Friday, September 30, 2016

What Is Revelation?

1 This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to His servant John, 2 who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and He blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near. Revelation 1:1-3 (NLT)

Many biblical scholars classify the book of Revelation as apocalyptic literature, a prophecy, and a letter (epistle). In the very first word of the Greek text, John identifies Revelation as an apocalypse. The word “apocalypse” literally means revelation, unveiling, or disclosure. “Revelation” is an English translation of the Greek word “apocalypse.” Revelation is apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature is unique to Judaism. In apocalyptic literature, the author’s sole subject matter is a description of the coming end of the world, the Kingdom of God, and the glorious future for the faithful. Apocalyptic literature flourished during the Jewish exile in the intertestamental period from 400 BC to AD 100. Other forms of apocalyptic literature include Daniel. Many biblical scholars consider Revelation the New Testament counterpart to the Old Testament apocalyptic book of Daniel.

The book of Revelation has some of the common characteristics of apocalyptic literature – use of metaphors, symbolic language, visions, excessive use of numbers, and supernatural characters to accomplish God’s divine purpose. The book of Revelation builds around the number seven. The number seven occurs 54 times in the book of Revelation. Seven is associated with completion, fulfillment, and perfection. In Judaism, seven had special significance such as the Sabbath (the seventh day) (see e.g., Genesis 2:2; Exodus 20:10-11); the Year of Jubilee (the year of release after seven Sabbatical years) (see e.g., Leviticus 25:8-17, 29-31). The book of Revelation references seven churches and seven spirits (Revelation 1:4); seven lampstands (Revelation 1:12); seven stars (Revelation 1:16); seven seals on the scroll (Revelation 5:1); seven horns and seven eyes of the Lamb (Revelation 5:6); seven angels and seven trumpets (Revelation 8:2); seven thunders (Revelation 10:3); seven heads of the dragon (Revelation 12:3); seven heads of the beast (Revelation 13:1); seven golden bowls (Revelation 15:7); and seven kings (Revelation 17:10).

Second, Revelation is a prophecy (see Revelation 1:3). John states that Revelation is a “prophecy” (see also Revelation 22:7, 18). Prophecy includes not only foretelling the future but also proclaiming any message from the true and living God – whether a command, instruction, warning, history, or prediction (see 1 Corinthians 14:3). Everyone who prophesies speaks with a message from God to people for strengthening, encouragement, and comfort (see 1 Corinthians 12:7-11). Thus, prophets are primarily preachers.

Moreover, Revelation is a letter (epistle) written to the church (Revelation 1:4, 11). Revelation begins with normal salutation in Revelation 1:4 and continues through the benediction of Revelation 22:21. John writes to the seven churches in Asia. The first major section of Revelation in chapters 2 and 3 is written in the form of letters to the seven churches. Thus, the book of Revelation is all three literary genres: an apocalypse, a prophecy, and a letter. 

The first verse of the book, “the revelation of Jesus Christ,” identifies the resurrected and living Jesus Christ as the central figure of this book. Revelation is an unveiling or disclosure of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1). From beginning to the end, Jesus Christ dominates. Revelation reveals a different portrait of the living Jesus Christ than from the New Testament Gospels. In Revelation, Jesus Christ (Messiah) is the reigning and ruling King and Lord (see e.g., Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16) as well as the sacrificial Lamb who purchased redemption (see e.g., Revelation 5:9-10; Revelation 14:3-4). Even more, Revelation reveals the true and living God, a portrait of heaven, and the presence of the Holy Spirit (see e.g., Revelation 4:1-5:14). Through graphic pictures of Revelation, we learn the final judgment of evil and eternal blessings for the faithful believers of Jesus Christ (Revelation 21:2-22:5).

The book of Revelation is full of hope and God’s mercy. Revelation offers future hope to all faithful believers in Jesus Christ by proclaiming Jesus Christ's final victory over evil and the reality of eternal life Him. Even more, the book of Revelation gives believers guidance as the book teaches about the importance of morality, obedience, and faithfulness to God and His Son, Jesus Christ (see e.g., Revelation 21:5-8; Revelation 22:14-15). John writes Revelation to instruct, chastise, and encourage the church to remain faithful and committed to God in spite of opposition and persecution. Everyone who endures the testing of evil and remains wholeheartedly faithful to God will be rewarded (see e.g., Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; Revelation 3:5, 21; see also Mark 13:13; James 1:2-7, 12).

