A VISION of the ‘Little Big Horn’

SCRIPTURE READING – Daniel 8:1-27

So what is a VISION?

A “VISION” is a clear mental image of a preferable future, imparted by God to His chosen servants and is based on an accurate understanding of God, self, and circumstance.  [See Footnote [1] ]

Based on this definition, there become three aspects of having a VISION:

(1)  GOD – Your vision comes from God, it is not something you thought overnight;

(2)  SELF – Your priorities and spiritual gifts will help you focus on your vision;

(3)  CIRCUMSTANCES – Your vision begins where you are now; so you must face and solve your problem and then overcome all barriers to fulfill your dream.

For Daniel, this was one of his many visions and his most troubling, even after the angel Gabriel explained it to him.  Notice Daniels reaction in VERSE 27:

[27]  “I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”  (NIV Bible)

However, as we stand today on the other side of this PROPHECY, its one of the easiest for us to understand.  What Daniel prophesied in Chapter 8 was FUTURE for him, but much of it is HISTORY for us and we have ample historical evidence of the exact fulfillment of this VISION.

One reason I enjoy this section of Daniel is that I love to study history, and this is one of the best places in the Bible to compare history and prophecy.  When we see things predicted in the Bible that have already come true, it should give us great assurance that those things yet to happen in God’s Word will also come true.

The Basics of Daniel’s Dream –

Daniel dreamed of a mighty Ram with two massive horns, but one horn was bigger than the other.

The Ram was powerful and it charged with beating every other animal.

But then Daniel saw a strange-looking Goat approaching the Ram.  It had one horn growing out of its forehead (almost like a Unicorn, but probably more like a rhinoceros).

Well, this one-horned goat whipped the ram and trampled it down in the dirt.  But suddenly its horn was snapped off, and growing in its place was four other horns and growing out of one of those horns was another little horn.

Daniel 8:13-14 reads,  Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled–the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?  He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be constructed.”  (NIV Bible)

Daniel himself was troubled and confused, so VERSE 16 tells us that Gabriel comes to give him a clear interpretation.

Today, Christians have been given by God the Holy Spirit to bring wisdom and understanding to the spiritual mysteries.

Gabriel explains the dream to Daniel, v. 20-24

[20]  The ram you saw having two horns, they are the kings of Media and Persia.  [21]  And the shaggy and rough he-goat is the king of Greece, and the great horn between his eyes is the first king.  [22]  The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.  [23]  In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise.  [24]  He will become very strong, but not by his own power.  He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does.  He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people.

A VIOLENT RAM:  Medo-Persian Empire 

When Daniel received this VISION, the Babylonian Empire was still in place, but God showed him a new empire on the horizon, one that God would use to fulfill the PROPHECY to all the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple that had been destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar.

This Ram had one horn and was larger than the other.  This symbolizes the Persians, always the more powerful of the two nation coalition.

A UNI-HORN GOAT:  The Greek Empire under Alexander the Great –

The GOAT represents the Greek Empire, and the single horn, Alexander.

Alexander has always fascinated me.  When Alexander was a boy, his father enlisted Plato’s disciple Aristotle to be his personal tutor.  At the age of 18, Alexander was already leading armies into battle.  When he was only 20, his father was murdered (some say, Alexander, had a hand in it) and he became ruler of the Greeks.  His decisive battle against the Persians took place near modern Syria at the battle of Issus, which he won in 323 B.C. at the ripe old age of 23.  Within the next ten years, Alexander conquered the entire world from Italy to Egypt and to modern Pakistan.

Alexander and his army headed south towards Egypt after his victory at Issus.

As Alexander and his army approached Jerusalem, he was planning to destroy the city.  Remember, the city had just been rebuilt 100 years earlier by Ezra and Nehemiah.

Josephus writes that while Alexander was considering the destruction of the city, the High Priest went out from the Temple with a scroll of Daniel 8 saying that he and his army (the GOAT) were destined by God of the Hebrews to conquer the RAM (the Persians).  The account says Alexander was so impressed that instead of destroying the city, he enriched it and then bypassed it on his way to capture and control Egypt.

