Monday, February 27, 2012

In Memory of Lt. Lynn "Buck" Compton

Lt. Lynn "Buck" Compton was commander of 2nd Platoon of Easy Company in the 506th PIR, 101 Airborne - the "Band of Brothers."

He died February 25, 2012 at the age of 90.

Marcus Botherton, who wrote "Call of Duty" with Compton. has written a very nice tribute to him here.

Compton was a true hero in my book. He volunteered to serve his country in World War II. He came home, raised a family, and served the people of Los Angeles, California as a public servant.

My prayers go this children and grandchildren as they "grieve with hope" the death of one of God's saints and look forward to a happy reunion in heaven, with all who fall asleep in Jesus.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Gospel of Jesus: Part 5

The Gospel of Jesus Christ:
… He was born – to be our substitute;
… He lived the perfect life – to be our righteousness by faith;
… He died – to earn the forgiveness of all sin;
… He rose from the dead – that we too might rise from the grave one day; and
… He ascended with the promise to return and give all believers in Christ eternal life in heaven.

The Ascension – Acts 1:6-11

Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday – “the first day of the week.”

For the next forty days, Jesus appeared to his disciples (“The Twelve”) and other followers 11 times.
On the first Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to (1)Mary Magdalene – Mk. 6:9-11; Jn. 20:11-18, (2)to the other women – Mt. 28:9-10, (3)to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus – Mk. 16:12-13; Lk 24:13-32, (4) to Peter – Lk. 24:33-35; 1 Cor. 15:5), and (5)10 of the original 12 disciples (Judas is dead and Thomas is absent) – Mk. 16:14; Lk. 24:36-43; Jn. 20:19-25.

Then, over the course of the next 39 days, Jesus appeared to (6) 11 of the original 12 disciples – Thomas is now present – Jn. 20:26-31; 1 Cor. 15:5. (7)He appeared to 7 of the original 12 on the shore of Galilee – Jn. 21. (8)He appeared to over 500 followers on a mountain side in Galilee (The Great Commission) – Mk. 16:15-18; Mt. 28:16-20; 1 Cor. 15:6, (9)he appeared to James -1 Cor. 15:7, (10)and he to his followers in Jerusalem to follow up on the Great Commission – Lk. 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8.

(11)The last appearance is on Mt. Olivet when Jesus ascended – on the 40th day after the resurrection – Mk. 16:19-20; Lk 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12.

As Jesus and the disciples were walking out of Jerusalem, down through the Kidron Valley and up the Mount of Olives (maybe stopping for rest in Gethsemane), they talk.

Luke records one last question from the disciples. It is about the restoration of Israel.

“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

That the Kingdom is to be restored is taken for granted by the disciples. But what exactly to they mean? It could mean that (1) they are looking for a new world order, since Jesus died and rose again, they may be expecting Jesus to now sweep away the old order of things. It might always mean that (2) they are looking for a  political kingdom headed up by Jesus.

This second idea seems the less likely, especially if they had been paying attention to Jesus for the last three years. If they had been, they would have understood that Jesus is not like any other king and his kingdom is “not of this world” (as he told Pontius Pilate).

Jesus’ answer to them is for us as well. By Jesus’ answer, we can see that they were asking the wrong question. Jesus gets them back on track to what they really need to be doing.

Jesus doesn’t really answer their question. “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” What Jesus is basically saying is that it isn’t their concern, that it isn’t any of their business. They have something else to concern themselves with, other business to attend to.

Jesus alludes to Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came on the disciples in a special way ten days later. There would be power in knowing when the Kingdom would be restored to Israel, to be sure. Jesus tells them that they will receive different power. Power to be witnesses.

martyr – A witness in a legal sense. A spectator of anything, for example, of a contest in an ethical sense.

Jesus calls them – and us – to be witnesses. Jesus had two words available to him to use here. He could have called them “heralds” (ka'rux). A “herald” is a messenger vested with public authority and who coveys the official messages of kings, magistrates, princes, military commanders, or those who give public summons or demands. This is what St. Paul calls himself in 1 & 2 Timothy. St. Peter calls Noah this.

