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Blog Group: Theology (29 posts)
Luke J. Wilson | 27th May 2019 |
The topic of fasting often comes up in online discussion groups that I'm a part of, more often in Protestant circles where the practice is more often sidelined in low churches. So let's take a look at the practice of fasting from a practical and historical view, as it seems to be a spiritual discipline which has been pushed aside in many churches today, with prayer, worship and bible reading taking more precedence in a Christian's life instead (not that those are bad things to do!).
There are many reasons to fast, and recent studies have shown a lot of health benefits that can be derived from fasting. But on the spiritual side of life, there are also many benefits, one of the main ones being self-control.
Fasting is participation in the Gospel. It is the ‘death’ of the flesh through denial, so that we can enjoy the resurrection of Christ in the spirit (Rom 8:13, Col 3:5).
It’s pure discipline and obedience (Jesus did say when not if – Matthew 6:16-18; Mark 2:20).
It’s putting to death the body – killing the flesh in order to live by the Spirit. (Gal 5:17)
It’s training you in self-control, discipline and willpower; growing and nurturing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8).
For healing and deliverance of others (Mark 9:29; Matthew 17:21).
To prepare to hear from God via visions and revelation (Acts 10:30).
For preparation for Church leadership (Acts 13:2-3; Acts 14:23)
To not be ruled by your desires and cravings – impulse control (1 Corinthians 7:5).
To focus on God and not ourselves, in prayer and worship (Luke 2:36-38).
To be in control of your body and to make your desires subject to you, not vice versa (1 Corinthians 7:5).
For self-denial to overcome temptations and learn discipline (1 Peter 5:8).
For prayers for your enemies/persecutors and forgiveness.(For a more in-depth examination of early Christian thought on fasting and the reasons for doing so, se...
Luke J. Wilson | 22nd December 2018 |
In the days leading up to Christmas, I wanted to share a sermon from a man known as Leo the Great (aka Pope Leo I), who was a Pope from 440-61 AD. He was one of the most significant and important men in Christian antiquity, as he tried to combat the heresies which seriously threatened church unity in the West, such as Pelagianism. This sermon of his about the incarnation of Christ and what it means for us has always stuck with me since I first read it last April when writing my own book on the Early Church Fathers.
It's not that long, so take the time to read it through and let the words sink in as we prepare for Christmas to remember and celebrate the birth of our Saviour and Lord, Christ Jesus.
On the Feast of the Nativity, I.
I. All share in the joy of Christmas
Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life. For the Son of God in the fullness of time which the inscrutable depth of the Divine counsel has determined, has taken on him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered through that (nature) which he had conquered. And in this conflict undertaken for us, the fight was fought on great and wondrous principles of fairness; for the Almighty Lord enters the lists with His savage foe not in His own majesty but in our humility, opposing him with the same form and the same nature, which shares indeed our mortality, though it is free from all...
Luke J. Wilson | 22nd May 2018 |
Often in any discussion on the gifts of the Spirit and whether they are still active today (Cessationism vs Continuationism), the topic of Apostles comes up and whether the gift/office is still active today in the Church. Detractors of the Continuationist position will often quip that ‘if there were modern-day apostles, they would be world famous!’ – though I’m not sure why. Even the original Twelve weren’t “world famous” in the sense that they mean. But I digress. This isn't a question of practice, or opinion, but to examine the Scriptures to see what they say about the gift.
Scripture gives us an indication that this gift, or role, wasn’t just for the original Twelve, and it also says how long we should expect the gifts (all of them) to be in operation within the Church. Paul writes about this to the Ephesus church in his letter:
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. (emphasis mine)
This is sometimes called the “Five Fold Ministry”. Compare this with 1 Cor 13:8-12, which parallels this thought using sightly different words about coming to maturity and being fully grown, and of seeing Jesus “face to face”. To put it simply, these gifts don’t end until we meet Jesus face to face, either in death or at The Resurrection, which makes complete sense if these five major roles are to “to equip the saints” and for “building up the body of Christ”.
So if these five gifts are for the continued benefit of the whole Church body, then it makes sense that we should see others who possess them, and the apostolic gift is often the most controversial one (along with prophet). So let's see how many apostles there were in the ...
Luke J. Wilson | 05th February 2018 |
I've seen and heard this question asked numerous times before, and I've even wondered it myself in my earlier years as a new Christian.
Is there salvation for angels and can demons go back to their previous, uncorrupted state?
2 Corinthians 11:14And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
As far as scripture is concerned, Satan can pretend to be angelic for the sake of deceit, but that's about it. There's no mention of redemption for angels or demons — that's the long and short of it.
So let's explore four areas of Scripture to see what we do know.
#1 They have been imprisoned for judgement by God.
2 Peter 2:4For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartarus and committed them to chains (or pits) of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment;
This judgement is eternal for them and there appears to be no second chance; their judgement is sealed:
Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;
#2 They have been imprisoned for judgement by the saints.
Not only has God set a judgement, but we who are in Christ will have the role of actually judging the angels as well. How's that for a hefty responsibly!
1 Corinthians 6:3
Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters?
#3 Judgement is final
We can also see from Revelation some more details about what this judgement entails for the devil and those who followed him:
Revelation 19:20And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who […] were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.
