Peter’s Advice on the Prophetic Word

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:16-19)

This is an amazing piece of text by the apostle Peter. Can you imagine being Peter, witnessing all the miracles Jesus performed, seeing the Holy Spirit ascending on Jesus like a dove, literally hearing the voice of God come out of heaven twice (both at the baptism and at the transfiguration), seeing Jesus in all His glory at the transfiguration, seeing the empty tomb, sticking His fingers in the nail prints, seeing Jesus go back up to heaven? And what does Peter say here?! Oh well, that’s all fine and dandy, but I tell you that the prophetic word is even a better testimony than me being an eyewitness! Crazy!! The prophetic word, which prophesied all the things which Peter witnessed up close, has come true indeed, which means that all the other prophecies are thereby also validated to be sure to be fulfilled as written. And this is amazing news! And what is Peter’s instruction? To pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. In other words, we are commanded to invest time in figuring out all the prophetic words because they will bring light in a dark place, comfort and joy where there is not, and it confirms and builds our hope until our hope is fulfilled at the end.

Amazing!

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Acts #2 – A Mighty Rushing Wind

Pentecost and Leaven
It is the day of Pentecost, which is not only one of the seven Feasts of Israel, it is also one of the three feasts which requires that every able-bodied Jewish male was required to in in Jerusalem. This means that Jerusalem was crowded with people from all over to celebrate this feast. Now without going into an extensive study on the feast of Pentecost, it may be a good idea to give some background to get a better picture. The first three feasts are in the spring, which are Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Firstfruits. The last three feasts are in the fall, which are the Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. In the middle there is the Feast of Pentecost (meaning the fiftieth day), which is 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits. Each feast has a ceremonial role, a historic commemorative role, and also a prophetic role. Without going into much detail, the first three feasts were prophetic to Jesus’ First Coming (respectively, His death, His burial and His resurrection). The last three feasts are prophetic to Jesus’ Second Coming.

The Feast of Pentecost is prophetic for the birth of the Church (being the spiritual Body of Christ). It is described in Leviticus 23:15-17, which says: “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the Lord.” Now you have to be aware of Jewish customs to notice something peculiar here, namely that the breads are baked with leaven. All the other Jewish feasts and offerings are dealing with unleavened bread. In Exodus 12:15; 12:19-20; 13:7 it is actually described that leaven should be removed from the house during these feasts, except for Pentecost. The idea of leaven is always used negatively for the reason that leaven corrupts the dough by puffing up and is therefore symbolic for sin. So, the symbol for the Church is leaven. Now it is said that this is because the Church is not perfect (yet who is!), but I think it also has something to do with the fact that the Church are Gentiles, which are considered unholy from a Jewish viewpoint.

The Holy Spirit is Coming
Now all the disciples (about 120) were all gathered in one place, which is mostly likely the upper room where they were regularly met, and is most likely close to the temple grounds (for we will see that they will be baptizing 3,000 new believers soon – which would be quite hard in the upper room). Now, in John 3:8 Jesus makes reference to the Holy Spirit as wind, but it seems that this wind is much wilder. So strong that it causes attention throughout the town. When they are filled with the Holy Spirit they are speaking in tongues, but this must not be seen as a gift of the Spirit (as in 1 Corinthians 14), but must be translated as speaking in other languages as they were understood by various people present in Jerusalem. Could the fact that they could all understand each other have something to do with lifting the curse of Babel? Who knows… Now there 16 countries listed here which are present in Jerusalem, but I assume more countries are actually represented for Pentecost is one of the mandatory festivals and it mentions men “from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5)

Peter’s First Sermon
Peter’s sermon answers their question, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12), and it’s is a very intricate masterpiece. We also see here that the Holy Spirit is indwelling Peter. In the Gospels Peter is often speaking without thinking, but here he is being skillful and elegant. Although the sermon answers the question about what does this [the Holy Spirit] mean, it is in fact not a sermon about the Holy Spirit, but about Jesus, the Son of God. It is important to recognize that Peter is addressing the Jews here. The sermon is built on three sections of the Old Testament, namely Joel 2:28-32, Psalm 16:8-11 and Psalm 110:1.

The Foretelling of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32)
Peter picks out a section of the Old Testament which is not the earliest nor the latest, but the most crisp passage on the promise of the Holy Spirit. Interesting detail maybe is that whilst in “our” Bible this section of Scripture is part of the second chapter, in the Hebrew Bible this section gets its own chapter and thus stands out quite a bit. This section of the promise of the Holy Spirit is followed by some end-time prophecy. Peter speaks of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as what was prophesied by Joel, but he also implies that not the complete prophecy has come to pass yet. The start of this section will probably shock every Jew as Peter says that God will pour His Spirit on all flesh (meaning also the Gentiles!). Furthermore, the idea of prophesying is no longer limited to the prophet (as they were used to having a prophet and a priest), but that it will be made available to everybody. Verse 19 and 20 obviously speaks about end-time prophesy as this clearly hasn’t happened yet. In Matthew 24:29-31 Jesus says that “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” It may be that one of the reasons that Peter includes this prophecy which is still to come because he wants to get to the closing line which says that “it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21), which give him the opportunity to say that “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know – this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 22-24)

Hope of Everlasting Joy (Psalm 16:8-11)
Peter then moves on by using a psalm by David to be used as a prophecy of Jesus, where it first talks about life (Psalm 16:8,9a), then death (Psalm 16:9b, 10) and then resurrection (Psalm 16:11). Peter’s point here is that this cannot apply to David for “he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.” (Acts 2:29), but that Jesus is “exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out” (Acts 2:33). Peter’s central theme is the study of the person of Jesus Christ: His role, mission, character, and nature of the Messiah.

