Before beginning the description of our trip to theHoly Land, I’m sure that many of you are wondering what the security is like there.  That is especially true since a bomb blew up on a public transportation bus inJerusalemless than two weeks ago, only shortly after we leftIsrael.

Actually, with the exception of one incident—which I will explain below—things were amazingly peaceful inIsraelwhile we were there, March 4-12.  I think it’s fair to say that I felt almost as safe there as here in the U.S., and much safer than I would about going to the border cities of Mexico—or most of the interior, our next-door neighbor (and very close by, here in South Texas).

We rarely even noticed police (either cars or on foot) and only saw soldiers twice that I recall: once when we were at the Lebanese border, near Mount Hermon, and once adjacent to the lower part of the “City of David,” strategically located between the area of historic excavations and the Arab community of Silwan, which is Arabic for “Siloam.” (At the time, we were looking at the recently excavated Pool of Siloam [see John 9:7, 11]).

That second incident was the only time I was fearful the whole week we were inIsrael.  The sound of smoke bombs being fired into a house where rock-throwing teenagers had fled got our attention.  However, our guide quickly made a cell phone call and, within minutes, a van arrived to whisk us away from the potential danger.  Later, the guide said the Arab youth were probably trying to start an incident that could escalate into the kind of things that happened inEgypt and other parts of the Middle East.

 After my emergency passport renewal adventure in New Orleans, in the nick of time I made a Delta flight to Atlanta, connecting to Kennedy in New York, where I finally caught up with my tour group, barely in time for the flight for Tel Aviv.  I then heaved a sigh of relief, getting to sit next to my wife.  However, as tired as I was, there was no rest for the weary!

If you have ever flown on long trans-oceanic flights, you know that, short of taking medication to knock you out, it’s incredibly difficult to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time.  Yes, they turn out as many lights as possible.  However, the (non-first class) seats are very uncomfortable.  People are climbing over you periodically, to go back and forth to the bathroom.  Of course, the movie screen is still on—so, when I woke up, I got to see the end of “The King’s Speech.”  And, being seated on an aisle, and having broad shoulders, flight attendants and other passengers brushed up against me, traversing the aisle in the dark.  (What a great opportunity for the “fruit of the Spirit” to control my reactions!)

If I recall correctly, we took off from Kennedy about 9:30 p.m., Eastern Time, Thursday, March 3.  We arrived in Tel Aviv about 4:00 p.m., Israeli time, Friday, the 4th.  Taking away seven hours (i.e., going east seven time zones), we were on the plane about 11 1/2 hours.  I think I got 2 1/2-3 hours of sleep.

Standing in line to clear customs with my new passport at the TelAviv Airport was a hassle.  But, we had arrived and I was going to get to sleep in a real bed!

I recently took a trip to Israel, which departed March 3 and returned March 12.  For the next several articles, I’m going to offer reflections on what we saw (and, occasionally, what we didn’t see) there.  However, this article is about the story of how I almost didn’t get to make the trip.

After flying fromAustintoNew Orleanson Southwest, to join the tour group, I go to the Delta Airlines desk to check luggage through to Tel Aviv.  The person helping my wife and me noticed my passport expired in mid-June.  Now, that wouldn’t matter most of the time, but it certainly did in this case.

Why? Israel does not allow anyone with a passport expiring within six months to enter their country.

I was absolutely stunned!  The trip I had waited for with such anticipation—I had been toIsraeltwice before, but never with my wife—was disappearing before my eyes.

Fortunately, clearer heads got involved.  Family members remembered there was a Passport Bureau office in downtownNew Orleans.  One phone call got information on what information/documents were needed.  Another set up an appointment at a seemingly impossibly tight time at the Passport Bureau.  Then, it was up to me to jog through the airport, catch a cab and hit every stop just right downtown, as well as praying the Passport Bureau would deliver the new passport while I sat and waited.

Against all odds, two Haitian cabbies that drove like the Dukes of Hazzard, the passport office personnel and the people at Delta who re-booked me in record time barely got me on the last plane that could catch my tour before they flew out ofJFKAirportinNew Yorkfor Tel Aviv.  Miracles do happen!

Readers,

My wife and I went to Israel in March and had a great time!  It was her first trip there and my third–but first since 1998.

While on that trip, I had email correspondence that led to the possibility of me writing an exegetical commentary for a major new series.  In the time since, I have spent quite a bit of the time I could carve out doing a roughly 30-page segment to “audition,” so to speak, for that assignment.  (That is why I have been “absent” without explanation from blogging.) 

Recently, I found out that I have been given the assignment and just received the contract.  As it has worked out, this project is going to be quite a push!  My completed manuscript is due next July.  So, I ask your prayers as I continue to pursue my research and writing.

At this point, I still have not made up my mind as to whether/how much of that research I will post on this blog.  I probably will at least post the related ETS papers I will be doing, but need to think and pray about the actual manuscript material.

In the meantime, I am going to post of series of short newspaper articles I have written about Israel, related to our trip (which, by the way, are still in process).  I hope you enjoy them!

(Note: Remember that this is copyrighted material!)

*Abomination of Desolation (Heb shiqquts, “abomination”; shomem, “desolation”; Gk bdelugma, “something detestable, sacrilegious object”; eremosis, “desolation”) A specific description of the awful nature of the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem at two or three points in history. The origin of the phrase “abomination of desolation” is the Book of Daniel (9:27; 11:31; 12:11). During the Intertestamental Era it is used in 1 Macc 1:54.  The wording is also found in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in Matt 24:15 and Mark 13:14. Likely uses of the concept, though not the wording, are found in 2 Thess 2:3b-4 and Rev 13:14-15.*

!! Usage in Daniel. The use in Dan 11:31 prophecies the desecration of the Temple by the Greek King Antiochus IV in the second century BC, while Dan 9:27 and Dan 12:11 foresee an event (or events) at the end of the age. Most scholars agree that the abolishing of the daily Temple sacrifices and setting up of the “abomination of desolation” in Dan 11:31 is by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 BC.  The use in Dan 9:27 occurs in the final “week” of the great “seventy sevens” prophecy.  Some scholars believe that passage has already been fulfilled, during the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans under Titus in AD 70.  Others hold that its fulfillment is still future today, in the end times.  The immediately preceding context of Dan 12:11 speaks of a time of “tribulation” (LXX thlipsis) unparalleled in history (Dan 12:1) and bodily resurrection (Dan 12:2), as expected at the end of the age, and “the time of the end” (HCSB, 12:9). It thus appears that Daniel’s final prophecy of the “abomination of desolation” will be fulfilled in that time frame.

!! Usage in the Apocrypha. Antiochus Epiphanes set up a pagan altar in the temple in Jerusalem in 167 BC (1 Macc 1:54–64). Later sources say that this “abomination of desolation” (1 Macc 1:54) was a statue of the Greek god, Zeus, though it is impossible to verify this assertion. This was a particularly aggressive part of his campaign to force the Jews to accept the Greek culture, including their religion (i.e., Hellenism). In a period of a little more than three years, though, the Maccabeans pushed back the Greeks and purified the Temple, beginning sacrifices again, as predicted in Dan 8:13-14.

!! Usage in the Gospels. In Jesus’ sermon about when the Temple would again be destroyed (see Matt 24:1-3; Mark 13:1-4), both parallel Gospel accounts mention “the abomination that causes desolation” (Matt 24:15; Mark 13:14).  Mark’s version may be focusing (see Mark 13:2-3) more on the AD 70 destruction by the Romans, with “abomination of desolation” being limited to the desecrating of the Temple at that time, as described by Josephus. In Matthew, however, since the apostles’ questions are about “the sign of [Christ’s] coming and of the end of the age” (Matt 24:3), it’s likely that the “abomination of desolation” refers to both AD 70 and the end times.

