The Church Did Not Begin at Pentecost

pentecost2Yesterday marked the church’s celebration-remembrance of Pentecost. And today in Belgium, we have a day off. Such a very spiritual land……or maybe not quite yet.

Anyways, there are a few different angles one could approach in remembering the importance of Pentecost. The angle of the pouring out of God’s Spirit on all flesh – male/female, young/old, Jew/Gentile. There is the aspect of empowering for mission that the rule and grace of Christ be made known to all peoples. Then there’s the common notion that the church began on that great day of Pentecost.

But that’s not right, is it? Continue reading

The Messianic Age Is Here!

We are currently working our way through a short summer series at Cornerstone called, ’55 for 5′. We are looking at Isaiah 55 over 5 Sundays. I have been pretty stirred about the series, as I love Isaiah and this particular chapter follows some direction of the Lord given to us a year ago from Isaiah 54:1-3.

Last week, I looked at vs1-3a. From it, I highlighted 3 points:

  • Vs1 – the invitation – Come
  • Vs2 – the question – Why?
  • Vs3a – the call – Listen

I also spent quite some time considering the imagery of water, wine, milk and bread (also giving out each of the items to 4 celebrated winners in our church!).

On Sunday, I’m moving on to look at vs3b-5. Continue reading

Jesus Fulfilling Israel’s Story

I just finished up N.T. Wright’s newest work, God and the Authority of Scripture: How to Read the Bible Today. I hope to soon post a book review, giving some overall thoughts on the book.

But, for now, I wanted to share one particular quote that I have really appreciated in the book, which makes two major points. The passage goes like this:

He [Jesus] was, in himself, the “true Israel,” formed by scripture, bringing the Kingdom to birth. When he spoke of the scripture needing to be fulfilled (e.g., Mark 14:49), he was not simply envisaging himself doing a few scattered and random acts which corresponded to various distant and detached prophetic sayings; he was thinking of the entire storyline at last coming to fruition, and of an entire world of hints and shadows now coming to plain statement and full light. This, I take it, is the deep meaning of sayings like Matthew 5:17-18, where Jesus insists that he has come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. (p42)

There are two points to note from these words above: Continue reading

Is Jesus Seated On David’s Throne? (Part 3)

Way back in December, I started a shorter series trying to consider whether or not Jesus is presently seated on David’s throne. It was based upon this question, as posted on a theological discussion site I frequent known as Theologica:

Is Christ currently occupying the throne of David in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7)? If not, in what sense does Christ reign now?

That’s the question, or questions, I’m trying to specifically consider within this series, which I believe will end out after a couple more posts following this one.

Up to this point, I have written two articles on the topic at hand:

  1. The first article mainly presents the backdrop to this particular discussion, while also considering some Old Testament background with the connection of all of this to the Messiah’s arrival onto the scene.
  2. The second article looks at what I consider one of the, if not the, central passage to show that Jesus is currently seated on the Davidic-Messianic throne. That passage is found in Peter’s Pentecost message, specifically Acts 2:22-36. In this sermon, Peter shows the connection between God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7 and the Messianic-prophetic psalm of Psalm 16, showing the fulfilment of both of these passages in the resurrection (and subsequent enthronement) of Jesus, the Messiah.

For me, as you can easily ascertain, I’m already convinced that Jesus is presently seated on David’s throne. He is Messiah and since He is presently reigning over all of heaven and earth, then He must also be seated on the Davidic-Messianic throne reigning over His Messianic people. Of course, not every knee has bowed, nor has every tongue confessed. But that will never negate who is the sovereignly seated Messiah and Lord over all.

But let’s look at another important passage in regards to this question. It’s found in the early chapters of Matthew’s Gospel:

And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel. (Matthew 2:6)

Now, in the first century, the New Testament writers would have usually been quoting from the Septuagint, that being the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures. That had become the standard text for Jews, especially for those scattered abroad.

But, interestingly enough, the Greek-Septuagint translation is a little different from the Hebrew Scriptures. Here is our English translation of the Hebrew, originally found in Micah’s oracles:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days. (Micah 5:2)

But, as Matthew quoted the Greek, we see an interesting emphasis in the passage. It’s found in the second half of Matthew 2:6: for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.

An interesting way to word it.

What’s so interesting? Well, I believe there is a great flow and connection between these two words: ruler and shepherd.

Of course! Think about the Old Testament rulers or kings. Think about David.

As king, David ruled the people of Israel. And, as king, David shepherded the people of Israel. Matter of fact, every single leader in Scripture is given the role of shepherd. They are called to oversee, lead and care for the people, the sheep. Thus, there is a huge connection between ruler and shepherd.

Are you starting to see the connection with Jesus, the Messiah?

When we turn to the life of Jesus, guess what? He comes as the good shepherd. And He spends a lot of time in John 10 telling how He is the good shepherd.

