Sunday, December 23, 2012

An Excellent John Piper Book I Read Recently

A couple of weeks ago, I finished reading Jesus: The Only Way to God--Must You Hear the Gospel to be Saved? by John Piper on my Kindle app (have I said I love reading on my tablet?).

This book was an enjoyable read, and at only 123 pages isn't very lengthy. Piper gets to his points backing them up with scripture. Below are jsut some of the 29 passages I highlighted in the book. Here's a link to them all (if you have an Amazon account, you can login and see my highlights).

Though this quote is at the end of the book, I will put it first so that you will have an idea of what Piper's argument is in this book:
I have tried to answer three questions with arguments and illustrations from the Bible: Is there an eternal hell of conscious torment to be rescued from? Answer: Yes (Chapter 2). Is the death and resurrection of Christ essential for that rescue? Answer: Yes (Chapter 3). And do people need to hear this good news and believe it in order to be rescued? Answer: Yes (Chapters 4-7).
Many believe that the Bible is something that enslaves us and that without it we may be free. Piper asserts, correctly, just the opposite:
If we are cut loose from the anchor of God’s Word, we will not be free. We will be slaves of personal passions and popular trends.
Here, Piper is showing us the positive aspects of being rescued from hell as well as pointing out those blessed things which the lost will not have.
Implicit in the rescue from hell is the experience of praising God forever, and loving people forever, and enjoying creation forever, and creating beauty forever. All of this will be lost by everyone that the good news of Jesus does not reach. So what is at stake in diminishing the universal necessity of the gospel is the everlasting pleasures of people personally praising God, loving others, enjoying God’s creation, and creating beauty. This is what people lose by not hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus.
Perhaps one of the best brief explanations of Romans 5:
As the sin of Adam leads to condemnation for all humanity that are united to him as their head, so the obedience of Christ leads to righteousness for all humanity that are united to him as their head—“those who receive the abundance of grace” (Romans 5:17).
The following quotes are related to the question of whether people can be Christians by either (1) ignorantly worshiping God, (2) never hearing the gospel, or (3) believing in Jesus but never knowing His name:
(1) And we will see that even when there is some knowledge of the true God (as in the case of Cornelius in Acts 10), the worship of the true God “ignorantly” is not a saving act.

(2) N
otice that the message itself is essential. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

If one is saved by Jesus incognito, one does not speak of being saved by his name.
In response to devoutly following one's own convictions but not having saving faith, Piper relates to us when and with whom the gospel began:
The gospel got its start among the most devout people in the world at that time—the Jews. They had more advantages in knowing God than any of the other peoples of the earth. Yet they were told again and again: Devoutness and works of righteousness and religious sincerity do not solve the problem of sin. The only hope is to believe on Jesus
And there is hope because God still has a people to call His own!
And he will now gather in all those among the nations who are called by his name! It is his new work! All those who are predestined will be called (Rom. 8:30). All those who are foreordained to eternal life will believe (Acts 13:48). All those who are ransomed will be gathered from every people under heaven (Rev. 5:9). God himself is the chief agent in this new movement, and he will take out a people for his name among the nations (Acts 15:14).  
Finally, we as believers must take this to heart and be convicted to reach the lost for Christ!
Charles Hodge is right that “the solemn question, implied in the language of the apostle, HOW CAN THEY BELIEVE WITHOUT A PREACHER? should sound day and night in the ears of the churches.” 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Some thoughts on how we read the Bible

While chapter and verse numbers are wonderful, I have to wonder if perhaps we turn them into stopping points when they shouldn't be?

For instance, let's look at Isaiah 5 and 6 starting with that wonderful passage in chapter 6.

Isaiah 6:4-8 ESV

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."

So we have an idea here that Isaiah feels unclean, especially now that he has seen The Lord. Specifically he knows that his lips are unclean and an angel cleanses him. Then that great question is asked "who will go for us?" and Isaiah answers the call.

Overall that isn't a bad interpretation of the passage and it conveys a sufficient meaning for us. But what if we take just a broader look at the context? What just happened?

In chapter 5, the Lord states to Isaiah that He will destroy his vineyard, which is Israel. Then God calls down "woes" upon 6 groups of wicked people. These are those who hoard property, who seek drunkenness, who call evil good. These are people that the Lord says he will strike down and against whom he will show his anger. (Isaiah 5:24-25)

It is against this backdrop that Isaiah had his heavenly vision in chapter 6. After seeing the importance of the preceding woes it is all the more obvious that Isaiah feels completely undone after he brings another woe upon himself. It isn't just some light feeling of sorrow as we now understand.

You can read more around these chapters to get a better idea as to what else may be happening, but this is a good start.

As I began with in this post, I do think that we sometimes miss out on details that are important when we may isolate our reading to chapter breaks. It all really boils down to the importance of context when reading our Bible. This is just something I've been thinking about some recently and may have to integrate into my daily reading. I would encourage you to also take some extra time to do the same.

God bless you!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?

I've been reading a lot more lately, specifically using the Kindle app. I just finished reading The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F. F. Bruce. If you've known me any length of time, you'll know that I am a big fan of Dr. Bruce.

If you have ever wondered about the reliability of the New Testament and the texts behind them, then this book is a great place to start. If you have a Kindle, I can loan the book to you.

I highlighted a lot in this book, and will share a couple of things below. But before doing that, I believe that in just 10 chapters that Bruce gives us a vast amount of information to help us come to the conclusion that what we know as the New Testament today (and since its official canonization, which he treats in chapter 3) is more reliable than other ancient texts. After some preliminaries, Bruce has a great treatment of The Gospels and their miracles, the Pauline letters, and Luke's contributions. He follows this with archaeological evidence as well as that of Jewish and Gentile writers. Somewhat surprisingly, as I'm reviewing my highlights, I see that most of what I thought was vital related to the practical aspects of what the reliability of the New Testament documents. I hope the quotes can boost your faith as well!

Two of my favorite sections were his treatment of the Gospels and those of Luke. Below will be some quotes I found extremely helpful. If you are looking for a great primer on the New Testament documents, this is definitely a book you should read!

