What Is The World Coming To: Revelation 2:1-7 – When A Church Grows Cold

Grace For The Journey

We are moving on to the second division of the book of Revelation.  Remember that verse 19 of chapter one gives us our outline.  Our Lord Jesus instructs John to write about the things that he had seen (ch.1), the things that are (chapters. 2-3) and the things that will happen after this (chapter 4 and following).  We are looking at the things that are, beginning here in chapter 2.  It is here in chapter 2 and 3 that we learn about these seven churches.  We will look at them one at a time, learning how the circumstances of each church apply to us and the churches we belong to.

As a minister, I have frequently heard stories about folks who went to the doctor to have something done, to get something checked out and the doctor will order certain tests, including X-rays, Cat Scans, or MRIs to make sure all is well.  Sometimes when the tests are done the doctors see something in that X-ray or Cat Scan that they did not previously know was there.  The test revealed a problem that they are now able to correct, to treat.

It helps us to think of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Great Physician who looks at the condition of these seven churches with spiritual X-ray vision.  With His penetrating eyes “like a flame of fire” (1:14), Jesus can see right into these seven churches and see what needs correction.  What we read in chapters 2 and 3 are the X-ray reports of these seven churches.  We are seeing what our Lord sees and, seeing in black and white, what looks good and what looks bad.  You will note as we read each of these churches, there is a general pattern here with each of the churches.  Jesus says, “Here is the good you are doing and here is the bad stuff you’re doing.”  It is as though Jesus is going over the results of the X-rays with us and showing us what looks good and what looks bad.  But then, like a good doctor that Jesus is, He does not just diagnose the problem; He also tells us what we need to do to treat the problem, to correct the problem.  And, just as it is with our physical bodies, an early diagnosis leads to a good prognosis.

Let’s note that as we look at the X-ray of the church of Ephesus.  Jesus says there is some good news and then there’s some bad news.   The bad news is the first thing that shows up glaringly on the X-ray and it is found in verse 4, “Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”  That is Jesus’ way of saying, “You don’t love me like you used to.  You are a church that has grown cold.”  With that in mind I want us to learn from the church of Ephesus, and we will learn the good and the bad, and we will apply it to our personal lives and the life of the church we belong to.  We are going to look at five ways to keep a church from growing cold.

Before we look at these five things, let’s remember that Jesus is doing the talking here.  He is telling John to write down what He is saying and to address what He is saying to the angel of each church, “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘ These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.”  What is important to remember about this is where Jesus is.  He is the One “who holds the seven stars in His right hand” and the One “who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.”  It is a reminder of the protection of Jesus and the presence of Jesus.  He is in control of the churches and He is there in the midst of the churches.

The first church addressed is the church at Ephesus.  It is appropriate that Jesus begins with the church at Ephesus.  Ephesus was an important city in the New Testament days.  It was the super city, the capital city of Asia, more than a quarter of a million people in population, four great trade routes converged at Ephesus.  Those of you who have been attending our Wednesday evening services know we have been studying First Corinthians.  Ephesus reminds me of Corinth.  Like Corinth, Ephesus was a harbor city and, therefore, a party city.  If Corinth was the “The Vanity Fair of Europe,” then Ephesus was “The Vanity Fair of Asia.” 

Ephesus was known for its bizarre religious worship of the fertility goddess “Diana,” or, in the Greek, “Artemis.”  There was a huge temple built and dedicated to the worshipof theses gods.  This temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens, 450 feet long, 220 feet wide, with 127 pillars 60 feet high.  You will read about the worship of Diana when you read the book of Acts, chapters 18-20.  You’ll read in Ephesians 19:34 that, in response to the preaching of Paul, that for about two hours the pagan citizens there cried out, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”  But Paul started a church there and he ministered to the Ephesians for about 2 ½ years.  You can read all of that later on for background.

Let’s read what Jesus says to the church at Ephesus and, as we do, we’ll note these five ways to keep a church from growing cold.  Number one:

1. We Should Have Scriptural Orthodoxy For Christ.

Verse 2 says, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars.”  In this verse we read about this church’s love for orthodoxy.  The word “orthodoxy,” just means “the truth.”  When we speak of “orthodoxy,” we are talking about things that are Scripturally true.  Christian orthodoxy includes, for example, the truth that there is one God.  Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man.  There is only one way to be saved, et cetera.

As Jesus goes over the X-ray report with the church at Ephesus, He says, “Here’s the good news.  You have a love for the truth.  You are Scripturally sound.  You are orthodox in your beliefs.”  That is what He means when He says, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.”  The last part of that first sentence of verse 2 ought to get our attention.  Who are those who are evil, and what does this mean?”  The church at Ephesus was visited by certain teachers who claimed to be apostles who were not.  Rather, they were found to be liars.  Jesus commends the church for having spiritual discernment and a love for Christian truth. They were able to discern that these teachers who visited their church were false teachers teaching a false gospel.

We, too, should labor for Scriptural orthodoxy.  We should likewise have a love for the truth and should protect ourselves from error.  I take very seriously my role as the pastor-teacher of our church family.  I do not invite just anyone to stand behind this pulpit and preach.  I want to be sure that the person who stands to preach God’s Word is someone who will expound the Scriptures with integrity.  We should be equally concerned in our Sunday School classes.  We must be sure that people are teaching the truth and not leading folks astray.

Now the best way to recognize false teaching is to know the truth.  You and I cannot recognize error unless we know the truth.  This means we must be individuals and a church that takes seriously the study of Scripture.  We must be reading it regularly in our individual devotion time as well as expounding the Scriptures in corporate worship.  The pastor’s role is to teach the Bible more than anything else.

Here is a good mark of the church. 

Number two, here’s something else that looks good on the X-ray . . .

2. We Should Have Steadfast Loyalty To Christ.

The church at Ephesus was loyal to Christ.  They were steadfast in their faith.  Look at verse 3, “And you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.”  They have endured through difficult times.  They have not given up.  They stuck with the stuff.  There are a lot of folks who make decisions for Christ, but when the going gets tough, they leave Him.  They turn their backs upon the Lord Jesus Christ.  By turning away from Him, by giving up, they are demonstrating their disloyalty to Christ.

One thing good about the church at Ephesus is their steadfast loyalty to Christ.  They persevered, they endured, during the most difficult times.  They stuck with Christ.  We should learn from their example.  Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  Jesus guarantees that you and I will have difficult days as we follow Christ, but do not give up.  Remember that He is with us, and He has overcome this world of tribulation.

Those are a couple of good things we see on the X-ray.  Those are a couple things we can apply to our situation here.  We should have Scriptural orthodoxy for Christ and steadfast loyalty to Christ. 

AS we continue our study in verse 4 and five, we read a problem spot on the X-ray.  Jesus says, number three . . .

3. We Should Have Sustained Intimacy With Christ.

Sustained intimacy – That is, we should continually desire with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our love for Jesus should be constant.  See how Jesus puts it in verse 4, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”  That is Jesus’ way of saying, “You don’t love me like you used to.”  I find this an amazing indictment, given all the good that the church at Ephesus was doing . . .

  • They were Scripturally orthodox.  They had a love for truth. 
  • They labored hard for the Lord Jesus.  They had a strong determination to stay with the mission in spite of all the opposition!

That should cause us some serious pause and reflection.  You can labor hard for the Lord Jesus Christ, you can be busy serving Him in a church, you can have a love for Biblical truth . . . and not love the Lord Jesus Christ.  Think of it!  I mean Ephesus is a busy church.  Man, they are involved in every program the denomination offers.  They have got classes for everything.  They have got Bible Study; they have got discipleship training; they have got prayer meetings; they have missions training and involvement; and they have a strong music ministry. 

They are even doing FAITH! 

That is all good.  But Jesus says, “As good as all that is, I have something against you.  You have left your first love.”

We should have

Sustained, ongoing,

Intimacy with Christ.

I have known Christians like this.  They claim to love truth.  They claim to love the church.  But their heart, and zeal, for the things of God you is missing.  If they really loved the Lord Jesus, the love of Christ would just spill over.  This is evidence that you have left your first love.  That is the diagnosis. 

Jesus, the Great Physician, gives the cure, verse 5, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen.”  Remember . . . Remember from where you have fallen.  Remember your first love.  Remember when you first came to know Jesus?  Remember when you fell in love with Him?  It is much like a human relationship.  We need to cultivate the love for our spouses.  Our love should grow over the years.  The honeymoon should not be the only time of infatuation. 

Somebody said, “The honeymoon is that period of time between ‘I do’ and ‘You’d better!’”  The honeymoon is a blissful time.  It is a time of incredible intimacy with the one we love.  We need to remember that time.  I heard about a woman whose husband was neglecting her and he just never seemed to be romantic anymore, never seemed to be tender anymore, and a young couple moved-in next door and they were so much in love, still on the honeymoon and she watched this young lady and her husband.  And she was watching one day out the window and she watched the man going off to work and how he hugged her and then kissed her and then off he went.  One morning she watched them and she called her husband over to the window to look and she said, “You see what he’s doing?  Why don’t you do that?”  He said, “Well, I hardly know the woman.”  During the honeymoon time, we are getting to know this one we love.  And the intimacy is exciting, electric, and powerful.  And that love relationship should grow. 

It is the same with Jesus.  Remember when you were first saved?  Remember the time you spent reading the Bible, you could not wait for the church doors to open?  You wanted to be at the church for everything.  But all of that has been missing lately.  Jesus says to some of us, “You’ve left your first love.  You don’t love me like you used to.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen.”  Remember.  Then, He says in the next part of verse 5, “ … repent and do the first works” . . . Repent and Return.  Repent – that means, turn back to the Lord.  Turn back to Jesus and then Return, that is, “Do” the first works.  Return to the things you used to do naturally out of love for Me.  Get back into the word.  Get back into faithful attendance of the worship services and Bible studies.  Do the first works, Repeat the things you used to do, naturally out of love for Jesus  alone.  This involves learning and applying biblical principles to our lives which leads to us naturally wanting to sing because of the presence and goodness of God, telling others of God’s inexhaustible love and power, teaching a Bible Study class and personally sharing the truths we are learning so they can know God as we do, sharing your faith in the workplace, and leading your family in the things of God.

Then, Jesus gives a warning if the church does not do as He asks, “… or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.”  If the church does not remember, repent, and return, Jesus says, “I will remove you – you will lose you influence, your testimony, and your mission.”  Ephesus failed to fully apply the Lord’s teachings and that is why it is in ruins today.

We should have spiritual orthodoxy for Christ, steadfast loyalty to Christ, sustained intimacy with Christ, and fourthly . . .

4. We Should Have Sanctified Purity Before Christ.

This is another good sign on the X-ray report.  Jesus some more good things about them in verse 6, “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”  Nobody really knows exactly who “the Nicolaitans” were.  One thing we do know from the context.  Later in chapter 2, we read of the church at Pergamos.  We read in verses 14-15 that the sins of the Nicolaitans included idolatry and sexual immorality.   

A church should be sanctified and pure before the Lord Jesus Christ.  We should hate anything that is remotely connected with idolatry and sexual immorality.  Idolatry and sexual immorality was rampant in Ephesus.  That great temple I mentioned earlier, the Temple of Diana, contained thousands of priests and priestesses who served in the temple as religious prostitutes.  The idea was that by engaging in sexual relations with these priests and prostitutes that one would be blessed by the false goddess, Diana.

We may not have the same kind of thing going on where we live, but we are just as tempted by idolatry and immorality.  With all of the temptations before our eyes, we must remain sexual pure, being a people of sanctified purity before Christ.

Finally . . .

5. We Should Have Spiritual Victory In Christ.

In verse seven, Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”  If you are listening, really listening, Jesus has a word for you.  He says, “Hear what the Spirit says to the church at Ephesus;” is that what He says? No.  Hear what the Spirit says to “the churches,” plural.  Jesus has a word for every member of every church.  Remember we said before that the seven churches are literal, historical churches, but the number seven, being a symbol of completion and wholeness, reminds us that these seven churches are also symbolic of every church throughout history.  That truth is re-affirmed here by the words of Jesus, “Hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

And what does He say?  He speaks of our victory in Christ, “To him who overcomes” –  that is, to the Christian – “I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”  The Christian partakes of the tree of life.  When Adam and Eve sinned, the tree of life was banished from the Garden of Eden.  It is now situated in “the Paradise of God,” a synonym for heaven.  And the Christian partakes of the tree of life through the work of Jesus Christ.  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  And He is the only way we may have victory, victory over death.  Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes unto the Father, except by Me.”  

This is why we love Jesus.  As John writes elsewhere, in 1 John 4:10, “Here is love.  Not that we loved God, but that He loved us and gave His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Recently, I read about Henry W. Grady.  He was once the famous editor of the newspaper, the Atlanta Constitution.  After he gave a great speech on “The New South” he was hailed as a national hero.  But Henry Grady knew that deep down something was desperately wrong in his life.  One day he told the members of his staff to look out for the paper for a few days, that he just needed to get away for some rest and reflection.  He started back to his old boyhood home in the mountains.  He arrived there late in the evening.  His mother was sitting on the front porch reading her Bible.  She heard the front gate open, she looked up and said, “Why Henry.  What a surprise!  What brings you home?  I didn’t expect you.”  He said, “Mother, something is desperately wrong.  I have lost something, and I need you to help me find it.”

His mother fixed supper for him that night and they washed the dishes together.  Then they went out on the front porch, and she sat down in the rocker, and he sat at her feet with his head in her lap, just as he did in the days when he was just a boy.  He began to listen to his mother talk about the Lord Jesus Christ and how wonderful it was to be saved, and just talking to him about the things of God, like she did when he was growing up.  He began to feel something in his heart grow warm once again.  Finally, it was time to retire, and he and his mother went up to his bedroom and they knelt, just as they used to kneel by the bed to pray.  His mother even kissed him goodnight and tucked in the covers around him.

Henry Grady did not sleep very much that night.  He spent those hours in recollection, in remembering, in repenting, and in repeating.  The next morning, when he kissed his mother goodbye to go back to his office at the Constitution, his heart was full of joy, a burden had been lifted.  He was a different man and he knew it.  When his mother said to him, “Why, Henry, you look so different than you did yesterday.”  He said, “Mother, thank you for helping me find what I lost.  I am ready to go back to work now, mother, for I have fallen in love with Jesus all over again.” 

If you are a Christian . . .

I want to tell you,

Whatever our problem,

That is the answer:

To fall in love with

Jesus all over again.

Has your Christian walk become a dead routine, work, work, work for the church but no warmth of the fire, no joy, and no enthusiasm for the Lord?  Fall in love with Jesus all over again.  Do you feel as though your church life is disconnected from your work and social life?  Fall in love with Jesus all over again.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

What Is The World Coming To: Revelation 1:9-20 – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Grace For The Journey

  This passage is known as John’s “Inaugural Vision.”  It is his first vision that gets us started in the Book of Revelation.  One of my favorite hymns is “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”  It is a hymn that reminds us that when we focus on the Lord Jesus Christ everything else works out.  The chorus contains these phrases . . .Turn your eyes upon Jesus,Look full in His wonderful face,And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,In the light of His glory and grace.As we “turn our eyes upon Jesus” how do we see Him?  We really do not know exactly what Jesus looked like.  I have never been too pleased with many of the artist’s renderings of Jesus.  I do not like the idea of an effeminate Jesus, and that is usually how He is portrayed.  He is always portrayed as a skinny, womanly kind of figure, kind of wimpy looking.  Jesus was a man, and a man’s man at that.  He was a carpenter.  He knew how to drive nails and cut wood.  He could haul big nets of fish in a boat and overturned a table or two.However Jesus looked in His earthly ministry, John catches a glimpse of Jesus as He is today.  He has a vision of the glorified Christ in heaven.  In today’s Bible Study, we will turn our eyes upon Jesus and see Him just as He is.Remember, John is on the island of Patmos.  Verse 9 says, “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”  This verse tells us that John has been banished to the island of Patmos for preaching the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.  He has been banished there because of his stand for the Lord Jesus Christ and his refusal to compromise God’s Word.  Eusebius (4th Century Historian) claimed that John’s banishment to Patmos occurred in the 14th year of Domitian’s Reign (AD 95).  Domitian liked to refer to himself as “Lord and God.”  Literally, that is the way he loved to be addressed.  John did not address him that way.  And so, Christians like John were often charged with treason and exiled to places like Patmos.John identifies himself with the churches as a “brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.”  That word “patience” is better translated as “perseverance” or “endurance.”  It is a reference to the Christian’s perseverance under fire.  John is able to say, “I am a brother with you in this time of tribulation.  I am with you in this.”  John closely identifies with the plight of the wider Christian Church.  The terms “brother” and “companion” speak of a deep fellowship and partnership.  The basis of all Christian partnership: we are “in Jesus”

 Just as John identified with the afflictions of the wider Church, so should we be aware of how our brethren around the world are being persecuted and lift them up both prayerfully and practically.   We should also be prepared to face persecution here in North America.

