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What is the Good News of the Kingdom of God?

What is the Good News of the Kingdom of God?

In Mark 1:14-15, we read that after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The Gospel of God

John 3:16As soon as John the Baptist had finished his testimony, Jesus began His in Galilee, His home district. John’s enemies had sought to silence Him, but the gospel cannot be silenced.

What is the Gospel of God which Jesus came to preach? The word “gospel” literally means “good news.”

When a king had good news to deliver to his subjects he sent messengers or heralds throughout the land to make a public announcement – such as the birth of a newborn king or the victory over an invading army or occupied force.

God sent His prophets to announce the coming of God’s anointed King and Messiah.

After Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan and anointed by the Spirit He begins His ministry of preaching the Gospel – the good news that the kingdom of God was now at hand for all who were ready to receive it.

The Kingdom of God

Jesus proclaimed that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus takes up John’s message of repentance and calls His disciples to believe in the gospel – the good news He has come to deliver.

What is the good news?

It is the good news of peace (restoration of relationship with God as Ephesians 6:15 says), of hope (the hope of heaven and everlasting life – Colossians 1:23), of truth (God’s word is true and reliable – Colossians 1:5), of promise (He rewards those who seek Him – Ephesians 3:6), of immortality (God gives everlasting life – 2 Timothy 1:10), and the good news of salvation (liberty from sin and freedom to live as sons and daughters of God – Ephesians 1:13).

God sent us His Son not to establish an earthly kingdom but to bring us into His heavenly kingdom – a kingdom ruled by truth, justice, peace, and holiness. The kingdom of God is the central theme of Jesus’ mission. It’s the core of His gospel message.

God Rules over All

What is the kingdom of God? The word “kingdom” means something more than a territory or an area of land. It literally means “sovereignty” or “reign” and the power to “rule” and exercise authority.

The prophets announced that God would establish a kingdom not just for one nation or people but for the whole world. The Scriptures tell us that God’s throne is in heaven and His rule is over all (Psalm 103:19).

God’s kingdom is bigger and more powerful than anything we can imagine because it is universal and everlasting (Daniel 4:3). His kingdom is full of glory, power, and splendor or glory (Psalm 145:11-13).

In the Book of Daniel, we read that this kingdom is given to the Son of Man (Daniel 7:14, 18, 22, 27). The Son of Man is a Messianic title for God’s anointed King. The New Testament word for “Messiah” is “Christ” which literally means the “Anointed One” or the “Anointed King.”

Conditions for Entering the Kingdom of God

How does one enter the kingdom of God? In announcing the good news, Jesus gave two explicit things each of us must do in order to enter the kingdom of God: repent and believe.

A. Repent

Repentance is the first step. Repentance means to change – to change our way of thinking and our attitude, disposition, and life choices so that Christ can be the Lord and Master of our hearts rather than sin, selfishness, and greed.

If we are only sorry for the consequences of our sins, we will very likely keep repeating the sin that is mastering us.

True repentance requires a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) and sorrow for sin and a firm resolution to avoid it in the future. The Lord Jesus gives us the grace to see sin for what it really is – a rejection of His love and wisdom for our lives and a refusal to do what is good and in accord with His will.

God’s grace brings pardon and help for turning away from everything that would keep us from His love and truth.

B. Believe

To believe is to take Jesus at His word and to recognize that God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to free us from the bondage of sin and harmful desires. God made the supreme sacrifice of His Son on the cross to bring us back to a relationship of peace and friendship with Himself. He is our Father and He wants us to live as His sons and daughters. God loved us first (1 John 4:19) and He invites us in love to surrender our lives to Him.

When we submit to Christ’s rule in our lives and believe the gospel message, the Lord Jesus gives us the grace and power to live a new way of life as citizens of His kingdom. He gives us the grace to renounce the kingdom of darkness ruled by sin and Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44) and the ruler of this present world (John 12:31).

Do you believe that the gospel – the good news of Jesus – has the power to free you from the bondage of sin and fear?

What is the Good News of the Kingdom of God

Becoming Fishers of Men

Like fishermen, we are called to gather in people for the kingdom of God. When Jesus preached the gospel message, He called others to follow as His disciples and He gave them a mission “to catch people for the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:16-20).

What kinds of disciples did Jesus choose? Smelly fishermen! In the choice of the first apostles, we see a characteristic feature of Jesus’ work: He chose very ordinary people. They were non-professionals, had no wealth or position. They were chosen from the common people who did ordinary things, had no special education, and no social advantages.

Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well. He chose these individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under His direction and power.

God Chooses Ordinary People to Catch People

When the Lord calls us to serve, we must not think that we have nothing to offer. The Lord takes what ordinary people, like you and me, can offer and uses it for greatness in His kingdom.

Do you believe that God wants to work in and through you for His glory?

Jesus speaks the same message to us today: we will “catch people” for the kingdom of God if we allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine through us. God wants others to see the light of Christ in us in the way we live, speak, and witness the joy of the gospel.

Do you witness to those around you the joy of the Gospel? Do you pray for your neighbor, co-workers, and relatives that they may come to know the Lord Jesus Christ and grow in the knowledge of His love?

Answering Tough Questions About the Bible (Part Two)

Answering Tough Questions About the Bible (Part Two)

In part one of this article, we answered questions that have to do with the origin of the Bible, its nature, the authors, and how they got their message from God. As we continue with the tough questions about the Bible, we will be answering questions about the inspiration and authority of the Bible, its reliability and the reliability of the biblical witnesses.

The Inspiration of the Bible

What do we mean when we say that the Bible is inspired? 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV) declares that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Combine this truth with 2 Peter 1:20-21, which affirms that the Scriptures were given by men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,” and we see that inspiration as a whole is the process by which Spirit-moved writers produced God-breathed writings.

Are the very words of the Bible inspired by God, or only the ideas?

Numerous Scriptures make it evident that the locus of revelation and inspiration is the written Word – the Scriptures (Greek gapha) – not simply the idea or even the writer, but his actual writing.

Notice the reference to revealed or divinely inspired “Scripture” (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21), “words taught by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13), “the Book” (2 Chronicles 34:14), “His (God’s) word” (2 Samuel 23:2), “My (God’s) words” (Isaiah 59:21), and “the words that the Lord Almighty had sent” (Zechariah 7:12).

When referring to the Old Testament as the authoritative Word of God, the New Testament most often (more than ninety times) uses the phrase “it is written” (eg. Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). Jesus described this written word as that which “comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

So important were the exact words of God that Jeremiah was told, “Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word” (Jeremiah 26:2).

What does it mean when we say that the Bible is Inspired

So, it was not simply that men were free to state God’s word in their own words, the very choice of words was from God. Exodus 24:4 records, “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord.”

In Deuteronomy 18:18, Moses writes, “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”

Sometimes God chose to emphasize even the tenses of verbs.

Jesus said, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:31-32). Paul based his argument on a singular versus a plural noun in Galatians 3:16, insisting, “Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.”

Even one letter (the letter s, for example) can make a big difference. Jesus went so far as to declare that even parts of letters are inspired. In English, if a t is not crossed, it looked like an i. Thus, Jesus said, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).

Does the Bible claim to be inspired on all topics or just spiritual ones?

Inspiration does guarantee the truth of everything the Bible teaches, implies, or entails (spiritually of factually). Paul affirmed that all Scripture, not just some, is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Peter declared that no prophecy of Scripture comes from man but it all comes from God (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Jesus told His disciples, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). In this same discourse He added, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

The church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ Himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). And the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42), recorded for us in the pages of the New Testament, which was considered to be sacred Scripture along with the Old Testament.

The inspiration of God, then, extends to every part of Scripture. It includes everything God affirmed (or denied) about any topic included in Scripture. It is inclusive of not only what the Bible teaches explicitly but also what it teaches implicitly. It covers not only spiritual matters but factual ones as well.

The all-knowing God cannot be wrong about anything He teaches or implies. Jesus verified historical and scientific matters, including the creation of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-5), the flood during Noah’s time (Matthew 24:37-39), and even Jona being swallowed by a great fish (Matthew 12:40-42).

Indeed, Jesus said, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things” (John 3:12)?

Why do some people misunderstand what is meant by the inspiration of the Bible?

The Bible is inspired by God with regard to everything it teaches. There are, however, a number of common misunderstandings:

  • That every part of a parable has to convey a fact rather than help the parable illustrate its point (see Luke 18:2).
  • That everything it records is true rather than something merely taught or implied (Genesis 3:4).
  • That no exaggerations (hyperboles) are used (Psalm 6:6; Luke 14:26).
  • That all statements about God and creation are purely literal (Job 38:7; Hebrews 4:13).
  • That all factual assertions are technically precise by modern standards as opposed to a common observational standpoint (Joshua 10:12).
  • That all citations of Scripture must be verbatim as opposed to faithful to the meaning (Psalm 2:1 and Acts 4:25).
  • That all citations of Scripture must have the same application as the original (Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15) rather than the same interpretation (meaning).
  • That the same truth can be said in only one way as opposed to many ways, as it is in the Gospels.
  • That whatever a writer personally believed, as opposed to merely what he actually affirmed in Scripture, is true (Matthew 15:26).
  • That truth is exhaustively revealed or treated as opposed to adequately presented in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:12).
  • That quotations imply the truth of everything in the source it is citing rather than just the part cited (Titus 1:12).
  • That a particular grammatical construction will always be the customary one rather than an adequate one to convey the truth.