God is always active in His plans for mankind.

It always exciting to read the Bible and realize PROPHECY is being fulfilled at that moment.  That’s the way I’ve felt ever since the resettling of Israel in 1948 and the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967, both events examples of PROPHECY fulfillment in our times.

So Alexander is this UNI-HORN on the Goat.

But at the height of its power, this single horn is suddenly broken off.  Even so, Alexander the Great died suddenly at the age of 33.

THE FOUR HORNS:  The four generals who divided Alexander’s territory –

Alexander made no plans for the continuation of his kingdom.  He had children, but he cared little for them and never designated an heir to his empire.

When he died suddenly, a conflict between the leading generals finally arrived at a questionable agreement of dividing the empire.  This is merely history for us to take in, but remember Daniel predicted all of this almost 300 years before it happened.

This ‘Little Big Horn’:  Antiochus Epiphanes IV –

He is a forerunner, as a type of the Antichrist.

This man Antiochus Epiphanes (Epiphanes means “Great”) is a wicked and vicious ruler.  He hated the Jews and they hated him.  He demanded crowds of people honor him by crying out, “Epiphanes”, whenever he would pass by.  Instead, the Jews had nicknamed him, “Antiochus Epimanes”, a play on his name: Epimanes means “madman”, or “idiot”, and so they shouted “Epimanes”, when he passed by driving him even madder.

Here are just a few of the low-lights I found in the study of his treatment of God’s people.  He forbade circumcision, he outlawed the Sabbath observance and made it a criminal offense for anyone to possess or read the Jewish scriptures.

As you can imagine, Jews rebelled against him, and his punishment was quick and brutal.  On one occasion, Antiochus forced a Jewish mother to watch as her seven sons were fried to death, then her eyes were blinded so that would be her last thought.

He was cruel, vicious, and he was evil.  He slaughtered 80,000 Jews on a single occasion.

But the vilest thing he did from a Jewish standpoint was to set up an image of Zeus in the Jewish Temple (the statue had a striking resemblance to, who else? Antiochus).

He ordered the Jews to worship the image, and horror of horrors, he personally sacrificed a hog on the sacred altar and sprinkled the blood of the hog all around the holy place and this became a monthly ritual.  In doing this he defiled the Temple.

It is in VERSE 13, we read “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled–the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?”

That means the faithful Jews left or deserted the Temple, so it became “desolate”.

In this dream (VISION), Daniel predicted Antiochus would invade the Holy Land and desecrate the Temple and cause the sacrifices to cease.

Daniel 8:14 reads “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings, then the sanctuary will be reconstructed.”

Just as today, a morning and evening make one day, so if you divide 2,300 by two, you get 1,150 days.

History says that Judas Maccabees and his sons rose in revolt and led the people of Israel to retake Jerusalem, cleansed the sanctuary and restored the offerings at the end of 1,150 days, exactly as predicted!

The rededication of the Temple on December 14, 164 B.C. is the reason our Jewish friends celebrate Hanukkah each December.

Looking then at the TIMELINE:

  • Daniel (550 B.C.)
  • Antiochus (170-163 B.C.)
  • Jesus Came (4 B.C.)
  • TODAY

What does all this mean?

Here are but a few lessons that can be learned from this PROPHECY in Daniel 8.

Kingdoms of this world (and presidents) come and go but the Kingdom of God is forever!

Because we find God to be trustworthy in the middle of PROPHECY we can trust Him in the details in our lives right now.

Alexander is a picture of worldly greatness marked by personal failure.

Though conqueror of the world, he was unable to conquer his own passions.  He died of a combination of malaria and acute alcoholism.

Proverbs 16:32 says,  Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.

Some of you have conquered the kingdoms of your careers.  You fought and won battles but there’s one battle you haven’t won; the SIN BATTLE.  You can’t CONQUER your own sinful appetites and anger.

Alexander is a picture of plenty of people today who have gained worldly success, yet their personal and spiritual lives are running on empty.

