Why Use Symbols in Scripture

Luke 8:10

And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

Symbols have been prevalent from the beginning of time.  Our Bible is filled with symbols.  Some we understand and some we do not.  The most recognized symbol in probably all the world is the cross.  Without even thinking we automatically know what it means to us personally and to all mankind as well.

The Book of Revelation is probably filed with more symbols that we do not comprehend than in any other book of the bible.  Quoting from chapter 5 of The Book of Revelation for Dummies

“The simple truth is that almost everyone would have preferred for John to be Captain Obvious, laying out the Revelation of Jesus in as clear a manner as possible.  Understanding the point of the book would be so much easier if specifics such as there were used.  Jesus will be coming back on March 3, 2019.  Be there or be square.  Beware, the Antichrist will be named Gilligan.  His cohort will be known as the Skipper.  The Millennium is a figurative term meant to represent the Super Bowl halftime show.  In other words, instead of Scripture, almost everyone would prefer a glorified legal document that lists out the complete facts of the last days.  After all, with such a document in hand, people wouldn’t need to wrestle with the interpretations.”

So why all the symbolism?  The Bible is filled with symbolism.  Consider the books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah in particular.  They all use a great amount of imagery.  Imagery is simply a devise used in literature, both sacred and secular.  The sacred in this particular instance is God’s Word.  God, Himself, utilized this literary method when speaking to His prophets in His Word.

Jesus may not have used the same style exactly as John did in Revelation or as Daniel or Ezekiel, but He did speak to his listeners in parables, which are, in effect, symbolic stories meant to define and illustrate truth. 

To illustrate and explain truth, the understanding of the listener must be taken into account.  Remember all of the times the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus questions about various topics, mostly to trap Him in some blasphemy.  He answered them mostly in words or parables they could not comprehend simply because of the hardness of their hearts.  Other listeners who were spiritually hungry could understand and comprehend what He said to them.  That is why so many of them followed Him and sought out his wisdom.  He spoke their language.

1 Corinthians 2:4-14 – And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.  However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But as it is written:  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.  For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Acts 17:11 – These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

2 Timothy 2:15 – Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

The symbolism throughout the Bible is there for the hungry to search out and know, simply because of their hunger and desire.  To those wanting to create a controversy or stir up a debate, the truth in God’s Word is hidden from them. 

Seven time in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation Jesus says “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

It has been said also that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.”  Symbolism and imagery can provide greater meaning than plain words alone.  Symbolism is also an attention getter.  Teachers of young children in particular use this style of learning.  Stories, symbols, imagery and other literary devises also make for much more interesting story.  For example, instead of saying, “The boy walked down the street,” you might say, “The young red-haired boy walked joyfully down the tree-lined street greeting friends and neighbors with a big smile and wave of the hand.’

Luke 8:10 – And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

Symbols can be utilized to win the lost.  You be a symbol.  Be Christ like!

The Word of God

Luke 8:4-15

And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture.  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”  Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?”  And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’  Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.

Jesus Attracted Large Crowds – Multiples of people were flocking to hear Jesus speak and see His miracles.  But Jesus knew most were not sincere.  They did not have a real sprit of repentance which led to a changed life.  They had no honest commitment and no willingness to sacrifice.  Many followed Jesus, just as they do today, because of family and friends, for the social identification, to get their needs met by the church members or because as some have put it, “for insurance just in case the Bible is true.”

Jesus Taught a Parable to Explain the Difference in People’s Responses to His Teachings

  • The seed planted was the same in every kind of soil.
  • The sower was the same person in every kind of soil.
  • The difference was not in the seed or the sower, but in the soil that received the seed.

Seed by the wayside.

  • Near to field.
  • They “hear” but they never apply the Word or pay close attention.
  • The Word is soon forgotten.

Acts 28:27 – For the hearts of this people have grown dull.  Their ears are hard of hearing,  and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.

Hebrews 3:13 – but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Proverbs 28:14 – Happy is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

People like this may well be in church every week.  They “hear” the Word but they pay little attention to the warnings, they do not involved themselves in the study of the Word.  Church is only something to ease the conscience or fill some time.

Seed on the rock.

