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John316Marshall.com » Matthew 23

Glory Gone. Glory Returned.

Posted in Matthew, Matthew 23

Matthew 23:39
Glory Gone. Glory Returned.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Matt. 23:39 (Holman) For I tell you, you will never see Me again until
you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

With these words, Jesus left the temple, never to return again. This was not the first time God had forsaken the temple. The prophet Ezekiel was exiled a few years before the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC.
Just prior to the razing of the temple, Ezekiel was transported back to Jerusalem in a vision. In the temple, he saw God’s glory, the radiant splendor engulfed in light, with angel-cherubim nearby. In awed wonder, Ezekiel watched as God, due to Israel’s idolatry and sin, began to leave the temple.
The cherubim carried God’s glory from the sanctuary to the threshold of the temple (10:4). As the glory moved, brightness filled the temple complex. Ezekiel watched as the glory moved to the eastern gate (10:19).
The scene was overwhelmingly beautiful but sad. Rather than quickly depart, the glory moved slowly, incrementally, to show how grudgingly God was leaving the temple. God seemed to indicate if someone had repented and pleaded for Him to return, He would have gladly stayed. But no one cared.
As the glory slowly leaves our USA churches, and as sin is let loose in our land, does anyone care? Are we pleading for Him to stay? If we are not praying for our USA churches, then what in the world are we praying for?
Ezekiel saw God give one last gesture of longing to return; the glory paused at the top of the Mount of Olives (11:23). Then it left Jerusalem.
God’s exit from the temple in Ezekiel’s day had been an ultimate tragedy, yet Israel let it happen again in Jesus’ day. The crowds later saw Jesus on the cross, but did not witness His resurrected, Messianic glory.
Both of these departures were sad, but each ended happily. In Ezekiel’s day, God did not forsake His people forever. Years later the glory came over the Mount of Olives (43:2), re-entered the Eastern Gate (43:4), and filled the temple (43:5). Even so, Jesus said He too would come back.
When Jesus returns, people will shout, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (PS 118:26). At the Triumphal Entry, the crowd had yelled the same words (MT 21:9). On that day, they said the right words, but did not know their full meaning. What they then said shallowly shall someday be spoken sincerely when Jesus returns as Earth’s ruling Messiah.
When He comes back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” will be on every person’s lips.
Those who believed in Christ before they died will say these words with gladness. Those who did not believe in Jesus before dying will say them with sadness. The latter will be remorseful, but will have to make this confession nonetheless. They will be forced to admit it is true. On that day every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord (PH 2:10-11).
Our text records Jesus’ last public words to Israel. Appropriately, the final message to the crowd at large in His first coming was to mention His second coming, which He will discuss at length in the next two chapters.
As we enter a long time of studying the Second Coming, an overview of the topic might help. Beginning with what we know for sure about His coming will help us because speculative Bible interpretations have often made the Second Coming, which is supposed to encourage us, into a source of dread. About Jesus’ second coming, here are vital facts the Bible teaches for sure.
As we await Jesus, the world will continue to have wars and rumors of wars (MT 24:6), apostasy, promotion of false gods (2 TH 2:3-4), and persecution of believers. This world we live in is not going to get better.
The ill-fated notion that the world would be totally Christianized, and keep getting better and better, until it was good enough for Christ to return to was called postmillennialism. This error was the driving force of missions in the Nineteenth Century, known as the golden century of Christian history.