But Jesus calls his disciples – and us – to be witnesses, not so much heralds. The Greek word becomes the basis of the English word “martyr” but Jesus isn’t tell them to be martyrs in the English sense of the word.

Jesus is telling them to tell their story about him. They will be witnesses of all that Jesus did. They saw it all, from his baptism (in the case of John and Andrew) to his death (John and some of the women) to his resurrection to his very-soon-to-be ascension. Not every disciple saw everything Jesus did (e.g., none of them were around when he was tempted). But all that Jesus did and said was heard by at least one of the disciples (for example, Mary was present at Jesus birth (!) and told Luke and Matthew about it. Jesus has promised them that the Holy Spirit would “bring to … remembrance all that” Jesus said to them (John 14:26).

More on this in Part 3.

After Jesus says this, and while the disciples were looking at Jesus, he doesn’t disappear. The previous nine post-resurrection appearances have Jesus simply appearing and, presumable, disappearing instantly. Not this time. While they are still looking at him, he was “lifted up” into the sky. They watched him ascend into the sky until a cloud “took him out of their sight.”

This is significant in that this is the way Jesus will return on the Last Day. He won’t just “appear.” Jesus will descend from the sky (more on this in Part 2).

While they watched Jesus ascended, two men in white robes appear next to them. As Jesus disappears from sight speak. “Men of Galilee” – they are addressed as such because they were all from Galilee. Judas was the only one from Judea.

These two men – we presume they are angels – are not so much rebuking the disciples for looking up into heaven, where Jesus has gone. The question draws their attention back to earth, for much the same reason that Jesus didn’t answer their question about the restoration of the kingdom. These two men are, in their way, reminding them that they do have things to do.

The two men make the statement that Jesus will return in the same way as they saw him go. He will come down from heaven and he will be seen as he comes back down from heaven on the Last Day. The implication here is that they will not miss Jesus return. They saw him go, and they will see him come back.

That’s what St. Paul picks up in 1 Thessalonians 5.

Part 2
The Ascension: Jesus Returns – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Last week, I said that “asleep” was a euphemism for “death.” It is, but it is so much more. It is believed by scholars (by which I mean that I have no direct evidence this is true other than scholars saying it) that pagans called death “sleep.” But after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, “sleep” or “asleep” carries with it all that Christ did to make it merely sleep for a believer in Christ. It also carries with it the awesome implied meaning that a believer in Christ who has “fallen asleep” will wake up one day!

St. Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus (Silas) – the “we” in verse 13 (see 1:1) – are writing to the believers in the Greek city of Thessalonica. Paul had been to this city on his second missionary journey, but only a very brief time before heading on to Athens. He was concerned about the new church and sent Timothy to encourage them and apparently wrote this letter, along with Timothy and Silvanus, in response to the report that Timothy came back with.

One of the concerns Paul had was a question the Thessalonians had about what happens to believers when they die. Building on the teachings of the Great Resurrection Chapter (1 Corinthians 15, see Session 4) Paul encourages them with the Good News about what Jesus’ resurrection means to all believers.

Paul reiterates that Jesus did die and did rise again from the dead. Because of our faith in this (“since we believe”) we can also have faith in the face that God will raise all believers in Christ.

This is “a word from the Lord.” Paul words it this way to indicate that they are teaching all that Christ had revealed and taught about this subject of rising again

All other religions at the time led adherents to those religions to grieve, without any hope, the death of someone they love. There were very few active religions at the time that had some kind of “after life” for believers. The Roman and Greek pagan theology had an “afterlife” (Elysium for Greeks and Hades for the Romans) but this was of little hope to the new Christians at Thessalonica.

Paul encourages them that they can, indeed, have hope. Grieving is ok. They are not wrong – or worse, sinning – because they grieve. But because Jesus has conquered death with his own death and resurrection, they can now grieve with hope.

Paul immediately goes on to encourage them with what will happen to the dead “in Christ.”
When Jesus comes back (in the same what that he ascended – see above), not only will we who are alive see him, but also the dead will see him.

