Alfred Place Baptist Church

2:25-38 The hope that prepares for heaven

Luke 2:25-38 “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’ The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Our focus turns in these verses from a young couple, Joseph and Mary, who have brought their six week old baby son Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. In these verses our focus is on two older people, though they were not husband and wife, and actually there is no reference anywhere to the age of Simeon. So many of the commentators presume he was an old man, but at the best this is what Raymond E. Brown calls a “plausible supposition.” J.C.Ryle, Tom Wright, Darrell Bock, Douglas Milne and others declare that Simeon was old because of the reference to the fact that it had been revealed to Simeon that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (v.26). But he might have been in his twenties with an incurable illness, hanging on to life, and then wonderfully assured by God (perhaps through a dream – we are not told) that he would be kept alive until he had seen the Messiah. Simeon later famously says, “Now dismiss your servant in peace” (v.29), and he was certainly content to die, but that has nothing necessarily to do with being elderly. He was definitely a righteous and a devout man; the Holy Spirit was upon him and he was full of longings for heaven to be with his God rather than live a day longer in this groaning world – if this were God’s will. We are not told what age Simeon was.

However, when we turn to Anna we are told in politically incorrect language, she was “very old” (v.36) and Luke goes into some details about her long life. He seems to be saying that she had been a widow for eighty-four years (that is how the N.I.V footnote translates it and that incredible statistic seems to be the most natural translation of the Greek) and that she had been married for seven years before that. She would have been a teenager of 14 when she got married. So Anna could have been a centenarian aged about 105. The N.I.V. translators think that that interpretation is a bit hard to swallow, and they tell us that she had been a widow until she was eighty-four suggesting that that was her age. We can’t be sure because the Greek is ambivalent, and it is good to see that ambivalence being allowed to slide into the New Testament by means of a footnote. Whether she was 84 or 105 she was certainly very old.

IN THE DARKEST TIMES AND PLACES THE LORD HAS A PEOPLE OF HOPE.
There had been a dark period in the life of the prophet Elijah when he felt that he was the only Old Testament Christian left in the world. Running up to that time Elijah had known spectacular triumph manifest in the annihilation of 850 false prophets who had caused such religious and moral havoc in the land. Fire had fallen from heaven on the altar to the Lord that he alone had erected and Elijah had been vindicated, but then a threat from Queen Jezebel that she was out to get him had sent him running off far from Carmel and out into the wilderness when he lay down exhausted under a juniper tree telling God he was ready to die. “The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (I Kings 19:14). God’s reply was, “Wait a minute! There are actually 7,000 others in the land who haven’t bowed the knee to Baal.” In other words, a great number of faithful men and women were in the underground remnant. Don’t think you are the only one left.

These days increasingly I live by the timescale of decades, looking at the professing church with a life-long, world-wide perspective, gained from travels to distant congregations and from letters received from all over the world. I think I have a greater appreciation of how broadly spread is historic Christianity, and what an impact it is making in certain nations. If only we were granted the freedom and safety to preach the Bible in the Middle East how Islam would tremble! Yet even in our own decadent western world there wouldn’t be this eruption of books written against Christianity if the authors did not feel that there was a potency and virility in the gospel that irritated them. God has his people everywhere today, as he had them in the land of Israel the year that the Lord Jesus was born.

This wasn’t a particularly brilliant period in Israel’s history. The people of God had fallen on hard times. This was not the high point of their love to Jehovah, of their trust in God, of their faith in his promises, and their obedience to his word. No one would claim that during some golden age in Israel’s history Jesus appeared. In fact it was a dark time for Israel; it was the age when Israel’s high priest crucified Israel’s Messiah, and yet Luke is telling us that then God had his remnant, his godly, humble, devout, passionate people. Men and women who trusted in his word – they’re there! They may not be in the hierarchy, they may not be in government leadership, they may not be the celebrities of the day in Israel, but they are there, and amongst such were Simeon and Anna.

