The Parousia of the Lamb of God

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

The opening First Vision of Revelation is found in Revelation 1.9-3.22.  It is a vision of the “son of man” (1.13) who is “coming on the clouds of heaven” (1.7) from “before the throne” (1.4,5).  Jesus dictates seven letters to John, then carries him by the Spirit into the Temple in heaven (4.1).  When he saw the First Vision he was on Patmos (1.9).  Being gifted as a true Prophet of our Faith, and brother in the Lord (and he is one of our eternal Apostles), John, like Moses, David, Ezekiel and Isaiah before him, is shown the heavenly courts of God.

There are things to show John after he is shown the heavenly scene of chapter 4-5.  In chapter 4 we find a wondrous description of the temple with the One who sits on the throne receiving all worship from heavenly creatures and the 24 Elders.  These Elders are assumed to be human beings that have been exalted to thrones surrounding the One who sits in the center (since, angels do not age, and they have been given crowns of gold, a promise made to ‘those who overcome’ in 2.10).  It is quite allowable to see that “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” as applicable here (Matthew 8.11).  Indeed, Luke adds to this, “when you shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13.29).  These are the 24 Elders who have been given crowns and are pictured in heaven.  There is no point in the visions to identify them by name.  They are the Patriarchs and Prophets (and they certainly were not in some netherworldly place called, sheol)!

However, the scene, as wondrous as it was, is missing something.  The One who sits on the throne has in his “right hand” a scroll with seven wax seals on it.  None of the angels, and none of the creatures, and none of the Elders – all created by the One who sits on the throne for his glory (4.11) – are able to receive this scroll.  It is there for the taking.  The One who holds it, owns it.  A mighty angel asks, “Who is worthy to take the scroll?”  Now, we must assume that the creatures, Elders and innumerable angels in His presence are holy and pure.  However, there was a certain quality they did not have that would have garnered the acclamation: this one is worthy to take from the very right hand of the One on the throne.  If we understand that the 24 Elders were holy saints and worthy of taking their seat with the One in the center, then it becomes even more apparent that none of these people were worthy enough to take the scroll, to approach the right hand of God Himself.  The attributes are not lacking in God who holds the scroll.  He is worthy of holding it.  He presumably wrote it and sealed it.  It is the word of God.

This scroll was written for the express purpose of someone at some point in time to take it, crack the wax seals, and let it unroll so that what was written in it can now transpire.  From the grief seen in John, who weeps, it was important that this scroll be unrolled.  None of the angels weep.  None of the Elders weep.  In fact, ‘And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”‘  It is significant that one of the human Elders said this.  John was a human being, too.  Yet, even he was not worthy to open the scroll.  Another human being, however, is!  This human being is born from the “tribe of Judah.”  His human descent is of David – who wrote Psalm 110:1, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, and I shall make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”‘  Who is worthy to receive from the right hand of God and fulfill this prophecy?  Who is able to fulfill this role so that one can sit at the very right hand of God and carry out the making of all his enemies a footstool?  For, are not the enemies of God the enemies of all mankind?  There are enemies of the Kingdom of God in his creation, for he has made all things (4.11), and creation was made to reflect his glory.  But, as it is now, the glory of the LORD who sits in heaven, who indeed sits with those he has saved and seated with him, and all of his hosts, are in heaven.  His enemies are on earth.  Who is worthy of vanquishing his enemies, ridding them once and for all?  And, we must ask, why does not God do this Himself?  Is there a necessary reason that a human being must accomplish this task?

The Lamb of God is here introduced for the first time.  He is a human being, born of Judah, son of David.  These marks note his Jewish ascendancy.  They are also prophetic markers in that the Prophets foretold that a King, Messiah, High Priest, and Prophet of Prophets would come from Judah, and from the line of David.  This is the “one like a son of man…who comes on the clouds of the heavens” – and it is precisely this that we see in this vision.  This is a vision of the one who has conquered.  The Greek verb here is nikao (think of the tennis shoe company, Nike, “triumph”).  The verb is in the aorist tense denoting completed action.  It is because the Lamb has conquered that enabled him to take the scroll.  The Elders overcame and conquered, too, which is why they are there and have crowns of life on them.  But, their victories could not make them worthy to receive from the right hand of God the Seven Sealed Scroll.  This verb is also found in the First Vision, “He who is overcoming (nikao) — I will give to him to sit with me in my throne, as I also did overcome (nikao) and did sit down with my Father in His throne” (3.21).  Now, we have already noted that this Vision is of “things that are” in the present.  Jesus reveals to John that he has sat down at the right hand, and has overcome.  Here, however, he is pictured at the point of his coming to the Throne.

