The Wedding Planner: What John 2–4 Teaches Us About Jesus, Marriage, Resurrections, and the End of All Things

white and black houses with brown grass with overlooking mountain under white sky

For a few years in seminary, I was the graduation coordinator for our school. This meant that every spring we hosted 2000 people to watch 200 students graduate. On the big day, one of the most important parts of the ceremony was the pledge spoken by the president and the students. And that pledge required reading a covenant from the graduation bulletin.

Most years this went off without a hitch, but one year we forgot to put bulletins on the graduates seats, so that by the time that the president was looking for the graduates to respond, there was no response.

It was a semi-catastrophe, and one that required a few people to run around throwing bulletins to graduates. Clearly big events require a myriad of specific details to make them run smoothly.

The same is true in salvation. If God is going bring salvation to the world as John 4:42 says, there are an infinite number of details that go into giving eternal life to those who deserve everlasting death. To be specific the number of details is not actually infinite, because God alone is infinite. But the number of details is so large that the whole of humanity could not discover it,  even if everyone of us was named Solomon or Einstein or Elon.

The truth is, God delights to create a world so manifestly complex that he alone can run it. And marvelously in the middle of his vast creation he enjoys wedding planning too. In fact, the world as we know it began with a wedding in Eden and it will end with a wedding in Zion. In between, God is working all things together for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose—which is the eternal union between Christ and his bride. Continue reading

Good News for Blemished Priests: A Resurrection Meditation on Leviticus 21

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16 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
17 “Speak to Aaron, saying,None of your offspring
throughout their generations who has a blemish
may approach to offer the bread of his God.
— Leviticus 21:16–17 —

In Leviticus 21, we come across a passage that is easily misunderstood. From a first reading of Leviticus 21:16–24, it appears that God does not associate with the disabled, the deformed, or the dismembered. And by extension, this seems to imply that God is cruel to those who deserve compassion. Or at least, as Old Testament scholar, Katherine Smith, has observed this passage is difficult for Westerners who would find themselves in trouble with the law if they mistreated those with a physical disability.

So what is going on in Leviticus 21? And how can the Law of God be holy, righteous, and good (Rom. 7:12), if it teaches Israel to withhold blemished priests from the offering sacrifices to God? Can we honestly say these laws are good and should be followed today? Or, do we need to make apology for Leviticus 21 and unhitch the Old Testament from the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Affirming the unity of Scripture and the goodness of everything contained therein (see Rom. 15:4 and 2 Tim. 3:16–17), I will argue that verses not only bear witness to God’s unswerving holiness but in the fullness of time, and with finished work of Christ in view, we have in Leviticus 21 a glorious declaration of what the resurrection of Christ accomplishes—namely, the good news that blemished priests will be brought into the presence of God, but only after they have been raised from the dead. But praise be to God, that is the good news of the resurrection! Continue reading

From Boston with Love: 70 Truths about the Doctrine of Regeneration

jon-tyson-OX67A7bfMzE-unsplashBlessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, . . . 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.
— 1 Peter 1:3, 23 —

In his book Human Nature In Its Fourfold State, Thomas Boston (1676–1732) spends 50 pages on the biblical doctrine of regeneration. And across these Scripture-saturated reflections, he makes over seventy propositions about the new birth. In what follows, I have taken the lead sentence from each proposition and listed them. The enumerated points, except where bracketed, are his words. I have organized his sections under six headings, and I have kept Boston’s multi-layered organization of his argument, adding some commentary for clarification and citing a few specific quotations.

In general, if you are looking for a fulsome outline of the doctrine of regeneration, you will find it in the following propositions. Even more, you will be well repaid if you read Boston’s entire chapter (or book). He spares no expense in declaring what Scripture says about the glorious biblical doctrine which teaches us that God in his grace raises the dead to life. At the end, I’ve included Boston’s final pastoral plea. Instead of leaving the doctrine of regeneration in the hands of professors, he calls those outside of Christ to come hear God’s Word and find life in it. Indeed, while eternal is not something man can take from God; it is something sinners can seek by means of God’s Word. As 1 Peter 1:3, 23 teaches us, the new life found that God grants freely, is found in the Word of God.

So, seek God and his Word. And may what follows be a guide along the path to life. 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

When Did the Kingdom of God Begin?

war“The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.”
Psalm 103:19

32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’
Acts 13:32–33

In his excellent little study on the title ‘Son of God,’ (Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed), D. A. Carson asks the question: When did the kingdom of God begin? In typical fashion, Carson tears down any reductionistic answer and provides a vision of God’s kingdom that acknowledges the ongoing, sovereign rule of God over all creation (Ps. 103:19) and the kingdom of God that came when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth (and rose again to heaven).

Drawing on passages that cover the range of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, Carson shows how Christ inaugurated the kingdom. And it’s here where Carsons shows the polyvalent ways the Gospels speak of Christ’s kingdom. Indeed, his kingship is seen at his birth, in his life, and on the cross. Yet, it is in his resurrection and ascension where the exalted Christ “receives” his crown, if you will. While the New Testament bears witness to the forthcoming consummation of the kingdom, Christ’s service is rewarded with his crown in his resurrection (cf. Phil. 2:5–11).