!! Usage in 2 Thessalonians and Revelation. Though neither 2 Thess 2:3-4 or Rev 13:14-15 uses the wording “abomination of desolation,” both probably allude to the end times fulfillment of the prophecies in Dan, Matt 24 and Mark 13 (see above).  In 2 Thess 2, Paul is correcting the false teaching of a letter claiming to have been written by him saying the end-times Day of the Lord was in progress (2 Thess 2:2). He countered that one of the signs of the beginning of the Day of the Lord will be the revealing of “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thess 2:3, HCSB).  This wording refers to the Antichrist figure.  It is his self-exaltation by sitting “in God’s sanctuary” (Gk naos, “temple”), calling himself “God” that, in this context, is the outworking of the wording “abomination of desolation.”  Rev 13:14-15 clarifies 2 Thess 2, describing an animated image of the Antichrist figure (the beast), which all people are required to worship or be killed. 

–A. Boyd Luter

!! Bibliography

Allison, Dale C. The End of the Ages Has Come. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.

Archer, Gleason L., Jr. “Daniel,” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Gen. Ed. F.E. Gaebelein Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985: 7: 117-18, 139-40, 156.

Beasley-Murray, G.R. A Commentary on Mark Thirteen. London: Macmillan, 1957.

Beasley-Murray, G.R. Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.

Blomberg, Craig L. Jesus and the Gospels, Second Edition. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2009.

Ford, Desmond. The Abomination of Desolation in Biblical Eschatology. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1979.

Geddert, Timothy J. Watchwords: Mark 13 in Markan Eschatology. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989. 

Hays, J. Daniel, J. Scott Duvall and C. Marvin Pate. “Abomination of Desolation,” in the Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.

Watson, F. Duane. “Antichrist,” in the Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, Eds. R.P. Martin and P.H. Davids. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997: 50-53.

Wenham, David. “Abomination of Desolation,” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, Gen. Ed. D.N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992. I: 28-31.

Wenham, David. The Rediscovery of Jesus’ Eschatological Discourse. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984.

*First Fruits (Heb bikkurim, “first-ripened,” resit, “first” [i.e., “beginning”], sometimes “choicest”; Gk aparche, “first-fruits”) The first, and best, part of the harvest of crops or processed produce, as well as firstborn son and animals, including the wool of sheep. The term “first fruits” also refers to ceremonies required in relation to the initial portion of the harvest. Both senses of priority and best quality are present in the regulations of the Mosaic Law related to first fruits.  With this literal usage as background, Israel as a nation, the believing remnant within Israel, the 144,000 in Revelation 14, Christians in general, certain individual Christians, Christ and the Holy Spirit are all referred to in Scripture figuratively as “first fruits.*

!! The Literal Usage in the Old Testament. The concept of “first fruits” was a crucial aspect of putting the Lord first in every part of life for Israel. That included the harvest, the shepherding of flocks, and child-bearing, especially in regard to the feasts and sacrificial system of the Law of Moses. This is seen clearly from one of the first uses in the Hebrew Bible: “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your land to the house of the Lord your God” (Exod 23:19, HCSB).  Both bikkarim and resit are used here, with the meaning being something like “the best of the best.” Ultimately, the firstfruits were used for the support of the Levitical priests, as their inheritance among God’s people (Deut 18:4). Deut 26:1-11 specifies how individual first fruits offerings were to be brought before the Lord.

Of special note are the wave offering and its companion festal offering. During Passover, all Israelites were to “bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest” for him to “wave the sheaf before the Lord” (Lev 23:10-14, HCSB). This is referring to the barley harvest, which began several weeks before the wheat harvest.  Exod 34:22 tells of the bringing of the first fruits of the wheat harvest during the feast of Pentecost, which is elsewhere called “the day of firstfruits” (Num 28:26, HCSB).

!! The Lone Figurative Usage in the Old Testament. The only non-literal use of “first fruits” in the entire Hebrew Bible is in Jer 2:3.  Early in his ministry, Jeremiah announced to Judah: “Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of His harvest” (HCSB). The mention of holiness infers that the primary meaning intended is that Israel is best in quality spiritually.  However, the sense that Israel might only be the initial part of the Lord’s spiritual harvest cannot be excluded.

!! The Figurative Usage in the New Testament. Eight inclusions of aparche in the New Testament, all in the Epistles and Rev, cover a surprisingly wide range of subjects called “first fruits.” The nuance of best from the Old Testament usage is seen in Jas 1:18, where Christians are called the “firsfruits” of God’s creation. The remaining uses all emphasize the shade of meaning of the “first part of a larger harvest.” Christ being raised from the dead is the “first fruits” of the future resurrection (1 Cor 15:20, 23).  Paul calls Epaenetus and the household of Stephanas “the firstfruits of Achaia” (i.e., among the first to believe in Christ in southern Greece [Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:15, HCSB]).  In Rom 8:23, the Holy Spirit is the “first fruits” of all the spiritual riches believers will have in the presence of the Lord.  Paul is here employing aparche interchangeably with arrabon (“earnest, down payment”) elsewhere (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:14).

The remaining two uses play off the only figurative use in the Old Testament (Jer 2:3).  In Rom 11:16, the believing remnant (“firstfruits”) of Israel is said to be “holy,” echoing Jer 2:3. A few verses later in that context, the promise is laid out that a time will come when “all Israel” in 11:26a “will be saved” and made holy (11:26b-27). More (but not less) than the end-times conversion of (at least much of) Israel is in view in Rev 14:4. The 144,000, earlier said to be Israelites (7:4-8), are described as having been “redeemed from the human race (i.e., all humankind) as the firstfruits for God and the Lamb” (HCSB). This is just before the mention of “the eternal gospel” (14:6) and the final two-sided harvest of salvation (14:14-16) and judgment (14:17-20).  This final preaching of the gospel before the end fulfilling Matt 24:14 will result in the climactic spiritual harvest of human history to complete the “firstfruits.”

–A. Boyd Luter

!! Bibliography 

Burge, Gary M. “First Fruits,” in the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Eds. G.F. Hawthorne, R.P. Martin, and D.G. Reid. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993: 300-01.

Edersheim, Alfred. The Temple: Its Ministry and Services. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958.

Gerig, Wesley L. “First Fruits,” in the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Gen. Ed. W.A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. I: 791-92.

Ridderbos, Herman. Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Transl. J.R. DeWitt. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975.

Rigsby, Richard O. “First Fruits,” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, Gen. Ed. D.N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992. II: 796-97. 

Rigsby, Richard O. “Firstfruits.” in the Dictionary of the Old Testament, Eds. T.D. Alexander and D.W. Baker. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003: 313-15.

Walker, Larry. “Firstfruits,” in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, gen. eds. C. Brand, A. Draper, and A. England. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2003: 577-78.

 

 

“Grace” for Lexham B.D.

February 22, 2011

(Note: This is the last of my entries.  I’ll be getting back to other posts and interacting with comments as soon as possible.)

*Grace (Heb hesed, “grace, mercy, steadfast love, compassion;” hen, “grace, graciousness, kindness”; Gk charis, “grace, favor, graciousness, goodwill”) Gracious or merciful behavior of a higher, or more powerful, person toward another. In the Old Testament, grace is displayed by both the Lord toward humankind and by human beings toward other people, as well as in referring to human gratitude. In the New Testament, the concept of grace is used several ways. It sometimes is a way of describing God or Christ in their merciful character or actions toward humankind. Completely undeserved by humanity, grace is at the heart of salvation. The term is also one way spiritual gifts are described. Further, grace is a literary device used at the beginning or end of many New Testament letters. Finally, grace occasionally reflects favor of one human being toward another, giving, graciousness or gratitude.*

!! Grace in the Old Testament. There is much more about grace in the Old Testament than might be expected, given the common perception of the Mosaic Law as being opposed to grace. The Lord is clearly seen to be a God of grace. Also, a common way of describing human graciousness toward another person is “to find favor in the eyes of.” 

