Who Are the Gods in Psalm 82?

2016-11-02-dore_gustave_-_paradiso_canto_31Psalm 82:1 states, “God has taken his place in the divine council,” a line parallel in thought to the next: “in the midst of the gods he holds judgment” (ESV). The divine council is made up of the gods. These gods are charged with injustice and partiality (Ps 82:2–4) and lacking the knowledge and understanding necessary to their roles (82:5). God thus condemns these gods for their sins, addressing them directly: “I said, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince’” (Ps 82:6–7 ESV). The psalmist ends with a plea for God to restore justice, something these gods could not do (Ps 82:8).

Who are these gods?

One suggestion is that the gods are human rulers based on the use of elohim in other passages (cf. Exod 21:6; 22:8–9, 28; Deut 1:17), but it is questionable as to whether or not these passages refer to gods as human rulers or (more likely) God Himself, only implying the role of these rulers.

Another suggestion is that these gods are angels, being that these “sons of the Most High” (Ps 82:6) are the same as angels identified elsewhere as  “the sons of God” (Job 1:6; 2:1; cf also Job 38:7; Exod 15:11; Ps 8:6; 29:1; 89:6–7).

Throwing a sound view of Scripture out the window is the view that Israel saw her God ruling among the pantheon of gods, just as the nations around them. The reality of God and these gods in this view is not necessary, since Israel’s religion is simply one to be compared to many of like, human origin.

What seems to be the best understanding is that these gods are the people of Israel who were accountable to administer justice according to God’s Word. Both God and gods are translations of the same Hebrew term elohim, a word that is technically in the plural. In the Hebrew, a plural noun can sometimes bring out the majesty of a singular referent, as is the case with God. Since elohim refers to both the Judge of sinners and the sinners being judged in this psalm, context obviously decides the translation of each instance of elohim. Within the psalm, these gods are responsible for judging the matters of men, do so poorly, and are thus condemned to death, the last of which indicates they are human.

Another indicator that these gods are human is Jesus’ argument against the Jews in John 10:34–36. Jesus was accused of making Himself out to be God by claiming He and the Father were one (John 10:33; cf. 10:30). In response, Jesus quoted part of Ps 82:6 (“I said, you are gods”) in order to remind His opponents that “he called them gods to whom the word of God came” (John 10:34–35). Being written by Asaph, one of David’s musicians (ca. 1000 BC), a reference to the coming of the Word of God would have referred to God’s giving of the Law to Israel on the mountain over 400 years earlier (cf. Exod 19–24). Jesus’ argument went from the lesser to greater and could be summarized like this: if God could call these erring Israelites gods, then all the more am I justified in calling myself the Son of God who was consecrated and sent by the Father (John 10:35–36).

Being more specific, these gods were not just humans but those who had the responsibility of administrating justice according to the Word of God on His behalf. It is no surprise that Asaph would call them elohim. Using this one term in multiple instances and moving back and forth between meanings poetically highlighted the importance of their responsibility to administer justice on God’s behalf.

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Our Blessed Hope

2016-10-13-sky_cloudsThe passages below speak of the appearing, revelation, and coming of Christ. Were we to transliterate the Greek words in each verse below, we could speak of Christ’s epiphany (appearing), apocalypse (revelation), and parousia (coming). While these terms make for an interesting study, especially when used other passages, it encourages us first and foremost to see how their use equips us to be better “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13; cf. 1 Cor 1:7).

We should not question “the promise of his coming,” as do false teachers who do not recognize that Christ’s delay in coming is time given for more people to repent (2 Pet 3:4, 9). Rather, we should “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord…the coming of the Lord is at hand” (Jas 5:7–8).

Until Christ comes again, we should abide in Him “so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28). Towards that end, we should pray that we would “be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:23). Should we suffer for Him, we should “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet 4:13; i.e., the glory of Christ).

We look forward to reuniting with deceased believers through the resurrection and rapture that accompany the return of Christ. Among the resurrected “at his coming” will be “those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15:23). Living believers “who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thess 4:15). Deceased believers are resurrected, and all are raptured and reunited in the air with the Lord (1 Thess 4:16–17). This event is “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him” (2 Thess 2:1).

When He does come again, we look forward to our glorification and are thus commanded to “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:13). We also anticipate that “the tested genuineness of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:7). Added to this praise and glory and honor is the reward for our ministry to others, which Paul describes for himself as the “hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming” (1 Thess 2:19).