We don’t know anything about these two people except what is written here in Luke 2. We don’t know where Simeon came from. We don’t hear about him again in the New Testament. We have no knowledge of when he died. Did he go home, lie down and die after holding baby Jesus that day? Did he live on three more years? Ten more years? Did he meet one of the shepherds? We don’t know anything about him. He’s one of those retiring, godly believers of Israel – perhaps invisible to the eyes of many. We know a little more about Anna, that her father was named Phanuel, and she came from the tribe of Asher. Asher? One of the ten lost tribes? Yes. Then it’s clear that not all their members had been lost. It is unusual to come across a member of the tribe of Asher, but particularly to find one in Jerusalem because Israelites in that city were principally of the tribe of Judah (and that’s the derivation of the word “Jews”), or the inhabitants were from the tribes of Benjamin or Levi. She is the only woman in the New Testament who comes from the tribe of Asher. That is about what we know about Anna’s background.

So Simeon and Anna are reminders that God always has his people, and that should be an encouragement to us. The Lord has his elect everywhere. We are not alone. I was once on a plane flying to New Zealand, and I was talking to the person next to me and the subject turned to the gospel, and after I got off the flight and was waiting at the carousel for my luggage the people who had been sitting behind me came onto me. They were Christians who were listening to all I had been saying and they said that they had been praying for me, but one moving fact of that incident is this, that they come south from Scotland to the August conference in Aberystwyth and they have remind me about that occasion, sitting behind me on the plane praying as I spoke to this woman. Christians are everywhere; as I speak to the barber cutting my hair the other man having his hair cut listening to me might also be a Christian – that has also happened to me, and if I had known that it would have given me more courage.

There was a church secretary I know of who would make the announcements on Sunday and one unfortunate phrase he used was this; “I can see some strange faces here today.” Maybe we take it in turns to put on a strange face. You don’t know whether the man you meet who seems to have a strange face might not turn out to be a fellow believer. We may often think that we are increasingly out of step with our culture. We may feel that we are really odd in the eyes of our contemporaries because of our trust in Christ, our belief in the Bible, and that we are following after the Lord Jesus Christ. But he will always have his people. We may meet an old acquaintance whom we were in school with forty years ago and we discover that she is a Christian. I read in the newspaper last week an article by a reporter describing a year that he had spent in a prison cell in Burma. He had been tortured and had had a horrible time. What had helped him? Jesus Christ, he wrote. Knowing his Saviour had experienced such pain had helped him. So the Lord has a people in the vain world of the media. When the Fijian rugby team kneel down and pray earnestly in a circle after a game I thank God that he has a people everywhere even in the sporting world.

So here’s Simeon and Anna and they belong to the Lord. God will always have his people. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies. King Herod, the chief priests and scribes, the Pharisees, Pontius Pilate and the Romans will oppose Christ, yes, but there are humble, godly, Bible-believing followers of the living God right there in Israel even in these dark days, and Simeon and Anna were such people. What an encouragement to us. God will always have his people in the most unexpected places. The father of one of our former students worked for Walt Disney in Los Angeles and when I stayed with him he told me of a Christian Union meeting each week in the studios of over a hundred people, and ten of them also got together and were studying Pink’s Sovereignty of God. God’s people are everywhere, yes, but are you amongst the people of God? Do you know that you belong to his people because you’ve entrusted your soul into the safe keeping of your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?

WHAT OTHER GRACES ACCOMPANY THE HOPE OF THESE PEOPLE?
The world thought of these Christians by its own values, in other words, people commented on Anna’s age, “Isn’t she ancient? They say she’s over a hundred. Wow! And so religious, always in the temple. Well, old people are like that aren’t they? A bit fanatical . . .” That is how the world judges, but what were the features in the lives of Simeon and Anna that God noted?

i] Simeon was righteous (v.25). He was straight, without being straight-laced, in other words, he wasn’t moralistic because he loved God, and loved him more and more. What had started off as a trickle had become a torrent of love. He loved the very person of God as eternal, holy, unchangeable, reliable and almighty. He loved his word and his ordinances, and he wanted to live every day doing the will of God. There was a student at the university in this town who was witnessed to, subtly and constantly, by a number of Christians. He didn’t mind; he always found himself drawn into their company, and finally there came a day when he went to his room alone and he cried to God for salvation and these were his words. “Lord, make me a righteous man.”

