Week 48, November 28-December2
Note: Several months I typed in the wrong week number and have been off ever since. So this week is really and truly week 48.
God gives prophecies against Edom and Israel. In order for the people to come to their senses and recognize the God is the one true God, he will devastate their land. God says he hates the bloodshed perpetrated by the Edomites, so why does he have them die? Because the Edomites killed senselessly and selfishly. God is just in what he does. The earth is his, and what matters is the righteousness and holiness of his name.
The vision of the valley of dry bones is a vision confirming that God will restore Israel, almost through the power of resurrection. If the Jews didn’t believe in a future resurrection, this vision would lose its potency. God shows Ezekiel a graveyard. Ezekiel will tell the breath of life to fill the dead bones and return them to life. There is less talk of resurrection in the Old Testament, but it is definitely present. This vision asserts the God will bring Israel back to the land and put his Spirit within them, which also hints toward the new covenant. Ezekiel then prophecies that the divided nation will be reunited by two different sticks and joining them together. But the point of the vision is that there will be ruler over them both, not just that they’ll reconcile. God will give his people one shepherd, his servant David. Who could that be?
The prophecy of Gog and Magog is a vision of God’s sovereignty even amidst Israel’s rebellion. The difficult part is that there is no land or nation called Magog or king called Gog. Since there are no time hacks given in this vision, the traditional interpretation sees this as a future invasion. This check out, because the apostle John picks up on this prophecy and places it at the end of the millennial reign in Revelation 20. The reference to “the latter years” of 37:8 seems to place this at least in Ezekiel’s far future, as well.
Ezekiel 40-48 is one coherent vision. It is the vision of the restoration of the land. The vision of chapters 33-37 are about life after the destruction of the land, chapters 38-39 comes comes between destruction and restoration, and chapters 40-48 promise the restoration. The question then becomes, is this the second temple built after the exile, or is this referring to some temple further out in time? Is it even referring to a literal temple? It’s a legitimate question, because we have already seen outrageous visions, such as the valley of dry bones, which don’t seem to refer to a woodenly literal moment in time.
In the beginning chapters of Ezekiel, God’s glory left the temple and it was destroyed. Several abominations were rehearsed in the temple. Chapters 40-48 see the undoing of all that destruction and rebellion. That’s why there are so many details. The temple is being rebuilt. Instead of seeing God’s glory leave the temple, he will see it restored. Ezekiel gets a tour of the temple already rebuilt, the glory of God returns, then God tells Ezekiel how the people should then worship him. The vision ends with water flowing out of the temple and bringing life to the entire world. There is then a new city, which is open to all. This sounds remarkably like the new city of Revelation 21 and the river of life of Revelation 22. I’m of the opinion that the new city and temple of Ezekiel 40-48 is referring to the new age, not a rebuilt brick-and-mortar temple in the millennium. John, the author of revelation, places the fulfillment of this vision after the battle of Gog and Magog, which takes place at the end of the millennium, not during.
1 Peter 5
Peter concludes his first letter by encouraging the elders and pastors of his church to be faithful. Peter also refers to himself as a fellow elder; he does not elevate himself above them. The idea that Peter was the first pope does not hold much clout. Elders/overseers/bishops/pastors are the administrators, teachers, and primary example-setters of the congregation. Faithful pastors will receive the crown of glory at the end of the age. While elders should be honored, they must stay humble. Because God blesses the humble, all his people should practice humility. It is God who exalts us, not ourselves. Part of that humility is resisting the temptations of Satan. Instead of fearing Satan, Christians need only resist him. We must remember 1 Peter 1:5, which tells us we are “being guarded through faith” for a future.
2 Peter 1-3
Some have argued that Peter is not the author of this letter. But he claims to have written the letter in 1:1 and then claimed to have seen Christ’s majesty, which is a reference to the transfiguration. If Peter was not the author, this letter is an act of deceit, which the early church would not have accepted.
The themes of the letter are common ones: false teachers and living righteously. Peter begins by addressing righteous living. God calls his people to live a certain way because he has pulled us out of the kingdom of corruption and brought them into his. Our faith does require effort even if our salvation does not. Faith is sustained through virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. What does it mean to grow in faith? Practice those things and find out. We are firmly established in the truth, and therefore, we know to practice those qualities.