Look how another Old Testament prophet says it:

And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. (Ezekiel 34:23)

Jesus is the Son of David who came as the one Shepherd. I wonder if this Shepherd would happen to be seated on David’s throne as well? But let’s continue.

Not only that, but it’s also quite easy to establish Jesus as the ruling King. He is the one enthroned at the Father’s right hand ruling over all heaven and earth (see Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 1:20-23). This is what Peter emphasises in his first sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2, specifically in vs22-36. He concludes with these words: Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.

And Ezekiel would go on to also connect the Messiah’s shepherding role with His kingly rule:

My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. (Ezekiel 37:24)

Here is the promise of the one shepherd and Davidic-king. And Jesus comes with the obvious fulfilment as the one shepherd and the Davidic-ruling king.

So I wonder whose throne Jesus is really seated on?

Yet, the question might come: what does showing Jesus is both shepherd and ruling king prove about whether He is currently seated on the Davidic-Messainic throne? I’m fine to see this as something future, but I just cannot concede this is the current situation.

Well, for one thing, I said from the beginning that it’s not as easy as turning to a passage in Paul and saying, ‘There it is. A proof-text that Jesus is seated on David’s throne.’ No text explicitly states such, at least for our modern, twenty-first century mind. Yet, I believe it would be pretty clear to a first-century Jew what the New Testament taught about Jesus and whose throne He was seated on. I think the thread is woven through the New Testament.

But let’s also go back to Matthew 2:6. Who does it say Jesus will rule over and shepherd?

It says, ‘My people Israel.’

Interesting that the specific group of people that Messiah has come to rule over and shepherd is Israel.

Of course, I know the objections that will come. Jesus is currently seated at the Father’s right hand and ruling over all heaven and earth, as the Scriptures adamantly show. But, of course, this means nothing in regards to His role with Israel.

Well, I think there is a major problem with this approach. I don’t believe we are to somehow disconnect what Jesus is presently involved in at the Father’s right hand from His role with the promised Davidic-Messianic throne.

If Jesus is currently reigning over all heaven and earth, is He not also reigning over all Israel, whoever we believe Israel to be?

Is the One who proclaims Himself as the great shepherd, presently, not shepherding [His] people Israel?

Of course, for many out there, I understand that they would see a split between Israel and the church. They see two differing peoples here. And of course, it’s easy to guess I don’t fall into that camp. I see one people of faith in Christ. I see one group of sheep under the Shepherd’s care. I see one group of subjects being ruled by their benevolent King. And I’ll share some more why I believe this in the next article.

But, in quoting Micah, Matthew says that Jesus had come to shepherd and rule ‘my people Israel’. Is He not doing so? I don’t know how we could answer in the negative. It is quite clear that Jesus is the Messianic-Shepherd-Ruler, just as David was. Jesus is presently fulfilling the Davidic role to the T! And as such, He is seated on the promised Davidic throne that belongs to Him and Him alone.

Yes. I do believe the fulfilment of the initial promise in 2 Samuel 7 has been fulfilled in a greater way than first expected and understood, since it is also connected to the throne at the Father’s right hand. But I think that is how our God seems to regularly work. You know, He’s able to do far more than we could ask or think (see Ephesians 3:20).

So, to close, I admit as I have a few times already: there is no one verse to turn to that states something to this effect: Jesus is now seated on David’s throne. It’s not that simple, just as one cannot turn to one specific verse that says God is Trinity. But, what we can do is take the full scope of the teaching of Scripture, particularly focusing in on the New Testament in both cases, and we come to a healthy conclusion. There is a Triune God as Father, Son and Spirit. Jesus is seated on the Davidic-Messianic throne.

Peter preached Jesus was reigning of David’s throne by pointing to the fulfilment of two Old Testament passages. Matthew showed that the fulfilment had come upon us, relating it back to Micah’s words. It’s there because the new covenant Messianic age had been inaugurated in the birth, life, death, resurrection and enthronement of the Messianic-Shepherd-King.

There is only one throne for Jesus to sit on, the Davidic-Messianic throne. But, from an Old Testament perspective, we didn’t realise it was also at His Father’s right hand. But it is. And He is truly shepherding and ruling over His people, Israel.

Is Jesus Seated On David’s Throne (Part 2)

I thought I would be able to keep this short series to two posts, with the first installment here. But, in an effort to keep articles shorter and much easier to follow, as well as having much more arise on my heart as I read and study Scripture, I think I will have to move this to a multi-part series. How many parts? I don’t know. I was hoping three now, but it might be four or five. We shall see.

Some Recap

As a summary, the question I am particularly looking to answer is this:

Is Christ currently occupying the throne of David in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7)? If not, in what sense does Christ reign now?

