Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

We are continuing our meditation on the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation). Some believe that the Shroud of Turin, a one-piece long cloth that is about fourteen feet long is the burial cloth of Jesus, but the evidence stacks up against it. There are two images on the cloth, one of the front of a person, and one of the rear. The heads of the image meet in the middle and some have noted that there should be a space between the heads if the cloth was under the body and then lay above. It has also been estimated that the head is 5% too large, the nose is disproportionate and the arms are too long. Most skeptics believe the shroud to be a painting and a religious hoax. Here’s what author Josh McDowell says:

The Shroud has been known to have been around since 1354 and was tested in 1978 and thought to have been the real deal due to having no sign of paint or dye on it. However, in 1988, three independent laboratories made carbon-dating tests of threads of the Shroud. They all gave it a late medieval date. Proponents of the Shroud objected that the sample was too fragmentary and was from a contaminated section of the Shroud that reflected a medieval church fire.[1]

If it was just one piece of white linen, then what did John the apostle see that made him believe? All he had been told was that somebody had stolen the body; they had run as quickly as they could. John emphasizes the head covering being folded away from the strips of cloth. Was he trying to describe that the head covering folded in on itself after the Lord passed out of the strips of cloth? Henry Latham, in his book The Risen Master, has this to say about the grave clothes: “There lie the clothes—they are fallen a little together, but are still wrapped fold over fold, and no grain of spice is displaced. The napkin, too, is lying on the low step which serves as a pillow for the head of the corpse; it is twisted into a sort of wig, and is all by itself.”[2]

As Peter and John went back to their homes, Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb (John 20:10). She saw two angels inside the tomb and talked to someone outside that she thought was the gardener.

13They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary” (John 20:13-16).

In talking with the One she thinks is the gardener, she still wants to know where the body was taken. When Jesus speaks her name aloud, “Mary” (John 20:16), she suddenly realizes Who the “Gardener” is, and she cries out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means teacher). When she heard His voice, she knew it was Christ. What a wonderful thing it is to know that Jesus is alive, and that He has conquered death for every man.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 64 at this link, The Resurrection of Christ (Luke 23:50-24:12). Keith Thomas.

[1] Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Nelson Publishers, Page 232.

[2] As mentioned by R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word, John. That You May Believe. Printed by Crossway Books, Wheaton, Ill. Page 453.

Who Will Fall on this Stone?

We have been meditating on Jesus’ teaching of the Parable of the Vine-growers in Luke 20:1-19. The Lord taught that judgment would fall on the nation of Israel because of their rejection of the Messiah, the Son of God (Scroll down for previous meditations). The crowd’s shocked response to Jesus’ parable had Jesus explaining to them that He Himself was the One to whom the Psalmist referred to in Psalm 118:22, ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE’ (Luke 20:17). Peter the Apostle says a similar thing:

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone (1 Peter 2:7).

Jesus then went on to give just two options, “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust” (v. 18). We are to be broken or to be crushed by the stone. What could He be meaning? Why would God want us to have a broken spirit? In what ways can a broken spirit be a blessing? Can you think of a time that God visited you in your brokenness? Did the experience make you more open to spiritual things?

 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Only in our brokenness will we begin to rely and lean on Christ. Like the chief priests and elders of Israel, our pride and self-confidence keep Messiah at arm’s length. He will not force His way into our lives. His desire is that we come to Him broken of our selfish will. C.H. Spurgeon, the great English preacher, once said: “When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible man and breaks him. We are but men, frail, feeble, and apt to faint.” Charles Swindoll comments on Spurgeon’s thought in this way:

I am intrigued by the word ‘broken.’ ‘It means, literally, ‘shattered.’ My sacrifice to God, according to Psalm 51:17, is a shattered spirit and a bruised heart. It is not until the pride of our heart is shattered that we will begin to understand the deep things of God.”[1]

We need to admit our weakness in order to be healed. It is better to let yourself be broken and humble yourself before God rather than letting life break us down because of painful choices. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (John 1:9). We can fall on the stone in repentance, brokenness, and adoration, or the stone will fall on us, crushing us in judgment. That was the choice before the leaders of Israel who were listening. Peter the Apostle wrote:

4As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:4-6).