Nonetheless, the book of Revelation also reveals sinful usurpation of divine power, which brings God’s judgment. God does not approve of famine, death, and hell, but they are what must follow if a person persists in opposing God’s moral commands. The book of Revelation shows God’s desire not to inflict vengeance on people, but rather God’s desire to bring people to morality and repentance (see e.g., Revelation 2:5, 16, 22; Revelation 3:3, 19; see also Matthew 4:17; John 8:11). Nevertheless, the book of Revelation shows God’s sovereign and permanent power that ends all suffering and reveals an eternal closeness experienced by the faithful.

Moreover, the book of Revelation is filled with songs of praise aloud to God (see e.g., Revelation 5:13-14; Revelation 7:11-12; Revelation 11:15-18; Revelation 12:10-12; Revelation 15:3-4). These great songs of praise to God from Revelation have often influenced anthems and musical works such as Handel’s Messiah. Many of the best-loved sings of the church are based on parts of the book of Revelation such as “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” by Julia Ward Howe comes from Revelation 14:17-20).

In the opening verses of Revelation, John states that “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and He blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says” (Revelation 1:3, NLT). Revelation 1:3 is the first of seven blessings or beatitudes that come to those who read, understand, and obey the book of Revelation (see also Revelation 14:13; Revelation 16:15; Revelation 19:9; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:7; and Revelation 22:14). These blessings from Revelation virtually reproduce the words of Jesus in Luke 11:28, “blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice” (Luke 11:28, NLT; see also James 1:22-25). Revelation 1:3 states very clearly that God’s blesses come to those who read and keep (obey) the words of this prophecy. Furthermore, Revelation 1:3 tells us that the author John expected all of Revelation to be read aloud to the church, reaching others through the ears (see e.g., Revelation 2:7, 11, 29; Revelation 3:6, 13, 22).

Many readers of Revelation see a book filled with mystical and disturbing supernatural characters, bizarre scenes and visions, various symbols, and multiple blasts of God’s judgments. However, the book of Revelation was not a mystery to the first readers in the early church. To the first readers of Revelation, the words had meaning and purpose. John wrote the book of Revelation under the leadership and guidance of God's Spirit to help that first century church, and that church understood John’s visions and revelations. The book of Revelation continues to speak to the church today as in the first century. Revelation reveals that God is fully in control, and He rules and overrules in the affairs of humankind. Although there will be persecution in the last days, God remains in sovereign control!

ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of the New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).
Metzger, Bruce. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993).
Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998).

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Jesus’ Second Coming

23 When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel. Matthew 10:23 (NLT)

Matthew 10:23 along with such verses at Matthew 16:28, Matthew 24:36, and Matthew 26:64 deal with the second coming of the Son of Man. “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself and associated with Daniel 7:13-14 (see also Revelation 1:13). Several interpretations have been suggested by Biblical scholars regarding the interpretation of Matthew 10:23:  (1) Jesus’ resurrection; (2) the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; (3) Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70; or (4) the coming of Jesus at the end of the age. The fourth interpretation makes the most sense considering the larger context of Matthew 10 and the mission to Israel. Many Biblical scholars believe Matthew 10:23 means the mission to Israel must continue alongside the mission to all the nations until Jesus returns at His second coming (Matthew 10:5-6; see also Matthew 28:18-20). In other words, the work of believers will not be completed until Jesus returns and only after Jesus returns will the whole world accept and believe Jesus’ true identity (Matthew 24:14; see also Romans 14:10-12). At Jesus’ second coming, He will come in power, and great glory and every tongue will confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11, (ESV). Then, the Lord Jesus Christ will reign forever and forever with great power, and all peoples, nations, and languages will worship Him (Revelation 11:15; see also Daniel 7:14).

