Posts tagged ‘Last Day’

Resurrection, It Does a Body Good!

In his book, The Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan says of Jesus’ resurrection, “Nobody knew what had happened to Jesus’ body.”[1]  Crossan is well known for asserting that Jesus’ resurrection was not a bodily resurrection, but a series of mystical visions experienced by and subsequently promoted by early Christians.  As for the fate of Jesus’ body after death, Crossan believes it was thrown in a shallow grave where it was quickly scavenged by wild animals.[2]  And Crossan is not alone in his belief.  Incredulous at the notion that a dead person can physically rise, many post-Enlightenment thinkers and theologians will speak of Christ’s resurrection as one that took place merely in the minds or hearts of His earliest followers.

The biblical account of Christ’s resurrection is not nearly so scientifically sterilized as Crossan and others make it out to be.  Whatever these people may believe about Christ’s fate after His crucifixion, the biblical authors believed that Christ rose bodily.  Indeed, this is Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 15:

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. (1 Corinthians 15:20, 42-43)

Paul’s argues that Christ’s bodily resurrection is the first resurrection in a long line of bodily resurrections that will come on the Last Day.  The bodies of believers, once perishable, will be raised imperishable.  The bodies of believers, born into the dishonor of sin, will be raised into the glory of perfection.  The bodies of believers, formerly weakened by the Fall, will be raised in eternal power.  The resurrection, Paul says, is bodily.  And not just Christ’s resurrection is bodily, our resurrections are too.

Jesus Himself speaks to the corporal nature of His resurrection when He appears to His disciples:

While they were still talking about this, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at My hands and My feet. It is I Myself! Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and feet.  And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, He asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”  They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate it in their presence. (Luke 24:36-43)

Jesus will not have His resurrection mistaken by His disciples for a measly apparition.  This is why He invites His disciples to look at and touch His hands and His feat.  This is why He eats a piece of fish.  Jesus has risen bodily.

So why is this even important?  Why make such hay out of whether or not Jesus rose bodily?  Three reasons come to mind.  First, the bodily resurrection of Christ is the linchpin of our faith.  To deny this is to lose everything.  As the apostle Paul writes, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).  To deny the resurrection of Christ is to deny all of Christ and His work.  There can be no compromise on His resurrection.  Second, the bodily resurrection of Christ affirms the goodness of God’s creation.  God created bodies.  And He cares about bodies.  Christ’s resurrection is proof of this.  For God could not stand by to see His Son’s body wrecked and ruined by a cross.  And God will not stand by to see our bodies and wrecked and ruined by sin.  And this leads to the third reason Jesus’ bodily resurrection is so important.  The bodily resurrection of Christ is a promise our bodily resurrections on the Last Day.  The fact of the matter is this:  our God is just getting going when it comes to resurrections.  One day, graves will be emptied, death will be defeated, and the redeemed of the Lord will cry,  “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15:55).  What a glorious day this will be.  And this is why I believe in the resurrection of Jesus’ body and in the resurrection of mine.  For such a resurrection is the hope and promise of life everlasting.


[1] John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus (San Francisco:  HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), 394.

[2] John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1994), 160.

April 9, 2012 at 5:15 am 1 comment

ABC Extra – “Rejoice…Always!”

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4)!  This verse has always frustrated me.  Not because I think it is somehow incorrect.  Quite the contrary, I believe the command to rejoice is a divine and a good command.  No, this verse has always frustrated me because I’m no good at it.  The command is clear:  I am to rejoice in the Lord always.  I, however, seem to manage to rejoice in the Lord only sometimes.  There are plenty of moments when I either find my joy in something other than the Lord or I lose my sense of joy altogether.  I fail miserably at following this command.

It’s far too easy, when reading a verse like this, to chalk up Paul’s language here to a bit of hyperbole – a bit of overstatement just to make his point.  “Surely Paul wasn’t being rigidly literal!” we might whisper to ourselves.  “As long as I rejoice in the Lord sometimes, or even most of the time, I’m sure the Lord will be content with my best efforts.”  But when our God gives commands, He does not hand out “A’s” for effort.  He actually expects us to follow His mandates.  And this mandate is clear:  We are to rejoice in the Lord always.