The worshipful response of his victory tells us why: ‘And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth”‘ (5.9-10).  We noted before in a previous blog that Revelation 1.1-8 is an Introduction to the Letters and Visions penned after he had already seen them and heard them.  Thus, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.  Behold!  He comes with the clouds….one like a son of man” (1.5-7, 13).  This is not something going to happen, but has happened when John wrote this.  Therefore, the scene in Revelation 5 is of the triumph of the son of David and his ascent to the right hand of God, coming upon the clouds of the heavens.

5.11 confirms our understanding in that, as John has already echoed Daniel 7.13-14 in chapter 1 (see previous blog), here is another unmistakable reference, “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands…” Compare this to Daniel 7.10, “Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him.”  In Daniel 7.13 these very angels bring “the son of man” before the throne, where he was made “presented” (pareimiparousia) before him.  Hear the chorus in John’s revelation, ‘saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing….Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever.”‘ (5.11-12).  Now, hear what Daniel saw 500 years before, “And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7.14).

Now, previously, in heaven, before the triumph of the son of man, the Lamb of God, the seed of David, God received this worship: “‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is coming…Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (4.8,11).  Now, however, the Lamb of God receives the same praise.  Remember, in the First Vision John hears Jesus saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (1.8).  And in Revelation 4.8 the One who sits on the throne is worshipped, “‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is coming.”  The Lamb is a human being.  The Lamb is also God.  If your head has exploded at this point, congratulations….you get the point of the Vision.

Let us now put this all together.  God’s Kingdom rules in the heavens.  Daniel reveals this us without question.  God at no point in time was never not in charge of his creation.  His Kingdom in heaven was never at any point in time, since the beginning of time (a biblical proposition for theoretical physics, time has a beginning, and will have an end), not ruling in the heavens over all the affairs of his creation.  Human beings, which he made, took a fall.  They sinned.  They were severely punished, but not so much was warranted (total annihilation – God is holy, but he is also kind hearted and decreed that mankind should live out in terms of numbered years).  God has desired to make a nation, a kingdom of ministers and priests who would rule on the earth as a human extension of his Kingdom in heaven.  This was promised to Eve, carried out in Noah and found in a covenant made with Abraham and Moses.  However, the nation that arose from this, Israel, though accomplishing a great deal, accomplished whatever purpose God commissioned them for in spite of the fact that they are roundly condemned by him.  However, there was always a remnant of those who were circumcised in their hearts, upright in their hearts, like Abraham, or Jacob, Moses, or Naaman, Ruth, Naomi, or David (circumcision of the heart applies to both women and men – whereas circumcision of flesh was men only).  From this arose one named Jesus (Joshua, Yeshua), born of his saintly mother, Mariam.

This Jesus was falsely condemned by many of his own kin, but a few (a remnant) of his own believed him.  This Jesus was killed, was buried, was raised from the dead.  This Jesus, this human being, a son of a human being (man), entered into heaven.  This is the scene we find enigmatically in Daniel 7.13-14, but revealed in Revelation 1-5.  He is the one who is worthy to open the Seven Sealed Scroll because he triumphed over the enemies of God; he was a fellow overcomer and he did overcome.  Death is in his hands (Revelation 1.19).  He can no longer physically die anymore.  The Elders are pictured as being in heaven (and later on we see souls of other human beings), but this Jesus is seen in the very same body he was “slain” with.  No one before ever entered heaven body and soul.  But, the son of man did!  This is the remarkable, distinguishable, never-before-accomplished feat of the son of man that made him worthy to receive all power in heaven.  He is seen as one who had been slain, killed, dead, and yet he is seen alive in heaven!  His “blood”, therefore, ransomed those whom God loves from all the ages past and to come.  His blood, his human blood, paid the price so that the powers that be were given to him by the One who sits on the throne.  The Purpose of the Redemptive Plan of God can now commence forward with full command. This is why John wept when he saw that no one was worthy.  If no one was worthy to receive the scroll, then the redemption that must take place in order for those whom God desired to purchase could not become reality.  But, purchase them he did, when he died, was buried and rose again and entered heaven at the right hand of God, coming on the clouds of heaven for them, for us, for you and for me.  This, then, is the first thing we see in John’s Revelation.  In the First Vision we have the Triumphant Son of Man who has ascended to the Father.  In the Second Vision (4-5), John is shown when the son of man, the Lamb of God, received all power, and by his overcoming on earth, and all things on earth, he “did sit down” on the Father’s throne, at his right hand.  What follows (Revelation 6-ff) is the commencement of the Lamb’s Power and Authority, the Son of Man who ‘comes on the clouds of the heavens’ before the Throne in heaven, on the throne in heaven.  We know when he received all power (Matthew 28.18).  What is going to do with all that power?  These are “the things which must shortly come to pass”.

