Resurrection Defense Series (Part One): The Testimony of Women

Source: Resurrection Defense Series (Part One): The Testimony of Women

By: Brian G. Chilton | March 1, 2021

Editor’s Note: Easter Sunday is a scant month away. Bellator Christi has been engaged with different theological and social issues as of late. However, as our time continues to spiral into chaos, it is best to take a step back and remember the basics. For some, this information will be a rehash of information already known. But for others, this may the first engagement with historical apologetics pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus. For the next eight weeks, Bellator Christi returns to its roots. It was the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus that transformed my doubts into belief. The series will include the following topics.

Week One: The Testimony of Women

Week Two: Embarrassing Details

Week Three: Multiple Eyewitnesses and the Impossibility of Mass Hallucinations

Week Four: Reasons to Believe in the Empty Tomb

Week Five: Multiple Documentation Attestation

Week Six: Transformation of Eyewitnesses

Week Seven: Archaeological Evidence Supporting the Resurrection

Week Eight: How the Resurrection Impacts Our Theology

The month of March has been designated as Women’s History Month. It has often been erroneously suggested that the Bible is misogynistic in its portrayal of women. While this article cannot combat every claim of misogyny weighed against the Scriptures, it is ironic that it was the early testimony of women, those that skeptics claim the Scripture dismisses, that strongly suggests the high historical probability of the resurrection event. This article will look at four ways that the early testimony of women serves as a defense for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. Before doing so, let us first look at what the Gospels state concerning the women’s testimony that Jesus had risen.

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards were so shaken by fear of him that they became like dead men.

The angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there.’ Listen, I have told you.”

So, departing quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, they ran to tell his disciples the news. Just then Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” They came up, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there” (Matt. 28:1-10).

 

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they could go and anoint him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?” Looking up, they noticed that the stone—which was very large—had been rolled away.

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side; they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they put him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there just as he told you.’ ”

They went out and ran from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid” (Mark 16:1-8).

 

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground.

“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. “He is not here, but he has risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’And they remembered his words.

Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. 10 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. 11 But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths., So he went away, amazed at what had happened (Luke 24:1-12).

 

On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark. She saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she went running to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said to them, “They’ve taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him!”

At that, Peter and the other disciple went out, heading for the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and got to the tomb first. Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then, following him, Simon Peter also came. He entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. The wrapping that had been on his head was not lying with the linen cloths but was folded up in a separate place by itself. The other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, then also went in, saw, and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to the place where they were staying.

11 But Mary stood outside the tomb, crying. As she was crying, she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus’s body had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“Because they’ve taken away my Lord,” she told them, “and I don’t know where they’ve put him.”

14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know it was Jesus. 15 “Woman,” Jesus said to her, “why are you crying? Who is it that you’re seeking?”

Supposing he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve carried him away, tell me where you’ve put him, and I will take him away.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

Turning around, she said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”—which means “Teacher.”

17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus told her, “since I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what he had said to her (John 20:1-18).

 

The Early Testimony of Women Postulates that the Story was not Invented.

A woman’s testimony did not hold much weight in an ancient court of law. That is not to say that a woman held no importance in court. Nonetheless, if a woman’s testimony contradicted a man’s testimony, the man’s testimony was generally accepted unless two women both testified against the man. Even then, there was no guarantee that the woman’s testimony would be accepted (see m. Ned. 11:10). In rabbinical tradition—not the law of God—a woman could not participate in the reading of the Torah in the synagogue. She was not even permitted to cite the Shema, the greatest commandment found in Deut. 6:5 (Ber. 3:3). Yet it was women who first saw the risen Jesus.

Ironically, the women’s testimony of the resurrection is missing in the creed of 1 Corinthians 15:3-9. Thomas Oden holds that since the women’s testimony was not permitted in the official court of law, the creed was deliberately shortened to provide the best evidence for the Christian faith (Oden, Word of Life, 497-498). If that is the case, then why was their testimony included in the biographies of Jesus? The answer—Because it was true! The women’s testimony is quite bizarre if it were not a genuine event. If one were to invent a story in the first century, the first witnesses would certainly not be women. They would have been the last considered for such a role. Jesus’s great love for his female disciples is found by his choice in disclosing the resurrection event—the greatest miracle in history—first to his female disciples.

 

The Early Testimony of Women Provides Embarrassing Details.

Women serving as the first witnesses of the resurrection provide several embarrassing factors to consider. Historically, embarrassing details verify the truthful nature of a story. A person will not willingly expose things that intentionally embarrass its authors or primary ambassadors. However, when it comes to the resurrection story, the male disciples were embarrassed by the testimony of women on multiple fronts. First, the male disciples were embarrassed by the devotion of the women. None of the male disciples offered Jesus a proper burial. It was the female disciples who took it upon themselves to anoint the body of Jesus. In the hurried events of Good Friday, Jesus’s body was rushed into the tomb and was not given a proper Jewish burial. This was unacceptable in ancient Judaism. Where were the men? The women were concerned as they approached the tomb about how they would get inside since the stone was so large because they had no male counterparts joining them. Were the men still asleep? As anyone who grew up in church knows—if it were not for the women, nothing would get accomplished.

Second, the male disciples were embarrassed by the women being the first ambassadors of the resurrection. The women were essentially the very first evangelists of the resurrection message. Jesus told them to tell the disciples about his appearance (John 20:17).