How do we know these misunderstandings aren’t part of what inspiration covers?

What the Bible says must be understood in view of what the Bible shows. What it preaches must be read in view of what it practices. The doctrine of Scripture is to be understood in light of the data of Scripture.

For instance, the Bible uses round numbers. Thus, when the Bible claims to be true, it does not mean to exclude the use of round numbers (2 Chronicles 4:1-22). The same is true of hyperboles, figures of speech, observational language, and literary genre (as poetry, parable, and the like).

In short, everything the Bible affirms is true, but what is meant by truth must be understood in the light of the phenomena or data of Scripture.

The Authority of the Bible

Does the Bible claim to have divine authority? The Bible uses many other words or phrases to describe itself in ways that validate its divine authority. Jesus said that the Bible is indestructible (Matthew 5:18); it is infallible (or completely reliable and authoritative) or “unbreakable” (see John 10:35); it has final and decisive authority (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10), and it is sufficient for faith and practice.

Jesus spoke of the sufficiency of the Jewish Scriptures, “‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Paul added this: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

How far does this divine authority extend?

The extent of divine authority in Scripture includes all that is written, even the very words – including even the smallest parts of words and the tenses of verbs. Even though the Bible was not verbally dictated by God to humans, nonetheless, the result is just as perfect as if it had been.

For the biblical authors claimed that God is the source of the very words of Scripture, since He supernaturally superintended the process by which they wrote, using their own vocabulary and style to record God’s message (2 Peter 1:20-21).

The Reliability of the Bible

Evangelicals affirm the reliability of the biblical text from God to us. Can we trust the Bible historically? Is it really a reliable record?

Since the historical reliability of the Bible is a crucial link in knowing that the Bible is the Word of God, it is important to address these questions.

Answering Tough Questions About the Bible

Does the Bible have errors in it?

The original text of the Bible does not teach any error. The logic of the Bible’s errorlessness is straightforward:

1) God cannot err (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18).

2) The Bible is God’s Word (John 10:34-35).

3) Therefore, the Bible cannot contain errors.

Since the Scriptures are breathed out by God and God cannot breathe out falsehood, it follows that the Bible cannot contain any falsehood.

Are there errors in Bible Manuscripts and translations?

There are some minor copyist errors in the Bible manuscripts. A couple of examples will suffice. The Masoretic Text of 2 Chronicles 22:2 says Ahaziah was forty-two, yet 2 Kings 8:26 asserts that Ahaziah was twenty-two. He could not have been forty-two (a copyist error), or he would have been older than his father.

Also, 2 Chronicles 9:25 affirms that Solomon had four thousand horse stalls, but the Masoretic Text of 1 Kings 4:26 says he had forty thousand horse stalls, which would have been way more than needed for the twelve thousand horsemen he had.

It is important to keep these things in mind with regard to these copyist errors:

  • No original manuscript has ever been found with an error in it.
  • They are relatively rare.
  • In most cased we know which one is wrong from the context or the material found in parallel passages.
  • In no case is the doctrine of Scripture affected.
  • They vouch for the accuracy of the copying process since the scribes who copied them knew there were errors in the manuscripts but they were duty-bound to copy what the text said.
  • They don’t affect the central message of the Bible.

Someone, may, in fact, receive a message with errors in it, yet have 100 percent of the message come through clearly. For example, suppose you received a message from Western Union that read as follows: “Y#u have won 20 million dollars.”

No doubt you would gladly pick up your money. And if the telegram read in any of the ways that follow, you would have no doubt at all:

  • “Yo# have won 20 million dollars.”
  • “You #ave won 20 million dollars.”
  • You h#ve won 20 million dollars.”

Why would we be surer if there are more errors? Because each error is in a different place, and with it, we get another confirmation of every other letter in the original message.

Three things are important to note. First, even with one line, error and all, 100 percent of the message comes through. Second, the more lines, the more errors – but the more errors, the surer we are of what the intended message really was.

Finally, there are hundreds of times more Bible manuscripts than there are lines in the above example. And there is a greater percentage of error in this telegram than in all the collated biblical manuscripts.

Are the copies of the Bible reliable?

The biblical scribes were meticulous in how they copied Scripture. The overall reliability has been measured in several ways.

First, with regard to any major doctrine in the Bible, there has been no loss whatsoever. Every important truth of Scripture from the original text has been preserved intact in the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek manuscripts.

Second, errors that exist in the copies are in minor matters, such as numbers that affect no major or minor doctrinal matter in the Bible. In fact, in most of these, we know either from the common sense of the text, the context, or other passages which ones are correct.

Third, not only is 100 percent of all the major truths and the vast majority of minor truth of Scripture preserved in the manuscripts we have (and in the translations based on them), but more than 99 percent of the original text can be reconstructed from the manuscripts we possess.

The reason is twofold: (1) we have thousands of manuscripts, and (2) we have early manuscripts. The proximity to the original text and the multiplicity of the manuscripts enable textual scholars to accurately reconstruct the original text with more than 99 percent accuracy.

Renowned Greek scholar Sir Frederic Kenyon affirmed that all manuscripts agree on the essential correctness of 99 percent of the verses in the New Testament. Another noted Greek scholar, A. T. Robertson, said the real concerns of textual criticism are on “a thousand part of the entire text” (making the New Testament 99.9 percent pure).

The Reliability of the Biblical Witnesses

Were the biblical witnesses reliable? Yes, they were very reliable for many reasons.

First, the writers of Scripture were by and large contemporaries of the events. Moses was a witness of the events in Exodus through Deuteronomy (see Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 31:24). Joshua was a witness of the happenings reported in his book (Joshua 24:26), as were Samuel (1 Samuel 10:25, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah after him.

The same is true in the New Testament. Matthew was a disciple of Jesus. Mark was a contemporary and associate of the apostle Peter (1 Peter 5:13). Luke was a contemporary who knew the eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-4). And John was a disciple of Jesus and eyewitness of the events (1 John 1:1-2).

Second, in the case of the New Testament writers, all eight (or nine?) of them were either apostles or associated with the apostles as eyewitnesses and/or contemporaries: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude. These were all men who held the highest standards of ethics and were willing to die for their beliefs, as most of them did.

Third, these writers were credible as indicated by:

1. Their tendency to doubt whether Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28:17; Mark 16:3; Luke 24:11; John 20:24-29).

2. The inclusion of material that reflected badly on themselves (see Matthew 16:23; Mark 14:47).

3. The multiple accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, etc.) that establish their words by two or three witnesses as the court required (Deuteronomy 17:6).

4. The divergence in accounts that reveals they were not in collusion (see Matthew 28:5; John 20:12).

5. Confirmation of the accounts through hundreds of archaeological finds.

6. The evidence for early dates for the basic material about Jesus’ death and resurrection by A.D. 55-60.

Noted historian Colin Hemer confirmed that Luke wrote Acts by A.D. 62. But Luke wrote the gospel of Luke, which says the same basic things about Jesus that Matthew and Mark say before he wrote Acts (say, by A.D. 60)

Further, Bible critics admit that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15:1-9, which tells of the death and resurrection of Jesus, by about A.D. 55. This was only twenty-two years after Jesus’ death, while more than 250 witnesses of His resurrection were still alive (see 1 Corinthians 15:6).

Would the New Testament witnesses have stood up in a court of law?

Simon Greenleaf, one of history’s greatest legal minds, former Harvard law professor, and author of a book on legal evidence, carefully applied the rules of legal evidence to the Gospel accounts in his book The Testimony of the Evangelists.

Greenleaf argued that if the Gospels were submitted to the scrutiny of a court of law, “then it is believed that every honest and impartial man will act consistently with that result, by receiving their testimony in all the extent of its import.”

He added, “Let the witnesses be compared with themselves, with each other, and with surrounding facts and circumstances; and let their testimony be sifted, as if it were given in a court justice, on the side of the adverse party, the witness being subjected to rigorous cross-examination. The result, it is confidently believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability, and truth.”

Here’s a 3-minute video presentation by Daniel B. Wallace explaining why we can still trust the New Testament even when the original manuscripts are different.

Conclusion

The Bible both claims and proves to be the Word of God. Both the internal and external evidence overwhelmingly reveal the accuracy of the Bible.

Having examined its origin, nature, and reliability, we may confidently assert that the Scriptures came from God through men of God who recorded it in the Word of God.

Here’ part one of Answering Tough Questions About the Bible.


*Reference:  Who Made God? (Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith)

*Recommended Resource: From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible
By Norman L. Geisler & William E. Nix

The Bible was written in multiple languages by dozens of authors whose lives spanned a period of more than fifteen hundred years. How did it all come together?

Best-selling authors Norman Geisler and William Nix thoroughly answer this question and many more in this revised and expanded edition of a classic which has sold more than 78,000 copies. Helpful charts, photos, and indices have been added, rendering this book ideally suited for Bible students, pastors, and professors.