 

Revelation Chapter 1: The Parousia

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

Many have been following along in this series and the response I have been getting is enthusiastic.  I have been arguing that the “parousia” (advent) of the “son of man” is presented in the NT as a perpetual image of his advent to heaven, his “appearance” before the Father as son of man (the Ascension).  Thus, the main imagery of this event is found in Daniel 7,13-14: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came (erchomai) one like a son of man, and he came (pareimi-parousia) to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

This image is conjoined with Psalm 110.1, “The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”  And, as we have noted, this psalm is the most quoted psalm in the NT.  Jesus himself conflates these two verses in Matthew 26.64, ‘Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”‘  There is no getting around the fact that Daniel depicts the son of man as coming to the Ancient of Days, not from (see past blogs on this subject).

Now, reading John’s revelation with this understanding – that Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father was a “coming on the clouds of heaven” – further confirms the testimony of Scripture.  Revelation 1.1-8 forms an Introduction to the whole book.  That is, it was penned after John had seen the visions, and had recorded the dictation of Jesus to the seven congregations in Asia Minor (Revelation 2-3).  Let us quote in full the verses: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. 4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is coming, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The above words in bold highlight the shared image in Daniel.  Jesus is not “going to be” Ruler of the kings on earth.  He is.  Jesus is not “going to” make his people a kingdom.  He did.  Jesus is not “going to” receive all power, glory and dominion.  He did.  He does.  At the time John wrote this  Jesus was in heaven, coming on the clouds of heaven, and received all power, glory, dominion and honor.  When this is seen for what it is, this “coming on the clouds” is not something going to happen.  It is happening, and is the perpetual state of the exaltation of the son of man in heaven.  His parousia.

Further, in 1.9 John begins to recount where he was when this vision of Jesus, the First Vision, appeared to him.  When he saw Jesus, he adds that he saw him “in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man.”  This is an obvious echo of Daniel 7.13.  Thus, Jesus is depicted here as one “who is coming on the clouds of heaven…one like a son of man” – and when we emphasize that Daniel is depicting his ascension to the Ancient of Days, we can see that this was not something going to happen.  It was happening.

Further confirming this testimony is Daniel’s description of the Ancient of Days: “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7.9-10).  Now, read what John “saw”: “The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and his feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and his voice as the voice of many waters” (1.14-15).  Jesus, having ascended to the Father, the Ancient of Days, is in the glory of his Father, depicted in the same description as his Father.   in case you missed it, John wrote, “Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is coming, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ….”  The phrase, “who is coming” is present, not future.  “Behold he is coming with the clouds” is present, not future.  The son of man is before the throne of the Ancient of Days, coming on the clouds of heaven before Him, beholding his Glory, is in the same glory of the Father.  Jesus came in the glory of his Father, in heaven, in the clouds, to the right hand.

Thus, John is told to “write the things that you are seeing, those that are…” (1.19).  The First Vision is a vision of Christ – who is – who was – who is now coming on the clouds as son of man before the throne of the Father.  In this First Vision Jesus dictates to John seven letters to congregations in Asia Minor, which are representative churches of all the congregations.  What the “Spirit says” is “to the churches” (plural).  Then “after these things” (4.1), that is, after he saw these things (the First Vision), he is then told, “I will show you things that must take place after these things“.  “These things” is what he would now show John.  The First Vision is the present things, the things that are when John first saw the visions.  Then Jesus states that he going to show him things will take place after he shows him what we see in chapter 4,5.  The scene in 4-5 is the Ancient of Days with the accompanying, “myriads upon myriads of angels” (compare 5.11 with Daniel 7.10).  And they praised the Lamb of God, who appeared as one slain, with “Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might and honor, and glory, and blessing” (5.12).  We saw this in Daniel 7.14: “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”  Where did this scene take place?  In heaven.  When did this scene take place? When the son of man ascended to the glory of the Ancient of Days, his Father.  The Lamb reaches to the “right hand” of the throne….Psalm 110.1.  Is this a one time scene?  Is the Lamb, the son of man, exalted just for a few moments?  No.  The Lamb remains exalted, remains as the one coming on the clouds of the heaven in heavenly glory with the angels in his kingdom.  The son of man came in his kingdom with the glory of the Father and the myriads and myriads of angels before him in power and glory.  When I personally “see” this vision in my imagination, my worship LIGHTS UP!  Blessed is He that is coming on the clouds of heaven, who is at the right hand of the Father, the Lamb of God, the son of man, who was dead and has been risen bodily from the dead and has ascended to heaven!

