David, Jesus, and the Jesus relationship to David. As the New Testament declares with great emphasis and repetition, Jesus is David’s son and thus, it teaches us to see Jesus’s kingship as a fulfillment of David’s, only greater.

Thus to know Jesus as Scripture presents him requires a growing knowledge of David. In his essay, Hahn does the exegetical work in Luke-Acts to show where Luke identifies Christ with David (297–99, cf. Luke 1:27, 32–33, 69; 2:4, 11, 8–20; 3:21–22, 23–28; 6:1–5; 9:35; 18:35–43; Luke 22:29–30; 23:37–38; Acts 2:14–36, esp. vv. 25–36; 13:16–41. esp. vv. 22–23, 33–37; 15:13–21). Then, he outlines eight stars in the constellation of Christ’s kingship. Below, I share those with you, as they present in short order what David’s/Jesus’s kingdom is like. Then, I will add one more star to the constellation—the oft-neglected priestly nature of David’s kingship. From this ninth star, we will see why Christ’s kingship stands out against all the other kingdoms of the earth.

Continue reading

Good and Evil: A Live Look at Love, the Law, and Liberty of Conscience: Three Sermons from Romans 12–14

rom-12-14

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
— Romans 12:21 —

For the last three Sundays, our church has been thinking about what Scripture says about God and government, love and law, COVID and consciences. Pressing pause on our series in Daniel, which also has a lot to day about  governing authorities, we looked at Romans 12–14. In these three chapters, Paul instructs believers, but especially churches, how to worship, think, assemble, love, obey (and resist) governors, and treat one another with hospitality and care.

If the church needs to remember anything in 2020 it is how to be a people who are

  1. thinking clearly from God’s Word and not the media-frenzied patterns of this world,
  2. assembling in the name of Christ and not scattering in the name of executive orders,
  3. loving one another in ways that exceed wearing masks,
  4. obeying governors, but not blindly, or in ways that deny God’s commands, and
  5. welcoming one another, without binding the consciences of others.

Following the words of Romans 12–14, our last three sermons have addressed these matters. Paul’s words help us think about going to church, wearing masks, and relating to COVID regulations. If there was ever a time in my life when Christians need to learn again what it means to be the church and how to be the church when the governing authorities offer slight and/or significant opposition to being the church that time is now.

Thankfully, God’s Word is sufficient to instruct us on what God thinks is good and evil. In fact, Romans 12–14 is actually held together by numerous references to good and evil (Rom. 12:2, 9, 21; 13:3–4; 14:16). And I offer these three sermons (two by myself, one by Ben Purves) to help you think about what is truly good and evil in our day.

Considering an array of current events, you can also find blogposts on COVID, quarantine laws, resisting tyrants, resisting tyrants again, and mask-wearing. In all, we need a great measure of wisdom in our day—wisdom and boldness. Thankfully, God’s Word supplies us with grace for both. Knowing that, let us continue to seek first his kingdom and trust him for all the provisions we need to follow him faithfully. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24). So let us go with him, as he works all things for our good.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Thinking Wisely about Sickness and Disease: A Biblical and Pastoral Response to COVID by Brian Tabb

ambulance architecture building business

In preparation for Sunday School this week, I have been reading various articles and books on COVID-19 and how churches should think about the pandemic and respond to it. This week I will try to share a few of these resources that I have found helpful.

The first article to mention is Brian Tabb’s “Theological Reflection on the Pandemic.” In his article, he surveys what Scripture says about sickness. And most importantly he draws the connection between sickness and sin. Eschewing a mechanical connection between sin and sickness, i.e., that sickness is always a result of sin, he rightly avoids the other error—that sickness has nothing to do with sin. He writes,

Thus, the Scriptures do not present disease as morally neutral or “indifferent” like the philosophers.9 Rather, disease and other causes of pain and suffering are part of this broken world infected with sin, and these terrors have no place in the new creation, when God will roll back the curse, wipe away every tear, and make all things new (Rev 21:4–4; 22:3; cf. Isa 25:8). (p. 3) Continue reading