But how can this happen?  On the one hand, we must confess that it doesn’t happen – at least on this side of heaven.  As I admitted above, I certainly fall short in the joy department.  But I can rejoice that God forgives me through Christ for my lack of rejoicing.  As with every other command of God, this is a command which we do not – and, because of our sinful natures, cannot – follow.  On the other hand, it is important to note that Paul does not give this command to rejoice without offering us a roadmap to joy when he writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).  In verse 4, when Paul exhorts us to rejoice in the Lord always, the Greek word for always is pas.  In verse 6, when Paul tells us address everything with prayer and petition, the Greek word for “everything” is pas.  Here, then, is how we are to rejoice in the Lord during everything – we are to encounter everything with Him through prayer and petition.  That trial that we face – we are to face it with the Lord.  That triumph that we enjoy – we are to enjoy it with the Lord.  That question that we have – we are to ask it to the Lord.  We are to live our lives with a keen awareness that we live with the Lord.  For as long as we are with the Lord, we always have reason to rejoice.  This is why Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always!”

Rejoicing, then, begins not with an effort to conjure up joy, but with an awareness of God’s continual presence.  It begins with an awareness that, as Paul states, “The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5).  He is near in time – for His second coming is imminent.  And He is near in space – for He promises to always be with us.  And when you are aware of God’s presence and closeness, which is an indication of His care, concern, and compassion for us, it’s hard to anything but rejoice…always. 

Want to learn more? Go to www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s message or Pastor Krueger’s ABC!

November 28, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Seven Tips for Reading Revelation Realistically

In light of recent predictions that the rapture would take place on May 21 at 6 pm eastern time, Pastor Tucker and I thought it would be helpful to address what the Bible truly teaches about the last days and Christ’s Second Coming in worship and ABC yesterday.  After all, there are clearly many unbiblical views of this age’s last days floating around, the May 21 rapture date being one of them.  Pastor Tucker and I had a great time addressing head on the lies of this world with the truth of the Bible.  In an effort to further cut through some of the confusion, I wanted republish an article I wrote a couple of years back for our church body concerning the Bible’s preeminent apocalyptic book:  the book of Revelation.

Revelation is truly one of the most difficult books in Scripture to read and understand.  If you’ve ever tried to read Revelation, you’ve encountered everything from dragons to beasts to horsemen, oh my!  Saint John, who wrote revelation, has imagery that is overwhelming.  He has metaphors which are befuddling.  And his numerology is harder to crack than your college calculus course.  So how in the world could we ever read, much less understand, such a confusing book?

Yesterday in ABC, I offered two tips to help you wade through Revelation’s mysteries.  I figured that if two tips for reading Revelation are good, then seven tips must be even better.  What follows, then, is what I like to call, “Zach’s Seven Tips for Reading Revelation Realistically.”  I arrived at these tips after writing a series of daily blogs on the book of Revelation.

It is important to note that these tips are not meant to offer a full-fledged interpretation of Revelation as a commentary might do; rather, they are meant to offer a hermeneutic – that is, a method of interpretation – to assist you as you read Revelation for yourself.  They are, in some sense, meant to “teach a man how to fish” so that he can properly read John’s mysterious opus.  So, with this in mind, remember these tips when you engage in eschatological inquiry with Saint John.

Tip #1:  If it didn’t mean that in John’s day, it doesn’t mean that in our day.

Many interpretations of Revelation get real weird real quick. The Christian theologian and humorist G.K. Chesterton once quipped, “Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.”[1] The reason so many people find so many wild things in Revelation is because rather than asking, “What was John actually thinking about when he wrote Revelation?” they instead try to arbitrarily connect John’s visions to all sorts of current events. Whenever we read Scripture, however, we should first try to understand the author’s own intended meaning rather than making up our own meanings.  Old Testament professor Tremper Longman III explains cogently:  “If literature is an act of communication, then meaning resides in the intention of the author.  The author encoded a message for the readers.  Interpretation then has as its goal the recovery of the author’s purpose in writing.”[2] When we read Revelation, we should first try to decipher John’s purposes in his imagery rather than our own.  Sadly, many people fail to do this.  For instance, some people actually think the infamous Mark of the Beast, 666 (13:18), is a code contained on computer chips which will one day be implanted by our government in our foreheads in a conspiracy to make us all lobotomized Satanists. The problem is, there were no computer chips in John’s day. Thus, John is probably not talking about computer chips here.  And to say that he was is to claim that we understand John’s revelation better than John himself.  This constitutes the height of arrogance and ought to be avoided.

Tip #2:  Know your Bible.

John employs countless biblical allusions in Revelation that we can miss and misinterpret if we don’t know the rest of our Bible. For example, in Revelation 16, John writes, “Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon” (16:13). Huh? Frogs coming out of a dragon? Well, a “dragon” is John’s image for Satan (12:9) and “frogs” are classified as unclean animals in Leviticus 11:10. John seems to be saying, then, that Satan will speak unclean, deceiving, and blasphemous things about the Gospel. Now it makes sense! But you have to know the rest of your Bible in order to catch John’s point.

Tip #3:  Know your history.

