John 8:58

Here is the Greek text:

 εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς, Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί.

Followed by the English translation (ESV): “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

The New World translation has this: “Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly, I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.'” The Watchtower organization has argued that there is no relation at all of this verse to the famous “I am that I am” of Exodus 3:14. But there are several points to notice here which they do not address in any way, shape, or form. First of all, the tense of their translation is completely and utterly wrong. If John had wanted to say that Jesus existed before Abraham did in the past (but not including any idea of eternal pre-existence), without any confusion on the score, he had no fewer than three tenses at his disposal: aorist, imperfect, or perfect. The NWT reflects what would be a perfect tense. The Greek is PRESENT TENSE. It indicates ongoing existence before Abraham was. God does not exist in time the same way that we do. God is both transcendant and immanent in time. The way to express this is to say that in the past God is (present tense). The NWT translators knew this, which is why they completely changed the meaning into something finite.

The second point that they do not engage at all is the fact that what Jesus says here mirrors Exodus 3:14 ***precisely*** in the Greek translation of the OT (called the Septuagint, or LXX for short). They Watchtower people offer *zero* argumentation for why there is no connection, especially given the exact Greek correspondence between the two verses. I should mention that it is the first two words of the Greek in God’s words in Exodus 3:14 which I am talking about. The Watchtower people also fail utterly in their explanation of why the people picked up stones to stone Him. That happens when someone is uttering blasphemy. Jesus could have corrected their misunderstanding of His actions if He wasn’t claiming divinity. No, it is because He *was* claiming divinity that they picked up stones to stone Him.                        

Advertisements

John 1:1

John 1:1 is a passage completely misinterpreted by the New World Translation (the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ translation), and by many other translations mentioned by Steve, which are not mainline translations, but are the work of individual anti-church Arians. Here is the Greek: Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν λόγος, καὶ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν λόγος. The New World translation says this: “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” Plainly, the New World translation says something quite different from most translations with which we are familiar. This translations seems to suggest that the Word (which we learn later is Jesus) is less than God. He is merely one of a pantheon of gods. This raises its own problems. But to kabosh this rendering, it is necessary to go into some Greek grammar. The phrase in question occurs after the second comma in the above Greek. Notice that “theos” (second word of the phrase) comes before ἦν, which is the verb meaning “was.” “Theos” (“God) is functioning as a predicate nominative. Stretch back to your grammar days and remember that a predicate nominative is the last word in the sentence “I am a pastor.” The subject is “I,” and the predicate nominative is “pastor.” In Greek, the predicate nominative can sometimes come before the verb, as it does here. When that happens, the word “the” does not occur with the predicate nominative. However, the noun should still be read as having the word “the” with it. This is the difference between “the God” (or just simply “God”) and “a god.” The New World Translation has twisted Greek grammar in order fit their preconceived notions about the non-deity of Christ. When you have two nouns connected by any form of the word “to be,” the definite article (“the”) tells you which noun is the subject, since word order doesn’t count in Greek. In other words, just because a noun doesn’t have “the” with it doesn’t mean that it should be interpreted as not having “the” with it, if that is clear. Clear as mud?

The Living Word

John 20:1-29
Once upon a time, a Muslim converted to Christianity. Some of his friends asked him why he had become a Christian. He replied, “Well, it’s like this. Suppose you were going down a road that suddenly forked in two directions. You didn’t know which way to go, but there at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and the other alive. Which man would you ask about which way to go?” Mohammed is dead, but Christ is alive.

At the beginning of our text, all the disciples are depressed. The disciples were afraid of the Jews. They had locked themselves away in order to avoid the Jews. They thought it was all over. They thought they were next on the Jews’ hit list. In that state of mind they simply huddle together in a room with the door locked.

On Sunday morning Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. She saw something that made her rather upset. She saw that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. In those days, grave-robbers were everywhere. Grave-robbing had become so common a crime that the Roman emperor of the time imposed capital punishment on any who robbed graves. Mary was afraid that Jesus’ tomb had been robbed of the expensive linen and spices that had been used to anoint Jesus’ body for burial.