Revelation 20:10And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
#4 Salvation is for humans
Salvation appears to be only something that G...
Luke J. Wilson | 31st December 2016 |
Warning: Minor spoilers ahead!I say “minor” because there’s no plot points given away here, I’m just discussing an aspect of a character in the film, but I know some people (like me) don’t like to hear too much of anything before they see a film!
If you have seen the new Rogue One film though, you will be familiar with a guy called Chirrut Imwe. Whenever he is seen on screen, you will find him repeating a short mantra: “I am one with the Force; the Force is with me” whenever he feels threatened or in times of peril and wants protection. Now, Chirrut is not a Jedi (apparently [actual spoilers in this link]), but is a Force-sensitive “warrior monk” according to his Wiki (even though his skills displayed in the film looking very Jedi-like!).
Despite not being in the ‘Jedi club’, this character shows a strong dedication to his faith in The Force and his belief for its protection and power in his life, even in those times where he had good reason to doubt, and was even actively encouraged to do so by his companions! But instead of thinking the Force had failed him, it strengthened his resolve and made him ‘pray’ all the more in faith and trust that everything would be fine and that they’d be safe.
Chirrut Imwe not being a Jedi – via GIPHY
I am one with the Force; the Force is with me
It was this that prompted me to write this blog. I couldn’t help but see the parallels in his ‘faith’ and ‘prayer’ to how our life as Christians ought to be concerning the work of the Spirit in and through us. I found this encouraging and it reminded me of an ancient Christian mantra-like prayer which is still prayed today in certain places and Church branches. This is the Jesus Prayer:
"Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner"
This prayer is short and repetitive much like the Star Wars Force prayer, and was also first introduced by a monk (though a hermit monk rather than a warrior monk!). From the history of t...
Luke J. Wilson | 19th December 2016 |
I had been thinking about what to write this coming Christmas time, when I came across this quote the other day. I thought it sufficient enough, rather than go into a long theological treatise! So without further ado, here is a quote/excerpt by David H. Petersen, author of God With Us:
“The Savior is born unto you in Bethlehem, the house of bread, on earth. It is no coincidence that He lacked a crib and was placed instead into a feeding trough. He was born unto you to be bread: bread for beasts, bread for wolves, and bread for sheep. He comes in His body to feed you into life, to slake your thirst, to satisfy your soul. He is put into a manger, not only because He is rejected by men and there is no room for Him in Bethlehem’s inns but also because He gives Himself to you, as food, on earth.”
“We do not put a statue of a baby in the manger because we think that Jesus is still in the manger. We put a statue in the manger to remember that Jesus was a baby, that He took up our flesh and our burden. An empty manger just won’t do. The fact that God has a body, was born of a woman, for us, is not a tiny detail in the story or somehow not the important part. It is the essence of the story. In the same way, we do not put a statue of Jesus on the cross because we think that He is not risen. We know and we rejoice that He is risen. But an empty cross just won’t do. The fact that He was crucified in His body is not just a detail or somehow the prelude to the more significant event. It is the essence of the story. We preach Christ crucified.”
God With Us book cover
It also just occurred to me whilst I was writing this, that the Bread of Life was born in the House of Bread — the literal meaning of Bethlehem!
I never saw the connection before.
Also, as a final note, here's an interesting article on the prophetic fulfilment of Bethlehem too, for your spiritual nourishment: Bethlehem: House of Bread. Enjoy!
Jesus said to them,...
Luke J. Wilson | 26th October 2016 |
What is the “eighth day” you may ask; surely we know there are only seven days in a week!
But in ancient times, Sunday – which was also known as the first day of the week, was also referred to as the eighth day by Christians.
This day was considered a holy day from the earliest of times by Christians (despite some weak arguments that Constantine, or the Pope, “changed the Sabbath” some 400 years later), and this was because it was the day on which Christ rose from the dead!
I will make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world. For that reason, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day on which Jesus rose again from the dead.
Barnabas, in his epistle, makes the first recorded mention of this day as specifically called the “eighth” which is as early as somewhere between 70 - 130 AD.
But the concept of an "eighth day" isn't new and is found throughout the Scriptures in the Old Testament, specifically in the last of the great feasts: the feast of booths (Leviticus 23:33 onwards), and circumcision on the eighth day after birth. The priests and Nazirites also had seven days of cleansing before offering sacrifices specifically on the eighth day (Numbers 6, Leviticus 8:33ff).
The apostles pick up on these themes, like with the eight people, including Noah, who were “saved through water” (1 Peter 3:20) and how we now have a spiritual circumcision of the heart instead of a physical procedure (Romans 2:29). But if we look back at the gospel in John 7:37-38 and also John 8:12, we can see that during the festival of booths Jesus used the symbols of that festival (water and light) to declare that he himself is the true fulfillment of that! You can read a more in depth explanation of that at jewsforjesus.org.
After Barnabas, we find scattered references in other early writings which show understanding of Christ's fulfillment in these things – such as Justin Martyr, who wrote saying that the...
Luke J. Wilson | 20th July 2016 |
The importance of context of what's being said, and to whom, in Scripture.