Sit at My Right Hand (Psalm 110:1)
Peter’s final verse is to point out that David’s body did not ascend into heaven, but that it is Jesus who ascended back into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father until He makes His enemies His footstool. Jesus Himself refers to this same verse in the Psalms. Notice that it says “until.” Christ’s enemies will definitely be made His footstool. What a great promise!

What’s the Point?!
Peter has now quoted from three portions of the Old Testament, building his sermon on Jesus Christ. The result? The Jews were cut to the heart and ask Peter what to do. Peter’s answer? “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). In the subsequent verse Peter says that this call is not only for Israel, but also “for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:39)

Acts #1 – Final Preparations

Some Background
Although not explicitly stated, the writer of this book is Luke, who also wrote the Gospel according to Luke. Both books are also written to the same person, Theophilus. Now there are some speculations as to who Theophilus was. His name means ‘lover of God,’ but this may have been a nickname. One speculation states that both Luke volume 1 (the Gospel) and Luke volume 2 (Acts) were written as official documentation for Paul’s appeal to Rome. As a Roman citizen Paul was allowed to hand in written documentation in defense of his arrest. Considering the title of Theophilus (most excellent – which is a title generally used for a Roman official), he could have been the official who prepared the necessary appeal documentation. In defense of this speculation it is said that the book of Acts never shows Paul as an instigator of the riots (not even with Stephen’s murder) and that also throughout the book the Romans are never portrayed as the bad guys. So, both the gospel according to Luke and the book of Acts are written by the same person, to the same person, but also with the same subject, namely Jesus Christ. Yes, the Holy Spirit is very prominent, but as is consistent with His mission He bears only testimony of the Son, Jesus Christ (John 15:26). The book of Acts is the transition between the Kingdom message and the Church. The Kingdom was offered to Israel first, but they rejected it, which opened the door to the Gentiles. The book of Acts is the continuing story of God’s plan and promise to all flesh, not just Israel or the Church. If the book of Acts is the transition between the Kingdom and the Church, then the book of Revelation is the transition between the Church and the Kingdom.

Forty Days of Ministry
The book of Acts is the only place where it mentions the exact number of days between the resurrection and the ascension, namely 40 days (Acts 1:3). In those days Jesus was talking to His disciples about the Kingdom of God. Some of these accounts are recorded in the Bible, such as the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18) and the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), but I can only imagine how great it must have been to sit in on those private Bible studies where Jesus is explaining the Kingdom of God.

Jesus also told them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come. It is not that the Holy Spirit is making His first appearance in Acts for He is already there from the beginning in Genesis 1:2. But there are some special considerations regarding the Holy Spirit’s appearance in Acts 1:2 besides the fact that He will baptize (indwell) the Body of Christ (not just those who happen to be there!) on Pentecost. This has to do with what Jesus said to His disciples in John 16:7, where He says: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.“. Here Jesus implies that He and the Holy Spirit basically cannot be there at the same time (which has nothing to do with His omnipresence, for at Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit is there), but this is maybe a topic for another blog.

The Ascension
At the ascension the disciples ask Jesus whether He is going to restore the Kingdom to Israel, which was a natural question to ask as a lot of the Old Testament prophesies were pertaining the restoration of the Kingdom. The Jews however were thinking about a political kingdom and that Jesus would overthrow the Roman oppression and rule Israel. Yet Jesus was talking about a totally different Kingdom. The Jews did not know of His plans, nor where they really equipped for what was coming. Jesus’ answer was that it was not for them “to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8). Notice the small difference between what Jesus says here and in Matthew 24:34 or Mark 13:32 where He says: “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). The verses in both Matthew and Mark say that no one knows, not even the Son (Jesus). Yet here in Acts, Jesus does not mention Himself to not know. Was Jesus informed by the Father between then and now, in the three days maybe between His death and resurrection? It could be accidental, but I don’t think that anything in God’s plan is accidental. Still, it is conjecture.

Notice also that Jesus does not cancel the Kingdom of Israel. It is about timing, not an event. In Matthew 10:5-6, Jesus sends His disciples on a small field trip with the following instruction: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This is in complete contrast to the mission He is about to send them on in Acts, which is to go not only go to Jerusalem and Judea, but then also to Samaria and to the end of the world, which are the Gentiles. The Kingdom message was first exclusively for Israel. John 1:11 says that Jesus “came to His own, and His own people did not receive him.“. Israel rejected Him, and Jesus “drew near and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.’” (Luke 19:41-44). Because of this Israel has been set aside for a time, for Romans 11:25 says that “a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” The Book of Acts is a transition between the Kingdom message, which is the primary thing we see in the Gospels, and that mystery which is called the Church. Then the book of Revelation is going to be a transition from the Church (chapters 2-3) back to the Kingdom.

The Two Men
Who are the two men? A topic of wide debate. Are they Moses and Elijah (like with the transfiguration)? Are they the same two men who accompanied the Lord in Genesis 18 with Abraham? Are they the two witnesses in Revelation 11? In any case they give an interesting prophecy that Jesus will come back the same way as He went, of which Zechariah 14:4-9 says, “On that day His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to o the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.

The Upper Room
The rest of the chapter deals with the disciples going back to the upper room to pray, and to find a replacement for Judas to complete the eleven remaining apostles. After casting lots (which is a biblical principle – see Proverbs 16:33) they chose Matthias as the new twelfth apostle. There are scholars who say that choosing Matthias was a big mistake, and that Peter (like in the Gospels) was speaking to quickly here. The reason being that Paul (Saul) would be the twelfth apostle, and that’s the reason why Paul in nine of his fourteen epistles is beginning with defending his apostleship.