"For the Christian gospel is not primarily a code of ethics or a metaphysical system; it is first and foremost good news, and as such it was proclaimed by its earliest preachers."

"No matter how we classify the gospel material, we never arrive at a non-supernatural Jesus."

"The gospel as preached in those early days emphasized what Jesus did rather than what He said. The proclamation which led to the conversion of Jews and Gentiles was the good news that by His death and triumph He had procured remission of sins and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers."

"In his Argument to the Gospel of John, the great Reformer John Calvin says: `I am in the habit of saying that this Gospel is the key which opens the door to the understanding of the others.' His opinion has been endorsed by Christian thinkers of many ages, who have found in this Gospel depths of spiritual truth unreached in any other New Testament writing."

"The members of the Christian Industrial League, an organization which carries on a gospel witness among the tough characters of Skidrow, in the heart of Chicago's `Loop' area, say `that in their work they have found that St. John's Gospel is the best for dealing with these tough, hard men. Its straight, unequivocal words about sin and salvation somehow go home and carry conviction to the most abandoned, while its direct invitation wins a response that nothing else does.'"

"The same victorious power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power which operates in His followers, achieving in their lives triumph over the dominion of evil. Properly to appreciate the power of God in the resurrection of Christ, one must appreciate it in one's own experience. That is why Paul prayed that he might thus know Christ, and the power of his resurrection"

"Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history, and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident. He seizes the important and critical events and shows their true nature at greater length, while he touches lightly or omits entirely much that was valueless for his purpose. In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians." - Bruce, quoting Sir William Ramsay

"One point is worth noting, however: apart from Jewish and Christian writers, Tacitus is the one and only ancient author to mention Pilate. It may surely be accounted one of the ironies of history that the only mention Pilate receives from a Roman historian is in connection with the part he played in the execution of Jesus!"

"The spirit of these early Christians ought to animate their modern descendants. For by an acquaintance with the relevant evidence they will not only be able to give to everyone who asks them a reason for the hope that is in them, but they themselves, like Theophilus, will thus know more accurately how secure is the basis of the faith which they have been taught." 

Monday, October 29, 2012

An Adventure In Romans, Part 4 - Charles Hodge (Chapters 1-8)

Following are some quotes from Charles Hodge's Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Romans. These are quotes that stood out to me as I have been reading through this commentary. This only covers chapters 1-8. Some background to this is posted here. I think most of the quotes are self-explanatory, but please comment if you have any questions.

The hope which true believers entertain, founded upon the very nature of pious exercises, will never disappoint them. - Romans 5:5

This is Hodge's rendering of Romans 5:15 "for if it is consistent with the divine character that we should suffer for what Adam did, how much more may we expect tone made happy for what Christ has done!"

"There can be no participation in Christ's life without a participation in his death, and we cannot enjoy the benefits of his death unless we share in the power of his life." - Romans 6:4

"We strive to obey, not in order to be saved or to please God, but because God saves us without works or merit of our own, whom, because he is reconciled in the Beloved, we delight to serve." Olshausen (as quoted by Hodge on Romans 6:12)

It is as much a matter of justice that sin should be followed by death as that the laborer should receive his wages. Those, therefore, who hope for pardon without atonement hope that God will in the end be unjust. -  Romans 6:23

Romans 7:7 "Does the law produce sin, so that the fruit is to be imputed to the law itself? God forbid! Certainly not! Let it not be thought that the law is to blame. On the contrary, so far from the law being evil, it is the source, and the only source, of the knowledge of sin." as rendered by Charles Hodge

Hodge says that "by leading the apostle to expect one thing, sin deceived him by his experiencing another. He expected life and found death..." How is sin deceiving you today? - Romans 7:11

What Christian does not feel that he is unspiritual? How cheerfully he recognizes his obligation to love God with all the heart, and yet how constantly does the tendency to self and the world, the law in his members, war against the purer and better law of his mind and bring him into subjection to sin! - on the latter half of Romans 7

If we share the spiritual benefits of Christ's death, we also share in his life. If we died with him, we live with him. This is pertinent to the apostle's main purpose in this chapter, which is to show that believers can never be condemned. They are not only delivered from the law and justified by the blood of Christ, but they participate in his life. - Romans 8:6, 20

When the apostle says that believers are the heirs of God, he recognizes their claim, in and through the Redeemer, to the promised good as well as to the certainty and security of the possession. - Romans 8:17 

The purpose of God in the salvation of men was not mainly that men should be holy and happy, but that through their holiness and happiness his glory, in the person of the Son, should be displayed in the ages to come to principalities and powers. Christ, therefore, is the central point in the history of the universe. His glory, as the glory of God in the highest form of its manifestation, is the great goal of creation and redemption. -  Romans 8:29 

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Year Of Running...

After I started losing some weight last year, I started running on October 17, 2011. I use iMapMyRUN to keep track of my runs, so I can look back at the history.

That first time out running was pretty bad. :) I ran 2.21 miles in 30:08. That's a 13 minute and 35 second pace per mile. And I remember that I tried running down one of the roads in my neighborhood where there is a decent incline. "Tried" is the key word - truth be told, I walked that hill! It was at the 25 minute mark and I had already run around 1.5 miles and just couldn't run any more.

As I was running the other week, I hit that same hill at the 25 minute mark again. But this time, I had already ran over 4 miles and I kept going up that hill (though slowing down a little). That night I ran 5 miles at an 8 minute and 42 second pace.

Looking back at my charts, the first time I "ran" a 5k in my neighborhood it was 36 minutes at around an 11:11 pace and was on Christmas Day, 2011.

I slowly kept up with it (when it was warm) and on May 12, I ran my first official 5k race in 27:56 - much better at a 9:00 pace. In the 5k I ran on September 8, I finished in 25:07 (at an 8:07 pace). I'm hoping to break the 25:00 mark in my fourth 5k race tomorrow!

I've also been running longer distances (up to a personal long-run of 6.5 miles). I think this has helped tremendously with increasing my "short run" 5k speeds. (I never thought I would refer to a 5k as a "short run" workout.)