Only Jesus can win the SIN BATTLE for you.

2,000 years ago, He carried our sins to the cross with Him and our SINS were nailed to the cross, covered by His BLOOD.

Jesus said,  “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life [in the eternal kingdom of God]?” ~ Mark 8:36 (AMP)

What does it profit a man or woman if they are known as Alexander the Great or John the great businessman or Mary the great salesperson or Tom the great community leader…and they never CONQUER their SIN PROBLEM?  It’s simply a tragic picture of a sad, wasted life.

Antiochus (past) is a prototype of the Antichrist (future).

A clear characteristic of prophetic literature in the Bible often has a dual fulfillment; like peeling the layers of an onion.

ONION LAYERS

That is, it may have a fulfillment in the near future (the outer onion layer), and then it may have another fulfillment in the distant future (the inner layer of the onion).  I believe that’s the case here in Daniel 8.

Without a doubt, the Little Horn in Daniel 8 was fulfilled in Antiochus, but he is also the preview of coming attractions of the future Antichrist.

There are many comparisons.  For instance, reviewing the TIMELINE of the future:  Today’s Antichrist (?? AD);  Jesus Returns (? AD).

RAPTURE –

I want to point out at this point of discussion how long Antiochus’ reign of terror was:  He murdered the Jewish High Priest, Onias III, in 170 B.C. and died in 163 B.C.; that’s SEVEN years.

The future Antichrist will rule for SEVEN years (Revelation 13:5).

Antiochus had an intense hatred for the Jews and so will the Antichrist.

These are all remarkable parallels with what the Antichrist will do in the FUTURE.  Here’s your link: Revelation 13:15.

  • He [the false prophet, the chief of staff for the Antichrist] was given the power to give breath to the IMAGE of the first BEAST [antichrist] so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
  • He also forced everyone to receive a MARK on the right hand or forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the MARK, which is the name of the BEAST or the number of his name.

He [the false prophet, the chief of staff for the Antichrist] was given the power to give breath to the image of the first BEAST [Antichrist] so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.

He also forced everyone, to receive a MARK on the right hand or forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the MARK, which is the name of the BEAST or the number of his name.

If you think I’m reading something into this that isn’t there; notice what Jesus Christ Himself said about this future desecration of the Temple in Matthew 24.

Just as Antiochus set up an image of Zeus in the Temple, and commanded the Jews to WORSHIP it, the Bible tells us in the Book of Revelation that the Antichrist will do the same thing in the future.

CONCLUSION:  Looking through A Camera’s Lens. 

Years ago, I saw a strange episode of the TV show, “The Twilight Zone”.  I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember that someone had a Polaroid camera.  When you took a picture, what developed wasn’t that given moment but 24 hours into the future.  It was like having a PROPHETIC CAMERA that revealed the future.

It seems in this episode, everyone who possessed the Camera, died a tragic death.  No one was willing to use their ability to forecast the future for good.

Some of you reading this may make the same tragic mistake.

We know Jesus is going to return (Acts 1:9-11).  We just don’t know when.

We know that those left behind after the Rapture will face a terrible time of tribulation.

We have this information but are we doing anything about it?

We need to get up, get out and do the King’s business!

What is the King’s business?

Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

A message like this shouldn’t turn you into a ‘star-gazer’; it should turn you into a ‘Soul Winner’!

A message of PROPHECY, on Dreams and Visions, shouldn’t make you smug in your salvation; it should make you a SERVANT of Jesus.

The King’s business is to tell the lost and dying world the only HOPE is Jesus!

My hope and prayer is that God will let Jesus speak to you as he has for me with these words from Mark 13:32-34:

We all have a job to do.  Our job is to keep watching, keep witnessing, and keep working until Jesus returns!!!  

AMEN.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES –

FOOTNOTE [i]:  The Power Of Biblical Vision by Rodelio Mallari.