ii] Simeon was devout (v.25). There is this derogatory remark that I occasionally come across describing us as ‘pietists.’ I think that these critics have a problem with piety itself, but here is a man and God says that what he loved in Simeon was his devotion. He had a growing relationship with God. His mind was full of the things of God; he naturally prayed and sang psalms. He had times of personal devotion, but he practiced the presence of God hour by hour. He longed for a closer walk with God and hated everything that caused a divorce between himself and his Saviour.

iii] Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel (v.25). He knew that God had commissioned the prophet Isaiah to preach to the people a message of comfort. “Comfort my people. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for” (Isa. 40:1&2). Simeon was waiting for this time when the hurting people of God, let down by their godless rulers, their carnal king Herod, their power-seeking chief priests, their legalistic Pharisees would be utterly humiliated and then they would seek God, mourning over their sins. Simeon was longing for a great spiritual awakening in the land, the people repenting and confessing their sins and being baptized. What consolation such a period would bring to all the elect in Israel. The Comforter – or the Paraclete – would have come to the people.

iv] Simeon was also a man upon whom rested the Spirit of God (v.25). That is the reason he thought and behaved as he did. Now that phrase certainly implies that he was a regenerate man. The Holy Spirit had given him a birth from above; he had been made alive; he was indwelt by the Spirit of holiness – as is every Christian (even the ones with strange faces), but the phrase means something more than that. There was a spiritual gift that distinguished Simeon from other Christians; Simeon had been given the Spirit of prophecy, so that he possessed this assurance that soon the Lord’s Christ would appear. How he came to know that we are not told, nor whether he was taken aback when the Spirit moved him to enter the Temple that day and he made the discovery of the Messiah but that he was not a warrior on a white stallion but a little baby boy? Had he expected more razzle-dazzle than he got? Somehow Simeon was able to recognize the wee boy as the promised Christ, and that Jesus would be God’s salvation, a great light for revelation to the whole Gentile world and for glory to God’s people Israel. Simeon further prophesied that this baby Jesus was destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, that many hearts would be revealed by the Lord’s ministry and a sword would pierce Mary’s heart. All this Simeon said because the Spirit of prophecy was upon him.

v] Anna lived in a spirit of worship. “She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying” (v.37). We are told by Paul to pray always, in other words to live in a spirit of prayer; as you arise in the morning that then you appropriate your great High Priest, you present your body to God for that day, you thank him for every temporal mercy, you ask him for deliverance from every temptation and you pray for strength in all your weaknesses and wisdom in all your ignorance. Be constantly in communion with God. Pray briefly, but never stop praying. We don’t have a Temple to visit, and certainly not a religious place to dwell in night and day. That dispensation is over, never to return. We don’t keep the doors of this building open for people to enter and pray 24/7. Go to God wherever you are! Pray without ceasing like Anna did, with certain times of serious intercession, as she had, when she fasted by refusing food for a day or two to make her mind clearer to think of the things of God. Her prayers were kept alive by a hope that the Redeemer would come. The one promised in the Garden would come and would bruise the serpent’s head. The one Isaiah spoke of, by whose stripes we would be healed, would come. She lived her life in hope of that Redeemer coming

So those five categories are features God draws our attention to in the lives of his own mature people as graces that count, graces that God creates, nurtures, loves, blesses and rewards. Here are two people, probably both of them quite old, and certainly background figures in the Bible. They are frequently in the temple because they have made God their sanctuary. Their lives are hid in him, and he knows all about them, and they are at peace because their very best features are his gifts to them.

ONE OF THE GREAT HOPES OF GOD’S PEOPLE IS TO DIE IN PEACE
Simeon famously prayed, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace” (v.29). That’s not a very sweet translation is it – “you now dismiss your servant in peace”? My father died on Christmas Day in 1978, and a few days later I took his funeral service and preached on these words in the King James Version, “Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word.” But that translation is archaic for today isn’t it – lettest thou thy servant . . .? No one has spoken like that for hundreds of years. Why should we use for the next centuries a 17th century translation?