I hope this doesn't come off in a bragging manner, but instead I hope it will encourage you. Maybe you're starting off running and don't think you're running "fast enough" - keep plugging along. If I can do this, you can too!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An Adventure In Romans, Part 3 - FF Bruce (Chapters 1-8)

 Following are some quotes from FF Bruce's Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Romans. These are quotes that stood out to me as I have been reading through this commentary.  This only covers chapters 1-8. Some background to this is posted here. I think most of the quotes are self-explanatory, but please comment if you have any questions.

"Flesh and spirit wage incessant warfare one against the other within the citadel of Mansoul." 

"Peace is joy resting; joy is peace dancing." FF Bruce on Romans 5 talking about peace and joy being two benefits of the Gospel. I love that!

"Paul never considered legalism as the cure for libertinism; he knew a more excellent way. When men and women yielded their lives to the risen Christ and the power of his Spirit, their inward being was radically transformed: a new creation took place." - Romans 6:1

In his death he dealt effectively and conclusively with sin, winning a victory 'that needs no second fight, and leaves no second foe." - Romans 6:10

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24, 25 ESV) - "So some have experienced more soul trials after their conversion than when they were awakened to a sense of their lost condition. 'O wretched man that I am!' is their cry till they are made perfect in holiness. But He that hath begun a good work in them will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." - MacFarlane (as quoted by FF Bruce on Romans 7:25)

When the human spirit is in closest harmony with the Spirit of God, words may not only prove inadequate; they may even hinder prayer. But God, before whom the thoughts of all are like an open book, recognizes in those unspoken 'sighs' deep in his people's hearts the voice of the Spirit interceding for them in tune with his own will, and answers them accordingly. Indeed, God's overruling grace co-operates in all things for his people's good, even in those things which at the time are so distressing and perplexing and hard to bear. - Romans 8

Friday, September 21, 2012

Roundup of some other posts on the Gospel of Jesus's Wife

I wanted to throw some more links out there to follow up from my post the other day. Some of these I've either found through searching or they've come through some of my RSS feeds. In my opinion, this great find will be all but forgotten within a few years. Does anyone remember the Gospel of Judas controversy from just 6 years ago? And what has become of that now?

Below are some links you should check out (from people far more knowledgeable in these matters than I).

Gospel of Jesus's Wife (Updated) -
Yet another question about the so-called Gospel of Jesus' Wife -
Reality Check: The “Jesus’ Wife” Coptic Fragment - Daniel B. Wallace
Even Professor King did not suggest that this fragment means that Jesus had a wife (and she is not known for her conservative views!): “its possible date of composition in the second half of the second century argues against its value as evidence for the life of the historical Jesus.” If it goes back to a second-century tradition, we must keep in mind that there is a world of difference between first-century, apostolic Christianity and the various spin-off groups that rose after that early period.
The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife? When Sensationalism Masquerades as Scholarship - Albert Mohler
This is sensationalism masquerading as scholarship. One British newspaper noted that the claims about a married Jesus seemed more worthy of fans of Dan Brown’s fictional work, The Da Vinci Code than “real-life Harvard professors.” If the fragment is authenticated, the existence of this little document will be of interest to historians of the era, but it is insanity to make the claims now running through the media.
Was Jesus Married? Nothing to See Here. - R. Scott Clark
So, we cannot be surprised that Karen King has found a fourth-century fragment from Alexandria. Of course she did! There were lots of folk running about in the 4th century, many of them Alexandria, teaching all many of crazy things (e.g., Jesus had a wife).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Gospel of Jesus's Wife

 It seems that every year or so there is a newly discovered fragment that will undermine core tenets of Christianity. Yesterday, there was an announcement that a parchment was found in which it is revealed Jesus had a wife. I would like to discuss this in a couple of ways.

If you will read the PDF published by Dr. Karen King, the transcription (followed by the translation and interpretation) can be found starting on page 13. What we have here is 16 total lines of broken Coptic text. Five of these lines only contain 5 intelligible words. This is not a complete document by a long shot. It is the 4th and 5th lines of the text that concerns us where we read "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...she will be able to be my discipe.." To her credit, Dr. King does state that this does not prove that Jesus was indeed married. She does state the importance of this fragment on page 22 of the PDF: 
The importance of the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife lies in supplying a new voice within the diverse chorus of early Christian traditions about Jesus that documents that some Christians depicted Jesus as married.
First of all, theologically and doctrinally, what does this mean? "The importance" is that this is an old document (from the 4th Century) and Jesus says something about "my wife". The ABC News article also states the following:
The discovery, if it is validated, could have major implications for the Christian faith. The belief that Jesus was not married is one reason priests in the Catholic Church must remain celibate and are not allowed to marry. It could also have implications for women’s roles in the church, as it would mean Jesus had a female disciple.
I will not get into the Catholic doctrine of celibacy for priests here, but with regards to female disciples, ABC News should, frankly, go read their Bibles. For example Acts 6:1-2 demonstrates that "the twelve" disciples gathered the full number of the disciples together. One has to be careful to differentiate between the 12 called disciples of Jesus and the fact that all of His followers are referred to as disciples. If ABC News means the former, then they are flat out wrong because The Twelve were specifically named in Scriptures. If they mean the former, that's not anything that has "implications for women's roles" since every believer is a disciple. But, I believe you can put the pieces together with regards to the intent of some regarding this fragment.

Which brings me to the second way that we, as believers, should think about this fragment - practically and apologetically. Consider this; there are literally thousands of parchments that are older than this fragment. Many of them are also complete documents (i.e. complete manuscripts of the various books of the Bible). The vast manuscript evidence we have make no mention that Jesus would have been married or that he had a "13th Disciple" who was a female. Yet, we have those today who would rather take the word of an incomplete parchment over that of more ancient and reliable texts. This is nothing new, but it should give us hope knowing that people today still want to know truth. And we should be willing to tell them the truth that God has revealed to us in the Bible. While this fragment is indeed speaking of Jesus Christ, that does not mean that it is some special knowledge or revelation that has been withheld from us for all these years. Rather, it is a gnostic gospel likely written by someone who wanted to undermine Christianity in some way or to inject their own skewed beliefs into it with the hopes that it would take root.

Take heart, believer!