I came across this image the other day (in the header above; see larger here) that links together three parts of Matthew’s Gospel to highlight the connection which many often miss, or read as separate events. I like the image because it shows that when Jesus spoke these things, he would have been saying them directly to the disciples and others who were listening to his teaching, and not in some cryptic, ambiguous dictation to a prophetic scribe, devoid of all context and meaning to those around him at the time.
Update Feb 2017: I am adding some additional information to this to display some of the counter arguments/alternative interpretations used by dispensationalists, sometimes also called “Futurists” (those who believe these passages refer to a distant future event centred around the “Second Coming” of Jesus, and is typically the most popular and recent interpretive framework taught in churches today) to try and give a more well rounded view and a defense of the non-dispensational interpretation.
So let's break it down and look at each quote in a bit more detail to see how these all connect together coherently.
Matthew 10 is Jesus telling his disciples about their mission and the persecutions it would entail. He explains to them all the things that would happen to them – "they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me" (Matt 10:17), which we can see fulfilled in Acts (cf. Acts 8:1; Acts 11:19; Acts 13:50; Acts 14:22; Acts 20:23).
Jesus rounds this short discussion off by telling them to flee from one town to the next and that they "will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes." (Matt 10:23), which gives us a time statement and some parameters about the coming of the Son of Man.
On the face of it, this sounds like...
Luke J. Wilson | 27th March 2016 |
Easter is upon us once again! Lent is over, Good Friday has passed and now the time for mourning and fasting is complete. It's a time to feast, a time to remember and celebrate the resurrection of Christ as we look forward to our own final resurrection!But what really is the resurrection? How will we be resurrected, and what does it mean for us that Jesus rose again? Let’s explore what this means for us as Christians, and see what the Scriptures say.
The resurrection is spiritual!
That heading may cause some reading this to question me, but do read on – this is actually what the New Testament teaches us (though not only this type of resurrection).
Many times in Scripture when speaking of baptism, it is used and described as a symbolic act of dying and being raised with Christ into a new creation, despite keeping our “old” bodies in the meantime. This, I believe, is why there was such an emphasis on the importance of baptism in the early Church, and why it’s something sacred we should also highly esteem and not take lightly.
As another blogger puts it, “baptism conveyed the gift of the Spirit and his illuminating and sanctifying roles … in being baptized, the new Christian experienced death (to self) and rebirth. Finally, baptism proclaimed the eschatological hope for restoration in the new creation.”
With that in mind, let's take a look at how baptism and resurrection relate to one another:
Colossians 2:12When you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
Colossians 3:1So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
…[God,] even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
Romans 6:4Therefore we have ...
Luke J. Wilson | 25th March 2016 |
A week or so ago, I stayed the night at a local monastery with a friend. We got to see, and be partially involved in the day to day life of the Monks there, especially during mealtimes. We sat and ate in silence together while someone read to us, which was actually more enjoyable than I expected it to be. I can't remember what the book was called now, but it was to do with the Passion and what the crucifixion meant, and the point they were reading about was when the Roman soldier stabbed Jesus in the side.
This is where it got interesting and gave me something to think about that I'd never heard taught before. Normally most preachers and sermons talk about the blood and water flowing out as prefiguring baptism, but that's not what was pulled out of in this book we were listening to. No, the main point its author took was that this in fact symbolised the new birth we have now in Christ! Baptism by water was only secondary to this emphasis.
I'd never thought of it this way before but it struck a chord with me. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we have a new birth and are born again, just as we are born naturally into this world in blood and water, we can now be born again through Jesus who bled blood and water for us in his death.
But the similarities don't end there. Baptism obviously follows on from this, as does the other sacrament of the Eucharist. The sacraments themselves are all centred around blood and water which point back to the cross which that in itself points to the forgiveness of sin and new birth.
Through “the water of rebirth” we receive the “renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5) that gives new life, and, as Peter says, “as an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism brings about forgiveness and displays our repentance over our former life.
Similarly, it is through the partaking of the Eucharist that we take on the eternal life that Jesus gives, to become a “partaker of the Lord’s immortality” as ...
Luke J. Wilson | 28th February 2016 |
Quite often in discussions which are about or involve some aspects of early church history or practices earlier Christians did, someone will inevitably throw out the "show stopper" that is "it's all just man made tradition" therefore not valid and the discussion is over. It’s as though saying it's "man made", without considering anything other than that they can't find an isolated chapter and verse in the bible which states something explicitly, means they've "won" the debate!
Nothing more to see here folks, someone told us it's man made so we can all go home now. Either that, or the mere mention of the word “tradition” and suddenly you’re accused of being a Roman Catholic or that any Church tradition only has its basis in the Roman Catholic Church, and is therefore automatically wrong and invalid in a discussion, and/or in practice.
Except that's not exactly true nor a good way to discuss anything (and probably falls under the Post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy).
Traditions and creeds go back much further than the Catholic Church – all the way back to a time of the Apostles.Yes, Jesus had a go at all the Pharisees for making their traditions greater than Scripture (Matt 15:2-3; Mark 7:9) and in that case dismissing something as "man made" is valid.
But what about when it's something based on or inspired by Scripture, something that becomes almost 'living exegesis' rather than just head knowledge? I've been thinking of Lent lately, as that often is dismissed as "man made” or “Catholic tradition" without looking at the history or how the practice came to be.
