No More Tears, No More Reproach (Smith)

 I’ve been enjoying Gary Smith’s Isaiah commentary in the “New American Commentary” series.  I haven’t read it all, but so far so good!  This morning when studying Isaiah 25 I was looking at verse 8, which says this: “…he [Yahweh] will swallow up death forever.The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces;he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.The Lord has spoken” (NIV).

Here’s Smith’s helpful commentary:

…When God rules over his kingdom, death will have no power over people in this new world.

As if that were not enough, God also promises the removal of all tears. This includes tears shed when people die, but certainly also tears of oppression, sickness, pain, disappointment, loneliness, rejection, military defeat, financial trouble, and other kinds of loss. All these experiences will be obsolete in God’s kingdom.

Finally, God’s removal of the reproach of “his people” (ʿammî 25:8b) should not be interpreted as a specific reference to removing Israel’s reproach of the exile, for at this point all people (ʿam, “people,” is used in 25:3, 6, 7, 8) in God’s kingdom are his people. When people are reproached they are objects of derision, mockery, shame, and humiliation by others. These evil actions will not be experienced any longer. If the enemies of God are defeated, there will no longer be people to give a reproach, and there will be no sinful people who will deserve to be reproached. This paragraph ends (25:8b) with the affirmation that God has declared that this is what will happen; thus, one can know that all these statements are true.

Gary Smith, Isaiah, (The New American Commentary), Isaiah 25:8.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

The New Jerusalem (Bavinck)

Reformed Dogmatics (4 vols.)

One great aspect of being a follower of Jesus is the fact that we have a great inheritance waiting for us in the new creation (1 Pet 1:4-5). The new creation itself will be an amazing place where God’s people will no longer have to worry about sin, sickness, evil, death, cancer, kidnapping, rape, divorce, pain, persecution, guilt, temptation, and so on and so forth. It’s a future so awesome that our imaginations cannot even grasp it (1 Cor. 2:9). In Revelation 21-22 John speaks figuratively about the new creation, the heavenly Jerusalem. Here’s how Herman Bavinck summarized it:

The description John gives of that Jerusalem (Rev. 21–22) should certainly not be taken literally any more than his preceding visions. This option is excluded by the mere fact that John depicts it as a cube whose length, width, and height are equal, that is, 12,000 stadia or 1,500 miles; still the height of the wall is only 144 cubits, just under 75 yards (21:15–17). By this depiction John does not intend to give a sketch of the city; rather, since he cannot bring the glory of the divine kingdom home to us in any other way, he offers his ideas, interpreting them in images. And he derives these images from paradise, with its river and tree of life (21:6; 22:1–2); from the earthly Jerusalem with its gates and streets (21:12ff.); from the temple with its holy of holies, in which God himself dwelt (21:3, 22); and from the entire realm of nature, with all its treasures of gold and precious stones (21:11, 18–21). But although these are ideas interpreted thus by images, they are not illusions or fabrications, but this-worldly depictions of otherworldly realities. All that is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, and commendable in the whole of creation, in heaven and on earth, is gathered up in the future city of God—renewed, re-created, boosted to its highest glory.

The substance [of the city of God] is present in this creation. Just as the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, as carbon is converted into diamond, as the grain of wheat upon dying in the ground produces other grains of wheat, as all of nature revives in the spring and dresses up in celebrative clothing, as the believing community is formed out of Adam’s fallen race, as the resurrection body is raised from the body that is dead and buried in the earth, so too, by the re-creating power of Christ, the new heaven and the new earth will one day emerge from the fire-purged elements of this world, radiant in enduring glory and forever set free from the “bondage to decay” (δουλειας της φθορας, douleias tēs phthoras [Rom. 8:21]). More glorious than this beautiful earth, more glorious than the earthly Jerusalem, more glorious even than paradise will be the glory of the new Jerusalem, whose architect and builder is God himself….

Herman Bavinck, John Bolt, and John Vriend, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 719–720

 Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Christianity and Buddhism

The Christian doctrines of creation and redemption clearly show that our triune God is not anti-matter.  There is no room for spiritual nothingness or Nirvana in the Christian faith.  God became man to save sinful people – body and soul.  He will one day renew all of creation.  Christianity and Buddhism are completely different.  Os Guinness reminds us of G. K. Chesterton’s great quip on this topic.

“Christ said, ‘Seek first the kingdom and all these things shall be added unto you.’  Buddha said, ‘Seek first the kingdom and then you will need none of these things.’”