Summarizing the above, we do not doubt but patiently wait for Christ to come again. Until then, we should abide in Him, suffer as God sees necessary, and live blamelessly before Him. Our hope is not just in Christ Himself, but also the many blessings His coming brings. We are reunited with the believing dead and raptured together to Him. Our faith is then praised, and we are rewarded for our service to God. What an amazing return this will be! This truly is our blessed hope!

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The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 8:1–5)

Passage Summary

Upon opening the seventh seal, there was silence and then a procession of seven angels who were each given a trumpet (8:1–2). An eighth angel offered incense with the prayers of the saints on an altar before the throne of God (8:3–4). Taking some fire from the altar with his censer, the angel cast it on the earth, bringing about harbingers of judgment― thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake (8:5).

Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
8:3–4 Ps 141:2 Prayers and incense are both offered up to God.
8:3–5 Ezek 10:1–7 In a vision, fire is taken from before God and cast to the location to be judged.
8:5 Exod 19:16–19 Trumpets, thunder, and an earthquake are used to bring attention to God. Cf. Rev 8:6–21; 11:16–19.

A Parting Thought

Heaven went silent with knowing that judgment would follow. A healthy fear of the wrath to come should likewise sober us all.

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The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 7:9–17)

Passage Summary

John saw an innumerable, ethnically diverse multitude, redeemed and rejoicing by ascribing salvation to God and the Lamb (7:9–10). All the angels, elders, and four creatures then prostrated themselves to likewise ascribe to the Father eternal blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, and might (7:12). John was asked and then told the identity of the white-robed multitude―those who came out of the great tribulation, assumedly by martyrdom (7:13–14). Their newfound privilege was to continuously serve the Father in His temple, sheltered by His presence from the plagues still ravaging the people on earth (7:16). Guided by the Lamb, they would drink from living water in heaven, and the Father would wipe away their tears (7:17; cf. 21:4).

Old Testament in the New

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
7:9 Gen 16:10; 32:12; et al. The “great multitude” reflects the language of God’s promises to the patriarchs of Israel.
7:9 Lev 23:40 Palm branches often accompany rejoicing.
7:10 Ps 3:8 Both passages ascribe salvation to God.
7:16 Ps 121:5–6; Isa 49:10 Hunger, thirst, and scorching do not last for God’s people.
7:17 Ps 23:1–2; Ezek 34:23 The Great Shepherd leads His sheep to water.
7:17 Isa 25:8 God will wipe away the tears of the redeemed.


A Parting Thought

Man can harm the body but not the soul. Whatever suffering one may undergo here on earth, there is nothing so overwhelming that it can rob us of what shall be. What this multitude enjoys then will be ours forever as well, and like them, we should do no less than to offer our praise to the Father and the Son!


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How Well Do You Understand God’s Word?

2014.10.31 - boy studying from 1924Scripture indicates that some understand God’s Word better than others. An unbeliever does not truly understand God’s Word in that, without the Spirit, he does not see its value to himself and thus rejects it (1 Cor 2:14–15). Believers truly understand God’s Word, and vary in their understanding of it.

Those Who Misunderstand

Negatively, some completely misunderstand God’s Word. They hear it, reject it, and even use it as a means of ungodly gain. Referring to what false teachers do with Paul’s letters, Peter states, “There are some things in them… which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Pet 3:16).

Those Who Understand But Should Understand More

Some hear and believe God’s Word, but they do not advance in their understanding and application of it as much as they could and should, which is to their shame. Before explaining the complexities of how Christ is a priest like Melchizedek, the author of Hebrews stated that, for his readers, “it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:11–14; cf. 4:14–5:10). Some Christians had not grown much in their understanding of God’s Word, and in the time lost, they could and should have been teachers of God’s Word to others.

Those Who Understand Well

Others are teachers and understand some things better than others. Quoting 2 Pet 3:16 again, Peter said of Paul’s letters, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand.” Paul understood what he wrote. For others, however, these things were not as understandable.

No One Has Reached His Limit

Really, though some might understand truth about God better than others, there is no end for us in growing in our understanding of God’s Word, and what knowledge we possess is no reason to boast (1 Cor 8:1). There are many things yet unrevealed (Deut 29:29), and more that could have been said was not (John 21:25). Until glorification, the command to grow in the knowledge of God is ours to obey, implying there is always more to know (2 Pet 3:18). And even then, we as finite beings will never fully comprehend our infinite God, giving us cause to glorify Him forever (Rom 11:33–36).

The Abiding Word of God

2016-10-06-opened-bibleThe Word of God is instrumental in conversion and sanctification. As to our conversion, Peter says you “have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet 1:23). While we may not know all of the Word of God, we at least know what is necessary for salvation when we first believe.