When you are presented with the truth of Jesus’ words, you, too, must decide. Will you give His words room and let them enter your heart? Will you open the gate of your soul? We will all respond one way or another to the claims of Christ’s authority. In chapters 19 and 20 of Luke, we have glimpsed a different Jesus than the one, perhaps, that you have envisioned. We see His passion as He weeps in unrestrained, heaving sobs over Israel. We see His anger and courage as He cleanses the Temple and challenges the unjust authority there. We see His tenderness alongside remarkable bravery. What a wonderful Savior we have in our Lord Jesus!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I recognize Your authority as the Great I Am. Open my eyes to know You more. I want Your truth to flood my soul. I know that You have my best interests at heart and that there is nothing that I can hide from You. Give me fresh understanding of your Word and Your ways. Transform me through Your words of life. Amen.

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 53. Luke 20:1-19: The Parable of the Vine-Growers. Keith Thomas

[1] Chuck Swindoll, Men of Action, What it Means to Be Broken, Spring 1996.

Who Is the God of This Age?

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

We are in the midst of an unseen battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. This war is being fought on a spiritual plane over control of the human race. The majority of the population of planet earth has had the cloak of deception placed over them. They cannot see the good news as to what Christ has done in redeeming (buying back) men from the grip of the god of this age. Satan is the god of this age, an evil angel that chose to rebel against God and drew away with him an army of angels and demons after himself. His chief tactic against you and me is a strategy of deception to keep you from seeing that the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible is a compilation of 66 books that tell the story of the creator of the world, who loves us so much that He paid the penalty of sin by dying on a cross as the just payment of our debt of sin.

There are many so-called gods in this world, how does one tell who is the true God? The Bible tells us that there are only two kingdoms, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Satan has used religion against God. He knows that there is a missing piece that is absent from the jigsaw of your life—a part of your inner nature that cries out for the true God. Satan has served up different religions on earth in the hope that he can satisfy the search for God that you have. That’s why our passage today describes Satan as the god of this age blinding the minds of unbelievers. We can tell who is the true God by the fruit that comes from the tree of the belief system of whatever god you have listened to in the past. In the passage below, Jesus tells us to look at the outflow of a person’s life to see if there is evidence of true spiritual life—God’s life:

16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit (Matthew 7:16-18).

True Christianity is about receiving the gift of God, eternal life, into the core of your being. The result of receiving this impartation of the gift of God is that your life becomes “a good tree,” and bears “good fruit.” What does good fruit look like? The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus contrasts the two kingdoms that are at war. Satan is pictured as a thief whose plan is to steal what God wants to freely give you—the gift of eternal life in Christ. Satan wants to kill you and destroy you from ever being a threat to his kingdom. On the other side of this war, we see that Jesus Christ came to give you the gift of God’s life, eternal life, and the kind of life that is lived to the full.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

Have you received this free gift of eternal life? There is nothing you can do to earn it. It is not worked for; it is a gift that one receives from the hand of God. Why don’t you ask Him to come into your life? Turn from serving self and Satan to serve the Living God. Receive the gift of eternal life today. Here’s a prayer you can use:

Prayer: Lord of Heaven and Earth, I come to you today acknowledging and believing that you are the true God and have sent Jesus into the world as my substitute for sin. I turn from my sin today. Come into my life and make me new. I receive today your free gift of eternal life in your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for all that you have done for me at the cross. Amen!

If you sincerely prayed that prayer to God—welcome to the family of believers all over the world! Keith Thomas

Are There Two Second Comings of Christ?

1“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9” ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11“Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ 12“But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ 13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (Matthew 25:1-13 Emphasis mine).

What is the message that Jesus would have us take from this passage of scripture—what stands out to you? There are many things that we can learn, but two things in particular stand out to me:

1) Those who were waiting all began to get tired, but half of them, even though they were tired, had made provision for the night—they had extra oil to see them through the darkness. We are told that the bridegroom was a long time coming, but at the darkest point of the night, midnight, the bridegroom came. The emphasis is on being ready for His coming.