  • They receive the Word when they hear it.
  • They are excited about the Word.
  • They fail to consider the commitment required – and they do not apply themselves to learn and grow.
  • When trials and temptations come, they fall away.

Matthew. 24:12 – And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

Luke 9:62 – But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Galatians 4:9 – But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?

2 Peter 2:20-22 – For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

Seed among thorns.

  • They receive the Word when they hear it.
  • They make an effort to be part of the church.
  • They are unwilling to separate themselves completely from the world.
  • They may have some fruit – but their fruit never ripens.
  • Their spiritual life is eventually choked to death by cares of this life or by riches of this life (either the actual enjoyment of them to the point of leaving out God or the constant pursuit of them to the point of leaving out God) or the pleasures of this life.

Matthew 6:25, 31 – Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Luke 21:34 – But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.

Mark 4:19 – and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

Seed on good ground.

  • Honest heart – “kalei” means fair, just, holding fast. 
  • Good heart – “agathei” means devoted, committed, given over to truth.  Once they know the truth, they hold fast to it.
  • Hear the Word.
  • Keep the Word.
  • They bear fruit – with patience.

Joshua 1:8 – This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

John 14:23 – Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

Colossians 1:10 – that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Psalm 92:13-14 – Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.  They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing,

Jesus is in the House

Luke 7:36-50

Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat.  And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.  Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”  And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”  So he said, “Teacher, say it.”  “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”  And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.”  Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.  You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.  You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.  Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”  Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

The invited guest – Jesus was invited to dine with one of the Pharisee in his home

  • Customary hospitality
  • Greeting with a kiss or embrace
  • Water was provided for washing the feet
  • Oil was provided for anointing of the head
  • They reclined at the table

The uninvited guest –

She was not an invited guest, but she heard that Jesus was in the house.

  • She came into the house knowing that everyone knew of her sins.  She was “an especially wicked woman.”  A social outcast – devoted to sin. 
  • She came at great risk.  In the Old Testament sinners were required to live outside the camp.  You were not to eat, associate with or even touch those who were “unclean.”  She made her way through the house, through the large crowd knowing that those who were there would be whispering or perhaps even talking out loud about her as she passed by.  There was a good possibility that she would be thrown out or even stoned.
  • When she saw Jesus, she set her eyes on Him and him alone, not looking to the right or left, not caring what others thought or said about her.  She gave Jesus her full attention, humbling herself in His presence. 
  • She wept in His presence, allowing her tears to fall on Him.  Her tears were important to Jesus.
  • She wiped His feet with her hair
  • She kissed His feet affectionately.
  • She anointed Him with the expensive perfume.  She gave Jesus the very best she had.  Costly – rate – worth a year’s wages for a working man.  The alabaster container alone was worth a great deal of money.  “A compact fine-textured white and translucent gypsum often carved into objects.

The container had to be broken in order for the perfume to be released.  The Gospel according to John says, “and the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”  She allowed herself to be broken in His presence.  The whole house was filled with the fragrance of her worship.

The Pharisee

Luke 7:39 – Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw it, he said to himself, If this Man were a prophet, He would surely know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching Him—for she is a notorious sinner (a social outcast, devoted to sin). (Amplified Bible)

Jesus’ Reply

  • We should never criticize, judge or look down our nose at how someone else worships.  We do not know where they have come from.
  • What Mary did was important and monumental that Jesus did not want us to miss it.  Her story is told in each of the four gospels.  In Matthew 26:13 and Mark 14:9 Jesus says, “I tell you, where the good news is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will be told also in memory of her.
  • Satan would like nothing more than to convince us that we are not worthy to be in God’s house or we are not worshipping correctly.  Jesus teaches us the simplicity of worship in this account.

Jesus is looking for a people who will

  • Come into the house
  • Come as they are
  • Humble themselves
  • Not care what others might think or say
  • Set their eyes upon Jesus
  • Give Him their full attention
  • Give Him their best
  • Allow themselves to be the alabaster contained broken in His presence that the perfume of worship may fill the house as they honor and reverence Him
  • Allow the Holy Spirit to lead them in perfect worship.  Like Mary, you will not leave the same as you came.  You will be changed.

Jesus told her to go in peace.