The following scene (chapter 6) shows Jesus breaking the “Seven Seals” at his command, and “giving power” to the principalities that are “sent” by him.  This is meant to show that all things are in his power and command and sent at his word.  These are the powers of life and death, famine and warfare, plague and economic power – things that affect us everyday.  However, it is not my intention to go any further at this point.

John’s depiction of the First Vision (1.9-3.22), the risen son of man, who was dead and is now alive, and holds the keys of “the Death and the Grave” (1.18 – the same “the Death and the Grave” of the Fourth Seal, inferring that when John saw Jesus, this Seal was already broken) matches to a tee the vision of his brother, Daniel, seen 500 years before.  Daniel’s vision of the “son of man” appears in that Prophet as enigmatic in several ways.  But, in John’s vision, the revelation of Jesus Christ, we now know who this son of man is, the one who comes on the clouds of the heavens in glory and power, and who appears as one before the throne in the same image of the Glory of the One Who Sits on the Throne!  “Holy, Holy, Holy!  Blessed Trinity!”

A Brief Look at Ephesians 4.8

Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

“Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men” (Ephesians 4.8).  This verse in Paul’s letter to the assemblies in Ephesus has gendered a few interpretations as to what he meant.  As a scholar, I have paid my dues in reading material on the Bible for the last thirty years, so I am not going to quote a bunch of commentaries and academicians.  I do not at all want to give the impression that I no longer consult them.  I do on a daily basis.  It’s just that in my fifties I am able to read, with some proficiency, the Greek text and first do my own work.  Needless to say I am aware of the two main interpretations of this verse that have held sway up to our own time.  So, not that it’s worth anything, here’s my useless two cents.

First, I want to note what Paul is quoting.  “Therefore it says” means a quotation from another source.  We find that Paul is quoting a psalm (68.18).  That psalm says, “You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.”  Not quite the same.  The basic text is from the Septuagint (the Greek Hebrew Bible known to Paul).  However, there are some changes.  Most are not really that important.  The one change that has been focused on is that Paul’s quotation differs from the Hebrew and the Septuagint texts in that “taken” is replaced with “given”.  We have no variations that offer us another text.  This is on Paul.  Why would he do this?  Does it matter?  Is he quoting from memory, or does he have a Septuagint of the Psalms among his scrolls?  Secondly, does it alter, deeply, the meaning?

Briefly, I do not think it alters the meaning of the psalm.  I do not think this is an example that can be used against “inspiration” of the letters of Paul.  I do not think it is a “mistake”, either, if the alteration is simply an alteration that does not affect his point.  “I have taken the high road”.  “The high road was given to me.”  My point is that I am on the high road.  If we had the opportunity to discuss with Paul why he used “given” instead of “taken”, I am sure he would give us an answer that set well within our confines of the use of quotations.  Perhaps, though, the context may bear out his point, and thus bear out the reason why the alteration was made.

In the psalm itself, the LORD is exalted and praised.  It is a lengthy “psalm of praise” to the absolute greatness of the LORD.  If you have not read it, I suggest at this point you do.  For space, I will not quote all 36 verses here.  Needless to say, the “ascent” of the LORD is his ascent to his “mountain”.  He has conquered his enemies, and none can stand before him.  It is a psalm of deliverance of the the hand of the LORD for his people.

Paul, on the other hand, is writing about something no one in their right mind would “get” from this psalm.  “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 ( In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

For Paul, Christ, not the LORD, is in view.  Heaven, and not earthly Mount Zion (Jerusalem) is in view.  Now, I do not mean to dispense with the absolute profundity of Paul’s mind on this, but if he saw Christ, the son of man, as also of the same substance of God (which he did), then we have no issues here since the LORD and Christ are, in fact, “one in substance.”  So the Creeds of Christendom have stated, whether Greek, Catholic, or Protestant.  We can quickly excuse this point, then.

Second, Paul took the ascension of Jesus, the son of man, as the meaning of “ascension” in the psalm.  The LORD “descends” often enough in the Hebrew Scriptures, and he “ascends” as well.  The “descent” of Jesus, the Logos of God, the Son of God, of the same Essence, descended in the form of a man.  Again, much, much ink can be spilled here, but I will spare the reader.  Paul’s point is a logical one.  If he “ascended” then that must infer that he “descended.”  So, where did he “descend” to?  “The lower parts of the land (earth).”  It is precisely here that things get a little dicey.  To some this means “hell” – a netherworld of the spirits of the dead, both righteous and wicked (although they are separated by righteousness and wickedness).  A great deal of Hellenistic (Greek) Judaism adopted from Greek lore and legend concerning this notion. Whether Paul did is another matter.  To others this simply means that the Logos, the Second Person of the Godhead (Trinity), became a man – he descended to the lower parts of the earth itself (taking the genitive phrase here as appositive).  Huge difference.

