Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.(Matthew 24:32-34; see also Mark 13:28-31; Luke 21:29-33).
I don’t think another word in Scripture has caused as much confusion as “generation” in the above verses. The most famous misunderstanding might be Edgar C. Whisenant’s book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. 4.5 million copies were sold and another 300,000 were mailed free of charge to church leaders across the nation. Although Whisenant had 88 reasons for his conclusion, the strongest came from the word generation. The logic is:
- Israel is the fig tree.
- The words, “When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near” refer to Israel becoming a nation in 1948.
- A generation is 40 years.
- Jesus said the generation that sees Israel become a nation will not pass away.
- Therefore, Jesus must return by 1988.
The problem is the Rapture didn’t occur in 1988 or on any of the other dates Whisenhant predicted (1989, 1993, 1994) before his death in 2001. Some pastors still quote this verse saying, “The generation that sees Israel become a nation will not pass away!” They conclude a generation isn’t 40 years. So the generation of people that saw Israel become a nation will not pass away before Jesus’ return. Continue reading “What generation won’t pass away?”
When Jesus was born pales in comparison to why Jesus was born. Scripture supports this. Consider the following. We know the exact day some events took place in the Old Testament…
Second only to the crucifixion, the most important event in history is Christ’s birth. But we don’t know the day or month Jesus was born. Not it wasn’t December. We know the day some prophets delivered messages about Jesus (Haggai 2:1 – Oct 17, 520BC). But we don’t but we don’t even know the year Jesus was born.
Luke’s Gospel provides us with specific details about Christ’s birth down to what He was wearing and where He slept: swaddling clothes and in a manger (Luke 2:12)…but no year? Why would God give us details like this and allow us to know the dates of events that pale in comparison in terms of significances, but keep the date of Christ’s birth from us? God could’ve let us know. Easily. Apparently when Jesus was born means nothing compared to why Jesus was born. The fact that Jesus was born is infinitely more important than when He was born.
The sad part isn’t that the world celebrates Christ’s birth when it didn’t really happen while doing everything it can to make sure Christmas has nothing to do with the Christ they’re supposedly celebrating. The sad part is when Christians become distracted by everything the world tries to make Christmas about instead of Christ.
When Christmas rolls around, make sure you don’t let this happen: let’s make sure you don’t let the world obscure Christ from us by putting our focus on things that have nothing to do with Christ. Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. I’m all for the food, family and fellowship that are afforded around the holidays, but let’s remember what it should really be about: When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law that we might receive the adoption as sons (Gal 4:4, 5).
Here’s the sermon I preached on December 21, 2014 on Galatians 3:19-4:6: “In the fullness of time God sent forth His Son.”
If someone asked me what verse I believe most accurately describes what it feels like when I’m studying the Bible (as opposed to simply reading it) I would say 1 Peter 1:10, which says regarding the Scriptures “the prophets have inquired (or investigated) and searched carefully (or intently or diligently)” to understand the truth in them. The prophets are pictured as straining to see the truth contained in God’s Word; they’re striving to understand what God has written so they can proclaim it to the people. I’ve always thought of the prophets almost like individuals standing in a dark room with very little light trying to clearly see what’s on the other side.
I don’t consider myself a prophet (as it’s listed as a separate office in Ephesians 4:11); however, prophecy is still part of the preaching of God’s Word according to 1 Corinthians 14:3, which lists three things prophecy does: He who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. The Amplified adds, “The one who prophesies [who interprets the divine will and purpose in inspired PREACHING AND TEACHING] speaks edification…” Unfortunately, we tend to think of prophecy as only predicting (foretelling) the future, but it’s much better to think of prophecy as proclaiming (forth telling) the Word of God.
This looks to one of the biggest changes to my preaching since coming to WCC almost four years ago: instead of focusing on simply explaining what verses mean (basically providing a running commentary), it wouldn’t be too much to say my greatest desire now is for people to feel like God is speaking to them through His Word during my sermons. Simply put, it’s my desire prophecy would be taking place. My prayer throughout the week is for people to hear from God through the Scriptures. Of all the feedback I could receive regarding sermons, nothing is more encouraging than, “I felt like God was speaking to me while you were preaching.”
My home fellowship and Sunday School messages will continue to be mostly verse-by-verse exposition, hoping to stir up discussion over what we’re covering, but for sermons my prayer throughout the week is always the same and it could be summarized as: “Father what do You want to say to Your people?”
Sunday’s sermon was about the vision of WCC, but I’d also like to discuss what I (and the rest of the leadership team) don’t mean by “church vision.” I understand for many churches vision is talking about where the church will be in some number of years. Since I’ve been at WCC we’ve never had a leadership meeting discussing where we expect to be in the future, and I think there are three reasons for this…
First, you can make an argument from Scripture that we’re discouraged from saying what we’re going to do, or saying what we believe is going to happen:
- Proverbs 27:1 Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
- James 4:13, 14 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.
- In Luke 12:13-21 Jesus told a parable about a man called a fool by God because he made great plans for the future, not knowing what the near future would hold (and for him it was death).