Carson shows how this works and his thoughtful answer to the question of the kingdom’s beginning is worth considering and remembering as we read passages like Acts 13:32–33; Romans 1:4; and Hebrews 5:5–6, to name only a few. Here’s his answer to the question, “When did the kingdom of God begin?” Continue reading

Seeing the Invisible God: Christ’s Resurrection and the Church’s Confession (1 Timothy 3:16)

livingchurchSeeing the Invisible God: Christ’s Resurrection and the Church’s Confession (1 Timothy 3:16)

While every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection, this last Sunday we celebrated the very day when Christ rose from the grave. In Sunday’s sermon from 1 Timothy 3:16 we consider the full impact of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

In six compact statements Paul outlines the major turning points associated with Christ’s resurrection. Truly, the church is built on this one who rose from the dead and as Paul is explaining to the church how to be the church, he highlights what stands at the center of the church’s life—namely, the resurrected Christ.

In Sunday’s sermon, I considered how this confession relates to Paul’s letter and to us. From there we looked at the six different confessions Paul lists and why they mean so much for us today. You can listen to this sermon online; discussion questions and resources related to the resurrection are listed below.

Discussion Questions

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“On the Third Day”: What Jesus and the Apostles Saw When They Read the Old Testament (Guest Post by Bruce Forsee)

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Guest Post

Dr. Bruce Forsee is seasoned pastor whose theological reading of Scripture is very good. As he and his family have visited our church, I’ve enjoyed getting to know him over the last few months. I gladly share his insights on Christ’s resurrection. This particular post first appeared on his website, where he is beginning to write articles very similar to what I post here. Let me encourage you to check it out.

“He was raised on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures”
– 1 Corinthians 15:4 –

At Easter we think about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the central event in our redemption. It’s what all of history has pointed to, and it was foretold immediately after the first sin (Genesis 3:16). Jesus knew that he had come to die, and he taught his disciples not only that he would die and rise again, but specifically that he would rise on the third day. “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21).

The apostle Paul indicates that the third-day resurrection was even indicated in the Old Testament. In 1 Corinthians 15:4 he claims Jesus “was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”  In OBC’s recent sermon series on Jonah, we’ve been reminded that Jesus Himself pointed to the experience of the prophet Jonah as a sign that he would die and rise in three days (Matthew 12:40). If Jonah’s “resurrection” on the third day pointed to Christ’s resurrection, this prompts the question: Are there other “third day” references in the Old Testament that signified Jesus’s greater resurrection?

The answer is a resounding “Yes.” See the list at the end of this post to begin to consider all the “third days” in Scripture. Continue reading

The Sign of Jonah: Swallowed in Death, Raised in Life (Jonah 1:17; Matthew 12:38–41)

jonah04The Sign of Jonah: Swallowed in Death, Raised in Life (Jonah 1:17; Matthew 12:38–41)

While the world went looking for Easter Eggs and basketball games this weekend, the church of Jesus Christ remembered the resurrection of our Lord. More valuable than anything an egg can offer, and more reliable than any team we cheer; the resurrected Christ offers us forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all who turn from sin to trust him.

This is what we celebrated on Sunday (and every Sunday). And at our church the focus was on the sign of Jesus, as found in Jonah 1:17.  Amazingly, some eight centuries before Christ’s death and resurrection, we learn that the God of Israel took the rebellious actions of Jonah and turned them in “sign” pointing forward to Jesus. As Jesus himself says in Matthew 12:38–41, Jonah’s three days and three nights in the belly of the fish foreshadowed his own death and resurrection.

You can listen to the sermon online. You can find discussion questions and further resources below.   Continue reading

The Final Days of Jesus: A 40-Day Reading Guide

final daysThis week marks 40 days until Resurrection Sunday. While some celebrate with Lent and others do not, we should all prepare our hearts to celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. To help in that endeavor, let me encourage you to pick up and read The Final Days of Jesus by Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor.

A few years ago I put together a 40-day reading plan for that book.  The outline lays out daily Scripture readings from the Gospels, many intra-biblical connections to the Old Testament, and the page numbers to read from The Final Days of JesusIf you are interested in that 40-day reading plan, you can find it here.

Here is the devotional guide’s introduction. Let it be an invitation to a slow, worshipful reading of the passion narratives in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

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Getting to Know the Son of God: Ten Truths from Graeme Goldsworthy

photo-1416958672086-951aa7064010 2Among biblical theologians, Graeme Goldsworthy is a well-respected scholar with great passion for Christ and his church. His works on the Bible, the kingdom of God, hermeneutics, and preaching are treasures that help us see Christ in all Scripture.

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More recently, he has put together a short book on the theme son of God.  It’s called The Son of God and the New CreationIn what follows, I will try to encapsulate some of his observations and arguments in ten points. Continue reading