!!! Divine Grace. From the beginning to the end of the Hebrew Bible, there are notable examples of the grace of God. In the earliest chapters of Scripture, when the entire human population was dominated by evil, Noah “found favor (Heb hen) in the eyes of the Lord” Gen 6:8, HCSB). In Exod 33, 34, Moses found favor in the eyes of the Lord, so that He did not judge the idolatrous children of Israel. As the Lord was preparing to rewrite the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone, He passed before Moses and said, “Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth” (Exod 34:6, HCSB). The hymnbook of Israel is filled with praise in regard to God’s grace/ graciousness (Pss 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 116:5; 145:8), meaning that their worship included grace as a major theme. Shortly before giving the promise of the New Covenant, the Lord revealed, through the prophet Jeremiah, looked back on his favor toward Israel in the wilderness, after coming out of Egypt (Jer 31:2), implying He was about to do the same thing in graciously bringing His people out of Babylon. Finally, the Post-Exilic prophet, Zechariah, foretold a time when the Lord would “pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they have pierced” (Zech 12:10, HCSB). This passage is cited in Rev 1:7 as one of two biblical “texts” for the Apocalypse, the other being Dan 7:13. This implies that the grace of God being poured out will produce a major impact at the end of the age.

!!! Human Favor and Graciousness. In the Old Testament, many individuals were acutely aware that their primary hope in difficult situations was to find favor (i.e., grace) with a more powerful person. For example, Jacob found favor with Esau (Gen 33:8, 10). Joseph found favor with Potiphar (Gen 39:4). The people of Egypt found favor with Joseph, who saved their lives (Gen 47:25). Ruth found favor with Boaz (Ruth 2:10), as Naomi had prayed (Ruth 2:2), setting in motion circumstances by which the Moabitess Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:21-22; Matt 1:5-6. David found favor with Jonathan (1 Sam 20:3), the son of Saul, who sought to kill David. Esther found favor with King Ahasuerus, who made her queen of the Persian Empire (Esth 2:17)

!!! Human Gratitude toward God. At a point of disenchantment in building the Second Temple, the term “grace” reflects a revelation from the Lord that provides major discouragement. An angel told Zechariah, “This is the word of the Lord to Zurabbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit’” (Zech 4:6, HCSB). Thus, since the construction would be graciously carried out in God’s power, when the Temple was completed (“bring out the capstone” [Zech 4:7, HCSB]), the shouts of the joyful multitude would be “Grace, grace to it!” (Zech 4:7, HCSB), in recognition of the Lord’s role, defying very long human odds.

!! Grace in the New Testament. As in the Old Testament, grace is used to describe both God and humanity. The aspects of grace in the New Testament not seen previously include grace in relation to salvation, spiritual gifts being referred to as “graces,” and the literary use of grace in beginning and/or ending many of the New Testament epistles.

!!! The Grace of God and of Christ. Both God and Christ are described in the New Testament by reference to the grace of their innate character and actions, sometimes together. In 1 Pet 5:10, the Father is called “the God of all grace” (HCSB) and Eph 1:7 speaks of “the riches of His grace” (HCSB), the recognition of which should be to “the praise of His glorious grace” (HCSB). Jn 1:14 calls Jesus “the One and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (HCSB). From the longest to the shortest of Paul’s letters, the majority of them end with wording like “the grace of our Lord Jesus” (e.g., Rom 16:20; 1 Cor 16:23; Phlm 25). In 2 Thess 1:12, the two are linked in regard to their charis: “the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (HCSB). The overall effect of these uses is the recognition that the Father and the Son are both equally divine and equally sources of amazing favor toward humankind.

!!! Grace in Salvation. God acted out of His mercy and love for humanity, even though, outside of faith in Christ, the human race is spiritually “dead” in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). “Salvation was completely of grace (Eph 2:5), for both Jews (Rom 11:5-6) and Gentiles. Eph 2:8-9 clarifies how the gracious gift of eternal life (Rom 6:23) is received: “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” (HCSB). Salvation does not end with justification by faith, however. In Tit 2:11-13, Paul instructs the young believers on the island of Crete: “For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (HCSB). The great lesson that the Lord taught Paul about his thorn in the flesh was “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9, HCSB). This is one of the most important principles of growing in regard to salvation: God’s grace is sufficient, no matter how desperate the circumstances or how weak the person (2 Cor 12:10). At Miletus, Paul told the Ephesian elders, “I commit you to God and to the message of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32, HCSB). Peter concludes his second letter with these words: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18, HCSB).

!!! Grace Gifts. Because of God’s grace (Rom 12:6; Eph 4:7), He has given a variety of spiritual gifts to His people (1 Pet 4:10). It is their responsible stewardship to employ those gifts to serve other (1 Pet 4:10). One of those gracious gifts was apostleship (1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11), which Paul exercised in proclaiming the mystery of Christ to the Gentiles (Eph 3:7-8). The more common New Testament term for spiritual gifts, though, is charisma, which literally means “graces” or “gifts of grace,” in contrast with the term which literally means “spiritual gifts” (Gk pneumatikos [1 Cor 12:1; 14:1]). It is found in connection with the listings of spiritual gifts in Rom 12:6, 1 Cor 12:4 and 1 Pet 4:10. The apparent reason Paul would choose to use charisma more frequently than pneumatikos is to emphasize that the possession of any of the spiritual gifts is only by God’s grace. Interestingly, salvation is also referred to as the charisma of God in Rom 6:23.

!!! Grace upon Grace. Jn 1:16-17 declares, “We have all received grace after grace from [Christ’s] fullness, for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (HCSB). In other words, “grace” is one of the great words describing the New Covenant, which Jesus ratified. On a closely related note, every one of Paul’s epistles begins and ends with “grace.” That is a subtle, but highly significant, change from the typical beginning of the day, the Hellenistic charein (“greetings”), to charis (“grace”). The same is true of 2 Pet (1:2; 3:18) and Rev (1:4; 22:21). In regard to each of those New Testament books, the movement of thought within them is thus “from grace to grace.” That front-end/back-end literary effect is probably intended as an inclusio (i.e., a bookends effect), intentionally coloring everything in between with the presence of God’s “grace,” perhaps the important theological term utilized by Paul. It should also be noted that most of Paul’s letters begin with “grace and peace.” That wording puts together the emerging Christian use of “grace” with the traditional Hebrew greeting of “peace” (Heb shalom; Gk eirene). By contrast, the Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Tim, Titus) have “grace, mercy, and peace.” It is not known why Paul made this change, but it is unlikely that it is merely stylistic. If the Pastorals are Paul’s last three letters, it may be that he is reflecting a heightened awareness of God’s great mercy, following his earlier imprisonments and other sufferings.

!! Divine and Human Favor, Giving, Gratitude, and Graciousness. Like Old Testament usage, Mary found favor (Gk charis) with God (Lk 1:30). Jesus found favor with both God and humanity (Lk 2:52). In the days following the Day of Pentecost, the new church in Jerusalem found “favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47, HCSB).  In Stephen’s sermon, he refers to Joseph finding favor with Pharaoh (Acts 7:10). Acts 24:27 and 25:3, 9 tell of Festus’ desire to do a favor (Gk charis) for the Jews in the way he handled Paul’s case. Paul refers to his previous intention to visit the Corinthian church going and coming from Macedonia as a “double grace” (Gk deuteran charin; 2 Cor 1:15, HCSB). In parallel to the sacrificial response to God’s grace among the churches of Macadonia (2 Cor 8:1), Paul appeals to the Corinthians to also give a gracious offering (Gk charis) to meet pressing needs in the church in Jerusalem (2 Cor 8:4, 6, 7, 19). In evangelism, the speech of the believer “should always be gracious (Gk charis), seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer every person (Col 4:6, HCSB). In Col 3:16, singing with “grace” in your heart toward the Lord means gratitude for all he has done, none of which any Christian deserves.