In favor of the latter view, is that the psalm itself gives no indication whatsoever of the LORD “descended” to a netherworld region.  Second, his ascent is “far above all the heavens” which would then give us the picture of his descent “below” the heavens, in the lower parts, the earth (which is below the heavens).

There is one other place often not mentioned by commentators and that is found in Romans 10.6,7: “But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'”(that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?'”(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).”  What is fascinating here is that the word, “abyss” is not found in the verse Paul quotes from (Deuteronomy 30.13).  Rather, in both the Septuagint and the Hebrew, the word is “sea”.  “Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”  Where in the world does Paul get the idea that the “abyss” is “the sea”?  If “up from the dead” simply means his resurrection from the grave and his subsequent ascent to heaven, is “abyss” equal to “the lower parts of earth itself”?

It is often thought that “the abyss” is, again, this nether-region of spirits, demons and maleficent souls.  However, upon investigation in the Hebrew Scriptures, this is not the case at all.  This word is often translated as “the deep” of the earth.  In creation the Spirit dwells over the “deep” (Genesis 1.2).   In the flood of Noah, the deep of the seas bursted forth.  That is, the deep sea, its floors (earth) cracked open.  In Genesis 49.25 God will bless by the heavens above and the “deep” below.  The Hebrew uses the word that is often translated by the Greek word, “abyss” (abussos).  However, the Septuagint simply translates that God will bless “of earth.”  The abyss, then, can be seen as the “lower part of the earth” – the deep, the below the heavens, the under, the seas themselves.  Now, what is very interesting is that in Genesis 49.25, this announcement is to Joseph by Jacob, his father.  It is repeated in Deuteronomy 33.13: “And of Joseph he said: — Blessed of Jehovah is his land, By precious things of the heavens, By dew, and by the deep crouching beneath.”  However, here abussos is used in the Septuagint!  “Hast thou entred into the bottomes of the sea? or hast thou walked to seeke out the abyss?” (Job 38.16) where “sea” is in parallelism with “abyss.”  The word occurs over 90 times and the study of it is quite rewarding.  Needless to say, for our point here, “the deep” is simply “the lower parts of earth” – the sea, the realm of the created earth (in it, on it, or it itself).  [a sideline study here….if the war in heaven as seen in Revelation 12 of Michael against Satan, and Satan is hurled “into the earth” (12.9), or “Woe for the earth and for the sea: because the devil is gone down unto you” (12.12); “cast into the earth” (12.13); and “the sea” in many Hebrew texts is “abyss” – the region of earthly domain under the heavens – then perhaps this is what is meant by his being “cast into the abyss” in Revelation 20.  He was cast into the earth and sea, the abyss, and instead of wreaking havoc from heaven, he wreaks havoc on earth.  Just a thought].

We have seen, then, that for Paul, and indeed the Hebrew/Septaugint, that the lower parts of the earth need mean no more than simply the creation of God under the heavens – the deep.  It need not mean some spooky, netherworld of goblins, ghosts and spooks.  Therefore, we are entirely within rational exegesis that all that he meant in Ephesians 4.8 is Jesus descent to earth, and his ascent “above all the heavens.”

In the psalm, God “receives” gifts, whereas here Christ “gives” gifts.  He has lead forth those captive under sin by “grace” and his triumph over principalities and powers, including Sin and Condemnation.  As a result, he sets free those who place their faith in him, and he “receives” these captives as his own, giving them gifts.  Paul’s change of the psalm from “receive” to “give” is not a memory lapse; rather it is assuming that he knew the Hebrew text as saying “receive”, but adds to the victory of the LORD in Christ Jesus that not only does he receive men, he gives back to them as well.  He gives the captives he has received “gifts”.  The blessings just keep on coming.