John wrote Revelation while exiled on the island of Patmos (1:9), a Roman penal settlement in the Aegean Sea. During John’s exile, Domitian was emperor of Rome. According to the ancient Roman historian Suetonius, Domitian demanded that the subjects of the empire worship him and even call him “lord and god.”[3] The German theologian and numismatist Ethelbert Stauffer writes of this emperor: “Domitian loved to hear…the cry of ‘Hail to the Lord!’…Other forms of acclamation…were the following: Hail, Victory, Lord of the earth, Invincible, Power, Glory, Honour, Peace, Security, Holy, Blessed, Great, Unequalled, Thou Alone, Worthy art Thou, Worthy is he to inherit the Kingdom, Come, come, do not delay, Come again.”[4] In Revelation 4:11, Jesus receives this acclamation: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being.” Many scholars believe that John is parodying the praises sung to Domitian in that day, saying that these praises to the emperor really belong to Jesus. But we only know this by knowing history.

Tip #4:  If you feel like you’ve seen this before, it’s because you have.

Revelation tends to be more thematic rather than chronological in its organization.  Indeed, when reading Revelation, you find that the world ends no fewer than four times (6:12-17, 11:15-19, 14:14-20, 16:17-21)!  Following these four apocalypses, John then offers a detailed account of history’s conclusion in chapters 17-19.  It is vital to recognize that all of these “endings” describe the same time period from different perspectives.  It is not unusual, then, the get a case of déjà vu when reading Revelation.  This is important to keep in mind Revelation’s thematic arrangement because if you try to read this book as a strictly chronological document, you can wind up with charts, diagrams, and maps detailing multiple returns and judgments of Christ that are so complicated, even Stephen Hawking can’t understand them.  There is only one second coming of Christ.  There are no third and fourth and fifth returns.

Tip #5:  Don’t balance your checkbook using John’s math.

John’s numerology is meant to be interpreted symbolically, not literally. For example, in Revelation 7, John talks about a group of 144,000, sealed for salvation (7:4). 144,000 is 12x12x1000. The number 12 is associated with the church in Revelation (e.g., 21:14) and the number 1,000 is a Scriptural number for completeness (e.g., Psalm 50:10, 2 Peter 3:8). John’s point, then, is simply this: All who trust in Jesus are sealed for salvation! And just in case we miss his point, John continues by saying, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (7:9). John’s 144,000 turns out to be innumerable.

Tip #6:  John’s imagery is polyvalent.

Yes, I just used the word “polyvalent.” It’s a word I learned in seminary describing something that has more than one interpretation or meaning. And much of John’s imagery certainly has more than one interpretation or meaning. One example comes with the frogs spewing from the dragon’s mouth in Revelation 16:13, referenced previously under tip number two. In the interpretation proffered above, I mentioned that frogs are unclean animals according to Levitical law. Therefore, John is positing that Satan will speak unclean, deceiving, and blasphemous things about the Gospel. But that’s not all that John is positing. This plague of frogs, along with the other plagues in Revelation 16, parrot the plagues against Egypt in the story of the exodus (cf. Exodus 7:14-11:10). Thus, while the enemies of God are crushed by plagues of frogs (16:13), blood (16:3-4), sun and darkness (16:8-10), and hail (16:21), the people of God remain “blessed” (16:15). Thus, this chapter is also a chapter of comfort for God’s people as they are protected through terrible plagues. One symbol – more than one interpretation. John’s images, then, are not meant to be precise predictions, but general descriptions of both the sad state of wickedness in this world as well as the glorious promise of salvation we have in Christ. One image can have more than one referent. So even if you’ve cracked one code, there may be another lurking behind that same image.

Tip #7:  Do not be afraid.

Too many people look at the second coming of Christ with fear instead of faith. They are scared of bloodshed, doom, gloom, and demise. But as John’s vision opens, he hears Jesus speak these words: “Do not be afraid” (1:17). In spite of a world full of trouble, Revelation is meant to offer us hope and comfort because it reminds us that Jesus wins over evil, as an elder in one of John’s visions says: “See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed” (5:5)!  If Jesus wins, we have nothing of which to be afraid.

So there you have it:  Seven simple tips to help navigate the labyrinth of mystery that is our final biblical book.  Are you ready to take it on?  If so, remember Revelation’s promise:  “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near” (1:3).  Reading Revelation results in blessing.  It will bless you. And that, at least for me, is reason enough to read it and, yes, even enjoy it.  I hope you’ll read and enjoy it too.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!


[1] G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York:  John Lane Company, 1909) 29.

[2] Tremper Longman III, Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation, in Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation, Moises Silva, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1996) 135.

[3] Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars, H.M. Byrd, trans. (Wordsworth Editions, 1997) 358.

[4] Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1952) 155.