No sooner had she seen that the stone was rolled away, than she ran to tell Peter and John what had happened. (“The disciple whom Jesus loved” is another way of saying the apostle John.) This news startled the two disciples into a race to see who could get to the tomb first. John won. Notice that John got to the tomb first, but he did not go in first. Peter went into the tomb first.

It is interesting to think about why John did not go in. The reason has to do with how John views the tomb. He is thinking of the tomb as a new Most Holy Place. You will remember that in the old tabernacle and in the later temple, there was a most holy place, where only the high priest was allowed to enter, and even then only once a year. John views the tomb as a new Most Holy Place. How do we know this? From verse 12. Mary comes and stands weeping outside the tomb. Then she sees two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the foot. Have you ever wondered why John included that small detail? Why does John mention that there were two angels, one at the head, and one at the foot of where Jesus’ body lay? The answer lies in he Old Testament description of the Most Holy Place. See Exodus 25:10-22. In the ark of the testimony, the two angels were the two cherubim, one at one end, and one at the other end. So also in the tomb with Jesus. What was in the ark of the covenant? A copy of the Ten Commandments! A copy of God’s Word. John is saying to us that Jesus is the Living Word. Not only is He the Word of God, which we learn from John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” but he is also the Living Word, resurrected from the dead. You remember the story of the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus says that whoever drinks of the water that Jesus will give him will never die but have everlasting life, and that that water will become a well of water welling up into eternal life. Here in the resurrection story is where Jesus proves that to us.

Jesus proves that in Him, we all have access to the Most Holy Place. Mary can come in to that place. Women were not allowed into the Most Holy Place of the old temple. But in this new temple, all have access to the Most Holy Place. Remember that Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” John adds a note that Jesus was speaking about the temple of His own body. Jesus was also saying that His body was the new temple. That is why the curtain of the temple was torn in two at Christ’s death. The ultimate sacrifice ha been made. No longer would the sacrifices of the Old Testament be required. Christ offered up Himself. It is really amazing that Christ is the great high priest, and He is also the sacrifice, and He is also the temple in which the sacrifice is offered. The entire Old Testament sacrificial system points to Jesus Christ. He is all we need.

Do you believe? John believed rather easily. All John had to see was that the grave-clothes were still there, and neatly folded, and put aside. That would not be the case if the grave had been robbed. If the grave had been robbed, then the grave-clothes would have been taken, or at the very least, left in a very untidy manner. Rather, the grave-clothes are neatly put aside as by someone who had no more use for them. Jesus Christ’s body had gone right through the grave-clothes. Christ now has a resurrection glorified body. John saw this and believed. It took a little longer for Peter to believe. And it took a lot longer for Thomas to believe. Thomas actually had to touch Jesus’ physical body in order to believe that Jesus had come back from the dead. Jesus says a remarkable thing at the end of that episode: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The question in front of us this morning is, “Do we believe?” We cannot see Jesus in person. We may see Him when we look at Jesus’ followers who do good in this world. But we cannot see Jesus resurrected and ascended to God in heaven.

What does it mean to believe in Jesus? It means to believe that Jesus is the Living Word, who is prophet, priest and king. It means to believe that Jesus, acting as prophet, has revealed God the Father to us. It means that Jesus as priest has offered up himself on our behalf. This is very important. You see, we sinned. We fell short of the glory of God. We decided that we wanted to play God. And so we took from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all. That is why we have death in the world. We all deserve the penalty of going to hell. That is justice. God is just, and could have sent us all there, and no-one could have called God a homicidal maniac. But God is also merciful. God had already decided that He would not leave mankind to utterly perish. Instead, He would provide a way of escape through his own Son, Jesus Christ. That meant that Jesus was fully obedient to the law. Jesus fulfilled the active demands of the law, doing everything the law required. Not only that, but Jesus also suffered the passive demands of the law, taking on our punishment, that we would not have to pay if we only believe in Him. Believing in Christ also means believing that Jesus Christ is king, that He has been resurrected from the dead, conquering sin and death in the process. It means believing that even now Christ reigns on our behalf.

