This is my sermon from this past Sunday, from Mark 10:32-34. In this passage, Mark shows us the third time Jesus prophesies about the manner of His own death. To appreciate this prophesy, we look at what Jesus’ favorite title “Son of Man” means, and what it means in light of the prophesy of His own betrayal, execution and resurrection. Finally, we consider the comfort that fulfilled prophesy gives Christians as we consider promises that have yet to be fulfilled.
Here, in Micah 5:2-4, the prophet gave us probably the best-known passage in his book, and one of the most precious promises of the coming Christ. It’s a beautiful prophesy, and full of hope. Many Christians quote it this time of year, but fewer consider the real context of this prophesy.
If you picture God sitting before a crackling fire, passing around hot apple cider and chocolate truffles, telling the Israelites the wonderful story of the Coming King with a twinkle in his eye, tears of tender love flowing down His cheeks and a warm, fuzzy feeling in his heart … then you’re wrong!
In reality, God is promising all this to them even though (by and large) they’re complete religious hypocrites who hate God and hate His law. Let me say this plainly, because it’s the same message God sent Micah to preach to these Israelites, and it’s the same context in which he preached this prophesy of the Messiah:
- If you’re faking your faith, God knows it – so repent and believe the Gospel!
If you don’t repent and believe, then this prophesy of the King from Bethlehem isn’t Good News for you – it’s bad news. Listen below for more. The sermon notes are here.
The prophet Zephaniah wrote his little book during King Josiah’s reign in the southern kingdom of Judah (ca. 640 – 609 B.C.). Josiah was a godly man (2 Chr 34:1-5) who implemented a whole host of religious reforms. The rot had spread far in his day. It was so bad, in fact, that a priest stumbled upon the law of Moses in the temple, and brought it forth in wonder – he’d never heard of it before (2 Chr 34:13-21)!
Not good! It makes you wonder what on earth the Israelite priests thought they were doing every day . . .
But, the reform appears to have been superficial and external, in many cases. Zephaniah tells us so. He doesn’t mince words (Zeph 3:1-8):
Woe to her that is rebellious and defiled,
the oppressing city!
2 She listens to no voice,
she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in the Lord,
she does not draw near to her God.
3 Her officials within her
are roaring lions;
her judges are evening wolves
that leave nothing till the morning.
4 Her prophets are wanton,
her priests profane what is sacred,
they do violence to the law.
5 The Lord within her is righteous,
he does no wrong;
every morning he shows forth his justice,
each dawn he does not fail;
but the unjust knows no shame.
6 “I have cut off nations;
their battlements are in ruins;
I have laid waste their streets
so that none walks in them;
their cities have been made desolate,
without a man, without an inhabitant.
7 I said, ‘Surely she will fear me,
she will accept correction;
she will not lose sight
of all that I have enjoined upon her.’
But all the more they were eager
to make all their deeds corrupt.
Nevertheless, God is still there, showing forth His justice. Yet, “the unjust knows no shame.” He has shown His favor to Israel. He has destroyed pagan nations, and utterly annihilated enemies. Surely, Israel will reverence, respect and obey Him! Right?
Wrong. Instead, the prophet concludes with this:
But all the more they were eager
to make all their deeds corrupt.
On that day you shall not be put to shame
because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me;
for then I will remove from your midst
your proudly exultant ones,
and you shall no longer be haughty
in my holy mountain.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God (Rom 5:1-2).
Moses is an important prophet. Aaron and Miriam forgot that once. They probably didn’t forget again. God struck Miriam with leprosy for her sedition and rebellion against Moses, His appointed prophet and leader of His covenant people. Behold! Here is the passage (Numbers 12:1-10):
Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married (for he had married an Ethiopian woman). They said, “Has the LORD only spoken through Moses? Has he not also spoken through us?” And the LORD heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth.)
The LORD spoke immediately to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam: “The three of you come to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them went. And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent; he then called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward.
The LORD said, “Hear now my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known to him in a vision; I will speak with him in a dream. My servant Moses is not like this; he is faithful in all my house. With him I will speak face to face, openly, and not in riddles; and he will see the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”
The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he departed. When the cloud departed from above the tent, Miriam became leprous as snow. Then Aaron looked at Miriam, and she was leprous!”