Generally, no one has an issue with you saying that you're going to fast, but say you'll do it at a specific time of year or for a certain length of time, and suddenly it's wrong and “man made”?
What do the Scriptures say?
Colossians 2:8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the ...
Luke J. Wilson | 13th February 2016 |
A spiritual and physical discipline
Update 2018: I recently published a book called 40 Days with the Fathers, which is a daily reading plan and an introduction to the Early Church Fathers that is spread across forty days, originally written as a Lenten reading plan. You can get a copy by clicking here.
Lent 2016: Lent is upon us once again! Even though we are already four days into the fast (according to Western tradition) I thought it’d be good to write something on the discipline of fasting.
And, much like any major holiday, there is the usual arguments and accusations about how it's all just pagan festivities with a "Christian mask". Easter is no different, and usually gets hit the hardest over its so-called "pagan roots" or Lent being some "invention of the Catholic Church".
So this year I decided to look into it a little, since I like to try and observe Lent, and it turns out that much of the accusations against Easter and Lent are nonsense and misinformation.
A 40 day fast prior to Easter has been a long established practice within the Church dating back to within the first century. This is well established from ancient letters we still have available, such as from Irenaeus:
For some consider themselves bound to fast one day, others two days, others still more. In fact, others fast forty days ... And this variety among observers [of the fasts] did not have its origin in our time, but long before in that of our predecessors.
See here he notes that this was a practice passed onto them by their "predecessors", a term often used in conjunction with the Apostles themselves, or those which immediately came after them, putting the origins of this Lent fast much earlier than when Irenaeus wrote in 180.
While there is a tentative link to the name "Easter" and a old Saxon goddess, the older root of the word simply means "East" or "dawn" in some other renditions, according to an Etymological Dictionary:
Ester and o...
Luke J. Wilson | 09th February 2016 |
In the quiet, still silence, I await my God.
There seems to be some misgivings about the idea of “contemplative prayer” (also referred to as Christian Meditation) and in some of the descriptions I've read, I would agree that it can seem iffy.
Contemplation, or sometimes known as Lectio Divina, is in its most basic form, the idea and practice of waiting on the Lord. Often in silence or while you ponder on scripture or when you seek an answer or just to rest in his presence and have your strength renewed.
There are some people who think that this means “emptying your mind” and doing something akin to occultism, and opening yourself up to demons and deception. While I'm sure some websites or institutions may teach this, I would say that is not the true essence of this ancient practice.
Read; meditate; pray; contemplate
I would never defend, nor advocate, any practice of emptying your mind, as this would be contrary to Scripture. What the bible repeatedly states is that we should be filling our minds with the things of God and scripture; focussing purely on God!
So let's take a look at the three basic tenets of this type of praying: silence, waiting, and meditating.
Being silent before the Lord is not an unbiblical position. Nor is finding some quiet alone time with yourself and God. In fact, this is what Jesus instructed (and did: Luke 5:16)!
Matthew 6:6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
For God alone my soul waits in silence;from him comes my salvation.
Psalms 62:5For God alone my soul waits in silence,for my hope is from him.
Isaiah 41:1Listen to me in silence, O coastlands;let the peoples renew their strength;let them approach, then let them speak;let us together draw near for judgment.
Let us not forget that the voice of G...
Luke J. Wilson | 03rd February 2016 |
Welcome to Part Two of the Olivet Discourse! It’s been a while, so we’ll pick up right where we left off with Matthew 24 verse 15 onwards, after a small recap of the chapter so far.
The Olivet Discourse begins with the disciples admiring the architecture of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus responds to this by telling them that it will all be thrown down and destroyed, to the point that not one stone will be left on another. Later on, when they are sat on the Mount of Olives, Jesus’ disciples come to him and ask “when will this happen?” and “what will be the sign” that all of this is about to commence?
If we look at the account in Mark’s Gospel, we can see that it was actually only Peter, James, John and Andrew who came to speak with Jesus privately about these things (Mark 13:3), thus making the audience that Jesus was addressing quite specific! What follows is a long prophetic monologue from Jesus detailing what happens in the lead up to the temple being destroyed, what to expect and what to do they see it about to happen. Which is where we pick up this study.
From verse 15 we start to see what happens after the initial signs and “birth pangs” are finished – now it’s no longer about looking towards an event; now it’s about the event itself! The main show, as it were: the “desolating sacrilege!”
So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; the one on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat.
Now Matthew’s Gospel is traditionally understood to have been written to a Jewish audience due to the writing style and linguistic phrases used that were typical of Jewish thought and understanding. This is important to remember when reading the parenthesis in verse 15 which simply st...
Luke J. Wilson | 22nd January 2016 |
So here we are at the final part of this Coming of Jesus series. If you’re new here, you can start from the beginning by clicking here, or carry on reading as I will give a brief overview of what’s been covered so far.