The point is this, that Simeon had that assurance that he was going home to his father in heaven and that he would know an abundant entrance into that Kingdom. This is the God who had made a promise to Simeon that before he died he would see the Messiah, and God had kept his word. “I can die in peace,” he was saying, “because your promise has been fulfilled in me.”

Everybody’s going to depart this life one day, in one form or another, but only some will depart this life in peace. That was Simeon’s hope because God would surely fulfil his word; “Lord, I can depart this life in peace. You can take me home, because your word has come to pass – I have seen salvation in Jesus the Messiah.” He puts it like this: “Now you dismiss your servant in peace.” When we look at the Bible we find there two groups of people. There are many people in the Bible to whom God made a specific promise and then he fulfilled that promise during their lives, quite unmistakably. Then there are other people in the Bible to whom God has made a promise and they die without actually seeing that promise fulfilled. Simeon is an example of the first group, of someone given a promise that he would see the Messiah with his own eyes, and he did see him. Abraham, on the other hand represents the other group. He was given a promise that he would be the father of a multitude of nations, and that all the nations would be blessed by his Seed. Abraham died without seeing such promises fulfilled. Now, to everyone to whom God gives a promise that is not fulfilled in their lifetime, God says “I want you to be comforted and strengthened by looking at these people here in the Bible to whom I gave a promise and I did fulfil it during their lives. Then I want you to remember this: I, the Lord, have spoken other great promises to you. Won’t they also be fulfilled one day? I will keep all my words of promise for them. You ask any one of them whether I ever failed to fulfill my promises. Not one of them, not a single one of them will say. ‘The Lord failed me.’ So trust in me.”

The Lord hasn’t come to any one of us in a dream and told us we are going to see the Messiah coming, but he has given me such words as these, that he is going to work all things together for our good, that he will never leave us nor forsake us, that he will supply all our needs from his riches in glory in Christ Jesus, that we shall be more than conqueror through his love, and so on, many such exceeding great and precious promises. He’s given every Christian his word, and he’s saying ‘Test me and find me faithful.’ The peace that Simeon speaks of doesn’t depend on a special gift of prophecy. It comes from God’s word of promise which Simeon had believed. He saw Christ with his own eyes, and, men and women, you also will one day – if you are trusting in Christ – see this promise fulfilled with your own eyes. When we see him we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. That is the promise, and this one also of peace in departing this life, grace to die with. Those who trust in God will depart this life in peace. J.C. Ryle says about Simeon, “He speaks like one for whom the grave has lost its terrors, and the world its charms.” Simeon did not fear death. He did not fear the grave. He was not in love with the world so that he had to be wrenched away from it. He was ready to go home in peace, because he believed the word of God. Men and women, you can be ready to go home in peace, not in resignation, not because you’re tired and you just can’t go on anymore, but you can be ready to go home in peace if you will believe the word of God.

THAT HOPE CAN BECOME YOURS THROUGH LOOKING TO JESUS CHRIST.
“My eyes have seen your salvation,” says Simeon (v.30). Can you imagine the scene in the temple? Mary and Joseph are having a precious family moment. They have made sacrifice for their own purification, and they are presenting their baby Jesus to his Father, seeking strength and wisdom to raise the son he has entrusted to them. “May we be good stewards of this wonderful gift,” and then they are interrupted by a stranger who introduces himself, “I’m Simeon. Your son is the Messiah. May I hold him?” Today we are so afraid of child abusers that if an elderly couple look down into the pram and smile at a baby we reach for the mobile phone. What a world we inhabit! Yet here is six week old Jesus, just getting to the stage when his neck was able to support the weight of his own head. Small infants under six weeks have that characteristic head-lolling that comes from not yet having built up tonic neck strength. So when Simeon took this baby into his arms it’s probable that he had to support Jesus’ neck. What would you be thinking as a parent?

