Daily Archives: April 6, 2017

April 6, 2017 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)

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Apr. 6, 2017 |

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President Donald Trump said an apparent poison gas attack in Syria that killed more than 70 people has changed his thinking on the civil war, as the U.S. signaled it could take action against the Syrian government as well as targeting Islamic State strongholds in the country.

The U.S. deported a former New York banker to Russia who allegedly tried to recruit an ex-adviser to President Donald Trump and was convicted and imprisoned in 2016 for being a spy for Moscow.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government warned Hungary against obstructing democracy with a law that threatens to shutter a university founded by George Soros, renewing tension between the two European Union allies.

The Department of Homeland Security will continue searching the mobile phones and electronic devices of travelers at U.S. airports, the agency’s leader said as lawmakers of both parties questioned whether the anti-terrorism tool is unlawfully intrusive.

South Korea has tested a long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching anywhere in North Korea, Yonhap News reported, a day after its northern neighbor drew condemnation for launching another projectile.

Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits declined to a five-week low, highlighting a resilient job market, a Labor Department report showed Thursday. Jobless claims slumped by 25,000 to 234,000 (forecast was 250,000) in the week ended April 1.

Hong Kong may soon get its first billion-dollar startup, thanks to a 25-year-old entrepreneur whose company leases phones to travelers.

AP Top Stories

A California woman accused of killing the father of her two children is expected to be released from jail Thursday after posting an unprecedented $35 million bail raised by wealthy friends, family and business associates with ties to China.

The seven-year-old Syrian refugee who chronicled her life in war-torn Aleppo on social media has a clear message for leaders of the international community: It’s never too late to save innocent civilians caught in her home country’s ongoing civil war. A chemical attack on Tuesday that killed at least 75 civilians and left scores more wounded in the rebel-held Idlib province in northeastern Syria, almost universally attributed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad, sparked widespread outrage and underscored the Assad regime’s apparent indifference to world opinion as the bloody conflict enters its sixth year.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday ordered the occupation of uninhabited islands and shoals it claims in the disputed South China Sea, asserting Philippine sovereignty in an apparent change of tack.

The governors of the first four states to legalize recreational marijuana have sent an open letter urging the Trump administration to work with them before making any changes to the enforcement of federal drug laws in their states.

In a simple act of solidarity, same-sex couples and many others across the Netherlands have held hands this week to protest the beating of two gay men – an attack that shook a nation that has long prided itself on its tolerance.

Hundreds of South Sudanese refugees fled into Uganda for a second day on Wednesday, bearing further grim testimony of an attack by government forces on the border town of Pajok in which at least 17 people were killed, according to a Reuters tally.

Federal authorities on Wednesday raided a Los Angeles-area business suspected of cheating a U.S. government visa program to obtain green cards for wealthy Chinese investors.

A Massachusetts advertising agency has agreed not to use location technology to target women entering clinics that offer abortion with smartphone ads with messages including “You Have Choices,” state officials said on Tuesday.

BBC

The Australian government has warned that terrorists may seek to target Anzac Day commemorations in Turkey later this month. The anniversary on 25 April marks the first major battle involving Australia and New Zealand in World War One.

A Dutch retailer has been forced to apologize after it unwittingly sold a color-by-numbers book featuring Adolf Hitler. The dictator was pictured making a Nazi salute and wearing a Swastika armband.

Facebook is taking fresh action to prevent so-called revenge porn from being spread across its platforms. The social network is making it impossible to repost or share intimate images of people thought to have been uploaded without their permission once they have been identified as such and removed.

The Supreme Court in Brazil has ruled that strikes by police are unconstitutional. In a seven to three ruling, the court banned federal and civil police officers as well as firefighters from going on strike. Members of the military police were already banned from stopping work.

Australian police have made the largest seizure of crystal methamphetamine in the nation’s history, officials said. The 1,990lb haul of the drug, also called ice, is estimated to have a street value of $680m.

WND

A new sheriff to shut Tent City as he seeks to undo Joe Arpaio’s policies. Tent City, the infamous outdoor jail in Arizona where inmates wore pink underwear and shuffled around in chain gangs, will close, officials announced Tuesday.

Chinese villagers are willing to pay as much as $26,000 for female corpses they can bury with dead unmarried male relatives. The practice of “ghost marriages,” where Chinese pay their respects to the deceased with a gift of a “bride” in the afterlife, persists in rural areas despite the exorbitant costs to families.


At least nine tornadoes reported in Southeast; Masters event canceled
Severe weather in the U.S. Southeast generated lightning that caused fires and reports of at least nine tornadoes as the Mid-Atlantic prepares for more strong thunderstorms Thursday. Officials said there were at least nine reported tornadoes on Wednesday: seven in Georgia, one in South Carolina and one in Indiana. Masters organizers stopped play and canceled the Par 3 contest at Augusta National after inclement weather twice forced evacuations.

Does Daniel’s Vision Predict Assad’s Downfall?
The Jewish text predicting the rise of an ‘Eastern Nero’ and his destruction is known as the Otzar Midrashim, which relates the story of a Talmudic sage who received an angelic message regarding the coming of the Messiah. “This will be for you a sign: when you see that the Nero of the East has fallen in Damascus, the kingdom of the east will fall, and then the salvation of Israel will grow, and the Messiah of the House of David will arrive and [the Jews] will go up to Jerusalem. ”

Orthodox rabbi, education pioneer appointed advisor to Friedman
Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, an Orthodox rabbi from New York who works in various capacities in Jewish education, has been appointed to serve in an advisory role in the U.S. Embassy in Israel. He will work alongside newly-appointed Ambassador David Friedman, a State Department official confirmed this week.

Israel braces for annual cyber attack by Anonymous-led hackers
As Israeli authorities and companies brace for an annual cyber attack expected this Friday, the country’s capability to thwart website defacements and data pilfering attempts will be put to the test.

Going Nuclear: McConnell Confirms The GOP Has Votes To Foil Democratic Filibuster Of Gorsuch
With Friday’s final vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch looming, Senate Republicans reiterated that they have the votes to invoke the nuclear option to break Senate Democrats’ unprecedented filibuster.

Report: New chemical attack in Syria leaves numerous casualties
Allegations of a second chemical attack launched by Syrian Army forces surfaced on Thursday after various sources on the ground reported the incident, according to Arab media. Helicopters belonging to President Bashar Assad’s forces were seen dropping barrel bombs allegedly containing chlorine gas in the village of Al-Lataminah, located in northern part of the country near Hama.

Syria chemical ‘attack’: Trump condemns ‘affront to humanity’
US President Donald Trump has condemned the killing of dozens of civilians in northern Syria in an apparent chemical weapons attack by Syria’s air force. It was an “affront to humanity”, he said, adding: “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies… that crosses… many lines.” He did not mention Russia, Syria’s ally, which says chemical weapons in rebel hands may have been released.

Hamas hails ‘heroic’ ramming attack that killed Israeli in West Bank
Hamas praised a vehicular ramming attack that killed one Israeli and wounded another in the Binyamin region of the West Bank on Thursday. “We bless this heroic ramming attack at the Ofra intersection near Ramallah, which is a response to the continued crimes of the Zionist occupation at the expense of our people,” said Hamas spokesman Abdul-Latif Qanou.

Israel braces for annual cyber attack by Anonymous-led hackers
As Israeli authorities and companies brace for an annual cyber attack expected this Friday, the country’s capability to thwart website defacements and data pilfering attempts will be put to the test. “There is a nice twist,” Dudu Mimran, the CTO of Telekom Innovation Laboratories at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and BGU Cyber Security Labs, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. “It’s kind of a training for Israelis.”

New Zealand floods force evacuations after Tropical Storm Debbie
The entire town of Edgecumbe on New Zealand’s North Island has been evacuated, after severe flooding. About 600 homes and 2,000 people are affected, as tractors and boats helped take locals to safety. The rain, caused by the remnants of Cyclone Debbie, which hit Australia a week ago, has caused a river to burst its banks.

Australia warns of Anzac Day terror threat in Turkey
The Australian government has warned that terrorists may seek to target Anzac Day commemorations in Turkey later this month. The anniversary on 25 April marks the first major battle involving Australia and New Zealand in World War One. Australian Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan said his government had received information of a possible threat to Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula.

Rockhampton: Homes in Australian city flooded as river peaks
More than 200 houses in the Australian city of Rockhampton have been flooded after a river reached its flood peak, authorities say. The Fitzroy River rose to 8.75m (29ft) in the central Queensland city on Thursday. It comes nine days after Cyclone Debbie made landfall in northern Queensland, causing floods along a 1,200km (745 miles) stretch of coast.

St Petersburg metro attack: ‘Bomb’ found in city raid
An explosive device has been made safe in a flat in St Petersburg by Russian police, three days after a bomb on the city’s metro left 14 people dead. A city official said several suspects were detained after police raided the flat early on Thursday morning, Ria Novosti reported. Neighbours were moved away and witnesses said three men were led out in handcuffs, the agency said.

Satellite images of Peru floods show devastation
A series of devastating floods in Peru have left 100 dead and tens of thousands homeless since the start of the year. Entire roads and bridges have been swept away, towns have been engulfed and farmland has been turned to muddy swamp. It has led to more than 800 towns and cities declaring states of emergency, and brought about a rise in the price of food. Police have been deployed to keep law and order in flood-ravaged areas.

First study finds neonic pesticides in US drinking water
Small traces of the world’s most widely used insecticides have been detected in tap water for the first time. Samples taken by scientists in the US state of Iowa showed that levels of neonicotinoid chemicals remained constant despite treatment. However drinking water treated using a different method of filtration showed big reductions in neonic levels.

CDC Issues New Warning On Potential Impact Of Zika Virus
The Centers for Disease Control released new information Tuesday showing the impact of the Zika virus last year — offering advice on what to do before the insects start biting this year. The new report summarizes the number of Zika related infections last year in all U.S. states and territories with the exception of Puerto Rico, which has a separate registry due to its large number of cases.

Senate set for pivotal vote on Supreme Court nominee
The U.S. Senate is set for a vote on Thursday that will test the resolve of Democratic opposition to President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, and likely prompt Republicans to change the chamber’s rules to allow his confirmation by the end of the week. The Senate vote, expected at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT), is a bid by Republican leaders to try to end a Democratic procedural effort called a filibuster aimed at blocking Gorsuch’s confirmation to a lifetime post on the court.

How artificial life spawned a billion-dollar industry
Scientists are getting closer to building life from scratch and technology pioneers are taking notice, with record sums moving into a field that could deliver novel drugs, materials, chemicals and even perfumes. Despite ethical and safety concerns, investors are attracted by synthetic biology’s wide market potential and the plummeting cost of DNA synthesis, which is industrializing the writing of the genetic code that determines how organisms function.

Why Xi Jinping Needs to Tread Carefully When He Meets Trump
Nothing is supposed to go off script for President Xi Jinping in what is the equivalent of an election year in one-party China. Enter Donald Trump, who rarely stays on message and regularly bashes China on Twitter. The U.S. president will host Xi on Thursday and Friday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the first face-to-face meeting between the pair. On the agenda will be everything from trade to North Korea’s nuclear threat.

East Libyan forces target rivals’ air base in central desert region
East Libyan forces said on Wednesday they had carried out air strikes and a ground attack on an air base controlled by rivals from the western city of Misrata, prompting a pledge of retaliation from the government in Tripoli.

Venezuela’s opposition censures judges; 18 held after protests
Venezuela’s opposition lawmakers, some carrying injuries from this week’s protests, on Wednesday sought the dismissal of Supreme Court judges whom they accuse of propping up a socialist dictatorship.

New Smoking Gun Documents – Obama IRS Officials Admit to Inappropriately Targeting Conservative Groups
Judicial Watch has released 695 pages of new documents from the IRS that contain admissions by IRS officials that the agency used “inappropriate political labels” to screen the tax-exempt applications of conservative organizations.

Muslim Births Expected to Outpace Christian Births Within 20 Years
Within 20 years, more babies will be born to Muslim women than to Christian women world-wide, the latest sign of the rapid growth that could make Islam the world’s largest religion by the end of the century.

3 In 4 Americans Want Trump To Make Obamacare ‘Great’ Again
The Trump administration should make President Obama’s troubled health tax work instead of letting it fail, after Republicans tried and failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, according to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

US, Russia Trade Claims about Who Used Chem Weapons in Syria
The United States and Russia are trading conflicting assertions about who launched a chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed 72 people. The White House says Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government is responsible. But Russia says anti-Assad rebels are to blame. Russia’s military says the chemicals were dispersed when Syrian warplanes bombed a facility where rebels were building chemical weapons.


Islam set to become world’s largest religion by 2075

According to a new study, populations with no religion will shrink while the number of Muslims and Christians will grow.  The Guardian has the story:

The number of babies born to Muslims is expected to overtake those born to Christians within two decades, making Islam the world’s largest religion by 2075, according to new analysis of data by the Pew Research Center.

People with no religious affiliation are set to shrink as a proportion of the world’s population as a result of their declining birthrate and growing numbers of Muslims and Christians.

View article →

 


Mid-Day Snapshot

Apr. 6, 2017

Syria Is Still Toxic. What Will Trump Do About It?

The president’s position is unclear after the latest chemical attack.