Then John gives us specifically the account of his vision.  As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, first we . . . 1. Hear The Sound Of His Authority – Verses 9-11.John first describes for us what he heard in his vision.  He heard the sound of Christ’s authority.  Verse10 tells us, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet.”  Even though John was a prisoner of Rome he worshipped the Lord on a regular basis.  In the early Church, Christians had a designated day for corporate worship which they called “the Lord’s Day” – the day of Christ’s resurrection (cf. John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).  The phrase “in the Spirit” indicates God’s special preparation of John to receive this revelatory vision.  Peter and Paul both had similar experiences in which God revealed truth through a vision – Acts 10:10-11, Acts 22:17, 2 Cor 12:2-4.  John heard a loud voice behind him, “as of a trumpet.”  Note when this vision took place.  John says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.”  The “Lord’s Day” is a reference to the first day of the week, Sunday.  This vision took place on the Lord’s Day when John was “in the Spirit.”  The text does not suggest John drummed this up himself.  Rather, he was seized by the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit seized him and our Lord Jesus appeared to him.  John hears the sound of Christ’s authority.  He hears behind him a loud voice, as of a trumpet.  The trumpet is the loudest instrument of a band.  When it is played this instrument will be heard.  The instrument carried a kind of authority all its own.   It is appropriate, then, that John describes the voice of our Lord as of a trumpet.  The voice of the glorified, risen Christ is a strong, loud voice of authority.   No mealy-mouthed mumbling of the Lord Jesus Christ, but “a loud voice, as of a trumpet.”Look what Jesus says to John in verse 11, “… What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”  Christ speaks with authority.  He tells John to “write.”  The verb is an imperative.  Jesus is not asking John to write, nor suggesting that he write, He is commanding him to write.  John is told to write this all down.  He is to write in a Book what he see and then “send” (another imperative) it to the seven churches which are in Asia.”Jesus specifies the seven churches.  I have mentioned these churches before.  There are seven of them and they are listed in the order that a letter carrier would deliver them if he were delivering mail.  If you look at a map, you will see a circular route a letter carrier might take as he went from Ephesus to Smyrna to Pergamos to Thyatira to Sardis to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.  The number seven signifies, or as one person says, “sign-i-fies” perfection and completion.  These seven churches are real churches that also represent churches of all ages and locations.  We will note, especially in the coming weeks as we study these churches, how their problems do mirror problems in the churches today.Keep in mind that John is writing as pastor of the seven churches under his care; as a pastor of people who are being tortured, persecuted, and killed. That is why he identifies himself as their brother and companion in difficulty. This identification suggests that John views himself as one who participates (i.e., as companion) with his Christian audience (i.e., as brother) in their various experiences of suffering, to which they respond with patient endurance, because they share equally in the same kingdom as priests (1:6).  We still live in a mostly Christian-friendly environment in this country, although it is becoming more hostile.  As we get closer to the Second Coming of Christ, we should look at this Book and its application from the standpoint of a government who is in opposition to the church.  Jesus is showing John “a new hope” which Jesus intends to use to help His people succeed.  John shows us a trio of opportunities: Tribulation, kingdom, and endurance – All found in Jesus Christ.John was exiled on the island of Patmos because of God’s Word and his testimony about Jesus Christ.  This is the same weapons used against Satan and the Antichrist (Revelation 12:10-11).  This means that being a Christian and sharing the message of Jesus in a godless culture will get you persecuted and even imprisoned.John was brought into a spiritual vision by the Holy Spirit.  He heard a voice, and the voice told him to write what he saw to the seven churches (Revelation 1:10-11).  John turned to see who spoke to him.  He saw seven gold lampstands, and then a person like the “Son of Man.”  In this vision, John sees Jesus in a certain way.  He sees Jesus differently than he has ever seen Him before.John heard a voice from behind.  It as a like a trumpet, which is similar to the description of God’s voice in Exodus 20 when He gives out the Ten Commandments from the mountain (Exodus 20:18).  This voice reminds us of the power and majesty of God.  Just as the Ten Commandments were given to help the people live as they entered the Promised Land, this vision and what follows is given to help encourage the Christians to live today.What is most significant is that Jesus appears among the lampstands (1:12–13; 2:1), which represent the seven churches (1:20; cf. John 20:19).  Because priests needed light to function in the sanctuary concealed from the light of the external world, the temple included a golden lampstand (Exodus 25:31–35; 37:18–21; 2 Chronicles 4:7, 20), which was never extinguished by night or day.John hears the voice of Jesus.  All of this happens before John turns around.  Do you see that in verse 12?  He says, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.”  All what we read in verses 10-11 happened before John actually faced Jesus.  He hears the sound of Christ’s authority.John will later write in verse 15 that Christ’s voice is “as the sound of many waters.”  If you have ever been next to a waterfall, you know what he is talking about.  I remember our trip to Niagara Falls.  Standing nearby the Falls causes one to have to shout to be heard.  You can take a boat up close to the Falls.  It is loud and echoes everywhere.   The roar of the waters is practically deafening.  This speaks especially to us in our day.  In the midst of all the voices telling us who we are and what we are to be doing we need to drown those voices out with the authority of His Word.As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, we hear the sound of His authority.  Secondly, as you turn your eyes upon Jesus . . .2. Look At The Splendor Of His Majesty – Verses 12-16.John will present seven descriptions of Christ in these verses.  But first, note in verses 12 to 13 where John sees Christ, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man.”  John saw Jesus in the midst of “seven golden lampstands.”  The imagery of lampstands is rooted in the Old Testament Temple (Exodus 25).   The light symbolized God’s presence in the Temple.  Zechariah’s vision of a Golden Lampstand (Zechariah 4:1-14) symbolized the Spirit’s presence and power for the rebuilding of the Temple during the post-exilic period.   Jesus describes the Church as the “light of the world” and a “city on a hill.”  God’s people are to shine the light of God’s truth and presence into all of the world.  There are times in the book of Revelation where we have to interpret the signs and symbols.  Then there are other times when John just tells us exactly what the signs and symbols “sign-i-fy.”  In verse 20 he tells us that the seven golden lampstands represent the seven churches.  Then John says that “in the midst of the seven lampstands” he sees “One like the Son of Man.”  Of course, this is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Remember that the term “Son of Man” is Christ’s favorite designation of Himself.  He referred to Himself over 80 times in the Gospels with the self-designated title “Son of Man.”  That phrase draws upon the Old Testament prophetic literature.  The imagery of the ‘Son of Man’ is from Daniel 7 and 10 – a Messianic figure in Daniel’s visions who will have dominion over all earthly kingdoms.  The Bible says in Daniel chapter 7, verses 13-14, “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven!  He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.”  Daniel is prophesying about the coming Messiah, a prophecy specifically about the Lord’s Second Coming.  He refers to the Messiah as “One like the Son of Man.”  John is using this same language as he describes His vision of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ as He was then, as He is today, and as He will be when He comes again.1. His clothing.John describes Jesus in verse 13 as, “Clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.”  This is a description of a robe.  Christ’s wearing of a robe pictures His priestly office.  Jesus Christ is our High Priest.  He is our go-between.  The New Testament nowhere teaches that man is to go to an earthly priest to get forgiveness from God.  Jesus is our High Priest.  The Bible says in Hebrews 7:25 that Christ, “ever lives to make intercession for us.”  He is always there as our go-between.  He is our bridge to the Heavenly Father.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).The garment described here is the apparel of a Priest or King (cf. Exodus 28:4).  It speaks of Jesus power and authority over all the kingdoms of the world and of the priestly ministry of Jesus as He tends the lamps; and inhabits and builds His Temple (His Church).This picture of Jesus Christ is a picture of authority and power.  This language is a powerful mythic hero language. This language’s purpose is to display the power of Jesus Christ. The language shows Jesus in His glory.  Daniel saw Jesus in the same way in Daniel 10:5-6. “I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz!  His body was like the appearance of lightening, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.”The picture of Jesus here in Daniel is in relationship to Israel.  When we look at Daniel 10:1-9, we see that a man (not an angel) is dressed in a powerful fashion.  These visions are all about the authority and power of Jesus.  John saw this before.  When Peter, James, and John were with Jesus on a high mountain, Matthew 17:2 describes how they saw Jesus, “And He was transfigured before them.  His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”John’s vision is clearly meant to portray Christ as the Divine Priestly Warrior, and the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy of the “Son of Man.”  The vision displays Christ’s presence with and His concern for His Church on earth.  Just as the Priests tended the Lamps in the Temple, so Christ tends His Church and builds His true Temple on earth.2. His head.Verse 14 says, “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire.  This is the imagery from Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 7:9 of the “Ancient of Days.”  It is a symbol of wisdom.  John’s vision attributes the attributes of God (Ancient of Days) to Jesus (Son of Man). Jesus is divine!  The picture of His hair being white as snow reminds us of the pure clean nature of Jesus.  It also reminds us of His power to forgive sins.  The prophet Isaiah declares a powerful truth from the Lord in chapter 1 and verse 18, “Come, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will be like wool.”  Verse 14 goes on to say, “… And His eyes like a flame of fire.”  His “eyes of fire” remind us of His piercing nature into our souls.  It is the imagery from Daniel’s vision in Daniel 10:6 – It is a symbol of Judgment – John refers to Christ’s eyes like the work of a penetrating fire.  This is a reference to the judgment of Christ Jesus.  Christ sees exactly what is happening here on earth and will judge accordingly.  He looks at us with eyes that penetrate our hearts.  He looks right into our soul.  I think Peter saw something of this in the earthly Jesus when he looked up at Jesus and felt the penetrating gaze of Christ and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  He saw something of this again later when he denied Christ in the courtyard and the Bible says in Luke 22:61 that when the rooster crowed, Jesus “looked at him” and Peter wept. 3. His feet.Verse 15 goes on to say, “His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace …”  This is imagery from Daniel’s vision in chapter 10, verse 6.  It is a symbol of purity, holiness, strength, and stability of Jesus Christ.  He is pure and holy, and His strength is permanent.  4. His voice.John continues to describe the Lord Jesus in the latter part of verse 15, “… And His voice as the sound of many waters.”   It is the imagery from Ezekiel 1:24, 43:2.   5. His right hand.Verse 15 declares, “He had seven stars in His right hand; a sharp double-edged sword came from His mouth, and His face was shining like the sun at midday.” (Revelation 1:16, HCSB).  The seven stars are identified in verse 20 as the ‘angels of the seven churches’  What are the seven stars?  John is given the answer in verse 20, “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.”  The word “angels” literally means “messengers”. Although it can mean angel and does throughout the book (The word “angel” occurs over 60 times in the book of Revelation), it cannot refer to angels here because angels are never leaders in the church.  Most likely, these messengers are the seven key pastors representing each of those churches.  Whoever they are, they spread the Light.  Jesus is the source of this Light. He is holding and protecting these stars in His right hand.  If these are ministers of God, they have no power in themselves. The Light that they give out comes from Him.This is one of the reasons that I believe preachers should be moved upon by the Holy Spirit of God, and receive their message for the church through the Spirit from God.  I do not believe that ministers should buy, or be sent, messages from other people to be used to give to the church.  Jesus’ Spirit is in each church, if we are His.  He knows the problem of each specific church on a given day, and He alone knows what message needs to be brought. These seven candlesticks, we are told here, are the seven churches symbolic of all churches for then until now.  A candlestick is not a light. vIt is the holder for the Light. These candlesticks lift the Light up for all to see. That is the exact purpose of the church,To elevate and lift up the Light, Jesus Christ.These candlesticks have to be cared for and fueled to be able to burn.The minister and the church are difficult to separate.  We know this is speaking of the church and the ministry of the church.  I believe that the stars are ministers held in Jesus’ hand.  I believe these letters were written to these particular churches describing conditions that were going on then.  But a more important message for us to see, is the message in each of them dealing with the problems in our churches right now.6. His mouth.The imagery is from Isaiah 11:4, 49:2.  A symbol of Christ’s authority to proclaim judgment: ·         It speaks of judgment against apostate Churches – cf. Revelation 2:16-17·         It speaks of judgment against wicked nations – cf. Revelation 19:15.Verse 16 continues, “… Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword …”  Here again is a reference to the judgment of Christ.  His judgment is like a double-edged sword.  When He renders judgments, the King of the Universe speaks like a double-edged sword.  The writer of Hebrews speaks of the Word of God this way in Hebrews 4:12, “The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing, even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”7. His Countenance. Verse 16 concludes with, “…  and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”   Again, a reference to the unveiled splendor of Christ’s glory, the glory that was veiled in earth and is now unveiled for eternity.  His face shines like the sun shining in its strength.The vision shocked John to death. But Jesus laid His hand on John and spoke to him the same words He had spoken before, “Do not be afraid!”  This is the message that Jesus says to us when we encounter difficulties. Jesus has overcome death (Revelation 1:18) and He will help you overcome whatever you are going through right now. He holds the keys of death.  The phrase “do not be afraid” appears over 350 times in the Bible!  While Christ’s enemies certainly do have something to fear, Christ’s redeemed people have nothing to fear from the Lord!Turn your eyes upon Jesus and hear the sound of His authority . . . see the splendor of His majesty and . . .3. Rest in the Strength of His Sovereignty (17-20)We have examined . . .What John heard And What John saw, Now watch What John does.Verse 17 tells us, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.”  It is remarkable that even the Apostle John who knew the Lord as a friend fell down before Him in fear and trembling.  In the Bible falling forward in fear and awe is often the response to an encounter with the Lord – cf. Joshua 5:14, Isaiah 6:5, Ezekiel 1:28, Daniel 8:17-18, Exodus 33:20.  Someone said, “Better to be dead at the feet of Jesus than alive anywhere else!”   But of course, John did not die, but fell at Christ’s feet “as dead.”  This reaction is a reminder of what happens when we encounter the holiness of God.  Like Isaiah in Isaiah 6.  He encountered the holiness of God and he said, “Woe is me.  For I am undone.”  Job, argued with God for 37 chapters.  God responds in chapter 38, “Who is this who darkens my counsel?  Brace yourself like a man, Job, because I’m going to ask you some questions now.  Where were you, Job, when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Where were you when I flung the stars in space?”  From chapters 38-41, God asks no less than 71 questions.  Job finally responds in chapter 42: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand.  I repent in dust and ashes!”  John “fell at Christ’s feet as though dead.”   The rest of verse 17 shows us the response of Jesus to John’s feelings, “But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.”  We see the strength of Christ’s sovereignty here.  He rests His right hand upon John, the right hand is a symbol of authority.  He rests it there to convey rest to John.  Then He tells John to stop being afraid, because He is, “the First and the Last.”  Those words convey sovereign rule and reign.  We saw this last time from verse 16 where we are told Christ is “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”  Christ alone is God.  He is the Lord over everything.  He is before all things and He outlasts all things.  He starts and He finishes.In verse 18, Jesus states, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.  Amen.”  The sense of the last part of the first declaration is, “became dead.”  The Son of God “became dead.”  He says in John 10:17, “No man takes My life from Me.  I willingly lay down of My own accord.”  He “became dead” for us.  He died for us.  Then He says, “I am alive forevermore.”  The crucifix does not tell the end of the story.  The grave is the rest of His story!  He “became dead” and is “alive forevermore.”Verse 18 concludes with, “And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”  Jesus holds the keys to Hades and Death.  “Hades” is a term that refers to the grave.  It refers to the place of all dead, “Sheol” in the Old Testament.  It is like our saying of one who dies, “He has passed on.”  We are not saying where that person has gone.  We are saying he is no longer here.  He has passed on to another realm, could be heaven, could be hell.Death claims the body.  Hades claims the soul.  And Christ has the keys Of Hades and death.  He is the One who holds Our fate in His hands!If we have been saved, He unlocks Hades and death, and we enter into the presence of heaven.  If we are not saved, death claims our body and hell claims our soul.  He is the only way in.  He holds the keys in His hand.  He is the sovereign One.In verse 19 Jesus commands John to, “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”  Here again is our outline for understanding the book.  Then in verse 20 Jesus states, “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”The seven lampstands are the seven churches and the seven stars messengers to the churches.  And where is Christ?  He is in the midst of the seven lampstands (verse13) and He holds the seven angels in His “right hand.”  This speaks of the presence and the protection of Christ.  He is with us.  You need fear nothing.  Rest in the strength of His sovereignty.In verse 19, Jesus then tells John, “Write the things which you have seen, the things which care, and the things which will take place after this.”  Jesus tells John to write the visions he “has seen” (which are in chapters 1), “what is” (which are the letters to the seven churches in chapters two and three), and then “what will take place” which covers chapters 4 through 22.Then in verse 20, Jesus interprets the vision for John. In the book of Revelation, every vision is interpreted.  In this case, Jesus says that this vision was about the churches John would write to.  In this verse, Jesus tells John what the lampstands represents. These lampstands are reminiscent of the vision given to Zechariah.  In Zechariah 4:2, the Bible tells us, “And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’  So I said, ‘I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lampstands with seven pipes to the seven lamps.”  In Zechariah 4:10, the angel wraps his conversation with Zechariah with these words, “For who has despised the day of small things?  For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubabel.  That are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”  The “seven lampstands” represent the church.  In Zechariah 4:2–6 the lampstand with its seven lamps is a figurative of speech by which part of the temple furniture stands for the whole temple. This by extension also represents faithful Israel (cf. Zechariah 4:6–9), which is required to live “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit’ says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). Who are the messengers to the churches? Are they pastors, or angels?Revelation 1:20 informs us that the seven messengers, which is used in Luke 7:24 to speak of John’s followers, of the seven churches. God holds His servants and places them where He wants them to “shine” for Him.  In Daniel 12:3, wise soul winners are compared to shining stars.  These messengers also are designed to encourage the church.  Jesus had told John to write the vision on the scroll to seven specific churches. This section reminds us that Jesus has a word of exhortation and encouragement for His church!Through death into life everlastingHe passed, and we follow Him there;Over us sin no more hath dominion—For more than conquerors we are! Turn your eyes upon Jesus,Look full in His wonderful face,And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,In the light of His glory and grace. This is God’s Word …This is Grace for your Journey …Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”.”