This series has covered many topics and themes of eschatology, starting with Daniel’s prophecy of the Messiah’s first coming to this world, all the way through to the prophecies of another coming. It’s been a very interesting and eye-opening journey of discovery, at least for myself, if no one else. I didn’t start this study with a particular doctrine or conclusion in mind, but rather went in with the mindset to examine the Futurist belief system and see if it holds up to scrutiny, because I’d become despondent with it over the years when I read certain passages in the Bible and only find Futurist exegesis which, to be honest, was more of a stretch to accept than I was comfortable with. So many times I’d read of the New Testament authors proclaiming the soon-ness of Christ’s coming, and the great sense of urgency that comes from the pages of the different epistles, especially in the ones written later on (such as 1 John).
So when I discovered there was an alternative way to look at these passages (called Preterism as I later found out), I decided it was time to find out for sure if what I’d been told most of my Christian life was correct in terms of a total future coming of Jesus and fiery destruction of the known world, or whether it was something else altogether. What I discovered has led me through a life-changing event in terms of my theology, to the point where all of those “soon” and “at hand” verses of Scripture actually make sense without theological gymnastics to make it all fit into a 2000+ year timeframe!
Over 400 years before Jesus was born, the angel Gabriel came to Daniel and gave him a vision of the future coming messiah and of God’s Kingdom. Right on ...
Luke J. Wilson | 06th January 2016 |
This is a sort of ‘addendum’ to the Revelation Fulfilled? article
Yes you read the title correct: WHO (not what) is the New Jerusalem?
To answer this, you must ask yourself: who is the Bride of Christ?
If you answered “the Church” (as in, the body of believers, not buildings) then you’d be correct as they are both one and the same!
Roughly 1500 miles square.
Maybe you’ve always wondered why the Church is called the “bride”? Well, let’s examine some Scriptures and see!
2 Corinthians 11:2I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
Here is Paul pleading with the Corinthian church to stay pure and true to the Gospel message they received, like a virgin on her wedding day; and also true to Jesus, as he is the husband of the believers.
Again, we see Paul use this imagery of marriage in terms of Christ and his Church in the letter to the Ephesians. Paul is teaching them (and us) on how to conduct ourselves within the bonds of marriage with the instruction for husbands and wives to lay down their lives for one another in love; this is also the analogy of how Jesus relates to his Church:
Ephesians 5:24-25, 32Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.
What has this got to do with the New Jerusalem?
Now when it comes to verses on the New Jerusalem, most people read the first two verses of Rev 21 and stop there, assuming that because it is called “the new Jerusalem” and “the holy city” that it must be an actual, brick-and-mortar city.
But the description doesn’t stop there.
Keep reading past Rev 21:1 and see how the Bride is described:
Revelation 21:1-2Then I saw a new heaven and a n...
Luke J. Wilson | 31st December 2015 |
Don’t let the title put you off, we’re about to go on a mad journey through the annuls of history and the Roman Empire, contrasting what John saw in his vision with what has already played out on the “world’s stage” and what we possibly have to look forward to!
First though, let’s look at a little history concerning the book itself before delving into its contents. Why do this? For a couple of reasons really: one, Revelation has some dispute over the year in which it was written, which can impact on the interpretation. Two, at various points in early church history, the book was held in suspicion of being spurious and almost didn’t make it into the Canon of Scripture. We should always endeavour to understand the history and context of a book of Scripture in order to fully understand its intended meaning, and thus, “rightly divide” (2 Tim 2:15) and interpret the Bible properly.
Two Dating Views
There are two main views on the dating of Revelation: the “early date” and the “late date”.
The early date places John writing Revelation around 64-68 AD, shortly before the fall of Jerusalem and just as the Jewish War was getting underway during the reign of Nero.
The late date puts the writing towards the end of the reign of Domitian around 95-96 AD.
From John’s own testimony, we know that he was suffering persecution at the time of writing:
I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Both of these Roman Emperors persecuted the Christians, though none quite so severely as Nero did.
There’s varying accounts of when Revelation was penned by John. I won’t spend too much time on this as many, many others have wrote books on the topic of dating, so I’ll just give a brief overview of both sides of the argument.
One of the earliest ac...
Luke J. Wilson | 11th October 2015 |
If you've read my previous two articles on Israel, then this will probably seem familiar. This is a combination of the previous two combined into one study, focussing more on who Israel is under the New Covenant rather than the geopolitical/war situation of the Middle East.
So Who is Israel?
No doubt what I'm about to say will cause some knee-jerk reactions, but to properly understand the New Covenant, we need to address the issue of who is Israel, Biblically speaking? Yes, there is a modern nation known as "Israel" now since 1948, but is that the same Israel of the Bible? The same Israel to whom God made his promises? If so, does that mean God's plans were on hiatus while there was no nation of Israel from AD 70 when Rome destroyed them, until 1948?
How many chosen people are there?
So I'm just going to say it: the nation of Israel in the Middle East which we know of today, is not the same Israel of the New Covenant.
So who is Israel then, according to the New Testament?
In a word: Jesus.
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ.
That promise to Abraham of his offspring blessing the earth was not speaking of the Jewish people as a whole, but their culmination in being the lineage to which the Messiah would come!
What about the nation of Israel?
There are some internet memes which are still doing the rounds every so often, quoting Gen 12:3 ("I will bless those who bless [Israel], and the one who curses [Israel] I will curse") and by implication, putting guilt on anyone who dares say a bad word against the nation of Israel. Yes, all the families of the earth shall be blessed — but not by national Israel, but Jesus who IS the true Israel; the one in whom all the promises to the people of...