When will Jesus return? Many generations have asked that question. Just before Jesus returned to heaven into the glory cloud after His resurrection (Acts 1:9), Jesus’ disciples asked Him when God’s Kingdom would be restored (Acts 1:6). Jesus told His disciples that God the Father alone has the authority to decide when the Kingdom will be restored and His second coming to earth (Acts 1:6-7; see also Mark 13:32-37; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). God sent Jesus at the right time for His first coming (Galatians 4:4), and God alone will decide Jesus’ second coming to earth (Matthew 24:36). As Jesus returned to heaven in the glory cloud, two angels told Jesus’ disciples who was watching Jesus return to heaven that Jesus will return in the same way as they saw Him go into heaven (see Acts 1:10-11; see also Mark 13:26-27; Mark 14:62; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 19:11-16). Until Jesus second coming, God’s people must continue to live by faith and obedience to God the Father and His Son, Jesus through the inward working of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ promised return becomes the prominent theme in the book of Acts, the New Testament letters (Epistles), and particularly the book of Revelation. Revelation is one of the most abused books of the Holy Bible. No New Testament book has caused much confusion and the subject of varied interpretations as Revelation. Mystical and disturbing supernatural characters and bizarre scenes and visions fill the pages of Revelation. Some people love the book of Revelation and concentrate all their reading of Revelation while ignoring the rest of Scripture. On the other hand, others ignore and avoid reading the book of Revelation thinking the book is too mysterious to understand. An understanding of the Holy Scriptures cannot be complete without reading the book of Revelation. In fact, John, the author of Revelation, instructed the early church to read the book of Revelation aloud (see Revelation 1:3). Jesus Christ is the central character of the book of Revelation. Even more, the book of Revelation has seven beatitudes or blesses that come to those who read and obey the book’s teaching.

3 God blesses the one who reads (aloud) the words of this prophecy to the church, and He blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near. Revelation 1:3 (NLT)

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” Revelation 14:13 (NLT)

15 “Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for Me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.” Revelation 16:15 (NLT)

9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast (marriage feast) of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.” Revelation 19:9 (NLT)

6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him a thousand years. Revelation 20:6 (NLT)

7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.” Revelation 22:7 (NLT)

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life.
Revelation 22:14 (NLT)

In the book of Revelation, John makes a consistent call for God’s people to endure, persevere, and remain wholeheartedly faithful to God despite persecution and opposition (see e.g., Revelation 3:10; Revelation 13:10; Revelation 14:12). Hope and mercy fill the pages of Revelation. In the book of Revelation, John reveals God’s love and patience for people as God give people repeated opportunities for repentance with each passing judgment, similar to Luke 15 (see e.g. Revelation 2:5, 16, 21-22; Revelation 9:20-21; Revelation 16:9, 11). Moreover, the book of Revelation is full of worship, praise, and singing to God (see e.g., Revelation 5:9-14; Revelation 7:10-12; Revelation 19:1-8). The church has derived more than 400 hymns of from the pages of Revelation. Furthermore, of the 404 verses that comprise the 22 chapters of Revelation, 278 verses contain one or more references or allusions to the Old Testament. Although John does not quote the Old Testament, Revelation is full of Old Testament imaginary and references, particularly from Exodus (see e.g., Revelation 15:5-8; Revelation 22:2). Most important, Revelation reveals the startling images of Jesus not as the helpless Lamb but the mighty Warrior, the LORD OF LORDS, and King of glory (see e.g., Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:11-16).

ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).
Metzger, Bruce. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993).
Ross, Mark E. Let’s Study Matthew (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Faithfulness To Jesus!

16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd (wise) as snakes (serpents) and harmless (innocent) as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are My followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about Me (Jesus). 19 When you are arrested, do not worry (anxious) about how to respond (speak) or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And all nations will hate you because you are My followers. But everyone who endures (perseveres) to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel.

24 Students (disciple) are not greater than their teacher, and slaves (servants) are not greater than their master. 25 Students (disciple) are to be like their teacher, and slaves (servants) are to be like their master. And since I, the Master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of My household will be called by even worse names!

26 But do not be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout (proclaim) from the housetops for all to hear!

28 Do not be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So do not be afraid (fear not); you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

32 Everyone who acknowledges Me (Jesus) publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before My Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before My Father in heaven.