  • Shalom – peace  –  completeness, welfare, health, to a whole, sound perfect – nothing missing – nothing broken
  • Sozo – saved, healed made whole

Busy at My Task

Luke 4:16-20

He came to Nazareth where he had been raised. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written, God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s time to shine!” He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.”

God has given us His Spirit also

1 John 4:14 – By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.

1 Corinthians 2:9-14 – But as it is written:  Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.  For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.  For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him.  Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 

The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me (and on us) For what purpose?

To give wisdom, to give understanding, to give leading, to give discernment, to give comfort, to give help..

NOT JUST FOR EMOTION – NOT FOR ME TO USE LIKE A TOY – NOT FOR ME TO JUST FEEL GOOD – BUT…BECAUSE…HE HAS ANOINTED ME TO…PREACH – HEAL – PROCLAIM LIBERTY & RECOVERY – SET AT LIBERTY

  • The anointing breaks the yoke.
  • The anointing penetrates to the heart.
  • The anointing divides the sin from the sinner. 
  • The anointing gets the job done.
  • The anointing draws sinners to repentance.
  • The anointing draws Christians closer to God.
  • The anointing starts in motion a purifying process.
  • The anointing calls us to holy living.                   

Who is the poor in this passage? 

  • It is the sinner, in his beggarly ways, who is the poor, helpless, blind, wretched, and miserable.
  • The brokenhearted are those who are lonely and afraid, wounded by the spirit of the world.  The Christian is not broken hearted for we have been given a new heart at salvation.
  • The captive are those who are bound and in chains of bondage.  We are free in Christ.  He has paid the price and we are free.
  • The blind are those whose eyes have not been opened to the Word of the Lord.  It is the blind who do not see Christ.  
  • The ones who are not at liberty are those who are bound by the things of the world.  Christ can and will set free those who want to be set free. 

The acceptable year of the Lord is today.  Now is the day of salvation.  Now is the time for repentance.  Now is the time to start anew.

Fruits Worthy of Repentance

Luke 3:7-9

(The Message) – Brood of snakes!  What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river?  Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to deflect God’s judgment?  It’s your life that must change, not your skin.  And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as ‘father.’  Being a child of Abraham is neither here nor there–children of Abraham are a dime a dozen.  God can make children from stones if he wants.  What counts is your life.  Is it green and blossoming?  Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.”   

When crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do, John exploded: 

Luke 8

(The Amplified Version) – Bear fruits that are deserving and consistent with (your) repentance (that is, conduct worthy of a heart changed, a heart abhorring sin). 

The message that John was preaching to the people is the same message still being preached today.  You call yourselves Christian, then behave like a Christian, act like a Christian, conduct your affairs each day like a Christian should.  Live like a Christian should live, talk like a Christian should talk.

The message that John was preaching to the people has the same reaction from people today.  Some genuinely repent of their past sins and change their way of living.  Some repent of their past sins and go on unchanged.  There is more to repentance or salvation, or the born again experience than kneeling down at an altar and repenting of sins.  Genuine repentance means turning and forsaking those things that are contrary to the Word of God.  Genuine repentance means changing your way of living.  Genuine repentance means following after Christ.  Genuine repentance means giving up old dead, sinful habits that will bring you back into bondage again.  Genuine repentance might mean that you have to change your dress style, your reading habits, your television viewing habits, your music listening habits, possibly even changing your old friends or acquaintances.

Remember the story of the prodigal son…he left the pig pen…he was given a new place to live, new clothes, new habits, and new friends.  The scriptures tell us that “he had spent all that he had on riotous living.”  The word riotous living means wasteful, wantonness, recklessness, reveling, dissension, insurrection, sedition, uproar.  Now, was this guy in bad shape or was he in bad shape?  And some of us here today were in the same shape.  But, now we have been saved, changed, been renewed in the spirit of our mind.  Our heart’s passions are different.  We don’t want the old lifestyle, the old living habits, the things that once held us in bondage.  We are a new creation in Christ. 

Remember the story of the rich, young ruler.  He approached Jesus and wanted to follow Jesus but something got in the way of his following Jesus.  We could debate all day and never come to a sound decision of what it really was that kept him from following Jesus.  Oh, we know it was money or was it the love of money, or was it the life-style or prestige that money could buy?  Was it pride or was it selfishness?  What was his was his and he was going to keep it as his.