Major topics addressed include: theories of inspiration, the process of canonization, major manuscripts and recent discoveries, textual criticism, Greek and Latin translations, and modern English translations. The entire field of general biblical introduction is covered.

This is a long-trusted resource for understanding why we can trust the Scriptures really are God’s word.

Answering Tough Questions About The Bible (Part One)

Answering Tough Questions About The Bible (Part One)

In today’s age of increasing cultism, agnosticism, and skepticism, Christians are called on all the more to get answers to the questions being asked about faith, God, and the Bible.

Admittedly, most church members (and even many pastors) are not formally trained in defending the faith and hence cannot always answer tough questions they’re asked. Nevertheless, Christians are commanded to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear,” (1 Peter 3:15) and also to “let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6).

These are commands not just to Christian leaders but to all believers as well. That is why the apostle Paul insisted that church leaders must “hold fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

The Origin of the Bible

One of the areas that are mostly under attack is our belief in the Bible as God’s Word. And so, in this post, we will look at some of the tough questions being asked and give brief answers to them.

How and Where Did We Get the Bible?

How and Where Did We Get the Bible?

We believe that the Scriptures came from God through men of God who wrote down the very words of God. That is, the Bible has a divine origin, even though it was produced through human instrumentality. But this belief occasions many questions from our culture. How and where did we get the Bible?

The Bible claims to have come from God. Speaking of the whole Old Testament, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Even the New Testament is called Scripture. Paul cited the gospel as Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:18 and Peter referred to Paul’s epistles as Scripture in 2 Peter 3:15-16. So, both the entire Old and New Testaments, both Gospels, and Epistles are said to be writings that are “breathed out” by God.

Jesus used a similar expression when He referred to the Word of God coming out of the “mouth of God,” saying to the tempter, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Who Wrote the Bible?

Not only does the Bible claim to be a God-breathed writing, but it comes from Spirit-moved writers. Peter referred to the Old Testament prophets as men who were “carried along” by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). David added, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2).

So, the Bible claims to have come from God through men of God.

The Bible was written by prophets of God. The ultimate source of the Bible is God, but men of God called prophets were the instruments God used to record His words. The role of biblical prophets was unique. They were the mouthpieces of God, commissioned to speak His words, nothing more and nothing less (Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).

The whole Old Testament was written by prophets, of which some of them were prophets by office, like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), who wrote the first five books of the Bible known as the Torah in Hebrew or Pentateuch in Greek.

Other Old Testament writers were prophets by gift, that is, they did not belong to the group or company of prophets. But God spoke to them and gave them a message to deliver to the people (Amos 7:14-15).

For instance, Daniel was a prince by profession (Daniel 1:3-6), but he became a prophet by calling and gift. Jesus Himself called him “the prophet Daniel” (Matthew 24:15). David was a shepherd boy, but God spoke to him (2 Samuel 23:2). Even Solomon, the author of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs, received revelations from God as a prophet does (1 Kings 3:5).

Likewise, all the New Testament writers were “apostles and prophets,” since the church was built on this foundation (Ephesians 2:20). They, too, claimed to receive their message from God. Paul, who wrote about half of the New Testament books, was considered to have written inspired Scripture in the same category as the Old Testament.

Matthew and John were among those Jesus promised to lead into “all truth” and bring to their remembrance whatever He taught them (John 16:13, 14, 26) while Peter, who was one of the chief apostles, wrote two books based on his credentials as an apostle and eyewitness of Jesus (1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1, 16).

The rest of the New Testament writers were associates of the apostles and prophets by gift since God spoke through these servants of Jesus as well (James 1:1; Jude 1 – 3).

Biblical Authors: Mere Secretaries of the Holy Spirit?

How and Where Did We Get the Bible?
Photo Credits: Pinterest.co.uk

The authors of the Bible did not simply take dictation from God. They were not mere secretaries or automatons, but they were faithful to proclaim the whole message from God without adding to it or taking away from it (Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).

God used the individual personalities, vocabularies, literary styles, and conscious desires of the biblical authors to produce the Bible. Thus, while being completely from God, the words of Scripture are also human words in particular human languages expressed in distinctive human literary forms.

Nonetheless, the final product is exactly as God-ordained and providentially superintended it to be – the divinely authoritative, infallible, and inerrant Word of God. For the Scripture “cannot be broken” (John 10:35) or “disappear” (Matthew 5:18).

The Word of God is the “truth” (John 17:17) that comes from a God for whom “it is impossible … to lie (Hebrews 6:18. In short, it is without error in whatever it affirms, not only on spiritual matters but also on science (Matthew 19:12; John 3:12) and history (Matthew 12:40-42; 24:37).

In short, the writers of the Bible were humans that God chose to be His mouthpiece through the use of human language and literary forms.

How Did the Prophets Get their Message from God?

The prophets received their message from God in various ways. Some received them in dreams (Genesis 37:1-11), others in visions (Daniel 7:1-28), and some even by audible voice (1 Samuel 3:1-14) or an inner voice (Hosea 1:1-11; Joel 1:1-20).

Others received revelations from angels (Genesis 19:1-29), some by way of miracles (Exodus 3:1-22), and others by way of the lot (Proverbs 16:33). The high priest used jewels known as the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30). And still, God spoke to others as they meditated on His revelation in nature (Psalm 8:1-9; 19:1-6).

Whatever the means, as the author of Hebrews put it, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1).

Could Prophets Change or Add to God’s Message?

No, they were forbidden to do so. Biblical prophets were not to add, subtract or tamper with the text of sacred Scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2; Jeremiah 26:2; Proverbs 30:5-6). God dealt severely with anyone who attempted to change His words (Jeremiah 36:28).

The nature of a biblical prophet guaranteed that he would not add his thoughts to God’s message, for he is one who speaks “everything the Lord has said” (Exodus 4:30). The very nature of a prophet also demanded that a prophetic writing is exactly what God wants to say to mankind.

And since the Bible is presented as a prophetic writing from beginning to end (Matthew 5:17-18; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Revelation 22:9), it follows that the written record of the prophets was considered inspired by God.

Take John’s warning about the words of prophecy in Revelation 22:18-19. This didn’t mean that they could not receive new revelations, but that they could not tamper with old ones.

The Nature of the Bible

Since the Bible claims to come from God, it asserts a divine authority. It claims to be the very word of God (John 10:34-35). But since the Bible was also written by human beings, what does it mean when we call it “God’s Word?”

What Does it Mean that the Bible is the Word of God?

Since God is the source of the Bible, it is appropriate to call it His Word. But since human writers composed every word in the Bible, it is also true that it is their word. Hence, one way to describe what is meant when the Bible claims to be “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) is this: “What the Bible says, God says.”

This is manifested in the fact that often an Old Testament passage will claim that God said it, yet when this same text is cited in the New Testament, it asserts the “the Scripture(s)” said it. Consider these comparisons:

What God says          The Bible says

Genesis 12:3               Galatians 3:8

Exodus 9:13, 16          Romans 9:17


In Genesis 12:1-3, it is God speaking. But when this is cited in Galatians 3:8, it says it is the Scripture… preached the gospel to Abraham.”

Also, in Exodus 9:13-16, it is the Lord speaking. However, when the New Testament quotes this passage, it says, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth’” (Romans 9:17).

At times the reverse is true. For instance, in the Old Testament, it is the Bible that records it, but the New Testament declares that it was God who said it.

What the Bible says     God says

Genesis 2:24                  Matthew 19:4-5

Psalm 2:1                        Acts 4:24-25

Isaiah 55:3                     Acts 13:34

Psalm 16:10                   Acts 13:35

Psalm 2:7                       Hebrews 1:5


In Genesis 2:24, the Bible says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” But when this was cited by Jesus in the New Testament, He said, “Have you not read that He (God) who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’” (Matthew 19:4-5)?

Noted theologian B. B. Warfield made this observation:

“In one of these classes of passages the Scriptures are spoken of as if they were God; in the other, God is spoken of as if He were the Scriptures. In the two taken together, God and the Scriptures are brought into such conjunction as to show that in point of the directness of authority no distinction was made between them.”

How Else Does the Bible Claim to be the Word of God?

The Scriptures claim to come from God by means of phrases such as “says the LORD” (Isaiah 1:11, 18), “declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 2:3, 9), “God said” (Genesis 1:3, 6), “this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD” (Jeremiah 34:1), and “The word of the LORD came to me” (Ezekiel 30:1).

Such phrases are found hundreds of times in Scripture and reveal beyond question that the writer is affirming that he records the very word of God. In the book of Leviticus alone there are some sixty-six occurrences of phrases like “the LORD said to Moses” (Leviticus 4:1; 5:14; 6:1, 8, 19; 7:22).

*Related Article: The Different Forms of the Word of God

Ezekiel also records countless times phrases like “I saw visions” or “the word of the LORD came to me.” Five times in twenty-eight verses of chapter 12, Ezekiel says, “The word of the LORD came to me” (Ezekiel 12:1, 8, 17, 21, 26), and four times he writes, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says” (Ezekiel 12:10, 19, 23, 28).