34 Do not imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’
37 If you love your father or mother more than you love Me, you are not worthy of being Mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than Me, you are not worthy of being Mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow Me, you are not worthy of being Mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it.

40 Anyone who receives you receives Me (Jesus), and anyone who receives Me receives the Father who sent Me. 41 If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs. 42 And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of My followers, you will surely be rewarded.”

11:1 When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to His twelve disciples, He went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region.
Matthew 10:16-11:1 (NLT)

In the earlier verses of Matthew 10, Jesus called twelve of His disciples. Jesus gave these twelve disciples His power to cast out evil (unclean) spirits and to heal (cure) every kind of disease and illness (Matthew 10:1, 7-8). In essence, these twelve disciples would be continuing Jesus’ public ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing (see e.g., Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:35). However, Jesus warned these twelve disciples also to anticipate hostility towards their words and deeds. Matthew 10:16-42 discusses Jesus’ instruction to His disciples and their coming hostility in detail. Jesus’ instructions in these verses applied to not only the twelve disciples’ short-term missionary assignment, but all disciples of Jesus.

First, Jesus told the twelve disciples that He was sending them as “sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matthew 10:16). Jesus instructed the twelve disciples, also called apostles, to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16; see also Romans 16:19). Jesus warned His disciples then and now, they will face persecution and trials because of their faithfulness and obedience to Him (Matthew 10:17-18). However, Jesus encouraged His disciples to endure and persevere when facing persecution and hostility because of their ministry from Him (Matthew 10:22).

In the world, Jesus warned His faithful disciples that they would face trials, sorrows, and opposition just as He suffered because of His faithfulness to God (see Matthew 10:24-25). Furthermore, Jesus warned His disciples that they would be handed over to courts, flogged in the synagogues, and dragged before governors and kings (Matthew 10:17-18). Even more, Jesus cautioned His disciples that brother would betray brother, a father will betray his own child, children will rebel against their parents, and all nations will hate them because they followed Him (see Matthew 10:21-22, 34-37).

In Jesus’ first coming, Jesus brought division since some heeded Jesus’ call to God’s Kingdom and while others rejected Him (Matthew 10:34-39; see also Matthew 3:12). Living for Jesus and obeying His values, morals, and commands often bring on persecution from others, but with it comes the opportunity to tell the Good News (Gospel) of salvation. Inevitable, belief and faithfulness to Jesus will cause separation between those who believe and those who do not, even within a family. The main point of Jesus’ warnings is that love of Him and God’s Kingdom must take precedence over every other human relationship. Nevertheless, Jesus does not want His disciples neglecting their families (see e.g., Matthew 15:3-7; cf. Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16). Rather, our faithfulness and commitment to Him and God’s Kingdom must be our first priority (Matthew 6:33; see also Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37).

Moreover, Jesus told His disciples not to be fearful or afraid (Matthew 10:26, 28; see also John 16:33) because “everyone who endures (perseveres) to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22, NLT; see also Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:13; Revelation 3:5). Such endurance and allegiance to Jesus are hallmarks of true salvation (see also 2 Timothy 2:11-13; Hebrews 3:6, 14; Hebrews 6:11-12; Hebrews 10:-35-36). Jesus said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for Me, you will save it” (Matthew 10:39, TLB; see also Matthew 16:24-25). As believers in Jesus, we must persevere and be wholeheartedly faithful to Jesus! The true and living God promises always to protect, guard, and sustain Jesus’ faithful followers (Matthew 10: 19-20, 29-31; see also Matthew 28:20; John 12:25-26; Hebrews 13:5-6). God loves and values you (John 3:16).

Everyone who publically accepts and obeys Jesus on earth, Jesus will acknowledge them before His Father in heaven (Matthew 10:32; see also John 8:31; John 15:4, 10). However, everyone who denies Jesus here on earth, Jesus will also deny before His Father in heaven (Matthew 10:33). Jesus and God are one (see e.g., John 10:30; John 14:9; John 17:11, 21-23). Everyone who welcomes Jesus will be welcome by the true and living God in heaven (Mathew 10:40; see also John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Ross, Mark E. Let’s Study Matthew (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).