Thereafter, we find that the Word continues to work in us for our sanctification. The author of Hebrews states, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Our thoughts and intentions are shown to us for better or worse as we internalize the Word of God.

The apostle John speaks of the Word of God abiding within an individual in the midst of statements of being spiritually strong and overcoming Satan: “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14). It would seem that the Word within an individual plays a part in strengthening him to overcome sin. Perhaps this concept is in David’s words as well: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11; see also Ps 37:31).

Once we are born again through God’s Word, we are commanded to let it abide or remain within us. In so doing, we abide in God and Christ and have eternal life. Speaking of the Word as what was heard by his readers, John states, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24; cf. 2:25).

As we obey the command to let God’s Word abide in us (to keep on believing it), we find that, as we pray according to God’s will, our prayers will be answered. Christ states, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).

From this small handful of passages, we see the importance of God’s Word. We are born again through the Word and then grow by increasing in our knowledge and application of the Word thereafter. The Word is also vital to our prayers and spiritual protection. May we truly know it and store it in our hearts so that we might not sin but rather grow in knowledge and grace of God.

Have You Been Anointed by the Spirit?

2016-09-28-hildesheim-germany-673419_1920In contrast to antichrists who deny essential truths about Jesus Christ (1 John 2:18–19; cf.2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7), the readers of 1 John are told, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge” (1 John 2:20), literally translated, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.”

That the anointing is from the Holy One is that it is from Jesus Christ. John later states that “the anointing” was something his readers “received from him” (1 John 2:27), the same “him” who whose “coming” is mentioned in 1 John 2:28 (“his coming”), indicating the “him” in 2:27 is Jesus, the One who is coming again (cf. Rev 22:7). Jesus is called the Holy One in other texts as well (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; John 6:69; Acts 2:27; 3:14; Rev 3:7).

The anointing itself is something that “abides in you” and “teaches you about everything” (1 John 2:27). Paul elsewhere states that “God…has anointed us,” which is to say that He “has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor 1:21–22). Paul’s focus is on God’s giving of the Spirit as a seal and guarantee of redemption (cf. Eph 1:13–14; 4:30). John’s focus is Jesus’ giving of the Spirit to an individual to teach him about the gospel in a way that involves the individual’s acceptance of it. (It could be said that either God or Christ anoints―the Father and the Son give the Spirit together. Cf. John 14:26; 15:16.)

What John teaches in 1 John 2:20, 27 about accepting truth is taught by Paul in 1 Cor 2:14–15. Speaking of an unbeliever’s rejection of God’s revealed truth, Paul states, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). In contrast, the believer does accept God’s truth: “The spiritual person judges all things” (1 Cor 2:15). The unbeliever does not have the Spirit and rejects truth, and the believer does have the Spirit and accepts truth (cf. 1 Cor 2:12–13).

The Spirit’s anointing is not something that imparts truth. The unbelievers in 1 John 2:19 had to have known the objective content of the gospel as did John’s readers; they were once among the readers and eventually left the church (1 John 2:19). Rather, anointing is the Spirit’s work in someone that enables the individual to savingly accept the truth that he already knows. Theologically, this anointing necessarily comes at the point of one’s conversion.

Summarizing the above, every believer is anointed with the Spirit at conversion. This anointing entails the Spirit’s abiding presence, ensuring the believer of his future redemption. As it did first at his conversion, this anointing also helps him to continually learn, understand, and accept the truth of God.

The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 7:1–8)

Passage Summary 

After the judgment of the sixth seal, an “interlude” takes place. Four angels protect the earth from further judgment until another angel went about to seal 144,000 Jews (7:1–3), perhaps won to the gospel through the witness of the two prophets (cf. 11:3). These 144,000 would tell the world about Jesus and die as martyrs for their testimony (cf. 12:13, 17; 14:1–5). Each of the twelve tribes listed would have 12,000 men sealed, 144,000 in all (7:5–8). This group was only a portion of those who would be saved during the Tribulation (cf. 7:9–14), and as martyrs, not a part of the third of Israel saved at the end of the Tribulation (cf. Zech 13:1, 8–9).

Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
7:1 Isa 11:12; Jer 49:36; Ezek 7:2; 37:9; Dan 7:2; Zech 6:5 Whether corners or winds, the idea of totality in geography is dominant.

 

7:3 Ezek 9:4–6 The mark of God protects His people from judgment.
7:4–8 Ezek 48:31–34 In comparison to 18 other lists in the OT, this one matches in names, though not order.