There is no written evidence that this young ruler ever changed his mind or his lifestyle.  Although we know he was obedient to all the commandments, one thing kept him from following Jesus.  That one thing was simply this:  total surrender

A story of two friends is told where one man was converted to God.  He went to tell his friend who was surprised and made fun of him.  The new Christian stated he had something that was bothering him and he had to tell it.  Six years previous, the new Christian had stolen four sheep from his friend’s flock and had branded them with his own brand.  They and their offspring were in his field and he was now having trouble sleeping and had to talk to him.  He stated that he would go to prison, pay for the sheep or restore the property. The non-believer stated he did not want the sheep as he trembled in fear.  He went on to say he did not want anything from the Christian, that something strange had got ahold of him and he did not understand it.  The Christian insisted that he had to settle the theft issue.  He counted out the value of the four sheep, plus interest, and then gave his friend double the amount.  True repentance will cause one to make things right.  

The Fruits of Repentance

Change of habits, change of life style, change of attitude, change of living, change in the way one talks, change in the places we frequent, changes in the way we dress, change of friends and many more changes that confront us every day are fruits of repentance that must not be ignored. Whatever it might be in our life that separates us from complete surrender to Jesus Christ, it must be discarded, given up, and surrendered.  Some of these changes may cost us dearly but if not made they will cost us eternal life with Christ.

Bearing fruits worthy of repentance indicates that we might have something to carry, a cross perhaps.  Jesus spoke several places about carrying a cross.  In fact there is a logical step-by-step progression to cross carrying. 

Matthew 16:24 – If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 

Luke 14:27 – Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 

Matthew 10:38 – He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 

(The next passage goes on to say that whoever loses his life shall find it.)

Jim Elliot, missionary to Ecuador, and three other missionary friends lost their earthly lives but gained eternal life. He said “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to obtain that which he cannot lose.“

John 15:13-14 – No greater love has any man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.

What change must you make following repentance?  Do it.  Your eternal destiny depends upon it.

Seeing God’s Salvation

Luke 2:25-35

And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:  Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.  And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Simeon, A Man of God

In this passage we read of a man who was different from others.  He was probably out of place just as a man of God is out of place today.  He probably was ridiculed.  He was probably called self-righteous.  He was probably referred to as a fanatic.  We read in the Bible about Simeon and it gives us some insight as to who he was.

  • He was a man who was just and devout.
  • He was a man who was looking for the Messiah.
  • He was a man who was led by the Holy Spirit.
  • He was a man who had been given an unusual promise.
  • He was a man who saw and held the Messiah.

Titus 2:11-14 – For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works

  • Simeon was a man who was just and devout.  What does that really mean to us today?  Someone who is just “dikaios” in the sense that this passage means is someone who is righteous, well-behaved, living as one should live.  And the word devout “eulabes” means cautious and careful in relation to God.  It means a reverence for or pious toward God.   That description does not fit a lot of people today.  There is a care-free, nonchalant, no big deal attitude by a lot of people in their relationship to God. 

Psalm 31:23 –  Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints!  For the Lord preserves the faithful. 

Jude 21 – Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.  

  • Simeon was looking for the Messiah.  The Messiah had been prophesied to come and save His people.  The Messiah was longed for by the faithful.  

2 Peter 3:10-12 – But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?

  • Simeon was a man who was led by the Holy Spirit.  In the Old Testament, the Spirit only came upon men for special service.  From what little we read here it appears that Simeon may have had the Spirit upon him continually.  At any rate, one thing we know of this special man, he was a man who loved God. 

Matthew 10:32 – Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will  also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 

  • Simeon was a man who had been given an unusual promise. He was going to be able to see the Christ before his death.

1 Peter 1:8 – Whom having not seen you love.  Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. 

  • We are to be Men and Women of God.
  • We should be just and devout, as was Simeon. 

Micah 6: 8 – He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. 

  • If we are people of God, then we should be looking for His appearing. 

2 Timothy 4:8 – Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

  • If we are people of God, then we will walk and live and move in the Spirit.

Romans 12:1 – I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God,           that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 

  • We, too, have been given an unusual promise.

John 14:1-3 – Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

Men of God, our Examples

  • Job – God telling Satan that Job is righteous like no other man.