What Is The World Coming To: Revelation 1:4-8 – Behold, He is Coming!

Grace For The Journey

I read about a little boy who was looking at a bunch of puppies.  His father was with him and he was going to buy him a puppy.  The father asked the little boy which puppy he liked the best.  The boy looked at all the puppies and he saw one puppy whose tail was wagging excitedly back and forth.  The little boy pointed at that puppy and said, “I want that one, the one with the happy ending!”  The Book of Revelation is the Book with the happy ending.  It is the happy ending of the Bible, and the happy ending of God’s plan and program for mankind.

Several weeks ago we began a series of studies through this last book of the Bible, a series entitled, “What Is The World Coming To.”  God wants us to understand this book.  You remember that the word translated “revelation” in verse one is a word that means “unveiling.”  The Book of Revelation is an unveiling of Jesus Christ.  This morning we will look at verses 4 to 8 of chapter one.

The book of Revelation is the only book in the Bible that explicitly promises to bless all who read it or hear it.  Verse 3 says, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy.”  We are in for a blessing as we study this Book; and we pick up this morning with some blessings that come right out of this passage before us.  From verses 4-8, we are going to examine a few of God’s truths that bless Christians.

1. We Are Blessed By His Strengthening Comfort – Verses 4-5.

Remember that the Book of Revelation is written primarily for the purpose of encouraging Christians who were undergoing suffering for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Under the Roman Emperor Domitian, Christians were pressured to worship the emperor and to acknowledge his supreme lordship.  It was not easy being a Christian in those days and many died as martyrs for their faith.  God uses John to write a letter to strengthen and comfort these Christians by reminding them that H is in control and that they can persevere in their faith as they look toward the future.

Verse 4 begins by saying, “John, to the seven churches which are in Asia …”  The seven churches in Asia are seven churches all in the vicinity of Ephesus, the area now known as modern Turkey.  There were more churches in John’s day than these seven. We read of the churches of Colossae and Troas, for example.  So why does John single out these seven?  You will remember from last time that the Book of Revelation is presented to us in signs and symbols.  It is a “divine picture book.”  One of John’s favorite numbers is the number seven.  He uses the number seven 54 times in throughout the Book.  The number seven emphasizes perfection, completion, and wholeness.  It is very likely that John intends the Book of Revelation to encourage not just the seven local churches in Asia Minor, but also to encourage the full and complete Body of Christ, Christians in all locations and all time. 

Verse 4, and the first part of verse 5, begin to tell us about the strengthening comfort God provides, “Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ …” This is a beautiful blessing – Christians receive and enjoy “grace and peace” from our relationship with Christ.  Nearly 20 of the books of the New Testament begin this way – “Grace to you and peace.”  A pastor friend went on a mission trip to Brazil a couple of years ago.  He said that the Brazilian Christians greet one another in this way.  When we meet someone, you and I say, “Hello, how are you doing?”  When we leave, we say, “Goodbye.”  Coming or going, they said, “Grace and Peace.”  The order is important . . .

You cannot have real peace

In life without God’s grace. 

God gives us the gift of His grace,

Which makes possible perfect peace.

Some of us desire peace – peace in our homes, peace in our marriages, peace in our finances, and peace in our relationships at work.  The Bible teaches that peace, the kind of settled peace that flows from a joyful heart, that peace is possible only by a right relationship with God.  I

f you want to receive

The blessing of

God’s strengthening comfort,

You must receive God’s grace. 

You must turn to God

And open your heart

To Him and follow Him.

Look at verses 4 and 5 and you will see the preposition “from” following “grace to you and peace.”  Note that it occurs three times.  You may wish to circle the three times it occurs because it occurs three times for a reason – You have here a reference to the Trinity. 

1) Grace to you and peace from, here’s the first “from,” “From Him who is and who was and who is to come.”  That is a reference to God the Father, the eternal Father. 

2) Then, the second, “from,” from “the seven Spirits who are before His throne.”  Here is a reference to the Holy Spirit.  Remember that John loves the number seven.  Seven emphasizes perfection, completion, and wholeness.  John is also very likely alluding to Isaiah, chapter 11.  Isaiah 11 is what is called a Messianic chapter, or a chapter that speaks of the future messiah, the anointed one, the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Isaiah 11:2, the Bible says that “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.”  Isaiah is prophesying about the ministries of the Spirit that rest upon the messiah and, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, there are a total of seven of these ministries of the Spirit. 

1) Then you have the third “from” in verse 5, from “Jesus Christ.”  Normally the order of the Trinity is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but John places the order as Father, Spirit, and Son.  Remember the Book of Revelation is an “unveiling” of Jesus Christ.  It is a “Him-book.”  It is about Him, about the Lord Jesus.  John is emphasizing the glory and splendor of the risen Lord Jesus Christ and saving his best thoughts for last as He writes of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Saving One sent from God.  We have here a reference to the Trinity, the first blessing God gives us: “Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ.”

That brings us to the next blessing.  We are blessed by God’s strengthening comfort.  Secondly:

2. We Are Blessed By His Saving Christ – Verses 5-6.

The word “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name.  The word “Christ” is a title.  It is a word that means “Messiah” or, “Anointed One.”  Jesus of Nazareth is “the Christ,” God’s promised Messiah, or the One specially anointed by God.  His name, “Jesus,” means “Savior.”   

When John gets to verse 5

And starts talking about Jesus,

He gets carried away!

First, John gives us three titles about the saving Lord Jesus Christ.  Verse 5 says, “And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness …”  Jesus He is the faithful witness.  Jesus bears witness to the Father.  He “declared” the Father to man.  Because He is one with the Father (John 10:30), Jesus could say to Philip in John 14:9, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”  He is the faithful witness.

Verse 5 continues with, “… The firstborn from the dead …”  The word “firstborn” means, “first in rank” or “first in importance,” first “in a long line of others.”  Jesus is the firstborn from the dead.  This is a reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus was not the first person to come back from the dead.  We read in the Old Testament of the miracles of Elijah and Elisha.  We read in the New Testament of the son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus, who came back to life. 

So, what does this word “firstborn” mean?  When Lazarus came back to life, for example, what eventually happened to Lazarus later?  He died.  As soon as he came back to life, he began to slowly die again.  We do not know how many more years he lived, but eventually Lazarus died again.  But when Jesus came back to life, He came back as the “firstborn” from the dead, first to come back in a glorified body, a body that the Bible talks about in 1 Corinthians 15 as an “incorruptible” body, a glorious body that will last forever.  And every Christian who has died and whose soul has gone on to be with the Lord will one day receive a glorified body like unto the Lord Jesus’ body.  That is the promise of the resurrected body.  Jesus got His first.  He is the firstborn from the dead.

Verse 5 goes on to say, “… And the ruler over the kings of the earth.”  I think John is reminding Christians of all ages that Jesus is ultimately the One in charge.  For the Christians in John’s day, he is saying, “The Roman Emperor may be the king of the earth, but Jesus is the ruler over the kings of the earth.”  And he says the same to us today.  Jesus Christ is the ruler over every leader of the earth.

Then you have three wonderful ministries of our Saving Christ.  You see them there at the end of verse 5 and the beginning of verse 6, “… To Him who loved us.”  The word “loved” is a participle that is actually in the present tense.  It should really be translated, “To Him, the One Who continually loves us.”  The Lord Jesus Christ continually loves us.  Oh, think about that . . . He continually loves us.  He loves us more than any earthly person can love us.  Most of us love one another conditionally.  We love until we get hurt or we love if expectations are met.  But He continually loves us completely, with no conditions attached.  Jesus Christ loves us continually.

  • No matter what you have done, Jesus loves you continually. 
  • No matter what you are doing, Jesus loves you continually. 
  • No matter what you will do, Jesus loves you continually. 

Some of you are thinking, “I have sinned a terrible sin.  Surely Jesus cannot love me.”  You need to be reminded . . . Jesus loves you with unconditional love.  He is ever-loving.

Verse 6 continues, “… and washed us from our sins in His own blood …”  What a powerful and wonderful truth!  Jesus Christ has washed us from our sins in His own blood.  The Bible says in 1 John 1:7 that, “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.”  Some translations have that Jesus Christ “freed us” or “loosed us” from our sins.  The Greek words translated “washed” and “loosed” both sound exactly alike and that is probably why translations differ.  Both ideas are accurate descriptions of what Jesus has done for every believer.

When I received Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, He “cleansed me” from sin pollution, and “set me free” from sin’s penalty.  As I stand before God in Christ, my sinful soul has been “cleansed” or “made whiter than snow” by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  As I live from day to day, Jesus “looses me” or “sets me free” from sin’s power.  One day, when I get to heaven, Jesus will forever “set me free” from sin’s presence.

Verse 6 continues, “… and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.”  Jesus Christ has made Christians “kings” and “priests.”  We reign with Him as “kings!”  In some sense, we already reign with Him now as we have entered into His kingdom by salvation, but in a greater sense we will reign with Him on earth during His millennial reign, the one thousand year reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation 20. 

Christ has also made us “priests.”  Nowhere does the New Testament teach that we have to go to any man in order to go to God.  We do not need to go to a priest in order to go to God.  Christ has made us priests ourselves.  By faith in Christ Jesus, because we are saved and positionally righteous in Him, we may boldly approach the very throne of God and talk to Him anytime we wish, because Christ has made us priests to His God and Father (Hebrews 4:16).  That just causes John to get a little happy and he shouts a doxology there at the end of verse 6, “… To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 

We are talking about God’s truths that bless Christians.  We are blessed by His strengthening comfort, by His saving Christ.  Thirdly . . .

3. We Are Blessed By His Second Coming – Verse 7.

Verse 7 says, “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.”  The word “Behold,” is an attention-getter.  It occurs 25 times in the Book of Revelation.  It means, “Pay attention!  Check it out!  Do not miss this!”  John seems to be making the first of several allusions to the Old Testament Book of Daniel, chapter 7.  In his vision of “the Ancient of Days,” his vision of the coming messiah, Daniel says in Daniel :13, “And behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!”

Jesus said He would come back with clouds in Matthew 24:30.  The angels said He would come back with clouds just as He had ascended into heaven in a cloud in Acts 1:11, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?  This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”  His return will be visible.  That truth is reinforced by the next statement, “… And every eye will see Him …  Every single person will see the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns, everyone.  How is that possible?  Certainly the technological advances that we enjoy today will help.  But do not forget, it is a supernatural return of the Lord.  In a way physics cannot explain, every single eye will look up and will see Him when He returns.  Everyone – not just those living, but those who have died will see Him, too.  Remember what Jesus said to Caiaphas, the High Priest, in Matthew 26:64,  “Hereafter, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  This affirms what John is led to say here, “… even they who pierced Him.”  This seems to be primarily a reference to the Jewish nation.  John alludes to Zechariah 12:10, “They will look upon Him who was pierced and mourn.”  Taken with other passages in the Bible, many of the Jews will recognize the Lord Jesus was indeed the Messiah and they will mourn with a view toward repentance.   But note that John adds, “… And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.”  Jew and Gentile alike will realize that we are all guilty of the death of Christ Jesus.  It was our sin that crucified Him.  All who died without Christ, all who are in the depths of hell, even there they will see Him return, but it will be too late for them.  They will bow the knee, but not as God’s children.  All the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.

But for the believer, Christ’s return is good news.  The Lord Jesus Christ is coming, and He is coming to reign on earth.  He is coming to set in order this fallen world.  Be blessed by His second coming.  Then, finally . . .

4. We Are Blessed By His Sovereign Control – Verse 8.

In verse 8 you have a reference to the sovereign control of God, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”  He is “the Alpha and the Omega.”  The alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.  This is God’s way of saying, “I am before all things” and “I outlast all things.”  So, fear not.  I am in control of everything in your life.

That is always a good reason to be encouraged in our lives.  God is in control of everything.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  He is before all things and He outlasts all things.  You need not worry about that problem you brought with you to our study time today.  Trust God and be blessed by His sovereign control.

Then God is identified as the one “who is and who was and who is to come.”  This phrase occurs nine times in the book of Revelation.  Again, it speaks of God’s sovereign control over everything.  He has been – always; He is – always; He will be – always.  And He is “Almighty.”  He can do anything and He will do whatever He said.

This concluding statement is God’s way of saying, “What I have been telling you is absolutely true:  Behold, HE IS COMING!”

The contemporary Christian group Newsong has a song about the Second Coming called “Fingertips and Noses.”  If you have not heard the song, you would naturally conclude that it sounds like a pretty odd name for a song about the Lord’s Second Coming.  But the song is about a teacher in Kentucky who was teaching children in a special needs class.  She was teaching them about Jesus Christ who is coming again.  Here are some of the lyrics . . .

Up in the hills somewhere in Kentucky

In a little old school way back in the nothing

Where special kids born with special needs

Are sent to learn life’s ABCs

Their teacher, Mrs. Jones, tells them all about Jesus

How in the twinkling of an eye He’s coming back to get us

About streets of gold and pearly gates

How they want to go, they just can’t wait

And she can’t keep them in their seats

They’re all at the windows straining to see

And it’s . . .

Fingertips and noses pressed to the windowpanes

Longing eyes, expectant hearts for Him to come again

All they know is that they love Him so

And if He said He’d come, He’s coming

And they can’t keep their windows clean

For fingertips and noses

When you think about the Lord’s Second Coming, what is the attitude of your heart?  Are you looking with anticipation for the return of the Lord Jesus?  Is your heart like these little children, faces and hands pressed against the glass of the windows, looking up, longing for the return of Jesus? 

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”


Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

What Is The World Coming To: Revelation 1:1-3 – “First Thoughts about Last Things”

Revelation is an easy book to find.  Just go to the very end of the Bible and you will find it.  It is appropriate that Revelation is found at the end of the Bible because it is a book about the end, about end times, and about last things.  The big fancy theological word for the study of the end times or last things is the word “eschatology,” which means “the study of the eschaton, or the end of the age.  Today we are beginning a new study of messages entitled, “What Is The World Coming To?”  Lord willing, we will make our way, verse-by-verse through the 22 chapters of this great book.  Most Christians that I know and talk to would really like to understand the book of Revelation and I believe God wants us to understand this book.

There has been a lot of interesting conjecture concerning the contents of Revelation over the years, especially since the popular book by Hal Lindsey came out over 50 years ago.  The book is entitled, The Late Great Planet Earth.  In many ways, the publishing of that book ushered in a new group of popular American Christian literature and movies on the end times.  When one reads the first edition of Lindsey’s book (written in 1970), you cannot help but conclude that Lindsey believed the Lord will return before the end of the 1980s.  Lindsey dated a generation as 40 years and believed that 40 years after the Jews returned to Israel in 1948, the Lord would come again.  Of course, that did not happen.  A lot of the success of end-times discussions during the 1980s was aided by the ongoing cold war and the threat of nuclear disaster.

In 1988, Edgar Whisenant, a former NASA engineer, published a book entitled, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be In 1988.   Most readers of that book can readily conclude that he, too, was wrong.  I remember in the 1980s some were even saying that Ronald Reagan was the antichrist because his full name, Ronald Wilson Reagan, contains six letters each, hence: 666, the number of the beast.  There was a lot of this conjecturing over numbers and numbering systems, and so forth.

It reminds me of the three old men who had gone to the doctor for a memory test.  The doctor asked the first old man, “What is one plus one?”  He said, “Two hundred seventy-four.”  The doctor said to the second man, “It’s your turn. What is one plus one?”  He said, “Tuesday.”  The doctor then turned to the third man, “Okay, your turn. What’s one plus one?”  He said, “Two.”  The doctor said, “That’s great!”  He then asked the man, “How did you get that?”  The third man said, “Simple.  I just subtracted 274 from Tuesday!” 

My prayer is that we will avoid that kind of reasoning as we study this book together.  It is my belief that God wants us to understand this book.  In the words of the hymn-writer William Cowper, “God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.”  Our study today is entitled, “First Thoughts about Last Things.”  This first study will be an introductory overview of the book.