And in verse 28 he uses the combination, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says” and “declares the Sovereign LORD.”

Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1, 11, 18, 24; 2:1), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:2; 13; 2:1, 3, 5), and other prophets make similar statements. The overall impression leaves no doubt as to the confessed source in God Himself of the messages of the prophets.

Does the Bible Actually Claim to be the “WORD of GOD” in so Many Words?

Yes, it does! Many times, the Bible claims to be the “Word of God” in these very words or their equivalent Jesus told some of the Jewish leaders of His day, “Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition” (Matthew 15:6 NIV).

Paul speaks of the Scriptures as “the very words of God” in Romans 3:2 (NIV). Peter declares, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). And the writer of Hebrews affirms, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Jesus used the phrase “word of God” as equivalent to the Law (Torah) and Scriptures, asserting, “Is it not written in your Law … to whom the word of God came and Scripture cannot be set aside” (John 10:34-35).

Isn’t the Bible also a Human Book?

Yes, it is. In fact, one hundred percent human. The Bible was written by human authors, including Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, a number of other prophets, Ezra, Nehemiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, and others.

#1. The Bible was composed in human languages (Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament). It is expressed in human literary styles including the exalted poetry of Isaiah, the mournful lamentations of Jeremiah, the parables of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, and the didactic presentation of Paul.

#2. The Bible uses different human literary forms, including the narrative of Samuel and Kings, the poetry of Job and Psalms, the parables of the synoptic Gospels, some allegory as in Galatians 4, the use of symbols as in Revelation, the metaphors and similes of James, satire (Matthew 19:24), and hyperbole (Psalms 6:6; Luke 14:26).

Like other human writing, the Bible uses a wide range of literary forms to convey its meaning.

#3. The Bible reflects different human perspectives. These include a shepherd’s perspective (David in Psalm 23:1-6), a prophetic vantage point in Kings, a priestly perspective in Chronicles, the historical interest of Luke and Acts (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1), and the pastoral concerns of Paul (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus).

And unlike a modern book on astronomy, biblical writers speak from an observer’s perspective when they write of the sun rising or setting (Joshua 1:15; 10:13).

#4. The Bible reflects different human thought patterns. These include almost every dimension of finite thinking patterns, from a tightly-knit logical treatise like Romans to the polemics of Galatians, to the expression of a brief memory lapse in 1 Corinthians 1:14-16.

How and Where Did We Get the Bible?

#5. The Bible reveals different human emotions. The apostle Paul expresses great sorrow over Israel (Romans 9:2), great anger over the error of the Galatians (Galatians 3:1), melancholy and loneliness over his imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:9-16), depression over hardships (2 Corinthians 1:8), joy over victories (Philippians 1:4), and much more.

#6. The Bible manifests specific human interests. Luke had a medical interest, as indicated by his use of medical terms. Hosea had a distinct rural interest, as did Amos, the shepherd from Tekoa (Amos 1:1). James’ writing betrays an interest in nature (see James 1:6, 10-11).

The interests of shepherds (John 10:1-16), athletes (1 Corinthians 9:24-27), and farmers (Matthew13:1-43) are also reflected in the Bible.

#7. The Bible expresses human culture. As a Semitic book, the Bible is filled with expression and practices of its Hebrew culture, such as the common means of greeting by kissing (1 Thessalonians 5:26) and a woman’s use of a veil as a sign of respect for her husband (1 Corinthians 11:5)

Washing one’s feet upon entering a home (John 1:3), shaking off the dust of one’s feet as a sign of condemnation (Luke 10:11), and reclining (not sitting) at meals (John 13:23) are only a few of numerous other examples of human culture.

#8. The Bible utilizes other written human sources. The book of Jashar (Joshua 10:13) and the Books of the Wars of the LORD (Number 21:14) are examples. The records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophet and the records of Gad the seer (1 Chronicles 29:29) may also fit in this category.

Luke referred to written sources about Jesus available to him (Luke 1:1-4). Paul quoted non-Christian poets three times (Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12). Jude cited material from the non-canonical books, The Testament of Moses and the book of Enoch (Jude 9, 14).

These citations do not guarantee the truthfulness of everything in the source but only what is cited. Of course, ultimately all truth comes from God, whatever the immediate source maybe.

How Can the Bible be both God’s Word and Man’s Words?

The Bible is both the word of God and the words of man because God (the source) utilized human beings to convey His word. So, there is a concurrence between what the human authors wrote and what God prompted them to write.

The Bible is both divine and human at the same time in a way similar to the way Christians believe Jesus Christ is both divine and human at the same time.

Of course, as in any analogy, there are some differences. Unlike Jesus Christ who is God, the Bible is not God, and hence it should not be worshiped.


In part two of this article, we will answer questions in regard to the inspiration of the Bible, its authority and reliability as well as the reliability of the biblical witnesses. 

*Read part two here: Answering Tough Questions About the Bible (Part Two)


*Reference:  Who Made God? (Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith)

*Recommended Resource: From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible
By Norman L. Geisler & William E. Nix

The Bible was written in multiple languages by dozens of authors whose lives spanned a period of more than fifteen hundred years. How did it all come together?

Best-selling authors Norman Geisler and William Nix thoroughly answer this question and many more in this revised and expanded edition of a classic which has sold more than 78,000 copies. Helpful charts, photos, and indices have been added, rendering this book ideally suited for Bible students, pastors, and professors.

Major topics addressed include: theories of inspiration, the process of canonization, major manuscripts and recent discoveries, textual criticism, Greek and Latin translations, and modern English translations. The entire field of general biblical introduction is covered.

This is a long-trusted resource for understanding why we can trust the Scriptures really are God’s word.

What’s the Book of Revelation About?

What’s the Book of Revelation About?

With the increasing anti-Christian sentiment and the decline of economic and social stability, many Christians today are anxious about the future. In times like these, people tend to look even more closely at the book of Revelation because it encourages Christians to keep hope alive.

Background of the Book of Revelation

The apostle John wrote his great book while he was banished to Patmos – a small, rocky island in the Aegean Sea. While he was shut out from the world, he was shut in to God and received the most extensive revelation of future events shown to any writer of the New Testament.

God very well may have allowed John’s banishment so he could be alone with Him and receive this monumental vision of the future. Sometimes the work God has for us requires removal from our normal environment. Abraham’s call, Joseph’s slavery, Moses’ flight from Egypt, and Daniel’s captivity are some instances.

What’s the Book of Revelation About

Many writers isolate themselves by getting away to a mountain retreat or stay in a hotel room so they can concentrate fully on their task. I tend to focus more on my thinking, planning and, writing when left alone in a quiet or remote place.

It becomes quickly apparent as we open the book of Revelation that we are about to encounter a message with a high purpose. Though it bears certain similarities to prophetic passages in Daniel, Ezekiel, and Matthew, Revelation is unique.

What Kind of Book is Revelation?

The book of Revelation tells us what kind of book it is in the first few paragraphs.

A Prophetic Book

“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 servant John” (Revelation 1:1).

Revelation 1:1 displays the prophetic nature of what John wrote through the use of one keyword and one key phrase. The keyword is revelation, which is the translation of the Greek word apokalypsis or “apocalypse.” In the Greek New Testament, this is the first word of the entire book.

What comes to mind when you hear the word apocalypse? Horrible disasters associated with the end of the world, right? But in the Greek, the word simply means “an uncovering; an unveiling; a manifestation of.”

While most people believe that the primary purpose of the book of Revelation is to paint a picture of the end times, although it does do that, it was written primarily to unveil, or uncover, the majesty and power of Jesus Christ. This book is neither a puzzle nor an enigma but a disclosure of who Jesus is.

The key prophetic phrase used in Revelation 1:1 is translated “must shortly take place,” which describes something that suddenly comes to pass. It indicates rapid progression after something commences. The idea is not that the event may occur soon but that when it does, it will occur suddenly.

It’s more like an earthquake; we don’t know when the next will come, but we know that it will. And it will come suddenly and without warning.

A Personal Book

“John … bore witness to the end of the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw” (Revelation 1:2).

The book of Revelation is cosmic and far-reaching in its scope, yet it is also very personal. This is a message that John received personally from the Lord (Revelation 1:1-2) and he writes to those with whom he is intimately acquainted, referring to himself as a “brother and companion” in tribulation (Revelation 1:9).

The Lord said to John, “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” (Revelation 1:11). The seven letters we find in chapters 2 and 3 were personal letters written to actual congregations in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) at the end of the first century AD.

Theologian John Stott said this, “The seven cities mentioned form an irregular circle, and are listed in the order in which a messenger might visit them if commissioned to deliver the letters. Sailing from the island of Patmos … he would arrive at Ephesus. He would then travel north to Smyrna and Pergamum, south-east to Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia, and finish his journey at Laodicea.”

Notice how each of the letters begins with the phrase, “I know your works,” and each contains a promise to the one “who overcomes.” But each message between these bookend phrases was personally tailored to the needs of the church to which it was addressed. As such, the letters must be read in their own context.

However, let us not take these letters for granted as there are applications for us today. John may have written these letters with first-century churches in mind, but they accurately identify the kinds of Christians who show up in church in every age – including today.