Also, check out Aaron Earl's post on the matter with other links. We were discussing this last night, and I held off reading his post today until I completed this post. I like one of his points that Jesus does have a bride - the Church!

Friday, September 7, 2012

A thought from 150 years ago for today's church

Have you ever stumbled on a great book when you haven't even been looking for one? Not long ago I saw that a book became free for the Kindle (via Gospel eBooks) and I downloaded it. The book is "Theology Drives Methodology: Conversion in the Theology of Charles Finney and John Nevin" by Karl Dahlfred. Although I've highlighted almost 20 sections and I'm only halfway through, I read something Thursday that I knew I should blog.

During the discussion of John Williamson Nevin's theology of salvation, Dahlfred offers this quote from Nevin (from his book "The Anxious Bench"):
The Bench makes conversion "to be the all in all of the Gospel economy,
and the development of the Christian life subsequently a mere
secondary interest" that might be "safely left... to take care of
Although "The Bench" is not something specifically used in churches today, the reasoning behind its use by Charles Finney is still widely promoted within churches today. Nevin is pointing out here the extreme error of focusing so much on the conversion event in a Christian's life without the church following through with true development of a believer's Christian walk.

This is exactly what the author of Hebrews wrote about in Hebrews 5:11-14 and Hebrews 6:1. Our savior, Jesus Christ, did not call us to make converts. But, rather, he has called us to make disciples. In Jesus' day, disciples would basically sit at the feet of their Rabbi and soak in his teachings in order to follow them.

Further, this is not just something that is an academic matter, but it has many practical implications for us. You can actually find popular pastors today saying things along the lines that they should not have to spiritually develop their flock (or even worse that they shouldn't personally take an interest in "pastoring" them - Nevin speaks about that as well) but that Christians should just be doing that on their own. This is the "taking care of itself" that Nevin wrote about above. Dahlfred goes further to point out that Finney's "Systematic Theology" does not even contain a section on The Church or her functions!

Church has become a numbers game (one could argue that much of that ties back to Finney), but that should not be the case. A great man I know says that we don't come to the church, but we come as the church! What are we missing if we only go to church for some good music or preaching? Please, don't allow your sanctification to be something that's "merely secondary interest."

Monday, August 27, 2012

An Adventure In Romans, Part 2 - WH Griffith Thomas (Chapters 1-8)

Following are some quotes from WH Griffith Thomas's Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Romans. These are quotes that stood out to me as I have been reading through this commentary. This only covers chapters 1-8. Some background to this is posted here. I think most of the quotes are self-explanatory, but please comment if you have any questions. I particularly like the last two!

"The resurrection is the proof of our acceptance, and is the antidote against all fear. 'Jesus paid it all,' and the resurrection is the receipt, the full discharge of the debt." - Romans 4:25

Justification is the strait gate through which we enter the narrow way of holiness. - Romans 6

The view of the Cross takes in Sanctification as well as Justification, to deal with sinfulness as well as sins, to apply to what we are as well as what we do. - Romans 6:3-4

Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. (Romans 6:18 KJV) To paraphrase Griffith Thomas on this passage - this is how God gives us the desires of our heart. Because we are "under grace", His desires have become our desires and we delight ourselves in them!

"So we, when we have died to sin, enter with Him into this same life in which, like a re-married widow, we have no other [beloved] than this new Spouse and His Spirit" - Godet as quoted by Thomas on Romans 7:1-6

When we enter into union with Christ Jesus we find a new power, the rule of the Holy Spirit, Who gives life and thereby controls the evil nature. The presence of the Spirit brings life and His power sustains it, and this gives the believer deliverance from the law of sin and death. - Romans 8:32

Natural things suit the natural man and spiritual things suit the spiritual man, As is the life within, so will be the character and conduct, for fruit always comes "according to its kind." - Romans 8:5-6

Regeneration concerns our nature and condition, while adoption concerns our position and privileges. The two are complementary aspects of our Divine sonship. - Romans 8:14

Hope is an essential element of our salvation and must never be omitted from our contemplation of what the Christian life means. Faith looks backward and upward; hope looks onward. Faith accepts; but hope expects. Faith is concerned with Him Who promises; but hope is occupied with the good things promised. Faith appropriates; but hope anticipates. It is in the power of this hope which the New Testament calls "that blessed hope" that we are to live and labor. Hope is always centered on the coming of the Lord, and included in that, on the resurrection from the dead with complete deliverance from sin, likeness to Christ, and the full revelation of our sonship to God in Him. - Romans 8:24-25

And if the child of God could realize more fully the constant presence and guidance of a loving Father he would more readily perceive that all things are really working together for his good. Let us ever live in this love of God. The more we trust the more we shall love, and the more we love the more fully we shall trust. Life is dark, but love can see. Life is difficult, but love can understand. Life is sad, but love can rejoice while waiting for that day when we shall no longer see through a glass darkly but when we shall know even as we are known. - Romans 8:28-30

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Passion Week - Sunday

He is risen!

Mark 16:1-7 - When the Sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint him. And very early in the morning on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb, just as the sun was rising. "Who is going to roll the stone back from the doorway of the tomb?" they asked each other. And then as they looked closer, they saw that the stone, which was a very large one, had been rolled back. So they went into the tomb and saw a young man in a white robe sitting on the right-hand side, and they were simply astonished. But he said to them, "There is no need to be astonished. He has risen; he is not here. Look, here is the place where they laid him. But now go and tell his disciples, and Peter, that he will be in Galilee before you. You will see him there just as he told you."

Luke 24:6-7 "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here: he has risen! Remember what he said to you, while he was still in Galilee - that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, and must be crucified, and must rise again on the third day."

Even the disciples may have forgotten about this teaching until Christ later reminded them.  He told them many times, but they did not think He was being literal:

Mark 9:10 They treasured this remark and tried to puzzle out among themselves what "Rising from the dead" could mean.