In fact, all the dead will see him. Not just those believers who died. All will be raised – though some will be raised to everlasting life and some to everlasting death in hell (see Matthew 25).

When Jesus comes back – on the Last Day, sometimes called “Judgment Day” – Paul repeats what the “two men” said at Jesus ascension. But he adds that there will be a “cry of command.” What command? Probably in references to John 5:28, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice  and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

This is preferable than to the idea that the “cry of command” is a reference to Revelation.

Paul says “archangel” and there is only one angel named as an archangel – Michael and not Gabriel. 

Artists have given us Gabriel as the archangel with the trumpet, but that is not Biblical.

Will it be a literal trumpet? The picture Paul paints is probably best seen as one of military allusions. The “cry of command” is what a charioteer would shout to his horses, a hunter to his hounds, or a shipmaster to his rowers (see Lenski, The Interpretation of First Thessalonians, p 334). The trumpet blast should be seen in the same way.

The order that Paul gives of what will happen is the order of what will happen to believers. All the dead will rise on the last day. But here’s what will happen to believers in Christ.

The “dead in Christ” will rise out of their graves, rise up out of the sea, and be reanimated from all the ashes from the cremations that have occurred. They will come to the surface of the earth and then we will be “caught up” with them and together rise up into the “clouds” (sky) to meet Christ in the air. This is the “rapture.” The word literally means “snatched away.”

Paul then closes this comforting section by saying that we will always be with the Lord.

Part 3
Encourage One Another With These Words
The Ascension of Jesus is a promise that Jesus will come back.
This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

St. Paul tells us to “encourage one another with these words.”

That’s the key for us. These words about Jesus ascension and return are for our encouragement.
But what often happens is not encouragement. It is confusion.

Dispensational Premillennialism.
Historical Premillennialism (Post-Tribulational PreMillennialism).

Going into detail of all these views is beyond the scope of this particular Bible study. But something has to be said.

The Bible talks about the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ quite a bit. Daniel and Ezekiel are the prominent Old Testament books that deal with it. Jesus teaches about it at the end of his ministry, recorded in Matthew 24 & 25. Paul references it in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 & 5. But of course, the main source is the Book of Revelation.

Revelation requires its own Bible study and takes a long time to cover.
So, is there a simple answer to the question, what is the Biblical teaching about the 2nd Coming of Christ?

Yes. It is “Amillenialism.”

That means that Jesus will come back as the disciples saw him go into heaven. We will meet him in the air. He will judge “the quick and the dead.” Those who believe in him as savior will go to heaven. Those who rejected him will go to hell. This old earth will be destroyed by fire. A new heaven and a new earth will be created by God and that is where we will spend eternity.

This view is called “amillenialism” because there is no literal 1000 Year reign of Christ on earth.
In conclusion, any view that does not provide encouragement has to be looked at very closely and questioned. Because God’s Word says that the views given in the Scriptures for that very reason – to provide encouragement.

Heart Work

Acts 1:8
You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Thessalonians 4:14
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:17
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Revelation 22:20
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Gospel of Jesus: Part 4

The Gospel of Jesus Christ:
… He was born – to be our substitute;
… He lived the perfect life – to be our righteousness by faith;
… He died – to earn the forgiveness of all sin;
… He rose from the dead – that we too might rise from the grave one day; and
… He ascended with the promise to return and give all believers in Christ eternal life in heaven.

The Great Resurrection Chapter - 1 Corinthians 15 

Paul was converted to Christianity by a direct intervention from Jesus Christ. The story is found in Acts 9.

A man who was a violent enemy of the Church now has become its greatest evangelist!

He traveled to Corinth on his 2nd Missionary Journey. He wrote this letter – and possible three others (of which, only 2nd Corinthians survives) to the congregation in this Roman-Grecian City. The thought is that Paul wrote this letter while on his 3rd Missionary Journey but before he arrived at Corinth for a second visit.

It should be no surprise to us that Paul preached the Gospel to the people in Corinth. Obviously, the Holy Spirit blessed Paul’s efforts, as there is now a Christian congregation in the city.