All of this believing in Christ would mean nothing without the Resurrection. Without the resurrection, Christ is still conquered by sin and death. Without the resurrection, Christ is dead. But now, Christ has risen from the dead. That is where our hope lies.

Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ have only one resurrection on the final day of judgment, and two deaths, one spiritual, and one physical. The spiritual death happens at the final day of judgment, and the physical death happens at the end of life here. Believers have only death and two resurrections. They have one physical death, but their spirit is resurrected, when they believe in Jesus Christ. That is why it is called new birth, passing from death to life. The physical resurrection occurs at the final day of judgment, when the believer’s body is reunited with the soul, and is like Christ’s glorious body. That is our hope. Our only hope of seeing God, and incidentally of seeing our loved ones again, is to believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

Which man will you believe? The old man, the world, who tells you that there is no such thing as a resurrection from the dead, who say that “dead men rise up never”? Or will you believe the man who is alive, Jesus Christ? Will you believe that His way is the only way? Will you believe that dead Christians rise up ever?

Jesus, Resurrection and Life

John 11:17-27
It is pretty amazing what children will say. Some children were asked about death, and these were some of their answers: Alan, age7, “God doesn’t tell you when you are going to die because He wants it to be a big suprise;” Raymond, age 10, “A good doctor can help you so you won’t die. A bad doctor sends you to heaven;” Marsha, age 9, “When you die, you don’t have to do homework in heaven unless your teacher is there too;” and here is a very cynical Stephanie, age 9, “Doctors help so you won’t die until you pay all their bills.” What people all over the world say about death is that it is unavoidable. They say that there are two things certain in life: death and taxes. The only thing is that death doesn’t get worse every time congress meets. But if you look everywhere around you, people are saying that death is the end. The Grim Reaper. You could even say that those people who believe that there is a Resurrection think that it is far off, and not of much help in the present time.

The fact is that death is an intruder. Death does not belong in the created realm. God did not create the world with death in mind. Death is a punishment for sin, the sin of all humanity. Sin brings forth death, as the apostle James has it. So often, we look around at the world and say, “Why did death have to come to this person, or that person? Why didn’t God stop it?” The question we should really ask ourselves is, “Why did we sin?” If we want to know who is responsible for bringing sin into the world, we have to place the blame squarely on our own shoulders. We can’t blame God for punishing sin. If He didn’t punish sin, then He wouldn’t be God. God is not the author of sin. Humanity is. Oh sure, we had a little help from Satan. But the blame rests with us. Satan didn’t fall in the garden; Adam and Eve did. The old saying goes like this: In Adam’s fall, we sinned all. Adam was a respresentative for the human race.

Now that is bad news for humanity. Well, it isn’t exactly news. We should have known it for a long time. But we are extremely prone to forgetting the fact that death exists because of sin. What we have to realize now, though, and what our passage today teaches us is that death is a defeated enemy for those who believe in Jesus Christ. Let’s take a close look at our passage, focusing on verses 17-27, but starting with the first part of the chapter.
The NIV has a horrible mistranslation in verse 6. In verse 5, we see that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. The NIV says in verse 6 that, despite this fact that Jesus loved them, He stayed an extra two days where He was. This gives us the impression that we don’t know why Jesus delayed. But this is not what the text says. The text actually says, “Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Therefore he stayed where He was for two more days.” It is because He loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, that He let Lazarus die! This sounds very strange to our ears. But Jesus explains Himself in verses 14-15: “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” It is plain that Jesus already knew that Lazarus was going to be resurrected from the dead. His purpose, then, in staying where He was for two more days, was so that His disciples, and Mary and Martha, would believe, and have their faith confirmed by a mighty miracle.

