It Is Finished: Beholding the Cross of Christ from All of Scripture

Have you ever watched a new movie, where you started 10 minutes before the end?

Many years ago, when big hair was still in style, I was introduced to Back to the Future in this way. My friends were watching this movie and I joined them at point where Doc Brown crashed through garbage cans, warned Marty and his girlfriend about their future children, and drove to a place where “we don’t need roads.”

If you only know the last ten minutes of Back to the Future, however, you won’t understand the significance of the DeLorean, the date (November 5, 1955), the speed (88 miles per hour), or the electricity (1.21 Gigawatts) that makes time travel possible. Nor will you understand the flux capacitor and its cruciform power to rewrite history. All of these details are revealed over the course of the movie and only in watching the movie from beginning to end, can you make sense of its ending. 

Something similar happens when we open our Bibles and behold the man hung upon a Roman cross. While many well-intentioned evangelists point to Christ’s cross as the center piece of our Christian faith and the way of our salvation, it is an event in history that only makes sense when you begin in the beginning. That Christ was buried in a garden tomb does more than give us an historical referent; it tells the significance of Christ’s death as the way of God’s new creation, because after all it was in a garden where Adam sinned and brought death to the world. Now, raised from a garden tomb, Jesus as the new Adam has introduced a new way of life.

In this vein, the biblical storyline is necessary for understanding why the Son of God had to die on a tree, be buried in a tomb, and raised to life on the third day. Indeed, even if we know that Christ did not stay dead—that he rose from the grave, walked the earth teaching his disciples for forty days, and ascended to heaven, where he now sits in glory—we cannot make sense of the cross. Or at least, our interest in Christ’s death and resurrection leads us to ask: But what does it mean?

Indeed, the way to understand Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is to place those events in the timeline of God’s redemptive history. That timeline begins in creation, proceeds through the fall of mankind into sin, and picks up countless promises of grace and types of salvation throughout the Old Testament. In fact, to be most precise, God’s plan for Christ’s cross did not begin in space and time; it began before God spoke light into the darkness (Gen. 1:3). As Peter says in his first sermon (Acts 2:23) and his first epistle (1 Peter 1:20), the cross of Christ was the centerpiece of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of his people.

In Scripture, therefore, the cross is the climactic work of God to redeem sinners and rescue the dying. Indeed, while Jesus now reigns in glory, and his victorious resurrection gives assurance that all those who trust in him will have eternal life, it is vital to understand what Christ did on the cross and what it means when Christ said on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

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On Reading Leviticus: Four Reading Strategies for This Glorious Book

Jesus washing the feet of Saint Peter on Maundy Thursday

With a new month (March) comes a new book in the Via Emmaus Reading Plan. This year I am reading Track 1 and listening to Track 3. And for those who are reading along this plan, or for those who are interested in reading Leviticus—“The Most Exciting Book You’ve (N)Ever Read”—I offer this reading strategy with resources.

This year, we have read Genesis and Exodus, and now we come to Leviticus, which is arguably the centerpiece of the whole Pentateuch. As I have taught in this Bible Study, borrowing from the work of Michael Morales (Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?) who cites many others, the book of Leviticus is the literary center and high point of the Pentateuch. Thematically, we might capture it this way:

Genesis begins in Eden, the Garden of God and ends in Egypt, a place of exile and death;

Exodus moves from Egypt through the wilderness to Sinai;

Leviticus is entirely written at Sinai;

Numbers moves from Sinai through the wilderness to the Promised Land (i.e., Israel sits poised to enter the land at the end of the book);

Deuteronomy prepares the people to move from exile in the wilderness into the Garden of God, the land of Canaan.

From this locational/thematic chiasm (and there are other literary clues that indicate an intentional shaping of the Pentateuch), we see that Leviticus is not a book we must “get through.” In the Pentateuch, it is the book we must “get to.”

We need Leviticus, so that we might learn what it takes to dwell near to God. This month, as we read Leviticus, we need to consider how this book gives us more than a detailed list of instructions for the priests of Israel. It invites us to approach a holy God and to do so through the finished work of Christ—the One who fulfills all the requirements of the Levitical system of sacrifice. In what follows I will offer a handful of resources to help you read this book, starting with four reading strategies for Leviticus. Continue reading

The Story of God’s Glory: A Wide Angle View of Salvation from 1 Peter 1:10–12

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Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
— 1 Peter 1:10–12 —

In his commentary on 1 Peter, the late biblical theologian, Edmund Clowney, observes that “Glory is the goal of the Old Testament promises” (56). Indeed, glory is the goal of creation, salvation, and really everything God does in his world. And in 1 Peter 1:10–12, the apostle of Jesus widens his view of salvation to include all the Spirit of Christ revealed to the Old Testament prophets about the coming messiah, from his sufferings and his subsequent glories to the gospel of grace that came from Christ to the elect exiles in Asia Minor.