Before we talk about the main points that come out of these verses, let me make a few general remarks about the book. 

1) It is the Book of Revelation.

It is not the Book of Revelations. “Revelation” (the Greek word is “apokalupsis”) means “an uncovering,” “an unveiling,” or “a disclosure.”  In the New Testament, this word describes the unveiling of spiritual truth (Romans 1625; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 1:17; 3:3), the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19), Christ’s incarnation (Luke 2:32), and His glorious appearing at His second coming (2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7).  In all its uses, “revelation” refers to something or someone, once hidden, becoming visible.

What this Book reveals

Or unveils is

Jesus Christ in glory.

Truths about Him and His final victory, that the rest of Scripture merely allude to, become clearly visible through revelation about Jesus Christ.  This revelation was given to Him by God the Father, and it was communicated to the Apostle John by an angel (1:1).

2) The author of the book of Revelation is identified for us as John. 

You see it there in verse one: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.  And He sent and signified it by His angel to whom?  To His servant John.”

This John is the same John who wrote the Gospel of John, and the letters of first, second, and third John.  The book tells us later that John is writing from the island of Patmos, an island in the Aegean Sea, about 70 miles Southwest of Ephesus.  John is being held there as an exile.  He was exiled to Patmos during the latter part of the reign of the evil Roman Emperor Domitian, who ruled from AD 81-96.  This places the date of the book of Revelation somewhere between AD 90-96.

Christians in John’s day were facing fierce persecution.  The Christian church began to feel weak and vulnerable.  Some even began to compromise their convictions. 

The purpose of the book of Revelation

Is primarily to encourage these Christians

And to remind them that Jesus Christ is

The Victorious King who is, indeed,

Coming again to right all wrongs

And to reign on earth.

While the primary audience was the early Christians of Asia Minor, the audience includes Christians of all time periods.

There are three main sections of the book identified from verse 19 of chapter one.  You see there in 1:19 . . .

Past (chapter 1), “Things which you have seen;”

Present (chapters 2-3), “things which are;”

Future (chapters 4-22), “things which shall be.” 

Now, later, chapters 6-19 deal with a time known as “the tribulation.”  Basically you have in chapters 6-19 three series of judgments.  They are three series of seven judgments: seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls.

As we study, I am going to be presenting what is known as the futurist view and, more specifically, “the premillennial view.”  The premillennial view asserts that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to return before a time period known as the millennium.  Jesus Christ will return prior to the 1,000 year reign described in chapter 20.  We will learn more about the later. 

I have already said that I believe God wants us to understand the book of Revelation.  He wants us to really know what He is teaching here in this book.  He does not want us to get lost in the details.  The story is told about a man who drove into a large city looking for Main Street.  Having difficulty finding it, and realizing he was lost, he noticed a boy standing on the street and called out to him: “Young man, do you know where Main Street is?”  The little boy shook his head and said, “No.”  The man asked, “Well, do you know where First Street is?”  Again, the little boy nonchalantly shook his head and said, “No.”  Getting a little frustrated, the man asked, “Well, do you know where this road leads?”  And again, the little boy shrugged his shoulders and said, “No.”  Exasperated, the man shouted, “Young man, do you know anything!?”  The little boy said, “I know I am not lost.”

God does not want us to get lost in the details of this book.  He wants us to really know, to really understand this book.  After I finished getting my outline together in my study time, I noticed that two of my favorite preachers, Adrian Rogers and Jerry Vines, had very similar outlines.  That encouraged me not so much because it put me in the same camp as those guys, but because it shows how plain these points are in these first three verses; that anyone could find them.

**What God Wants Us to Know About Revelation:

I.  The Principal Person Of The Book.

Verse one begins by saying, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”  That says it all – “The revelation of Jesus Christ!” 

Jesus is the principal person of the book.

This Book is not a revelation of John about Jesus Christ, it is a revelation of Jesus Christ.  The word “revelation” is the Greek word “apocalypse.”  While that word typically brings to mind synonyms such as disaster, destruction, day of reckoning, and so forth, the Greek word literally means, “uncovering” or “unveiling.”  So, it is helpful here to read the first verse, “The unveiling of Jesus Christ.”  The revelation of Jesus Christ is the unveiling of Christ that the world may see His glory and splendor.

When Jesus came the first time, much of His glory was veiled.  He came as a humble carpenter from the obscure town of Nazareth.  Many people in his hometown rejected Him because he was just a “local boy,” nothing special about Him.  His family rejected Him.  The Jews, at large, rejected Him.  His glory is veiled.  You see that as you read through the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  And then little, by little, it becomes increasingly apparent to His disciples that this Jesus of Nazareth is more than a man.  When you get to that incredible event on the Mount of Transfiguration, for just a few moments Peter, James, and John see the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ unveiled as brilliant white light shines right through the body of Jesus Christ. 

But in large part, the glory of Jesus was veiled during His first coming.  When He comes again, things will be very different. 

He came the first time in humiliation. 

He will come the second time in exaltation. 

He came the first time

In a humble stable in Bethlehem. 

He will come the second time in

unveiled glory from heaven,

Coming with His mighty angels.

The principal person in the book is Jesus Christ.  Let me remind you again that . . .

Jesus Christ is the principal person

Of every book of the Bible. 

The Bible is a “Him” book. 

The Bible is about Him.

The Old Testament saints were saved the same way you and I are saved.  Not by our works, but by grace through faith.  We look back 2,000 years to the cross and see God’s Son.  The Old Testament saints, such as David and Solomon looked ahead 2,000 years to the cross. 

In faith, they believed

God would send His Messiah

And by faith looked ahead

To that promise. 

And in faith, you and I believe

God sent His Messiah and

Look back to Calvary.

Salvation is the same in both Testaments, Old and New.  Our salvation is accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by Him.

And this Book is about Him. 

He is the principal person of the book.

The Greek construction of the phrase, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ,” can mean both an unveiling “about” Jesus Christ and an unveiling “from” Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is at once the One unveiled

And the One doing the unveiling.

This brings us to the second point in our study today.  Not only does God want us to know the principal person of the book, but secondly, God wants us to know

II.  The Prophetic Purpose Of The Book.

Verses 1 and 2 tell us, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants — things which must shortly take place.  And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.”

What is it that God is going to show His servants?  “Things which must shortly take place.”  The Book of Revelation is a prophecy.  It unveils the glory of Jesus Christ by telling about God’s program through future events.  Remember the structure from verse 19.  The Lord Jesus says to John, “write the things which you have seen” (Past; Chapter one), “and the things which are” (Present; Chapters two and three), “and the things which will take place after this” (Future; Chapters four through twenty-two).

The book of Revelation is about “things which must shortly take place.”  First notice, they “must” take place.  They must.  God is guiding the events of history.  Nothing happens by mere chance.  Nothing will hinder God’s purposes.  These things absolutely must take place and God will see to it that they do.  Notice secondly, that these things must “shortly” take place.  That is, they will take place soon.  The faithful early Christians looked for the Lord’s return to happen soon.  They prepared for His Coming.

We are to live the same way today.  We must always live our lives in such a way that we are ready for the Lord’s return.  Some will say, “Well, a lot of time has past since the Lord’s first coming.  He does not seem to be in any hurry.”  Well, He is not in any hurry.  He knows the exact time.  Remember these things “must” take place.  Someone else may ask, “Why has He not yet come?”  That’s the same question Peter addresses in 2 Peter 3:8-9, “Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack (slow) concerning His promise, as some count slackness (understand slowness), but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

God has planned the exact moment that our Lord Jesus Christ will return, and His return will happen at a time we do not expect.  Peter says to the Lord a thousand years to us is just a day to God.  He is not bound by our time-table.  He is operating on His own.  So Peter says God is not slow in fulfilling His promise.  If it seems to you that much time has passed as we await our Lord’s return . . .

The Bible says understand that this delay

Is because of the loving grace of God

Who is allowing the delay that more people

Should come to repentance and be saved.

Do not toy with the time God is giving you.  Be about the business of preparing to meet our Lord.  Make sure you are ready and make sure your family, friends, and acquaintances are ready.

The Bible goes on and  says about this revelation in verse one that Jesus “sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.”  It is best to read that word “signified” as “sign-ified.”  Did you catch that?  “Sign-ified.’ 

The revelation or unveiling of Jesus Christ

Through prophetic future events is given

By way of symbols and signs.

That may be for two reasons:

1) It may be that because of the fierce persecution of John’s day that biblical truth was given in symbols so that those doing the persecution would not understand what it was about.  After all, the revelation is given to Christ’s “servants,” not to just anyone.

But . . .

2) It may also be that the contents of the book of Revelation, the unveiling of Jesus Christ through future events, was given in symbols and signs because it was the best means to convey spiritual truth.  The unveiling of future events may be difficult to convey in just words.  Have you ever caught a glimpse of something you just could not describe?  You end up saying, “Well, you just had to be there.”  That may be what John encountered as he was presented the unveiling of future events.  So, with God’s help we will be interpreting these symbols and signs in the weeks ahead.

God wants us to know the principal Person of the book.  God wants us to know the prophetic purpose of the book.  And thirdly, God wants us to know . . .

III.  The Precious Promise Of The Book.

The book of Revelation is the only book of the Bible with this precious promise.  Look at it again there in verse 3, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”  This verse shows that the early Christians assembled on the Lord’s day for the public reading and teaching of the Scripture.  The preacher would come before the people with the Bible and would read the Bible and give the sense of the passage read.  So, blessed is he who reads (the pastor) and those who hear the words (the congregation).  I am blessed as I read and you are blessed as you hear the words of this prophecy.

This book is a blessing to read.  Is not it ironic, then, that it is the one Book of the Bible that is so often not read?  I got to thinking about that this week, and I thought about some of the reasons we do not read this Book.  One reason may be, quite frankly, that we do not read it because we do not fully understand it.  One of the reasons we do not understand it is because we really do not know our Bibles well, especially the Old Testament.  It is interesting: John never quotes the Old Testament insofar as chapter and verse is concerned, but as he writes and shares the revelation, he alludes to and makes reference to the Old Testament around 300 times.  Some scholars even estimate that as much as 75% of the book of Revelation is to be understood by knowing the Old Testament.

I also think that one of the reasons we do not read Revelation is perhaps owing to spiritual warfare.  The devil does not want us reading this Book.  He does not want us to be blessed.  This book prophesies his doom.  Revelation is the final Book that records the final days of Satan.

The book of Genesis is a Book of beginnings. 

The book of Revelation is a Book of endings. 

In Genesis we have the entrance of sin. 

In Revelation we have the ending of sin. 

In Genesis the devil enters as one destroying. 

In Revelation he exits as one destroyed.

Satan does not want you reading this Book.  He does not want you to be blessed.  He will do what he can to keep you from reading it and studying it. 

But if you and I go through this Book a blessing will follow – “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy” – but not just reading and hearing!  The Bible says “and keep those things which are written in it.”  In other words, we must obey what we read here in the Book of Revelation.

God wants us to know the precious promise of this book.  I am praying for a great blessing to follow our studying through this Book.  I am praying for a spiritual harvest of committed believers to the Lord Jesus Christ as a result of our studying this book together.  Let’s get ready to receive the precious promise of this book; a great spiritual blessing as we read and hear the words of this prophecy because, as verse three ends, “the time is near.”

That statement is meant to encourage Christians – “the time is near.”  Hang in there.  Jesus Christ is coming again.  You are going to make it.  Stay the course.  But the phrase also applies as a warning – “the time is near.”  Be ready.  Make sure you are spiritually prepared for the events in this Book that will unfold before your very eyes.  Be ready when our Lord returns.

As I was driving around the other day, God impressed upon my mind the need to be spiritually prepared at all times.  The Lord may not return again for several years, perhaps even decades.  The odds are that most of us will die before He returns.  When we die we will face an immediate judgment whereby our souls will go immediately either to heaven or to hell.  Immediately.  There is no “soul sleep” or purgatory.  The Bible teaches that our souls go immediately to one of two locations.

Are you ready to meet the Lord, whether He returns first, or whether you die first?  Can I say that there is no more important question than that?  The Bible says in James 4:14 that you and I do not even know what tomorrow brings.  James says your life is like a vapor.  Your life is like the upward steam from a hot cup of coffee.  You see it for a moment and then it is gone.  Your life is like that.  You see it for a moment and then it is gone.  That is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “Now is the time.  Today is the day of salvation.”   We are going to study about Jesus’ return . . . the question is, “Are you ready?”  Some of you do not have peace with God and if you continue that way you are taking the chance that you will live another day.  You might even be thinking, “I will make peace with God another day.”  Do not wait . . . Do not delay!  Your life is a vapor.  It will be over very soon.  Now is the time.  Today is the day of salvation.  Come and accept what Christ has done for you and be saved, for the time is near.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 24:50-53 – The End of a Beginning

Grace For The Journey

We have been studying through the Gospel of Luke, the longest book in the New Testament.  As it is the longest book in the New Testament, it has taken us a long time to study through the 24 chapters.  Some of you will therefore be glad to know that our next study will be of a book that has 16 chapters, the Book of Romans!  I look forward to our study of Romans, a book that encourages us to hang tough during times of persecution and suffering.

We are at the close of the Gospel of Luke and we are studying today about the ascension of Christ.  Some of you may be hearing that word “ascension” for the first time.  The ascension is, as one preacher called it, “one of the most neglected essentials in the New Testament.”  We do not generally hear many sermons preached on the ascension.  We hear many sermons preached on the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection, but not nearly as many on the ascension.

What is the ascension?  The word “ascension” contains the word “ascend” which, of course, means “to rise up, to go up, to ascend.”  Christ goes up, He ascends into heaven.  Here is a good definition of the ascension taken from the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (ed. Walter Elwell): “That act of the God-Man by which he brought to an end his post-resurrection appearances to his disciples, was finally parted from them physically, and passed into the other world, to remain there until his second advent.”

During the Second World War, November 10, 1942, after England won a significant victory, a battle Winston Churchill referred to as the, “Battle of Egypt,” Churchill made these remarks as he addressed the people, “Now this is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

While the ascension occurs at the end of the Gospel of Luke, the ascension is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.  The ascension of Christ “bridges” the Gospel of Luke to Luke’s second volume, the Book of Acts.  You will remember that Luke wrote both books.

Luke begins Acts chapter 1 in verse 1 and following by saying, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up.”  Luke goes on to say that before Jesus was taken up, or ascended into heaven, that He had “presented Himself alive,” appearing to the disciples in His resurrected body over a period of 40 days as He continued to speak to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Luke 1:3).

After Jesus was raised from the dead, He appeared to His disciples over a period of 40 days before He ascended into heaven. That’s why some churches who follow the traditional church calendar celebrate what is called “Ascension Day,” the 40th day after Easter.

Luke tells us in Volume II of his writings, the Book of Acts, that after the 40 days are over, the disciples are assembled together in Jerusalem and Jesus says to them in Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Then Luke records a few more details about the ascension in Acts 1:9 to 11, “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.  And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’”

Remember again, that definition of the ascension we read earlier, the ascension is, “that act of the God-Man by which he brought to an end his post-resurrection appearances to his disciples, was finally parted from them physically, and passed into the other world, to remain there until his second  summarize the period of 40 days, telescoping the events of the days preceding the ascension, in keeping with his intention to provide an “orderly account” (Luke 1:3) of the Gospel.

There are three main events taking place between Christ and His followers, we note the verbs: He “blesses” them, He “parts” from them, and they “worship” Him.  I want to use these three actions as descriptive headings for our passage and then I want to share with you the significance of the ascension, what it matters to us today.

Note first . . .

I. He Blesses Them.

Verse 50 tells us, “And He led them out as far as Bethany (on the foothills of the Mount of Olives), and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.”  What an awesome thing to do for a bunch of guys who had frequently doubted Him, denied Him, forsaken Him, and failed Him – think about that . . . He “lifted up His hands and blessed them.”  In fact, verse 51 indicates that it is in the very act of His blessing them that He is parted from them and taken up into heaven

The picture is that of a priest in the Old Testament, someone like Aaron who, in Leviticus 9:22, “Lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them.”  Maybe Jesus even spoke the so-called “Aaronic blessing” of Numbers 6:24-26, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

Jesus blessed them with nail-scarred hands.  Though in His resurrected body, the scars from the crucifixion serve as an eternal reminder of the priestly sacrifice of His death for their sins.  He blessed them.

Secondly, the Bible says . . .

II. He Parts from Them.

Verse 51 says, “Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.”  Jesus slips away and is taken up into heaven.  In Acts 1:9 Luke writes that, “a cloud received Him out of their sight.”  This cloud was the visible expression of the glory of God, often referred to in the Old Testament as the “Shekinah glory,” the dwelling or the settling of the divine presence of God.  Moses had encountered that cloud of glory on Mt. Sinai.  It is the same cloud of glory that went before the Israelites during their wanderings in the desert.  It is the same cloud of glory that surrounded Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Luke writes here in verse 51 that it is while Jesus is blessing the disciples, “that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.”  Greek scholar AT Robertson says that the word “parted” here means, “He stood apart and he was gone.”  It describes a dramatic exiting of our Lord Jesus into heaven.