A Parting Thought

Even in the midst of this age’s conclusive wrath, God will temporarily relieve His judgment in order for tens of thousands of Jews to be saved. In all likelihood, these evangelists would be part of the means whereby the great multitude of the Tribulation would hear the gospel and be saved. Even in wrath, God is a God of mercy!

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Biblical Illustrations of Loving the World

2016-09-21-globe-brainWorldliness in 1 John 2:15–17 could be described as valuing what is temporary more than what is eternal. It is living primarily to satisfy the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes. It could also be placing one’s confidence in what this present life offers rather than placing one’s confidence in God (i.e., the pride of life). Scripture gives us some examples of what it is to be tempted with or engage in worldliness.

First, Eve was tempted with the desires of her flesh―she “saw that the tree was good for food” (Gen 3:6). She was also tempted with the desires of her eyes―she “saw…that it was a delight to the eyes” (Gen 3:6). She was similarly tempted with the pride of life―she knew that eating from the tree would “make one wise” (Gen 3:6) in that she would “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). Unfortunately, true likeness to God was not to be found, and it was by evil that she came to experience its difference from what is good. She valued food, what her eyes saw, and possessing God-like qualities in the present rather than doing God’s will and abiding with Him forever.

Likewise, Jesus was tempted by the desires of His flesh―He was tempted to turn stones into bread to feed His bodily hunger at the command of Satan and not His heavenly Father (Matt 4:3–4). He was also tempted by the desires of His eyes―He was shown “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” and tempted to act upon the desire rule over all that He saw (Matt 4:8). Finally, Jesus was tempted with the pride of life―He was tempted to throw Himself from the temple and thus force His Father to protect Him with angels, implying He could force the Father to do what He as the Son desired (Matt 4:9–10). Jesus resisted and overcame the temptation to value food, what He saw, and (theoretically) being more powerful than the Father. Instead, in each instance, He valued doing the Father’s will so that He could abide with Him forever.

Perhaps another illustration could be the rich fool in the parable told by Jesus in Luke 12:13–21. The occasion for Jesus to tell the parable was in response to what we can assume a man saw, provoking the desires of his eyes―an inheritance that his brother would not divide with him (Luke 12:13). Jesus then told him about a rich fool who valued his abundant goods because they would allow him to “relax, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). The rich fool’s pride of life was evident in his confidence in his possessions, and he anticipated how they would also fulfill the desires of his flesh. Unfortunately, after reflecting upon his riches in this way, he was shown to be a fool for giving no thought to the brevity of life and preparing for the life to come―he died that night, leaving his possessions to others (Luke 12:20). The man without an inheritance likewise had a misplaced confidence in his brother’s possessions and assumed they would bring him satisfaction. Moreover, he saw Jesus as his means to an earthly end rather than following Him and thus doing the will of the Father. What Jesus said of the rich fool was true of the man without an inheritance: “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

Rather than seeking to satisfy our earthly desires, let us be heavenly minded and order our lives around what is eternal. Let us not treasure this present world but do the will of the Father so we may find ourselves rich towards Him!

The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 6:9–17)

Passage Summary

 The breaking of the fifth seal brings about a call from martyrs to God to avenge the persecutors who killed them (6:9–10). Given robes and told to rest, their number would increase for a time until judgment came their killers in full (6:11). The breaking of the sixth seal brings about previously prophesied cosmic and astronomical phenomena (6:12–14), sending those who dwell on the earth into caves, fearful of the wrath of the Father and the Lamb (6:15–17).

Old Testament in the New 

Revelation Old Testament Connection Between the Two
6:12 Isa 50:3 The heavens will become black.
6:13 Isa 34:4 The stars shall fall.
6:14 Isa 34:4; Nah 1:5 The skies will be rolled up as a scroll.
6:15 Ps 48:4–6; Isa 34:12 Those of high rank cannot escape God’s judgment.
6:16 Isa 2:10–12, 19; Hos 10:8 Mankind hides in caves to escape God’s judgment.
6:17 Ps 76:7; Jer 30:7; Nah 1:6; Zeph 1:14–18; Mal 3:2 The eschatological wrath of God will come, and the rhetorical question indicates that no one can withstand it once it has begun. Cf. also Isa 13:10-13; 24:1–6, 19–23; Ezek 32:6–8; Joel 2:10–11, 30–31; 3:15-16; Jer 4:23–28; Amos 8:8–9.

A Parting Thought 

There is no mistaking when this judgment begins―all will see what happens on the earth and in the heavens. There are also no exceptions to who shall suffer. And yet, the promise of martyrs to come thereafter means that some would yet be saved. While God is gracious to save some during this time, be ready and persevere so that you can know its coming is not for you (cf. Rev 3:10–11)!

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