Aaron and Miriam didn’t like Moses’ wife. It’s even possible the phrase they used to refer to her (“Cushite woman”) was a racist, derogatory term. But, their problem wasn’t really her – it was Moses and the unique position he had.
“Are you really that special?” they asked. “Does God really only speak through you? What about us!?”
God heard what they said. God hears everything you say. He knows everything you think. He understands what you’re plotting. He knows what you’ve done, what you are doing, and what you will do. I wonder how far sin would go if each Christian paused before doing something wicked and stupid, and thought about this:
- “And the Lord heard it.”
- “And the Lord saw it.”
- “And the Lord knew it.”
God calls for a meeting. He isn’t happy. I want to spend the rest of our time considering what God says about Moses.
God speaks to prophets in visions; in dreams. We get this. Daniel had visions. The Apostle John had visions. Ezekiel had visions. The Holy Spirit moved these men (and others) to write down their prophetic messages in books. We have those books today. They’re hard books, full of hard sayings. This is why the pop-prophesy industry will always be busy churning out slop for the gullable masses who throng the Christian bookstores. Yesterday it was silliness about blood moons. Perhaps vanilla locusts are next!
With Moses, however, things are different. God speaks to him plainly, simply, forthrightly. This is why John Hagee will never write a pop prophesy volume about the Book of Numbers. Never happen. It’s too plain, too clear, too . . . open. God said:
Numbers 12:8 With him I will speak face to face, openly, and not in riddles; and he will see the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”
God speaks to Moses face to face. He doesn’t use riddles or difficult sayings. He’s plain, clear, concise, direct. Moses even saw the form of the Lord. He didn’t see Yahweh in His unveiled glory, of course, but he came much closer than any man has ever come to that glory (Ex 33:22-23) – until perhaps Peter, James and John (cf. Mk 9:2-3).
Why, then, are Aaron and Miriam not afraid to rebel against Moses, their appointed leader? This is a rhetorical question; the kind of thing your mother asked you before she “corrected” you. This is a serious matter. They just rebelled against the jurisdiction and authority of the only man in human history since Adam whom God has ever spoken to openly, plainly, face to face with. What happened next couldn’t have been very comforting:
Numbers 12:9 The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he departed.
Not a good sign.
In many ways, Moses is a shadow of the promised Messiah, Jesus. Remember what Moses prophesied, and consider how clear it is when compared to, say, Revelation 12!
Deuteronomy 18:15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you – from your fellow Israelites; you must listen to him.
Deuteronomy 18:18-19 I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command. I will personally hold responsible anyone who then pays no attention to the words that prophet speaks in my name.
Here is what Moses told the Israelites a very, very long time ago:
- God will raise up another prophet
- This prophet will be like Moses – having the same kind of personal, close and direct relationship with God Almighty
- This prophet will be an Israelite (“from among you”)
- The Israelites will have to listen to him
- This prophet will communicate God’s message perfectly
- Everybody will be held responsible to listen to and obey this coming prophet, who will speak in God’s name
Who is this prophet? Read the Book of Acts and see the inspired, inerrant answer (Acts 3:21-23, 7:37). It is Jesus, the Messiah. The Christ.
Think about this. If you do not listen to Jesus and obey His command to repent and believe the Gospel, God will essentially ask you the same question; “Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant?” What will you say? Were you busy? Tied up? Didn’t care? Don’t fool yourself. Remember what the Scripture says: “And the LORD heard it.”
If Aaron and Miriam were punished for rebelling against Moses, how much more will rebellious, criminal sinners be punished for their continued hatred of God and His annointed One, Jesus?
Read the Gospel. Repent and believe the Gospel. Listen to the angel from the Book of Revelation:
Revelation 14:7 Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has arrived, and worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water!
Don’t be a fool.
- You’re worthless to God (Rom 3:12).
- You’ll never be good enough for Him. If it were possible to be good enough, then Christ died for nothing (Gal 2:21).
- Jesus willingly and voluntarily emptied Himself, left heaven and came here for His children’s sake.