A Theology of the Face: How Endless Mask-Wearing Hides the Image of God and Hinders the Church

Christian themed stained glass, Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
– 2 Corinthians 3:18 –

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
– 2 Corinthians 4:6 –

We are in the season of that ancient of holidays, the one where humans put on masks and pretend to be lions, ghouls, super heroes, and villains. This year, however, Halloween’s game of dress up has become ubiquitous. It has been going on ever since “social distancing” became 2020’s favorite neologism. And there is no end in sight. Masks, it seems, are here to stay long past Halloween, and it is worth asking—to what effect?

What are the consequences of wearing masks? And what are the consequences of not wearing masks? The latter question is easy to answer; just read the regular updates on the CDC website or visit your local grocery store. State regulations, governors’ orders, and local business practices have converged to declare with legal force—no mask, no service.

Following this line of thinking many churches have pursued the same approach. With good intentions, especially in the early stages of COVID-19, many sought to love their neighbor by wearing a mask. Yet, as masking as become the new normal, I want to ask: What are the not-so-hidden consequences of hiding the face for months on end? And what are the consequences for churches who are called to live distinct from the world and who are to proclaim the glory of God in the face of Christ?

While medical experts continue to debate the efficacy of preventing COVID-19 with a cloth mask and doctors demonstrate the inefficiencies of various masks, I want to approach this subject theologically. Opinions continue to change about masks, but with the exception of a few articles (e.g., They Don’t Own Your Face You Know), I have seen little consideration for the theological impact covering the face has on humanity and the church who gathers to worship God.

With that in mind, I want to answer a few questions: What does Scripture say about the face? What impact does hiding the face on a regular basis have on humanity, the glory of God, and the gathering of God’s people? In particular, can we worship God face-to-face with masks constantly on? And if so, what implications do that have on the church?

As we will see from Scripture, the veiling of the face, with no certain change forthcoming, distorts our ability to embrace the knowledge of God, and hinders the community of faith created to reflect the image of Christ. More than that, masking as a normative practice in worship services runs into multiple New Testament commands. In other words, the commands of God are strained, if not violated, by making mask-wearing the normative practice.

What follows is not the only line of argument we need to consider when making decisions about gathering God’s people in these days and wearing or not wearing masks. Loving our neighbor (Romans 12), obeying civil magistrates (Romans 13), and considering weaker brethren and not violating conscience (Romans 14) must all play a part in our decisions. Yet, we must not forget that Romans 12–14 follows an expansive description of the gospel (Romans 1–11), and is followed by Paul’s description of the gospel ministry.

Thus, setting Romans 12–14 in context, it is my contention that in recent application of Romans 12, 13, and 14 for mask-wearing without end, we are picking up habits of heart and face that may interfere with the clearest declaration of God’s mercies (Rom 12:1) in the gospel (Romans 1–11 and 15). In that vein, I offer this God-centered argument, that seeing and showing the face matters. And I ask Christians to consider the impact of endless masking on the spiritual health of image bearers and Christ’s Church.

Continue reading

A Neglected but Necessary Doctrine: How Christ’s Ascension Clarifies Our Theology and Comforts Our Souls

clouds and blue sky

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
— Acts 1:9–11 —

   He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
— The Apostles Creed — 

In Acts 1:9–11 Luke reports the ascension of Jesus from earth to heaven. This event has been a staple in orthodox confessions, as listed in the Apostle’s Creed, but it has also been spiritualized by some (like Origen and Rudolph Bultmann) and overlooked by others (too many to count!). But what about you, how do you think about the ascension?

Do you think about it all? Does it form your theology (especially your eschatology), or do you skip from Christ’s resurrection to his return? What about your daily life, how does ascension bring the good news of heaven to your earthly struggles? If the ascension is absent in your thoughts, you are missing a chief way that we know and experience the presence of Christ. For that reason, we need to go back and see what Scripture says about this  vital doctrine. Continue reading