For me, I am convinced the answer to this question is that, yes, Jesus is seated on the throne of David. But I am trying to show how I get there both biblically and theologically.

What’s the difference between the two. Well, I am looking to show from specific Bible passages why I believe Jesus is seated on David’s throne (hence, I will look at Acts 2:22-36 and others). But it’s not always as easy as quoting 1 Thessalippians 4:17 and saying, ‘There, see. The Bible says so.’ You have to kind of connect the dots across varying Bible passages. That’s the theological aspect of it all. I don’t want to complicate things (though I can do that), but it’s not always so simple for modern, 21st century, western Christians to see how the dots connect. Hence, the longer route I am taking in these posts.

[Note: I am aware that there is no book called Thessalippians, as stated above. I was seeing if you were awake.]

Therefore, in the first article, I laid some rather long-winded groundwork as to the Old Testament background in getting to the discussion about the Davidic throne. The framework for the Davidic covenant, and throne, starts back in 2 Samuel 7, the culmination of God’s covenant revelation from an Old Testament perspective.

In this covenant, we see the central promise of a son from David’s line. Specifically, we are told that two things would happen through this son, as outlined in 2 Samuel 7:12-13:

  1. God would establish the throne of this descendant’s kingdom forever.
  2. This son would build a house for Yahweh’s name.

These promises were to ultimately be fulfilled in the Messianic Son of David, He being the great hope of Israel. Jesus was the Messiah, or anointed one, to come. Not only that, but I also took time to demonstrate that David was actually the messiah of his day. How? He, too, was the anointed king called to lead and shepherd God’s people. He was a kind of type and foreshadowing of the great Messiah to come. Quite like the high priest of the Old Testament pointed to the great High Priest to come, Jesus.

Remembering David’s own messianic calling will have implications later on.

So, Jesus arrives on the scene as 1) the Messiah (or Christ), 2) the Son of David, and 3) the Son of Abraham. In Him was wrapped up the hope and expectation of Israel, at least those of Israel who understood God’s promises and did not turn a hard heart to the Messiah. As the divine Messiah, Jesus was here to fulfil the covenant promises of God.

But let’s move on the central discussion of this article, a particular passage.

The Central Passage

Now quite a few might disagree with me that Acts 2:22-36 is the central passage of this discussion. Of course, there are many other Scriptures one could consider, of which I plan to pull in some. But I hope to show why I believe this is one of the central passages in discussing whether Jesus is seated on David’s throne, if not THE central passage.

I know in the blogosphere world, it is not couth to post long passages of Scripture, but I shall do so here for the sake of having the whole text before us. These are Peter’s words at the feast of Pentecost, following the outpouring of God’s Spirit:

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: 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— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him [quoting Psalm 16],

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says [quoting Psalm 110],

“‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Again, the Spirit had just been poured out on all flesh – old and young, male and female. He was no longer limited to a select few of anointed ones. The Anointed One-Messiah, Jesus, would send this same anointing upon all of His people. And this outpouring, this baptism of God’s Spirit, was now available to all of Messiah’s people because Messiah was now reigning. But I start to get ahead of myself…

Within Peter’s sermon here, we see that he quotes from Psalm 16:8-11. After doing so, he helps his listeners to know that this psalm was not ultimately about that first messiah, David, if you will. Rather these words of David were more about the Messiah, Jesus. Peter then goes on to make this statement, which I believe is central in this central passage:

30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

Now, there are two possibilities of how to interpret and understand these two verses:

  1. David was a prophet >> Peter then makes somewhat of a parenthetical statement that God made a covenant oath to David that one of his descendants would be set on his throne >> Because David was a prophet, he spoke about the resurrection of the Christ in Psalm 16.
  2. David was a prophet >> Because he was a prophet and knew that God had promised to seat one of his descendants on his throne >> David therefore spoke about the resurrection of Christ [and obviously His subsequent enthronement to the right hand of the Father] as the fulfilment of seating one of his descendant on that Davidic throne.

Obviously, it would be easy to tell where I fall – into the second option. But why?

Well, I believe the second option is what Peter intended, and we can see this from a very slow and careful reading of vs30-31. But I also believe the verses that follow will help enlighten us more on this topic. But first, let’s carefully consider Acts 2:30-31:

30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

Of course, the first option I posed above is possible. Peter could simply be making three statements: 1) David was a prophet, 2) he knew and remembered God’s promise to him that his descendant would be seated on his throne and 3) being therefore a prophet, he foresaw and spoke about the reality of the resurrection of Christ in Psalm 16.

But, why insert that second statement in there – about the seating of his descendant on the Davidic throne – if Peter did not mean to connect it to the prophetic insight of David as found in the Messianic Psalm 16? It seems quite obvious that Peter is making a connection between God’s promise in 2 Samuel 7 (to seat on of his descendants on David’s throne) and the prophetic words in Psalm 16 (about Christ’s resurrection, which would then obviously lead to his subsequent enthronement). The whole context of vs30 and 31 flow together quite smoothly.