The reason he gives to those he has received is that he might “fill all things” (things below the heavens, things above the heavens).  Hear this passage again: “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 ( In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” The very captives he has released, he now gives to them the means of grace so that his victory will extend over all the earth, below the heavens and above the heavens, filling all things with those that are His People.  Pauls’ eschatology of a future new heavens and new earth are in view here in that Christ, as head of the Assembly, gifts certain ones to spread this message of His victory, and to equip those who are captive and those who have been released from their burdens in sin.  These “offices” are held by fellow-used-to-be-captives who are now equipping other used-to-be-captives in the matters of their great victory of He Who Leads Forth the Captives.  This is the function and role of the Assembly of the saints wherever they may be found; in basements, store fronts, homes, offices, elaborate church structures, shopping malls, the agora, wherever.  The growth of the church, his people, is the means by which he is filling the world.  For this, then, we can see Paul’s constant use of “one another” in this letter.  Anyone who is too good, too sanctimonious, too right, too smug, too defeated, too bitter, too hurt, too judgmental, too loose, too sinful to “go to church” – to be with others (and, yes, that includes that hypocrite Sister Betty who gossiped about your gay son and Brother Bob who was caught cheating on his wife with a woman 20 years younger than he is), then, well, you need to be released from your captivity my friend.

Maranatha

 

 

More on the Ascension of Christ

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

We have been plowing through the doctrine of the Ascension of Christ.  First off, we have demonstrated that Jesus “sat down” at the right hand of the Father on the morning of his resurrection.  The common idea, totally understandable, is that Jesus did not ascend to the Father until forty days later after his resurrection.  This has been challenged by a handful of scholars.

The main reason for this is that in Acts 1.1-ff is appears that Jesus did not ascend until that time.  Luke, the author of Acts, wrote that Jesus spoke to his disciples “Until the day in which he was taken up” (1.2).  This was in the space of “forty days” (1.3).  Finally, “he was taken up, and a cloud did receive him up from their sight.”  At this, an angel spoke, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come (erchomai -Greek) in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (1.11).  Thus, the “coming” here is related both to his “going” to heaven (here it also equated with a “coming” to heaven).  Some have placed emphasis on the fact that a “cloud”  is mentioned here, and, therefore, the imagery of the son of man “coming” on a cloud “to heaven” certainly ties in what we have been teaching as of late: Daniel 7.13-14/Psalm 110.

As we have been saying, Daniel 7.13-14 and Psalm 110 are most certainly tied together.  They are fulfilled together.  In fact, Jesus conflates both of these references together when he spoke to Caiaphas: “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26.64).  In Daniel, the “son of man coming on the clouds of heaven”, and in Psalm 110, “sit at my right hand” are joined together by Matthew to form one stream between the two.  This, for me, is confirmation enough.  Every commentary I have consulted notes the same observation.

As we have noted, for Matthew, Jesus’ coming on the clouds of heaven is the parousia (advent) of the “son of man” to the Ancient of Days.  It is his ascension to heaven.  In Daniel, “power” (exousia) is “given” (didomi) to the son of man.  In Matthew 28.18, “all power (exousia) has been given (didomi) to me in heaven and on earth.”  This is announced to his disciples before the ascension scene of Acts 1.  We have already noted that Daniel used the ‘son of man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with parousia (pareimi – the verb form), as does Matthew 24.  If the scene in Acts is depicting the same imagery (“cloud” “taken up to heaven”), then we have further confirmation of our thesis on that note.

However, does this still mean that Jesus did not ascend until forty days later?  I answer, no.  We have already noted that in John’s Gospel, there is no “ascension” scene, as there is with the other Gospels.  This omission has caused a good deal of ink to be spilled.  For John, though, he has already made mention of the ascension: the morning of his resurrection on the third day.  “Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'” (John 20.17).  We have noted that the verb, “ascending” (captured here in the English Standard Version) is Present Indicative in Greek.  We would expect a Future Indicative.  Secondly, there is no mention of Jesus waiting forty days until he then ascends.  Rather, in his lengthy discourse from chapters 13-17, Jesus is “going to the Father.”  This would make sense, then, on the morning of his resurrection to say, “I have not yet ascended…but tell them I am ascending…to my Father and your Father.”  In John 6.64, Jesus said, “What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!”  It appears, then, that for John, Jesus ascended the morning of his resurrection.  There was no need, then, to record what Luke does: his final ascension.

This brings me to Hebrews.  It has always puzzled me that only Luke records Jesus appearing/disappearing for forty days.  Yet, if our thesis is correct, this does not mean that he has omitted an earlier reference to his ascension the morning of his resurrection.  “Now that same day…” – the day of his resurrection – Jesus talks to two men on the road of Emmaus (Luke 24.13-ff).  And he says this to them: ” ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  The verb in bold is Aorist Infinitive (past tense).  This would be in complete agreement with Matthew 28.18 where Jesus said, “all power has been given to me.”  This equally comports with John.  Jesus ascended, went to the Father, and received all power and glory (in answer to Daniel 7.13-14/Psalm 110).  Finally, forty days later, after a series of appearing and disappearing, he disappears – but not for good.

