What are the “last days”? When are the “last days”? Are we now living in the “last days”?
These are questions that students of prophecy like to ask. They are also questions that are often answered by looking to current events, world crises, and various “signs of the times.” Yet, what if the “last days” are actually something that began 2,000 years ago (see Heb. 1:2)? What if the Bible actually begins speaking about the last days in the first book of the Bible? And what if most of the events associated with last days find explicit fulfillment in the events of the New Testament?
While not denying the blessed hope of Christ’s return, students of the Bible must consider how the Bible develops its own terminology. And if “last days” are a technical term in the New Testament, we do well to consider where does that language come from and how should be understand the Bible on its own terms.
On this question, G. K. Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology is immensely helpful. In the third and fourth chapters, he surveys the Bible to show how the Bible introduces, develops, and fulfills the language of “latter days.” In what follows, I will outline some of his thoughts on the use of “latter days” in Moses. I’ll also add a few observations of my own. And in the weeks ahead I’ll circle back to trace the rest of the biblical theology through the Old Testament into the New Testament. So stay tuned. But today, we’ll consider what Moses says about last days Continue reading
If Scripture stands against our natural and cultural bent towards innovative worship, it also provides a biblical pattern for the kind of worship God requires. Last week I considered the first problem—namely, the problem(s) with man-made worship. This week, I want to show how a pattern of worship repeats throughout the Bible.
Actually, Jonathan Gibson has provided this biblical-theological survey already. In his chapter “Worship On Earth as It Is in Heaven,” in Reformation Worship, he traces a basic pattern of worship from Genesis to Revelation. In what follows, I’ll employ some of his findings to help us see what “biblical” worship looks like.
Worship in Eden: The Basic Pattern
The basic pattern of worship begins even before the Fall. In Genesis 2:15–17 Adam is commanded to “serve” and “guard” in the garden-temple of Eden. These verbs are used later to speak of the priestly service of Levites. From the light of later revelation, we can see worship is not something that emerged after redemption. It was the reason why God made humanity in the first place.
And thus, Jonathan Gibson lists the basic elements of worship like this:
- Call to Worship (through God’s Word)
- Response (by faith and obedience, love and devotion)
- Fellowship meal (union and communion with God)
Reflecting on this prelapsarian (i.e., before the Fall) worship, he states,
Adam was commanded to fast from one tree in order that he might feast at another three, and thus enjoy consummate union and communion with God—everlasting life. And so, for Adam and all his descendants, a liturgy was fixed, stitched into the very order and fabric of human life on earth: call–response–meal. (4) Continue reading
In his commentary on Deuteronomy, Daniel Block considers the relationship between God’s covenant with Abraham and his covenant with Israel. Entitled “the covenant with your forefathers” in Deuteronomy 4:31, he asks whether this is a reference to God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (cf. Exod 2:24; 6:4; Lev 26:4)? Or a reference to the covenant God made with Israel at Horeb (Deut 4:13)? Or is it somehow a reference to both?
In eight points, Block shows why it is best to see these two covenants as organically related. Instead of singularly referring to the covenant with Abraham or the covenant at Horeb, he explains that God’s covenant with Israel continues the covenant with Abraham. Adding legislation to the original covenant with Abraham, it extends the promises to Abraham and adds national stipulations for Abraham’s offspring. In this way, Block helps us read Moses on his own terms and to see how the biblical covenants relate to one another. Here’s how Block explains it: Continue reading
Here’s the latest Via Emmaus Podcast, one where I get in the driver’s seat and ask my friend and biblical scholar Sam Emadi questions about Genesis, Joseph, and Jesus.
In this first ‘extra inning’ episode, I interview Dr. Samuel Emadi, Senior Editor of the 9Marks Journal. Sam finished his dissertation on the Joseph story in 2016. He is currently under contract to write a book on Joseph in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series. And in this episode, we will learn more about Genesis, Joseph, typology, and how to read the Bible better.
For more on this subject, see
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring.
It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one,
“And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
— Galatians 3:16 —
Who is Abraham’s offspring? Or is it, Who are Abraham’s offspring? Is it one or many? Or both?
In the Bible one of the most important realities to grasp is how the Bible presents itself. In other words, because Scripture is the inspired interpretation of God’s actions in the world—even as God’s Word is itself a divine action—it is vital to see how God’s earlier revelation prepares the way for his later purposes.
Sometimes this is called an “eschatological” reading of Scripture. That may sound complicated, but it’s not. Eschatology means “the study of last things” (eschatos = last), and most of the time people immediately jump to what they perceive are the “last things” in the Bible. However, if we consider that God stands outside of time and created all things for the purpose putting them under his Son’s feet (see Ephesians 1:10), then we must read the Bible as one unified-but-unfolding plan of redemption.
In this way, eschatology doesn’t begin in Revelation, or Daniel, or Zechariah, it begins in Genesis. And from Genesis to Revelation, God is working all things for the purposes of his people—the offspring of Abraham.