Luke J. Wilson | 19th October 2014 |
Hello again, it's been a while since I've wrote anything, and longer since getting back to this series on the Second Coming of Jesus. This isn't for lack of motivation, but rather because this is such a huge topic that I've been reading and thinking about this next part for a very long time to make sure I know what I'm saying, and am well read enough to do the topic justice. Having said that, there will always be far more to say on this than I can give time for here, but I hope to give enough of an overview to expound this prophecy faithfully without being too technical as to cause confusion! You can also catch up on the previous parts in the series here and here.
I'm going to do this part of the series in two sections, otherwise it would get too long and wordy! This part will focus on the "birth pangs" Jesus warned about which would lead up to the coming judgement and destruction of the temple.
The Olivet discourse is the prophecy given by Jesus in the Gospels of Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21. Most Christians are probably more familiar with the Matthew 24-25 version than the others, though they are all the same prophetic message of impending judgement.
If you're at all familiar with any doctrine or teaching on the "Second Coming" or "End Times", then these passages in the Gospels are most often quoted and used to say that Jesus is talking about a terrible time that is coming in the far, far, far off future, usually interpreted to mean within our lifetime (for some reason).
I, too, used to believe this as it was what I was taught in the churches I attended and told by the people I met, all with that eager expectation that Jesus could suddenly swoop down from the clouds any day now! What I didn't ever do was investigate these claims properly for myself, except read the parts of Scripture they said meant Jesus was coming in the future and then try to accept that it must be right since our church leaders were obviously...
Luke J. Wilson | 16th June 2014 |
Daniel's 70 Weeks
To fully understand Jesus's first, and indeed what is commonly called his "Second Coming," we need to understand the book of Daniel. This prophetic books give many details and glimpses into the future about coming kingdoms, rulers and above all, the Messiah. I'm going to be focussing on just one part of the book, chapter nine, often referred to as "Daniel's 70 Weeks". But just what is "Daniel's 70 Weeks" you might be asking as you read this. For those unfamiliar with Old Testament prophecy, it is a prophetic vision that Daniel was given from God, and interpreted by the angel Gabriel. You can read the prophecy in full below:
Dan 9: 20-27 (NRSV)
While I was speaking, and was praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God on behalf of the holy mountain of my God— while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen before in a vision, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He came and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding. At the beginning of your supplications a word went out, and I have come to declare it, for you are greatly beloved. So consider the word and understand the vision:
“Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time. After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its en...
Luke J. Wilson | 26th May 2014 |
Will Jesus return in the way most of us have been taught?
I suspect that when many people think of the "Second Coming" — that is, the return of Jesus, images of the world ending in a blaze of fire and glory come to mind; or of some super-war called Armageddon where the Anti-Christ battles it out with God's people one last time before the End comes. You may even think of Jesus surfing across the sky on clouds with a bunch of angel in tow, or maybe the Left Behind book and film series frames your view of the "end times."
Whichever it is, one thing I can assure you of is that some of that imagery has been embellished and some misunderstood/misinterpreted. To truly get to grips with what the Scriptures actually teach about "the time of the end" we need to begin in the Old Testament, as the prophetic language used to describe similar events, and understanding that language, has huge impacts on how we understand what Jesus was saying when he spoke in a similar manner. Both Old and New testaments are connected and can't be taken separately from one another when trying to understand the imagery used in the Gospels, Epistles and Revelation.
So, welcome! This is an introduction to a six/seven part series on this topic to give an overview of what I'll be looking at over the next few posts. I haven't got the structure completely down yet (so there may be other parts depending how each one goes), but I'm aiming to do something along this framework:
The series is now completed, which can you read through from beginning to end using the links below:
Daniel's 70 Weeks
Coming in the Clouds and Prophetic Symbolism
The Olivet Discourse – Part 1
The Olivet Discourse – Part 2
Who is the New Jerusalem?
Our Future Hope: What Now?
I hope it will be as enjoyable and educational as I found it while studying all of this! I'll...
Luke J. Wilson | 21st April 2014 |
Or do we retroactively place our current theology of God on God?
Consider the Garden of Eden: '[T]he Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”' (Gen. 3:8-10)
Now today we make it into a rhetorical question, but was this always so? In this story, God is spoken of almost in a physical-bodily sense as walking in the garden, since "they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden" as he moved about, and then tried to hide themselves from his view!
Next think of the tower of Babel - "The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built" (Gen 11:5) - Did he not just know already? Also this story makes it appear like God is worried about the potential of man (Gen 11:6)!
Then this idea is reinforced some more in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, when God needs to go and check out their sin to see if the outcry he's heard is accurate!
Then the Lord said, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.”
This next one may be a stretch, but it comes to mind anyhow: "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth" (2 Chron 16:9).
Other translations say God's eyes "roam" or "run to and fro" throughout the earth. Maybe it's just a poetic way of saying "God sees all", but does it mean he sees all simultaneously — as an all-knowing God should/would? Or is this in keeping with the earlier ideas of God having to come down to a location to inspect it fully, that he goes about the whole earth checking out things and people?