What did the resurrection mean to the disciples?  If we remember back to the arrest of our Lord, all the disciples ran away when Chris was apprehended.  Well, only Peter and another followed Christ to his hearings.  We know that Peter even denied Christ three times that night!  Their idea was not one of a weak Messiah, but of one who would conquer the armies of men.  Instead, this Christ would conquer the hearts of men.  “He has risen!” was a statement that would fill the hearts of the disciples and cause unheard of masses to come to a saving knowledge of the promised Messiah.  He was for all nations, Jew and Gentile.  All of the 11 remaining disciples believed this to their death, and died because of this!  I once heard that “A myth doesn’t make a martyr.”

I will leave you with the Apostle Paul’s comments on the importance of the resurrection from his First Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 15:

1 Corinthians 15:3-8 - For I passed on to you Corinthians first of all the message I had myself received - that Christ died for our sins, as the scriptures said he would; that he was buried and rose again on the third day, again as the scriptures foretold. He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve, and subsequently he was seen simultaneously by over five hundred Christians, of whom the majority are still alive, though some have since died. He was then seen by James, then by all the messengers. And last of all, as if to one born abnormally late, he appeared to me!
1 Corinthians 15:12-26 - Now if the rising of Christ from the dead is the very heart of our message, how can some of you deny that there is any resurrection? For if there is no such thing as the resurrection of the dead, then Christ was never raised. And if Christ was not raised then neither our preaching nor your faith has any meaning at all. Further it would mean that we are lying in our witness for God, for we have given our solemn testimony that he did raise up Christ - and that is utterly false if it should be true that the dead do not, in fact, rise again! For if the dead do not rise neither did Christ rise, and if Christ did not rise your faith is futile and your sins have never been forgiven. Moreover those who have died believing in Christ are utterly dead and gone. Truly, if our hope in Christ were limited to this life only we should, of all mankind be the most to be pitied!  But the glorious fact is that Christ did rise from the dead: he has become the very first to rise of all who sleep the sleep of death. As death entered the world through a man, so has rising from the dead come to us through a man! As members of a sinful race all men die; as members of the Christ of God all men shall be raised to life, each in his proper order, with Christ the very first and after him all who belong to him when he comes. Then, and not till then, authority and power, hands over the kingdom to God the Father. Christ's reign will and must continue until every enemy has been conquered. The last enemy of all to be destroyed is death itself. The scripture says: 'He has put all things under his feet'.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Passion Week - Saturday

With Jesus being dead, there was nothing He was doing on earth.  There is a theory that He actually descended into Hell to finish His work.  I hope to show that, whether this actually happened or not, Scripture may not actually support this theory. (This is something that I actually wrote in 2001, and I think that my position has somewhat shifted, but I will set forth what I wrote then with parenthetical notes...)

The major proponent holding this doctrine together has been the Apostle’s Creed and the tradition thereof. It should be noted Rufinus first used the phrase “descended into [Hades]” in AD 390. In his usage, he meant “buried” instead of a literal descent. It wasn’t until AD 650 that a version of the Apostles’ Creed contained the phrase, as it’s “understood” today.  So, for nearly 600 years the phrase was not used in today's sense in Christianity.

There are generally 5 passages that are used in support of the view of a literal descent into Hell after Christ died.
1.  Acts 2:27 has generally been used to support this, but if we read the NIV we see a more proper translation:  “because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”(NASB [and ESV] render this as “hades” while KJV renders “hell”) This translation tends to hold with the historical view that Christ didn’t descend. It took around 600 years after the writing of this event for it to be taken as “hell” in the Creed. (Of course the term Hades can mean grave, but really in its more proper sense it would mean the abode of the dead - both the righteous and the unrighteous. So I'm not so sure I would go with what I stated on this point.)
2.  Romans 10:6-7 offers a couple of questions.  “But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: ‘DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, "WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?' (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).'' (NASB) (KJV and NIV render “abyss” as “the deep.”) What does “abyss” mean? See Genesis 1:2 (darkness was over the surface of the deep) and Genesis 7:11 (all the fountains of the great deep burst open). Also, see Deuteronomy 8:7, and Psalm106:26 and Psalm 107:26. From the OT usages of the term for “abyss” it is seen that it would mean a more physical, earthly realm. A better understanding can come from the 3rd verse used to support a descent. I don't believe the usage here was intended to mean "hell." (I would still agree with this that the statement in Romans supports the theory that Christ descended into hell after his death.)
3.  Ephesians 4:9 is used as well.  “He also descended to the lower, earthly regions?” This is most properly understood as a contrast of Christ’s ascension from earth to heaven. He descended to earth from heaven in the same sense that He ascended to heaven from earth.
4.  1 Peter 3:18-20 is another passage used. This passage is best understood when tying into the comparison of Christ and Christians ministering to unbelievers just as Noah did. There is a major factor to look at as far as a timeline goes of the “proclamation to the spirits now in prison.” When did the Spirit of Christ do this?  “When the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah.” This was not something done after Christ’s death, but something ages past. Cross-reference this with 1 Peter 1:10-11 – the prophets were being led by the same Spirit of Christ that Noah was and that’s mentioned in chapter 3.  Several parallels with Noah and the believers to whom Peter was writing give more strength to this position as well. (I would still agree with what Peter wrote here as not meaning a descent into hell after Christ's death. Though this is definitely a much-debated passage of Scripture. I definitely recommend Wayne Grudem's appendix on this passage in his commentary on 1 Peter.)
5.  1 Peter 4:6 is also used: “For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God” This, if looked at as preaching to those who will die, directly contradicts Luke 16:19-31 (The rich man and Lazarus – cannot go from hell to heaven!) and Hebrews 9:27 (judged after you die – no second chance). This passage is best understood that WHILE THEY WERE ALIVE, the gospel was preached – they are NOW dead, but the gospel had BEEN (past) preached to those who were alive (but NOW dead). It’s the same gospel being preached today, and it gives hope to those who wonder. An analogy is "I knew President Clinton in high school."  He was not president in high school, but the statement is still wholly true. That would be the sense in this passage.