We sent out thousands of missionaries, believing we were making the world good enough for Jesus to return to. WW1 killed postmillennialism.
One misinterpretation of Scripture that helped fuel this error was based on Matthew 24:14, where our Master said, “This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.” The verse does not say everyone in all nations will be saved. It instead tells us the message will penetrate to every corner of the globe. Until Jesus comes, His work will go on, as will Satan’s. Forces of good and evil shall remain engaged against each other to the very end.
How long will we have to wait for Jesus to return? No one knows (MT 24:36). It will happen when we don’t expect it (MT 24:44), like a thief in the night (1 TH 5:1-11), like lightning flashing across the sky (MT 24:37), and like it was in the days of Noah; people will be marrying, eating, and drinking. In other words, daily life will be going on as usual (LK 17:22-37).
Once it starts, events will happen fast. Without prior warning, Jesus will come with a retinue of angels, Heaven’s warriors (MT 16:27).
He will return the same way He left, in clouds (AC 1:11). Clouds will be the chariots (MT 26:64) He will ride on in power and glory (MT 24:30).
While these things unfold our direction, there will be movement their direction too. The dead will rise first (1 C 15; 1 TH 4:17); earthly bodies will be swallowed up in heavenly ones. We who are alive will be caught up in the clouds (1 TH 4:14-18); we will see Jesus, and become like Him (1 J 3:2).
The heavens will loudly catch fire and pass away, elements will burn and dissolve, bringing a new heavens and new earth (2 P 3:10-13). All shall stand before God’s tribunal (2 C 5:10) as He judges the world (AC 17:31).
What about the Rapture, Tribulation, and Millennium? We know postmillennialism is no longer a viable option, but other than this certainty, we’re not sure about these issues (For five Second Coming views espoused by Southern Baptists: http://www.sbclife.net/Articles/2014/06/sla10).
The chief interpretations of these matters among Bible believers fall under two broad headings: Amillennialism and Premillennialism. My mom is amillennial; Dad is premillennial; I grew up confused on the issues.
Amillennialists, believing Revelation is symbolic, see the Millennium as Christ’s ministry on earth through His church from His crucifixion to His return. They see no rapture to escape a “Great Tribulation”. No one receives a free pass on persecution. Revelation seems to indicate Amillennialism.
Revelation is not chronological but repeats same info from different perspectives (e.g. seals, trumpets, bowls of wrath). At Christ’s resurrection, Satan was bound (20:1-3). God’s saints have all they need to reign (20:4-6). The first resurrection is a believer’s physical death. The second resurrection is our glorified bodily resurrection when Jesus comes. RV 20:7-10 is not in sequential order; it pictures the same struggles presented in Revelation previously. Amillennialism has been the dominant position of the majority of believers through the ages.
Premillennialists see the Millennium as a time when Christ will reign on earth with His church prior to God’s final judgment. They see a rapture of the church followed by the Great Tribulation, when a Satanic false religion will persecute believers worldwide, followed by a literal 1000 year reign by Christ. Most of the earliest church fathers affirmed premillennialism.
Pre’s are divided over whether the Rapture is pre-, mid-, or post- Tribulation. Pre-Tribs include Dispensationalists, who believe God’s promises to Israel have not yet been fulfilled in believers as a new Israel. They believe Israel was not merely a type or symbol; the Church does not replace Israel.
One problem with this position is; it causes some believers to say the political nation of Israel is free to do whatever it wants as a nation. We for sure support Israel—“They are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (RM 11:28)—but we must not let any political structure have carte blanche to do anything it desires.
Of the Second Coming, this I know. We win, and not just barely, but by a landslide. Jesus and Satan will not have a wrestling match with Jesus barely winning at the last second. Good grief no. “One little word shall fell him” (Luther).