Now to Hebrews.  Psalm 110, the most often quoted and alluded to psalm in the NT, is sprinkled throughout this letter.  Indeed, the letter opens with it: “when he had made purification of sins,  he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1.3).  There is no indication whatsoever that he waited forty days, then sat down.  Rather, “when” he made purification for sins, he sat down.  This is repeated: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (10.12).  The son of man suffered, then entered his glory.  He descended and ascended for forty days until he finally ascended – where “it is necessary that heaven receive him until the times to restore all things” (Acts 3.21).  The word “times” here (chronos) is the same in the question asked at his final ascension: “Are at this time you to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  Jesus answered: “It is not for you to know the times (chronos – plural) and seasons the Father has set” (Acts 1.6,7).  Hence, Peter, in 3.21 notes the ambiguity of when: heaven must receive him (ascension) until the times (chronos) of restoration of all things.  “All things” and restoring the Kingdom to Israel was a fixed idea in Second Temple Judaism (First Century) theology: a new heavens and a new earth for Israel (God’s People made of all Nations by faith).  This answers to Psalm 110: sit at my right hand until I make all your enemies your footstool.  And, further, in that same psalm, “he shall rule in the midst of his enemies.”  The author of Hebrews picks this up: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (10.12,13).  What is he doing now?  Ruling in the midst of his enemies.  Paul wrote, “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15.24-26).

As we have noted, in conclusion, is that Jesus’ parousia – his coming on the clouds of heaven – is his ascending to the Father.  It is what he is doing: the son of man comes on the clouds of heaven before the Father.  “For Jesus is not entered into the Holies made with hands, the patterns of the true: but into Heaven itself, that he may appear now in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9.24).  This is his parousia before the Father.  He appears before the presence of the Father on the clouds of heaven which have received him, the son of man, in heaven.  And this coming on the clouds of heaven (parousia) is his reign in heaven and earth (“all power has been given to me in heaven and on earth”).  “Behold, he comes with the clouds of heaven” (Revelation 1.7).  The verb there is Present Indicative.  It is descriptive of his current glory in the heavens: he who comes in the clouds of heaven, the son of man.  That John has Daniel 7.13-14 in mind is found in Revelation 1.13, where Jesus is called, “one like to the Son of man” (echoing Daniel 7.13).  Jesus, the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven (where he is), appearing before the Father on our behalf and as our High Priest.  Every eye will see and acknowledge him – for it is appointed unto man once to die.  If you do not know him now, when you die, you will know him then – for you will see him.

What has happened in these things is that our descriptions here have become grouped up into single, future events.  Thus, the coming on the clouds has come to be seen as a wholly future event – a single act.  When Jesus said to Caiaphas and the Jerusalem Court assembled together at his condemnation, that they would “see the son of man at the right hand coming on the clouds” he was not saying “in a few decades, or hundreds or thousands of years from now.”  Rather, when they died, they would see who Jesus Is.  It is Jesus who hold the keys of death and the grave (Revelation 1.18).  He can come personally to you at any moment – like a thief if you are not “eagerly expecting” him.  Eagerly expecting Jesus simply means that one is worshipping Jesus here and now, being filled with the Spirit and renewed daily through prayer, meditation, worship, adoration, and obedience – conforming to His Life.  Such worship causes us to long for His presence!

That there is a final descent of the Lord Jesus is found readily in the NT (most notably, 1 Thessalonians 4.16-ff; and several other places).  But we know not of that time, when heaven and earth shall pass away and be restored by the creative power of God (Genesis 1.1-ff).  However, Jesus can come at any moment.  Revelation 3.20 pictures it as such: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”  The Judge is standing at the door.  My sons and daughter were traveling to Indianapolis last week and noticed on the East Bound side traffic had stopped.  A car and several trucks were mangled.  We found out later that a person died.  My heart immediately thought and hoped that this person was not caught by the One who holds death and the grave in his hands unexpectedly.  That Christ had been invited in to eat and dine.  That this person, upon expiration, saw Him who comes on the clouds of heaven in heaven with praise and worship.  We worship Him, even though we do not see Him – but we know the revelation of His glory: that He is in heavens at the right hand, coming in the clouds of heaven before the Father, ruling in the midst of his enemies, suffering with the world as we suffer as He gathers them out of the world together into himself, making one new man, building stone by stone (people by people) his house until all those he has called and knows from eternity are his.