Well, the key passages used to defend a descent are not so clear when used in context and in the historical setting. What passages offer the opposite view? Luke 23:43 is one. How can the thief be with Jesus in paradise immediately after he died if Jesus is going to hell? It is also commonly known that paradise in Hebrew thought of the 1st Century actually meant heaven – not just a holding place until judgment. Another verse to ponder is John 19:30 – “It is finished.” Christ accomplished all He needed to at Golgotha. He had no need to go to hell to do anything.  “It IS finished.” Finally, look at Luke 23:46: “into your hands I commit my spirit.” Christ’s intentions were to go and be in the immediate presence of the Father – see also Stephen’s confirmation of his faith of being in God’s presence in Acts 7:59. 

(The only sense I believe that Christ would have to be in the sense of the "Harrowing of Hell" in which He descended to proclaim his victory over sin and death, and rescue out those dead Saints. But I would say that today I believe that Christ's atoning work was completed on the Cross for His Church. If he did go into Hell on Saturday it would not be to receive any further punishment - he was going to be in Paradise with the thief who was beside him - that much we DO know for certain. But this is all speculation, and our true hope lies with His resurrection on Sunday!!)

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Passion Week - Good Friday

Religious Persecution

Let us first look at the events that transpired after Christ’s arrest on Thursday night.  There were three hearings before the Jewish authorities.  The first is before Annas.  John 18:13 “and led him off to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law to Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year.”  The account before Annas is in John 18:12-14, 19-23.  Annas was high priest from AD 6-15 and was followed by Caiaphas.  It seems that bringing Christ before Annas would have been out of respect for his office and Jewish law stating that the position is for life (Annas is even called “High Priest” in verse 19).  Jesus asks for evidence and witnesses (John 18:20-23) and is then sent to the High Priest Caiaphas (John 18:24).

Between the “trials” before Annas and Caiaphas, we have the account of Peter’s denials.  Peter and an unnamed disciple seem to have been the only disciples to follow Jesus (John 18:15).  Jesus had previously told Peter that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.  We have the account in John 18:25-27: 

In the meantime Simon Peter was still standing, keeping himself warm. Some of them said to him, "Surely you too are one of his disciples, aren't you?" And he denied it and said, "No, I am not." Then one of the High Priest's servants, a relation of the man (Malchus) whose ear Peter had cut off, remarked, "Didn't I see you in the garden with him?"  And again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crew.

The “trial” before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin that night was not official.  The Sanhedrin could not have a proceeding on the night of a Feast Day.  The proceeding with Caiaphas in the evening is reported in Mark 14:53-65.  They could really find no reason to prosecute Jesus, and their witnesses even contradicted each other:

Mark 14:55-56 - Meanwhile, the chief priests and the whole council were trying to find some evidence against Jesus which would warrant the death penalty. But they failed completely. There were plenty of people ready to give false testimony against him, but their evidence was contradictory.

Jesus’ reply to Caiaphas in Mark 14:62 had some strong implications - And Jesus said, "I am! Yes, you will all see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, coming in the clouds of heaven." 

Part of Jesus’ statement is from Daniel 7:13-14.  The other content of those verses would surely cause the Sanhedrin to see Jesus as claiming to be more than human.
Daniel 7:13-14  ‘I was seeing in the visions of the night, and lo, with the clouds of the heavens as a son of man was one coming, and unto the Ancient of Days he hath come, and before Him they have brought him near.  And to him is given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, and all peoples, nations, and languages do serve him, his dominion is a dominion age-during, that passeth not away, and his kingdom that which is not destroyed.

Mark 15:1 The moment daylight came the chief priests called together a meeting of elders, scribes and members of the whole council, bound Jesus and took him off and handed him over to Pilate.

They could now make an arrest legal.  It seems that the Sanhedrin quickly called together enough people to make a legal arrest.  We do know that there was not a unanimous vote as attested in Luke 23:50-51, but we will look at that later.

Civil Persecution

Since the Sanhedrin could not pronounce capital punishment on a person, they handed Jesus over to Roman Authorities. (John 18:31)  The only answer that Jesus gave Pilate was “Yes, I am” (Mark 15:2).  The priests kept accusing him and Pilate did not fully believe them.  Pilate had been warned by his wife, from a dream she had, that Jesus was innocent and that Pilate should have nothing to do with him (Matthew 27:19).  Pilate then sent Jesus to Herod when he found out that Jesus, being from Galilee, would be under Herod’s jurisdiction.  Herod, coincidentally, was in town for Passover.  Well, Herod questioned Jesus but Jesus did not respond.  So Herod and his soldiers mocked Jesus and put a beautiful robe on him before sending him back to Pilate.  As a side note, Pilate and Herod became friends after this.  (Luke 23:6-12)

Luke 23:13-16 - Then Pilate summoned the chief priests, the officials and the people and addressed them in these words. "You have brought this man to me as a mischief-maker among the people, and I want you to realise that, after examining him in your presence, I have found nothing criminal about him, in spite of all your accusations. And neither has Herod, for he has sent him back to us. Obviously, then, he has done nothing to deserve the death penalty. I propose, therefore, to teach him a sharp lesson and let him go."

However, in the end, Pilate fell to the whims of the masses.  He even washed his hands of the mess (Matthew 27:24).  He freed a prisoner and imprisoned an innocent man.

Via Dolorosa – “The Sorrowful Way”

“Jesus of Nazareth underwent Jewish and Roman trials, was flogged, and was sentenced to death by crucifixion. The scourging produced deep stripelike lacerations and appreciable blood loss, and it probably set the stage for hypovolemic shock, as evidenced by the fact that Jesus was too weakened to carry the crossbar (patibulum) to Golgotha. At the site of crucifixion, his wrists were nailed to the patibulum and, after the patibulum was lifted onto the upright post (stipes), his feet were nailed to the stipes. The major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion was an interference with normal respirations. Accordingly death resulted primarily from hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxia. Jesus' death was ensured by the thrust of a soldier's spear into his side. Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicate that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.” - William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, MDiv; Floyd E Hosmer, MS, AMI 
Reprinted from JAMA - The Journal of the American Medical Association
March 21, 1986, Volume 256
Copyright 1986, American Medical Association

Jesus hung on the cross for three hours.  He had seven last “words” on which we will focus.