That leads us to verse 17. Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days by the time that Jesus got there. This is significant. Four days in the tomb meant that death was completely irreversible. Jewish thought at the time said that the soul hovers over the body for three days, but on the fourth, the soul doesn’t recognize the body anymore, and so leaves it. John doesn’t necessarily believe that, but his point is that Lazarus was completely dead, and was starting to decompose.

Martha hears that Jesus is near, and she runs out to meet him. She says to him what she and Mary must have said many times to each other during the three days they had waited for Jesus, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” It is important to realize that Martha is not reprimanding Jesus for His delay. Even if Jesus had started right away, Lazarus would still have been dead by the time He got there. She does not say, “Lord if only you had gotten here sooner.” Instead, she says, “Lord if only you had been here.” It is regret, not reproach.

Then Martha shows that she has at least some faith. She asks Jesus implicitly to petition the Father for the resurrection of Lazarus. Now, some doubt that that is what Martha means, especially in the light of verse 39, where Martha objects to opening the tomb, because of the smell, plainly indicating (it is thought) that Jesus cannot resurrect Lazarus from the dead. However, what is happening here is that Martha wavers in her faith from hope to grief. She oscillates between the two. It is quite probable that she thought that Jesus might be able to do something about Lazarus even now, though she has nagging doubts.

In verse 23, we see Jesus giving us a wonderfully ambiguous statement. Jesus wants to draw out Martha’s heart, and so He gives a statement that mentions the general resurrection at the end of time. Does Jesus mean to include the resurrection that He is about to perform? Whatever the case, Martha obviously does not understand where Jesus is going with this. She must have heard from the Jewish people about the general resurrection, which is something that Pharisees believed. Martha is a little disappointed, when she replies in verse 24, “I know already about the general resurrection.” It is as if she is saying, “Lord, have you come to tell me what I already know?”

An then comes the real shocker. You see, Martha thought, and so often do we, that the resurrection is a long way off. We think that it is more difficult for God to do a miracle here and now, than it is for God to resurrect people on the final day of judgment. Martha had her thoughts on the present time, thinking that Jesus was not powerful enough to resurrect Lazarus right now, even though she thought He might be able to ask His Heavenly Father for that favor. So what Jesus says is a real shock: the Resurrection is a person, not so much an event! Now, of course, Jesus has just affirmed that the future resurrection is an event that will surely come to pass. However, what He is saying here is that Resurrection power resides in Jesus! The Resurrection is a person! What Jesus is saying is that resurrection power belongs only to Jesus as God. Now, one needs to be resurrected in order to have life, which is why Jesus says immediately afterward, that He is the Life. Resurrection leads to life. Where Christ is not present, there is death. Where Christ is, there is resurrection and life, a fact that Jesus is about to demonstrate in a dramatic fashion.

Here is where the unbeliever stumbles. The unbeliever cannot believe that death could be defeated. Death is the end, according to them. Only by faith can anyone accept that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. There are two ideas that Jesus explains here. The first is resurrection. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” That refers to the physical time-point of death, and then the time-point of physical resurrection. Physical death is no longer the end of the story. There is resurrection, brought to light by Jesus Himself. The second idea is life, spiritual life. That is what verse 26 is talking about: “whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” That is talking about th person who lives spiritually, and thus that person will never die spiritually. So, verse 25 is talking about physical death and resurrection, and verse 26 is talking about spiritual life and the immortality of the Christian soul.