It is not that Jesus just goes up and up and up into the sky and became smaller and smaller so that one could no longer see Him, the way one watches a rocket take off and go up into the sky and become smaller and smaller until it can no longer be seen.  It is rather that Jesus goes up into the sky but then is carried away, enveloped into the very place of heaven itself.

CS Lewis, trying to understand the ascension pictured Jesus, “. . . being withdrawn through a fold in space like an actor who, having taken his bow, appears to vanish into a fold in the stage curtain, but in actual fact he’s just stepping into a gap in between two of the curtains.”

If you like physics, you might prefer that Jesus entered into the fourth dimension!  This is entirely biblical, of course. The physical universe cannot contain God.  Solomon referred to this truth in His prayer during the dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 8:27, “Will God indeed dwell on the earth?  Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You.  How much less this temple which I have built!”

He blesses them; He parts from them. Then the response of the disciples, number three . . .

III. They Worship Him.

Verse 52 tell us, “And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”  They worshiped Him.  At first reading, this statement may not seem to follow.  Jesus has just been taken away from the disciples.  Why would they be glad about that?  We might expect they would be sad.

This joy followed their understanding of what they learned from the Scripture.  We have read over the past couple weeks that when Jesus appeared to the disciples in His resurrected body that He explained to them the need for His death, burial, and resurrection.  In verse 45 we read where Jesus had, “Opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”  He told them about His entire mission, how they would tell others about that mission once the Holy Spirit had come upon them, and the “power from on high” about which Jesus had spoken at the end of verse 49.  

It is all clear to them now.  Joy follows understanding.  Joy is the blessing that follows the understanding of Scripture.  When we understand what we are reading in the Bible, as the Holy Spirit teaches us, we are filled with great joy.  This is one of the reasons why careful Bible reading and study is so important.  It redounds to great joy!

Verse 53, tells us, “And were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.  Amen.”  Where were the disciples praising God?  In the temple.  Luke returns us to where the Gospel begins, in the temple (Luke 1:8-9).  The Gospel of Luke begins with people praising and blessing God in the temple and it ends with people praising and blessing God in the temple.

He blesses them; He parts from them; they worship Him.

What is the significance of Christ’s ascension?  What does it mean for us today?  Let me give you these four things.  They are not exhaustive, but represent at least four things the ascension means.

First, the ascension means . . .

1) He Presides Over Everything And Sustains Everything.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:22 that Christ, “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.”  The right hand of God is a metaphor for omnipotent power. Jesus Christ is now at the right hand of God, the Father.  It is the place of power and authority.  He is presiding over everything.  He is “Lord.” Listen to what the author of Hebrews says about our ascended Lord in Hebrews 1:2-3, “(God), has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;  who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Christ presides over everything,

And He sustains everything.

Secondly, the ascension means . . .

2) He Sympathizes With Our Weaknesses.

The Bible reminds us in Hebrews 4:14-17, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

He is our great High Priest!  He is the One who knows what we are going through, having suffered the horrors of beatings, crucifixion, and death.  He was also tempted just as we are tempted.  He knows what we are going through and, He is willing to dispense to us daily supplies of mercy and grace in our time of need.

He sympathizes with our weaknesses.  What else is significant about the ascension?

Thirdly . . .

3) He Intercedes For Us As Our Eternal Advocate.

The ascension follows the work of the atonement and guarantees the continual effectiveness of the atonement.  The Bible says in Hebrews9:24-26, “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another – He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

The ascension is God’s guarantee of the work of His Son, the perfect effectiveness of the finished work of the atonement, the effects of which last forever and ever.  The ascension is God’s guarantee of that work.  The ascension is God’s stamp of approval upon everything that Jesus has come to do, His entire mission is a mission accomplished.  It is this truth that gives you and me the assurance of our salvation.

Speaking of the atonement, the Bible says in Romans 8:33-34, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  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 imagines somebody speaking against your being a Christian, whether that someone is another person, your fearful heart, or the devil himself.  He imagines someone accusing us the way a person might stand in court and speak against our case.   Someone stands and says, “I object!  I know this so-called Christian!   I have seen the way he lives.  He has many faults.  He cannot be forgiven.”   The Bible says, “Who will succeed in bringing a charge against God’s elect?  Who is worthy to condemn the Christian?”

Maybe you once felt secure in our faith.  Maybe you have trusted Christ and all was well.   But then, you stumbled and fell.  You do something you know is wrong.  In fact, you find yourself struggling with this particular thing.  You hate it.  It is a sin and you hate it.  And you find yourself battling it all the time.  The Bible pictures you are standing before God at the judgment.  You are a Christian, but there is this on-going problem.  God knows our hearts, our tendency to somehow think that the blessings of forgiveness apply to everyone else except us!  There we stand before God and the devil stands up behind us in the courtroom and he says, “This person cannot be one of yours!  I have seen the way he lives.  I have watched the way he/she behaves.  I charge this so-called Christian with hypocrisy.  I condemn this person for being the hypocrite they are!”  Oh, listen again to the effects of the atonement guaranteed by the ascension in 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.”

The Bible is tells us that no matter how hard the devil or anyone else may work at trying to condemn you, you have this wonderful Advocate – the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ – the One who stands at the right hand of the Judge. He stands there forever, always “making intercession” for you. 

It is not that He must speak continually in your defense, giving a counter-argument to the devil’s charges. 

Christ’s just being there

Is the counter-argument!

Christ is always and forever standing there.  He need say nothing.  God the Father forever looks at Christ His Son, and on the basis of what His Son did for the Christian on Calvary’s cross, God then looks at the Christian and says, “Not guilty,” every single time.  All sin is forgiven.

The significance of the ascension: He presides over everything and sustains everything; He sympathizes with our weaknesses; He intercedes for us as our eternal advocate.

Finally . . .

4) He Prepares A Home For Us.

Jesus says in John 14:1-3, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”  The ascension means that Jesus Christ, our ascended Lord, is right now in heaven preparing a place for all Christians, all true followers of Jesus.

What will heaven be like?  I do not know, but it if Jesus is preparing it, you can be sure it is going to be absolutely wonderful!  Imagine: every Christian, every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, one day will be, like our Lord before us, “carried up into heaven” where we will spend eternity.  Will you be in that company?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 24:36-34 – It Is All Really True

Grace For The Journey

We have been making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke and we are nearing the end of our study here in the last chapter of this Book.  We have been studying the resurrection accounts and it is helpful to remember this because the first verse of our passage – verse 36 – begins with the phrase, “Now as they said these things,” and that phrase should prompt at least two questions; the first being, “Who are they ‘they’ here?” and the second question, “What things were they saying?”  To discover to whom this pronoun refers, who the “they” are, as well as the subject of their discussion, we need only look at the verses preceding.

You recall from last time, in the verses preceding this text, that Jesus had appeared to two men who were traveling to the village of Emmaus, and He eventually revealed Himself to them as the resurrected Christ.  They are excited about this and run back to Jerusalem where the 11 disciples are and they all tell one another that they had seen Him, they had seen the risen Christ.  Now verse 36 says, “Now as they said these things.”

If you have ever experienced something unique or something unusual happen to you, you know that you are challenged in convincing others that the thing really did happen.   You take care to explain what happened first, and second, and so on. You talk about what you saw, heard, touched, or maybe what others told you that they saw, heard, and touched.  You carefully explain that these things happened in order for another person to understand and grasp the truth of the experience.

This has been Luke’s aim since the very beginning of his Gospel.  You will remember back in his introduction in in Luke chapter 1 in verses 1-4, where Luke is writing to his friend Theophilus these words, “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.”  Luke writes this Gospel account so that his friend Theophilus – and everyone else reading the Book of Luke – “may know the certainty of the things” concerning Jesus Christ.  

Today’s passage stresses the certainty of Christ’s resurrection body and the certainty of the Scriptures.  It is as if Luke is saying, “I want you to know that it is all really true.”  There is something pretty neat to note here: the narrative parallels what precedes it.   What we studied last week with the two on the road to Emmaus in verses 13-35: an appearance of the resurrected Christ, an explanation of the need for His death and resurrection, and then the eating of food – Those three elements occur again right here in verses 36-49: an appearance of Christ, an explanation of the need for His death and resurrection, and then the eating of food.   In some sense we will parallel that sequence in our study today.

The passage highlights Luke’s repeated attempt throughout his writing of the Gospel to provide certainty of the things concerning Jesus Christ.  Luke is saying again in these verses, “It Is All Really True.”

The truth of Christ’s resurrection leads us to at least three considerations . . .

I. Consider God’s Powerful Work: Verses 36-43.

By that I mean mainly the work of God’s raising a real body from the grave, Christ’s resurrection body.  God raised Jesus Christ from the dead in bodily form.  It is a powerful work of God as the God of all creation, as Lord over all matter.  Jesus was raised not as an immaterial spirit or ghost.  God’s powerful work was such that Christ’s body – though beaten and bloodied – was raised from the dead in a new form, a glorious body that would never again break down in any way.

This is a unique work.  It had never happened before.  People had been raised from the dead before, but it was different.  You will remember that Lazarus had been raised from the dead, and the son of a certain widow from the town of Nain had been raised from the dead, but they were raised up in their old bodies and so, in the words of CS Lewis, “They had their dying to do all over again.”  Lazarus died again later, and the widow’s son died again later.  But something different is going on here.  Christ who died was raised in new bodily form – and as such – He is what the Apostle Paul calls ‘the first-fruits of all who die in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:20).  In other words, because Christ was raised in new bodily form, so will every follower of Christ be raised in new bodily form.

We will take a closer look at this as this is what Luke wants us to see here beginning in verses 36 to 40, “Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’  But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.  And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled?  And why do doubts arise in your hearts?  Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself.  Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’  When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.”

So Jesus is saying, “I am not some immaterial spirit; I’m not a ghost!  Look at Me.  See My hands, see My feet.  Handle Me, that is, touch Me.”  Jesus appeals to their senses, their sight, hearing, and touch to demonstrate the reality of His resurrected body.  He is saying to them, “Come closer, look, come on reach out, touch Me, get over here you knuckleheads, let’s spar a little. See that it really is I.”

But Luke says in verse 37, “they are terrified and frightened.”  I suppose they were afraid first of all because of the way in which Jesus just suddenly appeared.  Here they were just a moment ago talking about how some had seen Him and then . . . Boom! . . . there He is!

And do not miss this – the first words out of the mouth of Jesus are, “Peace to you.”  The Hebrew word is “Shalom.”  The Greek word for “peace” us “Shalom,” and it conveys much more than the absence of conflict.  It carries the notion of blessing, especially the blessing of a right relationship with God.  That is particularly significant when we think about what happened during the course of the previous three days in the lives of the disciples. These guys had abandoned Christ, had denied Christ, and had forsaken and fled from Christ.  Then Christ appears and the first words out of His mouth are the words, “Peace to you,” Shalom, be blessed to be in a right relationship with God.” That is strikingly gracious and merciful, isn’t it?

Ligon Duncan, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi, shares an experience from his younger years that is helpful: “My father was a kind and loving man … but when my father was angry there was a fury in him.  I well remember wrecking my first car and my mother taking me to his office where I was appointed to tell him that I had wrecked my first car.  And after ascertaining that my health was intact, he blew up!  He said, ‘You will never drive a car of mine as long as you live!’  I knew it was coming.  A few hours later it was, ‘Well, I’ll let you drive occasionally.’  And that night it was, ‘Son, why don’t you run up to the grocery store and get me some peanut butter?’  It waned after time.  But I was dreading that first encounter.”  I wonder what the disciples thought that Jesus would say to them the first time He saw them after their utter failure to follow Him in faith.  And they find out His first word is, “Peace.” 

What a gracious thing to say to 11 guys who just three days before fled from Him in fear, in shame and guilt.  I hope this encourages those of you Christians who stumble regularly in sin and feel shame and guilt.  When you sin yet again, and you feel so miserable and so undone, preach the Gospel to yourself.  Confess your sin and repent, turn from it and turn to the cross and see Jesus there who died for that sin.  See the resurrected, ascended Christ and hear the forgiving Lord Jesus say to you, “Shalom; peace to you, receive the blessing of a right relationship with God; peace to you.”

The disciples are also terrified, of course, because they had never seen anything like this – a resurrected, glorious body – standing before them alive; not a ghost, not a spirit, but in a new body.  So, Jesus shows them that He is in real bodily form by eating in their presence. Ghosts and spirits cannot eat physical food, but a real body can.

Verses 41 and 42 tells us, But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’  So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.”  This was common food for breakfast in the ancient near east.  Verse 43 says, “And He took it and ate in their presence.”   This was to show that Jesus was really standing there in bodily form, a new resurrected, glorious body.

The Bible teaches how Christ’s resurrected body is the first appearance of a kind of body that every Christian will one day have. You can read about this later in 1 Corinthians 15 where the Bible teaches that each of us will receive one day a glorious body like the Lord Jesus’ resurrected body.

Let’s review our theology here.  When the Christian dies, his soul goes immediately to heaven and his body is buried.  Similarly, when a non-Christian dies, his soul goes immediately to hell and his body is buried.  The non-Christian, the unbeliever’s body, will be raised in the same corruptible form and that unbeliever will stand before God on Judgment Day and hear the final words of our Lord, “Depart from Me, I never knew you” and he will be cast into the lake of fire forever.  The believer, however, has something far greater to look forward to!  When the Christian dies, his soul goes immediately to heaven and one day, God will raise up that Christian’s mortal body and change it “in the twinkling of an eye” and that body will be changed into a glorious, immortal, and incorruptible body (1 Corinthians 15:50-53), a body like the Lord Jesus’s resurrection body.  The Christian will then live for eternity in that new body, a body that will never again break down or be subject to decay.  It is this body that the Christian will inhabit and live in forever in the new heaven and earth and the Kingdom of God.  I find this truth remarkably encouraging!

Our bodies in present form are subject to the effects of the fall.  Our bodies break down. They get old.  As I age, I can just feel the body wearing down, can’t you?  The older we get the more easily we lose muscle mass.  I am finding that If I do not work out, the more quickly the body breaks down.  I look around at some of these younger guys and they have muscles in places that I do not have places!  In time the body just naturally ages and wears down.

How encouraging to know that one day we will have a new body.  One day we will be in a place where we are no longer subject to the effects of the fall.  How encouraging to know that our loved ones in Christ, family members and friends, whose bodies are plagued by sickness, disease, cancer, and other ills, will one day be forever free from the ravages of the fall.  That will be a result of God’s powerful work, the work of creating a real, new, glorified, body.

Consider God’s powerful work.  Secondly . . .

II. Consider God’s Powerful Word: Verses 44-47.

What Jesus does next is to remind the disciples of the truth of Scripture, the truth of the Bible.  In verse 44 the Bible says, Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’”  Jesus tells them everything the Bible says about Him is true.  I talked about this last time when Jesus taught the two men on the road to Emmaus.  He engages in some solid, expository preaching!  Verse 27 told us He, expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

Remember He had said to them before on at least three different occasions that He would suffer, die, and be raised the third day (Luke 9:22; 9:43-45; 18:31-34).  But they never quite understood that.  The Bible says, “it was hidden from them.”  Now verse 45 tells us, And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”  He opened their understanding so that the light went on and they grasped how the Bible is what we said last week, “A Him Book” about Him.  They began to understand how all the Old Testament points to Christ.  The writer of Hebrews talks about this when he is led by the Holy Spirit to write about the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant.  Every time an Israelite in the Old Testament came to the temple to offer a sacrificial lamb as an atonement for sin, that lamb pointed forward to a more perfect atonement, the sacrificial Lamb of God, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:13-14).  It is teaching such as this that Jesus led the disciples to understand.  Christ opened their understanding to the truth of the Bible concerning Himself.

Verses46 to 47 tells us, “Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’” 

Jesus leads the disciples

To understand that

His death on the cross

Was not an accident,

But a divine necessity,

The fulfillment of God’s

Plan to save the lost.

Perhaps Jesus opened up their understanding of passages such as . . .

  • Psalm 22 where Jesus is portrayed on the cross and the psalmist writes in verse 16 that “they pierced [His] hands and feet.”
  • Isaiah 53 where in verse 5 the prophet says, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.”

The Lord opened their understanding to the Scriptures.

We cannot understand the Bible fully apart from God’s opening our understanding.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  If we are to understand the Scriptures fully we must be born again.  We must have our eyes opened, our minds opened, and our hearts opened.  We must have the Holy Spirit to be our teacher and our guide as we read His Word.

J. C. Ryle drives this truth home when he says, “He that desires to read his Bible with profit, must first ask the Lord Jesus to open the eyes of his understanding by the Holy Spirit.  Human commentaries are useful in their way.  The help of good and learned men is not to be despised.  But there is no commentary to be compared with the teaching of Christ.  A humble and prayerful spirit will find a thousand things in the Bible, which the proud, self-conceited student will utterly fail to discern.”  I have shared with you before this little prayer I like to pray before reading the Bible. It is really simple. Write this down. I simply say, “Lord, open your Word to me; open me to Your Word.”