Job 1:8 – Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

  • Daniel, Noah, Job – God telling Ezekiel of the righteousness of Daniel, Noah, and Job.

Ezekiel 14:14 – Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,” says the Lord God.

  • Elijah – Elijah taken up to heaven alive in a chariot of fire.

2 Kings 2:11 – Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

  • John the Baptist – Jesus telling the multitudes that there were none greater than John the Baptist.

Matthew 11:11 – Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

  • Enoch – The testimony about a man of God.

Hebrews 11:5 –  – By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God

Jude 14 – Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints,

  • Moses – Numerous Scriptures – Greater miracle worker, prophet, law giver, warrior-leader.
  • Paul, the Apostle – Numerous Scriptures – Missionary, Apostle, Prophet, Miracle Worker, Teacher, Man of God.
  • Simeon – He was not ashamed to declare that the One born was the Savior of the world.  This was more than any of the scribes of his time had discerned.  The scribes in Simeon’s day were men who looked upon Christ as a sign to be spoken against and to whom He would become a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.  With godly Simeon it was different. He was Spirit taught and knew He whom he held was His salvation, and not only his, but the whole world. 

Nowhere is it recorded that Simeon bragged about or wore his religion on his sleeve.  He was led by the Holy Spirit, and yet he told no one of his walk with God.  His great spirituality and closeness to God was known because of his walk, not his talk.  He was one of a very few select of God who recognized this babe as the Savior of the world.  There were many who saw him as babe but did not recognize him as Savior. 

Luke 2:25-35 – One who was just, devout, looking for the Messiah, led by the Holy Spirit, given an unusual promise and saw and held the Messiah.  His name means “one who hears and obeys”. His faith had been justified and now he could die without fear.  Have our eyes seen the salvation of the Lord?  Can we die in peace?

The Apostle Peter asks this question in II Peter 3:11 when he is talking about the coming of the Lord.

2 Peter 3:11 – Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?

The Messiah’s Resurrection

Matthew 28:1-20

Abraham, the father of Judaism, died about 1900 BC, but no resurrection has ever been claimed for him.

Buddha never was ascribed anything close to a resurrection.  In fact one of the sacred writing of that faith says that when Buddha died it was “with that utter passing away in which nothing whatever remains behind.”

Mohammed died June 8, 632 A.D. at Medina, where his tomb is annually visited by thousands of devout Muslims.

H. P. Liddon says:  “Faith in the resurrection is the very keystone of the arch of Christian faith, and, when it is removed, all must inevitably crumble into ruin.” 

R M’Cheyne Edgar says:  “Here is a teacher of religion and He calmly professes to stake His entire claims upon His ability, after having been done to death, to rise again from the grave.  We may safely assume that there never was, before or since, such a proposal made.”

B. B. Warfield says:  “Christ Himself deliberately staked His whole claim to the credit of men upon His resurrection.  When asked for a sign He pointed to this sign as His single and sufficient credential.”

Michael Green says:  “Christianity does not hold the resurrection to be one among many tenets of belief.  Without faith in the resurrection there would be no Christianity at all.  Christianity stands or falls with the truth of the resurrection.  Once disproved it, and you have disposed of Christianity.”

Because of this, throughout the centuries the resurrection has been the storm center of the attack upon the Christian faith.

The Supernatural Events of the Resurrection

  • A great earthquake
  • Angel of the Lord
  • Stone rolled back
  • The Appeals of the Resurrection
  • Fear not

John 14: 27 – Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Hebrews 4:14-16 – Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 10:19-20 – Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,

Come and see – When Andrew found Jesus, he immediately invited his brother, Simon, to meet Jesus (John 1:35-42). 

When Philip met Jesus, he immediately invited his friend, Nathaniel, to “come and see” (John 1:43-46). 

To quickly go and tell the others

Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

2 Timothy 2:2 – And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

The Attempts to Discredit the Resurrection

  • Soldiers were bribed
  • Disciples were accused of taking the body
  • Since that time, many theories have been given to try to explain away the resurrection.  But, let’s take a look at the story.