Anyone who reads the letters will likely think of individuals or churches that fit some of the descriptions. I believe the Lord’s recommendations to these seven churches could solve all the problems modern churches face. The fact that all seven letters were contained in a single parchment meant that each of the churches was required to read the letters written to the others.

A Pictorial Book

“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” (Revelation 1:1a-2).

John indicated, on thirty-nine occasions, that he was recording things he saw. His word paint vivid pictures to reveal the future through memorable images and symbols.

Symbols occur throughout Scripture as vehicles for divine revelation, but this book contains more than any other. Sometimes the symbols represent people, such as in the first chapter where Jesus is seen as a judge with a two-edged sword coming out of His mouth.

The Antichrist is presented as a beast coming out of the sea, and the false prophet as a beast originating from the earth, in chapter 13.

You may ask, “Why is there so much symbolism in the book of Revelation?”

First of all, symbolism is not weakened by time. Well-chosen symbols span the centuries and allow us to apply them not only to ancient or future times but also to our own. They create a compelling drama that encourages persecuted and suffering saints throughout the ages.

Second, symbols impart values and arouse emotions. To call a tyrant a beast evokes a primal fear that the word dictator misses. It is also more colorful to refer to the corrupted world system as Babylon the Great than to dull it with a mundane list of descriptions.

This is what Eugene Peterson said about how the imagery in Revelation affects him: “The truth of the gospel is already complete, revealed in Jesus Christ. There is nothing new to say on the subject. But there is a new way to say it. I read the book of Revelation not to get more information but to revive my imagination.”

Last but not least, these symbols functioned as a kind of spiritual code that was generally understood by believers but not by outsiders. John’s book was circulated to the churches during the reign of Domitian (AD 81-96). If it had been written in more direct, prosaic language to fall into the hands of the Romans, those associated with the book would have been executed.

Reasons to Study the Book of Revelation

A Profitable Book

Revelation is the only book in the Bible that motivates its readers by promising a blessing for those who will read and obey it. The promise is made at the beginning and the end (Revelation 1:3 and Revelation 22:7).

*Related Article: The 7 Blessings in the Book of Revelation

You may be surprised to know that the word blessed as used in the above-mentioned verses means joyous, blissful or happy. So it may seem strange to associate joys with the sometimes chilling drama of the book of Revelation.

But as Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones explained, “Revelation was written in order that God’s people who were passing through terrible persecutions and terrible adversity might still be able to go on rejoicing. This book was written to help men and women who are in trouble by showing them the ultimate victory of the Lord over Satan and all the forces of evil.”

1. Profitable for Personal Application

It often appears that the enemy is winning but the book of Revelation puts everything into perspective. It tells us of God’s plan for the future and assures us that we are on the winning side. Satan may win some present battles, but the outcome of the war has already been determined.

Knowing that this truth gives us the courage to press on and persevere through the downturns.

2. Profitable for Public Assembly

Public reading and exhortation were an integral part of gatherings in the early church. Paul told young Timothy, for example, to “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13).

The first-century church met in one place on the first day of the week and memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets were read as long as time permits. When the reader has finished, the president would urge and invite the people to imitate the noble things read.

3. Profitable for Prophetic Anticipation

Revelation 1:3 ends with the phrase “the time is near,” and Revelation 22:10 declares that “the time is at hand.”

The expression, “the time is near” does not necessarily mean the event will occur immediately. It does indicate nearness from the standpoint of prophetic revelation, which operates according to its own timetable. These events were near when John recorded them as they were the next major event on the calendar. And they are even closer today.

Prophecy is God’s way of giving us a fair warning so we can prepare our hearts and minds to be ready for what is ahead.

A Practical Book

More than a century ago, a book entitled, Jesus is Coming: God’s Hope for a Restless World written by William E. Blackstone was published, and interestingly, it had a significant impact on the Christian world that it spurred much of today’s interest in the study of prophecy.

In his book, Blackstone devotes an entire chapter to the practical benefits of studying Bible prophecy, which he calls the true incentive to a holy life. He writes, “No other doctrine in the Word of God presents a deeper motive for crucifying the flesh, for separation to God, to work for souls, and as our hope and joy and crown of rejoicing than this does.”

Three practical benefits that come to us from studying prophecy, especially the book of Revelation:

1. Studying prophecy motivates us to live productive lives.

Contrary to what some people think that a keen awareness of the second coming of Christ will turn us into lazy souls who stand around gazing upward in some kind of useless trance, knowing that Jesus is coming any minute will motivate us, even more, to work for Him to do the Father’s business in these last days.

2. Studying prophecy motivates us to live positive lives.

The book of Revelation promotes a positive mindset that as we study it; we begin to realize that everything that’s happening in our world today is heading somewhere. In Revelation, we see God’s sovereign hand upon affairs of the world, as in no other book, and we see Him in control even though so much here on earth seems out of control.

As the conditions of our world worsen, instead of hanging our heads on depression or shake our heads in confusion, we are to lift up our heads in expectation, for our redemption draws near (Luke 21:28).

3. Studying prophecy motivates us to live pure lives.

The third benefit of studying Revelation is that it fosters purity in our lives. The Bible says, “… when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

A Purposeful Book

Revelation 1:7-8 presents the twofold purpose of the entire book, which is to affirm Christ’s return and His ultimate reign over the earth.

“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” (Revelation 1:7).

Daniel predicted that the Messiah would come through the clouds (Daniel 7:13). In His Olivet Discourse, Jesus spoke of His coming in similar terms (Matthew 24:30). John expanded on Jesus’ words to describe what every person will experience at His second coming (Revelation 1:7).

“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” (Revelation 1:8).

Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet that point not only to the eternity of Christ but also to His all-inclusive power.

As the Alpha and Omega, Christ precedes the beginning of Creation and survives the end of humanity’s day. He is the eternal, omnipotent God. And when the time was right, Jesus began His campaign to regain His rightful sovereignty over the earth.

The book of Revelation is the account of that campaign. It tells of His appointment by the Father to the throne, His battle against the forces of evil, His final victory, and His relationship with the redeemed.

As a result of Christ’s triumph, His people are presented as overcomers. The simple meaning of the word overcome is “to conquer” or “to win the victory.” The promise of victory is certain, but its final reality awaits the return of Jesus Christ the King.

What’s the Book of Revelation About

Closing Words

It is in the heart of every believer to join with the saints of old in longing for that day as did John when he completed his scroll: “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). Yet while we wait, let us remember that we still need the revelation that John received from Jesus.

In a world where we see Christian’s martyred for their faith each year, the church remaining terribly flawed, we need the Revelation which Jesus gave to John – a Revelation which changes everything; a Revelation that God is still on the throne working out His strategies from the control room of heaven.


*Reference: Agents of the Apocalypse SC (A Riveting Look at the Key Players of the End Times)

By Dr. David Jeremiah

Are we living in the end times? Are the villains and saints in the Book of Revelation walking among us? Would we recognize them? Focusing on Revelation’s key players – the exiled; martyrs; elders; king; judge; 144,000 witnesses; false prophet; and beast – Jeremiah examines their motives and provides critical clues to help us identify their presence in today’s world. 

The Olivet Discourse: Blueprint to the End Times

The Olivet Discourse: Blueprint to the End Times

The Olivet Discourse is a sermon that Jesus preached from the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem, three days before His crucifixion. The Olivet discourse is recorded in its most complete form in Matthew 24:1-25, and in more abbreviated forms in Mark 13 and Luke 21.

Jesus preached this sermon to a select group of His disciples in response to their question about the destruction of the Temple and the end of the age (Matthew 24:1-3). Mark 13:3 says that Jesus’ audience consisted of only four men: Peter, James, John, and Andrew. Imagine what it must have been like to hear the Savior outline the blueprint of the end times in such an intimate setting.

Christ’s Return at the End of the Age

For clarification purposes, the return of Christ at the end of the age is different from His return for the Church described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. In essence, there are two phases of the “Second Coming.”

The first phase is when Christ returns in the air to “receive the believers unto Himself” (John 14:3) and the second phase will be when Christ returns to the earth with His saints (the believers) and He will stand on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem at the end of the Tribulation period to defeat the Antichrist (Zechariah 14:4; Revelation 19:19).

Going back to the Olivet discourse, we read that before Jesus delivered this sermon, He and His disciples had been in the Temple in Jerusalem. “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down’” (Matthew 24:1-2).

As Jesus and the disciples crossed the Kidron Valley on the Mount of Olives, Jesus’ words must have been seared into the minds of the disciples. They must have wondered how this could be. When would this happen? When would the end come?

Matthew 24:1-2

So when they finally arrived at the Mount of Olives, the four men came to Him immediately for clarification (Matthew 24:3). The disciples were asking Jesus one big question with three parts. Clearly, the disciples’ question focuses on Christ’s return and the end of the age.

The disciples could not fathom the destruction of the Temple apart from the end of the age. For them, the destruction of the Temple, the coming of the Messiah, and the end of the world were tied together (Zechariah 14:1-11). This sermon, therefore, addresses the seven-year Tribulation period that will occur just before Christ returns.