Friday, September 16, 2016

Messiah’s Messengers

1 Jesus called His twelve disciples together and gave them authority (power) to cast out evil (unclean) spirits and to heal (cure) every kind of disease and (every) illness. 2 Here are the names of the twelve apostles (special messengers): first, Simon (also called Peter), then Andrew (Peter’s brother), James (son of Zebedee), John (James’s brother), 3 Philip, Bartholomew (Nathaniel), Thomas, Matthew (Levi, the tax collector, publican), James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus (Judas Son of James), 4 Simon (the zealot, Cananaean or Canaanite), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed Him).

5 Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions: “Do not go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, 6 but only to the people of Israel—God’s lost sheep (Jews). 7 Go and announce (preach) to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near (at hand, has come, is coming soon). 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely (without pay) as you have received! 9 Do not take any money in your money belts—no gold, silver, or even copper coins. 10 Do not carry a traveler’s bag with a change of clothes and sandals or even a walking stick. Do not hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve to be fed. 11 Whenever you enter a city or village, search for a worthy person and stay in his home until you leave town. 12 When you enter the home, give it your blessing. 13 If it turns out to be a worthy home, let your blessing (peace) stand; if it is not, take back the blessing (peace). 14 If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. 15 I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day. Matthew 10:1-15 (NLT)

Matthew chapters 5 through 9 present an introductory portrait of Jesus’ public ministry. Both Matthew 4:23 and Matthew 9:35 summarize Jesus’ ministry as teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel (Good News) of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. Matthew 9 ends with Jesus urging His disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field. Then, Jesus gives His authority (power) to twelve disciples to go as workers into God’s fields.

During His public ministry, Jesus had large crowds that follow Him (see e.g., Matthew 4:25; Mark 3:7-8; Luke 6:17). From this large group of followers, Jesus selected a smaller group of twelve men, whom He also designated apostles or special messengers (Matthew 10:2-4; see also Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:13-14). Jesus sent these twelve men with His special commission. Furthermore, these twelve special apostles will also judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). Matthew has already given the stories of how Jesus called five of these special apostles – Peter and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John (Matthew 4:18-22), and Matthew himself (Matthew 9:9-13). Peter, along with James and John made up Jesus’ inner circle. These twelve men made themselves available for Jesus’ message and service (see also Isaiah 6:8). There is a remarkable diversity among these twelve apostles, including fishermen, tax collector (Matthew), and a zealous revolutionary (Simon the Zealot).

Matthew 10 begins Jesus’ second major discourse (sermon). This sermon focuses on the disciples’ mission to Israel (Matthew 10:1-15) in the preparation of the disciples’ worldwide mission (see Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus sent out these twelve special apostles on their first missionary assignment to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6, KJV). Jesus sends out the twelve special apostles with His same message and power. These twelve apostles were to preach Jesus’ message, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7, KJV; see also Matthew 4:17). Moreover, Jesus gave these twelve apostles the power to continue His ministry of casting out unclean (evil) spirits and healing every disease, affliction, and infirmity (Matthew 10:8; see also Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:35). Jesus empowered these twelve missionaries to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, and drive out demons” (Matthew 10:8, NIV). Thus, Jesus gave His disciples His power to reproduce and continue His gracious ministry – preaching, deliverance, and restoration. Jesus wanted the twelve disciples to ministry to both the spiritual and physical needs of the people. Moreover, Jesus instructed His disciples to give His blessings freely to others without pay (Matthew 10:8) and not peddle Jesus’ blessings for profit (see 2 Corinthians 2:17). These disciples would be representing Jesus in the world as Jesus’ hands, arms, legs, and feet. Nevertheless, Jesus’ faithful workers are worth his or her keep (Matthew 10:10; see also 1 Corinthians 9:4-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18).

