What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Our God is a God of truth. He is the Rock, the immovable Foundation of this way of life. The Hebrew word for "Rock" indicates firmness, stability, and faithfulness. What would it be like to worship a God whose "truth" changed from time to time? Could such a God be trusted? The Greek word for "True" in Revelation 19:11 means much the same thing, but it carries the additional sense of "real" or "genuine." There is nothing—absolutely nothing—false, deceitful, evasive, or variable in His character, His Word, or His example.
What does this mean practically? Who are the most important people in a community, state, or nation? Not the doctors, lawyers, teachers, entertainers, military personnel, or businessmen. Considering how much God's Word concentrates on the preachers and kings, God indicates these two win in a landslide.
It might be difficult to say which of these two is more important, but a slight edge seems to go to the ministry. Christ came first as a rabbi and Savior, teaching and living the values that form the foundation of God's way. At His return, He will come to administer them. This is why God devotes so much space to these two in the Bible. The preacher must teach and live the values, and the king must live and administer them.
Without true values, civilization will not continue long but descend into revolution and anarchy. God's Word, His doctrine, is true and faithful just as He is. It is a reflection of His nature and character. Any society or family built on it will prosper and become great in godly terms. Jesus' first coming left mankind without excuse regarding the eternal question, "What is truth?"
Jesus says in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Many can say, "I have told you the truth," but Jesus not only told it, He embodied it. He put truth into a visible, concrete form so all who want to see it can.
What credibility that gives to one's teaching! A person can teach us a mathematical, grammatical, spelling, geographical, or historical truth, and what his character is like matters little. But if a person teaches moral truth, his example, character, conduct, and attitudes are all-important. Who wants to be lectured on purity by an adulterer or on honesty by a liar and thief?
Jesus lived what He taught with total purity and never a shadow of turning. He was absolutely stable, firm, and reliable, the real, genuine representative of eternal life, the way of life that He will establish on earth at His return.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment (1997)
When Daniel prayed this, Judah had been scattered for about 70 years, and they were just about ready to go back to the Promised Land. God was just about ready to release them. Daniel was concerned due to what he saw in Babylon; it discomforted him. He likely saw some of the same conditions existing in Babylon that had caused the Jews to go into captivity in the first place almost 70 years before. His fears were justified because, when Ezra and Nehemiah went back to rebuild the Temple and then the wall around Jerusalem, very few Jews went back. In fact, it was such a small number by Ezra's count that he called a fast about it. He wanted to make sure that the people would be hidden on the way so that nobody would see them making the trip back to Judea and consider them "easy pickings."
When the church was finally begun in AD 31, Peter went to preach in Babylon because there was still such a large colony of Jews there. Indeed, they stayed in the world—in Babylon—and continued to multiply.
We can read between the lines of Daniel's prayer and understand that he was anxious over their return. Quite a number of commentators feel that this cannot be all Daniel prayed. Really, all that we have here is an outline of what he said, the high points. After praying it, Daniel went back to his office or to his home and jotted these things down so that they would be remembered. God undoubtedly inspired that. So we are actually seeing only the essence of what he said. He certainly went into a great deal more detail with God.
When we pray for repentance, we go into detail about things that we personally know about—especially those things that happen in our lives and perhaps those things that happen within God's work, of which we were aware. We do nothing about them then, but we certainly can ask God to forgive them.
Daniel begins by establishing between him and God that he, Daniel, understood that God is faithful. He keeps His covenant. He stands by Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. When something goes out of God's mouth, it does not come back to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11). There are no "hollow threats" with God! Do we understand that? His faithfulness is one of the things that makes Him God. He can always be depended upon. He is Jesus Christ—the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). "For I am the Lord, I do not change" (Malachi 3:6).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Did the day of Jesus' resurrection cause a change in the day of worship?
The Saturday/Sunday resurrection issue has been a focal point of debate in many circles because of the impact that it could have on the correct day of worship. But to begin here is to begin with an assumption at best, and a conclusion at worst. Where in the Bible is there any indication given that Jesus Christ's death would change the day of worship? Does our God change things on a whim—especially something as foundational as the day on which He meets with His people?
James 1:17 says that in God there is no variation, no shadow of turning. God does not change—His fundamental character and approach to things is constant (Malachi 3:6)! Hebrews 13:8-9 says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and immediately after this the author says, "Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines." God's changelessness is a major defense we have against false doctrine! Once He establishes something, is He going to change it out of hand? Could we trust a God that is so undependable and unpredictable?