Peter knows that eternal life does not negate physical death, and his departure is in the offing. Therefore, he wants the church to continue to be strong after he is gone. Peter grounds his message in being an eyewitness to the transfiguration and knowledge of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan. And because no one living today witnessed those things, we also need to ground our faith in something. Peter says that this is Scripture, “the prophetic word more fully confirmed” (1:19). The church remembers Christ’s life and the evidence of his divinity not through experience but through knowledge and understanding of Scripture.
False teachers are a perennial threat. They are greedy and exploitative toward their followers. They are blasphemous, stupid animals. But while it may appear as though they have a measure of worldly success, their end is condemnation. In the same way God did not spare sinful angels, Noah’s contemporaries, or Sodom and Gomorrah, neither will he spare false teachers. God is just and holy. Christ is returning, and that should spur us on to faithfulness. From the prophets of old to the apostles of Christ, we have been warned of childish scoffers in the last days. Christ has not yet returned, so they mock God by doubting he will.
But it is God’s patience that gives scoffers opportunity for repentance. What does it mean that God does not wish any should perish but that all would repent? God does not delight in the death of the wicked. But he will hand us over to our evil desires if we turn from him. And yet, though God’s patience is what holds back the end of the age, we still eagerly anticipate his return.
1 John 1-3
John the Evangelist is traditionally considered the author of this letter (we often have to deal with authorship because some letters are technically anonymous since the author’s name is not mentioned in the writing). This particular writing carries more marks of a sermon than a traditional Greek letter. When the Jews were kicked out of Rome around AD 65, John went to Ephesus and pastored there. This letter may have been a circulated sermon or one he gave on more than one occasion.
This letter (or sermon) even begins much like John’s gospel. Both are emphatic that Christ was present before time began. The author even claims to be an eyewitness to Christ, which lends credence to the authorship of John the Evangelist. John calls us to walk in the light, which sounds remarkably like John 1. Jesus’s blood continues to cleanse us from our sin. When Christ entered the heavenly places, he carried his blood with him. Its power is so great that it continues to save us today. Christ is currently on the throne in heaven, interceding for his people. “He is the propitiation for our sins” is present tense. Christ’s blood continues to be the only necessary sacrifice to cancel our debt of sin. To “keep” God’s word is to cultivate it in your heart. It’s a similar idea to Adam keeping the garden and the priests keeping the temple.
We keep God’s word by burying it in our hearts and minds, not unlike listening to a song on repeat. At some point, the song is stuck in our heart forever. You could wake up from a 50-year coma and still hum the tune. That should be the kind of place Scripture has in our hearts and minds. John cares deeply that we have confidence in God and Christ’s sacrifice. His letter serves to give us assurance. Our sins are forgiven for the sake of God’s name, that he might be known as just, righteous, and primarily holy. Therefore, there should be great confidence that if God’s concern is his name, then our sins are no impediment.
The church has always been looking for the antichrist. But John tells us that many antichrists have already come into the world. An antichrist is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ. This both affirms that there is yet one antichrist at the end of the age who will supersede all other antichrists, and that it is likely the antichrist will actually come out of the church. John says that the antichrists that have already appeared have left the church, and so will the final, end-of-the-age antichrist. For this reason I think the church will be on the earth at the end of the age and will recognize the antichrist. But John writes these things to guard us against the deceit of the antichrists. They are here, so be alert to their lies.
God has turned his enemies into his family. We are his children. While we suffer and are persecuted now, when Christ returns, we will be made like him—holy and indestructible. And so, we live in such a way now that reflects our blessed hope. To confess Jesus is Lord and then to live as though I am lord is to repudiate my confession. We cannot keep on sinning (which means without repentance and godly grief) and think our confession holds any water. No one “born of God” (which is the same phrase used in John 1; again, more weight that John wrote both letters) will enjoy their sin in such a way that we defend it.
Instead, those born of God will love one another. That is the example Christ set out for us—his own life was laid down for ours. His innocence did not merit his suffering, but he took it on himself out of love for us and obedience to the Father. To have your heart condemn you is to have a prick of the conscience. That is a sure sign that you know the love of God. But God is greater than our hearts! Even when my conscience is burdened with my sin, I am reminded that God forgave me long before I was conscious of my sin.
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