In first century Judea, life for Jews consisted largely of staying clear of the Romans and staying in line with the Scribes and Pharisees. The Romans did not wish to be bothered with the petty misdoings of their Jewish subjects, certainly not as it pertained to a peculiar religion. Conversely, the Jewish ruling class was very much into religion, especially the Law. This unholy alliance between Rome and the Jewish leaders worked well for both parties. Rome got its taxes and the Jewish leaders lived large and maintained order through the scriptures.
But for all of their attention to detail about scripture, the leaders missed the big event. There are some sixty prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah. From Moses to Malachi, it was there, often in explicit detail. The prophecies covered Jesus' virgin birth, His lineage, hometown, the miracles, the betrayal, His death and resurrection, even the messenger, John the Baptist. It was there for the reading. Or for the hearing, since it had to be read to the people from scrolls in possession of the Scribes. Maybe they couldn't see the forest for the trees or just didn't read the fine print. For sure, their concept of Messiah differed from God's as told through the prophets.
Jesus did come, thus fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament. Does Bible prophecy end there? What of the Second Coming? Jesus himself told us he would come again. We think of John's Revelation as the primary reference to the End Times and Jesus' return. It is a controversial account using coded and cryptic language and confusing to the extent that it is often ignored. Maybe it says more about an active dream life of an old man than of a foretelling of things to come. The Old Testament also includes prophecies relating to the End Times and return of Messiah, most notably Daniel. Other OT active dreamers included Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah and Joel. From these writings, we have some fairly recognizable terms relating to the coming events: Antichrist, Armageddon (site of the final battle), the Millennium (the 1,000 year reign), the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the Glorius Appearing.
The chronology of events are laid out in Scripture in sufficient detail for some to have made predictions of the actual date of the End Time. All of these predictions, of course, have been wrong and have succeeded only in labelling the authors as false prophets. Nevertheless, an entire industry has flourished around publications of fictionalized accounts of the Final Days. The Left Behind series alone sold 65 million books! Yet many churches shy away from apocalyptic teachings perhaps because death and desolation are unpleasant subjects not likely to lead to increased attendance.
Christians believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. All of it. It is to be preached, studied and lived. It is both comforting and challenging. This inspired Word told the Jews of the coming Messiah. They rejected Him. It also has much to say about His return and how we are to conduct our lives in anticipation of that event. Let us not forget to read the fine print.
From the Pastor
The theme for the Fall Sunday School lessons during the month of September centered around "Seeds of New Growth," focusing on chapters 4 Ė 7 in the Book of Acts. We usually speak of The Acts of the Apostles
however apart from Paul, only three apostles are mentioned in it: James, the brother of John was executed by Herod; Peter; and Philip. The book of Acts could well be titled "The Acts of the Holy Spirit," as it is important to note the progress in the believersí experience as the book moves from Jewish ground to church ground. (Wiersbe, W. W., Wiersbeís Expository Outlines on the New Testament
From earliest times it has been believed that Luke was the writer of the Book of Acts. Luke is the only Gentile author in the New Testament. Luke was a doctor and he was one of Paulís most valued helpers and most loyal friends.
Beginning in October, the Sunday School theme will be "Giving Bold Testimony," focusing on Acts, chapters 8 -11. Chapters 8-12 describe the "Period of Transition" during which the following changes take place:
- the center of activity moves from Jerusalem to Antioch
- the message goes from the Jews to the Samaritans and then
to the Gentiles
- Paul becomes a leader
- through Paulís ministry of grace, the meaning and place of
the church in Godís program becomes clearer
- the gospel of the kingdom is replaced by the Gospel of the
grace of God.
In Thursday evening Bible Study the Immersion Bible Studies: Matthew,
by J. Ellsworth Kalas has been the basis for our shared learning experiences. We have read and studied Matthew chapters 1-11, and will continue this series through the month of October.
On behalf of the Sunday School participants and the Bible Study group, I encourage you to join us as we grow in our spiritual discipline in learning more of the Word of God.