2) Only the five who were ready went to be with the bridegroom and the door was shut immediately afterwards. The five foolish people, did they get to come in later? Of course not! They were shut out. It was too late! We don’t like the implications, but the truth is that the door is never opened again after the Lord comes. There is only one rapture of the saints, not two.

I am going to get stones thrown at me here, but here goes anyway.  There are those who believe that there are two comings of Christ, one before the seven-year period of trouble starts, and one towards the end. They tell us that if we miss the first coming, not to worry, He will come at a later time and those who miss the first coming will still get in. The Left Behind series of books in the USA are all about this fallacy. Of course, they warn us, this is not a good option for there will be lots of trouble and hardship during the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-31). In my belief, this is deception of the highest magnitude. This doctrine fosters the belief that if you miss the coming of Christ, you can still become a Christian later on. There are those who put off salvation today, because they have been told that they can get still give their lives to Christ after the Christians have been raptured. They will then believe in Christ when they see the rapture take place. Do not believe it!  There is only one Second Coming of Christ and He will come at some point after the Great Tribulation has started (no man knows the day nor the hour) but before the wrath of God is poured out. We must be watching and preparing ourselves spiritually for the darkness that is coming on America and the rest of the world. We must grow in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His Word; this will be oil in our lamps that will keep us in the darkness of the hour that is approaching.

Taken from the study of the Second Coming of Christ, found in the middle column, entitled The Rapture of the Saints. It is also one of the Parables (number 2 of the Parables of Christ) in the middle column too. Keith Thomas

The Thousand Year Peace.

We are continuing from our study yesterday on the topic of the Millennium. The thousand-year reign of Jesus on Earth. In the third study of Insights into eternity (In the middle column), we talked about the resurrection of the saints at the return of Christ. Those who are born again and walking with Christ will receive an imperishable body, a body of power that is immortal. This body will be like Christ’s resurrection body, a body that had been sown in dishonor, but raised in glory (1 Corinthians 15:43). The saints are given authority to reign with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4; 1 Corinthians 6:2) and Satan will be bound and thrown into the Abyss (Revelation 20:1-3).

1And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. 4I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6 Emphasis mine).

Theologians and scholars call this thousand-year reign of Christ, the Millennium. The word millennium means a thousand. There are three beliefs about the Millennium. The first is called Amillennialism. An Amillennialist believes that the thousand years mentioned five times in the passage above is not a literal number but a symbolic number and represents the time we are in now, the church age. Secondly, there is postmillennialism.  Postmillennialists also believe that the 1000-year period mentioned in the passage above, is not literally 1,000 years. In their view, the church will bring in a golden age of Christian ethics and that Jesus’ Second Coming will come after that period of time. Thirdly, there is premillennialism, to which I personally hold. A premillenialist believes that Jesus’ coming will be after a time of tribulation, that He will raise the saints, those who have been born-again of the Spirit, and that the saints will rule and reign with Him in a literal thousand-year reign on the earth.

The dragon, that ancient serpent that appeared in the Garden of Eden, also called the devil and Satan, will be bound, verse three tells us, in the Abyss (Greek word is Abussos, a word that means bottomless, unfathomed; enormous; unbounded; immeasurable depth). There will be no more war until the 1000 years are up, and after that Satan must be released for a time. Imagine what our world will be like with Satan bound. What changes do you think will come about for those living on earth in total freedom from satanic influence?

For the saints, the Body of Christ, in their new resurrection bodies, there will be no temptation towards evil and sin, and no more deception at work on the earth (Verse 3). Our resurrection bodies will take away all fear of harm. There will be no fear of death. From the point when Jesus returns, the saints are immortal. Our sin nature, also, will be taken away, and there will be no desire to sin at all. Because we will be operating in a totally free capacity, our creativity will be unleashed. We will see our bodies, souls and minds operating at a totally different level, free from constraint. We will experience life as God intended us to know it. Oh, how I look forward to it! I hope you are too.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Millennium. Keith Thomas