Fiery Flames

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

It often boggles my mind how I can read a translation of a verse or two and simply take for granted my own interpretation.  However, upon closer, critical analysis, what I thought was there is not there at all.

A recent brother from Italy was asking me some questions concerning 2 Thessalonians 1.7,8 and wondering if this was in reference to 70 AD and the war of the Romans against Judea.  First off, let’s read a sampling of translations:

“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,  In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (King James Version).

“and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (English Standard Version).

“and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels” (New International Version).

“and to you who are troubled — rest with us in the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven, with messengers of his power” (Young’s Literal).

“and to grant rest along with us to you who are undergoing afflictions, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his mighty angels” (New American Bible).

This is enough to show me, as one that reads Greek, that something is going on.  So upon reading the Greek text Paul is not saying anything that relates to 70 AD, a Second Coming, or anything like that at all.

First, the Thessalonikans were undergoing “persecution and affliction” from their “fellow country men” as Paul noted.  This is a “judgment of God” (1.5) in that those who are being troubled for the Gospel of Jesus are being “counted worthy” of the Kingdom (1.5).  They are not being judged, but, instead, are being refined.  Those troubling them, however, are being judged.

“For it is a righteous thing with God to repay…” (1.6).  Repay who?  The Dative Case follows, “to the ones afflicting you” (1.6).  Now, God’s “repayment” does not stop with them.  Rather, the Dative Case also includes the Thessalonikans: “and to you (1.7) the ones being afflicted, rest…”  In other words, God is repaying those who are doing the afflicting, and he is repaying those who are being afflicted with rest (anesis in Greek, and here in the Accusative Case, the object of the Infinitive, “to repay”).  This is not something that is going to happen, but is happening.

Now, the text does not stop with anesis, but describes the source of this rest that they have.  “And to you, the ones being afflicted, rest with us in the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with angels of his power in flaming fire.”  Now, this is where the translations get sideways.  “en te apokalupsei” is translated, amazingly, as “when the Lord Jesus is revealed.”  But, as one can see, “in the revelation of the Lord Jesus” is a prepositional phrase.  There is no verb here.  Jesus has already been revealed as to Who He Is.  They are to find “rest” and “comfort” in the fact of the revelation of Jesus Christ from heaven, who is with his angels in flaming fire!

Now, in my studies in Daniel, that phrase “flaming fire” caught my eye, because I have seen it before.  In Daniel 7.10 the Ancient of Days’ throne is described in the Greek Version of the Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint, used by the Apostles) as “a flaming fire”.  The words there are the same here.  In Daniel 7.13-14 we have been noting that the son of man, the Lord Jesus Christ, with the angels, is presented “with them” before the Ancient of days.  It is now revealed who this son of man person is.  This is the One that made the Gospel they preached, and the Thessalonikans believed, liable to suffering and persecution.

Jesus, the son of man, is “in heaven”, and “from heaven” it has been revealed (“revelation”) that he is with the angels in flaming fire.  Paul is saying to them, “yes, you are being troubled for this revelation.  But, this is a judgment from the Throne to them, and to you, find rest in that you know the revelation of Jesus Christ who among the angels in flames of fire.”  Jaw dropping.

But, we are not finished.  Jesus, in heaven with the angels in flaming fire, “is giving full vengeance to the ones not knowing God and to the ones not obeying the Gospel” (1.8).  This is not someting going to happen.  It was happening (and still does, for the Lord Jesus repays from heaven from heaven those who trouble his people – marking them, while all they yet refining through tribulation those that are his: conforming them to his image).

What is the future of those who do not repent at his repayments of judgment?  “…who, justice, they will suffer, eternal destruction from the face of the Lord…” (1.9).  And when is this?  Well, the indefinite subjunctive is used with an aorist subjunctive: “when he comes to be glorified in his saints, to be adored in all the ones who have believed the testimony of us to you – in that day” (1.10).  That is, when “all” stand before Him in that day, the last day.  Paul gives no hint at all as to “when” – in calendar times – that happens.  It wasn’t 70 AD.

Therefore, Paul is saying to those being persecuted, and to us as well, that Jesus, the son of man in heaven with the angels in fiery flames, before the throne of God, repays those who persecute the faithful in all generations.  That, as believers in the revelation of Jesus Christ, that he is before the Father, that he is the Son of Man, the Son of God in heaven, we should find rest and comfort in this, knowing that if those who create trouble for the Church do not repent, they will be judged when Jesus comes to be glorified in all the saints who have believed, ever.  On that day they will be given eternal destruction, but the saints will be glorified in Him, eternal life.  Such wonderful encouragement to the faithful who still believes the Gospel of the Apostles.