G. K. Chesterton, quoted in Os Guinness, Long Journey Home, p. 80.

shane lems

Spiritual Doesn’t Always Mean Immaterial

 Quite often when we say or hear “spiritual” we might think of something invisible and immaterial (i.e. the ‘spiritual life’).  However, when it comes to the glory of the New Creation, the Kingdom of God in its fullness, the term “spiritual” doesn’t mean immaterial.  I like how Anthony Thiselton comments on Paul’s use of pneumatikos (spiritual) in 1 Cor. 15.44.  First, he gives his translation.

“It is sown an ordinary human body; it is raised a body constituted by the Spirit.  If there is a body for the human realm, there is also a body for the realm of the Spirit.”

Here are a few of his comments.

“The NRSV translation, ‘sown a physical body…raised a spiritual body…,’ is a misleading blunder in a version that is usually reliable and often excellent.  The contrast is not between physical and nonphysical.  The Greek word pneumatikos does not mean ‘composed of nonmaterial spirit.’  Paul uses the adjective in this epistle to denote that which reflects or instances the presence, power, and transforming activity of the Spirit.  The raised body is characterized by the uninterrupted, transforming power of the Holy Spirit of God.  It stands in contrast with the ordinary human body that has been open to the influence of the Holy Spirit, but in partial ways, still marred by human failure, fallibility, and self-interest.  The perfect openness to the Holy Spirit characteristic of the resurrection mode of being therefore brings together decay’s reversal, splendor, or ‘glory,’ power, and a mode of being constituted by the Spirit (vv. 42b-44).”

“Thus, similarly in v. 44b, such a ‘body’ or mode of being is one designed for the realm or sphere of the presence and resurrection action of the Holy Spirit, not merely for the realm of nonmaterial ‘spirit.'”

I haven’t read all of Thiselton’s Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary on 1 Corinthians, but the parts I have studied have been helpful.  I purchased this shorter one because it is a fraction of the cost of his work on 1 Cor. in the NIGTC series.  By the way, if you want to dig deeper into the above topic, you simply must read Geerhardus Vos’ essay called “The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit” in his Shorter Writings.  It may even be online somewhere.

shane lems

The Church’s Missionary Identity

 I’ve read a bit of Richard Bauckham before (some of his stuff on Revelation, specifically), so since I enjoy his writing and since the topic interests me, I’m reading Bauckham’s Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003).  I’m still in the middle of it, but so far so good.  Here’s a section I appreciated (from p. 25).

“Precisely by anticipating the universal goal so immediately [that is, the New Creation – s.l.], the New Testament leaves very widely open all the penultimates of history.  It does not, as so many Christians down the ages have wanted it to do, give the church in any particular time a specific temporal position in a predicated sequence of history leading from then to the parousia.  Rather, it puts all its readers where its first readers stood – between the church’s commissioning by Jesus and the future coming of Jesus.  The New Testament gives the church in every age its missionary identity by plunging it into the midst of the biblical story where the words of the great commission still ring in its ears.”

Well said!

shane lems

sunnyside, wa

More Sarna: Exodus 2.2

Of what significance is the note in Exodus 2.2 where we read that Moses was a “beautiful” (NKJ) or “fine” (ESV and NIV) child?

Sarna says this: “Hebrew tov, usually ‘good,’ might also here connote ‘robust, healthy.’  The entire clause stirs immediate association with a key phrase, seven time repeated in the Genesis Creation narrative, ‘God saw that…was good’ (tov).  This parallel suggests that the birth of Moses is intended to be understood as the dawn of a new creative era” (Nahum Sarna, Exodus [Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1991], 9).

Enns draws on Sarna’s emphasis: “The birth of Moses, in keeping with the re-creation theme in chapter 1, is not merely about the birth of one man, but represents the birth of a people.  The savior of God’s people is born, and through him they will receive a new beginning.  Their slavery will end and their savior will bring them safely into their rest, the Promised Land” (Peter Enns, Exodus [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000], 62-3).

This is helpful, especially in light of other comments of Enns as well as Fretheim, noting that the ten plagues and the crossing of the Sea were in many ways a de-creation and re-creation.  It wasn’t a localized instance of one god fighting another god; it was a cosmic battle between Yahweh and the anti-god, Pharaoh.  Yahweh moves creation and recreates it to keep his Abrahamic covenant.

shane lems

sunnyside wa