While many futuristic scholars believe that a part of the Olivet discourse has already been fulfilled in 70 AD, particularly the destruction of the Temple, they say that the remainder of the discourse is yet to be fulfilled. They’re saying that Jesus began by speaking events that would be fulfilled in 70 AD, but then looked ahead to events that would be fulfilled near the end of human history.

The Olivet Discourse: The Mini Apocalypse

The Olivet discourse of Jesus is often called “The Mini Apocalypse” because it provides a concise yet comprehensive overview of the end times. In this sermon, Jesus gives us the basic blueprint for the end – a checklist of the signs of the times for Christ’s Second Advent. In twenty-seven verses, Matthew 24:4-31 moves from the beginning of the future Tribulation to the second coming of Christ.

Looking at Matthew 24:4-14, Jesus lists eight key signs He likens to birth pains that will be the signs of His coming: false Christs (v. 5); wars (vv. 6-7); famines (v. 7); earthquakes (v. 7); persecution (vv. 9-10); false prophets (v. 11); lawlessness (v. 12); and worldwide preaching of the gospel (v. 14).

The comparison with birth pains indicates that as the time of Christ’s coming draws near, the judgments will increase immensely in frequency and intensity.

In Matthew 24:15, Jesus directly appeals to the prophecies of Daniel and specifically to Daniel 9:27. Jesus goes on to describe the terrors of that time. Matthew 24:15-20 marks the midpoint of the Tribulation when the Antichrist breaks his treaty with Israel, invades the nation, and desecrates the Temple.

The Olivet Dsicourse Explained

Beginning in Matthew 24:21, the final 3 ½ years of this age are graphically outlined. The terrors will be so great that God will shorten the time for the sake of His people (Matthew 24:22). There will be people pointing here and there, claiming to have identified the Messiah, but Jesus warns against believing such claims (Matthew 24:23-26).

After the Tribulation, the second coming of Christ is presented (Matthew 24:29). He describes the signs in the heavens that will indicate that the Son of Man is coming, and finally His coming and gathering of His elect from around the world. He describes it as being “like the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37).

Jesus encourages the disciples to look for the signs, like leaves on a fig tree (Mark 13:28), even though the day of His return is unknown. Nonetheless, He encourages them to keep watch and remain faithful (Mark 13:35-36; Matthew 24:42; Luke 21:36).

The Generation that will Not Pass Away

Some scholars argue that the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 fulfilled Jesus’ predictions in Matthew 24. This view is based primarily on Matthew 24:34, which says, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”

Proponents maintain that “this generation” must refer to the generation that originally heard the words of Jesus. The chief problem with this view is that the destruction of the Jerusalem did not fulfill all the events described in Matthew 24, so Jesus could not have been referring to that time period

In the context, “this generation” probably refers to those living during the Tribulation who will personally witness the events described in Matthew 24:4-31. Jesus is emphasizing that those who see the signs that He listed, and experience the Great Tribulation, will also witness the Second Coming.

Jesus is saying that those who are alive to see the beginning of the birth pangs will also witness the birth.

Matthew 24 is Futuristic

Reading the passage more carefully, there are two key points from the surrounding context that strongly suggest that all the conditions and characteristics in Matthew 24-4-28 are future events that will occur during the Tribulation, immediately preceding the return of Christ.

First, Jesus established the time frame for this sermon in Matthew 23:39, “For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Jesus was telling His disciples that He was going to leave this world but that He would come again only when the Jewish people would repent and receive Him as their Messiah.

This statement is very significant as it forms the backdrop and context for what Jesus says in Matthew 24. Jewish repentance, which has never occurred and certainly didn’t occur in AD 70, is the ultimate event that will trigger His return. At the end of the Tribulation, the Jewish people will repent, and their Messiah will return to rescue them from the Antichrist (Zechariah 12:10).

Matthew 24:3

Second, when the disciples asked Jesus about the end of the world, they were thinking of when the Messiah would come to establish His glorious Kingdom in Israel. In fact, Jesus Himself used this exact terminology, “the end of the world (or age),” twice before to refer to the final judgment (Matthew 13:39, 49).

John Mac Arthur summarized it this way:

“It seems more sensible and more consistent, therefore, to take a futuristic approach with respect to the Olivet Discourse – to interpret the entire discourse as a prophetic picture of a “generation” and events that would take place long after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. These are events that will immediately precede Christ’s coming to establish His kingdom, and therefore they are events that are yet future even today.”

Conclusion

Jesus used the prophetic sermon known as the “Olivet Discourse” to outline the events that will lead up to the return of Israel’s Messiah to establish His Kingdom on earth and to call His people to faithfulness in view of that coming.

Although the events in Matthew 24 – 25 are futuristic, the parables encourage us to love Christ’s appearing, to look for His appearing and to labor faithfully until He comes. We should be watching, witnessing, and working. We may not be successful in many people’s eyes or even popular with others. But if we are faithful and profitable, we shall receive our reward.

And no matter what view of prophecy we take, we know that Jesus is coming again. As Christians, we must be alert and ready. We must not waste our opportunities. We may not have a great deal of ability or a great many gifts, but we can still be faithful in the calling God has given us.


*Reference: The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days
By Mark Hitchcock

The first comprehensive overview of biblical prophecy and the end times in more than 50 years. Presenting various eschatological viewpoints, Hitchcock offers a solid biblical foundation to guide you in exploring the essential truths surrounding this often misunderstood topic – and the earthly and celestial events that will mark Christ’s second coming.

Includes helpful charts. (520 pages, hardcover from Tyndale)

The Abrahamic Covenant Explained

The Abrahamic Covenant Explained

The Bible mentions several covenants that God made with certain individuals or a group of people, such as the covenant in Eden (Genesis 2:15-17), the covenant with Adam (Genesis 2:14-21, the covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:1-9), the covenant with Abraham, etc.

But unlike the first three which were God’s general provisions for the entire human race in their existence on earth, God’s Covenant with Abraham is the first of God’s covenants to establish a spiritual relationship with a called, believing people (Genesis 12:1-3).

The Call of Abram

Genesis 12:1-3

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God's Covenant with Abraham ExplainedAbram was seventy-five years old when God called him out of idolatry (Joshua 24:2), while he was in Ur of the Chaldeans (Genesis 11:28, 31; 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7), a city devoted to Nannar, the moon-god. God spoke to Abram, and the Word brought about the miracle of faith (Romans 10:17).

Abram did not know the true God and had done nothing to deserve knowing Him, but God graciously called him. Abram did not choose God, but God chose him. In the same way, we Christians did not choose God but He chose us and appointed us (John 15:16).

The call was to separate himself from the corruption around him, and Abram obeyed by faith (Hebrews 11:8). True faith is based on the Word of God and leads to obedience. God would not bless and use Abram and Sarai unless they were in the place of His appointment. That principle still holds true today.

The fact that Abram was well-advanced in age when God called him tells us that age does not need to be an obstacle to faith. He trusted God for one hundred years (Genesis 25:7), and from his experience, we today can learn to walk by faith and live to please the Lord.

Three Areas of Blessings

God’s covenant with Abraham provides for blessings in three areas: national, personal and universal.

1) National Blessing

The covenant anticipated that Abraham and his descendants would not only dwell in a land that they can call their own but that he will become a special nation in the work of God – “I will make you a great nation” (Genesis 12:2a).

So first, God promised to give Abram a land for him and his descendants (Genesis 12:7). But at the time of the call, Abram did not know where this land was. Only when we get to chapter 15 that the full description of the land was given:

On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18).

Although the land never belonged to Abram in his lifetime and had to buy a portion of the land for a burial site when his wife Sarai died, the title deed to the Promised Land was passed to his son Isaac (Genesis 26:3) and then from Isaac to Jacob (Genesis 28:13). Later on, Israel, under the leadership of Joshua went into the land of Canaan, possessed it and captured major cities.

*Related Article: God Promised a Land to the Jewish People

The second promise was that of a great nation coming from Abram. This promise demanded faith on the part of Abram because they were the least likely candidates to have a family and build a great nation. Abram was already aged and his wife Sarai was incapable of having children (Genesis 11:30).

But God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and by calling and blessing a barren couple, the Lord revealed the greatness of His power and His glory. Abram would be named “Abraham,” which means “father of many nations.”

2) Personal Blessing

The covenant also promised that Abraham would accomplish great things – “I will bless you and make your name great and you shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2b).

God made marvelous promises to the patriarch of the chosen nation. He would be the father of a famous nation; his name would be great because his life would be marked by God’s personal blessings and would be the channel of God’s blessings to many people.

Genesis 13:14-16

While much of Abram’s blessing was to come in the form of his offspring, there was also the blessing that would come in the form of the Messiah, who would bring salvation to God’s people.

God also promised to make Abram’s name great. No one is probably more honored in history than Abraham, who is honored not only by Christians and Jews but also by Muslims.

3) Universal Blessing

Finally, God promised Abraham that He was going to start a spiritual movement through him that would influence every nation of the earth – “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3c).

God’s covenant with Abraham reached beyond him to humanity in general. Those people and nations which treated Abraham well and the nation which would descend from him would know God’s favor. On the other hand, those people and nations who mistreated Abraham and his descendants could expect the curse of God to rest on them (Genesis 12:3).