"The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all humankind." — Psalm 33:13
Maybe this where Angels play their role; as in, they are all over the Earth reporting back to the Lord about what they see and hear, so that he can act on situations — as messengers not onl...
Luke J. Wilson | 21st April 2014 |
Coming on the clouds of heaven
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory.
When people read Jesus saying that he will be "coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" in Matthew 24:30, it often taken to mean that he will be doing that literally as opposed to figuratively.
Kinda like this, but on clouds.
Careful now, before you put on your heretic hunting hats and grab your pitchforks — let me explain why I say that Jesus wasn't telling his followers he would be surfing across the sky on literal clouds.
As I pointed out in my last post, to truly understand Jesus, and indeed the New Testament, we need to better know the Old Testament texts. This phrase that Jesus used about "coming on the clouds" is a reference to a prophecy in the book of Daniel in which Daniel see's one who 'looks like a son of man' (ie. a person with a human form) 'coming with the clouds of heaven' which has all sorts of implications that we often miss by either not knowing much of the Old Testament, or because we're not Jewish with a better understanding of these prophecies. As a small note too, it's also these visions of Daniel that Revelation in the New Testament takes a lot of its imagery from and describes the same events – I will be touching on that more in the next part in this series.
Often times, our thoughts on these phrases or this kind of prophetic language, is coloured by our upbringing or teaching from a church, or even by secular culture which has taken this imagery and "hollywoodized" it. You need only Google for "apocalypse" or "armageddon" to see this; and although it can be fun from a film watching perspective, it's not entirely helpful if we are letting modern-day secular films and interpretation influence our reading and understanding of Scripture.
Luke J. Wilson | 18th April 2014 |
I remember when I was growing up, this was a question I would often wonder about and ask. People would say "because Jesus died on the cross!", which was of little help to me as I would then think, why was Jesus dying a good thing?
But this is a question I'm sure many people will have asked themselves when they consider the name of their Bank Holiday, and probably a question they got an unsatisfactory answer to - if they got one at all!
Really though, this holiday time should be more well-known and recognised than Christmas. While the birth of Jesus is important, it isn't actually central to the Faith, nor is it really emphasised much in the New Testament. The more complete birth narratives appears in Matthew and Luke's Gospels only; Mark skips it and John only alludes to it in John 1:14 ("And the Word became flesh and lived among us..."); and Paul too, only mentions Jesus's birth very briefly in Galatians 4:4-5 and Romans 1:3.
Basically, the early Christians didn't care about this event in the same way we do today.
And history would tell us this as well, as celebrating birthdays were a pagan/Roman tradition, the Christians had nothing to do with it. It wasn't until around the 4th Century when Pope Julius declared December 25th as the date in order to corresponded with the Roman feast of Saturnalia.
But the real celebration, and the main thrust and focus in the New Testament is the death of Jesus and his subsequent resurrection. While there does seem to be some evidence to suggest that by the 2nd Century, early Christians were celebrating Easter, it sometimes feels like the Modern Church has placed more emphasis on Jesus's birth in terms of celebrations and events, than it does for his resurrection. Though that's probably partly due to Western culture and the so-called "War on Christmas" making some churches push Christmas harder.
I digress. Paul makes his view on the resurrection, and thus the whole point of Christianity, quite clear in 1 Cor 15:12...
Luke J. Wilson | 15th April 2014 |
It is often said and believed by many that our souls are immortal - that God gave us a spirit/soul that cannot die when he created us, and that death was not even a concept or reality before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. Despite this idea being a fairly "recent" concept (in terms of history and theology), and it stemming from Greek philosophy, it's also not supported by the Biblical text - especially in Genesis.
Lets look at the creation account in Gen 2:7—
then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.
The word "being" in that verse, or "soul" in older translation, comes from the Hebrew word "nephesh". This is defined in Strong's lexicon as: "soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion" - but never as inherently immortal. We should also note that verse seven in Genesis 2 also states that man became a living being/soul once God had breathed life into the newly created body; as far as the Hebrew language used in Genesis allows, it only shows that God created people as mortal beings, and that a "soul" is nothing more than a living, breathing creature (I say "creature" instead of "human being", as the same nephesh word is used of animals too in the Creation account - but that's another topic!).
To the Hebrews, the body and soul were one 'unit' that worked together, rather than two separate entities; there was "no idea of an immortal soul living a full and vital life beyond death" and many Psalms and older Biblical texts reflect this idea too (cf. Psalm 6:5; Psalm 88:3-12; Psalm 146:4; Psalm 115:17; Job 14:10-12; Job 3:11-19).
The fall depicted in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo
With that in mind, the threat of death by God makes more sense since Adam and Eve would actually be able to comprehend such a concept if it was already a reality. They obviously appear to have been created...
Luke J. Wilson | 10th April 2014 |
...there is only the Spiritual realm, ...and to which one either serves God in heaven or resides in hell awaiting Judgment.
Is it as simple as that?
This is an actual quote from someone during an online discussion on the subject, but this is not anything against who ever said it, but rather a response to the prevailing view behind it that people generally seem to adhere to.
