Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Mystery of God's Hidden, Polished Arrow

Ancient Greek Arrowhead, circa 300 BC
"He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
in the shadow of his hand he hid me; 
He made me a polished arrow; 
in his quiver he hid me away."
(Isaiah 49:2)

This verse introduced a mystery. Who is this one with a mouth like a sharp sword? Who is this hidden one... hidden in the hand of God? The word "polished" also conveys the idea of choice or selection. The idea of being hidden in the quiver of God hints at God having a Son.

I have always loved a good mystery. From the time that I was young I liked to read books like Sherlock Holmes or an Agatha Christie cliffhanger. But when it comes to the Word of God, the Old Testament scriptures hinted at a mystery long before the birth of Christ.

In Isaiah 49 an individual is addressed by God. Though at one point it seems that God is addressing the nation of Israel personified (49:3), the next verses make clear that God is addressing an individual that has the incredible mission of bringing Israel back to God. The King can be spoken of as the nation... or can speak as the nation over which he rules. As the King of England in the days of the monarchy could say "I am England...", so Jesus the Messiah could say "I am the True Vine..." as He stood before the Temple in Jerusalem with his disciples and they beheld the golden vine surrounding the doorway that symbolized the nation (John 15).

So verses 5-7 make clear that the one addressed by the LORD is His Servant Messiah:

And now the LORD says, 
He who formed Me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
and that Israel might be gathered to him-- 
for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, 
and My God has become My strength-- 
He says: 
"It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." 
Thus says the LORD, 
the Redeemer of Israel and His Holy One,
to one deeply despised, 
abhorred by the nation, 
the servant of rulers: 
"Kings shall see and arise;
Rulers, and they shall prostrate themselves;
because of the LORD, who is faithful, 
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."
(Isaiah 49:5-7) 

Saul of Tarsus met this one that Isaiah prophesied would be the "light for the nations" and was blinded for a time by the brightness of His appearance on the road to Damascus. Later writing as an apostle of Jesus the Messiah, Paul would speak of the Gospel as a mystery (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 1:9, 3:1-9; Colossians 1:27, 2:2, 4:3; and 1 Timothy 3:16).

In Isaiah 49 the LORD said that his servant would be "deeply despised, abhorred by the nation"; and though he would be seen as a "servant of rulers", yet kings would bow down to him. 

This is just one of many places in the Old Testament where the readers of God's Word are called to consider His mystery. Another is found in Proverbs in the words of Agur:

Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended?
Who hath gathered the wind in his fists?
Who hath bound the waters in a garment? 
Who hath established all the ends of the earth? 
What is his name?
And, what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?
(Proverbs 30:4)

Do you know the answer to Agur's riddle? Do you understand the name and the nature of the mysterious figure in Isaiah 49? He was hidden in God's quiver. He was selected for His mission to bring Israel back to God, to be a light for the nations, to be God's salvation to the ends of the earth... to be the arrow of God's judgment upon His adversary.

In another famous passage Isaiah asked:

Who hath believed our report?
and to whom is the Arm of the LORD revealed?
(Isaiah 53:1)

The Letter to the Church at Pergamos in Revelation and the Pergamon Altar to Zeus


"I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. 
Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith
even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, 
who was killed among you, where Satan dwells."
Revelation 2:13