David was a prophet and, as he remembered the faithful covenant promises of God to seat a son of his on his throne, his prophetic insight came forth in Psalm 16 as it spoke about the Messiah’s resurrection and not being abandoned to Hades. Granted, David might not have fully understood all of the implications of such, as many Old Testament prophets would have found themselves in that arena. Still, nonetheless, Peter connects David’s prophetic insight with remembering the promises of God in that covenant in 2 Samuel 7 and prophesying about the Messiah’s resurrection in Psalm 16. Again, the two verses flow together and connect very well.

Peter is saying that Messiah is here, He has been resurrected and He is now seated on David’s throne, just as God had promised and just as David had prophesied.

Moving Along In This Central Passage

But if Peter’s words in vs30-31 are not enough evidence to convince one that Messiah is now presently seated on the Davidic-Messianic throne, then let’s continue to read on to vs33:

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

Now, how does this prove that Messiah is seated on the specific Davidic-Messianic throne? Well, we must note that, in their expectation of the Messiah, one of the anticipative hopes was that the era in which He would reign would also be an era when the Spirit would be poured out from on high.

Isaiah 32 starts out with these words:

Behold, a king will reign in righteousness…

Is it possible that Jesus is that king, right now, reigning in righteousness? I believe so. And Isaiah 32 goes on to state:

14 For the palace is forsaken,
the populous city deserted;
the hill and the watchtower
will become dens forever,
a joy of wild donkeys,
a pasture of flocks;
15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. (Isaiah 32:14-15)

The desolation and deserted nature of Jerusalem is prophesied. But what is a sign of its restoration – the pouring out of the Spirit from on high (vs15). And guess what happened at Pentecost? This very thing, which would bring about the restoration of God’s people, God’s city.

Again, in the last days, that being the Messianic Age, there was an expectation that the restorative Spirit would be given. And here was the reality of the Spirit being poured out. This was all connected to Joel’s own prophecy in Joel 2:28-32, as Peter had just expounded on in Acts 2:14-21.

Such was the dawning of a new age, the Messianic Age, the last days in which Messiah would reign and restore the people of Israel. And one of the great evidence pointers to such a Messianic restoration was the enthroning of Messiah, on the Davidic throne, so that He might pour out the Spirit from on high. This is what Peter exclaims has happened in Acts 2:33.

And lastly, the final words given by Peter, before his call to the people to repent and be baptised:

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2:36)

Here it is – Let all the house of Israel know. Peter is talking to His own people, the people for whom Messiah came. And what does He want them to know? That Jesus is both Lord and Messiah (Christ). He is ruling at the Father’s right hand and at the same time seated on David’s Messianic throne. He was right now fulfilling the covenant promises of God spoken long ago to the patriarch, David. Why? Because He was the reigning Messiah.

He has been enthroned as the prophets promised. There is no other Davidic-Messiah that was expected. Of course, this prophecy could be recognised as being fulfilled in a greater way now than was first expected. I bet David didn’t understand this fully, though He prophesied of it (back in both Psalm 16 and 110, as we said). And I don’t negate that all of Israel, in the national-physical sense, were in to recognising that Messiah was reigning. Yet, nevertheless, He was! And we are going to soon find out that Israel and Jerusalem was going to bust out of this land in the middle-east and head out to the ends of the earth.

And this passage in Acts 2:22-36 is a, if not the, central passage in showing that Messiah is reigning on David’s throne. It sits as such an important Scripture because it is centred right at the turning and dawning of the new covenant Messianic Age instituted by Messiah Himself. That is why I spend so much time on this one passage.

Some Concluding Words

Long ago, there was a messiah that lived and reigned on a throne in Jerusalem. His name was David. And this David was promised by God, in covenant, that one of his descendants would reign on his throne, that being the Davidic-Messianic throne.

This man David, being a prophet and carrying prophetic insight as a messiah-type, spoke about this enthroning of his own descendant through the resurrection of Messiah. This prophetic utterance was found in Psalm 16, of which Peter reminds us of such in his first sermon in Acts 2.

And coming to Pentecost, with the dawning of the new age and entrance into the last days, Messiah had now been resurrected from the dead and not left to Hades. Not only that, but He was now seated as both Lord and Messiah at the right hand of the Father, reigning over all Israel, and even all nations. And the great sign of His reign was in the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh, the sign that the new covenant Messianic Age had truly come for Israel.

Jesus is Messiah. He is seated on the Messianic-Davidic throne. He is reigning over Jerusalem, Israel, and even all nations. Not every knee has bowed or tongue confessed. We await that day to fully and finally come. But we, who have bowed and have confessed, know Messiah is reigning.