–A. Boyd Luter

!! Bibliography

Andersen, T.D. “The Meaning of echontes charin pros in Acts 2:47,” in New Testament Studies 34 (1988) 604-10.

Casurella, Anthony. “Grace,” in the Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments. Eds. R.P. Martin and P.H. Davids. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997: 433-35.

Glueck, Nelson. Hesed in the Bible. Transl. A. Gottschalk. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1967.

Hals, Ronald M. Grace and Faith in the Old Testament. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1980.

Heath, Elaine A. “Grace,” in the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003: 371-75.

Luter, A. Boyd, Jr., “Grace,” in the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Gen. Eds. G.F. Hawthorne, R.P. Martin and D.G. Reid. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993: 372-74. 

Manson, William. “Grace in the NT,” in The Doctrine of Grace. Ed. W.T. Whitley. London: SCM Press, 1932.

Moffatt, James. Grace in the New Testament. New York: Long and Smith, 1932.

Mullins, T.Y. “Greetings as a NT Form,” Journal of Biblical Literature 87 (1968) 418-26. 

Roetzel, Calvin J. “Grace,” in Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed. P.J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985: 357-58.

Ryrie, Charles C. The Grace of God. Chicago: Moody Press, 1963.

Sakenfeld, Katherine D. The Meaning of Hesed in the Bible: A New Inquiry. Missoula: Scholars Press, 1978. 

Shogren, Gary S. “Grace (NT),” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed. D.N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992: II: 1086-88.

Smith, C.R. The Bible Doctrine of Grace. London: Epworth, 1956. 

Wetter, G.P. Charis. Leipzig: Brandstetter, 1913.

Williams, Norman P. The Grace of God. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1966.

(Again, this is copyrighted material [Logos Bible Software].  So, it’s fine for your own use.  Just don’t publish it as if it’s your own material.  Thank you!)

*Chronology of the New Testament. The study of the dating and sequencing of the New Testament books and related events. Because of the historical roots of Christianity, chronology is an important study. The traditional New Testament dating throughout most of church history was significantly overturned by a consensus of Enlightenment/Liberal thinking. However, the enormous impact of J.A.T. Robinson’s Redating the New Testament, combined with resurgent evangelical scholarship, has largely restored the working consensus to much earlier dating. Firm historical dating is available for enough of the major New Testament events to allow for very plausible dating for other events and books. It must be understood, though, that current scholarly disagreements in some areas of dating/chronology do have major consequences in interpretation.*

!! The Importance of Dating/Chronology for NT Studies. Historic Christianity has been based on factually true historical events and trustworthy historical documents, both of which are open for inspection. When the Apostle Paul was interrupted in his testimony about his conversion and commission related to Christ’s death and resurrection and accused by the Roman governor, Festus, of being “out of your mind” (Acts 26:24, HCSB), Paul’s response was, “On the contrary, I’m speaking words of truth and good judgment… . This was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:25, 26, HCSB). Paul’s point has equal force today. The events and inspired biblical documents of the New Testament Era were public.  Those documents have survived in copies, and some of the events are part of the historical record. As such, there are available for investigation that sheds valuable light on our understanding of that period and the New Testament documents.

!! The Traditional Dating/Chronology of the NT. Until the 1700s, the almost unchallenged consensus of biblical scholars was there was no reason to doubt the historicity of the events seen on the pages of the New Testament or the apparent related dates of the books of the New Testament canon. In early church history, the order of writing of the Gospels was assumed to be that in the New Testament. Over time, a consensus emerged that Matthew and Luke came first, then Mark. Paul’s letters were comfortably harmonized with related events in Acts and the traditional date of his death. The General Letters were sequenced generally around the traditional dates of James’ and Peter’s deaths and the destruction of Jerusalem. A quotation from Irenaeus was considered a firm basis for the publication of Revelation in about A.D. 95, as the final aspect of New Testament chronology.

!! The Enlightenment-Liberal Dating/Chronology of the NT. Enlightenment rationalism, with its agenda of discarding the supernatural, eventually brought about a radical rethinking of every aspect of New Testament dating and chronology that was not historically unassailable. Classical liberals believed miracles were not possible, and thus believed that the Jesus seen in the Gospels could not have been “historical.” They employed naturalistic forms of criticism in search of what they assumed to be the actual “historical Jesus.” They similarly doubted the truthfulness of the Book of Acts, as well as whether a number of the letters traditionally attributed to Paul were written by him. This theory of widespread pseudonymous authorship of New Testament books (i.e., that someone other than the named author, whether during the stated author’s lifetime or after his death) was also applied to the General Epistles. Revelation was thought to have been written by some other John at a much later date.  From the later 1800s to the middle part of the twentieth century, it was not uncommon for certain New Testament books to be dated as late as A.D. 120-150. 

!! The Stunning Impact of Redating the New Testament. The publication of John A.T. Robinson’s Redating the New Testament turned the previous liberal ruling consensus in regard to New Testament dating/chronology completely on its head. Robinson (1919-1983), who achieved a reputation as a radical liberal theologian, largely from his book Honest to God, stunned New Testament scholars with the simple focus of his 1976 volume, Redating the New Testament. That thesis is summarized in this ultimately unanswerable question: “If an event as important as the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 had already happened, why isn’t it recorded in the New Testament?” Since no such description of Jerusalem’s demise is seen anywhere in the New Testament, Robinson effectively struck a gusher of scholarly doubt that turned into a tidal wave that swept away virtually all liberal late dating of New Testament books. Though Robinson himself was anything but an evangelical, the far-ranging effects of his study, for all practical purposes, “out-conservatived the conservatives.” 

!! Important Firm Dates/Date Ranges in the NT Era. Several dates, beginning with the birth of Christ and extending to the destruction of Jerusalem, provide a solid foundation for New Testament chronology.

!!! The Birth of Jesus. Matt 2:1 says that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great (37-4 B.C.). Herod commanded that all boys in Nazareth two years of age and under be killed (Matt 2:16), representing his best estimate of the age of the Messiah. With this reasoning in mind, Jesus would have been born somewhere between 7 to 4 B.C. 

!!! The Beginning of Jesus’ Public Ministry. Based on when John the Baptist’s ministry began, it is possible to calculate the likely point when Jesus’ ministry started. Luke 3:1 dates the beginning of the Baptist’s ministry in “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberias Caesar” (A.D. 28-29). If Jesus’ ministry began some months later, it would have begun in A.D. 29 or 30. The statement that Jesus “was about 30 years old” (Luke 3:23) was a generalization, with an actual age of 35-37 at that point not problematic.

!!! The Duration of Jesus’ Public Ministry. The most likely length of Jesus’ ministry is somewhat over three years. Three annual Passover celebrations occurred during Jesus’ ministry, as seen in John 2:13; 6:4; and 13:1. Thus, His ministry had to be at least three years.

!!! Jesus’ Crucifixion. More generally, Jesus died when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea (A.D. 26-37). Considerable debate exists about how to harmonize the accounts in the Synoptics and John as to the exact date. Harold Hoehner’s highly-detailed calculations conclude that Jesus died in early April, A.D. 33. Some, however, date Christ’s death as early as A.D. 29, or each year in between. 

!!! The Death of Herod Agrippa I. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, King Herod Agrippa I died in A.D. 44. That is helpful in dating events in Acts, given that Agrippa appears to have died (Acts 12:20-23) shortly after having the Apostle James killed (Acts 12:1-2).