        A symbol of great evil sits on Museum Island in Berlin: the Altar of Zeus taken from Pergamos in Asia Minor. Discovered by the German archaeologist Carl Humann circa 1880, the Pergamon altar served as the inspiration of Albert Speer for the Nuremberg stadium (the Zeppelinfeld) used by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. It served as part of the design for Lenin's tomb. And, perhaps unaware of the reference in Revelation Chapter two to this temple, an American president was so impressed by it when he visited Germany that he had a copy made for his inauguration in 2008 at Denver. 
        In recent times many have taken note of the strange reappearance of the symbolism of Zeus in Europe with depictions of Europa riding the Bull (Zeus) on coins, on postcards, on magazine covers, in live performance at the opening ceremony of the European games, and on sculptures outside of the E.U. headquarters in Strasbourg and in Brussels as well. Europe has indeed been swept away in a new Union that seems to be, in a futile attempt, trying to build another tower of Babel.
        Why was this ancient Greek altar called the "throne of Satan" by Jesus Christ in His letter to the church of Pergamos? It was Antiochus Epiphanes who, in the second century BC, killed more than a million Jews attempting to force them to worship Zeus... a god of thunder, lightening and clouds... just as was the false god Baal of Old Testament times. Thus the ancient equation was that Baal and Zeus were one and the same.  It was Pompey who killed perhaps ten thousand priests in putting down a rebellion because he put the eagle (symbol of Roman Jupiter who is simply the Roman version of the Greek god Zeus). Ultimately Hadrian would build a temple to Jupiter in Jerusalem in place of the Jewish temple that had been earlier destroyed by Titus (AD 70).
         In literary references to Pergamos, there were de­scriptions of a great altar that was dedicated to Zeus.  As the pyramids in Egypt and the temple of Artemis in Ephe­sus, the Altar of Zeus at Pergamos stood out as a major territorial landmark.  Contained within an ancient let­ter, in which the Roman writer Ampelius compiled a list of inter­esting things for his friend Macrinus, the "Altar of Perga­mon is mentioned also among the world won­ders."[1]
        After having repelled Antiochus of Syria with help from the Romans in 190 B.C., Eum­enes II erected the enormous temple complex and dedicated it to "Zeus Soter and Athena Nice­phoros."[2]  On the base of the gigantic Altar of Zeus were frieze plates depicting the mythical battle between the gods and the giants.[3]  They are locked together in combat and slightly bowing or kneeling toward Olympian Zeus depicted on the platform above them. All of these figures were sculpted lar­g­­­er than the size of a hu­man.  The roll call of pagan divin­i­ties depicted here is quite astounding.  Aphrodite, Otus, Porphyrion, Artemis, Moira, Nereus, Phoebe, Tityus, Alcyone­us, Triton, Dione, Nyx, Hec­ate, Oceanus, Tethys, Nerius Doris, Amphitrite, Dionysus, Rhea, Adrasteia, Eos,Hephaestus, Helios, Theia, Selene, Aether, Hyperion, Themis, Asteria, Leto, Apollo, Hercules, Zeus, Nike, Athena, and others were carved into the massive frieze plates.[4]  The frieze at the base of the altar was over 370 feet long.[5]  Many of these plates were removed in the tenth cen­tu­ry to build a defen­sive wall against the Moham­medans.[6]  From the time of that siege until Humann's spade work in 1878, the acropo­lis of Pergamos was known to the world through liter­ary sources alone.
        Because of the shape of the colossal altar, like that of a giant throne, even non-Christian writers have identi­fied it with the "throne of Satan" refer­ence of Reve­lation 2.[7]  Barclay wrote of the impression that this huge altar must have made in the days of John:

            All day long this altar smoked with the smoke of count­less sacrifices to Olympian Zeus.  It dominated the city.  No one could fail to see it; the eye of anyone living in Pergamos was drawn to it.  As it stood there on its jutting ledge on the hillside, it would look like nothing so much as a great seat or throne.[8]

Satan was re­ceiving worship at Pergamos through the sacri­fic­es at the giant altar and the attendant immorali­ty at the adjacent temple to Athena. Nike, after all, was depicted standing in Athena’s hand with the laurel of victory outstretched—as at Athens, so at the Pergamene temple. The Nicolaitanes (which literally means "the people of Nike" or "the people of victory") were simply those who participated in these sacrifices to idols and the attendant immorality.
        Antiochus Epi­phanes pro­faned the temple area at Jerusalem by dedi­cating it to Zeus.[9]  The Roman eagle, sym­bol of both the empire and the god Jupi­ter (who is synon­y­mous with Zeus), was raised in Jerusalem from the time of Pompey.[10]  In the days of Vespasian and Titus, the temple at Jerusalem was des­troyed; and later the temple precinct was dedicated to Jupi­ter.[11]  Thousands of Jews died each time the pagans imposed the worship of Zeus in the temple of Jerusalem .  It should be no won­der that the greatest struc­ture dedi­cat­ed to this god, situated at Pergamos, was called the throne of Satan by the Lord Je­sus.  Was it merely ironic that the Altar of Zeus from Per­gamos was moved, stone by mono­lithic stone, to the Ber­lin museum in the 1930s by Hitler's regime?­[12]
        Pergamos was a type of the kingdom of Satan in this present world, a place where professing Christians were led astray by the satanic doctrine that rationalized fornication and idolatry.  The Lord warned them to repent.  Possibly some did.  Those who did not fell into the category of apos­tates that John defined in 1 John 2:19: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." 
        The Lord Jesus exhorted those in Pergamos, as did the writer of Hebrews in the face of apostasy in Hebrews 6:12, to be "followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."  In this capital of Asian idolatry where they were dwelling, they were to be light that exposed the evil.  They were to stand, as did Antipas, against all of the wor­ship and works of darkness.



        [1]Evamaria Schmidt, The Great Altar of Pergamon. (Boston: Boston Book and Art Shop, 1965), p. 5.
        [2]A. W. Lawrence, Greek and Roman Sculpture (Lon­don: Jonathon Cape, 1972), p. 227.
        [3]Lawrence, p. 227.
        [4]Schmidt, pp. 35-37.
        [5]Pierre Devambrez, Greek Sculpture (New York: Tu­dor Pub., 1961), p. 161.
        [6]Schmidt, p. 5.
        [7]Guy Dickens, Hellenistic Sculpture (College Park, Md.: McGrath, 1971), p. 12.
        [8]Barclay, p. 44.
        [9]Peter C. Green, Alexander to Actium: The Histori­cal Evolution of the Hellenistic Age (Berkeley: University of California , 1990), p. 516.
        [10]Green, p. 524.
        [11]Uuras Saarnivaara, Can the Bible Be Trusted?: Old and New Testament Interpretation (Minneapolis: Osterhus, 1983), p. 595.
        [12]Schmidt, p. 6.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Museum of the Bible Coming Soon to DC