And now comes the question: “Do you believe this?” Do you, here and now, facing death all our lives, believe Jesus’ words? Do you believe that Jesus is your only comfort in life and in death? Do you believe that you must be born again spiritually? Do you trust in Jesus? If you do not, there is no hope for you. There is no hope that there is anything beyond death that is good. No unbeliever has any hope. That is why Paul says that the Christian’s grief is not like the unbeliever’s grief. An unbeliever grieves without hope. The Christian grieves, knowing that it is not the end of their relationship with that person. It bears repeating: it is true to say that so-and-so is in a better place. That is true. But it is not the most helpful thing to know. It is the physical presence of that person that we miss. Therefore it is more helpful to say that if you believe in Jesus, then you will see that person again, touch his hand again, hug him again. See, if you believe what Jesus is saying here, then what you really believe is that that person is not dead! His soul is very much alive, thank you, and his body is merely waiting on the resurrection that will come at the final day, in order to be reunited with his soul. But he is not dead. He passed from death to life, as Jesus says in John chapter 5. I want to read this passage to you, as it is extremely relevant to our passage here in John 11. This is John 5:19-29: “Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out– those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” Jesus is talking about Lazarus here, and about all Christians. The resurrection that Lazarus experiences is symbolic of the spiritual resurrection that all Christians experience when they come to faith. Have you experienced this resurrection? If so, then you have only one death, and that death is a defeated enemy. Christ Himself has defeated death by being raised from the dead. You only have one death, but two resurrections: the resurrection of the soul, which guarantees the second resurrection, that of the body. If you do not believe, then you have only one resurrection to look forward to. And it will be such that you will wish you hadn’t been resurrected. You will prefer annihilation to being resurrected to eternal punishment for sin. Do not delay in coming to Christ. You do not know whether you will be alive tomorrow. You can shrug all this off as hogwash, and go back to your wicked ways, or you can sit up and listen to God speaking. He says, “Let the Christian come forth from his tomb of sin.” It is then that you take off your sinful grave clothes, and put on the spotless white robe that has been washed in the blood of the Lamb. The dead shall hear the voice of the living God. It does not matter what your past life has been. It does not matter what bad choices you have made. Everyone is dead in their trespasses and sins, as Paul makes so abundantly clear in Ephesians 2. But if God can conquer death, if He can call out to Lazarus, and the dead man hears and obeys the voice of the living God, then God can change you. Now is definitely not too late. But take care, this may be your only opportunity. “Sinner, come forth!”

Light

I love light. I can’t stand to work in darkness, or even a partly dark room. For a job that requires as much reading as a pastor’s position, light is absolutely essential. But light is essential for life itself. Plants do not grow without it, and people can do nothing without it. Sinclair Ferguson tells the story of one night spent in Canada far away from any city. It was a cloudy night. As a result he could not see his hand even if held right in front of his eyes. It was truly pitch-black.

When Jesus says that we are the light of the world, He is saying that we are a reflected light. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world” in John 8:12 and 9:5. If Jesus is the Sun, then we are the moon, reflecting the light of Jesus. The moon reflects the light of the sun. Just as one cannot look directly at Jesus’ glory and live (in this already/not yet time period), so also one cannot look directly at the sun and keep one’s vision. However, one can look at the moon. Its light waxes and wanes, but it retains its light, except for the new moon (okay, the analogy doesn’t fit entirely). One can know what the sun does by looking at the moon. So also, the world is to see what Jesus’ light looks like by looking at us. We should be shining brightly, as at the full moon.

Two interesting ideas

Hey, folks, time for a little Biblical Theology. Two passages: John 20:12 and Genesis 3:22 (these are not related). In John 20:12, Mary sees two angels, one at the foot, and the other at the head. This is the antitype for which the two cherubim overshadowing the ark in the Most Holy Place is the type. What was between those two cherubim was the tablets of the covenant (the Ten Commandments). Therefore, Jesus is the New Word of God.
The other passage is a translation issue: it should be translated: “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man had been like one of us in knowing good and evil.’ ” Interesting thoughts flow from this understanding of Genesis: Satan is a liar when he says, “You will be like God” (they were already like God). The other way this makes so much sense is that this verse as normally interpreted portrays God as some kind of selfish paranoid God who can’t stand to have mankind come up too close to Him. Rather, God wants mankind to be as close to Him as they are capable of being. All of a sudden, my proposed translation makes the whole paragraph a statement of grace: “It would be terrible for mankind to live in this awful state forever.” I cannot take credit for either idea, but they deserve a wider circulation.

Newer entries »