The Foundation

“An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation.” —John Marshall (1819)


Today on ChristianHeadlines
Republicans Take First Step to Confirm Gorsuch Using ‘Nuclear Option'
Republicans Take First Step to Confirm Gorsuch Using ‘Nuclear Option’
by Veronica Neffinger
Republican lawmakers have begun the process of confirming Judge Neil Gorsuch by using the so-called “nuclear option” because they do not have the 60 needed votes.
READ FULL ARTICLE   >>
California Senate Passes 'Sanctuary State' Bill
California Senate Passes ‘Sanctuary State’ Bill
by Veronica Neffinger
The California Senate has passed a bill which prohibits local law enforcement from enforcing federal immigration rules, essentially designating California as a “sanctuary state.”
READ FULL ARTICLE
Texas: 24 Abortion Clinics Closed in Last 5 Years
Texas: 24 Abortion Clinics Closed in Last 5 Years
by Veronica Neffinger
Abortions in Texas have been decreasing in the past few years due to House Bill 2 which mandated that abortion clinics implement increased access to medical help.
READ FULL ARTICLE
Trump Cuts Funding for Forced Abortions in China
Trump Cuts Funding for Forced Abortions in China
by Amanda Casanova
President Trump has stopped funding for the United Nations Population Fund, an agency that reportedly promotes abortion and population control.
READ FULL ARTICLE
Death Toll Rises in Aftermath of Syria Poison Gas Attack
Death Toll Rises in Aftermath of Syria Poison Gas Attack
by Veronica Neffinger
The death toll in the deadly poison gas attack in Idlib province, Syria has risen to at least 70, with at least 100 others suffering injuries, according to Christian Today.
READ FULL ARTICLE

Featured Blogs


ZeroHedge Frontrunning: April 06

  • Senate Set to Vote to Eliminate Supreme Court Filibuster (Read More)
  • Trump’s Xi Summit Tests Promises on Trade, North Korea  (Read More)
  • Is North Korea putting a nuclear-tipped bargaining chip on the table? (Read More)
  • Why Xi Jinping Must Tread Carefully When He Meets Trump  (Read More)
  • China Market Access in Spotlight as Meeting Nears  (Read More)
  • Trump Rethinks Foreign Policy After Syria, North Korea Crises (Read More)
  • Congress Waits for Trump Tax Overhaul as Questions Pile Up  (Read More)
  • Elizabeth Holmes Owes Theranos $25 Million (Read More)
  • A Quant ‘Alpha Factory’ Hunts for Investing Edge (Read More)
  • Draghi Draws Line Under ECB Rate Debate and Warns on Prices (Read More)
  • Traders Bet the Fed Will Slow Rate Hikes to Shrink Balance Sheet (Read More)
  • Assad tells paper he sees no ‘option except victory’ in Syria (Read More)
  • Syria Deaths Linked to Chemical Weapons, Autopsies Show (Read More)
  • Cohn Backs Wall Street Split of Lending, Investment Banks (Read More)
  • Bezos is selling $1 billion of Amazon stock a year to fund rocket venture (Read More)
  • Spotify Finally Readies an IPO…That’s Not an IPO (Read More)
  • Kraft’s Failed Bid Jolts Unilever Chief Into Protective Revamp  (Read More)
  • Amazon to Add 30,000 Part-Time U.S. Jobs (Read More)
  • Deutsche Bank not thinking about mergers, has other things to do: CEO (Read More)
  • The New Sears Home Is an Affordable Apartment  (Read More)

Top Headlines – 4/6/2017

Abdullah welcomes Trump engagement in Israel-Palestinian peace

Jordan’s King Abdullah says Arab league peace initiative can help Trump as he tries to bring Israelis, Palestinians together

Trump says he’s working ‘very, very hard’ to try to create peace between Palestinians and Israel

Trump thinks he’ll ‘be successful’ on Israeli-Palestinian peace

Trump Reportedly Looking to Host Mideast Peace Summit

Egyptian president says Trump has ‘true understanding’ of terrorism

6 Israelis killed or injured abroad recognized as victims of terror

Dublin City Hall to raise Palestinian flag in solidarity against ‘brutal’ Israeli occupation

Temple Mount Activists Plan Passover Sacrifice Near Western Wall

Nearly 300 died in Mosul airstrike, making it one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in recent memory

Iraq: Airstrikes kill over 100 ISIS militants near Syria border

Pro-ISIS hackers release ‘kill list’ with 8,786 targets in US, UK

Pence says chemical attack in Syria ‘a reflection of the failure’ of Obama admin to confront violence

Trump faults Obama for Middle East ‘mess,’ says he’s now responsible

Senators to Trump: Don’t shift blame for Syria gas attack

Trump’s View of Syria and Assad Altered After ‘Unacceptable’ Chemical Attack

Donald Trump Calls Syria Chemical Attack An ‘Affront To Humanity’

Trump: Syria chemical attack ‘crosses many, many lines’

Pope “horrified” by Syria chemical weapons attack

Syria attack symptoms consistent with nerve agent use, WHO says

Syria chemical weapons attack toll rises to 70 as Russian narrative is dismissed

Haley slams Russia over Syrian chemical attack, warns US may take ‘our own action’

Trump’s response to Syria chemical attack exposes administration’s volatility

Syria: UK rules out military action after chemical attack

Syria chemical ‘attack’: Russia faces fury at UN Security Council

U.S. dismisses Russian assertion rebels to blame for Syria gas attack

Russia launches most powerful nuclear attack submarine yet

Turkish prosecutors accuse newspaper of “asymmetric war” on Erdogan

Car bomb rams cafe in Somalia’s capital, killing 3

Dog saves wedding party from suicide bomber in Nigeria

One man hospitalised as 20,000 killer bees attack a mosque in Arizona

Muslim Births Expected to Outpace Christian Births Within 20 Years

German Cabinet OKs rules to not recognize child marriages

European Union Tells Hungary and Poland To Accept Mass Migration Or Leave

White House Tallies $10 Billion Saved by Repeal of Regulations

Trump at CEO Business Town Hall: ‘Common Core… We Have to End It’

National Security Council shake-up: Bannon out, Rick Perry in

Senate Is Running Out of Compromises to Avoid ‘Nuclear Option’ in Gorsuch Vote

Trump claims Susan Rice may have committed crime

Susan Rice Responds To Trump Unmasking Allegations: “I Leaked Nothing To Nobody”

MSNBC Guest Claims Susan Rice Criticism Is Racist and Sexist

How the intel community was turned into a political weapon against President Trump

Germany approves bill curbing online hate crime, fake news

Germany threatens online giants with 50 mn euro hate speech fines

Facebook launches new tools to stop ‘revenge porn’

Professor behind designated drivers takes on distracted ones

Pop songs getting faster as listeners’ attention spans diminish

Retiring with robots? How your folks will get high-tech help

Amazon’s Robot War Is Spreading

Military strike on North Korea may be only option, Gen. Keane says

6.1 magnitude earthquake hits near Torbat-e Jam, Iran

5.6 magnitude earthquake hits near Isangel, Vanuatu

5.3 magnitude earthquake hits near Andaman Islands, India region

5.1 magnitude earthquake hits near Torbat-e Jam, Iran

Sabancaya volcano in Peru erupts to 26,000ft

Sheveluch volcano in Kamchatka, Russia erupts to 22,000ft

Sinabung volcano in Indonesia erupts to 10,000ft

Drone captures spectacular footage of river of Lava flowing down Mt. Etna

Severe weather: At least 5 suspected tornadoes reported in Georgia, South Carolina

Georgia leads country in number of tornadoes for 2017

2017 Atlantic hurricane forecast: Possible El Nino to limit development of storms

CDC Issues New Warning On Potential Impact Of Zika Virus

First major U.S. city braces for Obamacare collapse

Barry Manilow Reveals Why He Didn’t Come Out for Decades: I Thought I Would ‘Disappoint’ Fans If They Knew I Was Gay

How a court ruling that a lesbian was illegally passed over for a job could be a ‘big moment’ for LGBT rights

Secret Service agent on VP’s detail caught after meeting with prostitute at Maryland hotel

Philippines’ Duterte draws ire for defending adultery

Muslim man dies after attack by cow vigilantes in India

Will Pope Francis acknowledge the Holy Mother as the ‘Co-Redemptrix’ at Fatima this year?

Christian activist: ‘God will curse the children and grandchildren of those who opposed Trump’

The Irrelevant Christine Caine … A Dingo Ate My Legacy?

Leaving the NAR Church: Catrina’s story

Trey Pearson releases first music video since coming out as a gay Christian rock star

Carman Licciardello Cancer Scare; Doctor Discovers Tumor on Shoulder After 4 Years of Remission

Mob Kills Christian Elder at Evangelical School of Sudan

Franklin Graham Warns that It’s Time for Us to Get up and Do Something!

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 08:25 AM PDT

Last year, more than 90,000 Christians were killed because of their faith—that’s one person every six minutes. Studies continue to show Christ followers are the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

First evidence found of popular farm pesticides in drinking water

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 08:07 AM PDT

Of the many pesticides that American farmers have embraced in their war on bugs, neonicotinoids are among the most popular. One of them, called imidacloprid,…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Cancer Strikes Carman Again, but His Faith Stands Rock Solid

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 08:02 AM PDT

Popular contemporary Christian artist Carman Licciardello had learned he has cancer again, not long after winning a previous intense battle, according to his recent Facebook…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

PROPHETIC? The dogwood tree — the living symbol of the American spring — makes comeback

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 06:47 AM PDT

The story goes that President Ronald Reagan was riding his horse in the vicinity of Camp David, noticed that all the wild dogwoods were dying…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Russian court considers Jehovah’s Witnesses ban

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 06:43 AM PDT

Russia’s Supreme Court has begun hearing a government request to outlaw the Jehovah’s Witnesses and declare it an extremist organisation. The justice ministry has already…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Pastor Scores Big Win for Prayer in Public Schools in Florida

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 06:36 AM PDT

A bill that aims to protect religious expression in Florida’s public schools has passed the state’s House of Representatives. Rep. Kimberly Daniels (D-Jacksonville) a pastor…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

10 Dangerous Signs of Prophetic Abuse

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 06:33 AM PDT

(By Joseph Mattera) I have been in the body of Christ now since the late 1970s. I came into the prophetic movement in the early…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

UK Government Under Pressure to Add Gender ‘X’ to Passports

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 06:23 AM PDT

A gay rights lobby group has called for British passports to feature the letter ‘X’ to cater for those who do not want to identify…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

RUMORS OF WAR: Did Trump Just Commit The United States To A Disastrous War In Syria?

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 06:17 AM PDT

(Reported By Michael Snyder) Rumors of war are percolating in Washington D.C., and if the Trump administration is not extremely careful it may find itself…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

PROPHECY WATCH: Now That Trump’s ‘Red Line’ Has Been Crossed, Will He Turn Damascus Into A ‘Ruinous Heap’?

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 06:12 AM PDT

(Reported By Michael Snyder) Will a false flag chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province be the trigger that causes World War 3 to erupt in…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DEVELOPING: New Chemical Attack Reported in Syria Leaving Numerous Casualties.

Posted: 06 Apr 2017 06:07 AM PDT

Allegations of a second chemical attack launched by Syrian Army forces surfaced on Thursday after various sources on the ground reported the incident, according to…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Baseball-Sized Hail Reported In Southeastern Alabama

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 08:19 PM PDT

News 5 has confirmed photos that show enormous chunks of hail falling in parts of southeastern Alabama. Photos sent in to the Barbour County EMA…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Swiss man faces defamation trial for ‘liking’ Facebook posts

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 06:40 PM PDT

A Swiss man is on trial for ‘liking’ Facebook posts that accused an animal rights activist of racism and anti-Semitism. The prosecution has accused him…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DAYS OF LOT: Appeals Court Says Sex Discrimination Law Applies to Gay and Lesbian Discrimination

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 06:23 PM PDT

An appeals court ruled that a federal civil rights law on sex discrimination can now be used for sexual orientation discrimination claims, the first time…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Trump Warns that Syrian Chemical Attack Cannot be tolerated!

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 04:33 PM PDT

President Trump said on Wednesday that this week’s devastating chemical weapons attack in Syria had changed his view of the brutal civil war in that…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Discerning the Demonic Deception Inundating Our Culture

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 04:21 PM PDT

(By Mackenzie Monroe) Truth. Some say it’s all relative, but let’s face it, those people are kind of missing the entire definition of “truth.” When…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

WAR DRUMS: Japan and South Korea Condemn Latest Actions of North Korea!

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 04:04 PM PDT

North Korea has reportedly test-fired a middle-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, drawing strong condemnation from its neighbors, Japan and South Korea. The…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

ISIS Release ‘kill list’ of 8,786 targets in US and UK

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 03:50 PM PDT

An ISIS-linked group of hackers has released a “kill list” of 8,786 names and addresses in the U.S. and U.K., calling for lone wolf attacks on…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Removing the Leaven from our House!

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 03:39 PM PDT

(By Ricky Scaparo) As we approach Passover on the Jewish Calendar we will show you three types of Leaven that we need to remove from…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Scientists create artificial brain connection that Learns like human mind

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 01:35 PM PDT

The idea of a robot that can learn and function on its own, without the need for any human help, might sound like the plot…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

PROPHECY WATCH: Jerusalem Receives Money for Construction of Third Temple

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 01:25 PM PDT

The prophesied third temple may be on its way to fulfillment now that the Temple Heritage Foundation was granted a budget toward restoration. Though the…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Germany approves bill curbing online “Hate Crime” and “Fake News”….

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 01:21 PM PDT

Germany’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved a new bill that punishes social networking sites if they fail to swiftly remove illegal content such as hate speech…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Lamb to be slaughtered near Temple Mount for Passover Sacrifice

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 01:16 PM PDT

Jewish activists seeking to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem will be conducting a ritual Passover sacrifice of a lamb in a nearby park in full…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Pastor and family credits faith in God for miraculous rescue

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 01:08 PM PDT

A Bailey, Colorado family is safe after an ordeal that tested their strength and confirmed their faith. Jay Vonesh, his wife and two daughters were…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Muslim Births to Outpace Christian Births Within 20 Years…

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 01:03 PM PDT

Within 20 years, more babies will be born to Muslim women than to Christian women world-wide, the latest sign of the rapid growth that could…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

UFO enthusiast mysteriously vanishes after ‘Secret Project’…

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 12:51 PM PDT

A UFO enthusiast who mysteriously vanished last week left behind a den plastered wall-to-wall with Illuminati codes and symbols.  Bruno Borges, 24, disappeared from his…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Russia launches most powerful nuclear attack submarine yet

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 12:47 PM PDT

Russia has unveiled its army’s most powerful submarine to date, capable of carrying hundreds of torpedoes and reaching speeds of up to 31 knots. The…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

YOU’RE FIRED! : Bannon Removed From Power In White House Shakeup!

Posted: 05 Apr 2017 12:41 PM PDT

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has been removed from his seat on the National Security Council, reversing one of the most controversial decisions of…

Read more at End Time Headlines.


What is The Gospel?


Who Do You Think That I Am?

Selected Scriptures

Code: A335

With that brief question Jesus Christ confronted His followers with the most important issue they would ever face. He had spent much time with them and made some bold claims about His identity and authority. Now the time had come for them either to believe or deny His teachings.

Who do you say Jesus is? Your response to Him will determine not only your values and lifestyle, but your eternal destiny as well.

Consider what the Bible says about Him:

JESUS IS GOD

While Jesus was on earth there was much confusion about who He was. Some thought He was a wise man or a great prophet. Others thought He was a madman. Still others couldn’t decide or didn’t care. But Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). That means He claimed to be nothing less than God in human flesh.

Many people today don’t understand that Jesus claimed to be God. They’re content to think of Him as little more than a great moral teacher. But even His enemies understood His claims to deity. That’s why they tried to stone Him to death (John 5:18; 10:33) and eventually had Him crucified (John 19:7).

C.S. Lewis observed, “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Mere Christianity [Macmillan, 1952], pp. 40-41).

If the biblical claims of Jesus are true, He is God!

JESUS IS HOLY

God is absolutely and perfectly holy (Isaiah 6:3), therefore He cannot commit or approve of evil (James 1:13).