- He lived the perfect, sinless, holy, righteous and lawful life you can never live.
- He was tortured and murdered, suffering the penalty for the crimes you deserve to pay for.
- He died, was put in a tomb, and rose from the dead three days later to defeat the curses of sin and death for you, in your place. When He rose from the dead, He defeated Satan for you, too.
- He was seen by hundreds of eyewitnesses, and ascended back to heaven where He is seated beside the Father, interceding and working on behalf of all His children, all those who are “partakers of the heavenly calling,” (Heb 3:1).
Why are you not afraid to speak against God’s servant, Jesus? To echo the words of the learned philosopher Rodney Dangerfield, why does Jesus “get no respect” from you?
If you repent and believe the Good News He came, lived, died, and rose again to bring to you, then you will be reconciled to God, perfectly and completely forgiven. God’s anger against you will be gone. You’ll be adopted into His family.
Of course, you don’t have to obey Jesus’ command (Mk 1:15) to repent and believe the Gospel. There’s always this alternative:
Numbers 12:9 The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he departed.
Because I’ve been too busy to write much lately, I thought I’d make a short video, instead! I recently spoke to a group of young boys at our local Trail Life USA troop. I spoke briefly, but was able to share the Gospel from Psalm 32. In this video, I offer some important thoughts about King David’s words, and why they matter for you today:
The Book of Revelation gives God’s people some very precious glimpses into His heavenly throne room. The Book of Hebrews tells us all the rituals, furniture and setup for the holy place in the tabernacle in the wilderness and, later, King Solomon’s temple was just a figure, a representation of the real throne room (ἀντίτυπα τῶν ἀληθινῶν) in heaven (Hebrews 9:24; cf. Exodus 25:40, 26:30, 27:8, etc.). Throughout Revelation 4-5, God gave us a look at His real throne room.
The scene opens on the Apostle John being granted a vision of supreme importance; a vision so vital that God chose to have Him write it all down in a book which is preserved in your Bibles even today. John saw a scroll in God’s hand. The scroll had writing on both sides, and was sealed with seven seals. A mighty angel proclaims with a loud voice,
. . . who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon (Revelation 5:2b-4).
But, all was not lost. A man enters the throne room. One of the 24 elders motions to John and says,
Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof (Revelation 5:5).
These allusions probably seem strange and bizarre to a non-believer, or to a Christian who ignores the Old Covenant books. These are deliberate allusions, freighted with all sorts of Messianic and triumphant implications. The man is Christ Jesus. He is the “lion” who sprang from the Jewish tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:9ff). He is the “root” descended from King David’s father, Jesse (Isaiah 11:1ff). This is the risen Christ who has been continually interceding for His people since He returned to His Father’s house in the days after his resurrection (Acts 1:9ff). This is the Savior of whom John the Baptist declared, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
This is the crucified, resurrected, co-equal and co-eternal Son of God who came to give His life a ransom for many (cf. Mk 10:45). John the Baptist continued, “This is he of whom I said, ‘After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me,'” (John 1:30). Jesus is greater than John, because he existed before John. And yet, John the Baptist is several months older than his cousin, Jesus! How can John be younger, then? It is because Jesus is the co-equal, co-eternal Son of God . . .
whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:2b-3).
This is who has strode into God’s throne room. This is why the Apostle John need not dispair. Someone worthy has been found to open the seven-sealed scroll and unleash the terrible but righteous judgments of God upon a rebellious and wicked world (cf. Gen 6:5).
But, why is Jesus Christ so particularly worthy? The 24 elders are angelic beings and are perfectly holy – why can’t they open the scroll? What about the four living beings who are also before God’s throne? Are they tainted in some way? Our passage tells us why only Jesus is worthy:
Then he came and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne, and when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders threw themselves to the ground before the Lamb. Each of them had a harp and golden bowls full of incense (which are the prayers of the saints) (Revelation 5:7-8).
Pay attention to what these angelic beings say, to what they sing in praise and worship to Jesus Christ. Here it is, in my own translation (detailed translation notes are available here):
and they were singing a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slaughtered, and by your own blood you bought for God [people] from every tribe, language, people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will rule on the earth’ (Revelation 5:9-10).