SOURCES:  Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI; Daniel’s Prophecy of Antiochus Epiphanes by Jason Jackson;  The Book of the Maccabees.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); all other translations used in the study are so noted in the photos or text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Living In A Spiritual Fishbowl

 

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Several days ago, the Lord led me to do a study in 1 Thessalonians.  In His sovereignty, this study comes at a perfect time with the worlds current events.

I Thessalonians speaks about REAL HOPE in the midst of the trials and tribulation that surround us.

Warren Wiersbe written commentary on 1 Thess., “Be Ready” really sums up what we face ahead.

Aquarium/Fishbowl Experience –

What do you do with an aquarium?  What do you do when you visit an aquarium?  I just look.  The fish, for the most part are oblivious–could care less.

I remember when first married and we were as poor as a church mouse.  An aquarium sat on a stand in our duplex style apartment, with not much else in the room.  It was Valentine’s Day, and unable to afford much except exchanging Valentine cards, my wife said,  “Did you notice the aquarium?”  “No,” I replied. “Why?”  “Just go look,” she said.  There on the outside of our aquarium, on the outside of the glass, was a heart drawn in pink lipstick–“I LOVE YOU”.  But there’s more!  For fourteen cents, my wife bought an angel fish.  I must have watch that fish swimming around behind the glass for hours.  Even days later, that angel fish reminded me of my wife’s love for me and it wasn’t the amount spent, but the LOVE behind the gift.  “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…” John 3:16.

As Christians, we live in a spiritual fishbowl.  People are constantly examining us and looking at us, especially in times of stress and discomfort. They let us know when we misspeak or mess up entirely.

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There’s another reason why they watch us.  The problem is…we’re often oblivious–like fish in a bowl–we could care less what they see or even read on our social media page; which means they may be viewing the wrong things.  

The Barna Group–“Knowledge to navigate a changing world” says there’s “no difference between believers and unbelievers.”  

That’s tragic–it’s no wonder Christianity as we know it isn’t growing like it should.

This was definitely not the case with the Thessalonians.

Here was a church who realized they were being watched on all sides.  Paul hears about their reputation/testimony, and writes to them.

There’s a LESSON here for us.  Our reputation is at stake and the world is watching us; they need to see a DIFFERENCE is us.

1 Thessalonians 1 BACKGROUND:

This was a fledgling church (Paul was there but 3 weeks).  Paul had been kicked out, riots going on, their pastor was gone.  They were familiar with persecution.  I can imagine it was like being a Christian in Afghanistan or Iraq today.

You would think they wouldn’t be too concerned with their reputation, but the opposite is true.

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Here was a CHURCH whose reputation was faultless.  They had an incredible TESTIMONY.

WHAT OTHERS SHOULD SEE WHEN THEY LOOK AT US:  

“Your work of faith” – salvation (V. 3)

Philippians 2:12 (NIV)

“Therefore, my dear friends; as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

In our spiritual journey on this earth, FAITH gets us on the started on the right path.  Notice what Paul says about our FAITH:

1 Thessalonians 1:4-6:

[4]  For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,  [5] because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.  You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  [6]  You became imitators of us and of the Lord, in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

ELECTION makes our FAITH possible — Vs. 4:  “He has chosen us” not vice versa.

John 15:16 (NIV):

[16]  “You did not choose Me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

Somewhere in eternity past, God chose us to believe on Him.  ELECTION makes our FAITH possible, but not automatic.

That takes us to the next step:

CONVERSION makes our FAITH actual “because”– Vs. 5:

“BECAUSE our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.  You know how we lived among you for your sake.”

“Because” shows why Paul is so convinced that God CHOSE them.  He sees their changed life, their “conversion.”

The Gospel isn’t just some fancy speech we mouthe that most don’t understand.

No amount of persuasion can “convince” someone to turn to Christ Jesus.

What makes our FAITH actual is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit exhibited in our lives.

Colossians 2:13 (NIV):  “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.”

Our conversion, the transformation of our OLD dead nature, to our NEW nature in Christ, is what makes our ELECTION sure.