Second, it seems presumptuous to say where we’re going to be or what we’re going to do. Of course I can say five years down the road we’ll still be teaching God’s Word and we’ll still be a family church, but those are more descriptions of our values, who we are, what we want to focus on…as opposed to where we see ourselves.
Third, we don’t know who is going to join the church, what situations we’re going to face, what needs will arise, etc, so how can we say where we’re going to be or what we’re going to do? I understand this brings up the question of how we approach the future, and I’d say we pray for God to direct us, we trust He’s guiding us, and we deal with circumstances as they arrive. This is what we’ve done with the sound system, bylaws, carpet, installation of deacons, associate pastor position, etc. Currently we’re tossing around the idea of home fellowships and accountability groups. As opposed to saying, “By June we’re going to have four home fellowships and men’s accountability groups” we’re waiting to see how these develop while praying, “Lord, if this is Your will, please make it clear, and if it’s not, please make that clear too.”
While this post discussed what we don’t mean by vision, if you would like to understand the vision of WCC please listen to this sermon.
When I became a Christian I immediately started reading the Bible…or maybe I became a Christian immediately after I started reading the Bible…I’m not sure which came first. Anyway, I was very ignorant and a number of the questions I remember asking back then remind me how little I knew.
Fortunately, the Word is tremendously powerful and I still took a lot away from what I read and it changed my life. Those early days (I’m writing like I’ve been a Christian for decades) were exciting. I still love reading and studying the Word – in many ways even more than I did back then – (you can read about it in a recent blog I wrote entitled “Overwhelmed”) but I’ll never be able to read Genesis or Matthew again for the first time if that makes sense. I still love listening to sermons, and reading and studying, but I’ll never be able to hear a sermon on the Prodigal Son again for the first time. I knew the story, but hearing that the father in the story was supposed to be our Heavenly Father, and his love for his son pictured the love our Heavenly Father has for us – not when we’re obedient, but when we’re rebelling – was a special, unique time in my life. I could write weeks of bulletin letters just recounting amazing passages I read and sermons I heard in that season. Some of the sermons I’ve even gone back and listened to years later just to try to capture the feeling I had at the time. I think when Jesus mentioned leaving our first love (Rev 2:4) He’s encouraging us to keep the passion in our relationships with Him that characterized our lives soon after conversion. Obviously it’s reminiscent of our relationships with our spouses and how we want to make sure that love is there years and decades later.
I mentioned all this for one reason: there were three passages of Scripture I vividly remember thinking, “I can’t believe everyone doesn’t know this”: the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 to 7, the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37 looking forward to Israel becoming a nation again, and finally – and probably even most dramatically – there was Daniel’s Seventy Weeks. It used to depress me (and still does) that there are Christians unfamiliar with this amazing prophecy. BUT GUESS WHAT? After these next two Sundays we’re not going to have any Christians like that at WCC!
We know we’re saved by grace through faith, and one of the most common questions I’ve received since teaching the Bible is, “How were people in the OT saved, since they lived before Christ’s First Coming?” The answer is people were saved in the OT just like they’re saved in the NT: by grace through faith. God made numerous prophecies that a Messiah would come into the world. If they believed those prophecies, or had faith those prophecies would come true, or had faith that Messiah would come, they were saved as they looked forward in faith to the Messiah coming.
Last Sunday we looked at the prophecy in Genesis 3:15 that the Seed of the Woman would come and crush the head of the Serpent. As soon as sin came into the world, that prophecy was introduced allowing people to look forward to, or put their faith in the Seed of the Woman. In other words, as soon as sin came into the world, so too did the opportunity for people to be saved by grace through faith. Just like we pass along to our children what we know about Christ, that prophecy would’ve been passed along to Adam and Eve’s descendants, allowing them to be saved by grace through faith.
What was their faith IN since they didn’t know Jesus like we do? Their faith was in all the prophecies about His coming. If they believed Jesus would come, they were saved, similarly to how we’re saved if we believe Jesus has come. OT and NT believers are both saved by looking to Christ in faith, but from opposite sides of the cross. People in the OT were saved by grace through faith in Jesus coming like we’re saved by grace through faith in Jesus having come. That’s why Gen 15:6 can say Abraham was saved (accounted righteous) by his faith or belief in what God had said to Him in Gen 12 when He established the Abrahamic Covenant with him. But didn’t Abraham live before the Gospel? Genesis 3:8 says God “preached the gospel to Abraham.” Consider that!!! Abraham heard the Gospel! Here’s a quote I really like: “The basis for salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; the content of faith changes in the various ages.”
The Old Testament reveals Jesus in two ways. First, there were hundreds of prophecies about Him. Second, He’s shown through types and shadows. This is why Jesus could say the Old Testament is about Him:
- “The Scriptures testify of Me” (John 5:39b).
- “[Moses] wrote about Me” (John 5:46b).
- “All things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44).
- “Behold, I have come—in the volume of the book it is written of Me” (Hebrews 10:7).
The New Testament records:
- And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).
- Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45).
The New Testament says Jesus is the substance and reality of Old Testament types and shadows
- For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities (Hebrews 10:1a ESV).
- A festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ (Colossians 2:16b-17).
Continue reading “Types and Shadows Reveal Jesus throughout the Old Testament”