Simeon takes the baby from Mary and he says, “Lord, I have seen your salvation.” He says that having seen this particular baby. He had seen hundreds of other babies brought to the Temple but he never said those words when he had seen them. Salvation was going to be in this little boy alone. The jots and tittles of the law are not going to save sinners; self-help schemes for human betterment are not going to do it, but one who was once a baby, born of a woman, is going to save the cosmos. Then salvation must be by grace! Simeon was seeing what all the rest in the Temple (except Hannah and the parents of Jesus) were failing to see. “I have seen your salvation, Lord.” Those words could be a play on Jesus’ name which means ‘the Lord saves.’ Salvation is in this Christ. It’s in Jesus. Jesus is salvation. Salvation is in him. Look unto him and be saved all the ends of the earth. All those who are in him by faith, united to him by the work of the Holy Spirit, have the fullness of salvation. There is no salvation outside of him. To see him with the eyes of faith is to see salvation. That’s the origin of Simeon’s peace: the salvation of God that has been provided in Jesus Christ, and Simeon can call Jesus ‘salvation’, and he can call salvation ‘Jesus’. “Lord, I’ve seen salvation because I’ve seen Jesus.” His eyes of faith showed him that though he was holding Jesus, it was actually Jesus by grace who had Simeon and the whole world in his little hands.

Simeon had to wait his whole life to see what he saw, but every Sabbath he had been under the word; and that word was being stored up in his heart, so that when the day came that the answer to God’s personal promise came about, he was ready. His heart was filled up with the word. So it must be with you and me. We store up the word in our hearts, Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, so that in those times when we need to know the power of God’s promises, the word is there. We’ve gone to the temple in the Spirit, and there we’ve met Jesus. We’ve met salvation in him.

We love him whom we’ve not seen, and yet one day we shall see him as he is. But even today, men and women, how privileged you are – even without the Spirit of prophecy upon you. You know more about Jesus than Simeon ever knew about him. You know how the story ends. You know of Jesus’ life, of his ministry, of his death, of his burial, of his resurrection, of his ascension. You know that he is at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, ruling the world by his word and Spirit. Simeon did not see these things. He saw the Baby – weak, dependent, small, lowly. You have seen, through the word, the exalted Christ. Haven’t you more reason to trust him?

5. THAT HOPE REACHES OUT INTO THE WHOLE WORLD.

Simeon speaks to God of his “salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (vv. 31&32). Yes he goes on to say that the one who is named Jesus is for glory to God’s people Israel, but he is no tribal Saviour. The nations all around the world were then living in darkness without him. We Celts were under the Druids, but when our ancestors heard of him they saw a great light. So Simeon sees this Messiah, the baby Jesus, and knows him to be the Saviour of the whole world of men. He is not just salvation for one race. He is the one living and true way of salvation. Notice how he puts it: “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light of revelation to the Gentiles.” Luke is saying to Theophilus that from the beginning Greeks like himself and Theophilus were amongst the favoured people whom God had in mind. They were not Plan B if Plan A, the salvation of the Jews, failed. Jesus was always a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and so this gospel has been written for and sent to Gentiles. What Jesus did was not done in a corner, not in a dark basement, with disturbing noises all around, and the yelps of bleating animals, and the smell of fresh blood, and all the horrors of the mystery religions. The coming of Christ and his revelation was done in the open. The Lord prepared this salvation in the sight of all people. Jesus’ preaching was in the temple courts. His death was at the side of a road outside Jerusalem. One of his resurrection appearances was in the sight of 500 people, Jewish and Gentile believers.