The Thessalonian church didn’t just HEAR the Gospel message, they experienced the Gospel!  It transformed their lives!!

ELECTION makes our FAITH possible while CONVERSION makes it actual.

But there’s even more.  We need to have a WORKING FAITH, a VISIBLE FAITH.

ACTION makes our FAITH visible–Vs. 6 (AMP):

[6]  “…become imitators of us and [through us] of the Lord Himself, for you welcomed our message in [spite of] much persecution, with joy [inspired] by the Holy Spirit.”

THEY, the church, became IMITATORS (of Paul and the Lord).  They acted out their FAITH and they welcomed the message with JOY (in suffering).

A baby learns by imitating/children playing “copy-cat.”  The same is true in our spiritual lives (we learn by imitating).

When someone comes to Christ, they immediately begin looking at other professing believers to see how they behave; how they act.  [ Prayer, church etiquette, sit in the back, express/hold our emotions, worship. ]

Who are you imitating?  Your spiritual parents?  Your Pastor?  Are they truly IMITATING Christ?

1 Corinthians 4:16 (Paul says)  “So I urge and implore you, be imitators of me.”  He could say that because in Galatians 2:20 (NIV):

[20]  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Paul commended the Thessalonians because they had a REAL working FAITH.  In other words, they wore their FAITH on their sleeves, visible to everyone they came in contact with.  There was a great difference between them and their pagan, unbelieving neighbors.  So Paul didn’t need to defend them, he bragged about them!

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1 THESSALONIANS 1:7

People often wonder how we can know if someone is SAVED or not.  Paul knew that God chose the Thessalonians for SALVATION because he saw the POWER of the Gospel in their lives.  He also saw their transformation in their working, visible FAITH.

DO WE HAVE THAT KIND OF FAITH?

The world should see JESUS in us!

The WORLD should see our LABOR OF LOVE – Vs. 3:  “Your LABOR should be prompted by LOVE”

Whereas FAITH gets us started on the journey, LOVE becomes the vehicle on our way.

Will Rogers once said,  “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

What is the LABOR OF LOVE?

1 John 3:18 (NIV):  

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

John 4:15 (NIV):

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

There are so many opportunities that are missed in our Christian life in reaching out to others with the LOVE of Christ.

  • At WORK:  working for the Lord or your boss?
  • At HOME:  patience?  loving our families as Christ loves us.
  • In SOCIETY:  Lifestyle Evangelism?  integrity?
  • In CHURCH:  seeking to meet others’ needs, rather than our own?

FAITH & LOVE go hand in hand.  You can’t have visible faith without real love!

Galatians 5:6 (AMP):

“For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love.”

The WORLD is watching us!  Our reputation is framed and hanging on the wall!  

They should see our working FAITH and our labor of LOVE in action.

V. 3…your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

The WORLD should be able to SEE our everlasting HOPE!

Paul actually uses three qualities as bookends in the closing of this chapter (vs. 9-10 AMP):

[9] For they themselves volunteer testimony concerning us, telling what an entrance we had among you, and how you turned to God from [your] idols to serve a God Who is alive and true and genuine.

[10] And [how you] look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead–Jesus, Who personally rescues and delivers us out of and from wrath [bringing punishment] which is coming [upon the impenitent] and draws us to Himself [investing us with all the privileges and rewards of the new life in Christ, the Messiah].

FAITH gets us started on the journey, LOVE becomes the vehicle, and HOPE…? HOPE shows us where we’re going.

There’s a difference between HOPE & WISHING.  This HOPE Paul’s referring too, isn’t like dropping pennies into a wishing well.  This HOPE is like saying, “I hope tomorrow is Monday!”

The Thessalonian BELIEVERS had a real, visible, enduring HOPE.

They hoped for 3 things that we too, should hope for (VERSE 10):

#1.  They HOPED for Jesus’ return!  “…look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven.”  (v. 10)

#2.  They HOPED in Jesus’ resurrection, who He raised from the dead and because of the RESURRECTION, they knew too,  and they will eventually conquer death and be raised to a new life in Christ.  When Jesus returns, all those who HOPE in His resurrection can have confidence that we will live with Him forever!