First, they make a simple statement – “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals.” Only Messiah, the Anointed and Chosen Son of God, can perform this task. Why? How is He uniquely qualified? There are several reasons:
1. because you were slaughtered
He was murdered, slain and slaughtered like a sacrificial animal. He died to take away the sins of the world. More than that, He did it willingly and voluntarily. He wasn’t checkmated into it. He wasn’t cornered and out-manauvered. He didn’t struggle valiently and die fighting. He deliberately, passively and meekly allowed His enemies to destroy Him (cf. John 14:28-31). He let Himself be slaughtered. What do you think about that?
2. and by your own blood
We observe the Lord’s Supper because of Jesus’ shed blood, which is a synonym for His death. It is through His death, by means of that death, that Jesus Christ perfectly saves men, women, boys and girls on this earth from slavery to the kingdom of darkness and transfers them to His own kingdom (Colossians 1:13). His death is the instrument which accomplishes this miracle.
3. you bought for God [people] from every tribe, language, people and nation
Jesus’ death has purchased people for God from everywhere on earth. This purchasing was done in the past, when He died. It happened in the past. From God’s perspective, all His chosen people from all over the world already are saved. It’s so certain and sure that He regards it as a done deal. The angelic beings in God’s heavenly throne room sing about it as an accomplished fact. Jesus is not buying; He bought. Jesus did not die intending to save every single person in the world. Everybody is born hating God (Romans 3:18). Everybody is born inherently worthless to Him (Romans 3:12). Many people continue to hate Him until their dying day, or cloak their hatred in a noxious shroud of good works intended to bribe the Lord and “earn” His favor, as if such a thing were even possible (cf. Galatians 2:21). Jesus died to save His chosen people, and those chosen people are from every tribe, language, people-group and nation in the entire world. The Gospel isn’t restricted by racial divide, the highest mountainpeaks, the lowest valleys, the most treacherous waters or the most bigoted, sinful and hateful prejudices of sinful men. It is intended for all people, and among all people, Christ has already purchased His own for God!
4. and you have made them a kingdom and priests for our God
God’s people want to serve Him. Christ is building His kingdom, which is not here yet. His people are priests in the sense that they have direct and personal access to Him which outsiders do not have. If you do not have salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, then you do not have God (1 John 2:23). You have no access to Him. He is actively angry with you. You reject Him and His Son. You hate Him. You are a criminal in His world. His people, however, make God known to those who hate Him. They tell others about God and His dear Son, Jesus Christ. They mediate the Lord to a pagan world. They don’t offer up literal sacrifices, they offer up their own selves as spiritual sacrificies to Him for His work (Romans 12:1f, 1 Peter 2:5). They regard themselves as slaves for His sovereign, holy and appropriate use. And, again, this is presented as an accomplished fact, a done deal, a past event with ongoing results.
5. and they will rule on the earth.
God’s people will rule with Him in eternity. God’s enemies will suffer for all eternity.
Jesus Christ is worthy because of what He did. He died to save sinners. When this scene takes place, the world has definitively rejected Him and the Good News He suffered and bled and died to bring to people. The world deserves judgment. He and His Father are the Ones the world is rejecting. It is only fitting that the “Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world” be the One who unleashes His Father’s righteous judgment on the very world which rejected Him and has “no cloak for their sin,” (John 15:22).
There is a host of misinformation and lies in the world about the human condition. The Bible makes things very clear. You need to be rescued. You need to be rescued from Satan’s clutches and from his fiery orphanage of the damned. That last bit isn’t hyperbole on my part; after all, a rescue implies some kind of mortal danger, doesn’t it? What on earth do you need to be rescued from?
12Giving thanks to the Father, who made you acceptable to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light, 13who rescued us from the kingdom of the darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14in whom we now have the redemption, that is, the forgiveness of sins.
The Bible tells us you need to be rescued and delivered “from the kingdom of darkness” (ἐκ τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ σκότους). Some translations render this as “delivered,” but I don’t think this is brutal, stark or arresting enough. It’s too dainty, too proper, too high-brow. You don’t need to be delivered, you need to be rescued from Satan’s kingdom.