The final universal aspect of God’s covenant with Abraham as implied by the promise that “in him all families of the earth will be blessed” would be Abraham’s most important descendant – the Messiah. The sacrifice and atoning death of the Messiah would make available forgiveness and salvation for the entire world.

This promise made more specific the prophecy in God’s covenant with Adam that the Seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:16).

Christ and the Abrahamic Covenant

God’s covenant with Abraham was more than a personal agreement between a godly man and the Lord; it promised blessings for “all the families of the earth.”

Paul wrote the church in Rome that believing Gentiles, like branches from “a wild olive tree, were grafted in among {believing Israel}, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree” (Romans 11:17). The “root” from which God’s people draw their rich spiritual life is God’s covenant with Abraham.

If You are in Christ, You are Abraham’s Seed

In Galatians 3:17, Paul reasoned that God’s covenant with Abraham was foundational to spiritual life on two bases. First, it predated the Mosaic Law by 430 years. The law must always be understood in light of the covenant with Abraham.

More importantly, Paul insisted that God confirmed His covenant with Abraham “in Christ.” God had made His covenant with Abraham “and his seed” (Genesis 13:15; 15:18, “descendants” literally reads “seed”). Paul contended that God looked through all the generations of Abram’s “seed” to Christ, “the Seed,” as the means of guaranteeing the unconditional provisions of the covenant (Galatians 3:16-17).

Paul wrote, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). The covenant made in Genesis 12:1-3 applied just to the physical descendants of Abraham. In Christ, the blessings promised to the heirs of Abraham find spiritual application to all people of faith (Romans 4:16).

Paul further reasoned that physical descendants of Abraham who rejected Jesus as their Messiah could be compared to Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar (Galatians 4:23-25). People who respond to Jesus with the kind of faith Abraham pioneered could be compared to Isaac, Abraham’s son of promise by Sarah (Galatians 4:28).

Paul called these people “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

All Israel will be Saved

By identifying people of faith in Christ as the heirs of blessings of God’s covenant with Abraham, the New Testament does not deny any future role to the Jewish people in the outworking of that covenant.

As mentioned earlier, the Book of Romans pictures native branches of the domesticated olive tree being broken off to make room for wild branches to be grafted in and draw fruitful life from the roots of Abraham’s covenant (Romans 11:17).

God's Covenant with Abraham Explained

That process is reversible as we read in Romans 11:23. Indeed, the New Testament anticipates a time of spiritual renewal among the physical descendants of Abraham when their ancestry and faith in Christ will align. “Hardening in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26).

Conclusion

Other than being the first theocratic covenant (pertaining to the rule of God) and the basis of all the other theocratic covenants, the Abrahamic covenant was unconditional.

This means it was dependent solely upon God who obligates Himself in grace, indicated by the unconditional declarations, “I will,” without corresponding “you must” demands on Abraham. Though it was given in broad outline in Genesis 12:1-3, it was later confirmed to Abraham at various times in greater detail (Genesis 13:14-17; 15:1-7, 18-21; 17:1-8).

The Abrahamic covenant contained all that God then began to do, has since done throughout history, and will continue to do. All of God’s plans for humanity grow out of this covenant.


*Are you looking for Bibles, Bible study guides and resources, Christian movies and music albums, gifts and souvenirs for yourself or your friends? ChristianBook.Com has it all at surprisingly affordable prices.

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What is the Mosaic Covenant?

What is the Mosaic Covenant?

The best-known covenant in the Bible is the one God made with Moses on Mount Sinai. This is the second of the theocratic covenants (after the one with Abraham) that elaborates on how God relates to His people as their sovereign Lord.

Unlike the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant was conditional as it is introduced by the condition: “Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5).

The Form of Covenant

The Mosaic Covenant was given to and accepted by the nation of Israel (Exodus 19:6-8) so that those who believe God’s promise given to Abraham in the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) would know how they should conduct themselves.

When God initiated a relationship with Moses and the Israelites at Sinai, He utilized a covenant style universally understood in the second millennium before Christ. The covenant begins with a preamble identifying the Lord as the absolute Sovereign (Exodus 20:1-2; Deuteronomy 1:1-5), followed by a brief history of relations between the Lord and His subject people (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 1:6 – 3:29).

Exodus 20:1-2

The bulk of the covenant is the stipulations that the subject people must observe (Exodus 203 – 31:17; Deuteronomy 4 – 26). The covenant is then sealed with an oath of allegiance and its accompanying blessings for obedience and curse for disobedience (Exodus 24:1-11; Deuteronomy 27:1 – 28:68; Joshua 8:30-35).

Finally, there is a list of witnesses and directions for keeping the covenant (Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 31:16 – 32:47).

Three Areas of Life Governed by the Covenant

God’s covenant with Moses found originally in Exodus and expanded in Deuteronomy, governed three areas of Israel’s life:

1) Personal Life

First, the (Ten) commandments in the covenant governed the personal lives of the Israelites in their relationship with God (Exodus 20:1-26). While all the Ten Commandments deal with Israel’s (and our) responsibilities toward God, the first four are particularly God-ward (Exodus 20:1-11) while the last six are man-ward (Exodus 20:12-17).

*Related Article: The First and Greatest Commandment of God

Now, why do you think the covenant has its focus first and foremost in the people’s relationship with God? It’s because generally, how we relate to others depends on how we relate to God, for if we love God and obey Him, we’ll also love our neighbors and serve them (Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10).

2) Social Life

The judgments governed the people’s social lives in their relationship with one another Exodus 24:1 – 24:11). Exodus chapters 21 to 24 deal with the rights of each person, his properties (money, animals, etc.), how he should conduct himself, social justice, observance of the sabbatical year and national feasts, conquest regulations and how the covenant is ratified through blood.

Let’s take for instance Exodus 21:12-17. The laws outlined here are laws regarding capital crimes and are the logical application of the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13; Leviticus 24:17). We’re made in God’s image, so to murder a fellow human being is to attack the image of God (Genesis 9:6).

If a person was found guilty of murder on the testimony of two or more witnesses (Numbers 35:30-31), then the murderer was killed.

Exodus 23:1-5 is a call for justice, an amplification of the ninth commandment (Exodus 20:16), a warning not to endorse falsehood and promote injustice because of what the crowd is doing (Leviticus 19:15-16; Deuteronomy 22:13-19).

Nor should God’s people be influenced by the wealth or the poverty of the accused or by the bribes people offer them for their support (Exodus 16:18-20; Isaiah 1:23; Micah 3:11). To condemn an innocent person for personal gain is to become guilty before God, and God doesn’t acquit the guilty (Exodus 23:7).

3) Religious Life

Finally, the ordinances governed the people’s religious lives so that they would know how to properly approach God (Exodus 24:12 – 31:18).

The promise of the Lord in Exodus 6:6-8 was now about to move into its third phase. God had redeemed His people (Exodus chapters 1 – 18) and taken them to Himself as His people (Exodus chapters 19 – 24); now He was about to come and dwell among them and be their God (Exodus chapters 25 – 40).

The Covenant between God and Moses

This area governed by the Mosaic Covenant focuses on the design, construction, and dedication of the Tabernacle which is how the people of God can approach Him. Man cannot come to God in any way other than that which He ordained. Therefore, God commanded the Jews to build the Tabernacle so that He can fulfill His promise to be Israel’s God by coming to the camp to dwell with His people.

God met with His people at the Tabernacle of Moses set up for worship and sacrifice. Today, God’s people meet with Him through prayer, Bible reading and meditation, worship, service, and sacrifice which can be done individually (at home or in any in a private setting) or through corporate worship and fellowship (church setting).

Worshiping God is the highest privilege and the greatest responsibility of the Christian life because God is the highest Being in the universe and the One to whom we must one day give account. Everything that we are and do flows out of our relationship with the Lord.

God created us in His image so we might love Him and have fellowship with Him, not because we have to but because we want to. God is seeking people who will worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

Revelation 21:3

Conclusion

The Mosaic Covenant in no way replaced or set aside the Abrahamic Covenant. Its function is clearly set forth by Paul (Galatians 3:17-19), who points out that the law, the Mosaic Covenant, came 430 years after the Abrahamic Covenant.

The Mosaic Covenant was added alongside the Abrahamic Covenant so that the people of Israel would know how to conduct their lives until “the Seed,” the Christ, comes and makes the complete and perfect sacrifice, toward which the sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant only point.

The Mosaic Covenant was not given for salvation. The law was not given so that by keeping it people could be saved. Keeping the law does not save. Rather the law keeps and prepares a person for salvation by faith.

The law was given that man might realize that they cannot do what God wants them to do even when God writes it down on tablets of stone; that man is helpless and hopeless when left to himself, and realize that his only hope is to receive the righteousness of God by faith alone in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:22-24).

Descriptions of a Childlike Faith

Descriptions of a Childlike Faith

Jesus’ statement to His disciples in Matthew 18:3 about them not entering the kingdom of heaven unless they are converted and become as little children speaks volumes of the importance of having a childlike faith.

But what is childlike faith? What makes one’s faith childlike?