God’s Powerful Work; God’s Powerful Word.  Thirdly . . .

III. Consider God’s Powerful Witnesses: Verses 48-49.

Jesus had just said in the last part of verse 47, “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”  That work of “preaching repentance and remission of sins … to all nations” is not yet complete. Therefore, the work of God’s witnesses continues today.  We are His witnesses.  Jesus said to the first disciples is written for us in verse 48, And you are witnesses of these things.”  He also says to us today, “You are witnesses of these things.”  The work is not yet complete.  God’s desire in verse 47 for “all nations” to hear the Gospel remains an unfulfilled desire.  The goal is still not met.  There are still many who have not heard.

We are God’s powerful witnesses.  We are to share the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is what Jesus is talking about in verse 49 where He says, Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”  When Jesus refers to “the Promise of My Father” here in verse 49 and “power from on high” He is talking about the promise and power of the Holy Spirit.  The Bible has already alluded to this truth in Joel 2:28-32 and picks that same truth up latter in Acts 2:33.  By way of the Holy Spirit you and I are equipped to fulfill our commission as God’s witnesses (Acts 1:8), God’s powerful witnesses.  You can share Jesus Christ with your friends, relatives, and associates when you remember that you are sharing not in your power, but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are commissioned to be missional.  Our church must continue to work hard to reach the nations with the Gospel.  That is why we have missional efforts from our community to the continents. That is why we pray, give and go to people in our community, state, country, and around the world – because we are His witnesses.

I have been amazed at how God has used this blog to touch lives throughout the United States and in South America, Africa, the Philippines, and India.  Odds are I will never meet these precious souls this side of heaven, but one day we will stand with Him and with all the redeemed from every tribe, tongue, and nation, all people God has delighted to save through the power of the Gospel. 

Are your experiencing God’s powerful work; are you learning and living in His powerful Word; and are your being His powerful witness?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 24:13-35 – Eyes Opened to See Christ

Grace For The Journey

We have been making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke and we are in the home stretch.  Just a couple more studies and we will have completed our series entitled, “Certainty in Uncertain Times.”

Last week we looked at the first twelve verses of Chapter 24 and we read about the empty tomb and studied the doctrine of the resurrection.  What we have in today’s passage is the first actual appearance of Christ in Luke’s Gospel after His resurrection.   I just love this particular resurrection account!  This passage about how Jesus encounters two guys walking on the road to Emmaus is my favorite resurrection appearance of Christ.  I pray that as we study these verses that God will help us in rightly understanding His Word and instill an excitement about what He has done.

It has often been said that the Bible is a “Him Book.”  The Bible is a book about Him – throughout all 66 books of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible points to Jesus Christ.  In fact, one of the most interesting considerations of the Bible is its strikingly simple sense of unity in spite of the fact that there were so many different authors.

Think of it:

  • The Bible contains a sum total of 66 books from Genesis to Revelation.
  • The Bible was composed by more than 40 different authors writing over a period of some 1,500 years in three different languages from vastly different settings and locations.
  • And while the Bible covers a wide array of topics and themes, one major theme and purpose runs throughout the entire body of Scripture . . .

Man’s need for reconciliation with God,


How that need is met in Jesus Christ.

It is sometimes called, “the Scarlet thread of redemption” that is interwoven throughout the pages of Scripture.  The Bible is a “Him Book,” it is about Him.

That truth is illustrated in our text this morning.  Let’s walk through this passage and follow the footsteps of these two disciples who are walking along the road.

I. The Disciples Did Not Recognize Jesus – Verses 13-24.

We learn in these verses that these two disciples walking along the road are completely mystified.  They are bewildered, befuddled, sad, and confused.  They are walking along the road that departs from Jerusalem and leads to Emmaus, about a 7-mile journey.  As they are walking along the road Luke tells us in verse 14 that, “they talked together of all these things which had happened.”

That is, they are talking about the crucifixion of Christ and, namely, what they had learned as recorded in the preceding verses: the tomb of Christ is empty and they cannot seem to figure out what in the world is going on. They were followers of Christ themselves, but they could not make sense of the apparent tragic ending of the life of their Messiah and what in the world this empty tomb business was supposed to mean.

I love verse 15.  It says, “So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.”  Don’t you just love that?!  They are walking along and talking and then Jesus Himself comes up from behind and He is going to join them in the conversation.  Do they recognize Him?  No.  But note Luke does not say, “They did not recognize Him.”  What Luke writes in verse 16 is, “But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.”  In other words, the two men did not recognize Christ because God had restrained their eyes.  The grammar is a divine passive.  They did not do this themselves.  They are passive in this.  God has kept the men from recognizing Christ.

This reminds me of that great historical event in 2 Kings where the king of Syria was making war against Israel and the king sends bad guys to try to kill the Prophet Elisha. The bad guys surround the city where Elisha and his servant are staying.  Elisha’s servant gets up in the morning and sees the enemy everywhere and he is like, “What are we going to do now?!”  The Bible says that Elisha responds, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.  And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’  Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:16-17).

If we ever do see


For Who He is,

It is because God

Opens our eyes

To see Him.

This is why we say that salvation is by grace . . . By God’s amazing grace!  Because before I come to Christ,  I am dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), and I need my eyes opened to see Christ.  If we are saved, we sing, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”  God opened my eyes to see Christ through His amazing grace!

You can be among Christ and His people and not recognize Him.  A pastor once testified that when he was young, he remembered attending Bible Study and worship services and being among those who knew Christ, but he did not recognize Him.  He did not really see Jesus for Who He is.  His eyes had not yet been opened.

Now in this passage, we may rightly reason that Christ is keeping these two disciples from recognizing Him is so that He would have a unique opportunity to teach them and explain to them the necessity of His death and resurrection and that He might show them how His death and resurrection was the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture.

Verse 17 tells us, “And He said to them, ‘What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?’”  We may note, just as an aside, that walking along the road and having spiritual conversation was considered a normal and good thing.  To join-in on a conversation as a passing stranger was also socially acceptable.  

We should be struck more by the content of the conversation.  How many conversations do we have with friends and acquaintances that are spiritual in nature?  God says in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, that we should be having spiritual conversations with our families all the time. He writes, “These words which I command you today shall be in your heart.   You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

Some find it easier to talk about anything but spiritual things: weather, sports, job, entertainment.  Jesus rightly said in Matthew 12:34, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Whatever things you love and cherish most will be the things you talk most about.  Think about that next time you strike up a conversation at work, in your classroom, at the beauty parlor, or at the barber shop.

I am intrigued by what Jesus says, “What are you guys talking about?”  Did He already know?  Of course.  He is all-knowing.  But He asks in order to draw out their understanding about the events surrounding the death of the Messiah that He might explain to them what was going on.  He asks, “Why are you guys sad? What are you talking about?”

Verse 18 says, “Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?”  This one disciple, Cleopas, is like, “What?! Don’t you know what’s been going on?! Everybody knows about the death of Christ.”  By the way,  this statement affirms the historicity of the crucifixion and resurrection, illustrating the widespread acceptance of the fact of a crucified Christ 2,000 years ago and all the circumstances surrounding His death:

Verses 19 to 24 go on to say, “And He said to them, ‘What things?’  So they said to Him, ‘The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was [past tense!] a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.  But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.  Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us’ [and here is a summary of what we studied last week, verses 1-12].  When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.  And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”

This explains their mystification. Look at Jesus’ immediate response in verse 25, “Then He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!’” So we move from mystification to explanation as Jesus explains to them that everything is happening just as foretold in the Scriptures.

II. Christ’s Response – Verses 25-27.

Look again at verse 25, “Then He said to them, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!’”  We could paraphrase this, “Don’t you guys know the Bible? Don’t you know the Old Testament Scriptures?  In verse 26 Jesus goes on to say, “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”  In other words: the arrest, death, crucifixion, and resurrection are all part of God’s plan foretold in the Bible.  Verse 27 reveals to us what Jesus does next, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”  Jesus “expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”  As they walked along the road, Jesus taught them how the Bible points to Christ.  He taught them how the Bible teaches about the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Wouldn’t you love to have been there for that Bible study?!

Explanation leads to celebration in verses 28 and following.

III. The Rejoicing Of The Disciples – Verses 28-35.

They are about to have their eyes opened!  Verse 28 tells us, “Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther.”  Jesus is waiting for an invitation to continue the spiritual lesson.  And they invite Him to continue.  Verse 29 says, “But they constrained Him, saying, ‘Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.’  And He went in to stay with them.” 

So now they are apparently in their home.  They do what most of us do after a long journey: they decide to eat.  Verses 30-31 tell us, “Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.”  Now that is amazing, isn’t it?!  As Jesus is breaking bread and teaching them, God opened their eyes.  Who knows, maybe at that moment their eyes were opened and the first thing they saw were the nail prints in Christ’s hands?  I do not know, but God opened their eyes to see Christ for Who He is.  Then as quickly as their eyes are opened, Jesus vanishes from their sight.  Bible study over!

Verse 32 says, “And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’”  Imagine these two disciples left sitting there at the table!  One says to the other, “Where did He go?!” The other says, “I don’t know, He just vanished!”  Hey, did your heart burn like mine did while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?”  “Yes!  Mine, too.”  They decide that very hour – in joyous celebration – they decide to rush back to Jerusalem to share this good news with the 11 disciples.

Verses 33 to 34 tell us, “So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, ‘The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’”  I just love the way this all unfolds!  These two disciples jump up from the dinner table and run the 7 miles back to Jerusalem to tell everybody about seeing the risen Christ.  They cannot wait!  They are probably working out who will do the talking, who will share what.  No sooner do they arrive at the place where the 11 are staying, but that they pause at the door, gather their breath, enter the door, walk into the room and before they can speak one word, the 11 speak first to them: “It’s true!” they cry, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”

Then the two disciples share their story in verse 35, “And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.”

What a marvelous series of events!  What a special occasion for these two disciples!  They not only get to see the resurrected Christ but they get a powerful lesson on the theme of God’s Word.

Let me share with you two necessary actions in light of our study.

I. We Must Correctly Interpret the Scriptures.

There is power in the Scriptures rightly interpreted.  Verse 27 says that Jesus, expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”  That word “expounded” in the original Greek is the word from which we get hermeneutics, the matter of biblical interpretation.  Jesus rightly interpreted the Scriptures.  It Is the same word that occurs again in verse 32 where the two men say, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”  It Is the same word: Jesus rightly interpreted, opened, and expounded the Scriptures.

The Scriptures opened correctly, rightly interpreted, lead to burning hearts, hearts aflame with truth that changes lives for the glory of God.  This is one of the reasons I are committed to expository preaching, verse-by-verse through books of the Bible.  I  take the approach of Jesus Who, the Bible tells us in verse 27, “expounded to them,” explained to them from “all the Scriptures” the things concerning Himself.

Correctly interpreting Scripture means that we explain.  We explain or expound truth, truth in “all the Scriptures,” truth in the context of the Word in which it is found.  We are not interested in a topical approach where we come up with some topic and then flip through our Bibles to find verses that seem to support what we want to say.  Rather, we open our Bibles and take a passage and expound text after text, explaining what is there and drawing out application from the text.  This leads to burning hearts.

Interpreted correctly, the Bible is something of a mirror, revealing our sins and pointing out our need for forgiveness in Christ.  It is a bit like the guy who was shaking hands with his pastor after the morning service.  He looked long and hard at his pastor before saying, “Pastor, your sermons are powerful, thoughtful, and well-researched.  I can always see myself in them and I want you to knock it off.”  Yes, the Bible is an authoritative book that often cuts us like a knife (Hebrews 4:12), pointing out what needs correction in our lives.  But God lovingly uses this knife the way a surgeon carefully uses a scalpel, bringing necessary healing to our souls.

We must correctly interpret the Scriptures.  Secondly . . .

II. We must Correctly Identify The Son.

Like many today, the two disciples on their way to the village of Emmaus had the wrong idea of Jesus.  They had incorrectly “ID’d Him.”  They believed He was a Messiah of some kind.  They had said back in verse 21, “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.”  Of course, the irony is that Jesus did redeem Israel!  But they had a different kind of redemption in view.  They were seeking a political Messiah, not a spiritual Messiah.

Jesus had, in fact, redeemed Israel but it was not a redemption that meant freedom from political oppression.  It was a redemption that accomplished freedom from spiritual oppression.  

Christ did not come to

Save men from soldiers,

But to save men from sin.

This is the reason Jesus gives these two disciples the Bible lesson that He does.  

He teaches them that

It was necessary

For the Messiah to

Die, to be buried,

And to rise from the dead.  

Only by Christ’s death

And resurrection can

Man be forgiven of sin.

He died for our sins and

Was raised for our justification

(Romans 4:25).

We may wonder which Scriptures Jesus used during that 7-mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  In actuality, Jesus told the two not just about His death, burial, and resurrection, but we in verse 27, “He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” 

The whole of the Bible points to Christ.

Jesus began His ministry with this teaching, the teaching that the Old Testament prophets foretold His coming.  Do you remember back in Luke 4 when Jesus began His earthly ministry? Hear again what He said that fateful day in verses 16-21, “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.  And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’  Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.  And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’”

The Bible points to Christ . . .

  • In Peter’s first sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, as He is preaching about Christ, he says in verse 25, “For David speaks concerning Him . . .”
  • Philip taught the same thing to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.  The eunuch is reading from the Old Testament and in Acts 8:35 the Bible tells us,  “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.”
  • When Peter preached to Cornelius, Peter said of Christ in Acts 10:43, “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”

The whole Bible points to Jesus.  The Old Testament is a “Him Book” – It is about Him. Every Old Testament book whispers His name.

For example, in the Book of Genesis . . .

  • The Bible tells us that Adam failed the obedience test in the Garden of Eden and his sin is imputed to us.  Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the Garden of Gethsemane and whose righteousness is imputed to us.
  • The Bible tells us that Abel who was slain and his blood cried out for condemnation?  Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, His blood now cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.
  • The Bible tells us that Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfort of heaven, and come into the world that He might create a new people of God.
  • The Bible tells us that Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us.  Now we can look at God taking His son up to Mt. Calvary and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”
  • The Bible tells us that Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.
  • The Bible tells us that Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed him, and sold him into bondage, and uses his new power to save them.
  • The Bible tells us that Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.
  • The Bible tells us that Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.
  • The Bible tells us that Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves His [foolish] friends.
  • The Bible tells us that Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes His people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.
  • The Bible tells us that Jesus is the true and better Esther who did not just risk leaving an earthly palace but left the ultimate and heavenly one, who did not just risk his life, but gave His life to save His people.
  • The Bible tells us that Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.
  • The Bible tells us that Jesus is the Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, and slain so the angel of death will pass over us.
  • The Bible tells us that Jesus is the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.

The Bible’s really not about you – it is about Him.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 24:1-12 – What Do We Do With The Resurrection Of Christ?

Grace For The Journey

We have been making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke and we find ourselves beginning the final chapter, chapter 24.  If you are wondering why we are studying an Easter passage in early September it is not because we are confused or ignorant, but simply because it is the next passage in our sequential study of the book of Luke.

Having said that . . .

It is always appropriate

To preach an Easter message

Because it is always appropriate

To preach the resurrection.  

In fact, we cannot fully appreciate any event in human history apart from the resurrection of Christ, apart from the redemptive message of the cross and our need for salvation.

The previous chapter, chapter 23, concluded with the death and burial of Christ in a tomb just outside the city of Jerusalem.  It was the day before Sabbath and there are some women who intended to come back after the Sabbath to anoint Christ’s body with spices and fragrant oils.  Luke begins chapter 24 with what happens on that third day, the first day of the week, Sunday.

I want you to picture in your mind for a moment a car with a trailer hitched to the back, a U-Haul trailer . . . Now I want to state the obvious: The car does not need the trailer in order to move forward.  Right?  A car can move without a trailer attached to it. If you’re driving the car, it is up to you whether you wish to attach something to the back and haul it around.

The resurrection is not like a U-Haul trailer that we hitch to the back of a car.  It is not as though one can be a Christian and just sort of “take or leave” the resurrection.  Yet, there are many people who try to do just that.  They say they believe in the teachings of Christ, but they do not believe in the bodily resurrection.  Some of these men and women are gifted scholars and write books.  Some of them even pastor churches.  But they view the resurrection as something of a U-Haul trailer, you can hitch it to your life if you like, but it really is not necessary.

And yet, the Bible teaches something else.  You read the New Testament and you read the Apostle Paul and you get the idea that the resurrection drives everything.  

The truth of Christianity rises or falls

On the fact of an empty tomb.

That is not my conclusion, it is the center-piece of the message of the Gospel . . .

Romans 4:25 – Christ was, “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Romans 6:4-5 – “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”

1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4 – “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand” . . . For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

1 Corinthians 15:17 – “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”

For the Christian . . .