From Wikepedia:
The Museum of the Bible is a museum being constructed in Washington D.C. documenting the narrative, history and impact of the Bible. The museum is set to open in November 2017.[1] The Museum Collection claims to have amassed one of the largest assemblies of biblical artifacts and texts in the world through collaborations between private donors, institutions and other museums.[2]
The Museum is non-sectarian, non-political, and claims it will not proselytize.[3] The president of the Museum of the Bible, Cary Summers noted, "Our goal is straightforward: reacquaint the world with the book that helped make it, and let the visitor come to their own conclusions. The Museum of the Bible is a global education institution that invites all people to engage in the Bible. We don’t exist to tell people what to believe about it".[3]

History
The Bible Museum was established as a nonprofit in 2010.[2] The museum’s building location and design were announced in 2012 when the Green family purchased a warehouse two blocks from the National Mall that used to be the Washington Design Center in Washington, D.C.[4][5] The estimated $400 million dollar project is updating the historically protected structure as well as adding two additional floors and a rooftop cafĂ© and garden. The building's 1923 original red brick, architecture and ornamentation was restored to original condition, with new brickwork imported from Denmark. The primary building was awarded historical status by the District's Historic Preservation Review Board.[6][7][8][9] The glass-enclosed rooftop will offer views of the United States Capitol, the Washington Monument and several Smithsonian museums. The construction efforts have been led by Clark Construction, a nationally renowned building and renovation firm. Previous projects include the White House Visitors Office and several Smithsonian museums. The architectural design team is led by SmithGroupJJR, whose portfolio also includes several Smithsonian museums as well as the International Spy Museum.[9]

Projected Exhibits
The exhibitions will offer a scholarly perspective on the impact of the Bible in history.[10] Bible scholar David Trobisch director of the museum's collections will advise on new acquisitions, identify the storylines for the museum's exhibits and supervise a team of 30 scholars and curators.[11][12] Indiana Wesleyan University professor Jerry Pattengale will serve as Executive Director of Education Initiatives.[13] The Museum also has an external board of advisors, and works with Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, and other religious and secular institutions.[3]
Each of the 6 floors in the museum will contain a different exhibit which emphasizes different aspects of the Bible’s history or impact. This includes three permanent exhibit floors, each measuring 55,000 square feet (5,100 m²).[9] The first floor will combine ancient artifacts with modern technology to immerse the participant in the Bible. The front entrance on 4th Street SW features 40-foot (12 meter) tall, 2.5 ton (2,300 kg) bronze front doors with stained glass art containing a relief depicting the creation account in Genesis.[9][14] There is also a grand lobby with a 200-foot (60 meter) LED ceiling allowing for changing visual effects and messages.[9] The second floor will focus on the Bible’s impact on world culture and history. The third level will present the general narrative of the Bible from Abraham through the creation of Israel to the ministry of Jesus and the early church. This floor will also contain a large Jewish Bible section. The fourth floor will present biblical history and archaeology. The curators of the Museum of the Bible have stated that this section will not try to twist secular archaeology to support passages in the Bible, but will rather present the facts and let the viewer decide on accuracy. The fifth level will contain a performing arts theater with a 500 person amphitheater. The museum plans to sponsor scholarly lectures as well as multimedia performances relating to the Bible. The fifth floor will also contain separate exhibit space for displays presented by the Israel Antiquities Authority. Level six will contain rooftop viewing areas overlooking the National Mall and U.S. Capitol, stained glass exhibits and a ballroom that seats 1000 guests.[2][14][9] The museum's artifact research facility and reference library will be located in a one-story addition to the roof of a neighboring office complex.[9]
....
Museum of the Bible on Twitter

Museum of the Bible site

Monday, March 13, 2017

THE AMOUNT OF TIME BETWEEN THE CRUCIFIXION AND THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST




Often around Easter questions will arise in the minds of those celebrating the anniversary of Christ's death and resurrection. Did Jesus Christ rise from the dead "on the third day" or "after three days" according to the New Testament? Did He eat the Passover meal or was the Last Supper held before Passover? On what day of the week was the Crucifixion of Jesus? All of these questions, and others as well, are related to the issue at hand...

Here are a couple of papers (free .pdf files) that I have written over the years. The short version was published (2007) as an appendix in Broadman's Harmony of the Gospels for the Holman Christian Standard Version of the Bible:

 For those inquiring minds that have other questions, here is a link to a much longer .pdf with quite a few charts. This was a seminar paper that I wrote in the early 90's for a New Testament seminar on the Gospels: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B99EMvYSo6G0aFZlYjZ5M3hCSG8