As God, Jesus embodied every element of God’s character. Colossians 2:9 says, “In Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” He was perfectly holy (Hebrews 4:15). Even His enemies couldn’t prove any accusation against Him (John 8:46)

God requires holiness of us as well. First Peter 1:16 says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

JESUS IS THE SAVIOR

Our failure to obey God—to be holy—places us in danger of eternal punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:9). The truth is, we cannot obey Him because we have neither the desire nor the ability to do so. We are by nature rebellious toward God (Ephesians 2:1-3). The Bible calls our rebellion “sin.” According to Scripture, everyone is guilty of sin: “There is no man who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And we are incapable of changing our sinful condition. Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”

That doesn’t mean we’re incapable of performing acts of human kindness. We might even be involved in various religious or humanitarian activities. But we’re utterly incapable of understanding, loving, or pleasing God on our own. The Bible says, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

God’s holiness and justice demand that all sin be punished by death: “The soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). That’s hard for us to understand because we tend to evaluate sin on a relative scale, assuming some sins are less serious than others. However, the Bible teaches that all acts of sin are the result of sinful thinking and evil desires. That’s why simply changing our patterns of behavior can’t solve our sin problem or eliminate its consequences. We need to be changed inwardly so our thinking and desires are holy

Jesus is the only one who can forgive and transform us, thereby delivering us from the power and penalty of sin: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Even though God’s justice demands death for sin, His love has provided a Savior, who paid the penalty and died for sinners: “Christ … died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Christ’s death satisfied the demands of God’s justice, thereby enabling Him to forgive and save those who place their faith in Him (Romans 3:26). John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” He alone is “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13).

JESUS IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH

Some people think it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere. But without a valid object your faith is useless

If you take poison—thinking it’s medicine—all the faith in the world won’t restore your life. Similarly, if Jesus is the only source of salvation, and you’re trusting in anyone or anything else for your salvation, your faith is useless.

Many people assume there are many paths to God and that each religion represents an aspect of truth. But Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). He didn’t claim to be one of many equally legitimate paths to God, or the way to God for His day only. He claimed to be the only way to God—then and forever.

JESUS IS LORD

Contemporary thinking says man is the product of evolution. But the Bible says we were created by a personal God to love, serve, and enjoy endless fellowship with Him

The New Testament reveals it was Jesus Himself who created everything (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). Therefore He also owns and rules everything (Psalm 103:19). That means He has authority over our lives and we owe Him absolute allegiance, obedience, and worship.

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Confessing Jesus as Lord means humbly submitting to His authority (Philippians 2:10-11). Believing that God has raised Him from the dead involves trusting in the historical fact of His resurrection—the pinnacle of Christian faith and the way the Father affirmed the deity and authority of the Son (Romans 1:4; Acts 17:30-31).

True faith is always accompanied by repentance from sin. Repentance is more than simply being sorry for sin. It is agreeing with God that you are sinful, confessing your sins to Him, and making a conscious choice to turn from sin and pursue holiness (Isaiah 55:7). Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15); and “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31).

It isn’t enough to believe certain facts about Christ. Even Satan and his demons believe in the true God (James 2:19), but they don’t love and obey Him. Their faith is not genuine. True saving faith always responds in obedience (Ephesians 2:10).

Jesus is the sovereign Lord. When you obey Him you are acknowledging His lordship and submitting to His authority. That doesn’t mean your obedience will always be perfect, but that is your goal. There is no area of your life that you withhold from Him.

JESUS IS THE JUDGE

All who reject Jesus as their Lord and Savior will one day face Him as their Judge: “God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

Second Thessalonians 1:7-9 says, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?

Who does the Bible say Jesus is? The living God, the Holy One, the Savior, the only valid object of saving faith, the sovereign Lord, and the righteous Judge.

Who do you say Jesus is? That is the inescapable question. He alone can redeem you—free you from the power and penalty of sin. He alone can transform you, restore you to fellowship with God, and give your life eternal purpose. Will you repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?


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April 6, 2017: Verse of the day

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Knowing the Truth

“and you will know the truth,” (8:32a)

The inevitable blessing of believing in Jesus and continuing to obey His Word is to know the truth. “Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (1:17), He is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6), and “truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21). In a postmodern world, where the hope of discovering absolute truth has been largely abandoned, such knowledge is revolutionary. Like Pilate, who asked the cynical question, “What is truth?” (18:38), modern skeptics are left with nothing but their own ignorance and despair—the fruit of their futile search for truth apart from God.
The truth comes not only from knowing the revelation of Scripture concerning Christ, but also from being taught by the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 5:6). The apostle John referred to the Spirit’s teaching of believers in 1 John 2:27 when he wrote, “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”
Scripture is the revelation of divine truth. In it Jesus Christ, truth incarnate, is revealed, and through it the Holy Spirit teaches the truth to believers. Thus Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17; cf. Ps. 119:142, 151, 160). The all-sufficient Scripture is “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). And not just “the man of God,” the preacher, but all who are taught by him.

Being Made Free

“and the truth will make you free.” (8:32b)

The reality of believing in Jesus, obeying His Word, and knowing the truth brings spiritual freedom. Such freedom is multifaceted, and includes freedom from the bondage of falsehood, Satan (John 17:15; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:18), condemnation (Rom. 8:1), judgment (John 3:18; 5:24), spiritual ignorance (8:12), spiritual death (8:51), and, most significantly in this context (v. 34), sin (Rom. 6:18, 22).
It was to liberate lost sinners that Jesus came into the world (Luke 19:10). In the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth, the Lord applied the following words from Isaiah to His ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18). Those who are set free in Christ must heed Paul’s admonition to the Galatians: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

MacArthur New Testament Commentary

April 6 – Mourning Over Your Sin

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

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When your sins are forgiven, you are a happy person!

Human sorrow involves mourning over some tragic or disappointing turn of events. At such times believers are assured of God’s sustaining and comforting grace (2 Cor. 1:3–4). But when Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4), He was referring to godly sorrow, which involves mourning over your sin.

“Mourn” in Matthew 5:4 translates the strongest Greek word used in the New Testament to express grief. It is often used of the passionate lament expressed over the loss of a loved one (e.g., Mark 16:10). David was expressing that kind of sorrow over his sin when he wrote, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever-heat of summer” (Ps. 32:3–4). His grief and despair made him physically ill.

At that point David wasn’t a happy person, but the blessing godly sorrow brings isn’t found in the sorrow itself, but in God’s response to it. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God. … For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:9–10, emphasis added). Godly sorrow is the path to repentance and forgiveness.

After David confessed his sin, he proclaimed with great joy, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (Psalm 32:1–2). When you understand that your sins are forgiven, you are a happy person!

How do you deal with your sins? Do you deny them and try to hide them, or do you mourn over them and confess them (cf. Prov. 28:13)?

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Suggestions for Prayer:  If you have allowed some sin to rob you of your happiness, don’t let it continue a moment longer. Like David, confess your sin and know the joy of forgiveness.

For Further Study: Read Luke 15:11–24. How did the prodigal son deal with his sin?[1]


Happy Are the Sad

(5:4)

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Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (5:4)

In Psalm 55 David cries out, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Behold, I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness. I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest” (vv. 6–8).

Such a cry comes from the lips of almost everyone at some time or another. David echoes the cry of humanity-a cry for release, a cry for freedom, a cry for escape from things that weigh heavy on us. When we face great sorrow, disappointment, tragedy, or failure, we wish that we could escape the trouble like we escape a thunderstorm by running inside. But comfort from the troubles of life is much harder to find than shelter from rain. The deeper the sorrow, the harder the pressure, the worse the despair, the more elusive comfort seems to be.

As pointed out in the previous chapter, all of the Beatitudes are paradoxical, because what they promise for what they demand seems incongruous and upside down in the eyes of the natural man. The paradox of the second beatitude is obvious. What could be more self-contradictory than the idea that the sad are happy, that the path to happiness is sadness, that the way to rejoicing is in mourning?

In the routine of ordinary, day-by-day living, the idea seems absurd. The whole structure of most human living-whether by the primitive or sophisticated, the wealthy or the poor, the educated or the uneducated-is based on the seemingly incontrovertible principle that the way to happiness is having things go your own way. Pleasure brings happiness, money brings happiness, entertainment brings happiness, fame and praise bring happiness, self-expression brings happiness. On the negative side, avoiding pain, trouble, disappointment, frustration, hardships, and other problems brings happiness. Sidestepping those things is necessary before the other things can bring full happiness. Throughout history a basic axiom of the world has been that favorable things bring happiness, whereas unfavorable things bring unhappiness. The principle seems so self-evident that most people would not bother to debate it.

But Jesus said, “Happy are the sad.” He even went so far as to say, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25)-the converse beatitude of Matthew 5:4. Jesus turned the world’s principles exactly upside down. He reversed the path to happiness.

To discover what Jesus meant, and did not mean, in this beatitude we will look at the meaning of mourning as it is used here, the result of mourning, the way to mourn as Jesus teaches, and the way to know if we are truly mourning.

the meaning of mourning

Certain kinds of sorrow are common to all mankind, experienced by believer and unbeliever alike. Some of these sorrows are normal and legitimate, sorrows which concern the Lord and for which He knows our need. Others are abnormal and illegitimate, brought about solely because of sinful passions and objectives.

Improper Mourning

Improper mourning is the sorrow of those who are frustrated in fulfilling evil plans and lusts, or who have misguided loyalties and affection. To those who mourn in that way the Lord offers no help or solace.

David’s son “Amnon was so frustrated because of his sister Tamar that he made himself ill, for she was a virgin, and it seemed hard to Amnon to do anything to her” (2 Sam. 13:2). Amnon’s grief was caused by incestuous, unfulfilled lust.

Others carry legitimate sorrow to illegitimate extremes. When a person grieves so hard and so long over the loss of a loved one that he cannot function normally, his grief becomes sinful and destructive. Such depressing sorrow is usually related to guilt, essentially selfish, and, for a Christian, is a mark of unfaithfulness and lack of trust in God.

David grieved that way, in part to try to atone for his guilt. When the rebellious Absalom, another of David’s sons, was killed, his father went into inconsolable mourning (2 Sam. 18:33—19:4). Joab finally rebuked the king, saying, “Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who today have saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines, by loving those who hate you, and by hating those who love you. For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased” (19:5–6). The wickedly ambitious Absalom had raised a rebel army, driven the king-his own father-out of Jerusalem, and taken over the palace.

David’s love for his son was understandable, but his judgment had been perverted. Probably because of his great feeling of guilt for having been such a poor father, and because he knew that Absalom’s tragedy was part of the judgment God sent because of David’s adulterous and murderous affair with Bathsheba, the king’s mourning over Absalom was abnormal. The judgment that came on Absalom was entirely deserved.

Proper Mourning

There are also, of course, other kinds of sorrow, legitimate sorrows that are common to all mankind and for which reasonable mourning is appropriate. To express these sorrows and to cry over them opens an escape valve that keeps our feelings from festering and poisoning our emotions and our whole life. It provides the way for healing, just as washing out a wound helps prevent infection.

An Arab proverb says, “All sunshine makes a desert.” The trouble-free life is likely to be a shallow life. We often learn more and mature more from times of sorrow than from times when everything is going well. A familiar poem by Robert Browning Hamilton expresses the truth:

I walked a mile with Pleasure,

She chattered all the way,

But left me none the wiser

For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,

And ne’er a word said she,

But, oh, the things I learned from her

When Sorrow walked with me.

(Cited in William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew [rev. ed.; Philadelphia: Westminster. 1975], 1:94)

Sarah’s death caused Abraham to mourn (Gen. 23:2). But the “father of the faithful” did not weep from lack of faith but for the loss his beloved wife, which he had every right to do.

Loneliness for God, from whom he felt separated for a time, caused the psalmist to declare, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?”’ (Ps. 42:1–3).

Defeat and discouragement caused Timothy to mourn, leading Paul, his spiritual father, to write, “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy” (2 Tim. 1:3–4).

Anguished concern about the sins of Israel and God’s coming judgment on His people caused Jeremiah to mourn. “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears,” he cried, “that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9:1).

Concern for the spiritual welfare of the Ephesian believers had caused Paul to mourn. “Night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears,” he said (Acts 20:31). Because of their great love for him the elders from the Ephesus church later mourned for Paul as he prayed with them on the beach near Miletus, “grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they should see his face no more” (v. 38).

The earnest love of a father caused him to be grief-stricken over his demon-possessed son, even as he brought him to Jesus for healing. No doubt tears ran down the man’s face as He implored Jesus to help, confessing “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Repentant, worshipful devotion caused a woman to mourn over her sins as she went into the Pharisee’s house and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. To the proud host who resented her contaminating his house and interrupting his dinner party, Jesus said, “I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47).

Immeasurable divine love caused our Lord to weep at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35) and over the sinning people of Jerusalem, whom He wanted to gather into His care as a mother hen gathers her chicks (Matt. 23:37).

Godly Mourning

The mourning about which Jesus is talking in the second beatitude, however, has nothing to do with the types just discussed, proper or improper. The Lord is concerned about all of the legitimate sorrows of His children, and He promises to console, comfort, and strengthen us when we turn to Him for help. But those are not the kind of sorrow at issue here. Jesus is speaking of godly sorrow, godly mourning, mourning that only those who sincerely desire to belong to Him or who already belong to Him can experience.

Paul speaks of this sorrow in his second letter to Corinth. “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you” (2 Cor. 7:10–11). The only sorrow that brings spiritual life and growth is godly sorrow, sorrow over sin that leads to repentance. Godly sorrow is linked to repentance, and repentance is linked to sin.

As the first beatitude makes clear, entrance into the kingdom of heaven begins with being “poor in spirit,” with recognition of total spiritual bankruptcy. The only way any person can come to Jesus Christ is empty-handed, totally destitute and pleading for God’s mercy and grace. Without a sense of spiritual poverty no one can enter the kingdom. And when we enter the kingdom we should never lose that sense, knowing “that nothing good dwells in [us], that is, in [our] flesh” (Rom. 7:18).

Spiritual poverty leads to godly sorrow; the poor in spirit become those who mourn. After his great sin involving Bathsheba and Uriah, David repented and expressed his godly sorrow in Psalm 51: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight” (vv. 3–4). Job was a model believer, “blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil” (Job. 1:1). Yet he still had something to learn about God’s greatness and his own unworthiness, about God’s infinite wisdom and his own very imperfect understanding. Only after God allowed everything dear to Job to be taken away and then lectured His servant on His sovereignty and His majesty, did Job finally come to the place of godly sorrow, of repenting of and mourning over his sin. He confessed, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees Thee; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (42:5–6). God loves and honors a morally righteous life, but it is no substitute for a humble and contrite heart, which God loves and honors even more (Isa. 66:2).