!!! The Edict of Emperor Claudius. It is known that Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in A.D. 49. Thus, Paul’s arrival in Corinth and meeting of Aquila and Pricilla, who had left Rome under that edict, would have taken place in A.D. 50.

!!! Gallio’s Term as Proconsul in Corinth. The wording of Acts 18:12 (“While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia”; i.e., southern Greece) is referring to A.D. 51-52. Since Paul’s ministry in Corinth lasted a year and a half (Acts 18:11), this fits well with when Paul would have arrived and met Aquila and Priscilla. 

!!! The Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. The holy city and the Temple were destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Roman army commanded by Tutus. This was the climax of the Romans putting down the Jewish revolt which had begun in A.D. 66.

!! The Resulting Chronology of Major Events of the New Testament Era. Some of the following comes from the historical reasoning above. Others are based on early extrabiblical sources that are considered reliable. Still others are based on sequencing, such as biblical statements about the length of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus (i.e., two to three years; Acts 19:10; 20:31) and the length of Paul’s incarceration in Caesarea (i.e., two years; Acts 24:27) and the maximum amount of time a prisoner could be held on appeal to Caesar without facing his accusers (i.e., two years). Finally, other aspects relate to plausibly dating and sequencing events that occur in otherwise undated portions of the New Testament Era. 

(7-4 B.C.) Jesus is born

(A.D. 29-30, or 26) Jesus’ public ministry begins, some months after John the Baptist’s

(A.D. 33, or any year past 29) Jesus dies on the Cross, followed by His resurrection and Pentecost 50 days later

(A.D. 34 or 35) Paul is converted

(A.D. 47-48 or 48-49) Paul’s first missionary journey

(A.D. 49) Jerusalem Council

(A.D. 49-51 or 52) Paul’s second missionary journey

(A.D. 53-56) Paul’s third missionary journey

(A.D. 57) Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem

(A.D. 57-59) Paul’s holding in Caesarea

(A.D. 60-62) Paul’s house arrest in Rome

(A.D. 62) Traditional dating of the death of James in Jerusalem

(A.D. 62-63 or to 67) Paul’s further ministry (“fourth missionary journey?”)

(A.D. 67 or 64) Paul’s death

(A.D. 68 or 64) Peter’s death

(A.D. 70) Destruction of Jerusalem (which means all Jewish Christians would have evacuated at some earlier time)

(A.D. 70-100) Approximate dates of John’s ministry in Ephesus, until his death

!! Likely Datings of the New Testament Books. Some books can be fairly precisely dated by virtue of what was going on in the background (e.g., Acts was written sometime during Paul’s house arrest, before his release; and Heb dates from when the Temple was still standing, but its destruction seemed close at hand). Others are dated based on fairly clear allusions to historical events (e.g., the “fiery trial” in 1 Pet appears to be referring to the fire in Rome in A.D. 64, after which Christians were persecuted). Others are dated from their apparent relationships to other writings (e.g., 2 Peter and Jude, which are quite similar in content). 

Matt (40s to 60s)

Mark (50s to 60s)

Luke (59-60)

John (85-90, or possibly the 60s)

Acts (61-62)

Rom (57)

1 Cor (56)

2 Cor (56)

Gal (48-49, or possibly 52 or 54)

Eph (60-61)

Phil (62)

Col (60-61)

1 Thess (51)

2 Thess (51)

1 Tim (62-63)

2 Tim (67, or 64)

Tit (64-65, or 63)

Phlm (60-61)

Heb (later 60s)

James (40s, or early 60s)

1 Pet (64)

2 Pet (65-68)

1-3 John (85-90, or possibly the 60s)

Jude (70s, or possibly the 60s)

Rev (95, or possibly the 60s)

!! The Impact of Disputed NT Dating/Chronology on Interpretation. There are currently several areas of New Testament interpretation that are significantly affected by dating issues, from the Gospels to the Apocalypse. The following are prime examples. 

!!! Early vs. Later Dating of Gal. Whether Gal is dated in A.D. 48 or 49, or in A.D. 52 or 54 greatly affects the understanding of Paul’s authority in the letter. If it was written in A.D. 48/49, that was before the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). Paul would have had no authority to appeal to except his own as an apostle. If, however, Gal was written in A.D. 52/54, it is quite surprising that there is no apparent reference whatsoever to the written findings of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:22-29).

!!! Markan vs. Matthean Priority and Dating. Though the view that Mark was the first Gospel written is still the unquestioned majority position, more scholars are considering the traditional view for much of church history that Matt appeared first. Most scholars offering dates for Matt still place it in the 60s, or even the 70s, but those opting for Matthean priority suggest dates as early as the 50s, or even the 40s. By contrast, the common dating of Mark (in the 60s or later 50s) has not changed. The differences between the two views in textual interpretation generally have to do with which Gospel is dependent on, or why it varied in wording from, the other. However, due to the elaborate theories proposed as solutions to “the Synoptic Problem,” choosing to hold Matthean priority could result in a virtual overhaul of thinking about the legitimacy of ‘Q’ (i.e., German for “source”), as well as the other assumed sources specific to Matt and Luke. 

!!! Pre-A.D. 70 vs. A.D. 95 Dating of Rev. In the wake of Redating the New Testament, there has been a rebirth of dating the Apocalypse prior to A.D. 70 and, with it, of an aggressive preterist interpretation of the book. The 1980s saw the first of what has since grown to a number of studies, including some commentaries, championing a preterist (or largely preterist) understanding of Rev, sometimes making sweeping interpretive claims based on a presumed pre-70 dating of the book. However, the majority scholarly view remains that Rev was written by the Apostle John about A.D. 95 (in keeping with the words of Irenaeus, which he claimed to be repeating from Polycarp). The difference this makes is that an A.D. 95 dating is usually the basis for an at least significantly futuristic interpretation of the Apocalypse.

–A. Boyd Luter

!! Bibliography

Alexander, Loveday C.A. “Chronology of Paul,” in the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Eds. G.F. Hawthorne, R.P. Martin and D.G. Reid. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993: 115-23.

Brown, Raymond E. “Pauline Chronology,” in An Introduction to the New Testament. Anchor Bible Reference Library. New York: Doubleday, 1997: 428-29.

Clendenen, E. Ray. “Biblical Chronology,” in the Holman Bible Handbook. Nashville: Holman Reference, 1992: 51-57.

Doig, Kenneth F. New Testament Chronology. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992.

Donfried, Karl P. “Chronology: New Testament,” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed. D.N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992: I: 1011-22. 

Drinkard, Joel F., Jr. and E. Ray Clendenen. “Chronology of the Biblical Period,” in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Gen. Eds. C. Brand, C. Draper and A. England. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2003: 291-95.

Finegan, Jack. Handbook of Biblical Chronology. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964.

Foster, Lewis A. “The Chronology of the New Testament,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Gen. Ed. F.E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979: I: 593-608.

Gunther, J.J. Paul, Messenger and Exile: A Study in the Chronology of His Life and Letters. Valley Forge: Judson, 1972.

Hemer, Colin J. “Observations on Pauline Chronology,” Pauline Studies: Essays Presented to FF Bruce. Eds. D.A. Hagner and M.J. Harris. Exeter: Paternoster, 1980: 3-18.

Hoehner, Harold W. Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976. 

Hoehner, Harold W. “Chronology,” in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992: 118-22. 

Jewett, Robert A. A Chronology of Paul’s Life. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979.

Ludemann, Gerd. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles: Studies in Chronology. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984.

Luter, A. Boyd. “Galatians,” in the Holman Bible Handbook: 701-10. 

Maier, Paul L. “Chronology,” in the Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments. Eds. R.P. Martin and P.H. Davids. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997: 184-93. 

Nineham, D.E., Ed. Historicity and Chronology in the New Testament. Theological Collections 6. London: S.P.C.K, 1965.   