Faith Rooted in Security

During the days of childhood, one learns how to survive and prosper, how to love and share, and how to serve and praise. A well-cared-for child has no worries about house payments, no anxious moments over job opportunities, no apprehensions about failure, and no thoughts of vengeance.

David exemplified this kind of faith while he was on the run from Saul. In Psalm 131:1-2, David compared the calmness and serenity he had in the Lord to that of a weaned child with his mother.

Content with God and the works He was doing in his life, David did not concern himself with great matters such as selfish ambition and self-promotion. Rather, he found serenity and security in his relationship with God.

Descriptions of a Childlike Faith

To have a childlike faith is to find serenity and security in our relationship with God no matter the circumstance.

Faith that Praises

Jesus loved children. He loved to use children to teach hard-headed and hard-hearted grown-ups about faith and praise. While preaching in the region of Judea, Christ was encircled by a great crowd.

“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there” (Matthew 19:13-15).

He later reminded the priests and scribes that “the mouth of babes and nursing infants” would offer praise fitting for God’s Anointed (Matthew 21:16). When Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a colt, a very great multitude that included children cried out saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9)!

The sound of the children praising Jesus in the temple courts made the chief priests and scribes indignant. In response, Jesus quoted from Psalm 8:2. God does not only want prayer in His house, He also delights in praise.

To have a childlike faith is to have a heart that always longs to praise and glorify God in each and every life’s circumstance.

*Read here: The Elements of Praise

Faith that Believes

Jesus used the lad with the five barley loaves and the two small fish to feed five thousand people (John 6:9). To show His power over death, He used a little girl. Jairus, a ruler in the synagogue, fell at Jesus’ feet begging Him to come to his house and save his dying twelve-year-old daughter.

Jesus agreed and tried to make His way with Jairus, but the surrounding crowd made the trip difficult. Word came that Jairus’ daughter had died. But Jesus responded, “Do not be afraid, only believe and she will be made well” (Luke 8:50).

At the house, as the parents wept over their loss, Jesus said, “She is not dead but sleeping” (Luke 8:52). Through tears, the people laughed at the impossibility of what they heard. Jesus then asked everyone to leave the room, and then He said, “Little girl, arise” (Luke 8:54), and she did!

Descriptions of a Childlike Faith

Romans 4:17 says that “God gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” Jesus spoke to the girl with the power of God, and she was raised from the dead. Jairus’ faith definitely played a part in the miracle healing of his daughter just like the faith of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years had made her well (Luke 8:43-48).

Nothing is impossible with God if we would just believe. This is what it means to have a childlike faith.

Faith that is Humble

Another time, Jesus used a child to teach humility. In Matthew 18:1-5, we read how the disciples came to Jesus asking, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” and how did Jesus respond? He called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them and said, “Assuredly I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

He then went on to say, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.”

The fact that Jesus had been sharing with the disciples that truth about His approaching suffering and death did not affect them for they were thinking only of themselves and what position they would have in His Kingdom. So absorbed were the disciples in this matter that they actually argued with each other (Luke 9:46).

Pride – the very sin that caused Satan to be cast down from heaven is what’s causing people to think of themselves more highly than others. When Christians are living for themselves and not for others, conflict and division are bound to result (James 4:1-2).

Descriptions of a Childlike Faith

True humility means knowing ourselves, accepting ourselves, and being ourselves – our best self – to the glory of God. It means avoiding two extremes: thinking less of ourselves than we ought to (as did Moses when God called him, Exodus 3:11), or thinking more of ourselves than we should (Romans 12:3).

The truly humble person does not deny the gifts God has given him or her but uses them to the glory of God. The truly humble person also helps to build up others, not to tear them down. This person is a stepping-stone, not a stumbling block. Thus, we must remove from our lives anything that makes us stumble. If we don’t, we will cause others to stumble as well.

An unspoiled child has the characteristics that make for humility: trust, dependence, a desire to make others happy, and an absence of boasting or selfish desires to be greater than others. By nature, we are all rebels who want to be celebrities instead of servants. And so we need a great deal of teaching for us to learn the lesson of humility.

Final Words

As Christians, we are encouraged to have a childlike faith. To have faith like a child is to completely trust our heavenly Father’s goodness, care, provision, leadership, and protection.

Have you experienced the peace of a well-cared-for child in letting Jesus take care of your worries? Have you found the healing that faith in Jesus brings? Have you praised His name with the joy of a child? Have you answered Jesus’ call in childlike faith, asking Him to be your Savior?

God’s Unconditional Promise to Israel

God’s Unconditional Promise to Israel

Whether the Jews have a right to their land has been the subject of dispute among many nations up until today. Some say that the Jews have occupied a land that wasn’t theirs and that the occupation must be stopped.

However, the Jews claim that the land originally belonged to them and they have every right to it. They base their claim to the land of Israel on at least four premises and one of them is that God promised the land to the patriarch Abraham.

The Nation of Israel was founded by God

The Bible clearly tells us that Israel is the only nation founded by a sovereign act of God. It all started when God told Abraham to “get out of his country, from his family and from his father’s house, to a land that He will show him” (Genesis 12:1). And then God promised to give him that land (Genesis 12:7).

However, there are two controversies concerning the nation of Israel. The first is whether the promise to Abraham was a promise of literal land or promise of heaven. The second controversy asks whether the promise to Abraham and his seed for a literal land is conditional based upon Israel’s obedience to God or an unconditional promise.

We will then examine Scripture to verify beyond any doubt that God intended for Abraham and the Jewish people to have a literal land upon which they would live.

God's Unconditional Promise to Israel

God Promised a Land

In Genesis 13:14-15, God told Abraham, “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are … for all the land which you see I will give to you and your descendants forever.”

And Genesis 15:18 states, “On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.’” This is a very literal land. Heaven is not described, even allegorically, as the area between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates.

God told Abraham, “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Genesis 15:13-14).

Israel’s departure from the Promised Land was literal because they went into a literal Egypt. After four hundred years they became a nation of two to three million people and they physically left a literal Egypt for a literal Promised Land – not heaven.

God's Unconditional Promise to the Jewish People
Photo Credits: Piano Bible Chapel

The title deed to the Promised Land was passed from Abraham to Isaac. God said to Isaac, “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father” (Genesis 26:3).

The title deed to the Promised Land was then passed to Jacob from Isaac. In Genesis 28:13, God said, “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.”

You have to be in a very literal land to lie on it.

God’s Promise was Unconditional

Was God’s promise to Abraham of a Promised Land conditional or unconditional? Those who believe God’s promise was conditional simply do not understand the blood covenant.

In the Old Testament, there were three ways by which covenants could be made; a shoe covenant, a salt covenant, and a blood covenant.

In the blood covenant, the contracting parties would agree on the terms of the covenant. Then they would take an animal, kill it, split the carcass in half down the backbone, and place the divided parts opposite each other on the ground forming a pathway between the pieces.

The two would join hands, recite the contents of the covenant, and walk between the divided halves of the slain animal. The blood covenant meant they were bound until death, and if either broke the terms of the covenant, his blood should be spilled as the blood of the slain animal. A blood covenant was a permanent and unconditional covenant.

God's Unconditional Covenant with Abaraham and the Jewish People

In Genesis 15, God commanded Abraham to take a heifer, a she-goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon; and all were split in half except the birds. God placed Abraham in a deep sleep, for no man can look upon God and live, as He prepared to enter a blood covenant with Abraham.

In his sleep, Abraham saw “a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces” (Genesis 15:17). In the Old Testament, the burning lamp signified the presence of the Shekinah Glory of God. God was binding Himself, unconditionally, by a blood covenant to Abraham and his descendants forever, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land” (Genesis 15:18).

Confirmation that the promise to Abraham and to his seed was unconditional is presented in Psalm 89:30-37. God says, “If his sons [Israel] forsake My law and do not walk in My judgments, if they break My statutes and do not keep My commandments, then I will visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.”

“Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, nor allow My faithfulness to fail.” God is saying here that He will not break His covenant.

God’s Promise Fulfilled

What about the future of Israel? Israel was reborn as a nation in one day on May 14, 1948, when the United Nations recognized the state of Israel. This was a fulfillment of Isaiah 66:8.

God Promised to bring the Jews back to their own land

Amos writes concerning the restoration of Israel, “I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them, says the LORD your God” (Amos 9:14-15).

The prophets of Israel declared the nation of Israel would be reborn, would be rebuilt, and the Jewish people would never again be removed. When the Messiah comes, He will set up His throne in the city of Jerusalem and of His kingdom, there shall be no end.

*Read more of the promises of God to the nation of Israel in this article: The “I Will” Promises of God

Conclusion

God’s covenant with Abraham and the nation of Israel was unconditional, depending solely upon God who obligated Himself in grace. The unconditional character of this covenant is indicated by God’s declarations “I will” that repeat throughout without corresponding “you must” demands of Abraham.

This covenant contained all that God then began to do, has since done throughout history, and will continue to do.


*Reference Material: 

NKJV Prophecy Study Bible {Top 20 Questions About Bible Prophecy & God’s Great Promises}
General Editor: John Hagee