#3.  They HOPED in Jesus’ rescue from God’s coming wrath (v. 10).  There’s coming a Day when God will return vengeance and wrath upon this godless and evil world we currently live in.  Those who’ve chosen God, those who’ve been transformed, those who’ve a visible faith and a labor of love…have a heart peace from the HOPE they will be RESCUED from His great wrath.

SO, WHAT DO PEOPLE SEE WHEN THEY LOOK INTO… OUR “FISHBOWL”?

Do they see CHRIST in us?

Do they see a WORK OF FAITH?  a labor of love?  an enduring, everlasting LOVE?

Do they see a DIFFERENCE in us?

If not, why would they want to become a Christian?

Whether we like it or not, we are LIVING in a public aquarium, where we’re putting on a show for the world to see.  How’s the show going?

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We need to be ready for Jesus’ soon return.  

In the meantime, we also need to be busy bringing people to Him by being imitators of Jesus, before it’s too late.

 


CREDITS –

COMMENTARY:  Enduring Word Bible Commentary:  1 Thessalonians 1 – Receivers and Responders.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Egg Hunts

Before you form a preconceived opinion from my title–this is not about my condemnation of family traditions; the ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s of the Easter season.

After reading a full-page in my local newspaper the other day, I couldn’t help notice our local area churches’ upcoming Easter activities advertised, and it made me question…

“Why does the Easter bunny and egg hunts seem to be more exciting than news about Christ’s death and resurrection?”  So here we are.110424-the-resurrection-of-jesus-widescreen-1-728

I simply believe we haven’t grasped the significance of the DEATH & RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ.  Oh, most of us know the ‘story,’ of what happened over 2,000 years ago, but it didn’t stop at the Cross.

POST’S Scripture Focus:  1 Corinthians 15:1 – 15:25

Manuel Gonzales was the first rescue worker to reach 33 miners trapped or 69 days in a Chilean mine explosion in 2010.  At great risk to his own life, he voluntarily went underground more than 2000 feet, to bring the trapped men back to the surface.  We all watched in amazement as one by one, each miner was rescued and transported to freedom [See Footnote [i] ].

We need to come to a conclusion today that the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ is…

–more than a fairytale,

–more than a legend,

–and more than some religious symbol.

It is a historical fact that is indisputable.

Billy Graham once said,  “There is more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead then there is that Julius Caesar ever lived or that Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-three.”  [See Footnote [ii] ].

How can Billy Graham make such a statement?  Is there evidence that makes believing in the Resurrection more than a leap of ‘blind faith’?

“For the RESURRECTION to have any significance, JESUS had to be dead first”  (Dr. Norman Geisler – When Skeptics Ask;  p. 120.)

Some have said that Jesus just passed out and was revived later in his tomb.  HELLO!!  Christ suffered horribly and eventually died with the beginning at the Garden of Gethsemane, where “His sweat was like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44).

His suffering continued throughout His interrogations by Annas and Caiaphas, hitting him in the face, spit upon and beaten, and continued when taken to Pilate, flogged, given a crown of thorns, spit upon and struck repeatedly on the head.  The flogging alone was so brutal that it was amazing He lasted until His crucifixion.

And then there was the CRUCIFIXION itself!

Hanegraaff writes,

“The Roman system of crucifixion had been fine tuned to produce maximum pain. In fact, the word excruciating (literally “out of the cross”) had to be invented to fully codify its horror.”

They used 5 to 7 inch spikes to hammer him to the wooden beams of the cross.

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And there is more!

John 19:31-37 gives the account of the guards breaking the legs of the thieves to hasten their death by asphyxiation.  But when they came to JESUS, He was already dead and they speared His side instead.

If he wasn’t DEAD…he would be dead now!

– EMPTY TOMB

Matthew 27:51-61 gives an account of Jesus’ BURIAL.

Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the religious right, the Sanhedrin, placed Jesus’ body in his tomb.  This account also says that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting opposite the tomb, so they knew where it was.