Ogg, George. The Chronology of the Public Ministry of Jesus. Cambridge: University Press, 1940.

Ogg, George. The Chronology of the Life of Paul. London: Epworth, 1968. 

Piper, John. “Chronology, New Testament,” in the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Gen. Ed. W.A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988: I: 443-48.

Robinson, John A.T. Redating the New Testament. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976.

Suggs, M. Jack. “Concerning the Date of Paul’s Macedonian Ministry,” Novum Testamentum 4: 60-68.

Toussaint, Stanley D. “The Chronological Problem of Galatians 2:1-10,” Bibliotheca Sacra 120 (1963): 344-360.

Wedderburn, A.J.M. “Paul’s Collection: Chronology and History,” New Testament Studies 48.1 (2002): 95-110.

Wenham, John W. Re-dating Matthew, Mark, and Luke: A Fresh Assault on the Synoptic Problem. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

 

(Once again, this is copyrighted material.  Please do not use it as your own work.)

*Lampstand (Heb menorah, “lampstand”; Gk luchnia, “lampstand, stand”) A support for one or more oil lamps. In the Old Testament, the historical usage is in regard to the lampstand in the holy place in the Tabernacle and the ten lampstands in the Temple. There is a significant prophecy in Zech 4 that includes a lampstand. In the New Testament, there are four illustrative uses of “lampstand” in the Synoptic Gospels. In Revelation, lampstands supply apocalyptic imagery at both the beginning and in the middle of the book. *                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

!! Usage in the Jewish Tabernacle. Specifications for the golden lampstand (Heb menorah) in the holy place are given as part of the Lord’s directions for the construction of the Tabernacle in Ex 25-40, Lev and Num. Ex 25:31 stipulates that the lampstand was to be of “pure hammered gold” and was to be “of one piece” (HCSB). There were to be seven branches, each with a lamp (Ex 25:32-37). The lampstand and related utensils required about “75 pounds of pure gold” (Ex 25:39). The menorah was to be located in the holy place, outside the holy of holies, on the south side of the tabernacle (Ex 26:35). It was the responsibility of the priests who descended from Aaron to “continually tend the lamps on the pure gold lampstand in the Lord’s presence” (Lev 24:4, HCSB).

!! Usage in the Jewish Temple. When Solomon supervised the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, he had 10 golden menorahs made for the holy place. He acted according to the plans his father, David, gave him for the various aspects of the Temple (1 Chr 28:11-12, 15), and Solomon carried out every detail “according to specifications” (2 Chr 4:20). It is not known why David directed Solomon to make 10 gold lampstands, only that, “in the sanctuary” (i.e., the holy place), there were to be “five on the right and five on the left” (2 Chr 4:7, HCSB).

!! Usage in Zech. In the early Post-Exilic Era, the prophet Zechariah saw a vision that included an unusual solid gold menorah. In the midst of the difficulty of the process of building of the Second Temple and negative comparisons to the size and grandeur of the First Temple complex, Zechariah received an encouraging vision from the Lord (Zech 4:1-14). By this point in Judah’s history, the menorah probably is symbolic of the people of Israel. In this context, the two olive trees (Zech 4:3, 14) are apparently Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest. The meaning of the vision seems to be in twin statements from the Lord: “Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit” (Zech 4:7) and “… [W]ho scorns the day of small things?” (Zech 4:10). In other words, in spite of appearances or deep discouragement, the construction of the Temple would be completed, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

!! Usage in the Gospels. Matt, Mark and Luke all use “lampstand” as part of a proverbial illustration. The commonplace that a lamp must be set on a “lampstand” (Gk luchnia) for its light to be seen is found in Matt 5:15, Mark 4:21 and Luke 8:16; 11:33, though Jesus applies the illustration in different ways.

!! Usage in Rev. John sees lampstands in visions in Rev 1, 2, 11 which appear to correspond in meaning to both the Tabernacle/Temple and Zech 4. In Rev 1:12-13, John sees “One like the Son of Man” (HCSB) standing among seven gold lampstands. Rev 1:20 interprets the seven lampstands as “the seven churches” who are the intended recipients of the scroll of the Book of Rev (Rev 1:11). This usage likely parallels the church(es) of Jesus Christ with Israel (i.e., a seven-pronged gold menorah vs. seven golden lampstands, like the similar parallel in the New Jerusalem in Rev 21:12, 14). The glorified Christ is then immediately described to the church at Ephesus as the One “who walks among the seven gold lampstands” in Rev 2:1. That is followed by Christ’s warning about the removal of their lampstand (i.e., the closing of the church), unless they repent of abandoning “the love they had at first” for the Lord (Rev 2:4-5, HCSB). The reference to the two witnesses in Rev 11:3-7 as “the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth” (Rev 11:4, HCSB) points back to Zech 4. Since there appears to be a Temple then standing in Jerusalem (“the holy city”; Rev 11:1-2), the meaning of this allusion to Zech 4 is probably two-fold: 1) that, like Zerubbabel and Joshua in Zech 4, the two witnesses would complete the task at hand, despite huge obstacles; and 2) another wondrous biblical instance of “Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit” (Zech 4:7, HCSB).

–A. Boyd Luter

!! Bibliography

Averbeck, Richard E. “Tabernacle,” in the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Gen. Eds. T.D. Alexander and D.W. Baker. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003: 807-27.

Cole, R. Dennis. “Lamps, Lighting, Lampstand,” in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Gen. Eds. C. Brand, C. Draper, and A. England. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2003: 1009-10.

Elwell, W.A., Gen. Ed. “Lamp, Lampstand,” in The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988: 1303-05.

Hays, J. Daniel, J. Scott Duvall, and C. Marvin Pate. “Lampstand,” in the Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007: 248-50.

Meyers, Carol. “Lampstand,” in Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed. P.J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985: 546.

Meyers, Carol. “Lampstand,” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed. D.N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992: IV: 141-43.

Meyers, Carol. The Tabernacle Menorah: A Synthetic Study of a Symbol from the Biblical Cult. Missoula: Scholars Press, 1976.

Taylor, J.E. “The Asherah, the Menorah and the Sacred Tree,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 66 (1995): 29-54.

(Again, this is copyrighted material!)

*Second Coming (Gk erchomai, “to come”; parousia, “presence, arrival”; apokalupsis, “revelation”; epiphaneia, “appearing, manifestation”) Christ’s physical return to earth at the end of the age. The Second Coming is not spoken of in such terms in the Old Testament. It is mentioned in almost every book in the New Testament, often with an urgent sense that it could happen soon. However, it is not completely unexpected in the New Testament that Christ’s return has been significantly delayed time-wise. The Second Coming of Christ is a core doctrine of historic biblical Christianity. Although evangelical Christians all hold to a literal return of Christ, they disagree on many details related to His coming.*

!! Background from the Old Testament. Numerous prophecies in the Hebrew Bible refer to a coming Messiah, most of which assume His presence in the world, though some speak of a coming or infer a second coming. In Ps 110:1, the One called “my Lord” (i.e., the Messiah) is told by God “Sit at my right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool” (HCSB). In the context in Ps 110, the implication is that the Messiah has been on earth (i.e., a coming) and now is in heaven. In Dan 7:13-14, “One like a son of man,” while in heaven, is “given authority to rule” (HCSB) an earthly kingdom by the Ancient of Days. Then, the Ancient of Days “comes” (LXX erchomai) to bring judgment in favor of the “saints” (Dan 7:22). In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus cites Isa 61:1-2a with the implication of two comings of the Messiah. Though it is not obvious in reading Isa 61, “the year of the Lord’s favor” (Isa 61:2a, HCSB) refers to Christ’s first coming and “the day of our God’s vengeance” (Isa 61:2b) is speaking of His second coming.