The resurrection is everything.

It is truth that makes

Our lives possible.

I want to share with you from the first 12 verses in Luke 24 a few things about this truth of the resurrection . . .

I. It Is A Truth To Remember – Verses 1-8.

Luke opens chapter 24 telling us that these women came to the tomb bringing spices in order to anoint the body of Christ.  It was a very loving thing to do.  They did not have time to do it the day Christ died because it was the eve of the Sabbath.  They are making their way to the tomb of Christ.  But when they arrive at the tomb, they find the stone rolled away and the body missing.  The Bible tells us that the women are “greatly perplexed” about this.

I am not going to take a lot of time to debunk all the popular liberal theories and alternative explanations of what happened to Christ’s body . . .  

  • Someone says, “The body was missing because the disciples came and got it and hid it somewhere.”

We can hardly imagine that scenario given the cowardice of these disciples who fled from Christ once He was arrested, to say nothing of their dying for the truth of the resurrection; all but one of them would eventually die the death of a martyr, dying for the truth of the resurrection.

  • Someone else says, “Well, the Jews stole the body or the Romans stole the body and hid it.”

Again, this makes even less sense, for if the Jews or Romans had the body then they certainly would have produced it for the world to see.  You have got these disciples later claiming that they had seen the resurrected Christ and that He appeared to them and so forth.  If that were not so and the unbelieving Jews or Romans actually had the body themselves, all they had to do was say, “The disciples are lying. Here’s the body of Jesus right here!”

Luke, being guided by the Holy Spirit tells us what happened.  While the women are standing there wondering what had happened to the body of Jesus, Luke says in verse 4 that, “two men stood by them in shining garments.” These were angels.  The women are afraid when they see the angels.  The angels ask this question of the women in verse 5, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  That is a good question, isn’t it?  But that is just the problem: they were not seeking the living.  They were seeking the dead. They had come to finish the anointing of Christ’s body for burial. They were not seeking the living. They were seeking the dead.

The angels say in verse 6, “He is not here, but is risen!” and apparently they are still standing with mouths open and question marks above their heads and so the angels say, “Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee.”  They were to remember.  Remember what?  What had Jesus said?  Verse 7 tells us, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”  Jesus had said that very thing three different times (Luke 9:44; Luke 11:29-30; and Luke 18:31-33), but the significance of those statements did not sink in until this moment.  Luke then records in verse 8, “And they remembered His words.”

The resurrection is a truth to remember.  And once the women remembered that truth, it changed their lives.  Matthew, in his Gospel, tells us the women now had a fear mingled with great joy.  He is risen; this was Good News from the graveyard!  They then return in joy to tell others about the resurrected Christ.

The resurrection is a truth to remember.  

The resurrection changes our lives,

Not just at the point of initial salvation,

But at every point along the

Journey of the Christian’s life.

Because Christ is risen, I am forgiven of all my sins.  The Bible says in Romans 4:25, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” In other words, Jesus died taking our sins upon Himself and then God raised Jesus from the dead “for our justification;” that is, “so that we could be declared ‘Not guilty’ of our sin.”

This is why Christians can joyfully sing that part of the song, “In Christ Alone,” which says: “No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me.” The resurrection is not just, “No fear in death.”  That is great, of course.  I thank God that I have no fear in death.  I hope you have no fear of dying, too.  When our bodies die our souls will live-on either in heaven or hell depending on what we have done with the resurrection.

But the resurrection is not

Just, “No fear in death.”

The resurrection is also,

“No guilt in life.”

When you and I sin as Christians, because of the resurrection, we can remember this truth, and we can say, “No guilt in life.”

The resurrection is a truth to remember.  Secondly . . .

It Is A Truth To Report – Verses 9-10.

Verses 9 and 10 tells us, “Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things [they reported these things] to the eleven and to all the rest.  It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.”  These women did not keep the Good News of the resurrection to themselves; they shared the good news with others.

This is our task as well and really it is not so much a task as it is a privilege.  We have a life-saving message to share with everyone, from folks in our community across the seas to the continents around the world.  We have Good News too good to keep to ourselves.

If I know of a good restaurant and I really enjoy eating there, what am I going to do?  I am going to share that good news with others.  If I know of a place where they serve good tea or coffee, I will be fired-up about that and I will share that good news with others.  But the resurrection is more important than dinner and coffee.  If I know you have an illness and I know it is a fatal illness, an illness that will lead to death if untreated.  If I have had that same illness, but I have been healed, and I know you have the same illness and I do not share the medication with you, what am I?  I am selfish, uncaring, mean, and criminal.  The resurrection is a truth to report. It’s a truth to tell others.

Some need to share this truth with your family.  Some need to share this truth with a friend at school. Some of you need to share the life-saving message of the resurrection with somebody because, “All have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We all have a fatal disease.  We are all sinners.  Unless we receive the antidote of the Gospel, we will remain dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).

The resurrection: it is a truth to remember; it is a truth to report;  and thirdly . . .

III.        It Is A Truth To Receive – Verses 11-12.

Every one of us must receive the truth of the resurrection.  It is a truth that must become personal to us, not personal in the sense of private.  Christianity is not a private religion. Christianity is personal, that is . . . It means something to us personally.  It is not an abstract, it real and personal to us.  The resurrection is a truth we must receive by faith.

This was not the case for the disciples at first.  They had trouble grappling with the resurrection.  After the disciples had heard the truth the women had reported, they were at first unwilling to receive it as truth.  Verse 11 says, “And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.”  It is interesting that Christ should choose to appear first to women.  We have noted before that women were often treated as second-class or third-class citizens in the day of Jesus.  Their testimony was not heard and believed in the same way a man’s testimony would be heard.  It is just like Jesus, then, to turn the tables yet again.

Christ’s appearing first to women and their being the first eye-witnesses account is yet another thing that argues for the authenticity of the resurrection account. If you lived in the time of Jesus and you wanted to make up a story and present it as true and you wanted to write a story about someone rising from the dead, you would not choose women as the first people to see and report about it because nobody would believe women.

It is just like Jesus to appear to them first.  This is not made up.  It is just another demonstration of God’s ways not being the ways of man.  In fact, the Bible says the disciples could not believe what they were hearing.  Verse 11 says that all this talk about Jesus being alive “seemed to them like idle tales,” literally “nonsense,” and “they did not believe them.”  Verse 12 even tells us Peter ran to the tomb; and stooping down, sees the evidence of the resurrection, but cannot seem to receive this truth.  Now of course, later, the disciples will encounter the resurrected Christ Himself and they will believe.  They will receive this truth of the resurrection and be saved. 

But why do so many not receive the resurrection as truth today?  I think, in part, it can be explained by what we read and studied in Luke 16.  Remember the story Jesus told about the unbelieving rich man and the believing man named Lazarus?  Both died; Lazarus went to heaven; the unbelieving rich man went to hell.  Remember also how the rich man requested that Lazarus should be allowed to go and warn his brothers about death and the judgment to come?  Is his request granted?  No.  The reply to the request is, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”  In other words, they have the Bible.  The Bible warns of death and the judgment to come.  The Bible tells how we must be saved.  But the unbelieving rich man cries out from hell, “No, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” But then comes the reply, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”  Luke may as well say here in chapter 24 what he recorded in chapter 16, “If we do not hear Moses and the prophets [if we do not know our Bibles and believe our Bibles], neither will we be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”

The truth of the resurrection

Is a fact of the Bible that

We must receive by faith.

We must believe it and receive its truth into our lives.  If you are waiting for some supernatural special sign in the sky or for God to call you up on your mobile phone and speak audibly to you, you will remain dead in your trespasses and sins.  But if you will receive this truth of the resurrection, you will be saved.

You must deal with the resurrection. If you do not do so today, you will answer for it at a future time.  Most of us keep calendars and we make and keep appointments.  There are two appointments in our calendars that we do not make ourselves; they are made for us by God.  The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto man to die once and after this, the judgment.”  Two appointments made for us by God: death and judgment.  Are you prepared for those two appointments?

To prepare for them we must deal with the resurrection: a truth to remember, a truth to report, and a truth to receive.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 23:50-56 – Taking a Stand for Christ

Grace For The Journey

The evangelist Billy Sunday used to tell of a professing Christian who got a job in a lumber camp that had the reputation of being very ungodly.  A friend, hearing that the man had been hired, said to him, “If those lumberjacks ever find out you’re a Christian, you’re going to be in for a hard time!” The man responded, “I know, but I need the job!”  The next morning he left for camp.  A year later, he came home for a visit.  While in town, he met his friend who asked, “Well, how did it go?  Did they give you a hard time because you’re a Christian?”  “Oh no, not at all,” the man replied. “They didn’t give me a bit of trouble—they never even found out!” (“Our Daily Bread,” 11/83.)

While we may chuckle at that story, many of us may wince.  It hits too close to home! Living in a world that is hostile to Christianity, it is easy just to blend in, to laugh at the dirty jokes, never to confront the gossip, and never to speak a word that would identify yourself as a Christian.  Besides, it might cost your reputation or even your job! Sometimes even among Christian friends it is hard to hold to your convictions for fear of what they will think.

That is why you should be interested in the story of Joseph of Arimathea, the man who buried Jesus.  No one knows where Arimathea was located, but the designation helps distinguish him from other Josephs.  He was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the body of 70 men who governed the religious and many of the civic matters in Israel.  It was the Sanhedrin that had condemned Jesus to death, although Joseph had not consented to their plan and action.  But probably he had not spoken out as vigorously as he should have.  John 19:39 tells us that he was a secret disciple of Jesus, for fear of the Jews.  His fear had caused Joseph not to take a bold stand for Christ, even though in his heart he knew that he should have done so.

But now, after Jesus was dead, when His followers had gone into hiding, Joseph gathered up his courage (Mark 15:43), went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus so that he could give Him a proper burial.  If he had not done so, Jesus’ body probably would have been thrown on a garbage heap and burned, robbing us of some of the major proofs of the resurrection, as we will see.  We can thank Joseph for honoring Jesus with a proper burial and for giving us many evidences for our faith.

Joseph seemingly had nothing to gain and everything to lose by identifying himself with Jesus at this point in time.  Jesus was dead and no one was expecting His resurrection. It would have been much easier for Joseph to have thought, “Oh, well!  Jesus was a good man and a prophet of God.  It is too bad that these things happen.  But, life must go on. I will have more influence if I do not rock the boat and keep my seat on the Sanhedrin.  I had better not do anything to upset anyone and jeopardize my position of influence.”  But in spite of the risks, Joseph came out of hiding and took a strong stand for Jesus by providing Him a proper burial. He gives us an example of what other Scriptures teach by precept:

The Lord wants us all to take

A stand for Him in this hostile world.

That sound great! But, how do we do it?  Much could be said, but our text reveals at least three factors that will help . . .

1. To Take A Stand For The Lord, Go Often To The Foot Of The Cross.

I cannot say for certain what made Joseph come out of hiding.  Perhaps it was the result of a long process . . .  

  • He had heard Jesus’ teaching, especially that final week in the temple.  
  • He had heard reports of His miracles, especially raising Lazarus from the dead.
  • Knowing the Scriptures, he realized that Jesus uniquely fulfilled the many messianic prophecies.  
  • He also could see the jealousy and selfishness of his fellow members of the council.
  • Unlike the majority of them, Luke tells us that Joseph was “a good and righteous man,” “who was waiting for the kingdom of God” (23:50, 51; see 2:25).
  • As Joseph’s convictions about Jesus grew, he also grew more uncomfortable with the views of his fellow members on the Sanhedrin.
  • Finally, he could no longer keep it in.

But I think that the deciding factor

That pushed Joseph over the line

Was standing at the cross

And watching Jesus die.

Luke hints at this: In 23:47 . . .

  • He states that when the centurion saw the events at the cross, especially Jesus’ final cry, he broke forth in praise.  
  • In the next verse, he reports that when the multitudes observed what had happened, they went home beating their breasts.  
  • He also reports that Jesus’ acquaintances and the women who followed Him, “were standing at a distance, seeing these things” (23:48).  
  • Immediately Luke adds, “And, behold” to grab our attention. Not only were His followers observing these things, but of all people, a member of the Council was seeing these things!

Seeing the sky darken, watching Jesus on the cross, hearing His final words, hearing the centurion’s praise, watching the multitude depart in mourning – all of this mounted up until Joseph said, “That’s enough!  I cannot hide my convictions any longer. I do not care what it costs me, I am going to Pilate so that I can give this Man the decent burial He deserves!”

The cross is the center of the Christian faith.  While we cannot stand and take in the events first-hand, as Joseph and the others did that day, we should come often to the foot of the cross and think about its implications.  The Bible sums up the core of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  The cross is central (see also Galatians 2:20; 6:14).  If you go to the cross often, you will not be the same.  It will strengthen you to take a stand for Christ. Note these particulars about going to the cross:

A. Going To The Cross Will Remind Us That Jesus Died.

That may sound obvious, but it is an important fact to establish . . .  

If Jesus did not actually die,

Then He did not die for our sins.

If He did not die, then He was not bodily resurrected, in which case, the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “… your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”  Jesus did not just “swoon” or go into a semi-comatose state, to be revived later, as some liberals have asserted.

The Gospels all make it clear that Jesus died physically.  The soldiers regarded Jesus as dead so that they did not break His legs to hasten death, as they did with the other two men on the cross.  Rather, one of the soldiers thrust his spear into Jesus’ side, so that blood and water gushed out (John 19:31-34).  If He had not been dead before, that would have killed Him.  Also, the Bible reports in Mark 15:44-45 that Pilate ascertained from the Roman centurion (who certainly knew a live prisoner from a dead one) that Jesus was dead before he released the body to Joseph.  If we accept the eyewitness testimony of the Gospel writers, there is no question that Jesus died physically.

These seemingly incidental facts of Jesus’ death fulfilled specific Old Testament prophecies.  The fact that they were fulfilled in such an obviously unintentional manner underscores God’s sovereignty and the careful accuracy of biblical prophecy.  For example, the fact that the soldiers broke the legs of the two men on either side of Jesus, but did not break His legs, in spite of orders to do so, fulfilled the Scripture that none of the Passover lamb’s bones should be broken (Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20).  The soldier’s piercing Jesus’ side was probably a whim on his part, but he fulfilled Zechariah 12:10, that Israel “will look on Me whom they have pierced.”

B. Going To The Cross Will Remind Us That Jesus Died For Our Sins.

Jesus did not just die a common death, like that of the two thieves.  

He offered Himself

As the Lamb of God,

The substitutionary sacrifice

For our sins.

The darkness at noon pictured the judgment that God poured out on Jesus.  His cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” reveals His agony as He was made sin on our behalf.  The torn veil in the temple shows that through His death, Jesus opened the way into the holy of holies.  The cross satisfied God’s holy wrath against our sin, so that the Bible declares in Romans 3:26, He is free to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”  As we think often of what Christ did for us there, it will strengthen us to take a bold stand for Him who endured all of that out of love for us.

C. Going To The Cross Will Remind Us That Jesus Was Buried.

Why does Paul mention Jesus’ burial in his summary of the gospel?  

Jesus’ burial is

Further evidence

Of His death.

If there had been a glimmer of life left in Him, surely Joseph and those who helped him take down the body and prepare it for the tomb would have noticed.  As mentioned, the fact of His burial in the tomb, as opposed to being tossed on the dump in the valley of Gehenna, provides us with several proofs of His resurrection.  We have the empty tomb.  The disciples saw the grave clothes lying in the tomb.  The heavy stone rolled against the entrance, sealed with the Roman seal, and guarded by the Roman guard, give us evidence that the tomb was secure from grave robbers.

Also, Jesus’ burial is further proof of His real humanity. In the early days of the church, a heresy called “Docetism” (from the Greek verb, “to seem”) arose that denied that Jesus was a real man.  Rather, He only “seemed” to be so.  At the root of this heresy was the view that matter is essentially evil, whereas spirit is good.  This in turn led to all sorts of wrong ideas and behavior.  It undermined the incarnation, the atonement, and the resurrection.  If Jesus was not a real man who died for our sins and was bodily raised, then we have no salvation.  Thus, it is important to affirm Jesus’ burial.

While Docetism may no longer be a problem, there are false teachers in every age that come along speaking of Jesus Christ.

But the key question

Always must be,

“Which Christ?”

Are they talking about the Christ of the Bible or one of their own making?  As James Stalker puts it in his book, The Trial and Death of Jesus Christ, “Only the Christ of the Scriptures could have brought us the salvation of the Scriptures.”

Also, the fact that Joseph buried Jesus in his own tomb, where no one had ever lain, is significant.  The Bible tells us in Matthew 27:57 that Joseph was a rich man.  Isaiah 53:9 predicted that Messiah’s “grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death.”  Joseph’s burial specifically fulfilled this prophecy.  The fact that it was a new tomb gives further evidence that Jesus’ body could not have been mixed up with another body from that tomb.  His was the only body there and it was gone!