The next day, the Sanhedrin came up with a plan…just in case the disciples might have plans in stealing Jesus’ body, faking a resurrection–getting Pilate’s order to post a guard and seal the tomb.  [Read Matthew 27:62-66]

The tomb was discovered EMPTY because it was EMPTY!

Nobody got the tombs mixed up.

Nobody stole the body.

It was, EMPTY, period!

– APPEARANCES

One of the greatest PROOFS of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was His post-resurrection appearances.

1 Corinthians 15:5b-6 ~ NIV bible

[5b]…He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  [6] After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

More than 500 people!

500 saw Jesus

There were surely many people who could testify to the trustworthiness of this statement. Several hundred.  Paul’s statement had plenty of eyewitness testimony to back it up or disprove it if false.

– TRANSFORMATION REALITY

The reality is that a TRANSFORMATION of Jesus’ followers took place.

This is evidence of the reality of the RESURRECTION–

This small group of disciples went from hiding to preaching in a very short time.  And, they were willing to go through pain, suffering and even death.

“Nobody willingly dies for something that they know is false”  (Lee Strobel, “Case for Easter”.)

They knew Jesus had died, knew there was an empty tomb, and they had seen Him.

And the REALITY of the Resurrection’s transforming POWER didn’t stop with the eyewitnesses, but within weeks of the Resurrection, not just one, but an entire community of at least ten thousand Jews were willing to give up the very sociological and theological TRADITIONS that had given them their national identity.  [The Case for the Resurrection! – He is risen! –He is risen…www.chiptape.com]

The Relevance of the Resurrection –

Christ’s Resurrection proves He was God, and not an imposter.  In John 2, Jesus chased out the money changers in the Temple because they’d turned God’s Temple into a marketing venture.

The Jews asked Him,  “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”  This is what Jesus told them:

“Destroy the temple, and I will raise it again in three days”  (John 2:19 NIV).

They thought he was referring to the Temple building they were in.  But verse 21 tells that He was referring to His body.  He delivered on the miraculous sign, proving who He was.

The Resurrection proves Jesus to be the Son of God; brings us face to face with the FACT that He is who He claimed to be.  God in the flesh!

The founders of every other religion DIED and stayed DEAD!

JESUS ROSE AGAIN!

This is important to all pf mankind.  It forces people to make a decision in life.  Since Christ Jesus IS who He claimed to be, how will the world respond to Him?

The Resurrection makes your Salvation possible –

Without the Resurrection of Jesus, every person is still DEAD in their sins  (Romans 4:25).

If Jesus died and was never raised, then His death did nothing to accomplish JUSTIFICATION.

God raising him from the dead showed acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice.  If God left Jesus in the grave, then the SACRIFICE was not accepted and no one has received cleansing from sin.  The condemnation for sin is death (Rom. 6:23).  To still be under condemnation means that ALL people will be given the ultimate penalty for their sins.”  [Life Application Bible Commentary]

Paul writes “And if Christ has not risen, then our preaching is in vain  [it amounts to nothing]  and your faith is devoid of truth and is fruitless  (without effect, empty, imaginary, and unfounded)…And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is mere delusion, and you are still in your sins [under the control and penalty of sin].  And further, those who have died in [spiritual fellowship and union with] Christ have perished (are lost)!”  [1 Corinthians 15:14, 17-18 AMP).

If JESUS didn’t rise then you are still dead in your sins and your Christian faith is worthless, and anyone you’ve known who died a believer is just as damned as an unbeliever.

– The RESURRECTION makes YOUR Resurrection possible

You and I are spirit and body.  Unlike the beliefs of the great Greek philosophers, who thought the body was evil and something we should want to be released from.

God made our bodies as part of who we are and they complete us.

Right now our bodies are affected by SIN and the body dies, BUT…God has a plan to RESURRECT our bodies to perfection.

These resurrected bodies, our current bodies will be TRANSFORMED (When I look in the mirror in the mornings, I say Hallelujah!) and will be bodies completely perfect and dominated by the Spirit rather than the sinful nature.