J.N.D. Anderson says:  “Have you noticed that all the references to the empty tomb come in the Gospels, which were written to give the Christian community the facts they wanted to know?  In the public preaching to those who were not believers, as recorded in Acts, there is an enormous emphasis on the fact of the resurrection but not a single reference to the empty tomb.  Now, why?  To me there is only one answer:  There was no point in arguing about the empty tomb.  Everyone, friend and opponent, knew that it was empty.  The only questions worth arguing about were why it was empty and what its emptiness proved.”

Anderson also writes, “To suggest that it was not in fact empty at all, as some have done, seems to me ridiculous.  It is a matter of history that the apostles…made many converts in Jerusalem, hostile as it was, by proclaiming the glad news that Christ had risen from the grave – and they did it within a short walk from the sepulcher.  Any one of their hearers could have visited the tomb and come back again between lunch and afternoon tea.  It is inconceivable, then, that the apostles would have had this success if the body of the one they proclaimed as lord was all the time decomposing in Joseph’s tomb?”

Evidence That Demands a Verdict

  • The testimony of History and Law
  • The body was dead
  • The burial
  • The stone
  • The seal
  • The guard at the tomb
  • The grave clothes
  • The disciples’ lack of courage
  • The empty tomb
  • Post-resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ
  • Enemies of Christ gave no refutation of the resurrection
  • The transformed lives of the disciples
  • The Church

Mary, Example of True Submission

Luke 1:26-38

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”  But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”  Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”  And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”  Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Gabriel sent to Mary at Nazareth – God is no respecter of persons.

Messenger sent to Nazareth as well as Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was the site of the Temple, the place where God’s presence dwelled, the religious center.  Nazareth was far to the north, near the influence of the Gentiles.  In fact, Galilee was often referred to as “Galilee of the Gentiles” by the religious leaders.  Two of the major roads of the world passed within eyesight of the surrounding hills near Nazareth.  The north/south road which stretched between Rome and northern Africa and the east/west road that stretched between Babylonia and the western cities of the Roman Empire both crossed near Nazareth.  Some Bible scholars believe there was a Roman outpost at Nazareth.

Messenger sent to a young girl as well as a priest.

Gabriel sent to a virgin engaged to be married.

The birth of God’s Son required both a divine nature and a human nature.  If He had been born in the natural way, He would have been no more than other men.  Jesus already existed with God the Father.  He just needed a body.  Hebrews 10:5 – ….a body you have prepared (set in order, equip, make fully ready, fitted) for me…

The birth of God’s Son required that He come through a woman.  That was the only way He could share with the man nature.  Genesis 3:15 – And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel.

The birth of God’s Son required both a divine nature and a human nature.  Today we see all the “miracles” of modern science – the test tube babies and other means of fertilization of female eggs.  If man can do such “miracles” certainly God can.  If God could create all the universe by His Word, could He not create a body for His Son by His Word?  Even our “new birth” spiritually comes about because of faith in His Word.  I Peter 1:23 -“Having been born again, not of corruptible (perishable) seed but incorruptible (unperishable) through the word of God which lives and abides forever.

Mary received great pronouncements of blessing

  • She was highly favored. 
  • The Lord was with her.
  • She would be called blessed (granted favor with God) among women.

Note:  We look at Mary from the benefit of 2,000 years later.  We recognize the honor that was given to her to be chosen to be the mother of Jesus.  We know that God was truly with her in a closer, physical sense than any of us can ever claim.  Yet, we need to look at Mary with a fresh look. 

Imagine yourself a young girl (probably no more than 15 or 16) engaged to be married when you suddenly find yourself pregnant.  This was in a society where pregnancy outside of marriage was almost unheard of, where such events led to both the young woman and the child being considered “outcasts” of society, where fornication was a terrible sin punishable by death by stoning. Engagement in that society was as binding as marriage.  The only way to break an engagement was by a divorce. 

Matthew’s story of Joseph’s response indicates that he did not believe Mary at first.  In Matthew 1:20, we are told that “he thought about these things.”  It was only after an angel appeared to him to reassure him that Mary was telling him the truth when she said she was still a virgin that he believed her. 