In the disciples’ first assignment, Jesus restricted their ministry to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6, KJV) and not to the Gentiles or Samaritans (Matthew 10:5). This method of Jesus was also followed by the early church fathers to go first to the Jews (house of Israel) and then to the Gentiles (see e.g., Acts 18:5-6; Acts 19:8-9; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 2:9-10). As the Jewish Messiah, salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22). Moreover, Jesus graciously gave His blessings to Gentiles and Samaritans who showed faith in Him (see e.g., Matthew 4:15; Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 15:21-28; John 4:5-42). Jesus is “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42, ESV; see also Luke 2:10-11). After His resurrection and outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Jesus called and summoned all faithful followers of Him to go into all the world and all people (Jews and Gentiles) to preach the Good News (see Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Act 2).

Also in Jesus’ first assignment, Jesus restricted the disciples to “not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or staff” (Matthew 10:9-10, NIV). These disciples lacked nothing as Jesus provided all their needs during the missionary journey (Luke 22:35; see also Psalm 23:1; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 4:19-20). Jesus wanted to build His disciples’ faith to look to Him to provide all their needs (see also John 15:5). God cares and provides for His people’s needs. However, upon His impending death, Jesus lifted His previous restrictions and instructed His disciples to take a purse, a bag, and a sword on their missionary journey (see Luke 22:35-38).

Finally, Jesus also warned His special messengers that some will welcome their Good News of the Kingdom and miraculous healing powers while others will reject them (Matthew 10:11-15). Jesus told His disciples to seek a godly home to stay while in a particular city and be friendly (Matthew 10:12). If the owners welcomed the disciples, Jesus told His disciples to give that home their blessings and peace (Matthew 10:13). However, if the home rejected the disciples, Jesus told His disciples to withhold their blessings and peace from that particular home (Matthew 10:13). Moreover, Jesus said that any city or home that does not welcome them as Jesus’ disciples to shake off the dust of that place from your feet as you leave and await God’s judgment on that city (Matthew 10:14-15).

Apologetics Study Bible: Understanding Why You Believe (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012).
ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Ross, Mark E. Let’s Study Matthew (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Jesus Cares!

18 As Jesus was saying this, the leader (ruler, rabbi) of a (Jewish) synagogue came and knelt (worshipped) before Him. “My daughter has just died,” he said, “but You can bring her back to life again if You just come and lay Your hand on her.” 19 So Jesus and His disciples got up and went with him. 20 Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind Him. She touched the fringe of His robe, 21 for she thought, “If I can just touch His robe, I will be healed.” 22 Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed (restored) at that moment. 23 When Jesus arrived at the official’s home, He saw the noisy crowd and heard the funeral music (flute-players). 24 “Get out!” He told them. “The girl is not dead; she is only asleep.” But the crowd laughed at Him. 25 After the crowd was put outside, however, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up! 26 The report of this miracle swept through the entire countryside.

27 After Jesus left the girl’s home, two blind men followed along behind Him, shouting (crying aloud), “Son of David, have mercy on us!” 28 They went right into the house where He was staying, and Jesus asked them, “Do you believe I can make you see?” “Yes, Lord,” they told Him, “we do.” 29 Then He touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith (trust and reliance on Jesus’ healing power), it will happen.30 Then their eyes were opened, and they could see! Jesus sternly warned them, “Do not tell anyone about this.” 31 But instead, they went out and spread His fame all over the region. 32 When they left, a demon-possessed man who could not speak (mute) was brought to Jesus. 33 So Jesus cast out the demon, and then the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed. “Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel!” they exclaimed. 34 But the Pharisees said, “He can cast out demons because He is empowered by the prince of demons.”

35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing (proclaiming) the Good News (the Gospel) about the Kingdom. And He healed (cured) every kind of disease and illness. 36 When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to His disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields.” Matthew 9:18-38 (NLT)

The final series of Jesus’ ten miracles occur in these Scripture passages. In Matthew 9:18-38, Jesus healed a woman suffering from constant bleeding (Matthew 9:20-22), raised a girl from the dead (Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26), gave sight to two blind men (Matthew 9:27-31), and restored a mute man’s speech (Matthew 9:32-33). After Jesus’ tenth miracle, the crowds were amazed and cried out, “Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel!” (Matthew 9:33). With these ten miracles, Matthew continued to paint a theological portrait of Jesus as the Messiah (Christ), the King of the Jews (Israel), the Son of David, the Son of the living God, the Great Shepherd, and Savior of the world!  