I especially like what the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8 (NIV):

[23] Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  [24] For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?

Our spirits have been SAVED, BUT…we are awaiting the day for our bodies that are made completely new that frees us from the ugliness of SIN and totally be dominated by the Holy Spirit.

Resurrection is our HOPE, our GUARANTEE!  

And, 2 Corinthians 5:5 says…

Now He Who has fashioned us [preparing and making us fit] for this very thing is God,  Who also has given us the [Holy] Spirit as a guarantee [of the fulfillment of His promise]. (Amplified Bible)

Our resurrection is only made possible by the resurrection of Christ Jesus.  Christ’s RESURRECTION guarantees our own bodily resurrection.

The Bible refers to Him as being the ‘firstfruits,’ guaranteeing the whole harvest of which you and I are a part…IF…we are in Christ.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes through man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own turn; Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him  (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 NIV).

“Is it EASTER yet?”

LIVING IN THE “EGG KINGDOM” –

Humpty Dumpty, A NURSERY RHYME of old, most of us know by heart.  I find that there is an analogy to be found in this classic tale that lines up with this Blog-post.

Google Images
Google Images

I remember that egg-shaped character sitting on a wall and fell and all the king’s horses and the king’s men couldn’t put him back again.

You and I are broken because of SIN.

There is nothing anyone can do to fix us.  We are utterly helpless and hopeless to stand in judgment before God in our sin.

The Story of “PHILIP’S EGG”  [See Footnote [iii] ] –

Little Philip, born with Down’s syndrome, attended a third-grade Sunday School class with several eight-year-old boys and girls.  Typical of that age, children didn’t readily accept Philip with his differences.  But because of a creative teacher, they began to care about Philip and accept him as part of the group, though not fully.

The Sunday after Easter, the teacher brought Leggs pantyhose containers, the kind that look like large EGGS.

Each receiving one, the children were told to go outside on that spring day, find some symbol of new life, and put it in the egg-like container.

Back in the classroom, they shared their new-life symbols, opening the containers one by one in a surprise fashion and after running about the church property in wild confusion, the students returned to the classroom, placing the containers on the table.

Surrounded by the children, the teacher began to open them one by one.  After each one, whether flower, butterfly or leaf, the class would ooh and aah.

Then one was opened, revealing nothing inside.  The children exclaimed, “That’s stupid. That’s not fair! Somebody didn’t do their assignment.”

Philip spoke up, “That’s mine.”  “Philip, you don’t ever do things right!” the student points out.  “There’s nothing there!”  “I did so do it,” Philip insisted.  “I did do it. It’s empty; the tomb was empty!”  Silence followed.  From then on, Philip became a full member of the class.

Philip died not long after that from an infection most normal children would have shrugged off.  At the funeral this class of eight-year-olds marched up to the altar, not with flowers, but with their Sunday school teacher, each to lay on it an empty pantyhose EGG.

The JOY of Resurrection Sunday Morning!

While you may be broken like Humpty Dumpty because of sin, unfixable by anyone in the world, and because that tomb is genuinely empty and Jesus is alive and well…what He did on the cross for you and I, paying for our sins, we’ve been given an opportunity.  Not only to be fixed, but to become a NEW CREATION and to have fellowship with God.

That’s the Joy of Resurrection morning.  

God can fix you spiritually and you can have the HOPE that He will one day complete your redemption by redeeming your body to be like Jesus’ body.  There is no JOY without the relevancy of the Resurrection and without it, you have no life! 

 


 

Credits & Footnotes:

Footnote [i] :  Our Daily Bread REDEEMED, Pg. Devotion: Day Nine.

Footnote [ii]:  Hank Hanegraaff Resurrection – Publisher: W. Publishing Group.

Footnote [iii]:  Christianity Today.com – Philip’s Egg by Harry Pritchett Jr. in the Leadership Journal Magazine.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted in the text.

Photo Credits:  Google Image Search.