For us, who read 1 Peter, it is worth our time to ponder all that God has done in redemptive history also. Such a meditation solidifies the foundation on which we stand in Christ and secures us further in times of trial. Indeed, salvation, which comes by faith alone in Jesus Christ, depends upon understanding the Christ of Scripture and not the christ of our sentimental imaginings. With that in mind, we should constantly be rehearsing the high points of the biblical storyline to better know who Christ is and what he did. Continue reading

On Earth as It is in Heaven: 16 Sermons and 5 Articles on the Book of Daniel

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Since September of last year, our church studied the book of Daniel. With a few interruptions, this series spanned sixteen weeks, looking at each chapter in Daniel, with a few focused studies along the way. As we walked through the chaotic period of the presidential election and its aftermath, Daniel served to be a great source of Christ-centered comfort all of us. And I share these sermons here in hopes that it might encourage you, if you choose to listen to these messages. 

As I shared in the introduction to the final sermon, this series was not intended to establish or eliminate any eschatological position regarding the millennium. Rather, it sought to see the sovereign rule of God in Christ from each historical narrative (Daniel 1–6) and apocalyptic vision (Daniel 7–12).  With that in mind, here are links to the sixteen sermons.

  1. Dare to Be a Daniel (Remixed): Daniel 1
  2. The Stone and the Statue: Seeking God’s Kingdom, Not Our Own Image (Daniel 2)
  3. Canceled by Fire (Daniel 3) by Jared Bridges
  4. To Be, Or Not To Be A Dragon (Daniel 4)
  5. God with Us: A Message of Salvation and Judgement (Daniel 5)
  6. Jesus and the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6)
  7. The Son of Man Comes Around (Daniel 7)
  8. The Ascension of Christ: How Christ’s Heavenly Reign Empowers Our Daily Lives (Daniel 7:13–14)
  9. The Unbearable Weight of Knowing the Future vs The (un)Believable Hope of Knowing God (Daniel 8)
  10. A Faithful God, A Man of Prayer, And a Better Kingdom (Daniel 9) by Rod Fillinger
  11. Christmas and the Christ: How the Sovereign Enters His Story (Daniel 2:44–45; Luke 1:32–33)
  12. The Great Res(e)t: What Jubilee Says about Christmas, the New Covenant, and the New Year (Leviticus 25)
  13. From Jubilee to Jesus: Good News from a Debated Text (Daniel 9:24-27)
  14. Angels Among Us, the Son of Man With Us (Daniel 10:1-21)
  15. Finding Resurrection Life Amidst the Raging Waters of This World (Daniel 11:1–12:4)
  16. The Beginning of the End: How God Gets Your Bones Out of the Grave and Into His Kingdom (Daniel 12:1–13)

In addition to these sermons, here are a few articles I wrote on Daniel along the way.

May these resources bless you and point you to the Son of Man who now reigns on high. As Daniel foretells, he will soon come and make all things new. That is our great hope, one that we always keep before us.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Reading God’s Word and Seeing God’s World through the Lens of Two Biblical Ages

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For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
Romans 13:11b 

Redemptive history has two overlapping ages. And unless you grasp how the new age brings the future into the present, without entirely swallowing up the old age—yet!—you will have a difficult time understanding how the Bible fits together and how God is working in the world. To say it differently, your doctrine, especially your eschatology, will shift off-center if you don’t consider both ages as described in Scripture. Either you will see too much of God’s kingdom present today, or you will withhold too much of the kingdom until some later time period. This approach to the kingdom of God is sometimes called inaugurated eschatology and I have discussed that here.

In what follows, I want to sketch out how necessary it is to see both ages and how the entirety of the Bible depends on rightly grasping this two-age perspective. First, we will consider how the Old Testament teaches us to look forward to a new age. And instead of considering this in the abstract, we will note at least twelve specific expectations given by the prophets, such that when the authors of the New Testament describe them as fulfilled in Christ, they are telegraphing the way that the new age has come. Continue reading

Reading Leviticus Wisely: Moving from Israel’s Sacrifices to Christ without Allegory or Pure Historicism

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“All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable . . .”
2 Timothy 3:16

This is what Paul says when speaking to Timothy about the origin of his faith, and this profitability is true for all parts of Scripture, including Leviticus. Yet, for Leviticus to be profitable, one must avoid pure historical interpretation, an approach to Leviticus that only discerns what priests did back then and what they should do today if the tabernacle was reconstructed and the old covenant were re-enacted. Similarly, for Leviticus to be profitable, one must avoid wild allegory, where every facet of the sacrifice becomes a token of some gospel truth.