Honesty Seeks No Loopholes

Posted in Matthew, Matthew 23, New Testament

Matthew 23:14b-16
Honesty Seeks No Loopholes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Matt. 23:14b (Holman) [. . .and make long prayers just for show. This
is why you will receive a harsher punishment.]

Hell is not a “one size fits all” place. God will be just in meting out future everlasting punishment. None will ever be able to say He was unfair.
These religious leaders will suffer worse treatment because they used religiosity, especially offering long prayers, to con people. The problem was not the length of the prayers. Jesus at times prayed all night, and we are to pray without ceasing. We all need to pray longer. We have many sins to confess, countless thanks to offer, and numerous troubles to seek help for.
The Pharisees’ problem was; they prayed “just for show”, to impress people, while with wicked hearts they took advantage of the helpless. Some widows were destitute because Pharisees had siphoned off their money.
These men were covetous and cruel. Yet there they stood, offering long prayers. They wanted their piety to help them be trusted by the weak.
They made it look like happy was any widow who found men like them to help her. Evil is most evil when religionists use a facade of religion to practice evil. Their actions upset Jesus. He thundered woes against them.

Matt. 23:15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel
over land and sea to make one proselyte, and when he
becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are!

To win converts they tried everything in their power. They left no stone unturned. Their zeal for winning others to their cause should shame us.
Unfortunately, they led people not to God, but to Pharisaism. Their converts were fanatic legalists, not YHWH-followers. They had no desire to honor God. They were more worried about protecting their position than about extending God’s influence. They were soul ruiners, not soul winners.
Missionaries must beware this grave temptation. They can easily slip into a bad practice of trying to win people to denominational persuasions rather than simply to Jesus and the Bible. Vincent Donovan was a Catholic missionary to Africa’s Maasai in the 1960s and 1970s. Rather than impose on them a western-style Catholicism, he let them decide how to “do church” in a way that expressed their culture. He won many to Christ, and set them free to make their own Bible choices. Multitudes of them became Baptists.
A Kingdom mindset can be hard to maintain. It is easy for us to let our spiritual world shrink. Our little group can become all that matters. Some think Bible rules should be defined and interpreted solely as they see them.
It is common for such groups to forget not only about lostness. Even fellow believers become suspect, not good enough. Some people spend more time building fences than bridges. Jesus told the Jews He had “other sheep that are not of this fold” (John 10:16). He did not like Israel’s exclusivism.
Not wanting cliquishness to be the main focus, He always looked for more people to reach out to. He kept His eye beyond only those in His camp at a given moment. There were others, many Gentiles, He had His sights on.
To complicate the proselytizing of Pharisees, and others, new converts are often more radical than the zealots that win them. Extremists from our own country are some of the most radical terrorists in the Middle East today.
New converts often feel a need to do more than the bare minimum; they want to convincingly prove their commitment to becoming insiders. Becoming more bigoted than the others, they develop a hellish disposition.
The word here for hell is “Gehenna”, the name of the valley outside Jerusalem that served as the city garbage dump. King Josiah cursed it (2 K 23:10) because children had been offered in it as burnt sacrifices. In Gehenna, fires never went out, and worms proliferated. Jesus, deeming it a vivid picture of Hell, used it to describe the place of eternal punishment.

Matt. 23:16 Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever takes an
oath by the sanctuary, it means nothing. But whoever takes an oath by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by his oath.”

The leaders were “blind guides”, leading people far from the truth. Even their claims to help verify truth were untruthful. They distorted oaths.
By taking an oath, promisors forcefully vow they are telling the truth. It submits their honesty to God’s omniscient justice. An oath is a prayer for Him to rain down anathema on the promisors if they lie. Taking an oath is serious business. It subpoenas God to serve as a witness to a promise. Since it pulls God down into human affairs, Jesus felt obligated to deal with oaths.
Oaths were widely used in Israel. If people chose to take an oath to confirm their honesty, the religious leaders said promisors could be trusted more if they swore not by the temple, but by gold they gave to the temple.
The Pharisees, in their mumbo jumbo, said swearing by something that was always changing gave swearers the option to change their mind, to weasel out of a promise if they wanted to. By this ruse, they made breaking promises a fine art, and built a way whereby one could get away with lying.
This and their many other silly petty rules helped the Pharisees keep people confused about the validity of oaths, and created loopholes to avoid doing their duty if they took an oath. The leaders were driven not by concern for truth, but by how to evade an oath if it later did not suit their selfishness.
Jesus, intolerant of chicanery, unmasked this, and in essence called them liars. Masters of evasion, the Pharisees were dishonest and deceitful.
They used holy things to disguise unholy lying. Jesus forbade trickery and playing word games to escape our grave responsibility of being honest.
We serve a God whose every word is true, thus our every word must be true. Jesus expects believers to speak truth, allowing for no escape routes.
The Godly always tell the truth. To them a simple yes or no should suffice. One of my favorite Bible verses (PS 15:4b) teaches us a righteous person “swears to his own hurt, and does not change” (NAS). “He keeps his word whatever the cost” (Holman). If what we promise later proves to be disastrous to us, we cannot recant. We keep our word. We should never profit from, or cause others to lose from, our own rashly spoken errors.
My ancestors moved from West Tennessee to Northeast Arkansas in 1921. Soon after they arrived, a family member, Edd Hill, my Grandpa Marshall’s brother-in-law, announced he would be gone for a while and would return someday. Months later he reappeared. He had traveled back to Tennessee to work off debts the family had left behind.
Our word is to be as good as our bond. Our bare word should be as sacred to us as a solemn oath. Because we are committed to truth in our promises, we have nothing to fear by taking an oath before God.
If called on to take an oath, Christ-followers are free to consent. Paul did. We will gladly put our hands on a Bible, but should not need to for the Bible is engraved on our hearts. If need be, we will lift our hand to Heaven, but should not need to because Heaven has been put in our innermost being.
Jesus taught us; the maximum regard we hold for the most sacred oath is to be the minimum standard for our bare word. If people make promises, God is always present and listening. We are to act like we believe this.
Some religions teach it is okay to lie to outsiders. Some are okay with lying to the government. Christ-followers, though, make no such distinctions as words that have to be true versus words that do not have to be true.
I remember when people assumed honesty in interpersonal dealings. My Grandma Marshall once put a note on her front door, “Front door locked. Back door open.” She missed the point. People had told her to lock her door. She did, but did not want people to think she did not trust them.