The progression of the Gospel’s work in Corinth:
  1. Gospel Preached
  2. Gospel Received
  3. Gospel Is Where We Stand
  4. Gospel Is Saving
At the end of verse two is the point of this part of Paul’s letter and must have had a drastic effect on those reading it.

Unless you believed in vain.”

Is that a possibility? Is it possible that believing in the Gospel is worthless?

The answer is “yes” is one condition is met – the lack of a resurrection.

 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures….

While we have been learning the Gospels as “BLDRA” – Paul here focuses on just the “D” and the “R.”
While the entire Gospel is important, it hinges on the “D” and “R.” Without the “D” and “R” there is no Gospel and – as Paul will make the case for – we all believe in vain.

A key point for Paul – and for us – is that Christ died and rose “according to the Scriptures.” This phrase makes its way into the Nicene Creed. The “Scriptures” that Paul speaks of, however, are our “Old Testament.” The New Testament was in the early stages of actually being written when Paul wrote this letter.

Paul doesn’t indicate which “Scriptures” specifically – which is an indication in itself that Paul meant all Scripture.

But two passages come to mind.

Isaiah 53:12
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Psalm 16:8-11
I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

It is the resurrection of Jesus that is Paul’s point at this juncture of his letter.

A word about the purpose of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: After Paul left Corinth the first time, the members of the church apparently began to lose sight of the reason they were a Church. They – like many today – broke into factions. They also fell into some pretty gross sins (one guy decided that his Christian freedom allowed him to marry his step-mother). Paul writes about several subjects in this letter to correct the false teachings of the church – the Lord’s Supper, Worship, Use of Spiritual Gifts, - but the key subject of this letter is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the key element to the Gospel. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, nothing else matters.

5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 

The members of the Corinthian Church – presumably – have not direct contact with the evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, just as we do not. They, like us, have to rely on the witness of those who were there.

Paul starts  with Cephas (Peter).

Paul probably has in mind John 20, when Jesus “reinstates” Peter with “feed my sheep/lambs” three times (to overturn Peter’s three-fold denial of Christ).

Then Paul talks about all the Disciples (the “Twelve”).

Paul uses the term “the twelve” to indicate the original disciples. They would have literally been “the eleven” because Judas committed suicide before the resurrection. However, Paul may also be indicating the restored “twelve” after Matthias is chosen to replace Judas.

Then Paul talks about an appearance to “over 500.”

The only event that is recorded in the Gospels that Paul might be referencing is the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28.

“Fallen asleep” is a euphemism for “die.” Paul’s point here is that the Corinthians can still talk to someone face-to-face who had a face-to-face encounter with the Risen Christ.

Paul mentions James next.

This is “James the Just,” not one of the original 12 (James the Greater and James the Lesser). This is also – probably – the brother of (or step-brother) of Jesus. James comes late to the party, not believing in Jesus as Savior until after the resurrection. But he goes on to be one of the early leaders (bishops) of the Jerusalem Church. Tradition tells us he was martyred by stoning shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Before Paul moves on to himself as a witness to the Risen Christ, he mentions “the apostles.

Again, no definitive explanation to who comprised this group. There are ideas floating around about this group included Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, etc. But this could also be the group of 70 (or 72) Apostles sent out on a missionary journey by Jesus in Luke 10.

8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Paul then mentions himself as one who can be considered a witness of the Risen Christ.

“One untimely born” is the translation of e;ktrwma. However, this might be misunderstood as Paul saying he also came late to the Christian party. The word in Greek actually means “an abortion, abortive birth; an untimely birth.” With this one, little word, Paul is making the case for the human state before Baptism.
In our natural human nature, as the Small Catechism teaches, we are born “spiritual blind, dead, and an enemy of God.”[Luther’s Small Catechism, CPH 1991, page 150]

R.C.H. Lenski goes a step further in his translation of this verse. “And last of all, as to the dead fetus, he appeared also to me” (RCH Lenski, Interpretation of First and Second Corinthians, Augsburg 1961, page 634).