  1. "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
  2. "I tell you truly, this day you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
  3. "Look, there is your son!" And then he said to the disciple, "And there is your mother!" (John 19:27)
  4. 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' (Mark 15:34; Psalm 22:1)
  5. "I am thirsty." (John 19:28)
  6. "It is finished!" (John 19:30)
  7. "Father, 'into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46; Psalm 31:5)

There were then some events that happened after the crucifixion.  First of all, there was a strange darkness that overcame the land (Mark 15:33, Julius Africanus – Greek Papyri 10.89).  The centurion at the cross is also convinced of Jesus’ innocence (Luke 23:47).  An earthquake occurred (Matthew 27:51), and tombs were opened and saints walked around (Matthew 27:52-53).  Jesus, by Jewish tradition, had to be buried before sundown, so Joseph of Arimethea got the corpse and buried Christ.  Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin and was not one who voted to condemn Christ (John 19:38).  Also accompanying Joseph was Nicodemus, from John 3 (John 19:39).  Was Nicodemus also a believer?  Had his heart been softened by being near Jesus on a couple of occasions?  Did the forthcoming resurrection convince him?  We don’t know.  He could have just been glad to see Jesus gone, but we cannot attest to that either.  Finally, the tomb was sealed (Matthew 27:62-66).  Surely Christ was in the tomb when they sealed it, but just a while later they tried claiming that the body was stolen (Matthew 28:11-15).  Good try, but He is risen!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Passion Week - Thursday

Before the Meal

Mark 14:3-9 – woman anoints Jesus’ head with perfume. 

This part of the text actually happened a few days prior.  Mark is about to relate the treachery of Judas, and this passage demonstrates some of Judas’s greed.  Mark does not relate his name to us, but in the parallel passage of John 12:4, Judas is the one that suggested selling the perfume.

Mark 14:10-11 - Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. And when they heard what he had to say, they were delighted and undertook to pay him for it. So he looked out for a convenient opportunity to betray him.

Mark 14:12-16 – Instructions to prepare for Passover
Mark 14:12 - On the first day of unleavened bread, the day when the Passover was sacrificed, Jesus' disciples said, "Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
Mark 14:13-15 - Jesus sent off two of them with these instructions, "Go into the town and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him and say to the owner of the house to which he goes, 'The Master says, where is the room for me to eat the Passover with my disciples?' And he will show you a large upstairs room all ready with the furnishings that we need. That is the place where you are to make our preparations."
Mark 14:16 - So the disciples set off and went into the town, found everything as he had told them, and prepared for the Passover.


Timeline of the Meal

Mark 14:17-26 – Passover meal (Exodus 12; Lev. 23:4-8; Numbers 9:1-14; Deuteronomy 16:1-8)

Mark focuses mostly on the betrayal in his account of the Passover meal.  John gives some more detail, and in Luke’s gospel, we see that there was a dispute amongst the Disciples about whom would be the greatest.

John 13:1-20 – Footwashing

John 13:3-5 - Jesus, with the full knowledge that the Father had put everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from the supper-table, took off his outer clothes, picked up a towel and fastened it round his waist. Then he poured water into the basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to dry them with the towel around his waist.

They then sit and partake of the meal - the breaking of the bread symbolizing our Savior’s Body and the drinking of the wine symbolizing our Savior’s Blood.

Luke 22:19 - Then he took a loaf and after thanking God he broke it and gave it to them, with these words, "This is my body which is given for you: do this in remembrance of me."
Luke 22:20-22 - So too, he gave them a cup after supper with the words, "This cup is the new agreement made in my own blood which is shed for you. Yet the hand of the man who is betraying me lies with mine at this moment on the table. The Son of Man goes on his appointed way: yet alas for the man by whom he is betrayed!"
Luke 22:23 - And at this they began to debate among themselves as to which of them would do this thing.

During the meal, Jesus shares with the disciples that one of them will betray Him.  They don’t seem to have any reason to simply think that Judas would be the one because they debate and question which disciple it will be:

Mark 14:19 - This shocked and distressed them and one after another they began to say to him, "Surely, I'm not the one?"

Jesus, however knew the exact one of His followers that would betray him:

John 13:26-27 - And Jesus answered, "It is the one I am going to give this piece of bread to, after I have dipped it in the dish." Then he took a piece of bread, dipped it in the dish and gave it to Simon's son, Judas Iscariot. After he had taken the piece of bread, Satan entered his heart. Then Jesus said to him, "Be quick about your business!"

Also, see John 13:18. It is also very likely that Jesus only told John in an aside that it would be the one who was receiving the bread - as the remainder of the disciples still asked each other who would be the betrayer.

Then, an extraordinary thing happens.  It is almost as if the disciples just don’t get it!  What happens right after the meal and after the lesson on being a servant given through the footwashing?

Luke 22:24 - And then a dispute arose among them as to who should be considered the most important

Then Jesus has to teach them again about servanthood.

Post-Meal Activities

Mark 14:27-31 – Peter’s Denial

John records more of the events that transpired after the Passover meal.  See John 14:1-17:26 for these events.
The highlights include John 14:1-31 and John 15:5-33 about Christ’s departure and return.  The parable of the vine and branches (John 15:1-17), strong opposition from the world (John 15:18-16:4), and Christ’s Prayer for himself (John 17:1-5), his disciples (John 17:6-19), and later followers (John 17:20-26).  The time has come (John 17:1); Christ now knows the hour is at hand.

The story picks back up with Mark’s account in chapter 14.
Mark 14:32-42 is the account of Christ and the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

Mark 14:32-42 - Then they arrived at a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to the disciples, "Sit down here while I pray." He took with him Peter, James and John, and began to be horror-stricken and desperately depressed. "My heart is nearly breaking," he told them. "Stay here and keep watch for me." Then he walked forward a little way and flung himself on the ground, praying that, if it were possible, he might not have to face the ordeal. "Dear Father," he said, "all things are possible to you. Please - let me not have to drink this cup! Yet it is not what I want but what you want." Then he came and found them fast asleep. He spoke to Peter, "Are you asleep, Simon? Couldn't you manage to watch for a single hour? Watch and pray, all of you, that you may not have to face temptation. Your spirit is willing, but human nature is weak." Then he went away again and prayed in the same words, and once more he came and found them asleep. they could not keep their eyes open and they did not know what to say for themselves. When he came back for the third time, he said "Are you still going to sleep and take your ease? All right - the moment has come: now you are going to see the Son of Man betrayed into the hands of evil men! Get up, let us be going! Look, here comes my betrayer!"