The high regard that God gives to the seventh-day Sabbath is evident throughout the Old Testament. Time and again, ancient Israel went into captivity because of their sins of Sabbath-breaking and idolatry (e.g., Ezekiel 20). No indication is ever given that the Sabbath is temporary, to be changed, or that God really does not care one way or the other. In fact, the prophecies of the Old Testament show that the Sabbath will be kept after God restores all things by establishing His Kingdom on earth (Isaiah 66:22-23; Ezekiel 44:24; 45:17; 46:3).
The gospel writers also do not give any hint or suggestion that the sanctification that God gave to the Sabbath would somehow be switched to the first day of the week. Jesus Christ gives no indication whatever that the day of worship would change upon His death or resurrection. God made only one day each week holy (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 20:11), and the Bible gives no record of His even thinking about changing it. In addition, He does not give man the authority to "choose" which day each week is holy. Consider how often Jesus and the Pharisees argued over the Sabbath. Yet, not once did they contend over which day should be kept holy; in every instance, the issue was on how to keep the day that had already been firmly established as holy. Not only did Christ keep the Sabbath and teach others on the Sabbath, but after His death the apostles also kept it.
So we have the seventh-day Sabbath strongly established in the Old Testament (and even practiced in Exodus 16 before the proposal of the Old Covenant in Exodus 20). We have the example of Christ's keeping the Sabbath, without any indication that His ministry or His death would change it. And we have the New Testament church continuing to keep it after His death. How do the date and timing of His resurrection play into this? It does not! The sole purpose of Christ foretelling how long He would be in the grave is to prove that He was the Messiah—not to change which day is holy.
Jesus gave only one sign that He was the Messiah, sent by God—He would be in the grave three days and three nights (72 hours), and then would be resurrected by God, something which He could not control Himself. So the question of whether or not He was in the grave three days and three nights has nothing to do with which day God set apart and made holy, and everything to do with whether Jesus Christ was the Messiah!
The "sign of Jonah" is the only sign that Christ specifically gives to prove that He was the Messiah. The sign of Jonah is not a sign of preaching or bringing a message, as some allege. Certainly Jonah did that, just as Christ did. But that selective and erroneous interpretation conveniently overlooks the plain meaning of Jesus' words.
The "sign of Jonah" is mentioned three times in the gospels:
1) "And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, 'This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation'" (Luke 11:29-30).
Notice that He does not specify what the sign is here, but only alludes to a comparison with Jonah. He says that there is a sign, but does not say what it was.
2) "Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him, asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. . . . 'A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.' And He left them and departed" (Matthew 16:1, 4).
Again, there is no elaboration here, but this is actually the second time it is mentioned in the book of Matthew. The first occurrence demonstrates plainly what the sign of Jonah was, and so here Christ is merely repeating His answer from Matthew 12:38-40:
3) "Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.' But He answered and said to them, 'An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth'" (Matthew 12:38-40; see Jonah 1:17).
Both the account in Luke 11 and the one in Matthew 12 also mention Nineveh, and even Jonah's preaching. It is plain in both instances that they are mentioned to contrast the righteousness of previous generations with the righteousness of the current generation, particularly the Pharisees. To read into these scriptures that the "Sign of Jonah" is merely preaching is to horribly twist the Word of God—especially when Matthew 12:40 states categorically that, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
Those listening were certainly not confused about Christ's allusion to Jonah. It was plain to them that He predicted when He would arise: "On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, 'Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, "After three days I will rise." Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, "He has risen from the dead." So the last deception will be worse than the first'" (Matthew 27:62-64). Even the Pharisees understood that Jesus Christ's statement was focused on the timing of the resurrection!
In other verses, Jesus says He would rise "the third day" (Matthew 16:21; Mark 10:34; Luke 24:7). There is no contradiction between this expression and the term "three days and three nights." Both expressions are used interchangeably in the scriptures. In Genesis, for example, we read that "God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And the evening [darkness] and the morning [light] were the first day . . . and the evening [darkness] and the morning [light] were the second day . . . and the evening [now three periods of night] and the morning [now three periods of light] were the third day" (Genesis 1:4-13). Here the term "the third day" is shown to include three days and three nights.
Whether or not Jesus fulfilled the sign of Jonah by being in the grave three days and three nights (which cannot fit between late Friday and early Sunday) is of great importance in verifying that He was and is our Messiah. But it has nothing to do with which day of the week is holy.