As seen in the discussion of the first beatitude, makarios (blessed) means to be happy, blissful. That happiness is a divine pronouncement, the assured benefit of those who meet the conditions God requires.

The condition of the second beatitude is mourning: blessed are those who mourn. Nine different Greek words are used in the New Testament to speak of sorrow, reflecting its commonness in man’s life. It is woven into the cloth of the human situation. The story of history is the story of tears. And before the earth’s situation gets better it will get worse. Jesus tells us that before He comes again, “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matt. 24:7–8). Until the Lord returns, history is destined to go from tragedy to greater tragedy, from sorrow to still greater sorrow.

Of the nine terms used for sorrow, the one used here (pentheō, mourn) is the strongest, the most severe. It represents the deepest, most heart-felt grief, and was generally reserved for grieving over the death of a loved one. It is used in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) for Jacob’s grief when he thought his son Joseph was killed by a wild animal (Gen. 37:34). It is used of the disciples’ mourning for Jesus before they knew He was raised from the dead (Mark 16:10). It is used of the mourning of world business leaders over the death of its commerce because of the destruction of the world system during the Tribulation (Rev. 18:11, 15).

The word carries the idea of deep inner agony, which may or may not be expressed by outward weeping, wailing, or lament. When David stopped hiding his sin and began mourning over it and confessing it (Ps. 32:3–5), he could declare, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (vv. 1–2).

Happiness, or blessedness, does not come in the mourning itself. Happiness comes with what God does in response to it, with the forgiveness that such mourning brings. Godly mourning brings God’s forgiveness, which brings God’s happiness. Mourning is not merely a psychological or emotional experience that makes people feel better. It is a communion with the living, loving God who responds to the mourner with an objective reality-the reality of divine forgiveness!

David experienced and expressed many kinds of common human sorrow, both proper and improper. He mourned over being lonely, over being rejected, over being discouraged and disappointed, and over losing an infant child. He also mourned inordinately over the death of Absalom, whom God had removed to protect Israel and the messianic throne of David. But nothing broke the heart of David like his own sin. No anguish was as deep as the anguish he felt when he finally saw the awfulness of his offenses against the Lord. That is when David became happy, when he became truly sad over his transgressions.

The world says, “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile.” Hide your problems and pretend to be happy. The same philosophy is applied to sin. But Jesus says, “Confess your sins, and mourn, mourn, mourn.” When we do that, our smiles can be genuine, because our happiness will be genuine. Godly mourning brings godly happiness, which no amount of human effort or optimistic pretense, no amount of positive thinking or possibility thinking, can produce.

Only mourners over sin are happy because only mourners over sin have their sins forgiven. Sin and happiness are totally incompatible. Where one exists, the other cannot. Until sin is forgiven and removed, happiness is locked out. Mourning over sin brings forgiveness of sin, and forgiveness of sin brings a freedom and a joy that cannot be experienced in any other way.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” James tells us. “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:8–10).

There is great need in the church today to cry instead of laugh. The frivolity, silliness, and foolishness that go on in the name of Christianity should themselves make us mourn. God’s counsel to the frivolous happy, the self-satisfied happy, the indulgent happy is: “Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom.”

The faithful child of God is constantly broken over his sinfulness, and the longer he lives and the more mature he becomes in the Lord, the harder it is for him to be frivolous. He sees more of God’s love and mercy, but he also sees more of his own and the world’s sinfulness. To grow in grace is also to grow in awareness of sin. Speaking to Israel, the prophet Isaiah said, “In that day the Lord God of hosts called you to weeping, to wailing, to shaving the head, and to wearing sackcloth. Instead, there is gaiety and gladness, killing of cattle and slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine.” Following the world’s philosophy, which still prevails today, God’s ancient people said, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die” (Isa. 22:12–13).

We follow that philosophy vicariously, if not actually, when we laugh at the world’s crude and immoral jokes even though we do not retell them, when we are entertained by a sin even though we do not indulge in it, when we smile at ungodly talk even though we do not repeat the words. To joke about divorce, to make light of brutality, to be intrigued by sexual immorality is to rejoice when we should be mourning, to be laughing when we should be crying. To “rejoice in the perversity of evil” is placed alongside “delight in doing evil” (Prov. 2:14). To take “pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:12) is to be a part of the wickedness, whether or not we commit the specific sin.

Much of the church today has a defective sense of sin, which is reflected in this defective sense of humor. When even its own members make the church the butt of jokes, make light of its beliefs and ordinances, caricature its leaders as inept and clownish, and make its high standards of purity and righteousness the subject of humorous commentary, the church has great need to turn its laughter into mourning.

The Bible recognizes a proper sense of humor, humor that is not at the expense of God’s name, God’s Word, God’s church, or any person, except perhaps ourselves. God knows that “a joyful heart is good medicine” (Prov. 17:22), but a heart that rejoices in sin is taking poison, not medicine. The way to happiness is not in ignoring sin, much less in making light of it, but rather in sorrow over it that cries to God.

We can react to our spiritual bankruptcy in one of several ways. Like the Pharisees we can deny our spiritual destitution and pretend we are spiritually rich. Or, like monastics and advocates of moral rearmament, we can admit our condition and try to change it in our own power and by our own efforts. Or we can admit our condition and then despair over it to such a degree that we try to drown it in drink, escape it by drugs or by activity, or give up completely and commit suicide, as Judas did. Because they can find no answer in themselves or in the world, these people conclude that there is no answer. Or, like the prodigal son, we can admit our condition, mourn over it, and turn to the heavenly Father to remedy our poverty (see Luke 15:11–32).

Mourning over sin is not being engulfed in despair. Even the person who has been severely disciplined by the church should be forgiven, comforted, and loved, “lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:7–8). Nor is godly mourning wallowing in self-pity and false humility, which are really badges of pride.

True mourning over sin does not focus on ourselves, not even on our sin. It focuses on God, who alone can forgive and remove our sin. It is an attitude that begins when we enter the kingdom and lasts as long as we are on earth. It is the attitude of Romans 7. Contrary to some popular interpretation, Paul is not here speaking simply about his former condition. The problems of chapter 7 were not one-time experiences that were completely replaced by the victories of chapter 8. The apostle clearly says, “For that which I am doing I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (7:15). Here he uses the present tense, as he does throughout the rest of the chapter: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; … for the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish” (vv. 18–19); “I find then the principle that evil is present in me” (v. 21); “Wretched man that I am! … So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (vv. 24–25).

Paul wrote those words at the height of his ministry. Yet righteousness and sin were still fighting a battle in his life. As he acknowledges in verse 25, the way of victory is “through Jesus Christ our Lord,” but the rest of the verse makes clear that, at that time, the victory was not yet complete. He knew where the victory was, and he had tasted the victory many times. But he knew that, in this life, it is never a permanent victory. The presence of the flesh sees to that. Permanent victory is assured to us now, but it is not given to us now.

Paul not only spoke of the creation anxiously longing for restoration, but of his own longing for complete restoration. “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the: Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:19, 22–23). Paul was tired of sin, tired of fighting it in himself, as well as in the church and in the world. He longed for relief. “For indeed in this house we groan,” he said, “longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven.” He greatly preferred “rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:2, 8).

The mark of the mature life is not sinlessness, which is reserved for heaven, but growing awareness of sinfulness. “If we say that we have no sin,” John warns, “we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9). The subjects of God’s kingdom-the forgiven ones, the children of God and joint heirs with the Son-are characterized by continual confession of sin.

Several years ago a college student said to me, “I’ve been liberated. Someone explained to me the true meaning of 1 John 1:9, and now I realize that I no longer have to confess my sins.” I asked him, “Well, do you still confess your sins?” “I just told you that I don’t have to anymore,” he replied. “I know you did,” I said, “but do you still confess your sins?” When he replied, “Yes, that’s what bothers me,” I stopped being bothered. I said, “I’m very glad to hear that,” and then told him that I knew that, despite the false teaching to which he had been exposed, he was a genuine Christian. His redeemed nature refused to go along with the false teaching his mind had temporarily accepted.

Penthountes (mourn) is a present participle, indicating continuous action. In other words, those who are continually mourning are those who will be continually comforted. In his ninety-five theses Martin Luther said that the Christian’s entire life is a continuous act of repentance and contrition. In his psalms David cried out, “For my iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they weigh too much for me” (38:4) and, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (51:3).

There is no record in the New Testament of Jesus laughing. We are told of His weeping, His anger, His hunger and thirst, and many other human emotions and characteristics. But if He laughed, we do not know of it. We do know that, as Isaiah predicted, He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Yet today we often hear of another Jesus, who laughs and cajoles and draws people into the kingdom by His nonjudgmental spirit and His winsome way. The fun-loving, escapist world of comedians is found plying its trade even in the church-and finding ready acceptance.

The Result of Mourning

The result of godly mourning is comfort: they shall be comforted. That is why they are blessed. It is not the mourning that blesses, but the comfort God gives to those who mourn in a godly way.

The emphatic pronoun autos (they) indicates that only those who mourn over sin will be comforted. The blessing of God’s comfort is reserved exclusively for the contrite of heart. It is only those who mourn for sin who will have their tears wiped away by the loving hand of Jesus Christ.

Comforted is from parakaleō the same word that, as a noun, is rendered Comforter, or Helper, in John 14:16, where we are told that Jesus was the first Helper, and the Holy Spirit is “another Helper.”

The Old Testament also speaks of God comforting those who mourn. Isaiah tells of the Messiah’s coming, among other things, “to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (Isa. 61:2–3). David was comforted by the rod and staff of his divine Shepherd (Ps. 23:4).

As our mourning rises to the throne of God, His unsurpassed and matchless comfort descends from Him by Christ to us. Ours is the “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3), who is always ready to meet our need, admonishing, sympathizing, encouraging, and strengthening. God is a God of comfort, Christ is a Christ of comfort, and the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of comfort. As believers we have the comfort of the entire Trinity!

Shall be does not refer to the end of our lives or the end of the age. Like all other blessings of God, it will be completed only when we see our Lord face-to-face. In the eternal heavenly state God “shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 21:4).

But the comfort of Matthew 5:4 is future only in the sense that the blessing comes after the obedience; the comfort comes after the mourning. As we continually mourn over our sin, we shall be continually comforted-now, in this present life. God is not only the God of future comfort but of present comfort. “God our Father” already has “given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace” (2 Thess. 2:16).

Even God’s written Word is a present comforter, given for our encouragement and hope (Rom. 15:4). And as God Himself gives us comfort and His Word gives us comfort, we are called to comfort each other with the promises of His Word (1 Thess. 4:18; cf. 2 Cor. 1:6; 7:13; 13:11; etc.).

Happiness comes to sad people because their godly sadness leads to God’s comfort. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). He will lift the burden from those who mourn over sin, and He will give rest to those who are weary of sin. As often as we confess our sin, He is faithful to forgive, and for as long as we mourn over sin He is faithful to comfort.

How to Mourn

What does true mourning over sin involve? How can we become godly mourners?

Eliminate Hindrances

The first step requires removing the hindrances that keep us from mourning, the things that make us content with ourselves, that make us resist God’s Spirit and question His Word, and that harden our hearts. A stony heart does not mourn. It is insensitive to God, and His plow of grace cannot break it up. It only stores up wrath till the day of wrath.

Love of sin is the primary hindrance to mourning. Holding on to sin will freeze and petrify a heart. Despair hinders mourning because despair is giving up on God, refusing to believe that He can save and help. Despair is putting ourselves outside God’s grace. Of such people Jeremiah writes, “They will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart’ ” (Jer. 18:12). The one who despairs believes he is destined to sin. Because he believes God has given up on him, he gives up on God. Despair excuses sin by choosing to believe that there is no choice. Despair hides God’s mercy behind a self-made cloud of doubt.

Another hindrance is conceit, which tries to hide the sin itself, choosing to believe that there is nothing over which to mourn. It is the spiritual counterpart of a doctor treating a cancer as if it were a cold. If it was necessary for Jesus Christ to shed His blood on the cross to save us from our sin, our sin must be great indeed!

Presumption hinders mourning because it is really a form of pride. It recognizes the need for grace, but not much grace. It is satisfied with cheap grace, expecting God to forgive little because it sees little to be forgiven. Sins are bad, but not bad enough to be confessed, repented of, and forsaken. Yet the Lord declared through Isaiah, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7). No pardon is offered to the unrepentant, presumptuous person who refuses to forsake his sin. The gospel that teaches otherwise has always been popular, as it clearly is in our own day; but it is a false gospel, “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6), a distortion and contradiction of the gospel of Scripture.

Procrastination hinders godly mourning simply by putting it off. It says, “One of these days, when things are just right, I’ll take a hard look at my sins, confess them, and ask God’s forgiveness and cleansing.” But procrastination is foolish and dangerous, because we “do not know what [our] life will be like tomorrow. [We] are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). The sooner the disease of sin is dealt with the sooner comfort will come. If it is not dealt with, we have no assurance that comfort will ever come, because we have no assurance we will have time to confess it later.

The most important step we can take in getting rid of hindrances to mourning, whatever they are, is to look at the holiness of God and the great sacrifice of sin-bearing at the cross. If seeing Christ die for our sins does not thaw a cold heart or break up a hardened heart, it is beyond melting or breaking. In her poem “Good Friday,” Christina Rossetti gives these moving lines:

Am I a stone and not a sheep,

That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,

To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss

And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved

Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;

Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;

Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon

Which hid their faces in a starless sky.

A horror of great darkness at broad noon-

I, only I.

Yet give not oe’r

But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;

Greater than Moses, turn and look once more

And smite a rock.

Study God’s Word

The second step toward godly mourning is to study sin in Scripture, to learn what an evil and repulsive thing it is to God and what a destructive and damning thing it is to us. We should learn from David to keep our sin ever before us (Ps. 51:3) and from Isaiah to say, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). We should learn from Peter to say, “I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8) and from Paul to confess that we are the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). As we hear those great men of God talking about their sin, we are forced to face the reality and the depth of our own.

Sin tramples on God’s laws, makes light of His love, grieves His Spirit, spurns His forgiveness and blessing, and in every way resists His grace. Sin makes us weak and makes us impure. It robs us of comfort and, much more importantly, robs God of glory.

Pray

The third step toward godly mourning is to pray for contriteness of heart, which only God can give and which He never refuses to give those who ask. It must always be recognized that humility depends on the working of the Lord. The way to godly mourning lies not in pre-salvation human works, but in God’s saving grace.

How to Know if We Are Mourning as Christ Commands

Knowing whether or not we have godly mourning is not difficult. First, we need to ask ourselves if we are sensitive to sin. If we laugh at it, take it lightly, or enjoy it, we can be sure we are not mourning over it and are outside the sphere of God’s blessing.

The mock righteousness of hypocrites who make every effort to appear holy on the outside (see Matt. 6:1–18) has no sensitivity to sin, only sensitivity to personal prestige and reputation. Nor does the mock gratitude of those who thank God they are better than other people (Luke 18:11). Saul regretted that he had disobeyed God by not slaying King Agag and by sparing the best of the Amalekite animals. But he was not repentant; he did not mourn over his sin. He instead tried to excuse his actions by claiming that the animals were spared so that they could be sacrificed to God and that the people made him do what he did. He twice admitted that he had sinned, and even asked Samuel for pardon. But his real concern was not for the Lord’s honor but for his own. “I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel” (1 Sam. 15:30). Saul had ungodly regret, not godly mourning.

The godly mourner will have true sorrow for his sins. His first concern is for the harm his sin does to God’s glory, not the harm its exposure might bring to his own reputation or welfare.

If our mourning is godly we will grieve for the sins of fellow believers and for the sins of the world. We will cry with the psalmist, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Thy law” (Ps. 119:136). We will wish with Jeremiah that our heads were fountains of water that we could have enough tears for weeping (Jer. 9:1; cf. Lam. 1:16). With Ezekiel we will search out faithful believers “who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed” around us (Ezek. 9:4; cf. Ps. 69:9). We will look out over the community where we live and weep, as Jesus looked out over Jerusalem and wept (Luke 19:41).

The second way to determine if we have genuine mourning over sin is to check our sense of God’s forgiveness. Have we experienced the release and freedom of knowing our sins are forgiven? Do we have His peace and joy in our life? Can we point to true happiness He has given in response to our mourning? Do we have the divine comfort He promises to those who have forgiven, cleansed, and purified lives?

The godly mourners “who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:5–6).[2]


4 Black (Aramaic Approach, 157) notes how the Matthean and Lukan (6:21b, 25b) forms of this beatitude could each have been part of a larger parallelism—an observation that goes nicely with the hypothesis that the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain are reports of one discourse, relying somewhat on common sources (see Overview, 5:1–7:29).

Some commentators deny that this mourning is for sin (e.g., Bonnard). Others (e.g., Schweizer) understand it to be mourning for any kind of misery. The reality is subtler. The godly remnant of Jesus’ day weeps because of the humiliation of Israel, but they understand that it comes from personal and corporate sins. The psalmist testified, “Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed” (Ps 119:136; cf. Eze 9:4). When Jesus preached, “The kingdom of heaven is near,” he, like John the Baptist before him, expected not jubilation but contrite tears. It is not enough to acknowledge personal spiritual bankruptcy (Mt 5:3) with a cold heart. Weeping for sins can be deeply poignant (Ezr 10:6; Ps 51:4; Da 9:19–20) and can cover a global as well as personal view of sin and our participation in it. Paul understands these matters well (cf. Ro 7:24; 1 Co 5:2; 2 Co 12:21; Php 3:18).

“Comfort, comfort my people” (Isa 40:1) is God’s response. These first two beatitudes deliberately allude to the messianic blessing of Isaiah 61:1–3 (see Lk 4:16–19; cf. France, Jesus and the Old Testament, 134–35), confirming them as eschatological and messianic. The Messiah comes to bestow “the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isa 61:3). But these blessings, already realized partially but fully only at the consummation (Rev 7:17), depend on a Messiah who comes to save his people from their sins (1:21; cf. 11:28–30). Those who claim to experience all its joys without tears mistake the nature of the kingdom. In Charles Wesley’s words:

He speaks, and listening to his voice,

New life the dead receive;

The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,

The humble poor believe.[3]


5:4 Those who mourn are blessed; a day of comfort awaits them. This does not refer to mourning because of the vicissitudes of life. It is the sorrow which one experiences because of fellowship with the Lord Jesus. It is an active sharing of the world’s hurt and sin with Jesus. Therefore, it includes, not only sorrow for one’s own sin, but also sorrow because of the world’s appalling condition, it’s rejection of the Savior, and the doom of those who refuse His mercy. These mourners shall be comforted in the coming day when “God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4). Believers do all their mourning in this life; for unbelievers, today’s grief is only a foretaste of eternal sorrow.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 109). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 152–165). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 162–163). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1216). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

APRIL 6 – RESURRECTION POWER

Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

Matthew 28:18

 

Let us be confident, Christian brethren, that our power does not lie in the manger at Bethlehem nor in the relics of the cross. True spiritual power resides in the victory of the mighty, resurrected Lord of glory, who could pronounce after spoiling death: “All power is given me in heaven and in earth.”

The power of the Christian believer lies in the Savior’s triumph of eternal glory!

Christ’s resurrection brought about a startling change of direction for the believers. Sadness and fear and mourning marked the direction of their religion before they knew that Jesus was raised from the dead—their direction was towards the grave. When they heard the angelic witness, “He is risen, as He said,” the direction immediately shifted away from the tomb—“He is risen, indeed!” If this is not the meaning of Easter, the Christian church is involved only in a shallow one-day festival each year.

Thankfully, the resurrection morning was only the beginning of a great, vast outreach that has never ended—and will not end until our Lord Jesus Christ comes back again!

 

Dear Heavenly Father, speed the triumphant resurrection message into areas not yet reached by the gospel. Strengthen, encourage and equip Your servants for this awesome task.[1]


Worship

And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, (28:17–18a)

The second element implied here for effective fulfillment of the church’s mission is the attitude of genuine worship. When God is not truly worshiped, He cannot be truly served, no matter how talented, gifted, or well-intentioned His servants may be.

The moment Jesus appeared and the disciples saw Him, they worshiped Him, prostrating themselves in humble adoration before their divine Lord and Savior. When they saw the risen Jesus on the hillside, their confusion disappeared and their shattered dreams were restored. Their sorrow turned into unbelievable joy and their disillusionment into unwavering hope.

The believers gathered there were not giving homage to a human dignitary or mere earthly ruler but were worshiping God’s own Son, the Lord of heaven and earth. Though no spoken words are recorded, in their hearts they must have been saying with Thomas after his last doubts were assuaged, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

On but one previous occasion does Scripture say that the eleven disciples actually worshiped Jesus. After He walked to them on the water, they “worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’ ” (Matt. 14:33). Now their awe and their certainty of His divinity were immeasurably greater, because He was risen from the dead. It is probable that the worship of Christ on that day in Galilee has been equaled few other times in all of human history.

Yet, amazingly, some were still doubtful. That simple phrase inserted by Matthew is but one of countless small and indirect testimonies to the integrity of Scripture. In transparent honesty, the gospel writer sets forth the incident as it actually happened, with no attempt to make it more dramatic or convincing than it was. As he portrayed Jesus in His divine perfection, he also portrayed Jesus’ followers, including himself, in their human imperfection.

Those who attempt to write history to their own liking are inclined to magnify that which is favorable and omit that which is not. Had Matthew and the other gospel writers contrived Jesus’ resurrection, they would have had made every effort to exclude any fact or incident that would have tarnished their case. Nor would they have hesitated to falsify evidence and distort the truth. A person who lies about something of major importance has no scruples about telling lesser lies to support his primary deceit. Matthew’s simple honesty testifies both to his own honesty and to the integrity of God’s Word.

The identity of the doubters is not given. Because the eleven disciples are the only ones specifically mentioned in this passage, some interpreters insist that those who were doubtful were of that group. But as already noted, it is probable that hundreds of other believers were also present.

Exactly what was doubted is also not specified. If the fact of Jesus’ resurrection was in question, then the doubters could not have included any of the eleven, because all of them had already witnessed the risen Christ, some on several occasions. It seems most likely that the doubt concerned whether or not the person who appeared to them was actually the physically risen Christ or some form of imposter. Out of that large group, only the eleven disciples and some of the women who had come to the tomb had seen the risen Christ. Perhaps some of those in the back of the crowd could not see Jesus clearly and, like Thomas, were reluctant to believe such an amazing truth without firm evidence.

As if to alleviate that doubt, Jesus graciously came up and spoke to them. Whatever the doubt was and whoever the doubters were, as the Lord came nearer and as His familiar voice sounded in their ears once again, all uncertainty was erased. Now those who had doubted fell down and joined the others in worship.

Nothing else now mattered. It made no difference where they lived, what their heritage was, what their economic or social position was, or what their nationality was. They were now in the presence of the living God.

The complete focus was on Christ. That is the essence of true worship-single-minded, unhindered, and unqualified concentration on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Not simply to the Corinthians, but to every person to whom he spoke and in every place he ministered, Paul “determined to know nothing among [them] except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). In his own life the apostle was determined to “know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10). Paul’s life was so totally Christ-centered that he could say with perfect sincerity, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Submission

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (28:18b)

The third element for effective fulfillment of the church’s mission is another attitude, the implied attitude of submission. The focus of Jesus’ declaration here is on His sovereign lordship, but in context it also clearly relates to the believers response to His rule.

Before the Lord states the Great Commission, He establishes His divine authority to command it. It is because of His sovereign power that His followers are to have the attitude of complete, humble submission to His will.

Exousia (authority) refers to the freedom and right to speak and act as one pleases. In relation to God, that freedom and right are absolute and unlimited. The all is both reinforced and delineated by the phrase in heaven and earth. The sovereign authority given to Jesus by His heavenly Father (see Matt. 11:27; John 3:35) is absolute and universal.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated His authority over disease and sickness (Matt. 4:23; 9:35), over demons (4:24; 8:32; 12:22), over sin (9:6), and over death (Mark 5:41–42; John 11:43–44). Except for the forgiveness of sins, Jesus even exhibited the authority to delegate such powers to certain of His followers (Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:9, 17). He has authority to bring all men before the tribunal of God and to condemn them to eternal death or bring them to eternal life (John 5:27–29; 17:2). He had the authority to lay down His own life and to take it up again (John 10:18). He has the sovereign authority to rule both heaven and earth and to subjugate Satan and his demons to eternal torment in the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20; 20:10). Satan’s tempting Jesus by offering Him rulership over the world (Matt. 4:8–9) not only was wicked but foolish, because lordship of both heaven and earth was already Christ’s inheritance by divine fiat.

Even the prophet Daniel foresaw sovereign authority being given to Christ. In his night vision he beheld “One like a Son of Man … coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13–14; cf. Isa. 9:6–7).

Jesus Himself described His coming dominion. “The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky,” He said, “and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30; cf. 26:64).

Jesus’ sovereign authority was given to Him by His Father, who “has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22), “made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), and has “highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:9–11). Then, finally, in an act of adoring love and submission, “when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

Before giving the commission, Jesus first established His absolute, pervasive authority, because otherwise the command would have seemed hopelessly impossible for the disciples to fulfill, and they might have ignored it. Were it not for knowing they had the Lord’s sovereign demand as well as His resources to guide and empower them, those five hundred nondescript, powerless disciples would have been totally overwhelmed by the inconceivable task of making disciples for their Lord from among every nation on earth.

Submission to the absolute sovereignty of Jesus Christ is not a believer’s option but is his supreme obligation. It is not negotiable or adjustable to one’s own particular inclinations and plans. It is rather the attitude that says with absolute sincerity, “Whatever the Lord commands, I will do.”[2]


18 “All” dominates vv. 18–20 and ties these verses together: all authority, all nations, all things (NIV, “everything”), all the days (NIV, “always”). The authority of Jesus Messiah has already been heavily stressed in this gospel (e.g., 7:29; 10:1, 7–8; 11:27; 22:43–44; 24:35; cf. Jn 17:2). Therefore, it is incautious, if not altogether wrong, to claim that the resurrection conferred on Jesus an authority incomparably greater than what he enjoyed before his crucifixion. The truth is more subtle. It is not that anything he teaches or does during the days of his flesh is less authoritative than what he now says and does. Even during his ministry, his words, like God’s, cannot pass away (24:35); and he, like God, forgives sin (9:6). It is not Jesus’ authority per se that becomes more absolute. Rather, the spheres in which he now exercises absolute authority are enlarged to include all heaven and earth, i.e., the universe. This authority has been “given” him by the Father; and so, of course, the Father is exempt from the Son’s authority (cf. 1 Co 15:27–28). The Son becomes the one through whom all God’s authority is mediated. He is, as it were, the mediatorial King. This well-defined exercise of authority is given Jesus as the climactic vindication of his humiliation (cf. Php 2:5–11), and it marks a turning point in redemptive history, for Messiah’s “kingdom” (i.e., his “king-dominion,” the exercise of his divine and saving authority; see comments at 3:2; 13:37–39) has dawned in new power. Certainly such claims challenge the sweep of the authority and mission of the Roman Empire (so Carter, Matthew and the Margins, 549–50), but the vision is primarily theological and cosmic, not merely political. This is still clearer if we accept the view that there is a conscious allusion here to Daniel 7:13–14 (cf. France, Jesus and the Old Testament, 142–43): the Son of Man, once humiliated and suffering, is given universal authority (same word in the LXX).

Contrary to France, it does not follow from this that Matthew 26:64 and Mark 14:62 refer to this exaltation and not the Parousia. In the first place, the chief priests in no way witnessed this coming of the Son of Man; in the second place, we have repeatedly observed how the coming of the Son of Man to kingly authority cannot be reduced to a single moment in redemptive history.[3]


28:18 Then the Lord explained that all authority had been given to Him in heaven and on earth. In one sense, of course, He always had all authority. But here He was speaking of authority as Head of the new creation. Since His death and resurrection, He had authority to give eternal life to all whom God had given to Him (John 17:2). He had always had power as the firstborn of all creation. But now that He had completed the work of redemption, He had authority as the first-born from the dead—“that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col. 1:15, 18).[4]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 28:16–18). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 665). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1312). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

APRIL 6 – ALL HAD A SHARE IN PUTTING JESUS ON THE CROSS

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.

1 PETER 3:18

There is a strange conspiracy of silence in the world today—even in religious circles—about man’s responsibility for sin, the reality of judgment, and about an outraged God and the necessity for a crucified Saviour. But still there lies a great shadow upon every man and every woman—the fact that our Lord was bruised and wounded and crucified for the entire human race! This is the basic human responsibility that men are trying to push off and evade.

Let us not eloquently blame Judas nor Pilate. Let us not curl our lips at Judas and accuse: “He sold Him for money!”

Oh, they were guilty, certainly! But they were our accomplices in crime. They and we put Him on the cross, not they alone. That rising malice and anger that burns so hotly in your breast today put Him there! The evil, the hatred, the suspicion, the jealousy, the lying tongue, the cheating, the carnality, the fleshly love of pleasure—all of these in natural man joined in putting Him on the cross!

There is a powerful movement swirling throughout the world designed to give people peace of mind in relieving them of any historical responsibility for the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But we may as well admit it. Every one of us in Adam’s race had a share in putting Him on the cross![1]


For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, (3:18a)

The conjunctions also and for point Peter’s readers back to the previous passage (3:13–17) and remind them that they ought not to be surprised or discouraged by suffering, since Christ triumphed in His suffering even though He died an excruciating death, and that of the most horrific kind—crucifixion. In contrast, the author of the letter to the Hebrews reminded his readers who suffered that they had “not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (12:4). Most believers will not die as martyrs, but even when they do, that death is the wages of their sin (Rom. 6:23). All people die because they are sinful, which makes even a death for righteousness’ sake a just death, in a sense. Man deserves to die; Jesus did not.

Some translations (e.g., kjv, nkjv) of this verse render died as “suffered,” a reading based on variant Greek manuscripts. But the different translations do not change the meaning: Christ suffered in that He died for sins. Sin caused the sinless Christ’s death. This is the supreme example of suffering for righteousness’ sake (v. 18), and He willingly endured it on behalf of sinners (Isa. 53:4–6, 8–12; Matt. 26:26–28; John 1:29; 10:11, 15; Rom. 5:8–11; 8:32; 1 Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:15, 18–19; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 2:13–16; Col. 1:20–22; 1 Thess. 1:10; 1 Tim. 2:5–6; Heb. 2:9, 17; 7:27; 9:12, 24–28; 10:10; 13:12; 1 John 1:7; 2:2; 4:10; Rev. 1:5; 5:9). Earlier in this letter, Peter asserted that Christ “committed no sin” (2:22). He never had a single thought, word, or action that did not fully please God; rather His behavior in every respect was perfectly holy (Isa. 53:11; Luke 1:35; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; cf. John 5:30; Heb. 1:9).

So Jesus died for sins in that He was “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28; cf. Rom. 8:3; Heb. 10:5–10). In the Old Testament economy, God required animal sacrifices to symbolize the need to atone for sin by the death of an innocent substitute (Ex. 29:31–33, 36; Lev. 1:4–5; 8:34; 16:2–16; 17:11; 23:26–27; Num. 15:25; 1 Chron. 6:49); the New Testament presents Christ as that perfect sacrifice who fulfilled all the symbols in the reality of atoning for all sinners who would ever believe (John 3:14–15; Rom. 5:6–11; 1 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 9:11–14, 24, 28; 12:24; 13:11–12).

The phrase once for all translates the word hapax, which means “of perpetual validity, not requiring repetition.” For the Jews so familiar with their sacrificial system, that was a new concept. To atone for sin, they had slaughtered millions of animals over the centuries. During their annual Passover celebration, as many as a quarter million sheep would be sacrificed. But Jesus Christ’s one sacrificial death ended that insufficient parade of animals to the altar and was sufficient for all and for all time (Heb. 1:3; 7:26–27; 9:24–28; 10:10–12), as He took the punishment due the elect and bore it for them, thus fully satisfying God’s righteous judgment.

Thus, in Christ’s substitutionary death, He suffered the just for the unjust. As the perfect offering for sin, He willingly (John 10:15–18) and in accord with the Father’s redemptive purpose from before the foundation of the world (Acts 2:23; 4:27–28; 13:27–29; cf. 2 Tim. 1:9; Rev. 13:8) took upon Himself the entire penalty due the unrighteous (2:24). No text says it more concisely than 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Much more can be said about sin and imputation, as is elsewhere (cf. Rom. 3–6), but here Peter directs his statements at the practical, referring to the substitutionary suffering of Jesus as an illustration of how the most extreme affliction and injustice resulted in the singularly supreme triumph of salvation. This should be eminently encouraging to believers who suffer unjustly.

The triumph in Christ’s death is expressed in the phrase that He might bring [believers] to God. The divine tearing of the temple veil from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51) symbolically demonstrated the reality that He had opened the way to God. The heavenly Holy of Holies, the “throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16), was made available for immediate access by all true believers. As royal priests (2:9), all believers are welcomed into God’s presence (Heb. 4:16; 10:19–22).

The verb translated He might bring (prosagō) expresses the specific purpose of Jesus’ actions. It often describes someone’s being introduced or given access to another. In classical Greek the noun form refers to the one making the introduction. In ancient courts certain officials controlled access to the king. They verified someone’s right to see him and then introduced that person to the monarch. Christ now performs that function for believers. Hebrews 6:20 says concerning the inner court of heaven that He “has entered as a forerunner for [believers], having become a high priest forever.” Christ entered to bring the elect into communion with God (cf. Ps. 110:4; Heb. 2:17–18; 3:1–2; 4:14–15; 5:4–6; 7:17, 21–22, 25; 8:1–2, 6; 9:13–14).

Christ’s Triumphant Sermon

having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, (3:18b–20a)

Some critics have disputed Christ’s resurrection from the dead by claiming He never died in the first place. According to such skeptical reasoning, He merely fainted into a semi-coma on the cross, was revived in the coolness of the tomb, unwrapped Himself, and walked out. But the phrase having been put to death in the flesh leaves no doubt that on the cross Jesus’ physical life ceased. To hasten the deaths of the two thieves at Calvary crucified on either side of Christ, the Roman executioners broke their legs (John 19:31–32). (Crucifixion victims postponed their deaths as long as possible by pushing themselves up on their legs, which allowed them to gasp for another breath.) However, the soldiers did not bother to break Christ’s legs because they could see He was already dead. Confirming that reality, one of them pierced His side with a spear, causing blood and water to flow out, a physiological sign He was certainly dead (19:33–37).

The phrase made alive in the spirit is a reference to Jesus’ eternal inner person. The Greek text omits the definite article, which suggests Peter was not referring to the Holy Spirit, but that the Lord was spiritually alive, contrasting the condition of Christ’s flesh (body) with that of His spirit. His eternal spirit has always been alive, although His earthly body was then dead; but three days later His body was resurrected in a transformed and eternal state.

Some interpreters think the aforementioned phrase describes Jesus’ resurrection. But if the apostle had intended to make such a reference he would have used an expression such as, “He was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the flesh.” The resurrection was not merely a spiritual reality—it was physical (cf. Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 27). Thus Peter’s point here must be that though Jesus’ body was dead, He remained alive in His spirit (cf. Luke 23:46).

Although Christ is the One who is eternal life itself (1 John 5:20), He did experience a kind of spiritual death—defined not as cessation of existence but an experience of separation from God. While on the cross, Jesus was fully conscious as He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). That utterance reflected His temporary and humanly incomprehensible sense of alienation from the Father while God’s full wrath and the burden of sinners’ iniquities were placed on Him and judged (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:10–13; Heb. 9:28). For that brief time, Christ’s experience paralleled the condition of unbelievers who live, paradoxically, in spiritual death (separation from God) in this life and face divine judgment in physical death (cf. Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43–48; John 3:36; Rev. 20:15). In His death for sin and resurrection to eternal glory, Christ conquered death; however, unregenerate sinners die their own deaths for their unrepented sins and go to eternal shame and punishment.[2]


18 Immediately preceding this verse, the writer stresses the Christian response to persecution. Believers are thus to look to their Lord: “For Christ suffered …” (NIV, “died”; paschō,GK 4248, used twelve times in 1 Peter, roughly one-third of all its occurrences in the NT). This suffering, moreover, was vicarious, for the sins of others; it was substitutionary atonement—“the righteous for the unrighteous,” unique and once-for-all (hapax, GK 562) in character (Heb 7:27; 9:28; 10:11–12; cf. Jude 5). This was done, writes Peter, “to bring [prosagō, GK 4642] you to God.” Accessibility to the divine throne, where Peter ends in this parenthetical insertion (3:22), is of critical importance to the readers psychologically if they are enduring considerable hardship in the present cultural context.

That Christ was “put to death [thanatoō, GK 2506] in the body” establishes immediate and crucial identification with the readers. Both share a common existential experience (lit.) “in the flesh”: both suffer. But this is not the end; the story progresses. While Christ was put to death in the flesh, on the one hand, he was also and subsequently “made alive by the Spirit” (zōopoieō pneumati). This flesh-Spirit contrast serves several purposes. At one level, it counters any divorce or dichotomizing of the two that would have typified Hellenistic thinking (cf. 1 Jn 4:2). The scandal of the early church’s preaching was its Christology: Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine (cf. Col 1:19). At another level, it reminds the audience that, while “the body is weak,” indeed, the Spirit is willing (cf. Mt 26:41). The same Spirit who sanctifies (1:2), grants revelation (1:11), makes us holy (1:15–16), and raised Jesus from the dead (3:18) also quickens the believer. The Spirit helps us transcend our earthly limitations.[3]


3:18 The rest of chapter 3 presents Christ as the classic example of One who suffered for righteousness’ sake, and reminds us that for Him, suffering was the pathway to glory.

Notice the six features of His sufferings: (1) They were expiatory, that is, they freed believing sinners from the punishment of their sins. (2) They were eternally effectual. He died once for all and settled the sin question. The work of redemption was completed. (3) They were substitutionary. The just died for the unjust. “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6b). (4) They were reconciling. Through His death we have been brought to God. The sin which caused alienation has been removed. (5) They were violent. His death was by execution. (6) Finally, they were climaxed by resurrection. He was raised from the dead on the third day. The expression made alive by the Spirit means that His resurrection was through the power of the Holy Spirit.[4]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 206–209). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] Charles, D. J. (2006). 1 Peter. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 338). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2271–2272). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 6 – How to Be Least in Christ’s Kingdom

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 5:19a

The result of a believer’s practicing or teaching disobedience of any part of Scripture is to “be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” “Called” does not refer merely to what people say about us, but what God says about us. Others usually know nothing of or don’t care about our disobedience, but God always knows and cares.

It is completely God’s prerogative to determine rank in His kingdom (cf. Matt. 20:23). Therefore He has a perfect right to hold those in lowest esteem who have a low esteem for the Word. This does not mean the Lord will take away the offender’s salvation; they are still “in the kingdom of heaven.” But it does mean they will forfeit certain blessing and reward to whatever extent they are disobedient and disrespectful. The apostle John warned his readers, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8).

If we ignore or reject even the most minor aspect of God’s law, we devalue all of it (James 2:10) and join the ranks of God’s least. It should be the highest concern of us who profess to love our Savior and Lord never to prompt Him to call us the least.

ASK YOURSELF
Few of us would admit to devaluing the Word of God, but perhaps that’s because we limit to one or two the number of ways this is done. How might a person show disrespect for the Scripture ’s authority and teaching beyond the most obvious offenses?[1]

Christ and the Law—Part 3: The Pertinence of Scripture

(5:19)

 

24

 

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (5:19)

In the last several decades the expression “do your own thing” has described a popular approach to behavior. Freedom has been equated with doing what you want. The philosophical corollary of that attitude is antinomianism, the rejection of law, regulations, and rules of every sort. Such was the attitude in ancient Israel during the time of the judges, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25).

Antinomianism is reflected in our own day in personal existentialism, the concept that teaches the fulfillment only of the present moment, regardless of standards or codes or consequences. Rejection of authority follows logically from personal existentialism: we want no one else making rules for us or holding us accountable for what we say or do. The inevitable consequence of that philosophy is breakdown of the home, of school, of church, of government, and of society in general. When no one wants to be accountable to anyone else, the only thing to survive is anarchy.

Even the church has not escaped such attitudes. Many congregations hesitate or even refuse to discipline members who are flagrantly immoral, dishonest, or heretical. For fear of offending, of losing financial support, of being thought old-fashioned or legalistic, or even for fear of stepping on someone else’s presumed rights, there is widespread failure to maintain God’s clear standards of righteousness in His own church. In the name of grace, love, forgiveness, and other “positive” biblical teachings and standards, sin is dismissed or excused.

Some Christians claim that, because God’s grace covers every offense a believer can ever commit, there is no need to bother about holy living. Some even argue that, because the sinful flesh is presently unredeemed in its corruption and is going to be done away with at glorification, it does not make any difference what that part of us does now. Our new divine, incorruptible nature is good and eternal, and that is all that counts. That idea is simply a rebirth of the Greek dualism that wreaked so much havoc in the early church, and that Paul dealt with in the Corinthian letters.

But even the sincere Christian cannot help wondering about the relation between law and grace. The New Testament plainly teaches that in some very important ways believers are freed from the law. But what, exactly, is our freedom in Christ? In Matthew 5:19 the Lord confronts that question and reaffirms what that freedom cannot mean.

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus had pointed out the law’s preeminence, because it was authored by God, affirmed by the prophets, and accomplished by the Messiah, the Christ. In verse 18 He showed its permanence, its lasting without the smallest change or reduction “until heaven and earth pass away.” Now in verse 19 He shows its pertinence. The Jews were still under the full requirements of the Old Testament law.

In verses 17 and 18 Jesus declared that He came to fulfill and not diminish or disobey the law, and in verse 19 He declares that citizens of His kingdom are also not to diminish or disobey it. In light of His own attitude about and response to the law, Jesus now teaches what the attitude and response of His followers should be.

The law is pertinent for those who believe in Christ because of its own character, because of the consequences of obeying or disobeying, and because its demands are clarified and enforced throughout the rest of the New Testament.

The Character of the Law

The then, or therefore, refers to what Jesus has just said about the law. The law is utterly pertinent to those who trust in God, because it is His Word and is exalted by the prophets and accomplished by the Messiah Himself. Because the Bible is not a collection of men’s religious ideas but God’s revelation of divine truth, its teachings are not speculations to be judged but truths to be believed; its commands are not suggestions to be considered but requirements to be followed.

Because Scripture is given by God for man, nothing could be more relevant to man than this revelation. Scripture is the standard of relevance by which all other relevance is measured.

The Consequences of Men’s Responses to the Law

The consequences of the law depend on a person’s response to it. Whoever responds to it positively will receive a positive result, but whoever responds to it negatively will receive a negative result.

The Negative Consequence

Jesus mentions the negative result first: Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.

Luō (annuls) is a common word in the New Testament and can mean to break, set loose, release, dissolve, or even to melt. The idea here is that of annulling God’s law, or making it void, by loosing ourselves from its requirements and standards. Jesus used a compounded and stronger form of that term (kataluō) in verse 17 in asserting that He had not come “to abolish the Law or the Prophets.”

Fallen human nature resents prohibitions and demands. Even Christians are tempted to modify and weaken God’s standards. Because of ignorance, misunderstanding, or outright disregard, believers find reasons to make God’s commands less demanding than they are. But when a Christian ceases to revere and obey God’s Word in even the slightest degree, to that degree He is being un-Christlike, because that is something Christ refused to do.

The Jews of Jesus’ day had divided the Old Testament laws into two categories. Two hundred forty-eight were positive commands, and three hundred sixty-five-one for each day of the year-were negative. The scribes and Pharisees would have long, heated debates about which laws in each category were the most important and which were the least.

Scripture itself makes clear that all of God’s commands are not of equal importance. When a lawyer among the Pharisees asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus replied without hesitation: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment.” He then went on to say, “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Matt. 22:37–39). Jesus acknowledged that one commandment is supreme above all others and that another is second in importance. It follows that all the other commandments fall somewhere below those two and that, like them, they vary in importance.

In His series of woes Jesus gives another indication of the relative importance of God’s commands. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Matt. 23:23). The tithing of herbs was required; but being just, merciful, and faithful are much more spiritually important.

Jesus’ point here, however, is that it is not permissible to annul-by ignoring, modifying, or disobeying-even one of the least of these commandments. Some commands are greater than others, but none are to be disregarded.

Paul reminded the Ephesian elders that while he had ministered among them, he “did not shrink from declaring to [them] the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). The apostle did not pick and choose what he would teach and exhort. He stressed some things more than others, but he left nothing out.

The person who teaches others to disregard or disobey any part of God’s word is an even worse offender. He not only annuls the law himself but causes others to annul it. Besides that, his disobedience obviously is intentional. It is possible to break God’s commands by being ignorant of them or forgetting them. But to teach others to break them has to be conscious and intentional.

James cautions, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). Every believer is accountable for himself, but those who teach are also accountable for those whom they teach. “The head is the eider and honorable man,” writes Isaiah, “and the prophet who teaches falsehood is the tail. For those who guide this people are leading them astray; and those who are guided by them are brought to confusion” (Isa. 9:15–16).

Jesus’ warning does not simply apply to official or formal teachers. Every person teaches. By our example we continually help those around us either to be more obedient or more disobedient. We also teach by what we say, When we speak lovingly and respectfully of God’s Word, we teach love and respect for it. When we speak disparagingly or slightingly of God’s Word, we teach disregard and disrespect for it. When we ignore its demands, we give loud testimony to its unimportance to us.

Just after Paul reminded the elders from Ephesus that he had been faithful in teaching them God’s full Word, he warned them, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock. … I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28–30).

The consequence of practicing or teaching disobedience of any of God’s Word is to be called least in the kingdom of heaven. I do not believe, as some commentators suggest, that called refers to what men say about us, but to what God says about us. Our reputation among other people, including other Christians, may or may not be adversely affected. Often other people do not know about our disobedience, and often when they know they do not care. But God always knows, and He always cares. It is only what we are called by God that is of any ultimate importance. It should be the concern of every believer who loves his Lord that He never have cause to call him the least.

Determining rank in the kingdom of heaven is entirely God’s prerogative (cf. Matt. 20:23), and Jesus declares that He will hold those in lowest esteem who hold His Word in lowest esteem. There is no impunity for those who disobey, discredit, or belittle God’s law.

That Jesus does not refer to loss of salvation is clear from the fact that, though offenders will be called least, they will still be in the kingdom of heaven. But blessing, reward, fruitfulness, joy, and usefulness will all be sacrificed to the extent that we are disobedient. “Watch yourselves,” John warns, “that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8). It is possible to lose in the second phase of our Christian lives what we built up in the first.

To disdain even the smallest part of God’s Word is to demonstrate disdain for all of it, because its parts are inseparable. James teaches that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). To ignore or reject the least of God’s law is therefore to cheapen all of it and to become the least in His kingdom. Such Christians receive their rank because of their ill treatment of Scripture, not, as some imagine, because they may have lesser gifts.

The Positive Consequence

The positive result is that whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Here again Jesus mentions the two aspects of doing and teaching. Kingdom citizens are to uphold every part of God’s law, both in their living and in their teaching.

Paul could tell the Thessalonians, “You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:10–12). Paul had been faithful to live and teach among them all of God’s Word, just as he had done at Ephesus and everywhere else he ministered.

God’s moral law is a reflection of God’s very character and is therefore changeless and eternal. The things it requires will not have to be commanded in heaven, but they will be manifested in heaven because they manifest God. While God’s people are still on earth, however, they do not naturally reflect the character of their heavenly Father, and His moral standards continue to be commanded and supernaturally produced (cf. Rom. 8:2–4).

“Prescribe and teach these things,” Paul tells Timothy, “[and] in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:11–12). Near the end of the same letter Paul tells Timothy to flee from all evil things and, as a man of God, to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (6:11–12).

Paul both kept and taught the full Word of God, and he is therefore among those who will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. No one who does not do the same will be in the ranks of God’s great saints.

Greatness is not determined by gifts, success, popularity, reputation, or size of ministry-but by a believer’s view of Scripture as revealed in his life and teaching.

Jesus’ promise is not simply to great teachers such as Paul-or Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, or Spurgeon. His promise applies to every believer who teaches others to obey God’s Word by faithfully, carefully, and lovingly living by and speaking of that Word. Every believer does not have the gift of teaching the deep doctrines of Scripture, but every believer is called and is able to teach the right attitude toward it.

The Clarification of the Law

We know from the thrust of the New Testament epistles that Jesus is speaking here of God’s permanent moral law. The Sermon on the Mount is just as valid for believers today as it was for those to whom Jesus preached it directly, because every principle and standard taught here is also taught in the epistles. The other writers make absolutely clear that believers’ obligation to obey God’s moral law not only did not cease at Christ’s coming but was reaffirmed by Christ and remains energized by the Holy Spirit for the entire church age.

There is indeed a paradox in regard to the law, and it is especially evident in Paul’s letters. On the one hand we are told of the law’s being fulfilled and done away with, and on the other that we are still obliged to obey it. Speaking of the Jews and Gentiles, Paul says that Christ “is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace” (Eph. 2:14–15). When the church came into existence the “dividing wall” of civil, judicial law crumbled and disappeared.

In God’s eyes Israel was temporarily set aside as a nation at the cross, when she crucified her King and rejected His kingdom. In the world’s eyes Israel ceased to exist as a nation in a.d. 70, when all of Jerusalem, including the Temple, was razed to the ground by the Romans under Titus. (Her restoration nationally is but a preparation for her restoration spiritually, as Romans 9–11 teaches.)

The ceremonial law also came to an end. While Jesus was still hanging on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). The Temple worship and the sacrifices were no longer valid, even symbolically. That part of the law was finished, accomplished, and done away with by Christ.

There is even a sense in which God’s moral law is no longer binding on believers. Paul speaks of our not being under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14). But just before that he had said, “do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts” (v. 12), and immediately after verse 14 he says, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” (v. 15). Those in Christ are no longer under the ultimate penalty of the law, but are far from free of its requirement of righteousness.

To the Romans Paul said, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4), and to the Galatians he wrote, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law” (Gal. 5:18). But he had just made it clear that Christians are not in the least free from God’s moral standards. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (v. 17). The law that was once “our tutor to lead us to Christ” (Gal. 3:24) now leads us as “sons of God through Christ Jesus” to be clothed with Christ (vv. 26–27), and His clothing is the clothing of practical righteousness. If Christ’s own righteousness never diminished or disobeyed God’s moral law, how can His disciples be free to do so?

Paul harmonized the idea when he spoke of himself as being “without the law of God but under the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21). In Christ we are anything but lawless. Christ’s law is totally different from the Jewish judicial and ceremonial law and different from the Old Testament moral law, with its penalties and curses for disobedience. But it is not different in the slightest from the holy, righteous standards that the Old Testament law taught.

The Old Testament law is still a moral guide, as in revealing sin (Rom. 7:7). Even when it provokes sin (v. 8), it helps us see the wickedness of our own flesh and our helplessness apart from Christ. And even when we see the condemnation of the law (vv. 9–11), it should remind us that our Savior took that condemnation upon Himself on the cross (5:18; 8:1; 1 Pet. 2:24; etc.). Whenever a Christian looks at God’s moral law with humility, meekness, and a sincere desire for righteousness, the law will invariably point him to Christmas it was always intended to do. And for believers to live by it is for them to become like Christ. It could not possibly be otherwise, because it is God’s law, and it reflects God’s character. “So then,” Paul is careful to remind us, “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (v. 12).

Paul concludes Romans 7 by thanking “God through Jesus Christ our Lord” that even though his flesh served “the law of sin,” his mind served “the law of God” (7:25). The penalty of the law has been paid for us by Jesus Christ, but also in Him the righteousness of the law is “fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4; cf. Gal. 5:13–24).[2]


19 The contrast between the least and the greatest in the kingdom probably supports gradation within kingdom ranks (as in 11:11, though the word for “least” is different there; cf. 18:1–4). It is probably not a Semitic way of referring to the exclusion-inclusion duality (contra Bonnard). The one who breaks “one of the least of these commandments” is not excluded from the kingdom—the linguistic usage is against this interpretation (see Meier, Law and History, 92–95)—but is very small or unimportant in the kingdom (taking elachistos [GK 1788] in the elative sense). The idea of gradations of privilege or dishonor in the kingdom occurs elsewhere in the Synoptic Gospels (20:20–28; cf. Lk 12:47–48). Distinctions are made not only according to the measure by which one keeps “the least of these commandments” but also according to the faithfulness with which one teaches them.

But what are “these commandments”? It is hard to justify restriction of these words to Jesus’ teachings (so Banks, Jesus and the Law, 221–23), even though the verb cognate to “commands” (entolōn, GK 1953) is used of Jesus’ teachings in 28:20 (entellomai); the noun in Matthew never refers to Jesus’ words, and the context argues against it. Restriction to the Ten Commandments (TDNT, 2:548) is alien to the concerns of the context. Nor can we say “these commandments” refers to the antitheses that follow, for in Matthew houtos (“this,” plural “these”) never points forward. It appears, then, that the expression must refer to the commandments of the OT Scriptures. The entire Law and the Prophets are not scrapped by Jesus’ coming but fulfilled. Therefore the commandments of these Scriptures—even the least of them (on distinctions in the law, see comments at 22:36; 23:23)—must be practiced. But the nature of the practicing has already been affected by vv. 17–18. The law pointed forward to Jesus—his activity and his teaching—so it is properly obeyed by conforming to his word. As it points to him, so he, in fulfilling it, establishes what continuity it has, the true direction to which it points and the way it is to be obeyed. Thus ranking in the kingdom turns on the degree of conformity to Jesus’ teaching as that teaching fulfills OT revelation. His teaching, toward which the OT pointed, must be obeyed.[3]


5:19 In returning to the Sermon, we notice that Jesus anticipated a natural tendency to relax God’s commandments. Because they are of such a supernatural nature, people tend to explain them away, to rationalize their meaning. But whoever breaks one part of the law, and teaches other people to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. The wonder is that such people are permitted in the kingdom at all—but then, entrance into the kingdom is by faith in Christ. A person’s position in the kingdom is determined by his obedience and faithfulness while on earth. The person who obeys the law of the kingdom—that person shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 105). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 267–273). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 178–179). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1219). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

APRIL 6 – PLAY WITH YOUR LITTLE BALL

It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.

—Isaiah 40:22

I don’t know where heaven is. I read that the people in the space program shot a gold-plated arrow sixty-some thousand miles into the air, and some are wondering if it might not be reaching heaven at last. I have to smile at that, because God does not dwell in space; space is nothing to God. The great infinite heart of God gathers up into Himself all space.

Our space program is like a baby playing with a rubber ball in Wrigley Field. He can’t do anything but bat it around and crawl after it. If he bats it away two feet, he squeals with delight as if he hit a home run. But way out there, 400 feet long, stretches the field. It takes a strong man to knock a ball over the fence.

When man sends up his little arrow, and it reaches the moon and goes into orbit round it, he boasts about it for years to come. Go on, little boy, play with your rubber ball. But the great God who carries the universe in His heart smiles. He is not impressed. He is calling mankind to Himself, to His holiness, beauty, love, mercy and goodness. He has come to reconcile us and call us back. AOG193

It’s so easy, Lord, for us to think too highly of our worldly intellect. Help me to see You anew in all Your glory, that I might see my comparative smallness and my need for You. Amen. [1]


22 The reference to “the circle of the earth” is unique, but see the somewhat similar phrases of Job 26:10; Proverbs 8:27. The expression probably refers to the horizon, although we cannot be certain. Oswalt (in loc.) thinks it more likely that the reference is to the vault of the heavens (Job 22:14). Watts (in loc.) mentions some variants in the LXX MSS.[2]


40:22 sits above the circle of the earth. The word “circle” is applicable to the spherical form of the earth, above which He sits. This implies that God upholds and maintains His creation on a continuing basis (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3). As He looks down, men seem like insects to the One who has stretched and spread out the universal heavens.[3]


40:22 the circle of the earth. Either the bowl-like sky over the earth (Job 22:14) or the outer horizon encircling the earth (Job 26:10). stretches out the heavens like a curtain. A number of passages (Job 9:8; Ps. 104:2; Isa. 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 51:13; Jer. 10:12; 51:15; Zech. 12:1) use this image (with a verb that means to “pitch” or “stretch out” a tent, cf. Gen. 12:8; 26:25; 33:19; 35:21; Judg. 4:11) to stress that God alone fashioned the heavens and the earth, and prepared them as a place for habitation (to dwell in).[4]


40:22 the circle of the earth Likely refers to the ancient Hebrew idea of a dome or vault over the earth (Gen 1:6–7). The poetic reference also occurs in Job 22:14 and Prov 8:27 with reference to God’s creative power.

the one who stretches out the heavens like a veil See Psa 104:2; Job 9:8. Isaiah makes extensive use of poetic traditions about creation found in Proverbs, Psalms, and Job.[5]


40:22 circle. This is either the horizon, or the hemisphere of the sky over the earth.

tent. God’s creation is compared to a tent He has pitched (42:5; 44:24; 51:13; Ps. 18:11; 19:4).[6]


40:22 “Circle of the earth” refers to the horizon and views God as seated majestically above the earth, looking down.[7]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 727). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 40:22). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1311). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 40:22). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1007). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[7] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Is 40:22). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 6 – The Weight of Our Penalty

Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.

Hebrews 9:28

 

When the apostle Peter said that Christ “bore” our sins (1 Pet. 2:24), he used a term that means “to carry a massive, heavy weight.” That’s what sin is. It’s so heavy that Romans 8:22 says, “The whole creation groans and labors” under its weight. Only Jesus could remove such a weight from us.

When Christ “bore our sins,” He bore the penalty for our sins. He endured physical and spiritual death. When Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46), His was the cry of spiritual death. That was the penalty for bearing our sins.[1]


Judgment Demands a Substitute

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (9:27–28)

All men have to die, and our death is by divine appointment. It is one appointment everyone will keep. After death comes judgment, which is also appointed by God. And since men are not able to atone for their own sins, God’s judgment demands that they pay or have a substitute pay for them.

Like all men, Jesus Christ was divinely appointed to die once. But unlike all other men, He will never face judgment. Because He took our sins upon Himself, He took our judgment upon Himself. But the judgment was for our sins, not for His, for He had none. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). He died the one death that judgment demanded.

As mentioned several times, the people always waited expectantly on the Day of Atonement for the high priest to come out from the Holy of Holies. If he did anything wrong, if he failed to follow God’s precise instructions, he would die. So there was always a sigh of relief, for their own sakes as well as for his, when he reappeared.

That is the situation being alluded to in Hebrews 9:28. If the people were so eager to see the former high priests reappear from the earthly Holy of Holies, how much more should Christians look eagerly for their great High Priest to reappear from the heavenly Holy of Holies? This will occur at the Second Coming (Rev. 19:11–16).

When the high priest walked out of the old sanctuary, the people knew that his sacrifice had been accepted. He had done everything right. Jesus Christ’s reappearing will be one more confirmation that He did everything right, that His Father is satisfied with Him. And because the Father is satisfied with Him, He is satisfied with us, for we are in Him. When He comes back, our salvation will be full. When He appears a second time to those who expect Him, it will not be to deal with sin. Sin only needs to be dealt with once, and this He did on the cross. When He comes again, it will be without reference to sin.

Three appearings of Christ are mentioned in this passage. Verse 26 speaks of His appearing, or being manifested, at the consummation of the ages, that is, when He came to be crucified. Verse 24 speaks of His appearing back in heaven, before the presence of God. Verse 28 speaks of His appearing on earth again. It is His third appearing, but only the second time on earth.

At the end of that eventful Passover week when Jesus was finishing His ministry, the Romans had prepared three crosses for three criminals. On two of the crosses, thieves were to hang. The third cross was for an insurrectionist named Barabbas, who had been found guilty of treason against the empire. But Barabbas never made it to the cross. He was guilty and condemned, but he was not executed—because someone took his place. On the middle cross that day hung not a violent, profane rebel, but the sinless Son of God. Barabbas went free not because he was innocent, but because Jesus took his place. Jesus was crucified not because He was guilty, but so that He could take Barabbas’s place—and the place of every other sinner.[2]


28 “Many” is used to emphasize the contrast between the single sacrifice of the one and its plural effect (cf. 2:10). In the context, it is inappropriate to draw attention to the use of “many” rather than “all”; cf. Ro 5:15–19, where Paul alternates “many” and “all” in a similar context. In all such references to the effect of Christ’s death, the term “many” echoes Jesus’ own words in Mark 10:45; 14:24 with their background in the repeated “many” of Isaiah 53:11–12. The same OT background also accounts for the use here of ἀναφέρω, anapherō (GK 429), here translated “to take away” (elsewhere in Hebrews it means “to offer”), since this is the verb used twice in LXX Isaiah 53:11–12 for “bearing” sins. It might therefore be better translated here “to bear” (on himself), as in 1 Peter 2:24, though the purpose of such “bearing” of sins is, of course, to take them away.[3] 9:28 The New Covenant introduces the infinite sacrifice of Christ; He was offered once to bear the sins of many. It presents the blessed hope of His imminent Return; to those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time. But when He returns, it will not be to deal with the problem of sin: He finished that work at the cross. He will come to take His people home to heaven. This will be the culmination of their salvation; they will receive their glorified bodies and be forever beyond the reach of sin.

The expression, those who eagerly wait for Him, is a description of all true believers. All the Lord’s people look for Him to return, though they may not agree on the exact order of events connected with His Coming.

The Bible does not teach that only a certain group of especially spiritual Christians will be taken to heaven at the time of the Rapture. It describes the participants as “the dead in Christ” and “we who are alive and remain” (1 Thess. 4:16, 17); this means all true believers, dead or living. In 1 Corinthians 15:23 the participants are identified as “those who are Christ’s.”

It has often been pointed out that we have three appearances of Christ in verses 24–28. They may be summarized as follows:

Verse 26: He has appeared. This refers to His First Advent when He came to earth to save us from the penalty of sin (the past tense of salvation).

Verse 24: He now appears. This is a reference to His present ministry in the presence of God to save us from the power of sin (the present tense of salvation).

Verse 28: He will appear. This speaks of His imminent Return when He will save us from the presence of sin (the future tense of salvation).[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 111). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 242–243). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 125). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2188). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 6 – Jesus’ Admonition in Gethsemane

“He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ ”

Matthew 26:40–41

✧✧✧

The need for spiritual vigilance by Christians is constant, but it can’t be achieved in the power of the flesh.

Jesus must have been terribly disappointed in the Garden of Gethsemane when He found the three disciples sleeping. As He labored diligently in prayer before the Father, Peter, James, and John began their desertion of Jesus. They could not even stay awake and offer Him support during His time of greatest need.

Given all that was happening, the Lord’s question, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” was not a harsh rebuke. In the spirit of a mentor, Jesus exhorted the three about their need for divine help: “Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation.”

The phrase “keep watching and praying” indicates that all believers must have vigilance. Jesus wants all of us to anticipate temptation and seek God’s help to resist the adversary, just as He did during His vigilant prayer in the Garden.

Our own best efforts to overcome Satan will certainly fail. The only way to deal with the Devil is to flee immediately from him into God’s presence and prayerfully leave matters with Him.

But even when we know and seek to practice what Jesus told the disciples, it is often difficult to do what is right. Jesus saw His three dearest friends’ reaction and was in the midst of His own spiritual struggle, so He acknowledged, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The apostle Paul also knew the spiritual battle was real and very difficult (Rom. 7:15–23). But Paul was confident, too, that the only source of victory in our most intimidating spiritual challenges is obedience to the power of Jesus Christ: “Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vv. 24–25).

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Ask the Lord’s forgiveness for any recent times when you have failed to be alert and diligent when praying.

For Further Study: Read 1 Peter 5:6–11. What is the first key to spiritual success? ✧ Why must we be alert for Satan? ✧ What makes faithfulness in suffering worthwhile?[1]


But when the Lord returned to the three disciples, He found them sleeping. That discovery, though not unexpected, must have added greatly to His grief and distress. No one can disappoint and hurt us so deeply as those we love. Jesus was not surprised, because in His omniscience He was perfectly aware of their weakness and had predicted that it would, that very night, be manifested even in desertion (see v. 31). But that knowledge did not alleviate the pain caused by their not being sensitive enough or caring enough to watch and pray with Him in the last hours of His life.

Just as these same three disciples had slept when Jesus was transfigured (Luke 9:28, 32), they were sleeping at the moment of the greatest spiritual conflict in the history of the world. They were oblivious to the agony and need of their Lord. Despite His warnings of their abandonment and of Peter’s denial, they felt no need to be alert, much less to seek God’s strength and protection. (How we can thank the Lord for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who continually prays for us! See Rom. 8:26–27.)

It was probably after midnight, and the need for sleep at that hour was natural. Jesus and the disciples had had a long and eventful day, and they had just finished a large meal and walked perhaps a mile or so from the upper room to the Mount of Olives. But even the disciples’ limited and confused perception of His imminent ordeal and of their desertion of Him that He had predicted should have motivated and energized them enough to stay awake with Him at this obviously grave time.

In fairness, it should be noted that sleep is often a means of escape, and the disciples may have slept more out of frustration, confusion, and depression than apathy They could not bring themselves to face the truth that their dear friend and Lord, the promised Messiah of Israel, not only would suffer mockery and pain at the hands of wicked men but would even be put to death by them. As a physician, Luke perhaps was especially diagnostic in viewing their emotional state, and he reports that, as we might expect, they were “sleeping from sorrow” (22:45).

But even that reason did not excuse their lack of vigilance. They did not fully believe Jesus’ predictions of His death and of their desertion primarily because they did not want to believe them. Had they accepted Jesus’ word at face value, their minds and emotions would have been far too exercised to allow sleep.

The startling events and controversies of the last few days-the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ repeated predictions of His suffering and death, the prediction of their fleeing in the time of trial, and the obvious anguish He now experienced-should have provided more than sufficient motivation and energy to keep them awake. But it did not. Had they sought the Father’s help in prayer as Jesus did and as He exhorted them to do, they not only would have stayed awake but would have been given the spiritual strength and courage they so desperately needed.

The disciples’ predicted desertion of Jesus began here, as they left Him alone in His great time of need. His heart must have broken when He said to Peter, but also for the benefit of James and John, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?”

Considering the circumstances, the rebuke was especially mild. It was not Jesus’ purpose to shame the disciples but to strengthen them and teach them their need for divine help. “Keep watching and praying,” He implored, that you may not enter into temptation.”

The Greek verbs behind keep watching and praying are present imperatives and carry the idea of continuous action, indicated in the nasb by keep. The need for spiritual vigilance is not occasional but constant. Jesus was warning His disciples to be discerning enough to know they were in spiritual warfare and to be prepared by God to resist the adversary He was warning them of the danger of self-confidence, which produces spiritual drowsiness.

The only way to keep from being engulfed in temptation is to be aware of Satan’s craftiness and not only to go immediately to our heavenly Father in prayer when we are already under attack but to pray even in anticipation of coming temptation. Peter perhaps first began to learn that lesson on this night in the garden. And after serving faithfully as an apostle for many years, he admonished Christians: “sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). He also gave the assurance, however, that “ord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation” (2 Pet. 2:9).

We cannot overcome Satan or the flesh by our own power, and we risk serious spiritual tragedy when we think we can. When a military observer spots the enemy, he does not single-handedly engage him in battle. He simply reports what he saw and leaves the matter in the commanding officer’s hands. In the same way, believers dare not attempt to fight the devil but should immediately flee from him into the presence of their heavenly Father. As our Lord taught, we are to pray for God not to “lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13).

As Jesus here acknowledges, doing what is right is often difficult, because although the spirit is willing, … the flesh is still weak. Regenerated people who truly love God have a desire for righteousness, and they can claim with Paul that they genuinely want to do good. But they also confess with Paul that they often do not practice in the unredeemed flesh what their regenerated spirits want them to do. And, on the other hand, they sometimes find themselves doing things that, in the inner redeemed person, they do not want to do (Rom. 7:15–20). Like Paul, they discover that “the principle of evil is present in [them],” that there is a law of sin within their fleshly humanness that wages war against the law of righteousness in their redeemed minds (vv. 21–23).

In light of that troublesome and continuing conflict, Paul then lamented, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” Answering his own question, he exulted, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand 1 myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (vv. 24–25). The only source of victory is the power of Jesus Christ.[2]


40–41 Jesus returns to his disciples—i.e., the inner three—and finds them sleeping (Lk 22:45 adds “exhausted from sorrow”). Jesus’ question is addressed to Peter but is in the plural and therefore includes them all (see comments at 16:16; 26:33–35). Though “one hour” need not be exact, it certainly indicates that Jesus has been praying for some time. “Watch and pray” could be a hendiadys (see Notes); alternatively, it may suggest two components: spiritual alertness and intercession.

It is doubtful that “so that you will not fall into temptation” (v. 41) means only “so that you will stay awake and not fall into the temptation to sleep.” Indeed, Jesus’ prediction of their spiritual defection that “very night” (v. 31) should have served as an urgent call to prayer. So now he tells them that only urgent prayer will save them from falling into the coming “temptation” (see comments at 4:1; 6:13). Even in his own extremity, when he needs and seeks his Father’s face, Jesus thinks of the impending but much lesser trial his followers will face. He speaks compassionately: “The spirit is willing, but the body [sarx, ‘flesh,’ GK 4922] is weak.” This is not a reference to the Holy Spirit but makes a “distinction between man’s physical weakness and the noble desires of his will” (Hill; idem, Greek Words, 242). But though compassionate, these words, which doubtless hark back to v. 35, are not an excuse but a warning and incentive (Broadus). Spiritual eagerness is often accompanied by carnal weakness—a danger amply experienced by successive generations of Christians.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 26:39). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 610). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Five: Thursday)

Thursday

Confession: Psalm 103:8–14

Yahweh is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger and abundant in loyal love.

He does not dispute continually,

nor keep his anger forever.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor repaid us according to our iniquities.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,

so his loyal love prevails over those who fear him.

As far as east is from west,

so he has removed far from us the guilt of our transgressions.

As a father pities his children,

so Yahweh pities those who fear him.

For he knows our frame.

He remembers that we are dust.

Reading: Mark 14:53–65

And they led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter followed him from a distance, right inside, into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the officers and warming himself by the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, and they did not find it. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony was not consistent. And some stood up and began to give false testimony against him, saying, “We heard him saying, ‘I will destroy this temple made by hands, and within three days I will build another not made by hands.’ ” And their testimony was not even consistent about this. And the high priest stood up in the midst of them and asked Jesus, saying, “Do you not reply anything? What are these people testifying against you?” But he was silent and did not reply anything. Again the high priest asked him and said to him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him with their fists, and to say to him “Prophesy!” And the officers received him with slaps in the face.

Reflection

Admire the self-command of the disciples, who relate these things with exactness. Here, we clearly see their disposition as they truthfully relate the things that seem to be scornful. Disguising nothing, nor being ashamed, they rather account it a great glory (as indeed it was) that the Lord of the universe should endure to suffer such things for us. This shows both His unutterable tenderness and the inexcusable wickedness of those men.… For neither did Christ fail in gentleness, nor they of insolence and cruelty in what they did and said. These things the prophet Isaiah foretold, proclaiming beforehand and by one word intimating all this insolence. For “like as many were astonished at you,” he said, “so shall your form be held inglorious of men, and your glory of the sons of men” (Isa 52:14 [paraphrase]).

… Indeed, they inflicted the blows that are most insulting of all—buffeting, smiting with the palms of their hands, and adding to these blows the insult of spitting at Him. And with words teeming again with much derision they spoke, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that stuck you?” (Matt 26:68 nrsv) because the multitude called Him a prophet.

But another disciple said that they covered His face with His own garment, and did these things, as though they had in the midst of them some vile and worthless fellow.…

These things let us read continually; these things let us hear again; these things let us write in our minds, for these are our honors. In these things do I take a pride, not only in the thousands of dead He raised, but also in the sufferings which He endured. These things Paul puts forward in every way—the cross, the death, the sufferings, the revilings, the insults, the scoffs. And now he says, “Let us then go … bear the abuse he endured” (Heb 13:13 nrsv); and now, “who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (Heb 12:2 nrsv).

—John Chrysostom

Homilies of St. John Chrysostom

Response

What does it mean to you that Christ suffered scorn and reproach for your sake? Jesus was brought outside of Jerusalem to die—like a criminal. Paul says “we must go outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured” (Heb 13:13). What does it mean to you—that no matter how much shame you might feel—you must follow Christ? How is this radically present in your life?[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.