All of these facts about Jesus’ death and burial should strengthen our resolve to take a bold stand for Him because they give us solid evidence that He is who He claimed to be.

D. Going To The Cross Will Remind Us That Jesus Was Raised From The Dead On The Third Day.

The Bible states in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 that, “Christ died for our sins…, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  We will examine the resurrection in our studies of Luke 24, and so I only mention it here in passing.  As you know, the resurrection is the foundation of the entire Christian faith.  It is God’s proof to all men that He will someday judge the world in righteousness through Jesus (Acts 17:31).  If you struggle with taking a bold stand for Christ, go often to the foot of the cross and remember that Christ not only died for your sins, but also that He was raised from the dead and that He is coming again soon to judge the living and the dead.

Still it is not easy to take a definite stand for Christ.  It is costly, and we can only do it if we prepare ourselves for the cost:

2. To Take A Stand For The Lord, Be Prepared To Pay The Price.

We are not told what happened to Joseph of Arimathea after the day that he buried Jesus, but it is not being speculative to say that he paid a heavy price.  We may face the same costs.

A. We May Have To Sacrifice Our Reputation For Christ.

When the Sanhedrin heard that one of their own had buried this despised Galilean, they would have been shocked. The religious leaders had thrown out of the synagogue the man born blind, whom Jesus healed (John 9:22, 34).  It is not hard to imagine that they voted Joseph out of the Council, excluded him from any position of religious or social influence, and did everything they could to ruin his reputation in Jerusalem.  His wife and children may have been ostracized. His stand for Christ cut him off from all of his former associates.

Often it is not only your reputation in the world, but also your reputation in the religious world that takes a beating when you take a bold stand for Christ.  The evangelical church in America has grown tolerant of just about anyone except the man who stands for biblical truth on unpopular issues. I’ve had people in Christian ministry call me a legalist because I preach that we must obey God and I preach against sin.  I have been called divisive because I will not join in the unity movement with denominations that deny the Gospel.  I have been called unloving because do not accept the tolerant view of psychology because it is soft on sin.  But the crucial matter is not what people think or say about you.  The crucial matter is what does God think?  If you live to please Him, then you can let Him take care of your reputation.

B. We May Have To Sacrifice Our Religion For Christ.

In order to bury Jesus, Joseph had to defile himself ceremonially by touching a dead body, right on the eve of the Jewish Passover (Numbers 9:6; 19:11-12).  But both Joseph and Nicodemus (another member of the Council who joined him, John 19:39)  felt that it was more important to give Jesus a proper burial than it was to remain ceremonially pure for Passover.  Christ now was their true Passover lamb who had been slain.  They let go of their rituals and laid hold of Jesus Christ.

To be a committed follower of Jesus, you have to let go of your religion, even if it goes under the label of “Christian.”  By religion, I mean any attempt to be righteous before God or others by keeping certain rules or by outward behavior.  Religious people take pride in what they do or do not do, but they do not judge sins of the heart.  They put on a good front at church, but at home they are angry and difficult to live with.

But genuine Christianity is a matter of the heart. True Christians have been to the cross, where they not only trust in Christ as their righteousness; they are crucified with Him. They daily put to death the deeds of the flesh.  They judge sins of thought, as well as word and deed.  They live in daily repentance, humbling themselves before God and others, so that the life of Christ may shine through them.

C. We May Have To Sacrifice Our Riches For Christ.

Joseph gave up his personal tomb, an expensive thing to do.  Remember, he was not expecting it to be vacated in three days!  He could have bought a cheaper tomb for Jesus, out in the countryside somewhere, but he gave Jesus the best.  He also bought linen wrappings and spices.  He may have had to pay Pilate for the body.  But he was willing to give generously because he believed in Jesus as his Lord and Messiah.

Jesus said Luke 14:33, “No one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”  You say, “He does not mean that literally, does He?”  No, He did not mean it any more literally than when He said that we must hate our families in order to follow Him (14:26).  But before you say, “Whew!” and go on living just as you were, you need to do some hard thinking about His words.

You cannot buy off God by giving Him a tenth of your income.  In fact, for most of us, if you do not give more than a tenth, you are robbing God.  Most of us could easily give far more than a tenth to the Lord’s work if we really believed the Great Commission and if we were more careful stewards.  We could live much more simply and give far more generously if, like Joseph, we were really “waiting for the kingdom of God.”  If you give your money to God’s kingdom, your heart will follow (Matthew 6:21).  You will find yourself being much more committed to Christ if you give radically.  If you give what is safe and convenient, you will be safe and convenient when it comes to taking a bold stand for Christ.

To take a bold stand for Christ, go often to the cross; be prepared to pay the price; snf finally . . .

3. To Take A Stand For Christ, “Show Up” And Do What You Can Do.

Here I am focusing on the women who followed Jesus out of Galilee and now follow to see where and how His body was laid.  They went back to prepare more spices and perfumes, intending to return after the Sabbath and further anoint His body.  Matthew Henry points out that their actions sprang more from love than from faith, since they did not yet understand or believe that He would be raised from the dead.  But at least they showed up.  Why weren’t the eleven there with them, helping with the burial?  They had gone into hiding out of fear of the Jews (John 20:19).  But because the women were there and because they went back on that resurrection morning, they had the privilege of being the first witnesses of the risen Savior.

Norval Geldenhuys observes in his Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, “In the hours of crisis, it is often the Peters who have sworn loyalty to Jesus with big gestures and fullness of self-confidence, that disappoint, and it is the secret and quiet followers of the Master (like Joseph, Nicodemus and the women) that do not hesitate to serve Him in love – at whatever cost.”

Maybe you cannot be an articulate verbal witness for Christ in front of a group.  But you can still take a stand by your behavior, your attitude, and your quiet resolve not to compromise.  Just “show up” in the sense of siding with Jesus, even if you are not clear about how to defend the faith.  Show your commitment and love for the Savior, and He will use you as He used Joseph and these faithful women.


Martin Luther, who certainly modeled taking a stand for Christ, wrote, “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that point attacking, I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is tested and to be steady in all the battlefields besides is mere flight and disgrace if the soldier flinches at that one point.”  If there is a point where you know you are compromising your stand for Christ, where you are blending in with the world but you know that you need to take a stand, learn from Joseph of Arimathea.  Go to the foot of the cross and think about the Savior’s death on your behalf. Be prepared to count the cost.  And, the next opportunity you get, show up and do whatever you can to let others know that you are on Jesus’ side.  Even if you formerly were a secret disciple, God will use you as He used Joseph of Arimathea, to be a bold witness and to render valuable service for the Savior.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 23:44-49 – The Death Of The Innocent One

Grace For The Journey

We are continuing our series of studies in the Gospel of Luke entitled, “Certainty in Uncertain Times.”  Luke has attempted to write an orderly account of the life and death of Jesus so that his readers may be certain of the things they have heard.  We are slowly inching towards the end of Luke’s account.  Now we are at the pinnacle of the life of Jesus – His crucifixion.  As we reflect upon our study of Luke thus far, we will recall the repeated declaration of Jesus’ innocence.

  • Luke 23:4 – “Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no guilt in this man.’”
  • Luke 23:14-15 – “And [Pilate] said to them, ‘You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him.  No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.’”
  • Luke 23:22 – “And he said to them the third time, ‘Why, what evil has this man done?  I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.’”

Despite the fact that Jesus was never declared guilty of anything, the Jewish leaders persuaded Pilate and the people to crucify Jesus.

Even when Pilate presented an opportunity to have Jesus released, the Jewish leaders called for a convicted criminal to be released instead.  We read in Luke 23:18-23, “But they cried out all together, saying, ‘Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!’  (He was one who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection made in the city, and for murder.)  Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, but they kept on calling out, saying, ‘Crucify, crucify Him!’  And he said to them the third time, ‘Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.’  But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail.”  At the command of Pilate, they led Jesus to Golgotha to be crucified along with two criminals.

While Jesus is on the cross one criminal asked Jesus to remember him, while the other questioned why Jesus does not save Himself. 

This leads us to our text this morning.  Throughout the book of Luke, and particularly in the last two chapters we have studied, Luke has sought to show the innocence of Jesus.  Our passage this morning is the crowning moment of Luke’s emphasis on Jesus’ innocence. 

In addition to the clear theme of the innocence of Jesus, we also see explicit evidence of God’s controlling hand at this moment.  We are taking our time throughout the end of Luke.  This morning we are studying the crucifixion and death of Jesus.  We will look at three reactions that came from the crucifixion and death of Jesus, the Innocent One.

Creation mourns the death of the Innocent One (vv. 44-46)

We see right away in verses 44 and 45 that this event is marked by a striking sign – darkness over all the earth, “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.  Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.”  In case you are curious what time that would have been, according to the Jewish time keeping system it would have been 12 PM to 3 PM.

There was darkness over the land for three solid hours. That is a big deal.  Obviously, it is not normally dark in our state from 12 to 3 PM. It would not have been normal for Jerusalem either.  Some have attempted to explain this darkness as a solar eclipse. That attempt is silly.  Remember, this is happening during the Jewish Passover.  The Passover took place during the full moon phase.  I am told that an eclipse during the full moon phase is impossible.

Instead, we can explain this darkness as evidence that God is fully aware of what is happening.  In Scripture when darkness covers the earth it is usually a sign of an eschatological event or the judgment of God.  In any case, we can be sure that this darkness is not a good thing. Rather, it is a sign that God is not pleased with the events taking place.

God is still absolutely 100% in control at this time, and He shows it by His creation crying out through darkness covering the Earth.

Next, in the latter part of verse 45, we are told that the temple veil, or curtain, is torn in two.  This does not mean that someone tore the veil as if one of Jesus’ followers were there tearing the temple veil.  Rather, it means that God Himself tore the veil.  Most biblical scholars agree that this veil or curtain was the one that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place.  The Holy Place would have been the place where only the high priest was allowed to go and intercede with God on behalf of the people.

The symbolism of the tearing

Of this veil is no small matter.

This would have been a catastrophic event for devout Jewish worshipers.  For centuries they worshipped God in this matter. They were never allowed to be in His presence.  This is in effect breaking down the barrier between God and man.  We will look more into this truth toward the end of our study.

Finally, we see Jesus exercise dominion over God’s creation and human life itself by willingly yielding His life at His appointed time.  Verse 46 tells us, “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’  Having said this, He breathed His last.”  Jesus was not blind-sided by His death.  He was in control.  He laid down His life under His own control.  This statement not only shows Jesus giving Himself to God, but it shows Jesus’ humble obedience to the Father.  Some of the other Gospels give a more detailed account of the horrific nature of the crucifixion.  Luke, however, focuses on Jesus’ innocence and His obedience to the will of God.

Normally crucifixion was a slow death.  However, Jesus simply gave His life up willingly to the Father.  The phrase “Into your hands I commit my spirit” is a quote from Psalm 31:5.  This moment was foretold long ago.  Jesus was in control.  He willingly gave His life on the cross.  Not only did creation respond to the death of Jesus, but the people did also.  In verses 47-49 we see that the people are moved by the death of the Innocent One, “So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, ‘Certainly this was a righteous Man!’  And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned.  But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”

We see three different perspectives to the death of Jesus in these verses . . .

1) We See The Reaction Of The Centurion.

A centurion was a Roman officer with leadership over 100 soldiers.  He probably would have witnessed most of the events leading up to this point.  At the least, we know that he witnessed Jesus’ interaction with His enemies, His interaction with the two criminals, His brutal crucifixion, His prayer to the Father, the darkness over the earth, and the death of the Son of God. 

The centurion says, “Certainly this was a righteous man.”  Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospel report the centurion saying, “Certainly this man was the Son of God.”  Luke, however, uses “righteous” or “innocent.”  This fits with his theme of showing the innocence of Jesus.  This is certainly not a problem or contradiction between the Gospels.  Rather these are complimentary accounts that lead us to the same point . . .

That Jesus is who

He claimed to be,

The innocent,


Son of God.

If there was any doubt left that Jesus was innocent, the Roman centurion lays that to rest in verse 47.

2) We See The Response Of The People In The Crowd.

Luke tells his readers that those in the crowd “beat their breasts.”  There are a few verses in the Bible that speak about people beating their breasts. 

  • In Nahum 2:7 and Isaiah 32:12-13 we are told this was a sign of grief or pain. 
  • In Luke 18:13 the tax collector beat his breast while praying to God which was a sign of contrition or repentance.

The reason for the crowd beating their chests was probably some of both.  They were probably feeling grief, guilt, contrition, humiliation, and confusion.  They were probably absolutely overwhelmed with emotion as they witnessed the death of the Righteous One.

Remember, just hours before, the crowd was responding in quite a different way toward Jesus. 

  • Luke 23:35 tells us that the rulers sneered at Him.
  • Luke 23:36 tells us that the soldiers mocked Him.
  • Luke 22, Mark 15, and John 19 tell us that they struck Him. 
  • Mark and John add that they also mockingly bowed down and worshipped Him.
  • Luke 23:21 tells us that when Pilate asked what he should do with Jesus, the entire crowd shouted, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”

There is no reason for us to think that all of these people automatically accepted Jesus as the Son of God and the one Savior of the Universe.   However, something changed in their minds that day about Jesus.  They were horrified at what they had done to this Innocent Man.

We also see that that Jesus’ acquaintances and the women who followed Him stood at a distance watching these things.  Luke doesn’t tell us exactly what Jesus’ followers are thinking or feeling.  We can be sure that they were horrified, confused, heart-broken, and scared.  This is not what they expected of their coming Messiah.

This would have caused His followers to take a long hard look at the life and death of Jesus and try to make sense of it all.  They expected a conquering Messiah.  One who would bring power to the Jewish people, establish justice and truth, and bring God’s kingdom to earth.  As Jesus neared the end of His life, He repeatedly showed that this was not the kind of Messiah that He was to be.  However, no one expected it to end like this.  I am sure His followers were absolutely devastated.

So, here we are.  Everything that Jesus had lived for, His 33 years of life, His three years of ministry, His miracles, His sparring with the religious elite, His brilliant answers to His objectors, His innocent perfection comes down to this moment; and, His death on a cross.

The death of the Innocent One not only caused creation to mourn, it not only moved the people that were there, but . . .

3) It Changed Mankind Forever.

We see in verses 47-49 that humanity is changed by the death of the Innocent One.  Not only were the people that were present at the crucifixion changed, but everything about human civilization is now changed. 

The door that leads to a

Relationship with God

Will soon be wide open.

The tearing of the veil in the temple was a clear sign that now mankind is able to approach the throne of God. 

When that veil tore, it signified that Jesus’ death was the perfect sacrifice, and that He was the Perfect High Priest.  Hebrews 9:11-14 describes it for us, “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.  Not with the blood of goats and calves, bit with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once and for all, having obtained eternal redemption.  For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to god, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

These verses tell us that Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come.  He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world.  With his own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.  Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity.  Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God.  For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

In Hebrews 10:19-22 the Bible tells us, “Therefore, brethren, having boldeness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the vail, that is His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

These verses tell us that we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.  By His death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.  Since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him and what He did upon the cross and the empty tomb.  For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Listen to the lyrics of one of my favorite modern worship songs:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea:
A great High Priest, whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise the One,
Risen Son of God!

Behold Him there, the Risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I am,
The King of glory and of grace!

One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God
With Christ, my Savior and my God1

The death of Jesus Christ changes everything.  It is part of the key moment in the history of human civilization.  Ever since the creation of our planet, God was pointing mankind to this moment.  Since the death of Jesus, people have looked back to that moment as a sign of God’s grace to the world.

No event in the history of mankind

Has been so monumental.

I  am so glad that there is more to the story!  Jesus did not stay dead, but He conquered death and rose from the grave.  He appeared to over 500 people.  He promised that He would return one day.  Finally, He ascended into Heaven and sent us the Holy Spirit.

Jesus offers us the opportunity to be saved from the punishment that we deserve for our sins because He paid a punishment that He did not deserve.  We are guilty, He is innocent.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:18a, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”  Just as the blood of animals was shed by the high priest in the most holy place in the temple, so also Jesus shed His blood for the atonement, or payment, of our sins.  The Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:22b, “For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”

 Creation mourned the death of the Innocent One, the people were moved by the death of the Innocent One, and humanity was changed forever by the death of the Innocent One.

I challenge you to take a look at the death of Jesus.  What do you make of it?  Is this simply a myth?  Is it a terrible tragedy?  Or, is it part of God’s plan to bring redemption to a world of sinners who desperately need it?

Robert Stein, a biblical scholar, says, “What was taking place was not simply the death of an innocent Jew by crucifixion.  It was not just the death of a righteous prophet.  It was far, far more.  This was the death of God’s Son by which He is able today to be the Savior of the world.”

I mentioned earlier that Jesus’ followers did not know what was going on at the death of Jesus.  We, however, are blessed with the ability to look back knowing the significance of Jesus’ death.  God has revealed to us through His Word that there is only one way for us to be made right with Him, and that is through Jesus Christ.  If you have not taken a hard look at Jesus, I urge you to do so now.

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”