David C. Grabbe
Some ministers would like us to believe that justification and salvation by grace through faith just suddenly appeared when the Son of God lived and died in the first century. They imply that God changed His approach to saving men—that He was either losing the battle to Satan, or the way He had given man was just too hard. It also implies that men under the Old Covenant were saved by keeping the law.
Once a person has sinned, he is under the penalty of the law, and his righteousness is not sufficient to justify him before God. Since all have sinned, the whole world is guilty before God. It takes a righteousness apart from lawkeeping to do this.
Then Paul says that this righteousness is revealed in the Old Testament Law and Prophets! The teaching has been there all along, all through the centuries from Moses to Christ and down to our time! God never changed His course. In the first century, He only openly revealed the means, Christ, through whom would come the righteousness that will justify one before God.
Men have always been justified and saved by grace through faith. People who were saved during Old Testament times looked forward in faith to this being accomplished. We look backward at it as a promise and as fulfilled prophecy.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God a False Minister?
One can justifiably say that this expression of God's faithfulness is the pivot upon which turns His whole purpose for humanity. God calls and then through His goodness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). I John 1:9 then adds, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Since Christ has come and died that we might be pardoned and cleansed, God's faithfulness is part of His grace. He would not be faithful to His promises, His past acts in Christ's works, or His calling that has sounded in our ears unless, when we obeyed the call and confessed, He allowed us to enter into the full possession of His pardoning grace. In other words, our forgiveness and cleansing, the receiving of favor from Him, is a product of His faithfulness.
God's faithfulness in these areas has far-reaching, practical ramifications for us. That God is faithful means that His character is unchangingly consistent. The unalterable structure of the universe consists of both justice and forgiveness. God never acts in contradiction of Himself, and in all experiences we may depend on Him to be unalterably just and forgiving toward us. Because He is faithful, He can be the central and most important object of our faith. Could we trust a god if we were never sure what he would do?
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness
2 Peter 1:19-21
It is from verse 20 in particular that we derive the principle that the Bible interprets itself. This means that somewhere within the pages of Scripture, the timing, the location, the characters, and the symbols employed in symbolic texts like parables and prophecies are explained or defined. It is our job to search them out.
When we add the following three vital verses to our understanding of this principle, however, we end up with a very significant corollary:
» For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. (Malachi 3:6)
» Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
» Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17)
Each of these verses proclaims God as constant, consistent, unchanging. It is this quality of God—that He is faithful to what He is—that allows us to trust Him. We can have confidence in God and His Word because He never changes! Could we rely upon a double-minded God (see James 1:6-8)? Could we have faith in a Being who constantly blew hot and cold? Never! With our God, though, we need not fear inconsistency.
Thus, if God is constant and His Word interprets itself, the corollary principle is that the Bible's interpretation of its symbols is consistent. This must be true! If the Bible gave us two contradictory interpretations of a symbol, how could we ever feel confident that we understood its meaning? This corollary underscores II Peter 1:19, where the apostle informs us that "the prophetic word [is] more sure" than even eyewitness accounts! We can have confidence in our understanding of the prophecies and parables if the symbols we interpret match what we understand in other areas of Scripture. Otherwise, we could never be sure!
This means that every symbol from Genesis to Revelation is consistent in its interpretation. If a rose means something in one part of the Bible, it will mean the same elsewhere, though the context may modify it slightly. If God is consistent, His Word—His revelation of Himself to us—must also therefore be consistent.
This conclusion may raise some questions. How can that be? How can, for instance, a lion represent Satan in I Peter 5:8 and Jesus Christ in Revelation 5:5? Is that not contradictory? Not at all! Our understanding is correct, but the meaning we give to the symbol is wrong. We have defined it too narrowly.
A study of the symbol of the lion brings out several characteristics the Bible emphasizes: It represents strength, predatory ferocity, majesty, and leadership. The lion is the symbol of a ruler, a king, and often a very fierce and powerful one. These are the general meanings of the symbol based on a lion's traits. They help us to comprehend what God wants us to focus on in the context. Thus, a lion can represent both Satan and Jesus because they both have a lion's characteristics.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables and Prophecy
1 John 4:8
The words "God is love" mean that love is an essential attribute of God. Love is something true of God, but it is not all of God. He has many other attributes. He is self-existent, eternal, holy, merciful, full of grace, immutable, just, omnipotent, omniscient, and many more things besides. Because God is immutable, He always acts as God, and because He is a whole and perfect personality, He never suspends one of His attributes to exercise another.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wholeness of God
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