!! The Synoptic Gospels. As Jesus’ ministry progressed in Matt, Mark and Luke, He taught His disciples about His coming death, resurrection, ascension, and, finally, His second coming. After His prediction of the coming desolation of Jerusalem (i.e., in A.D. 70) in Matt 23, Jesus says, “For I tell you, you will never see me again until You say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matt 23:39, HCSB). These are the words from Ps 118:26 the crowds had shouted at the Triumphal Entry (Matt 21:9) only days before—a messianic prophecy. Thus, Jesus is saying that he would not come back to Jerusalem until He was truly recognized as the Messiah. Then, in the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24-25), the issue of a future (i.e., second) “coming of the Son of Man” is center stage (uses of both Gk erchomai and parousia; see Matt 24:3, 27, 30, 37, 39, 42, 44; 25:13, 31). The Olivet Discourse in Matt begins with the apostles’ question: “What is the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3, HCSB). In Matt 24:30, Mark 13:26, and Luke 21:27, the wording from Dan 7:13 about the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great glory (see above) is cited, looking ahead to Christ’s second coming.

!! The Gospel of John. In the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus refers to His coming again three times, as well as once at the end of the Gospel. In John 14:2-3, Jesus states to the eleven remaining apostles after Judas’ departure, “I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, that where I am you may be also” (HCSB). In context, Jesus is clearly talking about Him going to heaven, then coming back from heaven at a later time. In the following verses, Jesus refers twice more to going away and coming (Gk erchomai) back (John 14:18, 28). Then, near the end of the Fourth Gospel, Jesus, in restoring Peter after his denial of Christ, says to Peter, “If I want him (i.e. the beloved disciple) to remain until I come” (i.e., again), what is it to you? As for you, follow me” (John 14:22, HCSB).

!! The Acts of the Apostles. Between Acts 1:11 and 3:19-20, it is seen that Jesus, who was on earth, in now in the presence of the Lord in heaven, but will come again physically to earth. As Jesus was ascending, an angel assured the apostles, “This Jesus, who has been taken away from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11, HCSB). This passage is critically important, because it teaches that any ‘second coming” view that does not include a descent of Jesus’ resurrection body back to earth is unbiblical. In Acts 3:19-20, Peter challenges his Jewish hearers to repent “so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and He may send Jesus, who has been appointed Messiah for you” (HCSB).

!! The Letters of Paul. Many passages from Paul’s early to his latter Epistles refer to the hope of the second coming of Jesus Christ, showing it to be a strong emphasis in his teaching. Written as early as A.D. 50 or 51, 1 Thess contains a reference to Christ’s second coming in every chapter: 1 Thess 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:9-10. In 2 Tim, written shortly before Paul’s death, still looks forward to Jesus’ “appearing” (Gk epiphaneia; 2 Tim 1:10; 4:1, 8). In between, 2 Thess 2:8 tells that Christ will destroy the Antichrist figure with “the brightness (Gk epiphaneia) of His coming (Gk parousia)” (HCSB). In 1 Cor 11:26, Paul closes his teaching on the Lord’s Supper with these words of remembrance: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (Gk erchomai; HCSB). “Then, in 1 Cor 15:23, the apostle ties the resurrection at the end of the age to Christ “at His coming (Gk parousia)” (HCSB). 

!! The General Letters. Six of the General Epistles contain references to the second coming of Christ, including James, likely the earliest written book in the New Testament. The Epistle of James, which may have been written as early as A.D. 45, speaks of “the Lord’s coming” (Gk parousia) in Jas 5:7, 8. The Epistles of Heb (see 10:37, using Gk erchomai), 1 Pet (see 1:7, 13; 4:13, using Gk apokalupsis), 2 Pet (see 1:16; 3:4, using Gk parousia; see 3:3, using Gk erchomai), 1 Jn (see 2:28, using parousia) and Jude (see verse 14, using Gk erchomai) all clearly refer to the second coming of Christ. The reference in Jude 14 is from the pseudepigraphal work, 1 Enoch, but only implies the truthfulness of that citation, not the whole book of 1 Enoch.

!! The Book of Revelation. Rev 1-19 tells of events moving forward to the second coming of Christ, while Rev 20-22 look forward from the 1,000 years to the eternal state. The first phrase of the book, “The revelation (Gk apokalupsis) of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:1, HCSB), is its title. The wording not only tells the reader that the book is apocalyptic literature, but also that it has been revealed by Jesus, its divine author, and that it is about Jesus “revealing” events related to His second coming. Rev 1:3 says “the time is near” for the events of the book to be fulfilled. At the end of the book, Jesus promises “I am coming quickly” (Rev 22:7, 12, 20, HCSB). The clipped citation of Dan 7:13 about the Son of Man “coming (Gk erchomai) on the clouds” in Rev 1:7 previews that Christ’s coming is going to be one of the most important themes of the Apocalypse. In Rev 14:14, “One like the Son of Man” (HCSB) is seen seated on a cloud. Rev 14:14-20 (depicting the final harvest as a wheat harvest, then grapes of wrath), Rev 16:12-14, 16-21 (describing the lead-up to the battle of Armageddon [Rev 16:16], and Rev 19:11-21 (telling of Christ’s actual descent back to earth from heaven) provide three interlocking vantage point on Jesus’ second coming. Rev 20 tells of the relationship of the kingdom and the final judgment to the second coming and Rev 21-22 describes the news heavens and earth.

!! The Imminency of Christ’s Coming. The New Testament clearly teaches the potential imminency (i.e., soonness, nearness) of Jesus’ return. The earliest New Testament writer, James, said, “The Lord’s coming is near” (Jas 5:7). Paul said, “The Lord is near” (Phil 4:5). In Rev, Jesus Himself repeatedly promises to come quickly (Rev 22:7, 12, 20). What needs to be understood, as will be seen in the next section, is that, just because Jesus could have returned very soon after these statements of the imminency of His coming was not a guarantee that He would come soon.

!! The Delay of the Parousia. Jesus has not returned over 1,900 years after the New Testament Era, but that delay was explained by the Apostle Peter. There have been those who doubted the truthfulness of the second coming of Christ, from the time of the apostles until some modern liberal theologians. Peter’s teaching anticipates such skepticism.  He answers the question of his day, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Pet 3:4). His timeless wisdom: “With the Lord one day is like 1,000 years, and 1,000 years like one day. The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:8-9, HCSB). In other words, the delay in Christ’s return is due to God patiently allowing the maximum number of people to have the opportunity to place their faith in Christ.

!! The Second Coming as a Cardinal Doctrine. Throughout church history, the Bible-believing church has held that Christ’s second coming is a foundational teaching. All major creeds and doctrinal statements of biblically orthodox Christian denominations, ministries and missions have included the idea of a literal return of Christ at the end of the age. There are full preterist groups today who claim to be evangelical, but teach that Jesus already came in judgment spiritually upon Israel in A.D. 70, and that there will be no future coming. Such a view, however, sadly ignores the words of Acts 1:11 (i.e., that Jesus would come back “in the same way” that He went to heaven: bodily).

!! The Second Coming and the 1,000 Years. There are three long-standing views on the relationship between Christ’s return (Rev 19) and the “1,000 years” mentioned in Rev 20:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. The oldest major view in church history is that the second coming will occur before the 1,000 years. The name for that perspective is Premillennial (i.e., prior to the “millennium,” which is Latin for a thousand years. A view that dates all the way back to Augustine in the early A.D. 400s in some respects is called Amillennialism. This is the teaching that whatever earthly kingdom there will be is taking place now, through the church.  The “1,000 years” is taken as spiritual or figurative. The latest viewpoint historically is Postmillenialism. It is the idea that the “1,000 years” is a golden age in which the world will have been Christianized to a maximum degree, before Christ comes (i.e., Jesus returns after [post] the 1,000 years). Some holding the postmillennial view take “1,000 years” literally, but others do not.