Paul also enforces the fact that God is the one who is at work here. If anyone was disqualified to preach the Gospel, it would most certainly have been Paul. But by God’s grace – and by God’s grace alone – Paul is able to preach the Gospel. In fact, it doesn’t matter who preaches the Gospel.

 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Paul makes the claim that to say there is not resurrection of the dead, in general, then Christ is not risen.

If Christ is not risen, then …
Preaching is in vain.
Faith is in vain.
We misrepresent (lie about) God.
We are still in our sins.
Those who have died (and will die) will perish.
We are to be pitied.

 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

But the eye-witness testimony of hundreds of people testify to the fact that Christ is, indeed, raised from the dead.

And if Christ is raised from the dead, there must be a general resurrection of the dead. His “logic” is that since death came through one man (Adam) so also life comes through one man (Jesus).

The “firstfruits” (although plural, refers to Christ alone) means that there will be others – indeed, all – will follow.

And yes, all the dead will rise on the last day, not just believers in Christ.

But not all will be raised to everlasting life in heaven. Some will be raised to everlasting death (same word as parish) used before.

Believer in Christ will be raised to everlasting life in heaven with Christ.

How do we get that?

Our Connection via Baptism – Romans 6 
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

When Jesus was baptized, he put into the Sacrament of Baptism Himself (the Word of God) and gave Baptism its power.

When we are baptized, we were buried with Christ (that removes the sin) and raised with Christ (that gives us His righteousness – because the sin is now removed).

And now that we are raised and going to be raised on the last day, we can walk in newness of life today – but that is the topic for next week’s session.

Heart Work
Matthew 28:5-6
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
Romans 6:4
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
1 Corinthians 15:3a, 4
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: … that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 15:20
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Revelation 2:10
Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

No One Gets Out Alive

Today is Ash Wednesday - a reminder that “dust you are ashand to dust you shall return.”

This reminder will be in the form a little cross of ash on the forehead. The palm branches and leaves that ended the Church Season of Lent last year have been burned to ash and are now used to begin this year’s Church Season of Lent.
This dust – and all dust – reminds us that we are mortal. We will die someday. Well, probably. I mean, Jesus could come back before we die – and then there will be no more death for those who believe in Him as savior.

But the reality that I live today is that I will not get out of this life alive. And that’s ok, because for me, death is not the end. Jesus’ death was the end of my death. When my body ceases to live – when my heart stops beating and my brain stops waving – my eyes will close to this world and open to see Jesus. I will see – and live in - the new heaven and new earth. I will be with all those who fell asleep in Jesus.

In the mean time, I have been given a promise of life from Jesus Christ. He warned that “the thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.” But Jesus also promised us, “But I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV)

The ashes remind me that this life is not all there is. There is more to have, more to come.
The whole Season of Lent is a microcosm of life for the disciple of Jesus. We begin with a reminder of our mortality (and a great reminder to teenagers and young adults that we are only immortal for a limited time).

Then we quickly move on to a reminder that in this world we will face temptation. Many temptations, in fact, but they all come down to the same thing. We will be tempted by the devil (yes, he really exists. Jesus faced him down in the wilderness – recorded in Matthew 4). We will be tempted by the devil to question who we are and whose we are.

When the devil tempted Jesus he started two of the three temptations with the same words, “If you are the Son of God.” Right away, the devil was trying to cause doubt to rise in Jesus’ mind that He (Jesus) was who God said He was. A little over a month before this temptation, Jesus was baptized and heard the words from His Heavenly Father, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” But Jesus hadn’t had anything to eat since then. He was tired, hungry, exhausted to the point of collapse (as I’m sure I would be if I hadn’t eaten for 40 days).

That’s when the devil strikes. When we are riding emotional highs and also at the point of exhaustion, the devil will tempt us so that we try to convince ourselves that we are not really a child of God, we are not saved, we are not worthy of God’s love, and on and on.
But Jesus didn’t give in to this temptation of the devil. The weapon Jesus used to fight swordoff this temptation He gives to us.

“It is written….”

The Word of God. The Sword of the Spirit. This is the ultimate – and only – weapon we have to fight the temptation of the devil.
Pick up your sword, and get ready to fight … and win ... and live!