This phrase is usually translated two different ways; as “power of darkness” (Tyndale, KJV, NKJV, NET, ISV) or “domain of darkness” (LEB, ESV, NASB). The idea of darkness is very clear in Greek, but the word ἐξουσίας is expressing the idea of sphere of control or rule. Another interesting possibility is jurisdiction. Altogether, you have several good translation options, each of which paints a dark and forbidding picture of who we really are. We are, all of us, people who desperately need to be rescued from the jurisdiction, power, domain and kingdom of darkness.
Darkness is the domain of Satan. It isn’t any wonder that our popular culture depicts evil in sinister shades of black (for example, think Darth Vader and “the dark side”), and good in glowing robes of white. This is Biblical imagery.
- People are trapped in the dark clutches of sin, their hearts and minds veiled by Satan’s cloak, and it is the “light of the glorious Gospel of Christ” which shines in unto His elect people (2 Corinthians 4:4-5), casting aside this vile net of iniquity and delusion “so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel.”
- An unbeliever’s understanding is “darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart,” (Ephesians 4:18). Thus, this darkness isn’t literal; it’s spiritual. An unbeliever cannot know God, please God, or understand God because of this spiritual darkness.
- The Apostle Paul admonished the Christians in Ephesus, “for ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light,” (Ephesians 5:8).
- A Christian is somebody whom God has called “out of darkness into his marvellous light,” (2 Peter 2:9).
- The Apostle John, echoing His Lord’s “new commandment” (Jn 13:34-35), wrote that external behavior revealed the true state of one’s heart. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now,” (1 John 2:9).
- Jesus Christ Himself is depicted as the bright and shining light, sent from God with the precious message of salvation, redemption and reconciliation; “in him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not,” (John 1:4-5).
This is not good news. The Apostle Paul did not beat around the bush. Elsewhere, he made it clear that an unbeliever is spiritually dead, wallowing in his own trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Every single person in the world naturally lives according to the normal course of this sin-cursed and condemned word, according to the “prince of the power of the air,” who is Satan. People are born with Satan as their spiritual father (cf. John 8:44ff), their wills, minds, hearts and souls enslaved to him and all the wickedness he stands for. It is Satan who is working right now, every moment of every day, in his children’s lives, whom Paul calls the “children of disobedience,” (Ephesians 2:2). Even worse, the Bible tells us that everybody is born, by our very nature, makeup and constitution as sinners, as “children of wrath,” (Ephesians 2:3).
This is what you need to be rescued from, and this is what Christ has, is and will infallibly accomplish (cf. John 6:37) for all those who are His. You are born under the jurisdiction of Satan, subject to his laws, his standards, his will, his character, his nature and his wickedness. You reflect those qualities, you live according to these characteristics and you echo your spiritual father’s criminal spirit. As the Bible says, you are inherently unprofitable and worthless to God the way you are (Romans 3:12). You are under his domain and power, subject to his control, his influence, his whims and his regulations. He is the rudder of the ship of wickedness, sin and rebellion that is you. You were born a citizen of his vile, unrighteous and evil kingdom – a kingdom of darkness – and you will remain a resident in that kingdom unless or until you repent of your sins and believe the Good News which Jesus Christ willingly and voluntarily suffered, bled and died to bring to you.
There is Good News (εὐαγγέλιον – “Gospel”) to combat this Bad News. Jesus Christ came to save sinners. You are a sinner. He came to save, reconcile, redeem and forgive people from every tribe, tongue people and nation on earth; to rescue them from the kingdom of darkness and transfer them to His own kingdom. You can be adopted into Jesus’ kingdom. This is why Paul told the Christians in Colossae to be “giving thanks to the Father,” because Jesus, “made [them] acceptable to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.” Hopefully you, too, can join the saints from Colossae in thanking God for the wonderful gift of salvation in Christ Jesus!
 Article VII, in The 1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith, in The Creeds of Christendom, ed. Philip Schaff (New York, NY: Harper & Bros, 1882), 3:774.