But who is/are Abraham’s offspring? Continue reading
In our recent podcast on Genesis and Matthew, we considered how various aspects of the ancient Near East inform our understanding of Genesis. Indeed, there are many reasons to compare the Old Testament to the ancient Near East (and the New Testament to Second Temple Judaism). In both testaments, the historical background give us insight into the Scriptures.
That said, there is more insight that comes from comparing Scripture to Scripture, by reading the Old Testament with the light of the new, by reading the New Testament with the background of the Old Testament, and reading both testaments as mutually-interpreting books of God’s inspired word.
In fact, on that very point New Testament scholar Grant Macaskill makes this wise observation:
New Testament scholars are usually very good at examining the context and backgrounds provided by Graeco-Roman and Jewish literature, but we are generally less successful at examining that provided by other New Testament writings and bringing these to bear on our exegesis. There is a vast amount of literature that reads Paul in the light of Qumran; there is rather less that reads Paul in the light of Peter.
The objection, of course, is that we run the risk of conflating the distinctive theology of each and doing so without sensitivity to the timelines on which they are located. But these texts are the products of a movement with a certain cohesion, generated within a compact period of time. It is, then, necessary to the historical task for us to consider how they may relate to one another and to reflect upon the ways in which even their diversity may emerge from a basic unity of thought. (Grant Macaskill, Union with Christ in the New Testament, 2)
I am not a New Testament scholar, but I believe his point applies to us all. The best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture, and so we should give equal—even greater!—attention to the rest of the Bible when interpreting Scripture. Sure, let’s read extra-biblical texts that inform Scripture, but even more lets immerse ourselves in the Bible, so that our interpretations are saturated with the Bible and not just the latest academic fad or archaeological discovery.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
In his massive and massively helpful A New Testament Biblical Theology, G. K. Beale spends the opening chapters outlining the storyline of the Bible and the eschatological nature of the Old Testament. Rather than defining eschatology as merely that category of doctrine that describes future events, he rightly explains how the original creation came with “eschatological potential” (89). Still, what is most helpful in his approach to reading the Bible eschatologically is his approach to reading the Bible “literally.”
Much debate continues on this point today, and to quote the “theologian” Mandy Patinkin (of Princess Bride fame), I do not believe most people who demand a literal reading know what that word means. Or at least, their definition and use only consider one aspect of a literal reading—namely, a narrow reading of individual texts, without considering how a literal reading can also be applied to whole books, including the whole canon itself. Continue reading
You have been invited to covenant meal—a table set in the midst of hostile enemies. Bread and wine are the food and drink of choice. The host is a righteous king who is lives in the holy city Jerusalem, and serves God Most High as a faithful priest.
When you look at your invitation, the RSVP calls you to renounce your idols and acknowledge the greatness of your host. This table, offered freely to you, is set for those who believe God’s promises and refuse to partner with the kings of this world. Indeed, this table does not communicate righteousness. Rather, it is for those who have been justified by faith in the promises of God Most High.
What is this invitation describing?
If you said, the Lord’s Supper, you’d be correct. And if you said Abram’s meal with Mechizedek, you’d also be right. But how can this be? How can one description point to two events? The answer is that God ordained the Old Testament events of Genesis 14 to prepare the way for Jesus Christ and the covenant he sealed with his blood and celebrated on the night before his crucifixion.
Therefore, just as learning the history of Passover helps us appreciate and apply the Lords’ Supper today, so does learning the story of Melchizedek and his covenant meal. Continue reading
This week the Evangelical Theological Society is meeting in Denver, Colorado. And this morning I am presenting a paper entitled: “A Family of Royal Priests: Why the Priesthood of Believers Must Be In Christ”
The topic of priesthood is one that has long captured my attention. It was the subject of my dissertation. Next year, I am planning to publish a book on the subject with Crossway, in their Short Studies in Biblical Theology series. And last year, I read and reviewed Andrew Malone’s book God’s Mediators: A Biblical Theology of the Priesthood.
In that book, Malone makes the case that the priesthood of believers is not derived from the high priesthood of Christ. This view, which Malone argues for with surprising vehemence, divides Christ from his covenant people, at least with respect to the priesthood. It does not attend to the way Scripture explains the “making of priests,” nor does it do justice to many passages that conjoin the priesthood Christ with his kingdom of priests.
So in response to Malone, I wrote this paper, to make a theological and exegetical case for the unified priesthood of Christ and his people. It’s not short, but if you read it, I’d love to know your thoughts.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
Are you a royal priest? How do you know? What is a kingdom of priests? And how does that really apply today? Is this title for individuals? Or should it be a community identity?
Many questions swirl around the biblical idea of priesthood. And on Sunday we considered Peter’s words to the church: “You are a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). In examining his words, we learned that they go back to Exodus 19:6 and come in the context of worship on the mountain God.
By examining Exodus 19:6, therefore, in its original context and comparing it to 1 Peter 2, we were able to learn how God makes a priestly people, what a kingdom of priests do, and how this title of royal priesthood applies to us today.
You can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and additional resources can be found below. Continue reading