Simeon is declaring that Jesus the Christ was not only the Messiah for Israel. He was not simply the Saviour of ethnic and national Jewish people. He was Saviour of the world. He was a light to the Gentiles. His coming into this world is in the sight of all peoples. Simeon is reminding us that there is salvation in Jesus the Messiah alone. He is the one Saviour who henceforth is to be offered to all the nations. Simeon’s conviction is a reflection not of a narrow vision and a shriveled heart, but a heart enlarged by Jesus Christ. Simeon can already conceive of a day when men and women and boys and girls from every tribe and tongue and people and nation will come to Christ, to the Messiah, and believe in him, and it rejoices his heart. Simeon doesn’t think of the Gentiles as mere ‘dogs’! He bears no hatred for the nations. He has hope for the world, that it will come to Christ. He is not involved in a conspiracy to destroy the nations, he’s involved in a conspiracy to bless the whole earth! He wants the nations – the Gentiles, the pagans, the barbarians, the Greeks – he wants all of them to know Christ, to appropriate God for themselves, to know the fullness of what God has intended for us. He acknowledges that that can only happen in Jesus Christ, because Jesus is not just a way of salvation, he is the way of salvation.

THAT HOPE ASSERTS THAT JESUS IS THE GLORY OF ISRAEL.
You see it at the end of his prophecy about Jesus, that he is “for glory to your people Israel” (v.32). What is the greatest glory of Israel? Is it the writings of Moses or Isaiah or the Psalms? Is it the extraordinary talent of the Jews, their scientific and cultural and musical talents? Is it their return to Israel and the democracy they have established in a part of the world where there are only totalitarian regimes? All those are wonderful achievements, but the glory of Israel is none of those things. Only the Lord, dwelling between the cherubim in his Holy Place, is the glory of God’s people Israel. But when the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14, ESV). Simeon knew that at last the glory that had appeared of old in the tabernacle had again entered the temple. The glory had come, for the Lord of glory had come, Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, the one who had slept in a manger, this teacher, this worker of miracles, this accomplisher of cosmic redemption, the glory who hung on a cross, this conqueror of the grave, this builder of his church all over the world. He is Israel’s glory, all through his life, in his thirty silent years in Nazareth working in a carpenter’s shop, how he humbled himself to that. In his death, crucified to a cross on Golgotha, he is there the glory of Jehovah’s compassion and mercy.

Simeon glories in the Messiah, delights in the Messiah, shows that his deepest desires – that his heart’s longings – are set upon the Messiah, and that’s how every believer regards the Lord Jesus. We glory in him. We delight in him. We set our minds on him. We read about him. We meditate about him. We pray to him and by him. We long for the day when the nations will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father. All our hopes are pinned on that day when he is confessed by every tribe and tongue and nation

THAT HOPE DOES NOT TAKE AWAY ALL OUR SORROWS.
Joseph and Mary’s eyes popped out as this man, holding their precious little baby, said all these things to them, and then he blessed them, “May God’s blessing be upon you all your lives,” and finally he spoke once more, quite soberly focusing his remarks on Jesus’ mother, Mary, ignoring Joseph, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (vv. 34&35).

Simeon prepares Mary for the pain that she’ll experience as she sees her Son’s ministry despised and rejected by men, the leaders condemning him to die, the mob shouting “Crucify him! Crucify him!” His life is taken, as he bears the sins of the world on a cross while men mock him and put a sign of mockery above his head. He will be a sign that will be spoken against, and Simeon warns her that becoming the mother according to the flesh of Jesus will be no joy ride; “Mary, I want you to understand this. Your Son, Jesus, has been appointed not only for the rise, but for the fall of many in Israel.” In other words, this Jesus will be the cause of division for the Jews and for all mankind. There will be those who love and trust Him, and they will share in all the glory of God; but those who do not believe in him, will cry, “Away with him!” and will long for Barabbas, and Jesus has an appointment with them too. He has been appointed for their fall.

What a tragedy, to know of Jesus’ great signs, and hear his profound teaching and yet to distrust him, to set your own judgment about him above his judgment of you. In other words, if your faith is only and always in him, then he has been appointed for your rising, up and up, from death and the grave, to heaven itself to share in his glory forever. But if you don’t trust Jesus today, who knows whether he has been appointed for your falling, down and down into the bottomless pit further and further away from God into darkness and anguish for ever. The only way that he will arise as the Son of Righteousness for you is if you trust in him alone for salvation as he is offered in the gospel.

14th October 2007 GEOFF THOMAS