Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Journey from Jerusalem (Session 26 – Different Singer, Same Song (Acts 25:1-27))

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we looked at Paul’s appearance before Festus.

Acts 25:1-27

Three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem where the chief priests and the leaders of the Jews gave him a report against Paul. They appealed to him and requested, as a favor to them against Paul, to have him transferred to Jerusalem. They were, in fact, planning an ambush to kill him along the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea, and that he himself intended to go there shortly. “So,” he said, “let those of you who have the authority come down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them accuse him.” After he had stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea; the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he arrived, the Jews who had gone down from Jerusalem surrounded him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove. Paul said in his defense, “I have in no way committed an offense against the law of the Jews, or against the temple, or against the emperor.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, asked Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and be tried there before me on these charges?” Paul said, “I am appealing to the emperor’s tribunal; this is where I should be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you very well know. Now if I am in the wrong and have committed something for which I deserve to die, I am not trying to escape death; but if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can turn me over to them. I appeal to the emperor.” Then Festus, after he had conferred with his council, replied, “You have appealed to the emperor; to the emperor you will go.”

After several days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to welcome Festus. Since they were staying there several days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man here who was left in prison by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me about him and asked for a sentence against him. I told them that it was not the custom of the Romans to hand over anyone before the accused had met the accusers face to face and had been given an opportunity to make a defense against the charge. So when they met here, I lost no time, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. When the accusers stood up, they did not charge him with any of the crimes that I was expecting. Instead they had certain points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. Since I was at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there on these charges. But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of his Imperial Majesty, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to the emperor.” Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” he said, “you will hear him.” So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then Festus gave the order and Paul was brought in. And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish community petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. But I found that he had done nothing deserving death; and when he appealed to his Imperial Majesty, I decided to send him. But I have nothing definite to write to our sovereign about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write— for it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

An Introduction to the New Testament (Session 20 – The Revelation of John)

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered the Revelation of John.

Considering the Revelation of John

The title of the book is derived from the first word of the text, apokalypsis, meaning “unveiling” or “revelation”. The Book of Revelation is the only apocalyptic document in the New Testament canon, although there are short apocalyptic passages in various places in the Gospels and the Letters. There’s also apocalyptic material in Daniel and Ezekiel.

  • They generally focus on the end of human history as a climatic battle in which the current age is evil, the godly suffer, and good triumphs.
  • The vision is often communicated in dreams and conveyed by angels.
  • Symbolism is a frequent characteristic of apocalyptic writing.
  • Numbers are important.

The Revelation can be interpreted in four different ways.

  • Futurist - It offers a straight-forward account of the end of the world.
  • Preterism - The visions are related to the their first-century context.
  • Idealist - The images are regarded as an account of the journey of the soul to God.
  • Historicist - The book has been used as a interpretative lens through which we can view history.

The author is identified as John of Patmos, and the book was probably written in the late first century, at the end of the reign of the Emperor Domitian, to churches in the Roman province of Asia.

The Revelation may be divided as follows:

  • Introduction (Rev. 1)
  • The Seven Letters to the Seven Churches. (Rev. 2-3)
  • Before the Throne of God (Rev. 4-5)
  • Seven Seals are opened (Rev. 6-8:6)
  • Seven trumpets are sounded (Rev. 8:7-11)
  • The Seven Spiritual Figures. (Rev. 12-15)
  • Seven bowls are poured onto Earth (Rev. 16)
  • Aftermath of Babylon the Great (Rev. 17-18)
  • The Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:1-10)
  • The Judgment of the Beast, Devil and Dead (Rev. 19:11-20:15)
  • The New Heaven and Earth, and New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1-22:5)
  • Conclusion (Rev. 22:6-21)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Journey from Jerusalem (Session 25 – The Way Continues (Acts 24:1-27))

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we looked at Paul’s appearance before Felix.

Acts 24:1-27

Five days later the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and an attorney, a certain Tertullus, and they reported their case against Paul to the governor. When Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying: “Your Excellency, because of you we have long enjoyed peace, and reforms have been made for this people because of your foresight. We welcome this in every way and everywhere with utmost gratitude. But, to detain you no further, I beg you to hear us briefly with your customary graciousness. We have, in fact, found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn from him concerning everything of which we accuse him.” The Jews also joined in the charge by asserting that all this was true.

When the governor motioned to him to speak, Paul replied: “I cheerfully make my defense, knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation. As you can find out, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem. They did not find me disputing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd either in the synagogues or throughout the city. Neither can they prove to you the charge that they now bring against me. But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets. I have a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people. Now after some years I came to bring alms to my nation and to offer sacrifices. While I was doing this, they found me in the temple, completing the rite of purification, without any crowd or disturbance. But there were some Jews from Asia—they ought to be here before you to make an accusation, if they have anything against me. Or let these men here tell what crime they had found when I stood before the council, unless it was this one sentence that I called out while standing before them, ‘It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’”

But Felix, who was rather well informed about the Way, adjourned the hearing with the comment, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” Then he ordered the centurion to keep him in custody, but to let him have some liberty and not to prevent any of his friends from taking care of his needs. Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus. And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.” At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul, and for that reason he used to send for him very often and converse with him. After two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and since he wanted to grant the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.