Category Archives: Biblical

ETS 2016 Reflections

Next week (Nov 15-17) the Evangelical Theological Society will convene in Providence, RI for their annual conference. The theme,“The Heritage of the Reformation,” celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation with the following plenary speakers: 

  • Gwenfair Adams, Associate Professor of Church History, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; editor of the Romans 1-8 volume in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series.
  • Timothy George, Founding Dean at Beeson Divinity School and General Editor of the Reformation Commentary series (also author of Theology of the Reformers)
  • Scott Manetsch, Professor of Church History, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Associate General Editor of the Reformation Commentary series (also author of the Oxford publication on Calvin’s Company of Pastors)

This will be my third consecutive meeting to attend and I am eagerly anticipating what will be a rewarding week of scholarship and discussion between friends I have not seen since last year in San Antonio.

As I wrote last year about my time in Atlanta for 2015, I wanted to do the same for 2016. Below are a few observations from the 2016 meeting that was held in San Antonio. Continue reading

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Reflections on Preaching the Apocalypse

On January 10, 2016 I began to preach through the Apocalypse. After forty-four sermons last night, July 2, 2017, I finished preaching the book.

For some time I debated on preaching the Apocalypse and felt that I would need about a year to prepare, read, and think. Twenty-two chapters of symbolic language, coupled with the various interpretative methods, makes this book notoriously difficult to interpret. Nonetheless, I felt that it would be a good exercise for myself as a pastor and my congregation.

Here are seven (let the reader understand) reflections from my time spent in the Apocalypse.

1. The book is not as difficult as I initially expected.

To be sure, the Apocalypse is difficult. The book is loaded with heavy symbolism and employs this symbolism to describe the unholy trinity (chps. 12-13) and the Christ (1:12-20; 5:5-7; etc.). Yet, these symbols find their fulfillment in various Old Testament passages. John expects his readers to be familiar with those images, which is suggested by how little he explains their meaning.

2. Many people bypass the seven churches in chapters 2-3 to get to the narrative.

We spent seven weeks on these churches, and it was a profitable time for our church. The Apocalypse was written for these churches to provide encouragement to remain steadfast against the opposition they faced from outside (Rome) and within (internal false teaching). Furthermore, there is the common refrain “to the one who overcomes” (Τῷ νικῶντι) that is revisited in the book, as well as the rewards given to the one who overcomes (cf. 2:7 and 22:2)

3. The one introduced in chapter 4 as “the one who sits upon the throne” is also the one to initiate the judgments upon the world.

There are many verbs in the passive that can be understood as the “divine passive,” which simply means that a certain action is done by God. There are several, but one that has resonated with me is from 13:5. The beast from the sea was given (ἐδόθη) a mouth to utter blasphemous words against God. I think the point of that is to remind the reader that even the unholy trinity is not beyond the sovereign control of the one who sits upon the throne. Continue reading

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MBTS Chapel with Thor Madsen

This past week I was on the campus of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for my most recent PhD seminar, and I had the privilege to, once more, attend chapel. On Tuesday Dr. Madsen, the PhD program director and wearer of many hats, preached from Revelation 14 and did not mince words or soften the message of The Apocalypse.

I encourage you to listen Dr. Madsen expound the entire chapter.

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Master Greek by Paul Hoskins

Paul Hoskins, Associate Professor of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has provided a helpful tool for students of New Testament Greek. Master Greek is a website devoted to helping students with their parsing.

It is interesting that many first year Greek grammars do not stress parsing in their homework exercises. They just ask the student to translate Greek sentences into English. Sooner or later, diligent Greek students figure out that they cannot produce an accurate translation without knowing how to parse the Greek words.

Now, without practice, your parsing skills get rusty and perhaps you grow to rely on Bible software to do all of your parsing. This is really unfortunate, because you become tethered to your Bible software and cannot really read the Greek text with any level of fluency. Many possible insights from the Greek text will become lost to your view this way.

This really is a helpful website for testing your parsing ability, but the best part is how easy it is to navigate. Hoskins wrote a helpful abstract on how to use Master Greek. Continue reading

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Where the Wild Animals Are

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On a recent episode of “Word Matters,” a podcast by Brandon Smith and Trevin Wax, the discussion was focused on the temptation scene in Mark’s Gospel. In comparison to the other Synoptic Gospels, the brevity of Mark’s temptation scene is almost breathtaking, especially when one considers both Matthew and Luke stretch their versions to include the dialogue between Jesus and Satan and are nearly five times longer. What Mark might lack in detail, he provides a seemingly obscure reference to wild animals being with Jesus in the wilderness.

I listened closely to what both Smith and Wax had to say about this verse because I am currently preaching through Mark on Sunday mornings and I had trouble determining what I thought was correct. There have been various interpretations to this, and Smith helpfully provides more of the popular ones. I was encouraged to hear Smith voice my understanding of this reference, especially when the commentaries I was able to reference suggested otherwise. I believe the reason Mark included the “wild animals” in his temptation scene was to point to a renewed creation in which the Christ would inaugurate at the end of the days.

I think it is important to remember that 1:1–15 comprises the first overall section of Mark’s Gospel. The description of John the Baptist baptizing people and the baptism of Jesus are meant to be compared to one another. John baptizes with water, the one after him will baptize with fire (v 8). The people from Judea and Jerusalem are coming to Mark to be baptized (5), Jesus comes for baptism as the perfect son of God who is obedient to his father (9). Continue reading

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Who Are the Angels of the Seven Churches?

On Sunday nights I am preaching through Revelation, and it has been a tremendously rewarding experience thus far. I hope to preach the entire book, but it will take perhaps more than a year (or longer) to do so. For all I know, we might not make it past chapter five simply because I still struggle with exactly how to handle preaching those chapters in light of my eschatological system. At any rate, time will tell.

In chapter one John is told to write to the seven churches which are in Asia (1:11), and this comprises chapters 2–3. When John turns to see the voice that spoke to him he sees one like a son of man standing in the midst of the seven golden lampstands (1:12–13). After the Lord comforts him and tells him not to fear, he is told to write all that he sees (1:19). The Lord then explains the mystery of the seven starts and the lampstands. He says the seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches (οἱ ἑπτὰ ἀστέρες ἄγγελοι τῶν ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησιῶν εἰσιν), which are the recipients of the letters in 2–3.

However, the question is over the exact identity of the ἄγγελοι for, as any Greek 1 student can tell you, ἄγγελος can mean either “angel” or “messenger.” Typically context provides the key to interpretation, but not so much here. When the ἄγγελος are the recipients of the letter in 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14 there is no further clarification provided. It seems that most translations take the route of “angel” (ESV, NASB, HCSB, KJV, NIV, ASV), but some choose “messenger” (ISV, Aramaic Bible in Plain English, GWT, Weymouth NT, Young’s Literal). Continue reading

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