May 23, 2011 at 5:15 am 1 comment

ABC Extra – Lots on the Last Day

This weekend in worship and ABC, we talked about God’s Kingdom and its final and full arrival on the Last Day when Jesus will return to, as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, “judge the living and the dead.”  This Last Day is the subject of endless conversation and speculation.  Indeed, visions of a gloomy apocalypse are frequently advanced in books and movies packed with foreboding buzzwords like “tribulation” and “antichrist” and “plagues” and “rapture” and “millennium.”  Because there is so much discussion concerning the return of Christ – and so many different theories concerning the precise nature of His second coming – I thought it might be helpful, in this week’s blog, to survey some of these theories and then, to best of my ability, offer a more biblical picture of the end of days.

When it comes to Christ’s second coming, most interpretations of the nature of His coming center around this passage from John’s Revelation:

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.  He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. (Revelation 20:1-3)

The question that has been the subject of much debate is, “What does it mean that an angel, perhaps representing Jesus, comes and binds Satan for a thousand years?”  Four main answers have been given.

The Answer of Historic Millennialism
Historic Millennialism teaches that Christ will visibly return, raise the believing dead from their graves, and set up an earthly kingdom and reign for a thousand years.  This will be a time of perfect peace and prosperity.  After this, Christ will loose Satan for a small time to make his final assault against the redeemed before our Lord finally casts him into hell for eternity.

The Answer of Postmillennialism
Postmillennialism teaches that the “thousand years” of Revelation 20:3 is not to be taken literally.  Rather, it represents a time of ever increasing peace and prosperity on this earth, with more and more people becoming Christians, reaching its climax in Christ’s visible second advent.

The Answer of Dispensational Premillennialism
Dispensational Premillennialism takes different forms, but in its most popular expression it envisions a “secret return” of Christ where believers are raptured into heaven.  Following this rapture, the Antichrist arrives on the scene and a seven year period of tribulation ensues.  The Antichrist allies himself with, and then breaks his alliance with, the Jews, persecuting them fiercely.  Following this seven year tribulation, Christ visibly returns, sets up a perfect millennial kingdom, and then, at the end of a thousand years, releases Satan for a short time to wreak havoc on humanity until he is finally cast into the Abyss and Christ judges the living and the dead.

The Answer of Amillennialism
Like Postmillennialism, Amillennialism sees the “thousand years” of Revelation 20:3 as symbolic, referring to the time of Christ’s Church when the gospel is preached and eternal destinies are changed.  However, Satan still works in this world and Satan’s work will become more pronounced shortly before Christ’s second coming.

I would humbly suggest that, out of the above accounts concerning the end of days, the answer of Amillennialism fits best with the biblical data.  I say this for several reasons:

  • Following two World Wars in the previous century and terrorist threats and attacks in our own century, most people do not believe the world is slowly becoming better and safer or more Christian.  Postmillenialism does not make sense of the world around us.

  • Dispensational Premillennialism is both a relatively new theory, being promoted on a widespread basis by John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s, and speaks of a secret return of Christ in a rapture, a theory nowhere promoted in Scripture.  Indeed, according to the Bible, Darby’s so-called “rapture” will be quite visible and quite audible: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  This hardly sounds like a secret rapture to me.

  • Historic Millennialism has much to it to commend, but does not account for the highly symbolic nature of apocalyptic literature, and specifically the symbolic use of the number “one thousand,” and it essentially promotes a two-fold return of Christ:  first at the beginning of the millennium and then again when He judges the living and the dead at the end of time.  These events are elsewhere pictured as one episode (e.g., Matthew 25:31-46).

  • Amillennialism recognizes that in the Bible, the number “one thousand” is regularly used in symbolic terms to express completeness (e.g., Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 1:11, Psalm 50:10, 84:10, 90:4, Isaiah 60:22, 2 Peter 3:8).  Thus, the millennium of Revelation 20:3 expresses the complete time of Christ’s Church on earth.

  • Amillennialism accounts for the fact that Christ’s second coming, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment are portrayed by the Bible one event, not as separate events separated by a thousand years (e.g., John 6:44, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Matthew 25:31-46).

  • Amillennialism, unlike Dispensational Premillennialism, has a long and distinguished history in the Church, being promoted by the likes of Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.

On balance, it seems as if a simple return of Christ to judge the living and the dead at the end of days is to be preferred to the more complicated end times schemas of Historic Millennialism, Postmillennialism, and Dispensational Premillennialism.  Christ’s second return of Christ need not be complex and, for the Christian, it need not be frightening.  For Christ’s coming means our salvation, as the preacher of Hebrews reminds us:  “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” (Hebrews 9:28).  Come, Lord Jesus!

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

November 8, 2010 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

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