Verse 36 is the striking reality that Christ is actually human.  “Please - let me not have to drink this cup! Yet it is not what I want but what you want.”  He doesn’t want to physically have to go through what he knows will happen.  Blomberg, in “Jesus and the Gospels,” asserts “this is also a perfect example of a prayer not answered in the manner preferred by the person making the request, but through no fault of the pray-er! Hebrews 5:7 will later reflect on this text and insist that Christ ‘was heard because of his reverent submission.’ But the answer to Jesus’ prayer was resurrection after death, not exemption from it. God may often answer our most fervent prayers to be spared hard times in the same way.” (339)

Mark 14:43-52 is the account of Judas delivering over Christ to the authorities.  “So he walked straight up to Jesus, cried, "Master!" and kissed him affectionately.”  The revelation that this was actually Jesus shocked the authorities (When he said to them, "I am the man", they retreated and fell to the ground - John 18:4-9).  Then Peter drew a sword and cut off Malchus, the High Priest’s Servant’s, ear and Christ rebukes him (John 18:10-11).  Then Jesus points out that it was always in His timing for this to be fulfilled.  (Day after day I was with you in the Temple, teaching, and you never laid a finger on me. But the scriptures must be fulfilled. – Mark 14:49) Finally, the utterly saddening portion of this passage is in Mark 14:50 – “Then all the disciples deserted him and made their escape.”  It would appear that they could not believe their Messiah could be taken. “The Fourfold Gospel” states “All the predictions of Jesus had failed to prepare the apostles for the terrors of his arrest. Despite all his warnings, each apostle sought his own safety.” (693)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Passion Week - Wednesday

Note that there is nothing in the Biblical account of the Passion Week that Jesus (or others) can specifically be seen to have happened on Wednesday.  Perhaps this was just a day Christ spent with the disciples or even on his own.  But Scripture is silent.  One thing I left out of Tuesday’s portion is Mark 14:1-2 which seems to have occurred on Tuesday.

Mark 14:1-2 - In two days' time the festival of the Passover and of unleavened bread was due. Consequently, the chief priests and the scribes were trying to think of some trick by which they could get Jesus into their power and have him executed. "But it must not be during the festival," they said, "or there will be a riot."

With that behind us, how do we gently wade through the many events that happened on Tuesday?  Quotes in this section not noted are from Blomberg’s “Jesus and the Gospels” pages 318-328.  In Mark 11:27-33, the temple authorities thought they could trap Jesus, but Jesus trapped them.  They wanted to know the source of his authority, and he asked them to explain the source of John the Baptizer’s authority.  Well, to say that John’s authority was from man would be blasphemy to the masses and to say it was from God would make the authorities have to seriously question their entire worldview. Mark 12:1-12 is the parable of the tenants.  It seems to be “a clear jab at the leaders’ own authority.” (318).

Mark 12:13-37 shows that Christ was “the true fulfillment of the Passover.”  This is seen by the four sets of questions that correspond with Passover questions “(a) a question regarding a point of law…(b) a question with a note of scoffing…(c) a question by a person of ‘plain piety’…(d) a question by the father of the family at his own initiative.” (318) Also interesting to note is that in verse 36, Psalm 110 is quoted.  This is the Old Testament passage most quoted in the New Testament.

Matthew 23 was the second part of Tuesday’s events.  Just as Matthew begins Christ’s teachings with the Sermon on the Mount and 9 blessings, this last set of Christ’s teachings contains 7 “woes.”  This is said to be the worst curse a man could have placed upon himself.  Christ condemned the Jewish leaders 7 times.  Robertson, in his NT Word Pictures makes the point that “the Textus Receptus has eight woes, adding verse 14 which the Revised Version places in the margin (called verse 13 by Westcott and Hort and rejected on the authority of Aleph B D as a manifest gloss from Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47). The MSS. that insert it put it either before 13 or after 13.”

Jay Green, in the “Translation Notes for the Gospels,” expounds upon the word “hypocrite.”  The word could be translated players, actors, pretenders shut up - from a word meaning key - they had grabbed the key, shut the door, and locked out everyone so that their interpretation could not be challenged - now modern versionists are seeking to do the same with our generation.”

Matthew 23:38 ties in with Christ’s prophecy of Mark 13.  It is a prophecy 40 years early of the destruction of the temple.  Mark 13 is also the chapter corresponding to Matthew 24.  The Temple was an awesome structure.  It’s reported by Josephus that some of the stones were 25x8x12 cubits – this is roughly 41x13x20 feet.  It was, indeed, “wonderful stonework.”

Mark 13:9-23 lists persecutions of the disciples.  Verse 9 could be extremely prophetic of a particular Apostle who was not even with Christ when he was going through these persecutions.  I am referring to Paul.  Verse 9 states:  You yourselves must keep your wits about you, for men will hand you over to their councils, and will beat you in their synagogues. You will have to stand in front of rulers and kings for my sake to bear your witness to them.”  Going through Acts, note chapter 23:1 – “Paul looked steadily at the Sanhedrin [council] and spoke to them.”  Paul was also beaten, but he even fulfilled Christ’s prophecy if you look at Acts 26:11 – “Many and many a time in all the synagogues I had them punished and I used to try and force them to deny their Lord.”  Also, in Acts 24:24-25, Paul was before Felix and in Acts 26:2-3 Paul was before Agrippa.  These two were “rulers and kings.”  What was Paul doing other than “bearing his witness to them”?

In Mark 13:21-37 Jesus is warning of false Christs as well as urging the disciples to “keep their eyes open” or “keep on the alert.”

Finally, Mark 14:1-2 seems to demonstrate that the plans of men sometimes fail and that, especially in regards to the crucifixion, that God’s timing will always overshadow the plans of man.  See Acts 2:23 and 4:28.  The authorities didn’t plan on doing anything during the Passover week, but their plans were not God’s plans.