All of Mary’s life they probably gossiped about her in the village.  Jesus was probably looked upon with scorn as an illegitimate child.  Their opinion of Joseph is not known.  They may have viewed him as a noble man willing to marry Mary and raise Jesus even though he belonged to another man, or they may have scorned Joseph also thinking he was guilty of committing fornication with Mary before their marriage was finalized.  Either way, Mary’s lot could not have been an easy one walking living among the people of Nazareth with the gossip and scorn they would have heaped upon her and Jesus.  Even her family probably laughed about her, or secretly grieved for the shame she had brought on them and on herself. 

Then, look at the hardship imposed upon her while carrying Jesus.  Because prophecy had to be fulfilled, she had to travel to Bethlehem on a donkey’s back while nine months pregnant.  She had to give birth to Jesus far from home in a stable with only the animals and lowly shepherds to celebrate with her and Joseph.  No mother or sisters to help her with the birth, no family to rejoice with her. 

It appears that being His mother brought her no special position during Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Matthew 12:46-50 – While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”  But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

She is mentioned only in passing in the story of the Early Church.  Acts 1:14 – These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Finally, look at the ultimate pain of seeing her son die such a cruel, painful death with the shame of the cross. 

Maybe we need to take a new look at what it means to be highly favored and blessed by God.  In America, we think it means material blessings (new homes, cars, clothes, good jobs) and great happiness (fame, success, lots of friends).  WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE FAVORED AND BLESSED BY GOD?

Mary Submitted to God’s Will

  • She was troubled by the angel’s greeting.
  • She had questions about the message:  “How shall this be?”
  • She submitted to the message:  “Let it be to me according to your word.”  She called herself a “maid servant” which literally meant “slave girl.”  She was saying that she was willing to completely surrender to God.  She would no longer control herself and her destiny.  It was all in God’s hands.

We can learn from this:

  • God expects us to believe Him and His ability to do what He says.
  • God expects us to obey Him – without knowing what lies ahead, without knowing where that obedience will take us.
  • God expects us to surrender to Him and allow Him to have control of our lives. 

Psalm 115:3 – But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

Proverbs 23:4-5 – Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease!  Will you set your eyes on that which is not?  For riches certainly make themselves wings, they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct (straighten out, be right, pleasing, good) your paths.

1 Samuel 15:22 -. . . to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.

Luke 6:46 – But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do the things which I say?

John 15:15 – If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

John 15:21 – He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.  And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest (reveal, exhibit, make visible, present oneself to the sight of another, be conspicuous) Myself to him.

Being favored and blessed by God does not mean that our lives will be one success after another, one moment of happiness followed by another.  It does not mean that we will receive the recognition and praise of men.  It does not mean that we will get all our wants met, that life will be easy.  It does mean that God will use us for His glory, for His purpose.

Luke 9:23 -“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

Luke 14:26-27,33 – If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Of course, in the long run, we will see that success, happiness and even recognition does come.  Today Mary is honored all over the world.  She has been remembered and honored more than Herod, Pilate, Caesar and the other great men of that time.  She is rejoicing in heaven for all eternity.  In the long run, we will find that believing God and obeying Him is the ultimate success.  But, in the short run, we must, like Mary, believe and obey – regardless of the circumstances.

1 John 2:17 – And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

He’s Dead – or Is He?

The Gospel of Matthew as well as other Gospel writers presents the reality of Jesus’ death as an absolute certainty.

Those standing around the cross watched as Jesus “breathed his last.” – John 19:30 tells us He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

They heard him cry with a loud voice. – Mark 15:37 tells us Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed His last.

Roman authorities, acting on instructions from Pilate, broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus to hasten their death; but coming to Jesus, they discovered He had already died – John 19:33 says “But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.

Having received confirmation of death from the Roman centurion, Pilate released the body of Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus for burial.

  • The callous Roman soldiers said “He is dead.”
  • The curious crowds, unconscious of the eternal significance, said “He is dead.’
  • Pilate got the word, “Jesus is dead.”
  • Mary, feeling the pain like a dagger in her heart, said, “My son is dead.”
  • His disciples, numb and stunned with the events of the last few hours said, “The Master is dead”

Everybody had written Jesus off – gone forever.

Dead.

Dead.

Dead.

Get on with the same routine.  He’s dead.  No one expected to see Him or hear His voice again.

It’s Friday….but Sunday’s coming.

What separates Christianity from all other religions is an empty tomb and the words of Christ who says “I was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore.”