Those who came seeking Jesus’ miraculous healing were a mixed multitude. In these set of miracles, Matthew first presents a ruler of a Jewish synagogue seeking Jesus to restore his daughter’s life (Matthew 9:18-19). From Mark and Luke’s Gospels, we know that the synagogue ruler’s name was Jairus (Mark 5:22; Luke 8:41). Like the previous Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5), the synagogue ruler believed and trusted that Jesus could heal and restore his daughter’s life. However, as Jesus was making His way to the ruler’s home, a woman who had suffered twelve years of bleeding touched Jesus’ garment (Matthew 9:20). This woman was desperate. Matthew tells us that that the woman thought and believed, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well” (Matthew 9:21, NKJV). The woman’s faith was not in vain. Jesus turned to the suffering woman and said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well” (Matthew 9:22, NKJV). Instantly, the woman was healed and restored to good health (Matthew 9:22, NKJV). Like this woman, we too can simply reach out in faith to Jesus, and He will respond! Continuing onto the synagogue ruler’s house, Jesus entered the deceased girl’s room and restored the girl to life (Matthew 9:25; see also John 11:38-44). The ruler’s faith in Jesus was also not in vain. Jesus’ healing power knows no limits when we have faith and trust in Him (Matthew 9:22, 29; see also Luke 7:50)! Jesus has the miraculous power to heal not only our physical outward sickness and weakness but also heal our spiritual inward sickness (sin). Sin makes a person sick! The report of Jesus’ wonderful miracles swept the entire countryside (Matthew 9:26, 31; see also Matthew 14:34-36).

Passing on from the girl’s home, Jesus is followed by two blind men. The blind men called out and shouted to Jesus, “O Son of King David, have mercy on us” (Matthew 9:27, TLB; see also Isaiah 35:5-6). Amazingly, these two blind men could see that Jesus was the long-awaited Son of David predicted by the Old Testament prophets (see e.g., 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jeremiah 30:9; Jeremiah 33:15-16; Zechariah 9:9;  Matthew 1:1). Like many others, Jesus healed and restored the two blind men’s sight because of their faith in Him (Matthew 9:2, 22, 29-30; see also Matthew 8:10, 13; Matthew 15:28). 

In the tenth miracle, Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who could not speak (Matthew 9:32-33). When Jesus casted the demon out of the mute man, the man was instantly healed. Demonic influences manifest itself in various forms; here the demon prevented the man from speaking (see also Matthew 12:22). Upon seeing the healing, the crowd was amazed and shouted, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel” (Matthew 9:33, NIV). However, not everyone celebrated Jesus’ miraculous healing power. Some watching Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that He drives out demons” (Matthew 9:34, NIV). However, the Pharisees overlooked the genuineness of Jesus’ ministry through His authoritative teaching, moral excellence of His character, and His ministry of doing good (see e.g., Matthew 9:35-36; Matthew 7:16; John 3:2; John 9:31-33; Acts 10:38). The compassion and mercy of Jesus is a repeated theme of the New Testament (see e.g., Matthew 14:14; Matthew 15:32; Mark 6:34). Jesus expects faithful Christians to show compassion, kindness, patience, and mercy towards others in need (e.g., see Colossians 3:12; Hebrews 10:34; James 5:11).

In Matthew 9:35-38, Matthew once again summarizes Jesus’ ministry as going out in “all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Good News (Gospel) of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35, NIV; see also Matthew 4:23-25). Jesus was the Good Shepherd, and He cared for the hurting people (John 10:11; see also Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 23:4-6; Ezekiel 34:23; Hebrews 13:20; Revelation 7:17). As in Old Testament times, the shepherds of the people failed to faithfully care for the flock of God (Matthew 9:36; see e.g., Ezekiel 34; Micah 5:4; Zechariah 10:3-4).

In Matthew chapters 8 and 9, Matthew has given readers the ten miracles of Jesus to prove His miraculous healing powers, just as in Matthew chapters 5 through 7, Matthew presents Jesus’ great teaching ministry.

ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Ross, Mark E. Let’s Study Matthew (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).