Between these two poles, one must deal with the historical context of the book and yet see how the book draws us into a sacrificial system that leads us to Christ. Indeed, because Leviticus reveals to the “pattern” (typos) of worship that God commanded at Sinai (see Exodus 25:40), it is appropriate and necessary to see how Leviticus outlines a series of shadows (types) that find their substance in Christ (cf. Heb. 10:1). Continue reading

A Little Help With Daniel 11:1–12:4: Three Aids for Reading This Challenging Chapter

bible 2Daniel 11 is a challenging passage of Scripture. Primarily, its difficulty rests in the fact that modern, Western readers do not know the history that stands between Daniel and Jesus. Such historical ignorance of about 550 years makes a crucial difference in knowing how to understand this long and complex passage. This is especially true with respect to Antiochus IV, who defiled the Jerusalem in 167 BC by offering unclean sacrifices on the altar, producing what Daniel calls the abomination of desolation. Both Daniel and Jesus speak of this event, and only when we understand how Daniel 11 points to this historical event, based upon God’s heavenly decrees (i.e., the book of truth in Dan. 10:21) can we rightly interpret this passage.

Indeed, Daniel’s prophecies are so precise, many scholars believe that Daniel must have been written after the fact.[1] Such a reading stands, however, on a commitment to explain away elements of predictive prophecy. By contrast, those who believe God inspired the Word of God have no little trouble letting the text speak. Scripture teaches us that God has declared the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10) and that nothing occurs by accident. Rather, God has decreed in eternity what will take place in time. In fact, Daniel 10:21 speaks to this very thing, when the angel of the Lord states, “But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth . . .”

As stated, Daniel 11 is a small portion or reflection of God’s eternal and immutable decree. In answer to Daniel’s prayers and his longing to see the temple of God rebuilt, God sends a fourth and final vision in Daniel to strengthen him and show him what will come next. Daniel 11, therefore, is a history that begins in the days of Daniel (535 BC) and runs until the days of Christ and his resurrection. In fact, as I preached two Sundays ago, I believe that Daniel 12:1–3 is fulfilled (better: has begun to be fulfilled) in the resurrection of Christ. And thus, Daniel 11 gives us a vision of history that runs for more than 500 years and that has implications even to our own day, as the resurrected Christ continues to raise people from the dead.

Still, to understand Daniel 11 in context, we might need a little help. In what follows, I offer three such ‘helps.’ First, I offer a link to the sermon I preached on Daniel 11. Second, I share below an account of a make-believe prophet of America that might provide insight into how we should read Daniell 11. Third and last, I’ve included a PDF of the notes I gave to our church when I preached on Daniel 11. They give a play-by-play of the historical turns in Daniel 11:2–35. Then, drawing on the work of Mitchell Chase, they offer an attempt to read Daniel 11:21–35 as parallel to Daniel 11:36–12:3. I believe Mitch has found a number of key connections in the text which confirms this approach to the chapter. I outline these in the PDF as well. May these resources be a help to you. Continue reading

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

On Reading Genesis: Four Approaches with Many Resources

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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

When The Son of Man Comes Around: A Sermon on Daniel 7

daniel05Who is in control?

This is a question germane to every area of life—personal, parental, political, etc. And as we know all to well, when wicked people are in control, the people under their ‘care’ suffer! Just consider a couple proverbs related to kings and their citizens:

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. (Proverbs 29:2)

Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people. (Proverbs 28:15)

Because of the profound impact rulers can play on a nation, we can make politics the most important part of life. And while not denying its importance (see here), Daniel 7 teaches us that there is only one true ruler, and he alone will receive a kingdom that never ends. Indeed, until he reigns, the nations and their leaders are beasts by comparison.

With this in mind, Daniel 7, the pinnacle chapter in the book of Daniel, teaches us how to think about who is in control. The vision of Daniel brings us to the throne of God and to the Ancient of Days who decides who rules on the earth.  More than that it gives us a picture of God’s rule over the nations and the fact that the Son of Man has authority to judge all flesh (see John 17:2).

These are themes found in this week’s sermon, “When the Son of Man Comes Around.” You can watch the sermon here. Other sermons in this series can be found here.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds