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Discover Malachi, the Most Mysterious of the Hebrew Prophets

Malachi is the last of the Minor Prophets in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible), placed in that position because Judaism traditionally believes that prophecy ceased with him and will only be renewed in the Messianic age. However, he is also considered by many to be the last prophet before the arrival of Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist) and Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
Malachi prophesied in the early fifth century, almost 100 years after the prophets Haggai and Zechariah and during the days of Nehemiah (see Malachi 2:8 and Nehemiah 13:15; Malachi 2:10–16 and Nehemiah 13:23).
At that time, the Jewish people had returned from their captivity in Babylon, the walls of Jerusalem and the Temple were being reconstructed, and along with a new Sanctuary, the reinstitution of Temple worship.
Some scholars believe that Malachi was a priest among the prophets, scribes, and other priests who were led out of exile and back to Judah by Ezra and Nehemiah.
Others believe that he may have been just a common man speaking the Word of God to the Jewish community who returned home to rebuild the Holy Temple. A minority of opinion in the Talmud says Malachi was actually Ezra the scribe or perhaps Mordechai of the Book of Esther.  Some scholars have concluded that the four chapters of Malachi were actually extracted from the Book of Zechariah.
Orthodox circles contend that Malachi was a member of the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah (Men of the Great Assembly) that was founded by Ezra in about 520 BC.  Others in this assembly of Torah sages were Mordechai, Haggai, and Zechariah.  (Chabad; Orthodox Union)
Despite having returned from exile, the people of Malachi’s day were disappointed, disillusioned, and apathetic.
Their apathy can be seen in their half-hearted following of the Torah, and so it only follows that they were experiencing drought and crop failure, and enemies continued to oppose them. The people cried out to God who apparently is not accepting their offerings, explaining that men are divorcing the wives of their youth to marry women from other nations.

“‘The man who hates and divorces his wife,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘does violence to the one he should protect,’ says the LORD Almighty.  So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.”  (2:16)
Such intermarriage with idol worshipers had become rampant and threatened the future of Israel:
“You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant,”  Malachi says, adding, “Has not the one God made you?  You belong to Him in body and spirit.  And what does the one God seek?  Godly offspring.”  (2:14–15)
While godly unions result in godly offspring who seek and serve the Lord, ungodly partnerships result in ungodly children who defile God’s holy name:
“Judah has been unfaithful.  A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god.”  (2:11)
It seems only natural that a people who have a problem loving and being faithful to their mates would question God’s love for them.  Indeed, Malachi begins his rebukes by recording their doubt:
“‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord.  ‘But you ask, “How have you loved us?”’”(1:2)
The Lord reminds them of how He chose them, protected them, and blessed them as descendants of Abraham through Jacob.
It seems they forgot this supernatural history of their people.  So the Lord sent Malachi to warn them that their forgetfulness and unfaithfulness is even now causing their ruin.
In Malachi’s day, unfaithfulness extended to the priesthood. Instead of protecting the holiness of the ceremonial laws that God had charged the priests to keep, they offered injured, lame, and diseased animals to the Lord as sacrifices and offerings.  (Malachi 1:6–2:9)
This amounted to contempt for God.
“It is you priests who show contempt for my name.  But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’  ‘By offering defiled food on my altar.’”  (1:6–7)
God answers, “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth.”
The priests were to provide correct teaching regarding the ways of God and be living examples of holiness.  In their corruption, the priests were causing “many to stumble at the law.”  (2:8)
Because the priests compromised in their offerings, so did the people; Malachi 3:8–12 reveals that the people became lax in tithing.
“Will a mere mortal rob God?  Yet you rob me.  But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’  ‘In tithes and offerings.  You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me.  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”  (Malachi 3:8–10)
This prophecy is still relevant for us today. Faithfulness in tithing will lead to abundant blessing. And if you don’t you rob God!
As partakers of a New Covenant, the priests in the ministry of the Good News are still charged with presenting God’s truth and setting a holy example for the people.  (Romans 15:16) Those priests are of a spiritual bloodline—they are every Believer in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”  (1 Peter 2:9)
Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord
Malachi highlights the sins that are resulting in oppression from outsiders, drought, famine, and poverty, leading to the stripping away of prosperity and of influence in the region.  This, the prophet warned, called for an outpouring of national repentance, and for the people to humble themselves in prayer.  (1:9)
Through Malachi, God reveals that He will hold back His wrath and restore His blessings if the people will return to Him.  If not, destruction awaits.
But Malachi is not all reproof and judgment. He also offers hope to the nation of Israel, indeed all humanity, by prophesying a coming reign of the Messiah and His millennial kingdom.
In Malachi 3:1, the prophet says that a messenger would prepare the way for the Messiah:
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before Me.”
Yeshua identified this messenger as Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist) when He quoted this verse in Malachi, saying,
“‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  If not, what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in fine clothes?  No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.  Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is written:  “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.”’”  (Luke 7:24–27)
In the final chapter of Malachi, the prophet returns to the theme of the messenger.  In this chapter, we understand that Elijah would be the Messiah’s forerunner.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.”  (Malachi 4:5)
Yeshua told His talmidim that Yochanan the Immerser had come in the spirit of Elijah.
“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until Yochanan.  And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.”  (Matthew 11:13–14)
Here are a few of the ways that Yochanan came like Elijah:
  • He dressed like Elijah (2 Kings 1:8; Matthew 3:4).
  • He spent long periods of his ministry in the wilderness (1 Kings 17:3; 19:3–4; John 1:23).
  • He challenged the king and rebuked him for his wicked wife (1 Kings 18:17; Matthew 14:3).
  • He lived under threat of execution because of the king’s wife (1 Kings 19:2; Matthew 14:3)
  • He led people to repentance of sins (1 Kings 21:27; Matthew 3:2)
  • He prepared the way for the Lord (Malachi 4:5; Mark 1:3; Luke 1:17)
Certainly, Yochanan did preach a message of repentance and reconciliation, just like Elijah. He led the people from disobedience into a state prepared for Messiah, just as the angel prophesied to Yochanan’s father, Zechariah:
“He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  (Luke 1:16–17)
While Yochanan prepared the way for Yeshua’s first coming, we can understand that he has also prepared us for the coming return of the Messiah who will “suddenly” reappear and enter into the rebuilt Temple.
“‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.  Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.”  (3:1)
In describing His return as suddenly, Malachi is warning us to be prepared for the Messiah’s coming and to not be caught off guard.
However, it seems that Yeshua will not return until a Temple is prepared for Him, perhaps the Temple that the prophet Ezekiel describes at the end of his prophetic book.
Return to Me and I Will Return to You
Malachi tells us that when our Messiah comes, He will be like “a refiner’s fire,” purifying the servants of God like one purifies silver and gold, so that offerings will once again be made in purity and holiness.  (3:2)
But for others, He will come in judgment:
“‘I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien—because they do not fear Me,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  (3:5)
Nevertheless, Malachi shares the same hope for every person as all of God’s prophets have shared with us: “Return to Me, and I will return to you.”  (3:7)
We can take hold of this promise every day of our lives.  As in the time of Malachi, “the LORD listened and heard” the hearts of those who feared the Lord.  He saw their sincere repentance and turning from sin. As a result, “a scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored His name.”  (3:16)
Let us desire with all of our heart to fear the Lord by honoring His name in our thoughts and deeds, according to His will not our own, without compromise or corruption.
Let us strive to walk in holiness, becoming true sons and daughters, even priests of the Most High God.
For those who choose the path of repentance and holiness, He makes a covenantal promise:
“On the day when I act,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘they will be my treasured possession.  I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares His son who serves Him.’”  (3:17) 
“Tell the people, ‘This is what the LORD says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.'”  (Jeremiah 21:8)

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Daniel’s Disturbing Dream (Daniel 7:1-28)

Daniel, a godly prophet and a man of unshakable faith, has been steadfast in his daily walk of fellowship with God throughout the first six chapters of the Book of Daniel. Nothing has caused him to panic or depart from his faith and practice as a godly Jew. Neither peer opposition nor the king’s new law (chapter 6) greatly disturbed Daniel. Daniel’s first inner turmoil occurs in chapter 7. A revelation from God in his sleep discloses future events which Daniel finds most troubling. Twice in chapter 7 Daniel speaks of his distress:

“As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me” (verse 15).

“At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself” (verse 28).

We should note Daniel’s distress in chapter 7 before turning to the other prophecies in Daniel, where we will find that prophecy very often produces distress. Where it has not caused distress, it should have. Nebuchadnezzar became distressed when he received his first night vision (2:1) because he did understand some of his dream. In his vision, the statue collapsed and disappeared, because a mysterious stone struck it at its feet. His vision in chapter 4 should have produced more distress than it did. He was “at ease” when he received the vision, and then he became fearful, and his mind alarmed him (4:4-5). Upon hearing the details of the dream, Daniel too was troubled (4:19). Unfortunately, the king did not heed the dream’s warning, and his kingdom was taken away for a time. In chapter 5, King Belshazzar’s dream should have greatly alarmed him, but apparently it did not. That night his life and his kingdom came to an end. Subsequent revelations in the Book of Daniel which Daniel received were closely associated with some kind of agony or distress (see 8:17, 27; 9:20-21; 10:2-3, 7-10, 17; 12:8).

A look through the Scriptures shows that Daniel’s response to the prophecies he received was not unique. Many Old Testament prophets shared Daniel’s distress as a result of the prophecies they received and often conveyed to others. Why does the prophecy of Daniel 7 cause this godly man so much consternation? What so upset Daniel about the future? Should we be troubled as well?

Prophecies are given so that we may look at history, especially events occurring in our own lifetime, from God’s perspective. Prophecy provides men the opportunity to think and act in a way which pleases God, who determines the future and who reveals future events to men.

Chapter 7 reveals in broad terms what the future holds. Our study of this chapter will isolate what troubled Daniel about the future. If taken seriously, we will find the future sobering as well. May the Spirit of God reveal the meaning of this prophecy to us and produce in us that which God desires to His glory and our good.

Structure of the Text

Two major divisions comprise our text: (1) Daniel’s dream—verses 1-14 and (2) the interpretation—verses 15-28. In more detail, the outline would be as follows:

(1) Daniel’s Dream verses 1-14

  • The Four Beasts — verses 1-8
  • The Ancient of Days — verses 9-12
  • The Son of Man — verses 13-14

(2) The Divine Interpretation — verses 15-28

  • Daniel’s distress — verse 15
  • A General Interpretation — verses 16-18
  • A Fuller Interpretation — verses 19-27
  • Daniel’s Response — verse 28

Interpretive Guidelines

Interpretations of Daniel’s prophecies differ widely. Liberals reject all prophecies, because they require a sovereign God and a miraculous revelation of future events. While conservative, evangelical scholars believe the prophecies in Daniel are true, their interpretations differ greatly. Whether liberal or conservative, our conclusions grow out of the premises and presuppositions governing the process and the product of our interpretation. For this reason, I wish to clearly state the foundational presuppositions and principles on which this exposition of Daniel is based.

(1) The Book of Daniel is a part of the Holy Scriptures, and thus inspired, accurate, and trustworthy.

(2) The prophecies of Daniel must be understood in relationship to and in light of the other prophecies of Daniel.

(3) These prophecies must be understood in light of their historical background as provided in Daniel, in the inspired revelation provided by other portions of Scripture,and the cautious use of supplementary information by reliable historical documents or study. Other biblical prophecies bear on the prophecies of Daniel, particularly preceding or contemporary prophecies.

(4) Prophecies not completely fulfilled cannot be fully understood until after their fulfillment. At least the final portion of chapter 7 has not been fulfilled. Even those portions which we believe have been fulfilled, students of prophecy differ about the way of their fulfillment.

(5) Above all, the prophecy in this chapter means precisely what God says it means in this text, nothing more and nothing less. How easily we turn from what is revealed to speculate about what has been concealed (see Deuteronomy 29:29). We should not spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy trying to fill in the blanks God has left. Our attention should be given to what is clearly and emphatically said. In our passage, Daniel asks for and receives an explanation. What God determined to reveal to Daniel should be enough for us.

Overall Observations

Note these general observations about our passage before we turn to a more detailed study.

(1) Daniel 7 is the last chapter written in Aramaic in the Book of Daniel. Daniel 1:1-2:4a was written in Hebrew. From Daniel 2:4b to the end of chapter 7, the original text was written in Aramaic (the language of Babylon in that day). After this chapter, the book returns to the Hebrew language.

(2) Chapters 7 and 8, while written in different languages, are written during the reign of Belshazzar and somehow linked by the author in Daniel 8:1.

(3) This chapter contains the major segment of Daniel, which is primarily prophetic, although it does not contain the first prophecy in the Book of Daniel.

(4) This is the first prophecy in the book revealed directly to Daniel. The other prophecies were revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar and interpreted by Daniel.

(5) While the process involves wicked kings and nations and the suffering of the saints, the culmination is the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom.

(6) None of the kings or the kingdoms are identified.

(7) No identification is made of the saints as “Jews” or “Gentiles.” There seems to be no Jewish nationalistic emphasis here, as there will be later.

(8) The four beasts are all different, with the last standing apart from the first three.

(9) The interpretation of Daniel’s vision comes in two parts, beginning with a general interpretation and then a more specific one based on Daniel’s questions.

(10) Daniel’s preoccupation is with the last beast, rather than the first three.

(11) A distinction is made between God the “Father”—the “Ancient of Days” and God the Son—the “Son of Man”—with both playing a part in the establishment of the kingdom.

(12) No distinction between the first coming of Christ and the second is made in the coming of the eternal kingdom of God.

(13) In some sense, the last kingdom is still on-going. Since the last kingdom and the prophecies associated with it have not yet been fulfilled, we must in some way be a part of that kingdom. The day of judgment is still future and has not yet been fulfilled. Thus, the vision is yet unfulfilled in terms of its major emphasis. No wonder interpreters differ about the details (Just my thoughts.). Quite clear, however, is the identity of the “Ancient of Days” and the “Son of Man.”

Background

Chapter 7 moves from the historical accounts of Daniel and his three friends to the prophetic revelations received by Daniel in the last half of the Book. The following chart may help us visualize the relationship of Daniel’s prophecies to the historical setting in which they were revealed:

BABYLONIAN EMPIRE

MEDO-PERSIAN EMPIRE

Nebuchadnezzar

Belshazzar

Darius

Cyrus

Daniel 1-4

Daniel 5

Daniel 6

Daniel 12

Daniel 7-8

Daniel 9

Daniel 11-12

The first prophetic revelation is found in Daniel 2. A night vision is given to king Nebuchadnezzar, apparently early in his reign as king of Babylon. Through the vision of a magnificent, awe-inspiring statue, God reveals the future for Gentile kings and their kingdoms. The head of the statue was made of gold, the chest and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of bronze, and the legs and feet of iron and clay.

In his interpretation of the dream, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar he was the head of gold. The identity of the kingdoms represented by the other body parts and metals was not revealed. The king is told that all of these earthly kingdoms would be destroyed by the “stone not fashioned by human hands,” and that an eternal kingdom would take the place of these temporal kingdoms. The subject of the vision in chapter 2 seems to be taken up again in chapter 7. The inter-relationship between the prophecies of chapters 2 and 7 is demonstrated on the following page:

THE FOUR KINGDOMS

C H A P T E R T W O

C H A P T E R S E V E N

Head of gold

The winged lion

Breast & arms of silver

The devouring bear

Belly & thighs of bronze

The winged leopard

Legs & feet of iron & clay

The indescribable beast

SIMILARITIES

A four-part statue

Four beasts

Statue represents kingdoms

Beasts represent kingdoms

Deterioration: Gold to iron mixed with clay

Deterioration: Nearly human to blaspheming beast

Statue destroyed

Beasts destroyed

Eternal Kingdom is established

Eternal kingdom is established

CONTRASTS

Nebuchadnezzar’s Vision

Daniel’s Vision

Daniel’s interpretation

Angel’s interpretation

Glorious statue

Horrible beasts

Human statue in four parts

Four (inhumane) beasts

Destroyed mysteriously by a stone

Destroyed in judgment by God

Daniel’s Dream
(7:1-14)

1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it. 2 Daniel said, “I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. 4 The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. 5 And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’ 6 After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 “While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth uttering great boasts. 9 I kept looking until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow, And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. 10 A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, and the books were opened. 11 “Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. 12 “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time. 13 “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 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.

The first recorded vision comes to Daniel in the form of a night vision, like those of Nebuchadnezzar (2:1; 4:5) during the first year of the reign of Belshazzar. How interesting! The vision comes to Daniel in Belshazzar’s first year. A subsequent and related vision comes to him in this king’s third year (see 8:1). The revelation of the “writing on the banquet hall wall,” already described in chapter 5, actually happened later, on the last day of Belshazzar’s life. According to verse 1, the written record of the revelation Daniel received in his first night vision is but a summary of the prophecy he received.

Belshazzar’s rise to power and ascent to the throne seems to have inaugurated a new age for Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was the first ruler of Babylon to have contact with Daniel. Having gained an appreciation for Daniel and his three Hebrew friends, over a period he came to faith in their God. His declaration, which resulted from the deliverance of the three Hebrews, made it unlawful to hinder the worship of the Jews; his decree recorded at the end of chapter 4 went much further. It not only bore witness to the conversion of this king, but encouraged all of the subjects of Babylonian rule to worship the God of Israel.

I believe some in Babylon, like their king, came to a genuine faith in God. Many others may have reluctantly professed or actually adopted the Jewish religion. King Nebuchadnezzar died apparently nine years before Belshazzar came to power. Public sentiment was turning against this “foreign religion,” and the Babylonians, including Belshazzar, wanted a return to their “old time religion” —the pagan worship of the gods of Babylon. With the commencement of Belshazzar’s co-regency may have come not only a rejection of the Jewish faith and worship, but a new wave of persecution directed toward it. The toasting of the gods of the Babylonians with the sacred temple vessels, recorded in chapter 5, may have been Belshazzar’s final act of blasphemy. As we shall show later, the content of the prophecy of Daniel 7 is very closely related to the reign of Belshazzar. The words of verse 1 point to the relationship between the prophecy Daniel received and its historical setting and context.

In his vision, Daniel observed the sea being stirred up into a raging storm by the “four winds of heaven.” This signifies that the events which follow have been ordained by God. God stirred up the sea, and from its foaming, raging waters came forth four horrifying beasts. These beasts, each different from the other, are described in verses 4-7.

The first beast was lion-like, with wings like that of an eagle. Its wings were plucked from it; if this happened in mid-air, he must have plummeted to the ground. If not, he could never have become airborne again. The beast was lifted up and made to stand like a man. The beast also was given a man’s mind.

Generally, it is agreed that this beast represents the Babylonian empire and king Nebuchadnezzar in particular. This description certainly fits the account of Nebuchadnezzar’s plunge from power and sanity in chapter 4. While God tells neither Daniel nor us that this beast represents Nebuchadnezzar, He does reveal that the “head of gold” in the vision of the great statue was Nebuchadnezzar (2:36-38). Since the head of gold seems to describe the same king and kingdom as the first beast, it may not be too far afield to conclude that Nebuchadnezzar is the king represented by the first beast.

By far, this first beast is the best of a bad bunch. He is more beastly in the beginning and more human in the end, paralleling the character of Nebuchadnezzar. This also underscores that these four kingdoms go from reasonably good to unbelievably bad. The only human things mentioned of the fourth beast are his eyes and his mouth. His mouth is used to speak boastfully.

The second and third beasts are briefly described in verses 5 and 6. The second is bear-like. The precise meaning of the symbols of the raised side and the three ribs is illusive. Encouraged to do so, it savagely devours. The third beast is leopard-like, with four wings and four heads, and it is given dominion.

The fourth beast receives greater attention and is of the most interest to Daniel. Different from the first three, this beast seems uglier, more powerful, and much more hostile toward God and His saints. Daniel finds nothing to compare to it. With iron-like teeth, horns (some with eyes), and feet, it is utterly destructive. What it does not destroy or consume with its teeth, it crushes under foot, much like a bull in a china shop.

This fourth beast has the distinction of ten horns. As Daniel continues to watch, another horn emerges, as three of the other horns are plucked out by the roots to make room for it. Looking about with its numerous eyes, no one can escape his look or hide from him. With its mouth, the beast continues to speak boastfully.

The scene of the four beasts arising from the sea, which Daniel saw in his night vision, is strikingly similar to the account found in the 13th chapter of Revelation:

1 And he stood on the sand of the seashore, and I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. 2 And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. 3 And I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; 4 and they worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” 5 And there was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies; and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 And it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. 8 And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, every one whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. 9 If any one has an ear, let him hear. 10 If any one is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if any one kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints (Revelation 13:1-10).

As the beast continues to boast, a second scene commences in Daniel’s vision, and for a period of time both scenes run simultaneously. The second scene portrays the establishment of the thrones on which the Ancient of Days and those holding court are to be seated to pronounce judgment.

In the first scene, heavenly winds are employed to whip up the sea from which the four beasts emerges. In the second scene, heaven calmly prepares for court, which will determine that the time for judgment has come. The beasts are a horrifying and frightening sight; the heavenly court scene is one of regal splendor and beauty. The beasts emerge out of chaos and confusion; the heavenly court is calm and dignified. This scene in Daniel is also similar to a prophecy recorded in the Book of Revelation:

4 and they worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”

11 And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. 12 and he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 13 And he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. 15 And there was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed (Revelation 13:4, 11-15).

Note that the description of the beasts is written in prose, while the description of the heavenly court in verses 9-10 and of the Son of Man in verses 13-14 is written in poetry form. The beasts are hardly worthy of prose, but the court of heaven deserves a description of the finest words.

The “horn” continues to sound off while the court is being set up for judgment. Suddenly, the boasting beast is silenced by death, and his body is cast into the burning fire. Even the fate of this fourth beast is different than his three predecessors, as his life and his kingdom seem to end at the same moment. The other three are removed from power but allowed to live for some time after their removal (verse 12).

As Daniel continues to watch, someone descends with the clouds of heaven, one like a “Son of Man.” He is presented to the Ancient of Days, and to Him is given dominion, glory, and the eternal kingdom. He will rule over all nations forever.

The expression, “son of man,” is not new to Daniel nor to the Jews of his day. Up to this time, it was simply a synonym for being human, a son of man. In the first use of this expression, being a “son of man” was contrasted with being God:

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)

The expression is used in the Psalms in a more pregnant way, in reference to the coming Messiah.

Let Thy hand be upon the man of Thy right hand, Upon the son of man whom Thou didst make strong for Thyself (Psalm 80:17).

Daniel uses the expression “Son of man” twice. The first time in Daniel 7:13, he is referring to Messiah, who will sit on the eternal throne of His father, David. The second time, the expression is used in reference to Daniel himself, as it will be used very frequently in Ezekiel to refer to this great prophet:

So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end” (Daniel 8:17).

Then He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!” (Ezekiel 2:1).

Old Testament Jews would likely regard the reference to the “Son of Man” in Daniel 7 as a reference to the Messiah, although they would probably not understand Him to be both divine and human. Before the coming of Christ, who would? When Jesus came, He embraced this expression as a designation for Himself, giving the term meaning vastly beyond that previously held by any Jew.

A Divine Interpretation
(7:15-28)

15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. 16 “I approached one of those who were standing by and began asking him the exact meaning of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. 18 ‘But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.’ 19 “Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet, 20 and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts, and which was larger in appearance than its associates. 21 “I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom. 23 “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms, and it will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. 24 ‘As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. 25 ‘And he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 26 ‘But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. 27 ‘Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’ 28 “At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

Daniel’s response to the vision was far from assuring or calming. Some of his alarm arose from his not yet having been given the interpretation of his vision. Yet, his emotional response was valid and changed little after the vision was explained more fully.

This vision was an “interactive vision,” as Daniel was not only present in the vision but was able to approach one standing by to ask the meaning of what he saw. It seems safe to assume the interpreter was an angelic being; at least this is the case in chapter 8 (8:15-26). The interpretation of the events Daniel witnessed in his vision is given in its most concise form in verses 17 and 18: The four beasts were four kings, who will arise from the earth. In spite of these kings, the saints of the Highest One will possess the eternal kingdom forever and ever. In spite of all these beasts do and say, in spite of their power and even their success, neither they nor their kingdoms will last. The kingdom of God will be established and the saints will possess it forever.

The emphasis of this brief interpretation falls not on the enemies of God, their power, their brutality, nor their boasting, but on the kingdom of God, its certainty and its permanence for all the saints forever. The emphasis is positive. If Daniel had been shaken by the dark side of his vision, he is reminded in the interpretation of the outcome of these events—the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom.

The vision’s explanation was not thorough enough to satisfy Daniel. Desiring a more detailed explanation, he apparently asked for one and received it. Passing over the first three beasts, his questions focus on the last beast. He wants to know more about this dreadful beast, different from the rest, especially in the destruction he wrought. The ten horns are of interest to him, but most of all that final horn which arose, surpassing and replacing three others and speaking boastfully.

The vision plays on before Daniel, almost as though in answer to his desire to know more. The boastful beast becomes even more aggressive, waging war with the saints and even overpowering them. No wonder this vision causes Daniel such distress. This takes place until the Ancient of Days comes and judgment is given to the saints, at the time the eternal kingdom becomes their possession.

These are the things Daniel sees in the vision. Now, in verse 23, the angelic interpreter explains the relationship of the boastful beast and the coming of the eternal kingdom of God. The fourth beast is a fourth king, different than the others. He distinguishes himself by his ability to overcome the whole earth, crushing it under foot.

The ten horns, Daniel is told, represent ten kings who will emerge out of the fourth kingdom. An eleventh king then rises to power, different from the others, replacing three of the previous kings. This king’s boasting turns to blasphemy. He not only speaks against the Most High, he oppresses the saints. He intends to make changes in time and in law. Just what this means is unclear, but it suggests this arrogant king not only speaks against God, but, like Satan, he aspires to change the order God has established. He surpasses those before him by speaking boastfully, then blaspheming, and finally seeking to overthrow God’s order.

The final words of verse 25 are carefully chosen to let the reader know that while this king appears to be successfully opposing God, all he does is a part of the divine plan for the last days. The eleventh horn may hope to change the time, but in God’s plan this king is granted “a time, times, and half a time” —three and a half years to oppose and oppress the saints. God grants this king success and his saints suffering, but only for an appointed time.

When the court sits for judgment, his dominion is taken from him and he is destroyed forever. At this time the kingdom of God is established. The saints of the Highest One are given all the kingdoms of the earth for an everlasting kingdom. They will serve and obey Him forever.

Daniel’s vision ends here, but its impact on him does not end. His thoughts alarm him, and his face pales. Nevertheless, Daniel tells no one, keeping the matter to himself and suffering a quiet agony over the future events God has revealed to him.

Conclusion

The message of this prophecy is really quite simple and may be summed up this way. Before the kingdom of God is established on the earth, four earthly kingdoms will rise and fall. These kingdoms go from bad to worse. Arrogant, boastful, and even blasphemous kings will reign over the nations, opposing God and oppressing His saints. All of this is by divine design. During times of oppression, it may appear the saints are being defeated and that God’s kingdom is but wishful thinking. When the sin and oppression of evil men reaches a predetermined point, God will remove them and establish His promised eternal kingdom. Then the saints will receive the kingdom which will never end.

A number of lessons from our text have broad application to our thinking and conduct as Christians. Consider these lessons as we conclude.

(1) Prophecy is necessary because God has chosen to settle His accounts with men slowly. God is eternal, and so is His plan for all creation. God is in no hurry to fulfill His promises, (even though it only encompasses 6000 years,) whether His promise of the eternal kingdom for all the saints or the promise of eternal destruction and judgment for sinners. Prophecy is necessary then so that men are reassured of divine deliverance and blessing, as well as divine judgment (see 2 Peter 2:4-9). Through the ages, the saints have learned that they must wait for the promises of God to be fulfilled and that this may not happen in their lifetime (see Hebrews 11:13-16, 39-40). God may choose to delay judgment on the wicked until their sin reaches full bloom; the possession of the land of Canaan would not happen in Abraham’s lifetime, but more than 400 years later after the suffering of the people of God (see Genesis 15:12-17). God also allows the wicked to persist and even to prosper, so that those whom He has chosen might be saved (Romans 9:22-24). God’s plan and program are carried out on His schedule, not ours (see 2 Peter 2:8-10). Prophecy becomes necessary from time to time to remind men of those things God has planned for the future which He will surely fulfill.

(2) While the timing of the fulfillment of divine prophecy may seem remote to the recipient, it still has relevance for him. According to our text, the prophecies of Daniel 7 will not be fulfilled for a considerable period of time. Four kings will establish four kingdoms, and some of these kingdoms have a number of kings. The last kingdom has at least eleven kings. Centuries must therefore pass before the prophecies of Daniel are fulfilled.

The distance in time of the fulfillment of Daniel 7 said something very important to the captive Jews of Daniel’s day. It would be but a very few years until Cyrus would come to power and assist the Jews to return to Jerusalem and the land of Israel. In the euphoria of this grand event, someone might well conclude the kingdom of God was to be established within the lifetime of those returning to Israel. Our text challenges such a conclusion, and later prophecies in Daniel further document that the coming of the King and of the kingdom will be some time further in the future. In those days, as in our own, there are always those are too quick to conclude that the kingdom of God has come (see Matthew 24:4, 6, 8, 24-28; 2 Thessalonians 2:1ff.).

The kingdom of God would not be established in Daniel’s lifetime, nor in the life of those who returned to the land of Israel from their captivity. The prophecy of Daniel 7 nevertheless had great relevance and application to those in Daniel’s day. Nebuchadnezzar may have started badly, but by the time we read of him in Daniel 4 he seems to be a true believer in God, urging the citizens of his kingdom to worship and serve Him. For the remainder of Nebuchadnezzar’s life, it seems that religion in the kingdom of Babylon was at least favorable to the worship of the God of the Jews. While most of those in this kingdom may not have had a true conversion, at least they tolerated the Jewish faith as the religion of the state.

With the death of Nebuchadnezzar comes a change in the people’s attitudes, especially their leaders toward Judaism. Belshazzar came to power several years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar and seems to have turned completely away from the God of Israel. Consequently, it is little wonder that in the events recorded in Daniel 5, Belshazzar was ignorant of Daniel and the abilities God had given him. He only called on him in a moment of sheer panic when no one else could help, and only then because of the recommendation of the queen mother.

The reign of Belshazzar was, in some measure, a foretaste of what was yet to come in full measure during the reign of the fourth beast, especially of the eleventh horn. Would this horn Daniel’s vision revealed oppose the people of God and even blaspheme God Himself? God would strike him down in the moment of His choosing to silence him once and for all and put an end to his kingdom. Would Belshazzar toast the gods of gold, silver, wood and stone with the sacred temple vessels? God would strike him down suddenly too and bring his kingdom to a swift end. The prophecies of Daniel 7 speak of a future day of reckoning, foreshadowed by the actions of Belshazzar and the judgment of God on him and his kingdom.

As I read through the statements men have made about the God of Israel in the first six chapters of Daniel, I find that what men came to know and to acknowledge through history, God declares through prophecy. I encourage you to compare the statements of Daniel 2:21-22, 44, 47; 4:3, 34-35, 37; 6:26 with the content and declarations of Daniel 7. What God declares in prophecy, He reveals as well in history. We are in harmony with God when our declarations conform to his. Those of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, and Darius all agree with the prophecy of Daniel 7. God is able to raise up kings and put them down. God will establish His kingdom, and that kingdom, unlike the kingdoms of men, is eternal.

(3) The finest commentary on the prophecy of Daniel 7 comes from our Lord Himself. In the Old Testament, the expression “son of man” was used most frequently in reference to men, who were merely (as opposed to God) human. In the Psalms and also in Daniel 7, the expression “Son of Man” begins to take on a more technical meaning, referring to the Messiah, who will sit on the throne of His father, David, to rule over men forever.

When the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth, having added perfect humanity to His undiminished deity, He spoke of Himself very often as “the Son of Man.” In the Gospels, Jesus began not only to identify Himself as the Messiah, the promised “Son of Man,” but also to explain all that this involved. The Son of Man had the power to forgive sins, as well as to heal a paralytic (Matthew 9:6). The Son of Man was also “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8). He would rise from the dead (12:40). He will also send forth His angels to gather those who do not belong in His kingdom (12:41). He questioned His disciples so that they could confess that He, the Son of Man, was the Messiah (16:13f.). He would, after His death, burial, and resurrection come in His glory, rewarding men according to their deeds (16:27). His disciples were promised that they would share in His reign as King (19:20). The transfiguration of our Lord was but a foretaste of His coming glorious kingdom (16:28). When He came with His kingdom, they would be sure to recognize Him (24:27). However, the Son of Man must first suffer at the hands of men (17:22; 20:18).

Those who rejected the Lord Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of Man, would mourn when they saw Him returning in the clouds:

And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, 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 (Matthew 24:30).

As the destruction of the last beast and the blaspheming horn came as a complete shock to them, so the Lord’s coming will catch unbelievers unprepared as well (24:27-39). His followers too must be alert and ready for His return (24:44).

In my opinion, the most dramatic reference of our Lord to His identity as the Son of Man comes as the Lord Jesus stands on trial before the Sanhedrin and the high priest:

59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death; 60 and they did not find it, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, 61 and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You make no answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, AND COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN” (Matthew 26:59-64).

In His response to the demand of the high priest, Jesus directly claimed to be the promised Messiah. That was bad enough, from the religious leaders’ perspective, but the way in which He answered them was the last straw. Jesus quoted the words of Daniel 7:13. They surely knew this text to be messianic, but they had always applied it to the Gentiles. They believed that the Messiah would come to establish the kingdom, to bless the Jews and to condemn the Gentiles. Jesus applied this text to them, not as those who would enter into His kingdom, but as those who would be judged at His return. No wonder His words stung and prompted them to act as they did. For the time, it was these Jewish leaders who were beastly, arrogant, and blasphemous, and because of this they would suffer divine judgment. The words of Daniel which applied to the beasts now found application to them.

(4) Suffering is to be expected by the saints, before they enter into the glorious kingdom of God. Daniel 7 indicates in the clearest way that prior to the coming of the kingdom of God the saints will suffer at the hand of the final “horn” and even be overpowered by him. Wherever I see the Scriptures speak of the coming kingdom of God, I find suffering closely associated with it. Before the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt and brought into the land of Canaan, they suffered at the hands of the Egyptians. Our deliverance from the power of sin and the penalty of death has been accomplished by our Lord, who suffered in our place. Those who will reign with Christ are those who have suffered (see Romans 8:17;Philippians 3:10-11; 2 Timothy 2:12). Suffering is an inseparable part of the process which leads to glory. So it was for our Lord (1 Peter 1:10-12), and so it will be for us.

(5) Prophecy is not written as hype but revealed to produce the hope of glory and endurance in present tribulation. Prophecy is not a pep rally, which generates a great burst of short-term enthusiasm but does little to inspire faith and endurance in the midst of suffering. Neither is prophecy written to make us happy or to feel good. Daniel’s response is testimony to this reality.

(6) Prophecy is written to sober the saints. Prophecy speaks not only of the joys and glories of God’s kingdom to come but of the suffering and tribulation preceding the eternal blessings of the kingdom of God. In the context of the coming of His kingdom and the suffering and trials which precede it, soberness is a vitally important quality which prophecy promotes:

1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:1-8).

Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).

The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:7).

(7) Prophecy is revealed, not to give us the particulars of things to come, but to change our perspective. Prophecy is necessary because God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. We could never predict the goals God has determined, nor the means He has ordained for history to reach them. Prophecy reveals that which we would not and could not expect apart from divine revelation.

In God’s economy, things are not what they appear to be. We do not walk by sight, but by faith. We do not act on what we see so much as on what God has said. Abraham and Sarah were elderly and childless. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for them to have a child. And yet God said they would. And they did! Abraham had to believe and behave on the basis of God’s promises, rather than on the basis of his perception.

As the boasting horn of Daniel 7 seems to be getting away with his blasphemies and his oppression of the saints, it seems to him he can do whatever he wishes, including the changing of times and law. As the wicked prosper in their sin, it seems as though they can continue in sin without any fear of divine judgment (see Psalm 73:1-11; 2 Peter 2:3-4). Their perception is wrong, for suddenly and without warning their day of destruction will come upon them. When that day comes for them, it is too late to repent.

As the saints suffer at the hands of the wicked, it may appear all hope is lost. It may seem to them that their defeat is certain and that their hopes of entering into the eternal kingdom are lost. Things are not as they appear to be! When we expect it least, the Lord will return, the wicked will be punished, and the kingdom of God established forevermore.

I have heard a number of attempts to explain the “gaps” in Old Testament prophecy. One of those gaps is found in Daniel 7. The coming of the Son of Man is represented as one coming, and not two. We know that Jesus came the first time to die and that He will come again to subdue His enemies and establish His kingdom. We are told the Old Testament prophet could not see the distance between the first and the second coming of our Lord, just as one cannot see the distance between two mountains, when viewed from afar.

Considering this text has changed my opinion about the “gap” in the prophecies of the Old Testament. The gap is not the prophet’s problem; it is ours. The Old Testament prophet did not see the gap because he viewed the coming of Christ as God does. From an eternal perspective, the coming of Christ and His kingdom is but one coming. Our Lord’s first coming happened over a period of more than 30 years, and yet we view this as one coming. If, in God’s eyes, a day is as 1,000 years and 1,000 years as a day (2 Peter 3:8), then the coming of our Lord has only been a few days from beginning to end.

We see a gap—an almost insurmountable gap—between suffering and glory; God does not. Suffering and glory are a part of one work. Just so, Christ’s suffering and glory is but a part of one coming. Prophecy greatly benefits the Christian because it enables him to see things from the bigger and broader perspective—from God’s perspective—so that when he suffers, he knows it is but a part of the process of getting to glory.

Consider the birth of a child, remembering that God’s deliverance and salvation is likened to birth. The process of having a baby involves the pains of childbirth. They are far from pleasant but an unavoidable part of the process. The woman endures in the view of the final outcome of the process. When the child is born, the pains of suffering are quickly lost in the joys of seeing a new life, or a couple of hours of pain compared to many years of child rearing. Child-bearing is a process which involves suffering and glory. Salvation is likewise a process involving suffering—and then glory.

Prophecy is revealed to men to change their perspective, to urge them to see things as God sees them rather than as they appear to the human eye. We are not to base our thinking and actions on circumstances, but upon the Scriptures. What God says, He will do. History has shown this to be true in the past, and prophecy assures us that it will be true in the future. Let us listen then, and be sober, enduring the sufferings and trials sent our way, looking expectantly and certainly for His kingdom to come.

Daniel’s Disturbing Dream
Questions and Answers

(1) Why does Daniel indicate the historical setting of the vision he receives in chapter 7?

In verse 1 Daniel indicates his vision came to him in the first year of the reign of Belshazzar. The vision recorded in chapter 8 took place in the third year of Belshazzar. The account of the writing on the wall and the death of Belshazzar (obviously the last year of his reign) is found in Daniel 5.

Prophecy is not revealed in a historical vacuum. While most prophecies in the Bible reveal events which will take place after the death of the recipient of the prophecy, the prophecy is revealed for impact upon those to whom it was revealed. Prophecy is always practical and relevant to the person(s) receiving it.

At the outset of the account of his vision, Daniel wants his reader to know the historical context in which this prophecy was given and to consider its interpretation and application in the light of that context. Specifically, the account of “The Bad News at Belshazzar’s Banquet” (not a bad title for that lesson) in chapter 5 was given to us so that we could better understand the prophecies of chapters 7 and 8. We will deal with the meaning and application of Daniel’s vision later on in our questions and answers.

(2) Why do you think Daniel summarized his dream when he wrote it rather than tell it in full (see verse 1)?

Editing is often evident in the Bible (see John 20:30-31; 31:25). Editing allows an author to set aside details which are not significant and focus on the essence of the message he is trying to communicate. Daniel boiled down his vision to its essence, so we would not fail to understand the message he meant to convey to us.

(3) What principles should guide and govern our attempt to interpret the prophecy of this chapter?

First, the prophecies of Daniel are divinely inspired and revealed, and thus they are true and reliable. Second, the prophecies of Daniel are to be understood in the light of the entire Book of Daniel, of the Old Testament, and of the Bible as a whole. Thirdly (and most importantly), the prophecies of Daniel mean exactly what God says they mean, nothing more and nothing less. The prophecy of this chapter is divinely interpreted. God has revealed in this interpretation what He wants us to know and has kept back that which we need not know. We dare not ignore that which is revealed nor do we dare go too far afield in speculating about what is concealed (see Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 Timothy 1:4; 2 Timothy 2:23).

(4) What is the structure of Daniel 7?

The chapter falls into two major parts. Verses 1-14 contain the vision which God gave to Daniel. Verses 15-28 contain the divine interpretation of this vision.

(5) What do the four beasts represent? How was the fourth beast different from the first three?

Each of the four beasts represent a king and thus a resulting kingdom. Each beast has its own unique characteristics. The fourth beast appears to differ from the other three in that he is more beastly, more powerful, more destructive, and more arrogant. This beast is also unique among the four in that he grows 11 horns. These horns are also kings, from whom kingdoms arise (verse 24). This fourth beast seems to regenerate in the form of subsequent kings and kingdoms. His final offspring, so to speak, is the little horn which becomes the great blasphemer, whose life and kingdom is suddenly cut off by the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man.

(6) How important is it for us to identity the kings and the kingdoms mentioned in our text? Are we supposed to discover their identity?

Daniel was told that the beasts are kings, but he was not told the identity of any of the kings. There is fairly strong inferential evidence that Nebuchadnezzar was represented by the first beast, the winged lion. The point of this prophecy is not to tell us who future kings will be, but rather what they will be like. Until God’s eternal kingdom is established, kingdoms will progress from bad to worse. These kings will rise to power and dominate the earth. In the latter days, an unusually powerful and evil king will arise, who will blaspheme God and oppress the people of God. When his appointed time is over, God will destroy this king and his kingdom and establish His eternal kingdom on the earth. This is what we need to know from Daniel’s vision, rather than the identity of the beasts.

(7) Who is the Ancient of Days? Who is the Son of Man? What role do they play in relation to the four beasts?

The Ancient of Days is a designation for God, not found elsewhere in the Bible. This designation refers to God the Father in a way that stresses His eternality, dignity, and power. It is virtually the opposite of the term “beast.” The expression, “Son of man,” is not new to Daniel. In Ezekiel, and even in Daniel (8:17), it is used in reference to a prophet. Usually it refers to a person as a human being. But here in chapter 7, as in Psalm 80:17, the “son of man” is more than just a man, He is the Messiah. When the Lord Jesus came to the earth, He often referred to Himself as the Son of Man, gradually making it clear that He was the Messiah who was God incarnate.

When the iniquity of the blasphemous horn reaches full bloom and his appointed time to rule is fulfilled, God will destroy him, casting his body into the fire. It is at this time that all human kingdoms will become subject to God and to the saints in the eternal kingdom, which the Son of Man will establish when He comes to the earth to judge and to rule.

(8) Is there any relationship between Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2 and Daniel’s dream in chapter 7?

There seems to be a close connection between the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, which is revealed and interpreted in chapter 2, and the vision of Daniel in chapter 7. The statue has four parts; there are four beasts. Both the statue parts (made of different metals) and the beasts represent kings and kingdoms. Both series of four kingdoms begin well and end badly. Both sets of kingdoms are brought to a sudden end and are replaced by an eternal kingdom. It therefore seems that the two prophecies speak of the same four kingdoms by means of different imagery. The latter prophecy of Daniel 7 adds many more details than were revealed in chapter 2.

(9) What is the relationship between Daniel’s vision in chapter 7 and the events described in Daniel 5?

The blasphemous horn of Daniel 7, which goes so far as to oppose the people of God, is suddenly taken by death, and his kingdom is removed. In a similar way, Belshazzar becomes blasphemous and is suddenly removed by God for his wickedness. The death of this king brings about the end of his kingdom. Daniel 5 is an illustration and a prototype of what will happen in the end times, as described in the prophecy of Daniel 7. The fulfillment of the prophecy of Belshazzar’s demise underscores the certainty of the fulfillment of Daniel’s vision in the last days.

(10) What effect did the vision have on Daniel, and why?

Daniel is greatly distressed by the vision which he sees in chapter 7. We are not told precisely what it is that troubles Daniel. From the context, it would seem that Daniel’s distress is the result of the wickedness and oppression of the world kingdoms which are represented by the beasts, and by the knowledge that the saints will be oppressed and even overcome for a period of time. The fact that wicked men will prosper and prevail and that the righteous will suffer is hardly pleasant news.

(11) What is the point of the vision? What is its message to Daniel, to the Jews, and to us?

In the latter days, before the kingdom of God is established on the earth, kings and kingdoms will become worse and worse. The wicked will prosper and appear to get away with their opposition toward God and His saints. The righteous will suffer. But in the end, God will judge the wicked and establish His kingdom for His saints.

The saints should expect to suffer because of their faith, especially as the last days for the kingdoms of men draw near. The saints should also expect the wicked to prosper, for a season. The saints should neither believe nor behave on the basis of how things appear to be (the wicked prospering and prevailing over the righteous). The saints must believe and behave according to what God has promised about the future —the righteous will possess the kingdom of God forever.

Amen! Even so Lord Jesus Come Soon!

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Filed under Daily Biblical Studies for the Soul, Studies in The Book of Daniel

True Wisdom

While I was a trades teacher in a shop, the opportunity arose to very naturally explain the essence of the gospel. Never before have I received the reaction I did that day from two men in particular. They found what I was saying incredibly stupid as, in a very distinct “New Joisey” twang, one carpenter exclaimed to the other, “Ain’t that somethin’ man? Ain’t that somethin’?” This man’s reaction to the gospel was far more honest than most, for a great many non-Christians feel exactly the same way about the gospel but are simply too polite, or too afraid, to say so. In the confines on that job, those two men could have cared less about what I thought of them, and so they very plainly expressed exactly what they thought of my religious beliefs.

In the first chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul exposes and then confronts the problem of divisions within in the church at Corinth. He renounces divisions as contrary to the gospel. Further, Paul implies that the underlying problem is pride. Individuals took pride in the one whom they chose to follow. As Paul later says, they have “become arrogant in behalf of one against the other” (4:6). In verses 18-31 of the first chapter, Paul argued that pride and the gospel are incompatible. The world will never esteem the gospel or those who embrace it because it is contradictory to all they highly esteem. The Jews, who are impressed by power, wanted signs (of power). A crucified Christ was certainly not a demonstration of power but of weakness. The Greeks were impressed by intellectualism, by wisdom. To them, there was nothing wise about the gospel. It was foolishness to believe that faith in a crucified criminal could save anyone from their sins.

Paul has challenged the Corinthian saints to look around the church and observe that those most esteemed by the world are strangely absent in the church. By and large, the church is not composed of wise men, scholars, and debaters of the day. The church is not made up of the cultural elite. In verses 26-31, Paul urges the saints to look around them in the church to see who is present. The church is not made up of the upper crust of society but rather the rejected and despised of society. Of course there are exceptions, but the rule is clear: “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are” (verses 27-28). This is so that no man may boast, but God may receive the glory for what He accomplishes through those most unlikely to succeed in this world.

One might conclude from what Paul has said that the gospel really is foolish and weak. Not at all! This is only the way the world perceives the gospel. In chapter 2, Paul reveals that weakness and simplicity are not the end of the story but the beginning. It is through the weakness of proclaiming the gospel that the wisdom and power of God are made manifest. The world regards God’s wisdom as foolish because it is incapable of comprehending or accepting its truths. God’s wisdom is a mystery which the unsaved cannot grasp, and no one would have known apart from divine revelation. Through His Spirit, God has revealed Himself to men. The Spirit who searches the depths of God has been given in a special way to the apostles. Through these inspired men, divine thoughts have been translated into divine words. Those who possess the Spirit by faith in Christ can appraise the spiritual truths of Scripture; those who are unsaved, and thus without the Spirit, cannot. No wonder they think God’s wisdom is foolish. They cannot understand it—or God. But we who have the Scriptures and the Spirit have the mind of Christ.

Paul’s Conduct at His First Coming
(2:1-5)

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

The Corinthians now look upon Paul somewhat like a teenager views his or her parents. Paul is not wise but simplistic. He lacks the charm and charisma which makes his spiritual children proud of him, and thus they have begun to listen to others who have a higher level of esteem, especially by their peers. Paul seeks to correct their wayward thinking by reminding them that he is the same Paul who came to them at the beginning, preaching to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was through his simplistic message and methods that the Corinthians, once pagans, became saints. Paul now reminds them of his message and manner when he first came to them which resulted in their salvation.

When he came, Paul did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom. He did not come with “high fullutin” words or thoughts, nor did he employ oratorical embellishments which would draw attention to himself and to his methods. Paul came with a simple, straightforward approach which sought to make the message, not the messenger, primary. He came to them “proclaiming the testimony of God” (verse 1). That is, he came to them preaching the gospel in simple terms, without sensationalizing it.

In verse 3, Paul turns his attention from his message and method to his mind set. He describes the attitude with which he came to the Corinthians with the gospel. If the charlatans of that day had lived in our own time, they would have worn expensive clothing, had a recent face-lift, a self-assured manner, and an omnipresent smile. They would have exuded confidence and composure. But this would not be so with Paul. When Paul first came to Corinth, he worked as a blue collar laborer making tents with Aquila. His mind set was characterized by his threefold description: weakness, fear, and much trembling. He may have come with a physical weakness, for it does seem as though Paul suffered from some physical affliction (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). In addition, I believe Paul came to Corinth with a clear sense of his own limitations, knowing that the salvation and sanctification of men could only be accomplished by the miraculous intervention of God.

Paul also characterized his coming as “in fear and much trembling.” We know there were fears, as Luke indicates to us. After previous persecution in other cities, Paul came to Corinth where he again faced opposition. But the Lord appeared to Paul with these words of assurance: “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9b-10).

I have always thought of Paul as a kind of “pit bull” evangelist. Some dogs have no courage at all, while others may sound awesome but when threatened or harmed they protect themselves by backing off. Still other dogs—like the pit bull—will continue to fight until they are dead. How easy it is to think of Paul in this way, as invincible and undaunting. But Luke’s words indicate otherwise. Paul was a man of like passions with our own. He too had fears. But our Lord’s words of assurance enabled him to press on in spite of his fears.

The expression, “fear and trembling,” seems to mean more than just “fear” and “trembling” combined.

33 But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him, and told Him the whole truth (Mark 5:33).

15 And his affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling (2 Corinthians 7:15).

5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ (Ephesians 6:5).

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).

21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling” (Hebrews 12:21).

The expression seems to convey the realization on the part of the person fearing and trembling that he or she is of a lower rank, a lower position than the one who is feared. The woman who had been healed by touching Jesus (Mark 5:33) seems to have realized not only that she had been healed, but in being thus healed, she came to recognize the greatness of the One who produced the healing. Slaves should submit to their masters with fear and trembling, recognizing that God has put them under the authority of their masters. We are told by Paul to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” knowing that it is ultimately not our working or even our willing, but God’s sovereign work in us which causes us to will and to work His good pleasure.

Pride was the underlying reason for the divisions in Corinth. People took pride in following the right leader, the leader who spoke words of wisdom with oratorical skill who also had status and esteem among the unbelievers. Paul speaks of himself as a humble man, a man with no confidence in his own abilities, in his own message or methods, but whose trust is in God alone. Paul proclaims Christ, knowing that apart from the working of God in the hearts of men, nothing eternal will happen.

Paul’s actions in Corinth were purposeful, not accidental or haphazard. It was not that Paul was ignorant or uneducated, nor was it that Paul only knew about Christ and Christ crucified (verse 2). Paul determined that this was all he would know while ministering in Corinth (or anywhere else). He chose to limit his knowledge to those truths which would save men from their sins and transfer them from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Even though many would be impressed by his knowledge in areas which the unbelievers believed to be wisdom, Paul determined not to know such things and thus not to preach them.

Paradoxically, Paul came to the Corinthians in weakness, fear, and much trembling so that the power of God might be demonstrated (verse 4). If Paul’s human skills were dominant in his preaching, Paul’s power would be displayed. But when Paul came in weakness proclaiming a message men deemed foolish and men were converted, it was evident it was the result of the supernatural power of God and not the merely human power of Paul. Paul has much more to say on this subject later, especially in 2 Corinthians 12, but for now we should note that Paul’s weakness was not a hindrance to the demonstration of God’s power but the means through which God’s power was displayed. God’s power is manifested through human weakness.

Paul did not want to make disciples; that is, Paul did not want people to be his followers. His goal was for men and women to trust in Jesus Christ for salvation and to become His followers, His disciples. If men were converted because of Paul’s wisdom and because of his persuasive skills, they could then be led astray by anyone who was wiser and more persuasive. Paul’s desire was that men would place their faith in God and in His power (verse 5).

God's WisdomGod’s Wisdom and the Wisdom of This Age
(2:6-9)

6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

At verse 6, Paul changes from the first person singular (“I”) to the first person plural (“we”). Verses 1-6 spoke of Paul’s mind set, message, and methods when he first came to Corinth with the gospel. Now in verse 6, Paul speaks for more than just himself. I understand the “we” to refer principally to the apostles.30 As further developments in this epistle and 2 Corinthians will show, the real struggle was not with Corinthian cliques, each of which had chosen to follow a different apostle, but with those in Corinth who had turned from the apostles to other teachers, of which some will prove to be “false apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).

What characterizes Paul that is so offensive to some of the Corinthians, causing them to follow other leadership? It is Paul’s “simplistic” devotion to Christ crucified. Paul has chosen to be a kind of “Johnny-one-note,” and the note he continues to play is offensive to both Jews and Gentiles. Consequently, for a Corinthian Christian to identify with the apostle Paul is to embrace that which is foolish and weak to the unbelieving mind, whether Jew or Gentile. To identify with Paul and his preaching is to become a fool in the eyes of the world, which has no status. And so some are tempted to identify with new leaders whose methods and message are far more acceptable. Associating with them gives one a much higher status.

Paul does not deny that his message and methods are foolish; rather, he emphasizes this is so. But in moving to the first person plural (“we”), Paul links himself, his message, and his methods with all of the other apostles. Paul’s message and methods are no different from those of his fellow apostles. He speaks with and for all the apostles as he admonishes the Corinthians.

At verse 6, Paul makes another shift in his emphasis. Up to this point, Paul has granted the fact that his gospel is foolish and weak. Now he begins to clarify and expand his instruction. The apostolic gospel is foolish and weak to unbelievers, but it is neither foolish nor weak in the sight of God. Neither should it be regarded as foolish nor weak in the sight of the saints. In verse 6, Paul insists that the apostles do speak wisdom. This wisdom is not for all, however. There are two groups from whom apostolic wisdom is withheld. The first group is those who are immature (verse 6). In chapter 3, verse 1, Paul plainly tells the Corinthians they are “men of flesh,” “babes in Christ,” and in verse 3, he contends that they still remain in the same condition. Did the Corinthians chafe because Paul’s message was too simple? It was because the simple things were all they were able to grasp. The problem was not with Paul or his colleagues; the problem was with the Corinthians.

The second group from whom apostolic wisdom is withheld is those who are unbelievers (2:6). Paul says the wisdom the apostles preach is not of “this age.” Consequently, the rulers of “this age” are not able to grasp it. Even those who are the wisest and most powerful people of this age are unable to grasp it. This is evident at the cross of Calvary. There, at the cross, the rulers of this age rejected Jesus as the Messiah as God’s means of salvation. God’s “wisdom” was never more clearly manifested to men than in the person of Jesus Christ, but the best of this age were not able to see it. It is obvious that they did not receive this “Wisdom” because they crucified Him.

Paul’s words here help us to distinguish between God’s wisdom and worldly wisdom. God’s wisdom was revealed in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ at His first coming, but the world rejected Him and the wisdom He manifested. The wisdom of God is “eternal wisdom,” a wisdom established in eternity past yet to be fully implemented when Christ’s kingdom is established on the earth. The wisdom of this world is “empirical wisdom,” based upon that which can be seen and heard and touched. The wisdom of God is otherwise. It is not seen by the naked eye, it cannot be heard with the ears, it cannot be fathomed by the natural mind. It surpasses even man’s imagination. It is other worldly. This should not come as a surprise to the Christian, for the prophet Isaiah indicated as much in the citation which Paul includes in verse 9.

Let me pause to reflect further on this concept of the “other worldliness” of God’s wisdom. Do we not tend to think of heaven as an extension of earth’s joys? Most people who believe in heaven think of it as the place where they will be reunited with their family and friends. And yet, when Jesus spoke to the Sadducees, he chided them for their ignorance because they supposed marriage would continue on into eternity (Matthew 22:23-33; see also 1 Corinthians 7:25-35). Are we perplexed when we find prophecies which describe things of which we have never seen nor heard? For example, there are Ezekiel’s wheels (see 1:16, 19-21; 3:13; 10:2-19; 11:22), and there are the “living creatures” of the Book of Revelation (Revelation 4:6-9; 5:6-14; 6:6; 7:11; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4). Nothing in this life can be compared with such things. Heaven is not just an improved earth; it will be “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1) where there will be no sea (21:1), no temple (21:22), no need for sun or moon (21:23-25; 22:5). The streets, we are told, will be paved with gold. This may be a way of telling us that what we value most highly on earth will have little or no value in heaven. Heaven, that biblical “new age,” is nothing like the present age, and thus no mortal can conceive of what it will be like. The things of God are other worldly, and thus we cannot even guess as to what they will be like.

How God’s Wisdom is Revealed
(2:10-13)

10 For [But]31 to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

Paul has just shown us why God’s wisdom, the wisdom which the apostles proclaimed, is rejected by the great but unbelieving men of this age. Men of this age are limited to temporal, human wisdom. They cannot grasp God’s eternal wisdom. They cannot see, hear, or comprehend the things of God. How then can mere mortals ever know God’s wisdom? The answer is found in verses 10-16. In verses 10-13, Paul expounds the doctrines of inspiration and revelation whereby God has made his wisdom known through the apostles who have inscripturated the “depths of God.” In verses 14-16, Paul turns to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, enabling him to comprehend the things of God which He revealed in the Scriptures through the apostles.

How can men know of a God who cannot be seen and whose provisions are beyond human thought? The answer: through the Holy Spirit, who has imparted the knowledge of God to and through the apostles in the New Testament Scriptures. The Holy Spirit is theSpirit of God.” Just as man’s human spirit knows the deep thoughts of the man, so the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, knows the intimate things of God. When the Lord Jesus was on the earth, He spoke many things to His disciples which they did not understand or even remember. Jesus told them that after His departure, He would send His Spirit. The Holy Spirit would not only call the things He had spoken to their remembrance, He would also enable them to understand them so that they could record them for others. In addition, the Spirit would reveal things to come, things of the coming age:

25 “These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:25-26).

12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you” (John 16:12-15).

Paul has already spoken of the wisdom of God as a mystery (1 Corinthians 2:7). A mystery is something God reveals concerning the future, which is not fully grasped before its fulfillment because it is beyond human comprehension. The apostles played a unique role as “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1). After God has completed a work that was formerly a mystery, He fully discloses that mystery through one of His apostles. Paul was surely one of the great “mystery apostles” in that it was his privilege to speak of several mysteries. In the Book of Ephesians, Paul spoke of the privilege God had given him as an apostle to reveal some of these mysteries (Ephesians 1:3-14; 3:1-13; 5:32).

In 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, Paul describes the fulfillment of our Lord’s promise to His disciples (remember that Paul was divinely added as the twelfth apostle). Man, Paul is saying, could never know God on his own. But God has chosen to make Himself known through His Word and through His Spirit. His Spirit was given to the apostles in a special way so that the things of God might be inscripturated, divinely inspired and recorded as a part of the Bible. The apostles have been given the Spirit in this unique way so they “might know the things freely given to us by God” and might communicate them to us. The Spirit superintended this process by “combining spiritual thoughts (“the depths of God,” verse 10) with spiritual words” (the words of Holy Scripture).

Here is a very crucial difference between the apostles and the false apostles. The apostles claimed to speak for God, and they did! False apostles claimed to speak for God, and they did not! God can be known intimately because He has chosen to disclose His innermost thoughts and being to men by means of His Spirit working through the apostles, resulting in the New Testament Scriptures. To reject the apostles and their teaching as the “wisdom of God” is to reject God, for they are the only ones through whom God has chosen to disclose Himself. Is the gospel simplistic? It is because God’s way of salvation is simplistic—one way (see Matthew 7:13-14ff.; John 14:6). To reject the apostles’ teaching is thus to reject the God who disclosed Himself to men through them.

There may be a secondary interpretation of Paul’s words in verses 10-13, but, if so, it is surely secondary. Many interpret these verses as speaking of God’s direct disclosure of Himself to men, through His Spirit. I do not think so. I believe these words make sense only as interpreted above. This same thought is taught by Peter as well in 2 Peter 1:16-21. The work of God the Spirit in the lives of Christians in general is spoken of in the closing verses (14-16) of 1 Corinthians 2.

Spiritual Insight: The Haves and the Have-Nots
(2:14-16)

14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:1-16).

God has disclosed Himself to men through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit knows the intimate things of God and, by inspiring the apostles, has translated spiritual thoughts about God into spiritual words—the New Testament. In the Old Testament period, God revealed His Word through the prophets. In the New Testament times, this revelation came through the apostles. Yet the unbeliever seems blinded to the truth contained in God’s Word. How can this be? How can some find in the Bible a rich source of revelation which enables them to know God more intimately, while others find the Scriptures a senseless mixture of writings which cannot even be understood? Why are some drawn to the Scriptures and others repulsed by them?

The difference may be summed up in terms of the presence or the absence of the Holy Spirit. We see in verses 10-13 that Paul speaks of the Spirit’s work in conveying God’s thoughts to men by inspiring the apostles to convey spiritual thoughts through spiritual words, the words of the New Testament. Now, in verses 14-16, Paul writes of the work of the Spirit, enabling men and women to understand the Scriptures and thus to know the mind of God.

Previously, Paul has divided mankind into two groups: (1) those who trust in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary for their eternal salvation and (2) those who do not. Another way of viewing these two groups would be: (1) those (unbelievers) who do not possess the Holy Spirit, who cannot understand the wisdom of God as revealed in the Scriptures, and (2) those who do possess the Holy Spirit, who therefore have the capacity to understand the Scriptures.

The first group Paul refers to as “the natural man” (verse 14). The “natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” The natural man, who is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, cannot understand the Scriptures (“the things of the Spirit of God”). God the Holy Spirit conveyed the “deep things of God” to the apostles, who by the Spirit’s inspiration, recorded them as Scripture. The Scriptures are thus “the things of the Spirit of God,” the things which the Spirit of God has originated and communicated. How can one “devoid of the Spirit” (see Jude 19) grasp the things of the Spirit? No wonder the wisdom of God seems foolish to the unbeliever. They cannot fathom anything which falls within the realm of the Spirit.

More than a year ago, Dr. Jim Lopez visited while interviewing for a position at the University of Texas Medical School in Dallas. A part of his interview process involved making a presentation of his research. After Sunday dinner, he wanted to “run through” his presentation one last time, and so we set up the slide projector in the living room. I must confess I did not understand a word Jim said. It was completely over my head; it was a different world. Both of our cats perched on the coffee table beside the slide projector and were fascinated with the slides. Jim’s research was done with rats, and the cats found the slides of great interest.

True wisdom cannot be grasped by those who are unsaved, by those who do not have the Spirit of God dwelling within them illuminating the truth of the Scriptures so they can know the deep things of God. True wisdom speaks of things which pertain to a future age and of things which no man has ever seen, or heard, or is even able to imagine. The only way this kind of wisdom can be known is for men to trust in Jesus Christ so that their spiritual eyes may be opened to see the wonders of the wisdom of God and the world to come.

The Christian is the one who is called “spiritual” (verse 15) here by Paul. Most often, we understand the term “spiritual” to refer to those who are mature, who manifest the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Paul seems to use it here to refer to those who possess the Spirit, who live in the realm of the Holy Spirit because they have trusted in Jesus Christ. The one who possesses the Holy Spirit is able to grasp and to appraise both temporal and eternal matters. The Book of Proverbs, for example, is divinely inspired and provided so that we may see life clearly from God’s point of view. The prophetic books have been given to us so that we may look at the eternal dimension of God’s plan. Thus, Paul can say that the Christian who possesses the Holy Spirit is able to “appraise all things,” things earthly and things eternal, things pertaining to this age, and things pertaining to the next.

While the Christian—“he who is spiritual”is able to appraise all things and thus to understand the beliefs and the behavior of the unsaved, the unsaved (“natural”) man is unable to understand the Christian (“he who is spiritual”). No wonder Christians are misunderstood and even persecuted. No wonder they are considered foolish and weak. This is the best the unaided mind of the natural man can do.

In verse 16, Paul closes our chapter with the words of Isaiah 40:13: “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:1-16). These words sum up the difference between the non-Christian and the Christian. God has revealed Himself to all men in the person of Christ and in the Scriptures (see verses 10-13 above). The Scriptures make no sense to the unbeliever. This is because it is impossible for the unbeliever to grasp the things of God apart from the Spirit of God. Who can know the mind of the Lord? No one can, apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit in revealing the Word of God through the apostles and in illuminating the Scriptures to the individual believer. Note that the words of verse 16 indicate not only the natural man’s ignorance but also his arrogance. Who would think that any man could instruct God? But this is precisely what the unbeliever does think. This is why they think the Christian is foolish and weak.

In contrast to the unbeliever, who is oblivious to the mind of God, the Christian can say confidently, “We have the mind of Christ.” The “we” may refer either to the apostles, who alone can speak the “mind of Christ,” or more generally, of all the saints who possess the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures. It is through the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit that the “mind of Christ” is conveyed to the saints. The Christian has both the Word of God and the witness of His Spirit, the Author of that Word. What more can one ask for than this?

This final statement sums up the vast difference of opinion which exists between Christians and unbelievers over “wisdom.” The unbeliever is incapable of understanding God’s wisdom and so is confined to a very limited, distorted temporal wisdom. The Christian has the means for knowing the mind of God and thus has access to the wisdom of God. The Christian should not be surprised by the reaction of the unbeliever to the preaching of the gospel. And the Christian should not forsake the vast wisdom God has made available to us in order to pursue the wisdom which the world seeks.

Conclusion

What a blow this chapter strikes at human pride. Paul’s coming to the Corinthians was far from prestigious. He came in weakness, fear, and much trembling. He came with a message offensive to both Jews and Greeks. He refused to “know” anything other than the crucified Christ, for he came to bring the Message of Salvation. His message was not one of superior wisdom, one that would appeal to the intellectual curiosity or headiness of the Corinthians. His method of presentation was not one that would naturally draw a crowd or attract a following. From a merely human point of view, Paul did everything wrong when he went to Corinth. But what happened? A number of his readers came to faith in Jesus Christ because of Paul’s mind set, message, and method!

How could Paul do everything wrong (from a worldly point of view) and yet sinners be converted and a church born? In verses 1-5, Paul indicates that he purposed to come to the Corinthians as he did so that the Corinthians’ faith would “not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (2:5). How does this happen? How is the faith of men and women turned God-ward by a mind set of weakness and humility and by a message and method which runs contrary to human wisdom? The answer is implied here and clearly stated later by Paul:

9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

In God’s economy, divine wisdom is foolishness to the secular mind; divine power is weakness to the unbeliever. Paul’s weakness and simplicity were not obstacles to divine wisdom and power; they were the means through which God’s wisdom and power were demonstrated. Had Paul come with self-assurance and confidence preaching a “wisdom” applauded by the world, through a method which ranked with the best secular communicators, the best that could have happened was that men would place their confidence and trust in Paul. But when Paul came as he did, only God could convince and convert the Corinthians, and their faith must therefore be in God, not in Paul.

How does this happen? How can human weakness be transformed into divine power? How can human foolishness become divine wisdom and pagan sinners become saints? The answer: The Word of God and the Spirit of God. The gospel is the means by which men are saved: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). And how can the gospel become the “power of God for salvation?” Again, the Spirit of God:

7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:7-11).

The Corinthians had become mesmerized by men and by human wisdom. They were wrong. What had saved them was the Word of God and the Spirit of God, working through humble men who proclaimed a straightforward, simple message of Christ crucified, even though their message and their methods were unappealing to unsaved men.

If the Word of God and the Spirit of God were sufficient to save the Corinthians, Paul makes it clear to them that the teaching of the apostles does convey wisdom, but a wisdom of a different order (verses 6-9). It is a wisdom which even the cultural elite (“the rulers of this age,” verses 6, 8) could not comprehend. Indeed, when wisdom was personified in the person of Jesus Christ, they crucified Him. Why would the Corinthians be so enamored with secular, human wisdom? It cannot lead us to God; indeed, it will turn us from God. Human wisdom cannot comprehend God or the things which He has for men. Human wisdom is of no eternal value, and its temporal value is limited.

At verse 10, Paul turns us once again to the Word of God and the Spirit of God. What men could never have known about God (see verse 9), God has chosen to reveal to men. This He has done through His Spirit. His Spirit knows what no man can know about God. His Spirit took these spiritual thoughts, spiritual realities, and translated them into spiritual words, the words of Scripture. This He did by His Spirit, who inspired the apostles who were the human authors of the New Testament.

Men can come to know God in only one way—through His Word and through His Spirit. There are many different beliefs about God, but there is only one true God. This is the God who has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. All views of God which originate with men, rather than with God, are false. All views of God which come from some other source than the Bible are false. How often I hear people say something like, “Well, I like to think of God as… .” It does not matter how you would like to think of God. Paul’s words inform us that the way we think about God is certain to be wrong, for true wisdom comes from above, not from below. True wisdom flows from God to men, not from men God-ward. The Bible reveals to us a God that we would not have imagined, a God whom we would not have wanted, a God whom we would not have received. Apart from the Spirit of God and the Word of God, we could never have come to know God.

If anyone can appreciate this truth Paul is teaching, it is the teacher. Think about Paul. He was a devout Jew, deeply religious, committed, and sincere. But he was dead wrong. When God revealed Himself to Paul (it is always God who initiates a relationship with man and who initiates the revelation of Himself to man), everything suddenly changed. Indeed, all was reversed. The things he once prized, thinking they won him favor with God, Paul now counted as “dung” (Philippians 3:1-11). Now Paul is a new man in Christ. Now he has come to know God through His Word and through His Spirit. That is what Paul wants for each one of us.

If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ, you do not know God. You cannot know God apart from Christ, and you cannot know Christ apart from His Word and His Spirit. Hell will be populated with countless souls who served a “god” of their own making, and such “gods” are not God at all but only idols of our mind. We cannot know God through our own wisdom or insight. We cannot see, hear, or touch Him. But He has revealed Himself through His Word, the Bible. By the ministry of His Spirit, we can come to know God personally as the One who has provided for the forgiveness of our sins and for eternal life. God has revealed Himself in His Son, who died on the cross of Calvary, bearing the penalty for our sins. He has raised Him from the dead, as proof of His satisfaction with the work of Christ. All we need do is to believe the One whom God sent, that we are sinners, deserving eternal punishment, and that through the death of Christ, we have been punished and raised to newness of life. I urge you to view God through the pages of Holy Scripture and to trust in His provision for salvation in Jesus Christ.

My Christian friend, do you believe wisdom comes only from God, through the Scriptures, by means of the Spirit? If so, where are you seeking daily wisdom, the wisdom to understand the events and crises of daily living? Where are you seeking a knowledge of God and of His “mind”? Where do you go to learn of the glories of the coming age and of His promised kingdom? Do you read the Bible, or books about the Bible, or do you read “Christian books,” sparse with references to the Word of God or the Spirit of God? God has revealed Himself through His Word and through His Spirit, and we do well to take heed:

1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).

1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will (Hebrews 2:1-4).

1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord (1 Peter 2:1-3).

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— 18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:16-21).

Thank you!


30 Would the Corinthians segment themselves into factions; would they distinguish their groups by individual leaders? Paul speaks of and for the apostles as a group, with no distinction. There may be divisions in the church concerning apostles, but there is no dissention among the apostles.

31 It is baffling to see the translation “for,” chosen as the reading of preference by the translators of the NASB. The KJV, NKJV, NIV, and Berkeley versions, and even J. B. Phillips’ paraphrase all begin verse 10 with “But.” The editors of the NASB do indicate in a marginal note that some Greek manuscripts read “but.” The fact is that most all of them do so with very sparse support for the reading they have selected. In addition, the context calls for a more decisive break here, indicating the beginning of a new paragraph.

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Filed under Daily Biblical Studies for the Soul, Studies in The Book of 1 Corinthians

Multiplying Divisions

During my trades teaching days, I referred to one of my superiors as an “unbeliever” in correspondence with another Christian. Through a sequence of events, this “unbeliever” read my letter and was greatly offended by what I said. Though he was a religious man, one could not think of him as a Christian. My relationship with this man was greatly impaired, and another Christian gave me this advice: “Bob, ________ is a very proud man. The only way to reach him with the gospel is to appeal to his pride.” Even at the time, I knew this advice was unbiblical, and now, studying Paul’s words in the early chapters of the Book of 1 Corinthians, I am even more convinced that my friend was wrong—dead wrong!

The first nine verses of 1 Corinthians 1 are Paul’s introduction to the entire letter. In these verses, we have been told that Paul is the author and that he is accompanied by Sosthenes. Paul’s epistle is addressed not only to the saints in Corinth but to all saints everywhere. Paul expresses his thanksgiving to God for the Corinthian saints, for the sufficiency of God’s provisions for them, and for the certainty that God will complete what He has begun in them by calling them to faith in Jesus Christ. Based upon this foundation, Paul now moves on to reiterate the call to Christian unity (verse 10). He then points out the ways in which this unity has broken down in the Corinthian church (verses 11-12). In the remainder of this chapter (1), and in the next three chapters (2-4), Paul shows how disunity is a contradiction of the gospel and how unity is a manifestation of the gospel.

The lessons Paul has for the saints of his day are most applicable to our own lives as well. The conflicts which existed then are still very much with us today. We have conflict and strife in the church, in the home, and at work. Paul will have us see that not only are such divisions contrary to the gospel, they should be set aside by the gospel. The gospel strikes at the heart of inter-personal conflicts, then and now. Let us listen and learn, for the lessons Paul has for us here are those which we should apply moment by moment.

A Biblical Challenge Regarding Corinthian Conflicts
(1:10-12)

10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”

Paul does not begin with the problem of divisions but with a positive exhortation to maintain Christian unity.22 Paul’s call to unity in verse 10 sets the standard. His exposure of divisions in the church at Corinth in verses 11-12 shows a specific deviation from God’s standard.

I am most reluctant to challenge the translation of the text of Scripture, especially in a version like the NASB, which attempts to be literal in its rendering of the original text. Here, however, I must raise the flag. Paul is not exhorting the saints to “all agree” on every subject, as our translation suggests.23 We will soon come to chapters 8-10, which deal with matters of conscience. Paul expects Christians to disagree as to matters of conscience. He will speak of the diversity of spiritual gifts which are evident in the church, and he does not suppose that this will result in total agreement because our gifts influence our perspective and our viewpoint.

Literally, we see from a marginal note that the text reads, “to speak the same thing.” Paul calls upon Christians to “speak the same thing.” This is quite different from agreeing on everything. When Christians have different convictions, they are not to dispute with one another over them (Romans 14:1). Rather they are to keep their convictions to themselves (14:22). We are not to speak about them in a way that disputes with others about them or which seeks to impose our convictions on others. If we are exhorted to “speak the same thing” so as to practice and promote unity, then we must speak about those truths which all Christians share.

I like what I know of Barbara Bush. I do not know if she is a Christian, but I think she is a woman of integrity. While her husband was in the Oval office, Mrs. Bush did not speak publicly about her views on abortion. I do not agree with her position on abortion, as I understand it. And from all I can tell, Mr. Bush does not agree with her. But while he was in office, she did not speak publicly about her position. She did not “agree” with President Bush, but she did “speak the same thing”; that is, she spoke of those things on which they did agree, rather than on those matters where they differed. Christians are to do likewise in the area of differences, when these areas are not fundamental areas of Christian doctrine.

Paul further defines unity as the absence of schisms. Gordon Fee writes,

Although the Greek word for ‘divisions’ (schismata) is that from which we derive the English word ‘schism,’ it does not in fact mean that, at least not in the sense of a ‘party’ or ‘faction.’ The word properly means ‘tear/rent’ (cf. Mark 2:21) or the ‘plowing’ of a field. The best illustration of the present usage is found in the Gospel of John (7:40-43; 9:16; 10:19-21), where various groups are said to have divided opinions about Jesus, meaning they were arguing with one another as to his significance. Thus Paul does not refer to distinctly formed groups of ‘parties’ here, but to divided opinions over their various leaders, which according to v. 11 and 3:3 have developed into jealousy and quarrels.24

Two further qualifications of unity are indicated by Paul. We are to be made complete “in the same mind” and “in the same judgment.” For Paul, maturity is not just an individual matter but a corporate growth. Maturity here is the process of the mending of relationships 25 that takes place through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Maturity and unity are inseparable. Those who are truly growing in Christ are those who are both growing up and growing together:

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Having the “same mind” refers to the more general “disposition” or “way of thinking” of the Christian. Fee has this helpful insight when he indicates the Greek term rendered “mind”:

… here means something close to ‘disposition’ (J. Beam, TANT IV, 958) or ‘way of thinking’ (BAGGED), cf. 2:16, where in contrast to the people of the world who do not have the Spirit, Paul says, ‘But we have the nous Christ,’ which in this case means something closer to the actual thinking or plans of Christ.’26

To have “the same mind” is to have the same outlook or perspective. To have “the same judgment” is to agree as to a particular decision, to agree on a particular issue.27

When the apostles and the rest of the 120 saints gathered in the upper room (Acts 1:12-14), they were all like-minded. They were one in spirit and in focus. And when they (rightly or wrongly) selected Matthias as the replacement for Judas, they came to the “same judgment.” They reached a particular decision with unity. The same kind of decision-making process can be seen in Acts 6:1-6 and 15:1-35. Paul likewise desired that they would unanimously agree on some particular judgments which he had indicated, such as the excommunication of the wayward brother in 1 Corinthians 5.

If we were speaking in musical terms, Paul is not calling for the church to sing in unison—everyone singing the same note at the same time—but rather he is urging the entire church to sing the same song, in harmony. This is what Christian unity is about. Unfortunately, the Corinthian saints were not living up to the standard Paul set for them. There were quarrels and divisions in the church, which he had heard about from “Chloe’s people.” The situation in Corinth can be summed up with these characterizations of the conflicts which were evident there:

(1) There are problems of division in the church which are wide spread and widely known. The strife and contention in the church is prevalent. When Paul speaks of this problem he says, “each one of you is saying …” (verse 12). This probably does not mean each member, without exception, but those who are not guilty of this evil are the exception and not the rule. The problem is so prevalent that it seems to be well-known. Even as far away as Ephesus, Paul hears of this matter.

(2) The quarrels and dissension are due to a party spirit on divisions which focus on personalities—individuals with which certain members have identified—to the exclusion of others. Every one of Paul’s examples is of a person who identifies with a particular person, and thus who stands aloof from others.

(3) Each of the divisions focuses on leadership. Each of the personalities—Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and Christ—is viewed as the one leader that the individual member has chosen to follow. Each says, “I am of Paul or of Apollos or Cephas or Christ.”

(4) In Paul’s example, none of the leaders named is viewed as responsible for the problem or of encouraging any to follow them and not other true apostles (or Christ). The problem as it is introduced here is a “follower problem” rather than a “leader problem,” in that the followers are at fault. Paul’s emphasis will change on this matter as time goes on, but no New Testament writer ever fails to hold individuals responsible for whom they choose to follow. There appears here to be an unholy devotion to godly men.

(5) We should bear in mind that the problem here is just being introduced in the first chapter of Paul’s first (preserved) epistle, and the problem Paul identifies is in its incipient (early and undeveloped) form. As time passes and as Paul’s epistles continue, the problem will more fully develop and manifest itself. A problem in its earliest form may look very different from the problem in its full-blown manifestation. Expect further developments on this matter as we continue our study of the Corinthian epistles.

(6) This example which Paul sets forth is largely hypothetical. The problem is not really one of loyalties and allegiances to different apostles, but of loyalties to leaders who are never named in 1 or 2 Corinthians. Paul will make this abundantly clear in chapter 4, where he writes,

6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other (1 Corinthians 4:6).

(7) The root problem underlying the Corinthian quarrels and factions is pride. We see this clearly stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:6 (above). Some are “becoming arrogant in behalf of one against the other.” But this same pride is evident in our text as well. “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ’” (1 Corinthians 1:12). The first three hypothetical examples take pride in the leader they have chosen to follow. The last takes pride in thinking he or she is following Christ. But each is proud in feeling superior to the rest of those referred to in Paul’s example.

(8) The most dangerous group of all in these four examples is the last. Surely Paul means for us to assume “guilt by association” here in verse 12. Paul uses the same words, only changing the name in the case of the last group. It is true that we all should be followers of Christ. But we should not be proud of ourselves for doing so. This fourth group is no less proud or arrogant than the others who are condemned. I am afraid that I understand Paul all too well in this fourth example. Those who think of themselves as being “of Christ” also think of the rest as not being “of Christ.”

Exclusivism is wrong, even the exclusiveness of those who think themselves superior to all other believers because they follow Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or Christ. Those who boast of their following Christ are effectively declaring themselves to be the leader. Those who are “of Christ” do not need Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas. They do not need an apostle. They can discern Christ’s mind by themselves without any outside help from others. These autonomous folks are the most frightening group of all, and Paul makes this clear.

Paul’s Correction for Corinthian Conflicts
(1:13-17)

Paul’s rebuke and rebuttal to the Corinthian sin begins at verse 13 of chapter 1 and continues on through chapter 4. In this lesson, we will only deal with his four lines of argument which are found in the remainder of chapter 1.

Christ, or Men?

The Priority of Christ Over Men (Verse 13)

13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

In a nutshell, Paul takes us to the core question: Is salvation about the work of men or about the work of Jesus Christ? All four of the groups mentioned by Paul in verse 12 were man-centered. The fourth group was a little more subtle about it, but all of these individuals took pride in themselves, based upon their perceived allegiance. Paul wants to make the point clear and unmistakable: Our salvation is totally about Christ’s work. Those who are man-centered need to be reminded of the gospel and of their salvation, to recall that salvation is Christ-centered. Christ has not been divided, so how can His body, the church, be divided? It was not Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or any other mere man who died on the cross of Calvary; it was Christ whose shed blood cleansed us from all sin. Baptism testifies to this fact. All of the Corinthian saints were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They were not baptized in the name of any man. This is because salvation is through Christ alone, and not through mere men, even if they were apostles.

Paul’s Priority of Preaching Over Baptism (Verses 14-17)

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 that no man should say you were baptized in my name. 16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void.

Baptism is a very prominent theme in these verses, mentioned six times here by Paul. I take it that some, at least, took pride in the person who baptized them. Some people appear to have been proud and looked down on others who were not baptized by as great a celebrity as their baptizer. Paul lets the air out of the tires of these proud name droppers by telling them that baptism is not a celebrity affair, and compared to the preaching of the gospel, baptizing is a lower priority to him. Do they take pride in the one who baptizes them? Paul is glad he has not made baptizing a priority, and thus that he has baptized very few of the Corinthians.

It is thus evident that Paul viewed his preaching of the gospel as having a much higher priority than baptizing new converts. It can hardly be overlooked that Paul saw salvation as something which occurs independently of baptism. Baptism is important. It is the believer’s public identification with Jesus Christ. But baptism is not viewed as the means of one’s salvation; rather it is the outward manifestation of salvation. Paul rejects the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Otherwise, if he thought baptism was the means of salvation, he would have made it a much higher priority than he did. People are saved by believing the gospel, and it was Paul’s priority to preach it. Baptism took second place to preaching in Paul’s life and ministry.

We find the same principle of the priority of proclaiming the gospel applied more broadly than just to baptism. It is applied by the Lord Jesus to the working of miracles.

29 And immediately after they had come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Him about her. 31 And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.

32 And when evening had come, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city had gathered at the door. 34 And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.

35 And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for Him; 37 and they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 And He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, in order that I may preach there also; for that is what I came out for” (Mark 1:29-38, emphasis mine).

When we wish to be perceived as better than others, we do not emphasize what we hold in common, but what is uniquely us, our distinctives. In an election year, when have you ever heard a political candidate say that he agrees with his opponent? Churches which seek to compete with other churches, or look down on other churches, must do so in terms of their differences rather than in terms of their unity and commonality.

The subject of the closing words of verse 17 Paul picks up in a little while, but for now Paul sets down two powerful arguments against the kind of pride which elevates “silver tongued orators” whose methods are those of worldly wisdom and power which appeal to the lost and ungodly. In verses 18-25, Paul argues that the gospel negates pride in a believer because the gospel is antithetical to human pride, human wisdom, and human power. In verses 26-31, Paul wages another attack on human pride by reminding the saints of who God has chosen to save, and that few saints are those who will ever win acclaim and status in a lost and pagan culture.

The Cross of Christ Has No Status to the Lost
(1:18-25)

18 For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The Corinthian Christians were characterized by quarrels and a party spirit. In verse 13, Paul indicates what he constantly emphasizes elsewhere, namely that divisions are contrary to Christ and to the gospel. Why then do Christians get caught up by quarrels and strife? The answer seems straightforward and simple: pride. Pride causes a person to desire to think of himself as being superior to others. If one can identify with a leader whom he perceives to be superior to all others, then he, as a follower, can feel superior to those who follow someone else. In verses 18-31, Paul points to two characteristics of the gospel which serve as a death blow to the human pride found in the Corinthian church, and, unfortunately, in every church.

In verses 18-25, Paul reminds the church that those who are status seekers will never gain recognition and status from the unbelieving world. The gospel does not appeal to human pride; it cannot even co-exist with it. The gospel informs us that there is only one thing to do with pride—crucify it.

The “word of the cross,” that is, the gospel, is not a status symbol to unbelievers; it is an offense. For those of us who “are being saved,”28 the gospel is the power of God (see also Romans 1:16). For the unbeliever, the cross is a shame; for the Christian, the cross is glorious.

The conflict between divine wisdom and power and the secular world’s view of these matters should come as no surprise. Throughout history God has worked in ways that the world would never have imagined or believed. God’s purpose in history is not to glorify man but to glorify Himself by demonstrating the foolishness of man’s wisdom. The text which Paul cites in verse 19 is but one indication of God’s intention of proving man’s wisdom to be folly. He refers to Isaiah 29:14 to show that God has always worked in a way that is contrary to human wisdom. Would human wisdom have chosen an insignificant people like the Jews to be the nation among whom God would dwell? Would human wisdom have chosen the land of Palestine over other places on earth? Would human wisdom have led the Israelites to be trapped between the Red Sea and the on-coming Egyptian army? Would human wisdom have instructed the people of God to use their power to help the weak, rather than to use their power to take advantage of the weak? Would human wisdom have purposed to save Gentiles through the rejection and failure of the Jews, rather than through their triumph? Would human wisdom have declared that the coming Messiah was to be born of a virgin?

In verse 20, Paul asks a series of questions. Where is the wise man, the scribe, the debater of this age? I think he means where are they in the church, in the outworking of God’s plans and purposes? Paul would have the Corinthians look around them to see where the intellectual and scholarly giants are. By and large, those so highly esteemed in the world are absent from the church and absent so far as the outworking of God’s purposes in human history. And even when God may draw one of the “greats,” He first humbles them. Nebuchadnezzar is but one example (see Daniel 1-4).

Does the world think that God’s wisdom is foolish? God has set about a course that will prove man’s wisdom to be foolish. God will use foolishness to prove the ungodly to be fools. Since the world has not come to know God through its wisdom, God will make Himself known to some through means which the world regards as foolish. God has chosen the cross of Christ as the means whereby men may be saved from their sins.

Jews and Gentiles may agree on few things, but they mutually hold that the cross of Christ is foolish. The Jews are into power through signs and wonders. All through our Lord’s life, they wanted to see signs and wonders. They expected their Messiah to be a wonder worker, here to do their bidding. Even the disciples bought into this frame of mind, so that Peter rebuked the Lord for speaking of His cross (Matthew 16).

The Gentiles were into a different kind of power—mind power, human wisdom. They took pride in following great intellectual thinkers or powerful orators. The message of a humble carpenter’s son, who died as a common criminal on a Roman cross, was not that which the Gentiles sought. And the straight-forward proclamation of this “word of the cross” by means that were far from entertaining or impressive was not popular either. To those who are called, this humanly unimpressive gospel is good news, and the proclamation of the cross of Christ is a manifestation of the wisdom and the power of God.

There are two radically different views of the same gospel. The view of the unbeliever, whether Jew or Gentile,29 is that the gospel is foolish and weak. The view of the Christian is that the gospel is the wisdom and the power of God. Even that which seems to the unbelieving eye to be God’s weakness and foolishness proves in the end to cause man’s wisdom and power to pale in insignificance.

Those Whom God Has Saved Have No Status Either
(1:26-31)

The Corinthian saints were status seekers. Paul wanted them to see how foolish this was in the light of divine wisdom and power and how inconsistent status-seeking is with the gospel. First, Paul challenges his readers to take a good look around the church to note who was not present among them. This he did in verses 18-25. Glaringly absent in the church are those people who hold positions of status in the secular world, in accordance with secular values. The church is not made up of wise men, scribes, and debaters (verse 20). Now, in verses 26-31, Paul wants the Corinthians to give thought to who is present in the church.

“Look at yourselves,” Paul challenges the Corinthians. Granting the possibility of a few exceptions, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the rule. By and large, the church is not composed of the wise, the mighty, or the noble, when judged by fleshly (unbelieving) standards (verse 26). Instead, God has chosen to save the foolish, the weak, the base and despised, the “nobodies.” The word “chosen” in verse 27 is very significant, because it underscores that God chose those on the lowest rung of the social ladder. It was not that these were all that would come to God; it is that these are those whom God ordained to come to Him. It was not that God could do no better; it was that God chose not to do better.

Following the principle set down in verse 19, Paul explains why God selected the undesirables of this world for salvation. God has purposed to nullify the wisdom of the wise and to humble the proud. He has chosen to do so by employing means and people that the world rejects as weak and foolish and worthless. God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise, the weak things of this world to shame the strong, the base and despised things to humble that which is highly esteemed (verses 27-28).

God has not done this because the weak and foolish are any better than the powerful and the proud. He has set aside the highly regarded and employed those things which are disdained so that all the glory might come to Himself and not to mere men. This is the concluding point Paul makes in verses 29-31. If God were to achieve His purposes through the worldly wise and powerful, we would be inclined to give the praise and glory to the men He has used rather than to God. This world believes the “shakers and the movers” are the ones who make things happen. Even the church seeks to evangelize and train those whom the world regards as “most likely to succeed.” But God chooses the opposite, those whom we expect to fail (or, more accurately, those we already deem to be failures), so that when His wisdom and power are evident, there are no wise and powerful men to take their bows before men. Instead, men must bow before God, giving all the glory to Him. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Conclusion

Obviously, there are just as many divisions in the church today as there were in Paul’s day. Some of us might argue that there are more divisions today than in his day. The thing that amazes me is the dramatic difference in the way we deal with those divisions and strife. In the church and in Christendom in general, the vast majority of cases are dealt with psychologically. This is the first level of appeal. If all else fails, turning to God and His Word is the last resort.

What is the root of this evil of divisions? The secular world, and a distressingly large number of professing Christians, would answer this question without a moment’s hesitation: poor self-esteem. This alleged “malady” is said to be the root of crime, of moral evils (many of which are no longer a crime), and of inter-personal conflicts. It should come as no surprise that Paul’s “root problem” is just the opposite of the secular world. Paul indicates that the root of the Corinthian conflicts is pride. It is not that the believers in the church think too little of themselves; they think too much of themselves. It is not “poor self-esteem” but “inflated self-esteem” that is the problem.

Why are these secular “cures” being embraced by the church? Why when we seek to heal conflicts and strife do we turn to a psychology book rather than to 1 Corinthians? When Paul deals with strife among the saints, he begins at the beginning—the gospel of Jesus Christ. His introductory words have already taken us to God and to His sufficient provisions for salvation and godly living. Now, after setting the standard of Christian unity, Paul seeks to correct the ungodly divisions in the church. He does so by turning us immediately to the gospel. Our salvation is Christ-centered and not man-centered. How then can Christians divide themselves from other Christians on the basis of the men whom they have chosen to follow? We were saved in the name of Jesus Christ; how is it that we now take pride in the names of the men we follow?

In the past, I have advocated “biblical thinking,” and I still do. But this text has forced me to see that Paul’s thinking goes even deeper. Paul is a model for us in what might be called “gospel thinking.” Baptism is a command of our Lord, and it is an important part of our obedience to Christ. But Paul makes it clear that proclaiming the gospel takes a higher priority in his life than performing baptisms. The Bible teaches us many truths, but the one truth which stands above all is that of the gospel. If any other truth begins to overshadow the gospel, something is wrong.

Notice with me how the gospel colors Paul’s thinking in almost any situation. In Acts 20:24, we see that Paul refuses to take the “advice” of the saints to avoid going to Jerusalem. Paul knows that “bonds and affliction” await him there, but Paul’s consuming desire is to fulfill his mission of proclaiming the gospel. Preaching Christ is more important than saving his skin. In Philippians 3:15, people who have “a different attitude” Paul leaves to God to change their hearts. However, in Galatians 1, Paul has a scathing rebuke for those who have “a different gospel” (see verses 6-10). When Paul is imprisoned, and some use this fact to further themselves at his expense, Paul rejoices because even in this, the gospel is preached (Philippians 1:12-18). In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul documents his right as an apostle to be supported by the churches where he ministers. He purposefully sets aside this right for the sake of the gospel (see verses 15-23, especially verse 23). When Paul encourages the saints in Corinth to give to the poor, Paul appeals to the gospel for their motivation in giving (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Over and over and over again, it is the gospel which provides the standard, the basis, the motivation, and the guiding principles for Christian living. The gospel is not merely that truth which we believe in order to be saved; it is the truth which we are to seek to grasp more fully day by day, and the truth which we are to live out in our everyday lives. As Paul put it,

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2:6-7).

Paul gets to the root of the problem of division and strife when he goes to the gospel, for the gospel is the key, the basis for all human relationships:

32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (Ephesians 4:32-5:2).

1 If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:1-8).

12 And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful (Colossians 3:12-15).

Pride is not the root of all evils (see 1 Timothy 6:10), but it is the root of many evils, including strife and division in the church. Pride was the cause of Satan’s downfall (see Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:1-19). Pride and wisdom are closely linked. In his pride, Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the garden. God had reserved certain knowledge for Himself, and that knowledge was there on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God forbade Adam and Eve to eat of this tree, to gain this knowledge. Eve saw that fruit, that knowledge, as desirable, and sought it by eating the fruit even though this required disobeying God. And the result of this act was division and strife, from that point onward in history. Man does not want to admit that only God is all-wise. Man seeks wisdom because he wishes to bolster his pride.

It was pride that prompted David to stay at home when he should have gone to war. As a result, he committed adultery with another man’s wife, and he tried to cover this sin with murder. As a result of David’s pride, he numbered the troops of Israel, and thereby brought upon his people the wrath of God. It was pride that God warned the nation Israel about, knowing that these people would eventually take credit for that which God had accomplished by His grace. Pride is a great evil, and it has for all of history been a prominent factor in human strife and division, even among the people of God.

Paul spotlights pride as the root problem among the Corinthians. He does not advocate months or years of therapy. He does not see the need to know the childhood, the background, or the individual struggles of each Christian. All they need to know is the gospel. It is by means of the gospel that God removed the conflict, the enmity, between sinners and Himself. It is also by means of the gospel that the enmity between men is removed:

11 Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands—12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 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, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).

PrideThe gospel is incompatible with human pride. When saints strive with other saints out of pride, the cure is not to enhance their pride, to improve their “self-esteem”; it is to remove that pride. The self-esteem of the saints does not need to be commended; it should not even be criticized. It needs to be crucified. Do you wonder why our Lord instructed His church to remember His suffering and death by the observance of the Lord’s Table (communion)? You should not. Communion is the commemoration of the work of Christ, the gospel. Communion is not simply a remembrance of an act which our Lord accomplished in the past; it is a way of life which we are to emulate every day of our lives.

How often, when men seek to evangelize the lost, or when they attempt to motivate Christians (and unbelievers) to give or to serve, do they appeal to human pride. They glorify certain tasks and positions, so that people will fill them for that glory. They publicly laud the gifts or service of people, so that they will be proud of their contribution. Gospel thinking requires us to do just the opposite. In order to be saved, we must confess our sin and admit that we are unworthy of God’s gift of salvation. We must humble ourselves and accept the free gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. We must cease trusting in our goodness, in our works or efforts, in our worthiness, and cast ourselves on the sinless Son of God who died in our place, bearing the penalty for our sin, and giving to us His righteousness as a free gift. The gospel which saves is the gospel which humbles, and that humbling gospel is the basis for Christian unity and harmony. If you have never accepted the gospel message, and the gift of salvation in Christ of which the gospel speaks, I urge you to do so this very moment.


22 In Matthew 19, the scribes and Pharisees quiz Jesus about divorce. Under what circumstances can a man divorce his wife? Jesus’ response is to emphasize the rule and not the exceptions. It is not that exceptions do not exist. But to focus too much on the exceptions can undermine the rule. So here Paul wants to begin with the rule. He then cites specific examples where the Corinthians have departed from it (and these areas are not exceptions to the rule; they are examples of the rule).

23 Robertson and Plummer indicate that, “The expression is taken from Greek political life, meaning ‘be at peace’ or (as here) ‘make up differences.’” Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1971 [reprint]), p. 10. Leon Morris quotes Bishop Lightfoot: “This ‘strictly classical’ expression ‘is used of political communities which are free from factions, or of different states which entertain friendly relations with each other.’” Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1966), pp. 38-39.

24 Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary, F. F. Bruce, General Editor, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987 [reprint, 1993]), p. 54.

25 The term used here by Paul is a colorful one. Robertson and Plumber (p. 10) tell us, “It is used in surgery for setting a joint (Galen), and in Greek politics for composing factions (Hot. v. 28).” In the New Testament, it is employed for the process of mending fishing nets (Matthew 4:21).

26 Fee, p. 53, fn. 29.

27 “… nous, as is shown in ii. 16, denotes the Christian way of thinking in general, the conception of the gospel in its entirety; the gnome, according to vii. 25, refers rather to the manner of deciding a particular point, what we call opinion, judgment.” Frederic Louis Gadded, Commentary on First Corinthians, Kregel Reprint Library (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications [reprint], 1977), p. 63.

28 Paul speaks here of our salvation as an on-going process, and not just as a historical event.

29 It has been observed that Paul divides the whole world into two categories. These are not the categories of “Jew” and “Gentile,” but of believer and unbeliever.

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Filed under Daily Biblical Studies for the Soul, Studies in The Book of 1 Corinthians

Introduction and Background to 1 Corinthians

Introduction

A number of years ago, one of the seminary students in our congregation left for a summer ministry in the South. During that week, we received word that his car had broken down on the way and that he was stranded. It was reported as a matter for prayer, but in jest, someone suggested the church send “Bob” to fix the car. My response was that, while I may be able to “heal the sick” (automotively speaking), I am not able to “raise the dead!”

While a student in seminary, I became friends with a student who was a veterinarian. I always teased him by telling him his ministry could be preaching in a church that was going to the dogs. I wonder just how one would feel about being sent to a church like the one in Corinth, as described in the two epistles of Paul to the Corinthians. Frankly, from a purely human point of view, the situation in Corinth appears to be hopeless.

And yet when we read these introductory verses to this epistle, Paul is positive, upbeat, and optimistic. His prayers concerning this church are filled with expressions of thanksgiving. How can this be? How can Paul be so positive and optimistic as he communicates with this church? One thing is certain—it is not because of the godly conduct of many of its members.

Paul’s first words to the Corinthians are not just a repetition of a standard form, a kind of “boiler plate” greeting, as though he were using a pre-packaged computer program which needed nothing else but to fill in the name of the church. The salutation of this epistle provides us not only with a demonstration of Paul’s optimism and enthusiasm in writing to these saints, it also indicates how he can be so positive about this troubled body of believers. More than this, it begins to lay a theological foundation for Paul’s ministry and teaching as it will be given throughout the epistle. This salutation tells us not only how Paul feels about this church, but why he feels as he does. Gordon Fee has this to say about the importance of these first nine verses of 1 Corinthians:

With the elaborations of this letter Paul begins a habit that will carry through to the end. In each case the elaborations reflect, either directly or subtly, many of the concerns about to be raised in the letter itself. Even as he formally addresses the church in the salutation, Paul’s mind is already at work on the critical behavioral and theological issues at hand.

The Founding of the Church at Corinth

At the end of Paul’s so-called first missionary journey with Barnabas, the Jerusalem Council met to decide just what should be required of Gentile converts (Acts 15:1-29). When Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways, Paul took Silas with him and set out on what was to be called the second missionary journey of Paul (Acts 15:36-41). They began by revisiting some of the churches that had been founded on the first journey, delivering to them the decision of the Jerusalem Council (16:4-5).

After being divinely prohibited from preaching in Asia (Acts 16:6) and Bithynia, Paul, Silas, and Timothy ended up at Troas, where Paul received the “Macedonian vision” (16:9-10), which brought them to Philippi where a number were saved and a church was established. From Philippi, Paul and his party went to Thessalonica, then to Berea, and finally to Athens (Acts 17). From Athens, Paul went to Corinth, an ancient city of Greece, the seat of government of the Roman province of Achaia. It was in Corinth that Paul first crossed paths with a Jew named Aquila and his wife Priscilla. Like Paul, this man was a tent-maker. He and his wife had fled from Italy because of a command from Claudius that all Jews must leave Rome (Acts 18:1-3). Every Sabbath, Paul went to the synagogue, where he sought to evangelize Jews and Greeks (18:4). Eventually he was joined by Silas and Timothy, who had just arrived from Macedonia. Apparently they brought a gift from the Macedonians which enabled Paul to fully devote himself to the Word, so that he gave all of his efforts to preaching Christ (18:5).

As usual, Paul’s preaching prompted a reaction from the unbelieving Jews, so that he left the synagogue and began to concentrate on evangelizing Gentiles (18:6-7). Paul moved his headquarters to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a Gentile God-fearer who lived next door to the synagogue (18:5-7). Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, became a believer along with the rest of his household. Many other Corinthians were also being saved as well and were submitting to baptism (18:8). The Lord appeared to Paul in a vision, assuring him that there were many more souls to be saved in that city and that he was not to fear. He was to speak out boldly, rather than to hold back for fear of trouble (18:9-10). As a result, Paul extended his ministry in Corinth, staying a total of 18 months, a considerably longer period of ministry than usual.

Paul’s lengthy ministry was facilitated, in part, by Jewish litigation and by the precedent-setting ruling of Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia (18:12-17). The Jews seized Paul and brought him up on charges before Gallio. They accused him of being neither a faithful Jew nor a good citizen. They accused him of speaking and acting against the law. Paul did not even get the opportunity to speak in his own defense. Before he could open his mouth, Gallio gave his ruling. This strife between Paul and the Jews was but another instance of the in-fighting which was so typical of the Jews. Gallio was fed up with it and with them and was not about to be used by these Jewish zealots to prevail over their Jewish rivals. This was not a matter for his judgment. He threw them and their case out of court.

From all we are told of him, Gallio was a pagan who cared nothing for the Jews, the gospel, or Paul. And yet his ruling was a landmark decision, officially legitimizing and protecting those who preached the gospel throughout the entire Roman Empire. Judaism was an official religion, recognized and sanctioned by the Roman government. The Jews were seeking to convince Gallio that Paul was really no Jew and that the preaching of the gospel was not the practice of Judaism. Thus, they inferred, Paul was a threat to the stability of Roman rule. They argued that neither Paul nor any other Christian should be allowed to preach the gospel under the permission and protection of the Roman law. When Gallio refused to rule on this matter, calling it a Jewish squabble, he was declaring Paul’s preaching of the gospel to be the practice of Judaism. Christianity, Gallio’s ruling indicated, was Jewish and thus protected by Roman law. Thus, Paul’s ministry was legal, and any Jewish opposition could not claim Rome as their ally.

Gallio drove them away from his judgment seat. The Jews were furious, and in retaliation they seized Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and began to beat him in front of the proconsul. He looked on with disdain, not at all impressed or concerned. This Sosthenes seems to be the same person who is with Paul as he writes to the Corinthians (1:1).

City of CorinthThe City of Corinth

Secular history only verifies and clarifies the impression of the city of Corinth which we gain from the pens of Luke (Acts) and Paul (1 and 2 Corinthians). It was a great city in many ways. Politically, Corinth was the capital city of the Roman province of Achaia, a territory including nearly all of Greece. That is why Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, was in Corinth and heard the charge against Paul. Geographically, Corinth was so strategically located it could hardly do other than prosper. The city was situated on a plateau overlooking the Isthmus of Corinth, two miles distant from the Gulf. Nearby was the Acrocorinth, a 1900-foot mountain that was perfectly suited as a citadel for the city. This fortress was so secure it was never taken by force until the invention of gun-powder. It also contained an inexhaustible water supply in the fountain of Peirene. At the summit of Acrocorinth was the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. At the base of the citadel stood the temple of Melicertes, the patron of seafarers.

Located on an isthmus, Corinth became a crossroads for both land and sea trade. By looking at a map, one can quickly see that Corinth is situated between two large bodies of water and two land areas, and these are virtually surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. Were it not for the isthmus on which Corinth was founded, the southern part of Greece would be an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Goods exchanged between the north and south would normally be shipped by land through Corinth.

Much of the sea trade of the Mediterranean from east to west also passed through Corinth. To the west of Corinth was the port city of Lechaeum on the Gulf of Corinth. On her east was the port of Cenchrae on the Saronic Gulf. These were ports of call for ships that sailed the seas. Travel across the isthmus and through Corinth was generally considered safer than the 200-mile voyage around Cape Malea, the most dangerous cape in the Mediterranean. So dangerous was this journey by sea that the Greeks had two sayings well known to sailors in those days: “Let him who sails round Malea forget his home,” and, “Let him who sails round Malea first make his will.

To avoid the distance and danger of the journey around the Cape of Malea (now called Cape Matapan), goods would be unloaded at one port, transported across the four-mile strip of land (through Corinth), and reloaded on the other side. Smaller ships were actually transported with their cargo over the isthmus by means of rollers. Consequently, the isthmus was named the Diolkos, “the place of dragging across.” Nero had planned a canal to join the Aegean and Ionian seas, and he even began construction in A.D. 66. The three and one-half mile canal was finished in 1893.

Corinth thus became a great commercial center. Luxuries from all over the world were available, and the vices of the world were also to be found there. These evils did not all have to be imported, however, for the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was nearby with 1,000 cult prostitutes who sold themselves in the name of religion. The Greeks had a proverb about the city which tells a great deal about its moral decay: “It is not every man who can afford a journey to Corinth.” Those who were worldly wise used the verb “corinthianize” to describe an act of immorality. “Corinthian girl” was known to be a synonym for prostitute.

Estimates of the population of Corinth range from 100,000 to 600,000. The diversity of peoples who lived in this city is explained by her history. In Paul’s day, Corinth was a very old and yet a very new city. “Signs of habitation date back to the fourth millennium B.C.” Alexander made Corinth the center of a new Hellenic League as he prepared for war with Persia. In 146 B.C., the city was destroyed by Roman soldiers because it led the Greek resistance to Roman rule. All the males of the city were exterminated, and the women and children were sold for slaves. The city was rebuilt by Julius Caesar 100 years later, and it eventually became the capital of the province of Achaia. Many of those who settled in Corinth were not Greeks. A large number of Roman soldiers settled there after retiring, having received their freedom and Roman citizenship in addition to grants of land. A variety of nationalities settled in Corinth, enticed by the prospects of economic prosperity. A good number of the immigrants were Jews.

Being a relatively recent city with newly acquired wealth brought problems, for there was the absence of an established aristocracy which would have provided a much more stable society. Farrar spoke of Corinth in this way:

… this mongrel and heterogeneous population of Greek adventurers and Roman bourgeois, with a tainting infusion of Phoenicians; this mass of Jews, ex-soldiers, philosophers, merchants, sailors, freedmen, slaves, trades-people, hucksters and agents of every form of vice … without aristocracy, without traditions and without well-established citizens.

Every two years Corinth presided over the Isthmian Games, a contest in which all the Greek city-states took part. At these games, the sea-god Poseidon was specially honored.

The Occasion for Writing 1 Corinthians

After Paul had completed his 18-month ministry in Corinth, he set out for Syria with Priscilla and Aquila. On reaching Ephesus, Paul ministered for a short time, promising to return if the Lord willed (18:19-21). He left Priscilla and Aquila there and journeyed on to Caesarea, Jerusalem and Antioch (Acts 18:18-22). After strengthening the churches in Asia Minor, Paul returned to Ephesus for a much more extensive ministry. He stayed in Ephesus, teaching in the school of Tyrannus for two years. While in Ephesus, he seems to have received unfavorable reports about the Corinthian church which prompted him to write his first letter to this church, a letter which was not preserved as a part of the New Testament canon (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).

Later, while Paul was still ministering the Word in Ephesus, he heard from some of “Chloe’s people” that divisions were beginning to emerge among the Corinthian saints. In addition, Paul was informed of a case of gross immorality in the church, one with which the church had not dealt. Instead of feeling shame and sorrow over this sin, at least some of the saints were proud of their tolerance (chapter 5). He heard also of Christians taking their fellow-believers to court, seeking to have pagans pass judgment on spiritual matters (chapter 6). Paul was also told of unbecoming conduct at the Lord’s Supper (chapter 11) and of doctrinal error concerning the resurrection (chapter 15). A three-man delegation consisting of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus also arrived from Corinth (16:17) bringing a letter which inquired of Paul about marriage (7:1), virgins (7:25), food sacrificed to idols (8:1), spiritual gifts (12:1), the collection for the saints (16:1), and Apollos (16:12). It was while he was in Ephesus that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in response to the reports and questions he received there.

Paul’s Preamble
(1:1-3)

1 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

That Paul should write such a letter as this should come as no surprise to us and certainly not to the Corinthians. After all, Paul had already written one epistle which was not preserved for us. Paul was the one who first came to Corinth with the gospel. Many of the members of the church in Corinth were the fruit of his ministry (1 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 3:1-4). Paul wrote with apostolic authority. By the will of God, he was chosen and called as an apostle. He wrote with full authority. His words were not to be ignored.

Paul addresses his epistle to the church at Corinth and then proceeds to define the church. This is a very important definition to which we should give our full attention. First, Paul wants us to be assured that the church belongs to God. How often we hear churches identified in terms of who the pastor is. That is ______’s church, and we fill in the blank with the pastor’s name. When we do so, we indicate our deep and fundamental difference with Paul who believed that the church belongs to God. God is the One who brought the church into existence through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. God is the One who sustains His church. It is God’s church.

Generally speaking, the term “church” is defined in terms of two categories: (a) the local church and (b) the church universal. The local church is understood as that body of believers who gather regularly in one place. The “universal church” consists of all believers in every place and in the whole course of church history.

I do not wish to differ with these two definitions of the church. They are probably useful ways of considering groups of believers. But the “local church” and the “universal church” are not entirely consistent with Paul’s use of the term as he employs it in the New Testament. Here, the church is defined as (a) “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling,” and (b) “all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 2).

We might be inclined to think of this first category as “the local church.” In a sense, it is. But when Paul speaks of the church, he simply refers to a group of believers. Sometimes this group is a “house church,” a group of believers meeting in a certain person’s home (Romans 16:5, 19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2). These “house churches” may have met in a larger gathering, as did the saints in Jerusalem (see Acts 2:46). Then, Paul referred to the “city church,” that is, the group of all believers in a particular city (see Revelation 2 and 3), or the church at a particular city (Acts 11:22; 13:1; 18:22; Romans 16:1). This is the way Paul referred to the Corinthian church, the “church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1). Finally, Paul speaks of the church as all those living at one time, who have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation.

I fear our view of the church is either too narrow (the local church—our church) or too broad (all those who have ever lived and trusted in Christ for salvation). We pray for our missionaries, the missionaries we have sent out from our local church, or more broadly, from our denominational group. A few churches share with those in need within their own fellowship or local church. When the new believers (the church) at Antioch heard a famine was coming upon the world, they enthusiastically began to prepare to give to their brethren in Judea. They understood, even at this early stage in their growth and maturity, that the church is bigger than the local church.

When we hear of disasters taking place around the world, do we immediately begin to consider the impact on our brethren, our fellow members of the world-wide church, and act accordingly? I fear we do not, at least to the degree we should. With such rapid communications in our time, we could easily and quickly learn of the trials and tribulations of fellow believers, no matter where they are in the world. And our ability to respond is also significantly easier than it was for the saints of Antioch. Let us begin to think of the church in Paul’s terms, rather than in the narrower terms to which we are accustomed.

In this broader sense of the church, we see that Paul’s epistle, though addressed to the saints at Corinth, was also written to the church at large. Look once again at the first two verses of Paul’s salutation: “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”

This broader element in Paul’s salutation is important because it reminds us that “church truth” is “church truth.” That is, Paul’s teaching to the saints at Corinth is just as applicable and just as authoritative for the church at Philippi, or Ephesus, or Dallas. Too many have tried to avoid Paul’s teaching in his Corinthians Epistles by insisting he is speaking to a very special and unique problem found only in Corinth. This simply does not square with Paul’s words. His instructions to the Corinthians apply to every other saint:

16 I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church (1 Corinthians 4:16-17).

33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 34 Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says (1 Corinthians 14:33-34).

It has also been pointed out that in addressing the church at Corinth, Paul does not distinguish any one believer or group of believers from any other. We shall soon see that the Corinthian church was plagued with the dilemma of divisions. Here, Paul does not address the church other than as one group of believers, equally lost as unbelievers, and now equally saved through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, Paul is careful to emphasize that the standing of the saints in Corinth and elsewhere is solely the result of the grace of God manifested through the Lord Jesus Christ. There are no grounds for boasting, except in the person and work of Christ.

Paul’s Thanksgiving
(1:4-9)

4 I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Somehow, an expression of thanksgiving is not what I would have expected from Paul at this point in time. Here is a church that has begun to listen to false teachers and who is challenging Paul’s authority. Here is a church which condones immorality and “unconditionally accepts” a man whose sin shocks the unbelieving pagans of that city. Here is a church whose personal conflicts are being aired out before unbelieving eyes in secular courts. How can Paul possibly give thanks?

Paul does not give thanks for the sins and failures of these saints. Paul gives thanks to God for what He has done and for what He will ultimately do for His children. Paul first gives thanks for the “grace of God,” which He has given the saints in Christ Jesus (verse 4). Grace is unmerited favor, and we must surely agree that these saints—not to mention ourselves—are unworthy. The good things which have already been accomplished, and all those good things yet to be accomplished, are manifestations of God’s infinite grace, bestowed upon those who are unworthy.

Paul gives thanks for the sufficiency of God’s grace to the saints as articulated in verses 5-7.

5 That in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s grace to the saints in Corinth and everywhere was boundless. He enriched them in everything. They were enriched in all speech and all knowledge. This was achieved through the preaching of the “testimony of Christ,” as it was confirmed in each and every believer. The Corinthians had no critical need for which God had not made provision through the apostolic preaching of Christ. Were there false teachers who indicated the Corinthians were lacking and that they needed more of something? They were liars! God had already provided all that was necessary for “life and godliness” in Christ (see 2 Peter 1:2-4). No gift was lacking in the church. God had provided just the right gifts for the growth and maturity and ministry of the saints in Corinth. If the church at Corinth was failing, it was not due to any failure on God’s part to provide for their needs, but rather a failure on their part to appropriate these means.

Finally, Paul expressed his thanksgiving for the faithfulness of God and the resulting assurance that He would complete that which He had begun in the Corinthian saints (verses 7-9). Elsewhere, Paul put it this way:

6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day (2 Timothy 1:12).

These saints were eagerly awaiting the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (7a). Their salvation had not only the past and present benefits, referred to earlier, but a future hope. As motley a crew as this Corinthian church proved to be, their salvation and security were God’s doing. Consequently, Paul had great confidence concerning this church and the future of each saint. Paul thanked God because He would confirm these saints to the end. What God had started, He would finish. They were secure, and their hope was certain, just as Peter also writes:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

While these Corinthian saints may not consistently be faithful, God is faithful. It is through His faithfulness that each believer has been called to salvation. It is because of His faithfulness that we will persevere and enter into His kingdom, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

No wonder Paul is thankful. In spite of the stumbling and sin which is evident in the Corinthian church, God has saved the saints there. He has sufficiently provided for their every spiritual need. He has purposed to present them faultless when He establishes His kingdom. Paul therefore is assured that his ministry is not in vain, because the salvation and sanctification of the saints in Corinth and elsewhere are the work of God. The God who called these saints and destined them for glory is the God who called Paul to be an apostle and to minister to these saints. Paul’s work is not in vain, for his work is ultimately God’s work.

1 CorinthiansConclusion

Paul is writing to a very troubled church, a church which exists in the midst of a very corrupt city and culture. In spite of this, Paul has a very confident mood as he addresses the saints at Corinth and around the world of his day and ours. I notice that in spite of the weaknesses and willful sins of these saints, Paul does not begin by questioning the reality of their conversion, but by affirming the present and future benefits. There are texts which do question the reality of the faith of persistently wayward professing believers, but this is not one of them. These saints need to be reminded of the certainty of their salvation. The certainty of their salvation rests not within themselves, but in the One who called them and the One who will complete all that He has begun. This certainty also assures Paul that his continued ministry to this church is not in vain.

This book of 1 Corinthians should cause us to reject the myth of the perfect New Testament church. We often refer to ourselves at The House of The Nazarene as a “New Testament church.” We are that in the sense that our church is patterned after the principles set down in the New Testament. We have no one “pastor,” who is the head of the church, but we recognize that Christ is the only Head of the church. We are governed by a plurality of elders. We have a weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, and we encourage believers to exercise their spiritual gifts in a way that edifies the whole body. We do not wish to imply by the expression “New Testament church” that we are a perfect church or even that we are a good church at all times.

So often Christians look back to the New Testament times as though the church in those days was nearly perfect. If you read the Book of Acts the way I do, there is a wonderful period of bliss in the infancy of the church, but this lasts only from late in chapter 2 to the end of chapter 4. In chapter 5, a couple is struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. In chapter 6, there is strife between two groups of Jews over the care of their widows. And by the time we get to the Corinthian church, it is far from perfect and hardly what could be called good. The final words of our Lord to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3 are not complimentary either. The church was not perfect in New Testament times, and neither is it perfect today. The same sins which Paul exposes in 1 and 2 Corinthians are present and evident in evangelical churches today. And so Paul’s words of admonition and correction are just as applicable to us today as they were to the saints of his day.

We deceive ourselves if we think we can retreat within the church walls to escape the evils of the world. The Corinthians Epistles inform us that the world too easily and quickly finds its way into the church. The church is not the place where we go to escape from sin; it is the place where we go to confront our sin and to stimulate each other to love and good deeds. The church is not a Christian “clean room” where we can get away from sin; it is a hospital, where we can find help and healing through the ministry of the Word and prayer.

The church is not the place which is kept holy by keeping sinners away. It is the place where newly born sinners are brought, so that they can learn the Scriptures and grow in their faith. All too often, new believers feel unwelcomed by the church. The church is afraid of newly saved sinners because they do not really understand holiness or sanctification. Let us not strive to preserve the purity of the church by keeping out the newly saved pagans. Let us strive to preserve the purity of the church by throwing out some of the professing saints who boast only of the time they have put in at the church but whose profession of faith is hypocritical (see 1 Corinthians 5).

If there was hope for the Corinthians, then there is hope for anyone. The first nine verses of this epistle are saturated with reason for hope. Do you know someone who is hopelessly lost, who is not just disinterested in the gospel but adamantly opposed to it? Then take hope from the two men from whom this letter is sent. The apostle Paul was once Saul, the Saul who stood by and held the garments for those who stoned Stephen, the Paul who went from city to city seeking to find Christians whom he could arrest and even put to death. This man is now willing to give his life for the sake of the gospel.

If I understand the text correctly, Sosthenes is another Saul. In Acts 18, we are told that Crispus, the synagogue leader in Corinth, came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It appears that Sosthenes is his replacement. I understand him to be the leader of the opposition to Paul and the church in Corinth. At his instigation, it would seem, charges were brought against Christianity before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12-17). When Gallio refuses to hear this case, it is clear that Paul and the church have won. In frustration and anger, the unbelieving Jews turn on Sosthenes, their leader, beating him as Gallio watched, unmoved. Now, Sosthenes is a traveling companion of Paul’s, a brother in the Lord. Two of the most hostile unbelievers are now brothers in the Lord. Is there hope for the lost? There most certainly is!

If there is hope for the lost, there is also hope for those who are saved but whose life falls far short of the standard set by the Scriptures. Here is a church that seems almost beyond hope. There are divisions, immorality, and opposition to the apostle Paul and to apostolic teaching. Is Paul discouraged? Does Paul give up hope? No! Paul’s first words to this church are those of hope and confidence. Paul’s confidence and hope are not in the Corinthians, in their good intentions, or in their diligent efforts. His hope is in the One who called him and who called the Corinthian saints as well. His hope is in the fact that God has abundantly provided for every spiritual need in that church. His hope is in the faithfulness of the God who started the good work in these believers and who is committed to bring it to completion.

Have you ever felt that a loved one or a friend were hopeless? They may be a believer, but their life is a mess. This epistle reminds us that there is hope for such a saint. Have you ever felt that you were beyond help, beyond hope? This epistle is for you. Its first words to you remind you of the character and the work of God in the saints, through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Cease trusting in yourself, in your good intentions, in your efforts, and once again place your trust in the One who alone can save and sanctify. Heed Paul’s words of warning and of instruction. If there is hope for Saul and Sosthenes and for saints at Corinth, there is hope for anyone.

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Filed under Daily Biblical Studies for the Soul, Studies in The Book of 1 Corinthians

The Bible, God, Man, Sin

Chapter 1: The Bible

We begin our teaching on foundations of our faith with the Bible, as it is the source of our faith.

THE BIBLE

Many people feel as if they have no compass for their lives. They are asking themselves questions. Where am I going? Am I lost? Will I ever find the right way? God has heard our questions and He has already given us a Book to guide our lives. Before searching for the answers, let’s look together at the great Book. We will see how it was written and how it was given to us.

This lesson will help you describe the origin and structure of the Bible and understand how and why the Bible was given to us.

THE ORIGIN AND STRUCTURE OF THE BIBLE

The Holy Bible, made up of 66 books, is like a small library that God has given us. The first part of the Bible (the Old Testament) contains 39 books. The second part (the New Testament) contains 27 books.

Over a period of 1600 years approximately 40 men were involved in writing these books. The Bible tells us that these men were holy men of God. They were kings and peasants, poets and merchants, military and religious leaders. They were from different backgrounds, different cities, and of different interests.

The books of the Bible cover many different subjects, like history, prophecy, and poetry. It has songs and wise sayings called proverbs. It contains stories to interest the young and the old. Yet it all fits together because it has one central theme-the relationship between God and man.

THE PURPOSE OF THE BIBLE

Perhaps you noticed what may seem to be a contra­diction in the first part of this lesson. It says that God gave us the Bible, but it also says that men wrote it. How can this be?

The forty men who wrote the Bible were divinely inspired. This means that the Holy Spirit put in the authors’ minds the thoughts that God wanted them to write. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” This verse also tells why the Bible was given for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and giving instruction.

God has given us instructions for right living because He desires our highest good. He knows that when we do not live according to His principles we hurt ourselves. Our minds, our bodies, and especially our spirits suffer. The best way to avoid hurting our­selves is to follow His Word closely. Through it we get to know Him personally; we understand that His ways are best for us.

Like a chart or a guide book, His Word was written for us to turn to for help and strength. How wonderful that we can have His personal instructions to us always at our side!

Quiz Instructions

Test your knowledge by taking this short quiz which covers what you just read on this page.

The Bible consists of ________ books written by ________ men of different backgrounds.

a) 40, 66

b) 60, 46

c) 66, 40

d) 46, 60

The Bible was written over a period of _______ years.

a) 1200

b) 1400

c) 1600

d) 1800

When we say that the Bible is divinely inspired we emphasize that __________.

a) it tells us about God.

b) God gave the authors the thoughts they should write.

b) it contains valuable religious history.

The authors wrote on the same theme and did not contradict each other because _________.

a) God was the real author and they wrote the thoughts He gave them.

b) each one left instructions for the following writers.

Select all of the TRUE reasons why God has given us the Bible.

a) He wants our highest good.

b) He wanted to give instructions for right living.

c) He wanted us to realize that He is too great for us to know Him.

d) He wants to establish His relationship with us.

Chapter 2: God

GOD

Some people fear God and others love Him-depending on what they have been told and what they do about it. You cannot see God, but you can study what He does. In Lesson I we learned that it is the Bible that tells us all about God-about His qualities and how He deals with mankind. In this lesson we will look into the Bible and explore a few of the many things it has to say about God.

This lesson will help you name several attributes of God and explain what your attitude toward God should be.

HIS RELATIONSHIP TO US

Objective 1. Name at least five attributes of God

The Bible says in John 4:24 that God is a Spirit. The dictionary says that a spirit is the vital principle that gives life. Since God is the Creator, this means that He is the supernatural force that gives life to all of His creation. Because He is a Spirit, He cannot be seen unless He chooses to show Himself in some visible form.

He did show Himself through His Son. John 1:14 says, “The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son.”

God has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three Persons which are called the Godhead or Trinity. The three are referred to in many places, one of which is Matthew 28:19: “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the HolySpirit.”

One good way to learn more about God is by studying His attributes or qualities. God is good, holy, just, all-powerful, all-knowing, and eternal. Let’s look at a series of verses that mention these qualities and others as well.

Exodus 34:6 states, “I, the Lord, am a God who is full of compassion and pity, who is not easily angered and who shows great love and faithfulness.”

Leviticus 11:44 says: “I am the Lord your God, and you must keep yourselves holy. because I am holy.”

The fact that He is all-powerful can be seen in Daniel 4:35. It says. “No one can oppose his will or question what he does.”

God knows everything.

There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before his eyes. And it is to him that we must all give an account of ourselves (Hebrews 4:13).

Revelation 10:6 tells us that God is eternal. An angel “took a vow in the name of God, who lives forever and ever, who created heaven, earth, and the sea, and everything in them.”

The few verses that we have read, verses that give a little description of God, help us to realize how great He is. He is powerful and He is strong-but He is also merciful and kind. And He wants to have a close relationship with us, His creation.

OUR RELATIONSHIP TO HIM

Objective 2. Recognize that your first responsibility is toward God.

In Matthew 22:37 Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

There are various ways of showing God that we love Him. Our worship and praise can put our love into words said directly to Him. But we should also show our love. Now listen to what the Lord your God demands of you:

Have reverence for the Lord and do all that he commands. Love him, serve him with all your heart, and obey all his laws (Deuteronomy 10:12 13).

“But whoever obeys his word is the one whose love for God has really been made perfect” (I John 2:5).

If we want to show our love to God, we will follow the instructions He gives us in His Word.

Another way to show our love to God is by giving and sharing with others. I John 3:17-18 says: If a rich person sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against his brother, how can he claim that he loves God? My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. The love that is obedient and sharing will be a satisfying and rewarding love.

Jesus says in Luke 10:28 that if we love God above all else we “will live.” Some people think that “real living” is wealth, power, and position. But these things in themselves will never satisfy because we were made in God’s likeness and for His glory. Our spirits must be satisfied with the spiritual. Real living is loving God. Jesus said. “Be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things” (Matthew 6:33).

Don’t limit yourself to the less important things. Love God with all your heart.

Quiz Instructions

You will need to read verses in the Bible to answer most of the questions in this short quiz. Test your knowledge of what you find in the Bible and in the teachings on this page.

1. Read Matthew 6:9-11 and choose the correct words for the following statement: God is likened to a loving _______________ who provides for ___________________ .

a) father, his children

b) employer, their employees

c) king, his servants

2. Read Isaiah 66:13 and choose the correct words for the following statement: God comforts even as a __________ comforts _______________ .

a) father, his children

b) mother, her children

c) grandparent, a grandchild

3. Look up the Scripture 2 Kings 4:42-44. Choose the attribute of God that it most closely suggests to you:

a) merciful

b) forgiving

c) all-powerful

d) holy

e) all-knowing or all-seeing

4. Look up the Scripture Genesis 9:13-17. Choose the attribute of God that it most closely suggests to you:

a) merciful

b) forgiving

c) all-powerful

d) holy

e) all-knowing or all-seeing

5. Look up the Scripture 2 Chronicles 7:13-14. Choose the attribute of God that it most closely suggests to you:

a) merciful

b) forgiving

c) all-powerful

d) holy

e) all-knowing or all-seeing

6. Look up the Scripture Exodus 3:7. Choose the attribute of God that it most closely suggests to you:

a) merciful

b) forgiving

c) all-powerful

d) holy

e) all-knowing or all-seeing

7. Look up the Scripture Psalm 97:10-12. Choose the attribute of God that it most closely suggests to you:

a) merciful

b) forgiving

c) all-powerful

d) holy

e) all-knowing or all-seeing

8. Above all else, you should love

a) power so that you are in control of your life.

b) God, and put that love into practice.

9. Read the Bible verses listed below and click on the ones that tell you what your first responsibility toward God is.

a) Deuteronomy 6:5

b) Deuteronomy 10:12

c) Deuteronomy 13:3

d) Joshua 22:5

e) Mark 12:30

f) Jude 21

Chapter 3: Man

MAN

There is a children’s story about a famous wood carver who one day carved the figure of a little boy. It was a beautiful carving and the man called it Pinocchio. He was proud of his work but there was no way the carving could love him in return.

What would have happened if the carver had put a little talking-machine inside the wooden boy? Maybe he could have made the little figure move and say, “I love you.” Would that have satisfied the carver? Would he have been thrilled and said, “Now I know my carving loves me?” No, because that would not be an expression of love. It would be only a mechanical phrase with no real feeling.

The story says that somehow the wooden boy came alive. He had a mind of his own and when he would say, “I love you,” it did thrill the carver. Why? Because the wooden boy wasn’t forced to say it-he said it with love.

We know the story is just a fable, but it gives us a little picture of how God felt when He made man. He made him beautifully and, most important, with the power to make his own choices.

God made man, but not carved from a block of wood. How did He make him? What qualities did He put in man? In the last lesson we studied some of the qualities of God and our attitude toward Him. Now let’s look at how God made man and the responsibility He gave him.

In this lesson you will study

Man’s Condition at Creation
Man’s Condition Now

This lesson will help you

  • State how and why God made man.
  • Understand the cause of man’s sinful condition.

MAN’S CONDITION AT CREATION

Objective 1. State how man was made and identify a reason for his being created.

God created a beautiful world with trees, flowers, and animals. The Bible says that God was pleased with what He saw. But it wasn’t complete. There were no people to enjoy and share that beauty.

Genesis 1:26-27 tells us:

Then God said, ‘And now we will make human beings; they will be like us and resemble us. They will have power over the fish, the birds, and all the animals, domestic and wild, large and small.’ So God created human beings, making them like himself.

Man was different from the animals already created because he was made in God’s likeness. He was a glorious creation, perfect in body, soul, and spirit. Further details of the story are given in Genesis 2 where it tells how God formed man out of the soil of the ground. Then He breathed life-giving breath into man’s nostrils and the man began to live.

With life came responsibility. Man could make his own decisions. He could glorify God in his everyday living. Isaiah 43:7 gives us God’s words, “They are my own people, and I created them to bring me glory.”

The Bible says that in the cool of the evening God would walk and talk with man in the beautiful garden where they lived. God loved those first people, Adam and Eve, and wanted their perfect fellowship to continue forever. But He knew it could not be perfect if it were forced, if Adam and Eve had no choice but to fellowship with Him.

Because God has the freedom to choose and He made man like Himself, He gave man the freedom to decide whether that fellowship should continue as it had – unbroken and beautiful. Perhaps Adam and Eve wanted to keep it that way, but they wanted some other things too. One day they would come to a place of having to decide what they wanted most of all.

MAN’S CONDITION NOW

Objective 2. Recognize the condition of man as a result of man’s fall.

What a joy the heart of God must have felt having communion with His creation. Then Adam and Eve chose to break that precious fellowship with God.

That is how man fell from his perfect state.  He made the wrong choice and became sinful. Romans 5:19 says, “All people were made sinners as the result of the disobedience of one man.”

The justice of God could not ignore sin. God cannot lie and go against His word. He had said that dis­obedience would cause man to become mortal. Adam and Eve had to leave that paradise garden of Eden and be separated from the presence of God.

Man’s condition today is still sinful. Romans 3:23 says, “Everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence.” Man has never lost the ability to choose. Wrong choices still keep people away from God.

Quiz Instructions

Test your knowledge by taking this short quiz which covers what you just read on this page and some Bible verses.

1. Select each TRUE statement.

a) Man was made for God’s glory.

b) God created man out of nothing.

c) God’s breath made man a living soul.

d) Man was created perfect in body, soul, and spirit.

e) Man was created with a freedom to choose.

2. Memorize Revelation 4:11. After you have memorized it, select the words that are ordered properly to fill in the blanks below. Our ……………………………….. and ………………………………….! You are …………………………. to receive……………………………., and………………………………..For you………………………………… all things, and by your will they were given …………………………. ……………………… and, …………………………………………………..

a) Lord, God, worthy, power, created, existence, life, glory, honor

b) Lord, God, worthy, glory, honor, power, created, existence, life

c) Lord, created, God, worthy, glory, honor, power, existence, life.

d) Lord, God, worthy, glory, created, honor, power, existence, life.

e) Lord, God, worthy, glory, honor, power, created, existence, life.

3. Choose the correct completion for the following statement. Man was made to be

a) oppressed and overworked.

b) forced into service to God.

c) a glory to God.

4. Zephaniah 3:17 says that when you are in communion with the Lord He

a) feels it is the least that you can do.

b) sings and is joyful over you.

c) knows man will soon disobey Him again.

d) will give you new life.

5. Job 8:3 says “God never twists justice; he never fails to do what is right.” Because of this God had to be true to His character and

a) man lost the ability to choose right or wrong.

b) carry out His word by punishing sin.

c) Adam and Eve had to leave the garden of Eden.

d) decided Adam and Eve hadn’t really under­ stood His instructions.

6. Man’s condition now is one of

a) separation from God.

b) a sinful nature.

c) no responsibility for his sins.

And BeholdChapter 4: Sin

SIN

Let’s imagine a friend has given you a palace full of beautiful things. It is yours to enjoy. The only request he makes is, “Please don’t jump from the tower because you will die.”

Then an enemy comes to your palace. He says, “Who told you not to jump? Go ahead. You’ll feel wonderful! You will know how it feels to fly. You will be able to see your palace from a different view. Don’t worry about what happens when you hit bottom; just think about all the new things you’ll learn on the way down.”

Would you run to the top of your tower and jump? Of course not. It would be stupid to trust your enemy and do as he says.

Adam and Eve had a similar experience. God put them in a beautiful garden and made them masters over everything. He gave them permission to eat of every tree but one. Along came the enemy, Satan, who told them to eat the fruit of the tree anyway-that it wouldn’t hurt them. They trusted his word instead of God’s. How foolish!

As we studied in the previous lesson, man was made perfect but through disobedience sin entered his life. How would we define sin? Did Adam bring it into the world? What is the punishment for sin? Is there any escape? The Bible verses in this lesson will give us the answers.

This lesson will help you describe the nature and consequences of sin and appreciate the work of Christ in removing man’s sin.

DEFINITION OF SIN

Objective 1. Recognize descriptions of sin.

Sin is disobeying God’s laws. It is saying to God, “I am more important than You. I don’t take Your Word as my final authority.” Sin is rebellion.

“No one has a right to limit me,” you might say. “I’ll do what I please.” The limits God has set for us were made for one reason-our highest good. For instance, God knows that bitterness and hate can cause severe headaches; a desire for revenge can cause ulcers. These attitudes hurt other people too. God showed His love for us by setting certain limits, or laws, as protection. For us to go outside these limits is to sin. First John 3:4 says, “Whoever sins is guilty of breaking God’s law, because sin is a breaking of the law.”

“Is it all right then to do anything that doesn’t hurt me or others?” No, everything is lawful ONLY if it is inside the limits that God has set. We might think that something doesn’t hurt us or others and be mistaken in our belief. For example, there were parents who thought they shouldn’t obey God’s law of correcting their children because that would frustrate or confuse them. Now a recent magazine article informs us, “It’s time to discipline our children.” Man’s opinions change. For a while he thinks one thing won’t hurt us and later he says it will. The only safe conduct for us is obedience to the laws that God has set, whether we understand the reason for them or not.

THE ORIGIN OF SIN

Objective 2. Identify statements showing how sin entered the world.

Satan tempted man to sin, and man yielded to that temptation. First John 3:8 says. “Whoever continues to sin belongs to the Devil, because the Devil has sinned from the very beginning.” It was Satan that brought sin into the world, but this does not free man from blame. Man is responsible too.

Adam did not have to yield to temptation from Satan. We know that temptations do not come from God. James 1:13-14 tells us:

If a person is tempted by such trials, he must not say, “This temptation comes from God.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one.

It is not sin to be tempted. Even Jesus was tempted by the devil. But it is sin to yield. How different the world would be if Adam had not yielded.

What happened to man when he sinned? God said that if he disobeyed he would die. He didn’t die immediately as we know death, but he immediately became mortal. Death began to work in his body, soul, and spirit.

Sin came into the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned (Romans 5:12).

Yes, all people are sinners. “Everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence” (Romans 3:23).

The penalty for sin today is the same penalty that was given to Adam and Eve-death. Romans 5:12 expresses it this way: “Death has spread to the whole human race.” In Romans 6:23 we read: “For sin pays its wage-death.” No. the sinner doesn’t physically die the moment he commits sin. Sometimes it even looks as though he prospers. But death is working there nevertheless, and eventually he will not only die physically but spiritually also. Spiritual death means eternal separation from God.

THE SOLUTION FOR SIN

Objective 3. Explain how a sinner can escape the penalty of sin.

Do you remember the story that I told you at the beginning of this lesson? The person who jumps from the palace tower will surely die. But what if a friend was near and stretched out a strong net just below the window? If the one who jumped caught the net, his life could be saved.

God has given us a way to escape the punishment of sin which is spiritual death and everlasting separation from Him. The way is through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior. In a future lesson we will learn the verses that tell us how to reach out and be saved. For now, it would be good to memorize two verses that show us how to escape the punishment of sin.

God has shown us how much he loves us-it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8).

If we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing (1 John 1:9).

Quiz Instructions

Test your knowledge by taking this short quiz which covers what you just read on this page and some Bible verses.

1. Sin is __________ .

a) whatever you feel is wrong.

b) whatever others tell you is wrong.

c) being discovered doing something wrong.

d) rebellion and disobedience to God’s laws.

2. God set limits to man’s conduct because He __________ .

a) wanted to frustrate Adam and Eve.

b) doesn’t want man to enjoy himself or be free.

c) loves man and wants the best for him.

3. To step outside the limits God has set is __________ .

a) all right if no one gets hurt.

b) permissible as long as we are not discovered.

c) sometimes necessary to get us out of trouble.

d) never to be done.

4. Sin entered the world __________ .

a) through Satan who sinned from the beginning.

b) because Adam yielded to Satan’s temptation.

c) when Adam deliberately disobeyed God.

5. Since sin entered the world __________ .

a) Satan no longer has to tempt anyone.

b) everyone is a sinner and can be tempted.

c) there is both physical and spiritual death.

6. Read I John 4:9 and choose the right answer to fill in the blank: God showed how much he loved us by __________ his one and only Son into the world so that we might have __________ through him.

a) sending, eternal life

b) birthing, hope

c) allowing, forgiveness

7. Read I John 4:10 and choose the right answer to fill in the blank: This is __________ – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our __________.

a) truth, mortality

b) hope, doubt

c) real love, sins

8. Complete this statement: a sinner can escape the penalty of sin only by __________ .

a) accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.

b) doing what is right regardless of the circumstances.

c) being baptized by full immersion.

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The Seventh Seal of Revelation – The Meaning of The Silence In Heaven

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. – Revlation 8:1.

Of the many hard-to-decipher passages in the Book of Revelation, verse 1 of chapter 8, is one of few attempt to interpret. The Seventh Seal is a monumental event in Heaven, but what does it mean? Why is there silence? This article will attempt to explain the meaning of the silence in Heaven and explain why it is a critical aspect not just of end times events but of the life of every person who has ever lived.

The Meaning of The Silence in Heaven

Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.

Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.

In our article, Who Are The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse?, House of the Nazarene (To be Lord willing done,) detailed the meaning of the first four seals of Revelation 6. The Seven Sealed Book was given to The Lord Jesus Christ upon His triumphant ascension and return to Heaven, having defeated Satan, death and the grave in His death, burial and resurrection. Jesus Christ is the only one found worthy to open the book and it is given to Him as He took His seat of honor at the Right Hand of God the Father. From there, the first four seals were opened, unleashing a series of spirits who bring judgments and tribulation to the world throughout the entirety of the church age. The 5th seal is then opened which brings the spirit of persecution and martyrdom that Christians have experienced from the first century AD and continue to today.
The opening of the 6th Seal triggers the Rapture and the Day of The Lord, (Work in progress, Stay Tuned!) the time at which God will pour out His wrath on the unbelieving world. Revelation chapter 6 ends with the powerful people of the world fully understanding that the cataclysmic global earthquake and events of the 6th seal are of divine origin:

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? – Revelation 6:12-17.

 

This shaking of Heaven and Earth is the time that God rises to personally intervene and judge the centuries of sin and evil of unbelieving, unrepentant humanity. It is also a wake up call to Israel to return to the worship of the God of their fathers. Hence we see first the Rapture and then the sealing of the 144,000 Jewish witnesses (Work in progress, Stay Tuned!), who will share the Gospel of the Kingdom with Jewish people and the world in the first part of the Day of The Lord/Great Tribulation. These are the events of Revelation Chapter 7 and serves as the backdrop for Revelation Chapter 8 and the opening of the 7th seal.

A Sign of Coming Judgment

The silence in Heaven serves a very specific purpose.

The silence in Heaven serves a very specific purpose.

The silence in Heaven is a sign of God’s impending devastating judgment. When a people or nation or even the world is so far gone into rebellion against God with no repentance, The Lord removes His Holy people and allows for a period of “silence”, right before His judgements are unleashed onto the world. How can this be so? Well The Bible instructs on how to interpret and understand Scripture:

Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: – Isaiah 28:9-10.

 

The Bible is to be interpreted by using Scripture to interpret Scripture – that is, using parts of the Bible to understand similar parts. The Apostle Paul summed this method up stating:

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. – 1 Corinthians 2:12-13.

So where can examples or types and shadows of this Heavenly silence be found in Scripture? The first example is in the Days of Noah.

The Silence Before The Flood

The Lord’s preacher of the Gospel went silent for seven days before the flood.

The Lord’s preacher of the Gospel went silent for seven days before the flood.

The Days of Noah were infamous for being a time of global, rampant rebellion against God. Humanity, plagued by their own sinful lust and the influx of Nephilim giant hybrids, had become so deep in sin that the Bible says, “..God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5). God then instructed Noah to prepare an ark because in the years to come, The Lord was going to destroy the entire world with a flood. Noah, was a “preacher of righteousness.” He was not just a believer in The Lord, he committed his life to preaching belief in God to those in his society. But once the ark was prepared, God brought the preaching of His faithful servant to a close:

the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female… For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him. And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood… There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. (Genesis 7).

So once the ark was complete, God instructed Noah to take all of his family and all of the animals and enter into the ark for seven days. The passage in Genesis goes back over this detail to emphasize its significance.

In the self same day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in. (Genesis 7).

Not only was Noah commanded to enter the ark seven days in advance, on the same day he entered and got every person and creature on board, God shut the door Himself. The chance to hear the preaching of repentance before the worst judgment the world had seen was over. No longer would the preacher of righteousness, who knew the flood was coming, be able to warn anyone. Instead, the completed ark sat in silence for seven days, with no one going in or out.So the sinful, rebellious world were left in ignorance. The Lord Jesus Christ confirms this in Matthew 24:

But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. – Matthew 24:37-39.

 

The devastating flood came which destroyed all people, nephilim and creatures from the Earth, except for those who were safely aboard the divinely-designed ship. The silence of God preceded utter judgment and destruction. This pattern is seen again in an even more powerful way in the book of Joshua.

The Battle of Jericho

Jericho seemed to be invincible until it experienced God’s wrath.

Jericho seemed to be invincible until it experienced God’s wrath.

The Book of Joshua is an amazing book for the student of the Bible. It is full of types and shadows of the end times. In many ways, the book runs parallel to the book of Revelation (for more information on this please our article: Joshua’s Great Battle: A Preview of War With The Antichrist). (Work in progress, Stay Tuned!) After being freed from the Egyptians by God in the Exodus, the Battle of Jericho was the first battle the ancient Israelites waged to actually enter the Promised Land. It is a type and shadow of the Battle The Lord Jesus waged and will wage to lead His faithful believers to salvation (at the cross) and His Millennial Kingdom (at Armageddon), when the Earth will be taken from Satan and return to Christ (just as Joshua was removing the Canaanite usurpers out of the Promised Land and returning it to God’s people).

God gave Joshua very specific instructions for how the battle was to fought. Joshua then relayed them in full detail to the nation of Israel:

And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout. So the ark of the LORD compassed the city, going about it once: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp.
And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rereward came after the ark of the LORD, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp: so they did six days. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times. – Joshua 6:2-15.

 

Notice that God instructs His people to circle the city of Jericho, without raising a weapon, for seven days. And Joshua is emphatic that the people remain silent. No one is to speak or utter a sound for the seven days. And then on the seventh day, after the city was circled seven times, the nation would shout, and the walls of Jericho crumbled to dust and the Israelites slaughtered their enemies in the city and burnt it to the ground.

 

And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city….So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. – Joshua 6:16-21.

The most impenetrable city in the world was defeated by supernatural judgment of God. And this followed seven days of silence. So again, the Biblical pattern is clear: there is a period of silence before Judgement of The Lord comes.

King David’s Pleaangel-WHATSHOTN

King David seemed to have a good understanding of this concept as shown in Psalm 28:

Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle. Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts. Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavours: give them after the work of their hands; render to them their desert. Because they regard not the works of the LORD, nor the operation of his hands, he shall destroy them, and not build them up.– Psalm 28:1-5.

David’s plea to the Lord highlights what can lead to The Lord being silent with a person. It is those who are headed for damnation (“who go down to the pit”). The unrepentant sinners who have no fear or understanding of God. David makes his case by reminding God of his prayer and worship of The Lord. He is proclaiming his belief in God as the sovereign ruler of his life. But those who are wicked, workers of sin, deceitful (“they speak peace to their neighbors, but mischief is in their hearts”), and do not acknowledge God (“they regard not the works of the LORD, nor the operation of his hands..”), they do not receive a Word from The Lord. And their ultimate end is destruction. So again, it’s clear that the silence of God precedes devastating judgment.

Psalm 50 provides a stern warning:

But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and casteth my words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother’s son. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. – Psalm 50:16-22.

 

So again we see the pattern: rebellion against God, that rebellion reaching an extreme limit, silence from God, then judgment. Here God Himself, speaking through the Psalmist warns the sinner in deep rebellion that if they continue to forget God, they will be torn in pieces with no chance of deliverance.

The Wrath of God In Revelation

With these prophetic types and precepts the understanding of the silence in heaven becomes clearer:

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. – Revelation 8:1-2.

In this future event that takes place during the end times the seven trumpets given to the angels who stand before The Lord each bring forth devastating judgments to the people on Earth. The trumpets, along with the vial judgments that follow, are the true outpouring of God’s wrath. The Earth itself will be damaged and poisoned, millions upon millions suffer and perish. The trumpets will be discussed in much more detailed in later installments of this series, but the point to understand is that just as it was in the days of Noah, and as it was at the battle of Jericho, the silence of God comes before He is preparing to unleash His wrath.

Is The Silence Really For A Half Hour?

It is this author’s contention that the silence in Heaven is not actually for 30 minutes. Hence the Scripture saying “about the space of half an hour.” The Apostle John makes the point that he is not marking an exact duration of time. Could the sequence of events be the 6th Seal with its Rapture, global earthquake and stellar signs, the opening of the 7th seal and then seven days of silence before The Lord’s wrath begins with the blowing of the trumpets and their unprecedented judgments on Earth? While this author will not be dogmatic and say it’s definitely so, the consistency is there. At the flood in Genesis, the silence of God was for seven days. At Jericho, there were seven days of silence until the city was circled seven times. In Revelation, the seventh seal is open, which leads to the silence and then seven angels are given seven trumpets to unleash God’s wrath.  The types and shadows of Scripture certainly give some credence to the idea.

Pray For God To Not Be Silent

If God seems silent in your life, cry out to Him in prayer.

If God seems silent in your life, cry out to Him in prayer.

There are many mysterious verses in Scripture but the beauty of the Bible is that with God’s Holy Spirit and enough study, they can be understood. And while the Silence in Heaven is a future event, Scripture is quite clear that when we are in rebellion God can be silent with us. And that is a scary proposition. Make sure you are hearing from The Lord every day by studying His Word also find Salvation and praying consistently with repentance.

Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.

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Is it important to know Greek and Hebrew when studying the Bible?

Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer, wrote the following in regard to the importance of understanding Greek and Hebrew when studying the Bible: “The languages are the sheath in which the sword of the Spirit is contained.” God sovereignly chose to have His Word written in Hebrew (the Old Testament) and Greek (the New Testament).

Our modern English translations of the Bible are excellent. Most of the major English translations available today are superb renderings of the original Greek and Hebrew. However, in any translation, not everything that was communicated in the original language can be precisely conveyed in another language. Some nuances do not transfer well from one language to another. As a result, a translation rarely is a perfect rendering of the original. (This is one reason why the Amplified Version was published.)

Animated WaterfallAn example of this is the “aspect” of Greek verbs. English verbs have tenses—past, present, and future. Greek verbs have these same tenses, but they also have what is known as “aspect.” Present-tense Greek verbs mean more than the action is occurring presently. A Greek verb can also carry the meaning that the action is occurring continually or repeatedly. This is lost in English unless the aspect word “continually” or “repeatedly” is added to the translation along with the verb. A specific example of this is Ephesians 5:18, “…be filled with the Spirit.” In the original Greek, this verse is telling us to continually be filled with the Spirit. It is not a one-time event—it is a lifelong process. This “aspect” is lost in the English translation.

With all that said, the Bible also makes it clear that the Spirit is the author of the Bible and that He will help us to understand the His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 14:26). You do not have to know Hebrew and Greek in order to understand the Bible. God’s intended message for us is accurately communicated in English. You can have confidence that God can reveal the meaning of His Word to you without your knowing Greek and Hebrew.

Perhaps this is a good analogy: reading the Bible without knowing Greek and Hebrew is like watching a basic television, while reading the Bible knowing Greek and Hebrew is like watching a curved 80″ UHD 4K television with stereo surround sound. You can fully understand what is going on with the basic television, but the curved 80″ UHD 4K television with stereo surround sound gives added depth and clarity. With the help of the Holy Spirit, anyone can accurately understand the Bible in English. However, knowing Hebrew and Greek helps to better understand the nuances and richness of the biblical texts.

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True Worship and True Obedience

If attending church one service is good, won’t attending four more be better?  Is this what God wants? This is what the Jewish remnant wanted to know as they came to ask about the fasts they had been keeping for over 70 yrs. Let’s see what God has to say about true worship and true obedience.

PRINCIPLES: One’s attitude weighs more with God than one’s actions; God hates hypocrisy because He is a jealous God.

AIM: That we may learn what God requires for pure worship and then demonstrate that in our everyday walk.

DAY ONE: Background and Zech 7:1-3:  The people ask God about fasting

1.How much time has passed from the revelations of visions? It has been approximately 2 yrs. since God first spoke to Zechariah and showed him 8 visions.

Zech 1:1 2nd yr of Darius, 8th month

Zech 7:1 4th yr of Darius 4th day of 9th month.

2.A delegation came to ask the priests and prophets a question. From where did they come and what did they ask? See Ezra 2:28, Neh 11:31. They came from Bethel. The phrase “house of God” refers to that city, if it had said “house of the Lord” it would refer to the Temple. Zech 7:2 Now the people of Bethel  had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech and their companions to seek the Lord’s favor

The delegation came to inquire as to whether they should continue to weep and fast as they had been doing “these many years”.

Neh 11:31  The children also of Benjamin from Geba dwelt at Michmash, and Aija, and Bethel, and in their villages,

Ezr 2:28  The men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred twenty and three.

Note: Jdg 20:31

To the house of God – “To Bethel,” as in the margin. On “Gibeah in the field.”

Barnes: Zec 7:2

When they held sent unto the house of God – Rather, “And Bethel sent;” that is, the inhabitants of Bethel sent. “The house of God” is nowhere in Holy Scripture called Bethel. Bethel is always the name of the place. . The “house of God” is designated by historians, Psalmists, prophets, by the name, “Beth-elohim,” more commonly “Beth-Ha-elohim, the God;” or “of the Lord,” YHVH. Zechariah and Haggai use these names. It is not likely that the name, Beth-el, should have first been given to the house of God, when it had been desecrated by the idolatries of Jeroboam. Bethel also is, in the Hebrew order of the words, naturally the subject . Nor is there any reason why they should have sent to Bethel, since they sought an answer from God. For it would be forced to say that they sent to Bethel, in order that those at Bethel should send to Jerusalem; which is not said.

Osorius: Bethel then, that is, the assembly of the city, sent messengers to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God and consult the wise there.”

3.The people had been fasting during several months of the year for over the last 70 yrs.  They had mourned, fasted, wept as a way to remember the past.  Read 2 Kings 25 to gain the background behind their question. Note specifically these verses: v 1, 3&4, 8&9, 25. What had occurred in each of these verses and in what months?

In vs 1:  the siege of Jerusalem: 2Ki 25:1  And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about.

In vs 3&4: 2Ki 25:3: the famine in Jerusalem:   And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land.

2Ki 25:4  And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king’s garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain.

In vs 8&9:  The burning of the Temple: 2Ki 25:8  And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem:

2Ki 25:9  And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire.

In vs 25:  The murder of Gedaliah: 2Ki 25:25  But it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, came, and ten men with him, and smote Gedaliah, that he died,

4.Read Zech 7:5 and 8:19. What months did God note that they had been fasting? In chapter 7 God only notes the fasts for the 5th and 7th months, but in chapter 8 we find that He noted the 4th, 5th, 7th and 10th.

In Zech 7:5 we read: When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years

In Zech 8:19 The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth,

5.The people had been fasting for 70 yrs. Did God require these times of fasting? _NO____ What did God require?

Lev 16:29-31; 23:26-32; Num 29:7: This set of verses speak of the Day of Atonement and what God required: God only established one fast, which was on the Day of Atonement. There were other fasts but this one only was required.

Full explanation: 16:29 “This is to be a perpetual statute for you. In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you must humble yourselves and do no work of any kind, both the native citizen and the foreigner who resides in your midst, 16:30 for on this day atonement is to be made for you to cleanse you from all your sins; you must be clean before the Lord. 16:31 It is to be a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you must humble yourselves. It is a perpetual statute.

23:26 The Lord spoke to Moses: Lev 23:27  Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement:

Numbers 29:7

29:7 “‘On the tenth day of this seventh month you are to have a holy assembly. You must humble yourselves; 20  you must not do any work on it.

The Israelites had placed a burden upon themselves that God did not require. Where have you placed a burden upon yourself that is not scripturally based? How often do we place boundaries and burdens upon ourselves that God did not require nor does He see them as pleasing. For instance, how often do we place the burden of church attendance upon ourselves? How often do we place the burden of dress codes, behavioral codes that are not scripturally based? God desires a contrite heart, pure attitude and pure motivation above “rules” and legalism.

DAY TWO: Zech 7:4-7 God Rebukes Hypocrisy

6.God sent Zechariah back to the people with 3 basic questions. List them from vs 4-7.

Question #1 vs 5: When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?

Question #2 vs. 6:  And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?

Question #3 vs 7: Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets,

7.In what way were the people being hypocritical? The people were fasting without regard to the requirements that God had established. They imposed fasts upon the people that were not scripturally based and they were doing it with the wrong motives and attitudes. They were not doing it for God but for themselves. God rebuked them for their empty formalism that had no spiritual reality.

8.Read Is 58:1-7 for a similar time when God asked the people about their hypocrisy. What did God say He required? God begins this chapter with how the people were responding. Then He asks a pertinent question: Isa 58:5  Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?  But rather in vs. 6 God tells them what fast He is looking for: Isa 58:6  Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

Isa 58:7  Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? God does not see the affliction of one’s person to be pleasing, but rather God is looking for the outcome that comes from a fast. He is looking to see if there is fruit such as what James speaks of as true religion. Jam 1:26  If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

Jam 1:27  Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

9.In contrast to fasting, what does God desire?  Micah 6:7&8, Is 1:16-19; 58:5-9a; Amos 5:21-24,1 Cor 10:31. God is looking for a changed heart that demonstrates that change in the society about us, which should bring glory to God because others see God in us.

Micah 6:7&8: what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Is 1:16-19 Isa 1:16  Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;

Isa 1:17  Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Is 58:-5-9 God is looking for fruit that touches the lives of those around us: the oppressed, those under the yoke of bondage, to feed the hungry, to meet the needs of the poor

Amos 5:21-24 Put away the sacrifices that are not a sweet aroma in its place: But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.

1Co 10:31  Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

DAY THREE: Zech 7:8-14 God Requires Repentance and Sincerity

10.In contrast to these self-imposed fasts, now God tells the people what He desires. Recalling our “4C’s” walk through vs. 8-14 to see it “played out in living color”.

C = consider the choice: what choice did God give to the people? They had a choice to demonstrate pure religion

C = compare to God’s Word:  again Is 58:6 and  Zech 7:9&10. What did God say to do? God said to prove your heart by touching the lives of others, meet their needs wherever they are and whatever circumstance they find themselves, execute true judgment and mercy as He would

C = choose God’s Way: Zech 7:11&12  What does God note about their choices? they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear

C = count on God for His provision and protection: Zech 7:13. Did the people experience these “2p’s”?  NO: Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear,

  1. The people had a choice, they had God’s Word, but they refused to choose His way. What was the ensuing consequence of their choice? Zech 7:14 God sent them into exile for 70 yrs.

Zec 7:14  But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.

Where have you a choice and are refusing to choose His way and thus are not experiencing His provision and protection? Daily we face this as we choose to be obedient or not.

DAY FOUR: Zech 8:1-18 God Will Dwell in Their Midst

  1. Chapter 8 is a beautiful picture of God’s lovingkindness and mercy. Read the whole chapter through to get the picture. As you read note the 7 R’s found in this chapter.

The 7 R’s ch. 8

8:1-3, 13-15 restoration –what will be restored? The city will be restored to a city of truth and God will dwell in the midst as He desired to do before:  I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem:

God8:4-6 the remarkable – how will it be remarkable? It will be remarkable because this city has been a city of violence and hatred but now it will be a city of peace and harmony:  yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.

8:7-8 a relationship- what kind of relationship will be in evidence? God will be the people’s God and they will be His people: a parent/child relationship; Father and child: pure and holy: I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.

8:9-11 rebuilding- what will be rebuilt?  The temple will be rebuilt: that the temple might be built.

8:12 renewal- what is renewed?  Nature will return to its former glory: For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. The removal of the curse and in its place blessing:

Zec 8:13  And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.

8:16-19 righteousness-how is righteousness revealed? Righteousness will be revealed in the actions that are demonstrated between everyone; and the attitudes that lead to proper actions. Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.

8:20-23 reaching out-who will be reaching out and to whom? All from across the globe will come and say: the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts:

  1. Has any of this happened at this point in time? If not, when will it most likely occur? This is a picture of the millennial kingdom and has not occurred at this time.

DAY FIVE:  Zech 8:18-23 From Fasting to Feasting.

14.What a difference one letter makes! The people had asked a question about fasting, but God says now add one letter. You will no longer fast but feast! In what ways will this be different from the fasting in chapter 7? In chapter 7 the fasts were characterized by sadness and somberness as they in sorrow and misdirected motives recalled the tragedy of Jerusalem and the loss of the Temple, but in chapter 8 the feasts will be characterized by joy and gladness and the people will love what God loves.

Fasting is fruitless when done with the wrong attitude and wrong motives. Are you still dwelling beside the grave of your past sins and fasting in added rituals that God has never asked you to do OR have you added a letter to fasting to now make it feasting? How are you demonstrating that in your daily walk? Personal responses needed here.

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Filed under Bible Study Guides, Daily Biblical Studies for the Soul

Daniel Chapter 9, Seventy Weeks and the Messiah

Daniel 9:1-2In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; 2 In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

Here we find Daniel in the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:30-31), so obviously this is the first year after Babylon has fallen. This being the case, we find that chapter 8 and 9 are very close together in time.

Daniel had been studying the book of Jeremiah, and understood from the study of it that God was going to leave the Jews in captivity 70 years, then punish Babylon for their iniquity. (Jeremiah 29:10, 14; 25:11-13) But he also understood from prophecy, that it was going to be the Medes and Persians that would destroy Babylon and avenge the destruction of the temple (Jeremiah 51:11) also that they would ultimately be the ones to let the Jews return to their homeland and restore their worship in the temple. (Isaiah 45:1-5, 13)

It is interesting to note that Daniel did not think it below himself to study the books of other prophets even though he was a highly regarded prophet himself.

NOTE: More prophecies regarding the downfall of Babylon by the hands of the Medes. (Isaiah 13:1-5, 17-22)

Daniel 9:3And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:

We can see from this verse that Daniel most earnestly set himself to seek the Lord in prayer, and with an attitude of humbleness he hoped for his prayer and supplications to be heard. How do we come before the Father when we pray to Him?

Daniel 9:4-14And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his Commandments; 5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from your precepts and from your judgments: 6 Neither have we hearkened unto your servants the prophets, which spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto you, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither you have driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against you. 8 O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; 10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 Yes, all Israel have transgressed your law, even by departing, that they might not obey your voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. 12 And he has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven has not been done as has been done upon Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand your truth. 14 Therefore has the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.

Thus far in Daniel’s prayer we can understand a few key points as follows;

– He acknowledges/confesses the sin and apostasy of his people and ranks himself with them, even though he was living a godly life (not self-righteous).
– Admits that they have not heeded the council of His prophets or walked in His laws. Also have not turned back to God in their affliction for the course pursued.
– It is because of their rebellion, or trespass/sin, against God that they are in captivity.
– God is righteous/just or lawful, in His dealing out of punishment and in all His works for they have not obeyed His voice.

We see that the Jews were in captivity because of their rebellion or sin against God. So God allowed them to go into captivity and be afflicted to turn them back to him. But in light of this knowledge they still refused to come back to Him and continued in their sin. This is one reason for Daniel’s confession.

Daniel 9:15-19And now, O Lord our God, that have brought your people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have gotten you renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly. 16 O Lord, according to all your righteousness, I beseech you, let thine anger and your fury be turned away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people are become a reproach to all that are about us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of your servant, and his supplications, and cause your face to shine upon your sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake. 18 O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by your name: for we do not present our supplications before you for our righteousnesses, but for your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for your city and your people are called by your name.

Let’s look in point form once again at what we can learn from the remainder of Daniel’s prayer;

– He now appeals to God, that all the renown that had accrued to the Lord’s name, because of the wonderful works manifested among them from the deliverance of His people from Egypt, would all be lost if He should abandon them to perish.
– He pleads to God’s mercy, to turn from His fury against His (God’s) city Jerusalem, His holy mountain, which has become a reproach because of their iniquities.
– Asks God to have His face to shine upon the sanctuary which is desolate.
– Daniel asks for these to be restored from their desolation, not for their sakes or glory but for the name of the Lord and for His sake (to exalt the name of Jehovah), because of His great mercies.
– He then asks the Lord to hear his prayer, to forgive their ways, hearken and do/restore, do not defer it, for God’s sake and His city (which is called by His name), and His people which are also called by His name. Basically so God’s name can once again be exalted above the heathen.

As we look through his prayer it is not hard to see the anguish of heart, humility, and earnestness that Daniel entreats the Lord with.

Why was he so distressed? He misunderstood the meaning of the cleansing of the sanctuary in chapter 8 and the releasing of the Jews from captivity, thinking that the two events were to expire at the same time. This would then place both events further down in the future and thus his plea to forgive their ways, hearken and do/restore, do not defer as the temple on earth was the symbol of God’s presence with Israel, but also with the promise of salvation through the Messiah who was typified through the services practiced.

Daniel 9:20-23 And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God; 21 Yes, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. 22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give you skill and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show you; for you are greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.

Whilst Daniel was praying Gabriel, whom he had seen in the vision at the beginning (Daniel 8:16-17) came and touched him at the time of the evening oblation, about 3pm. Notice in verse 23 that Gabriel’s commission was given at the start of Daniel’s prayer. So his prayer had been answered before he had even finished. Friends the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16) But notice the speed at which Gabriel covers the distance from heaven to earth, no more than a couple of minutes.

Gabriel goes on to give Daniel some encouragement and comfort by telling him that he is greatly beloved, what a privilege and honour. We too can have the privilege and honour of having the love of God bestowed upon us and be called the sons of God and adopted into the family of God. (1 John 3:1, Romans 8:14-17)

So why has Gabriel come? Gabriel tells Daniel that he has come “to show thee…give thee skill and understanding…understand the matter”. Understand what matter? Consider the vision. If we go through chapter 9 we find no vision for Gabriel to give Daniel skill and understanding about. So we must go back to chapter 8 and consider what it was that he did not understand of the vision given there. If we go through this vision we find that he understood the ram, he goat, and little horn, for the interpretation was given him. But the cleansing of the sanctuary with the 2300 days he neither understood it nor was given the interpretation of it, and Daniel’s prayer emphasizes this point.

So we find that Gabriel has come to give Daniel the understanding of the 2300 days and the cleansing of the sanctuary (or understanding of the judgment as we have seen that the cleansing of the sanctuary refers to the judgment).

Daniel 9:24Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and upon your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

Seventy weeks – 1 week = 7 days, therefore 70 weeks = 490 days, 1 prophetic day = 1 literal year Ezekiel 4:6, Numbers 14:34, thus 70 prophetic weeks = 490 literal years.

NOTE: One of the most notable proofs of the day year principle is that the prophecies have actually been fulfilled on this principle, a demonstration of its correctness from which there is no appeal.

Determined – (chathak, Hebrew) to cut off. So the 70 weeks/490 years are to be cut off from something larger, obviously the 2300 days/years.

Upon thy people and upon thy holy city – That is upon the Jews, Daniel’s people, and upon Jerusalem. So all that is mentioned in this section is related to the Jews themselves and not other groups of people. This understanding helps in the interpretation of the symbols involved.

Now we have a list of events to take place during the 70 week period;

To finish the transgression – During this time, the Jews would fill up the cup of their iniquity, they would reach the limit of transgression to which God could no longer forbear. Because of this ongoing apostasy they would be rejected as God’s chosen representatives on the earth. This they did in the rejection of the Son of God Himself. See Matthew 21:33-46.

Make an end of sins – The Hebrew word ‘chattah’ here translated ‘sins’ denotes either ‘sin’ or ‘sin offering’. Leviticus 4:3 is an example of its use in both senses in a single verse. “Let him bring for his SIN…a young bullock…for his SIN OFFERING.” The same Hebrew word is used in both instances. This is a common usage through the Levitical books and elsewhere in the Old Testament. It can therefore be used in the sense of sin offerings in Daniel 9:24 because an end of sin offerings was made at the cross, this is seen also in verse 27 causing the sacrifice and oblation to cease, and also Colossians 2:14. Thus this is a reference to the ending of the sacrificial sin offerings which met their antitype in the death of Christ on the cross.

Make reconciliation for iniquity – Reconciliation for iniquity was to be provided. This was accomplished by the sacrificial death of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)

Bring in everlasting righteousness – Everlasting righteousness was what our Lord manifested in His sinless life, and by His life, death, and resurrection Christ has made everlasting righteousness available to all who accept it by faith. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

Seal up the vision and prophecy – By the events which were foretold to occur during the 70 weeks, the prophecy was to be tested. By this single test the accuracy of the entire prophecy is to be determined. If the events of this period are accurately fulfilled then the prophecy is of God and will all be thus accomplished. When Christ began His ministry He began by preaching that the “time was fulfilled” thus He recognised that He had arrived on the scene at exactly the right time as prophesied hundreds of years before. (Mark 1:15)

Anoint the most holy – kodesh ka-doshim is the Hebrew phrase used here. This term is used freely through the Levitical books to characterise things and places, but is nowhere applied to persons. Thus this is not a reference to the coming Messiah or “anointed one” but is associated with the temple and its services. We see from Exodus 28:41; 30:25-30 and 40:9-13 that the earthly sanctuary with all its furniture and priests had to be “anointed” before any ministration could commence, to set it apart as holy and sacred for the work that was to be conducted there. In chapter 8 we have already seen that the earthly sanctuary is a pattern/shadow or type of the true in heaven itself. So all the services and offerings of the earthly pointed to the true, which was Christ Himself. Therefore, once Christ came, the typical or earthly was no longer needed and the heavenly or real were now to be used for the actual salvation of mankind. So the reference to anointing the most holy then refers to this service of inauguration which took place after the fulfilment of the types by Christ on the cross. (Psalms 45:6-7, Hebrews 1:8-9) The sacrifice of lambs was replaced by the sacrifice of Christ, and the ministration of human priests is replaced by the ministration of Christ Himself.

Daniel 9:25-26Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

From the going forth – Here Gabriel is giving us the understanding of the starting date of the two-fold prophecy.

Commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem – This commandment to restore Jerusalem, which was at the time in ruins, is the event which marks the starting date of this period. Cyrus gave the Jews permission to return and build a temple, but did not say anything respecting the city itself. (Ezra 1:1-4) This decree was in 536 B.C. This decree Darius renewed when the Jews were hindered by their enemies, and he provided means for the expense of finishing the temple. (Ezra 6:1-12) This decree was made in 519 B.C. But Artaxerxes added to the work of Cyrus and Darius the full restoration of the city to its ancient privileges, and the re-establishment of the law of God as the law of the city; and he authorized the rebuilding of its walls. (Ezra 7:11-26; 9:9) This decree was made in 457 B.C. So we are forced to take this decree of Artaxerxes, because it was this decree that commenced the full restoration of Jerusalem. The other two decrees were stepping stones to the final decree which completed the other two by giving full restoration, this is why we see all three mentioned in Ezra 6:14.

Unto the Messiah the Prince – Messiah is the Hebrew word for ‘anointed one’ or in Greek ‘the Christ’. So this prophecy is pinpointing the time when Jesus would become the anointed one or Messiah. This took place at His baptism when He was anointed with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10:38, Luke 3:21-22; 4:18)

Seven weeks – This time period equals 49 yrs, remember a day = a year in prophecy. It took the Jews 49 yrs to complete the task of rebuilding Jerusalem even during troublous times [read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah for this history], which would place the completion date at 408 B.C. and this is true according to history. “On this point, Prideaux (Connexion, Vol. 1, p. 322) says: ‘In the fifteenth of Darius Nothus ended the first seven weeks of Daniel’s prophecy. For then the restoration of the church and state of the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea was fully finished, in that last act of reformation which is recorded in the thirteenth chapter of Nehemiah, from the twenty-third verse to the end of the chapter, just forty-nine years after it had been commenced by Ezra in the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus.” As quoted by Uriah Smith in Daniel and the Revelation pg. 201.

This appears to be a rather long time to accomplish the task of rebuilding. But if we understand the opposition they incurred from their enemies, and the incident of the Jews placing the poor of their own into slavery, also Haggai and Zechariah being raised up because of the Jews slothfulness in building the house of God, because they placed their own houses on priority instead of Gods, we can see how work started and stopped, started and stopped.

Threescore and two weeks – 62 weeks = 434 days = 434 yrs. The Messiah was to appear after the seven weeks and at the end of the sixty two weeks = 69 weeks in total. So if we take away 434 yrs from 408 B.C. or 483 from 457 B.C., we end at the date 27 A.D. remembering that there is no year zero. This was the date of the baptism of Christ. And if we look at Mark 1:14-15 we see that Christ started His ministry preaching that the time is fulfilled, what time? The only time can be the end of the 69 weeks/483 years. So Christ fulfils this prophecy exactly.

This is only 69 weeks, so there is yet another week to go to make up 70 weeks.

After threescore and two weeks – So after this time period which ended in 27 A.D.

Messiah be cut off – Some time after 27 A.D. Jesus would be crucified. The word cut off in Hebrew, karath, means to cut down or asunder, destroy, perish. This same word is used in Genesis 9:11 dealing with the destruction of the wicked by the flood. So it is clear this refers to the crucifixion of Christ, Isaiah 53:8, as He was cut off out of the land of the living.

Not for Himself – Jesus did not die for His own sins because He never sinned, (1 Peter 2:21-22) but for those of mankind. (1 John 2:2, 1 Peter 2:22-25, Isaiah 53:8-11) These texts show that Jesus died for our sins.

People of the prince, destroy city and sanctuary – Jesus is the Prince of the kings of the earth, Revelation 1:5. The king sent HIS armies to destroy the city, Matthew 22:7. This parable was a prophecy against the Jews for rejecting and killing the Son of God. So the people of the prince that destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Sanctuary is a reference to those of which God used to gain His objective. Who was it that destroyed Jerusalem and the Sanctuary? It was Titus that destroyed the city and temple in 70 A.D. So this was fulfilled in 70 A.D. by Titus.

With a flood – This is a description of the overwhelming character of the end of the Jewish nation. See Isaiah 8:7-8 to see similar symbols to describe the destruction of the Jews under the Assyrians.

Desolations are determined – Marginal reading here is “it shall be cut off by desolations.” Thus the Jews were to be under continual desolations until the end of time, as we can see this before our eyes today.

Daniel 9:27And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

In verse 26 we see the reference to the Messiah being cut off after the 69 weeks, but have no real dialogue explaining the events of this nor any explanation of the 70th week. Here in verse 27 we find the opposite taking effect. The 70th week is specifically outlined with when the Messiah would be cut off. Let us continue and see.

He – This is obviously referring to the Messiah from the previous verse.

Confirm the covenant – This is a reference to the covenant made with the Jewish people from the time their forefathers were called to be God’s chosen representatives. The gospel message, which this covenant was pointing to, of the coming Messiah and promised seed were to be especially preached to the Jews, Matthew 15:24.

One week – 7 days = 7years. This was to be preached to Jews for a period of 7 years, 3 ½ yrs by Jesus and afterward by the apostles.

Dr. Hales quotes Eusebius, A.D. 300, as saying : ‘It is recorded in history that the whole time of our Saviour’s teaching and working miracles was three years and a half, which is the half of a week [of years]. This, John the evangelist will represent to those who critically attend to his Gospel.’” As quoted by Uriah Smith in Daniel and the Revelation pg. 203.

Obviously this being the 70th week it will begin at the end of the 69th which is 27 A.D. This period beginning with the baptism of Jesus when He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and finishing in 34 A.D. which at this time Stephen was stoned and the gospel went to the Gentiles. (Acts 7-8:4)

Midst of the week – Half of 7 = 3 ½. Remembering that Artaxerxes decree went into effect in the latter part of the year [the autumn or seventh month of the year by Jewish reckoning], this 3 ½ yrs added to 27 A.D. would then reach to 31 A.D.

Sacrifice and oblation to cease – The types and symbols of the Old Testament sanctuary service, that created a platform for the entire Jewish economy and practice, was to meet its fulfilment in the life, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. After Jesus gave His life a ransom for many, we no longer needed to bring a lamb, as the Lamb of God (John 1:29) has been slain for all. The veil in the temple rent from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51) at the death of Christ signifying that these things were finished. 31 A.D. Christ was crucified.

For the overspreading of abominations – Due to the apostasy of the Jews they were rejected as God’s people. Their ultimate rejection was of the Son of God Himself. They had cried at His trial and crucifixion, that His blood was to be on them and on their children, and so it was to be.

Make it desolate – The Jewish nation was to be forever destroyed and scattered, never again to be the elect of God.

Daniel Chapter 9, Seventy Weeks and the MessiahUntil the consummation – This was to be the state of the Jewish nation until the second coming of Christ and the establishment of His kingdom, which is the focus of all these prophecies of Daniel. The ultimate end, the blessed hope, (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) the glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour. (Titus 2:13)

That determined – That which has been decreed, that which has been determined by the choices of the Jews themselves, by their apostasy rather than repentance and restoration.

According to Matthew 23:34-37 the Jews were given many opportunities to follow God’s plan, but continually rejected the opportunities.

Shall be poured upon the desolate – The Jews were to suffer the vengeance of the offended God, according to all the light and warning and opportunity that they had had.

We leave this scene in the year 34 A.D. We know also that the 2300 year prophecy starts at the same time as the 70 weeks. There are only 1810 years left of the 2300, and simple mathematics will show us the ending date; 34 + 1810 = 1844 A.D. So the judgment work, in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, has been going on since 1844.

The query may here arise how the days can be extended to the autumn of 1844 if they commence in 457 B.C., as it requires only 1843 years, in addition to the 457, to make the whole number of 2300. Attention to one fact will clear this point of all difficulty; and that is, that it takes 457 full years before Christ, and 1843 full years after, to make 2300; so that if the period commenced with the very first day of 457, it would not terminate till the very last day of 1843. Now it will be evident to all that any portion of the year 457 had passed away before the 2300 days commenced, just so much of the year 1844 must pass away before they would end. We therefore inquire, At what point in the year 457 are we to commence to reckon? From the fact that the first forty-nine years were allotted to the building of the street and wall, we learn that the period is to be dated, not from the starting of Ezra from Babylon, but from the actual commencement of the work at Jerusalem; which is not probable could be earlier than the seventh month (autumn) of 457, as he did not arrive at Jerusalem till the fifth month of that year. Ezra 7:9. The whole period would therefore extend to the seventh month, autumn, Jewish time, of 1844.Daniel and the Revelation by Uriah Smith, pgs. 207, 208.

The exact date in the year 1844 for the Day of Atonement is October 22 according to the Karate Jew.

Friends this is a serious time when every work and every secret thing, whether good or evil, is brought into investigation, (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) even the words we speak, (Matthew 12:34-36) for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. This judgment message is to go to all the world under the three angels message of Revelation 14:6-12. We need to be preparing for the soon return of our great and mighty God by confessing and forsaking our sins that we may find mercy (Proverbs 28:13) so we may be found ready to go home with Him for eternity.

We are told that the 70 weeks establishes the authenticity of the 2300 days, thus we can be assured that this date is correct and the entire prophecy will be fulfilled as exactly as the smaller segment of it was.

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Filed under Daily Biblical Studies for the Soul, Studies in The Book of Daniel