!! The Second Coming and the Tribulation. Among those holding the Premillennial perspective, there are several different viewpoints on what happens prior to Christ’s return. Varied understanding of passages like Dan 7:25 and 9:27, as well as Rev 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; and 13:5 have led to the conclusions that there will be a period of “tribulation” and/or “great tribulation” (see Dan 12:1; Matt 24:21; Rev 7:14), lasting either seven or three and a half years, just prior to the second coming of Christ. The idea that the church will be removed from the earth before Christ’s return is usually referred to as “the rapture” (from the Latin equivalent, rapturo, of the English “caught up” in 1 Thess 4:17. The view that Christ will rapture the church before the “tribulation” period is Pretribulational. The idea that the church will not be removed until just before the second coming is Posttribulational. If the “tribulation” is understood to be seven years long and the church is taken out in the middle of the period, it is a Midtribulational rapture. If the church is only promised to escape the wrath of God, it is a Prewrath rapture. The older idea that only those are who truly spiritually prepared will be taken in the rapture is called the Partial Rapture position. It has very few exponents today.

–A. Boyd Luter

!! Bibliography

Allison, Dale C. “Eschatology,” in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Eds. J.B. Green and S. McKnight. InterVarsity Press, 1992.

Allison, Dale C. The End of the Ages Has Come. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.

Aune, D.E. “The Significance of the Delay of the Parousia for Early Christianity,” in Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Interpretation. Ed. G.F. Hawthorne. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975: 87-109.

Berkhof, Louis. The Second Coming of Christ. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953.

Beasley-Murray, G.R. Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986. 

Erickson, Millard J. “Second Coming of Christ,” in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984: 992-95.

Hays, J. Daniel, J. Scott Duvall and C. Marvin Pate. “Second Coming,” in the Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007: 409-12.

House, H. Wayne and Gordon Carle. Doctrine Twisting: How Core Biblical Truths are Distorted. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003. 

Kreitzer, Larry J. “Eschatology,” in the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Eds. G.F Hawthorne and R.P. Martin. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Kreitzer, Larry J. “Parousia,” in the Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments. Eds. R.P. Martin and P.H. Davids. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997: 856-75.

Luter, A. Boyd. “Interpreting the Book of Revelation,” in Interpreting the New Testament. Eds. D.A. Black and D.S. Dockery. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001.

Luter, A. Boyd. “Preterism,” in The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Eds. Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner. Eugene: Harvest House, 2008: 404-06.

MacArthur, John. The Second Coming: Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age. Wheaton: Crossway, 2006. 

Moore, A.L. The Parousia in the New Testament. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1966.

Robinson, John A.T. Jesus and His Coming, Second Ed. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1979.

Rowland, Christopher. “Parousia,” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed. D.N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992: 166-70.

Rowland, Christopher. The Open Heaven. New York: Crossroad, 1982. 

Sproul, R.C. The Last Days according to Jesus: When Did Jesus Say He Would Return? Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998. 

Wenham, David. The Rediscovery of Jesus’ Eschatological Discourse. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984.

Witherington, Ben III. Jesus, Paul, and the End of the World. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1992.

 

 

(Remember that this material is copyrighted by the Lexham Bible Dictionary [Logos Bible Software])

*Preaching (Heb basar, “to announce [good news]”; qara, “to proclaim [good news]; Gk euaggelizo, “to proclaim good news”; katangello, “to proclaim [the gospel]”; kerusso, “to herald [the gospel]; laleo, “to speak [the gospel]”) Preaching is the proclamation of God’s message, whatever the content, though most often the good news of the gospel.  In the Old Testament, it is comparatively rare, usually dealing with proclaiming or explaining God’s message. In the New Testament, John the Baptist, Jesus, the apostles and other spokespersons all declare the good news about Jesus Christ. There is also a sense, because of the oral nature of the biblical world, in which the entire Bible is preaching.*

!! Preaching in the Old Testament. The concept of “preaching” emerges primarily in the later Historical Books and in the Prophets. In Neh 6:7, Sanballat falsely claimed that Nehemiah had gotten prophets in Jerusalem to “proclaim” (HCSB) that there was a king in Judah. Jonah was ordered by the Lord to go to Nineveh and “preach the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:2, HCSB), which he did (Jonah 3:4), bringing about mass repentance (Jonah 3:5). In Isa 61:1, the Servant of the Lord is prophesied to “bring good news to the poor” (HCSB), which Jesus says is fulfilled in His preaching in Nazareth in Luke 4:17-21. The closest example in the Hebrew Bible to preaching in the modern sense is Neh 8:7-8. There, the Levites “read out of the book of the law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read” (HCSB).

!! Preaching in the New Testament. From Matt to Rev, the preaching of God’s Word, notably about Christ, is at the heart of the spread of Christianity across the Roman Empire. From the beginning of their ministries, both John the Baptist and Jesus preach the gospel of the kingdom of God (e.g., Matt 3:1; Matt 4:17). In obedience to the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8), the apostles and their co-workers preached the good news of the finished work of Christ in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14), Samaria (Acts 8:12), and to the Gentiles (Acts 14:7, 21), all the way to Rome (Acts 28:31). In letters like Romans and Galatians, Paul goes to great lengths to show that the gospel he preached was the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises and prophecies, and Peter emphasizes the same point (1 Pet 1:12, 25). Paul is particularly concerned that the gospel message being preached not be distorted by false teaching (e.g., Gal 1:6-9). Before the climactic events of the end of the age, Jesus guarantees that “all nations” will have the opportunity to hear the good news (Matt 24:14), which will bring about a great final spiritual harvest (Rev 14:6-7, 14-16).

!! The Bible as Preaching. In ancient oral cultures, written documents, including all the biblical books, were “written-down preaching,” a permanent record that substituted for face-to-face speaking and hearing. In the Ancient Near East, before silent reading and long before the printing press, documents were written down when the speaker/preacher could not be present with an audience or to preserve the content for future generations. The latter is seen in Deut, which is Moses preaching and applying the Law of Moses to the new generation about to enter the promised land. Moses was about to die and would be unable to repeat his preaching again, though Israel would need his explanation and application for all future generations. In the New Testament, Rev 1:3 makes it clear that the scroll of the Apocalypse was to read and heard orally by the seven congregations in Asia (Rev 1:4), as if John, imprisoned on Patmos (Rev 1:9), was speaking to them himself. Paul’s use of a secretary in dictating his letters (most obvious in Rom 16:22) underscores the oral dynamic: if Paul could not travel at that moment to preach to a particular church, he preached his message in his mind’s eye, as he dictated.  Then, upon arrival, the carrier of the letter would re-preach it in reading it aloud to Paul’s audience. Such examples are proof that the Bible not only contains preaching, it actually is entirely preaching recorded in writing.

–A. Boyd Luter

!! Bibliography

Baird, John S. “Preach, Preaching,” in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Ed. W.A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984: 868-70.

Craddock, Fred. “Preaching,” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed. D.N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992: V: 451-54.

Dodd, C.H. The Apostolic Preaching and Its Development: Three Lectures. Chicago: Willett, Clark and Company, 1937.

Greidanus, Sidney. The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

Luter, A. Boyd. “Homiletics and Mission,” in the Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions. Gen. Ed. A.S. Moreau. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000.

Morris, Leon. The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Third Ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965. 

Mounce, Robert H. The Essential Nature of New Testament Preaching. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960.

Skinner, Craig. “Preaching,” in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Eds. C. Brand, C. Draper and A. England. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2003: 1322-23.

Wells, C. Richard and A. Boyd Luter. Inspired Preaching: A Survey of Preaching in the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2002.

Worley, Robert C. Preaching and Teaching in the Earliest Church. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967.