The topic of Hell in itself is a rather large subject that is much more complex that you might initially think, and is a topic I intend to cover here soon as a series.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. A lot of Christians would say that hell is the 'final destination' of the dead who are not "in Christ". But if the dead already reside in hell then surely they have already been judged? If not, then why are they there? What use is the final judgement if God has already pre-decided what most people's fate is? That isn't judgement, that's a decision with no consideration.
Look at the definition of judgement in the Oxford dictionary:
The ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.
Or in another definition: "The capacity to assess situations or circumstances and draw sound conclusions".
If its already been decided that the dead without Christ are going to hell, then they haven't been judged in the way the Scriptures portray - and definitely not with "considered decisions" about the "situations or circumstances" of the people involved.
So how does Scripture portray God's judgement on people? Let's look at the Great White Throne judgement:
Revelation 20:12-13And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done.
This judgement s...
Luke J. Wilson | 08th April 2014 |
1 Timothy 2:12 - "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent."
Here's an often tricky subject, depending on who you speak to about it.
Before I begin, it should be noted here that these words ("woman" and "man") could also be translated as "wife" and "husband", which then changes the thrust of this command quite drastically.
This verse, and others similar, are often taken by people to mean that it only applies in a church setting (ignoring the fact that we are the Church - 1 Cor 12:27; Rom 12:5). A little while ago when discussing this topic, an argument was put forth about the 'Woman at the Well' preaching to others (men especially) as she, after speaking with Jesus, went back to her town and proclaimed the Gospel to everyone (Jn 4:39-42). Though the opponents argued that she was permitted due to the fact that she was in a town and not a church.
Despite that, the argument about the woman at the well being "permitted" to teach the Gospel, because it was in a town and not a church building, fails because Paul is basing his logic on the Genesis creation order - which would surely apply universally. We can see this in the very next verse and sentence in 1 Tim 2:
For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
So if Paul's logic and subsequent command comes from creation-order, then either everyone is subject to it in every situation, or they aren't at all.
You can't say "do it this way because Adam and Eve, God said so" and tag it with "but only here, here and here" if the argument it based on how God originally designed everything to be. The whole marriage debate is also based on a creation-order logic that God 'made them male and female' (Gen 1:27; Mk 10:6), therefore man/man, woman/woman can't marry - and the church is fighting its hardest to make that apply to all people, secular or otherwise - despite Paul saying judging those outside...
Luke J. Wilson | 06th April 2014 |
A question most often asked by Christians and non-Christians alike is "why do bad things happen to 'good' people?" I say 'good' in quotations because, as Paul writes in Romans 3:10, "There is no one who is righteous, not even one".
In light of that this question is technically, fundamentally flawed, as it presupposes that some people are better or more worthy than others. We all do wrong one way or another, so at a base level and in comparison to a Holy God, no one is any more 'good' than another, which is Paul's argument I believe (but that's probably a whole other blog post for another day).
But that aside, taking the question as it is, and assuming that those who just go about their daily lives not doing anything particularly 'evil' or nasty are to be considered as good people, then why should they have horrible things happen? Why should people who maybe even worship God, and live as best they can in accordance with his commands, get cancer for example? Or suddenly lose a child or spouse? Or have to constantly worry how they will pay the bills month to month?
Isn't God good?
Doesn't he care?
Yes. Yes he is, and yes he does.
Often with these kinds of questions, people will point to Job. If you don't know the story of Job, basically in a nutshell, he was a good, God-fearing man and then Satan challenges God by saying, "stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face" and then lots of really bad things happened to him (like his house collapsing and killing his family etc.) - you can read about all the sudden calamities in Job 1.
But at the end of the first chapter describing all the bad things happening, verse 22 simply says, "In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing."
Though there is debate about whether Job is a historical account, or simply an allegorical story to try and give an answer to a similar question, I think the principle of the story is that despite the circumstances of life, we...
Luke J. Wilson | 05th April 2014 |
"All sins are equal." "Sin is sin." "All sin is the same in God's eyes."
You may have heard these phrases said before (you may even have said them before!). But is all sin really equal? I do, and don't, think so.
Let me clarify: All sin is equal in the sense that all illegal activities are crimes; but even crimes have degrees of severity and punishment, and it would seem to me that the New Testament also supports this concept in regards to sin.
Lets look at a few examples:
If you can blaspheme the Holy Spirit and never be forgiven (Matt 12:31), then it's a sin definitely not on par with others.
If being sexually immoral is seen as something to shun more than most other sins mentioned, then it would appear that this is a sin potentially worse than others (as it sins against your own body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit etc.) - See 1 Cor 6:18-20. Also, as 1 John 5:16-17 says, "All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal." This speaks of some sin leading to death and others not - then is that not giving degrees to some sins over others?
In John 19:11, Jesus even says that "[he] who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin" and in Matthew 5:19 Jesus talks about levels of reward in the Kingdom - so why wouldn't there be levels of sinfulness? Yes, once we pledge our lives to follow the Lord we are granted salvation and eternal life, yet there is still talk of greater or lesser rewards along with that. The parable in Luke 12:47-48 appears to teach degrees of punishment for different wrongs (and the same type of message about different degrees of punishment is also in: Matthew 10:15, Matthew 23:13-15, Luke 10:13-14). Lets take a closer look at Luke 12:
That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be require...