Third, and here it gets worse, a woman with a checkered past was appointed as the first witness of the resurrection. Some have postulated through the centuries that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. In AD 591, Pope Gregory the Great taught, “She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary [of Bethany], we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark.” Contrary to Gregory the Great, there is no biblical evidence to suggest that Mary was a prostitute. However, the Gospels do note that Mary Magdalene had been possessed by seven demons until Jesus cast them out (Luke 8:1-3). So, wait! A woman who had been possessed by seven demons—an indication of the severity of her possession—was chosen as the first witness?!? This makes absolutely no sense unless it were in fact true. If a person were going to invent a story, Mary Magdalene would be the LAST person one would choose as the story’s primary witness.

 

The Early Testimony of Women Proves Multiple Attestation.

The third point is simple. Historically speaking, the more sources that are found for an event, the higher the probability that the event in question occurred. The early testimony of women is found in all four Gospels. Regardless of how one handles the issue of sharing among the Gospel writers, these stories are independent as noted by the differences in their presentation. All the Gospels serve as four independent sources. This is profound given the absence of women in 1 Cor. 15:3-9. It is unspeakably absurd to invent the women as the first witnesses and then plug them into all four biographies of Jesus unless some historical basis was found in the story. The women’s eyewitness accounts hold a strong historical case for its authenticity, which further verifies the legitimacy of the resurrection event.

 

The Early Testimony of Women Portrays their Elevated Status.

While this article has been focused on the historical validation of the resurrection event, one cannot bypass the high level of importance that Jesus placed on his female disciples. Jesus was revolutionary in his elevation of women. Because of the value he placed on women, his female disciples played a significant role in the early ministry of the church (Eckman, ECH, 14). Women were among his early financial contributors (Luke 8:3). To the shock of everyone in attendance, Jesus permitted Martha to sit at his feet, an honor that most rabbis only gave to men (Luke 10:39). While women were not permitted to read the Torah in the synagogue, they were in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Jesus not only highly valued women, but he also gave some of the women who followed him the highest honor imaginable—they were the first witnesses of the after-effects of the resurrection event!

 

Conclusion

Norman Geisler says it best, “It is an unmistakable sign of the authenticity of the record that, in a male-dominated culture, Jesus first appeared to a woman” (Geisler, Resurrection, Evidence For,” BEOCA, 651). The church has often dropped the ball when giving women the value that Jesus affords them. Nonetheless, the testimony of women stands front and center as evidence that Jesus really did walk out of the tomb alive on the first Easter Sunday. The most unlikely individuals to hold value in the first century found themselves as the ambassadors of the greatest message ever given. Jesus had risen, and the risen Jesus chose to unveil this radical new truth to those who had often been neglected and considered unimportant. Isn’t that just like Jesus? Should we have expected anything else?

 

Sources

Eckman, James P. Exploring Church History. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002.

Geisler, Norman L. “Resurrection, Evidence For.” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

Oden, Thomas C. The Word of Life: Systematic Theology. Volume Two. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.

Mishnah Berakhot 3:3 (sefaria.org).

Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman, 2017).

 

About the Author

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of the Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. Brian is a Ph.D. Candidate of the Theology and Apologetics program at Liberty University. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has served in pastoral ministry for nearly 20 years. He currently serves as a clinical chaplain.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Laymans-Manual-Christian-Apologetics-Essentials/dp/1532697104

 

© 2021. BellatorChristi.com.

The Savior and the Sea: The Theological Meaning Behind the Sea’s Absence in Revelation 21:1

Source: The Savior and the Sea: The Theological Meaning Behind the Sea’s Absence in Revelation 21:1

By: Brian G. Chilton | February 22, 2021

 

I enjoy going to the beach. There is something soothing and therapeutic about the sound of the ocean’s waves crashing upon the shore. The ocean’s rhythmic sound patterns tend to alleviate the stress and strains of life. The beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the ocean’s horizon are something that no artist can duplicate.

For this reason, Revelation 21:1 has always seemed odd to me. The text reads, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Rev. 21:1). Why are oceans and seas not found in the new creation? Heaven is greater than anything possibility imaginable in this creation. If something is good in this creation, then it will be great in the next one. If that is the case, then why would one of God’s most beautiful creations not be found there? Revelation makes it clear that the new creation would have water. Revelation 22:1 notes the existence of a “river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev. 22:1). If there are rivers, would they not pour out into a larger body of water that would be comparable to modern oceans?

The absence of the sea in the new creation holds a deeper theological issue and is most likely not to be taken literally. The symbol speaks to a literal truth. But the concept of the sea is an image that resonates with the overall teaching of Scripture. I have always been taught that the best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture. With that in mind, what does the sea represent throughout the pages of Scripture?

 

The Sea as a Representation of Chaos

Genesis 1 depicts God’s creation of the universe. While God is shown to be in total control of creation, the text describes an ordering of creation from the chaotic waters of the deep (Gen. 1:1-2). The watery depths of the sea are shown to be a place of chaos as opposed to the stability of the dry land. Yahweh—the personal name of God—brings order by causing the waters to subside and bringing order and stability to the world by the creation of the continental bodies. Considering how dangerous seafaring is today, even more so in antiquity, it stands to reason why the ancients would have viewed the sea in such fashion. David writes, “The ropes of death were wrapped around me; the torrents of destruction terrified me” (Psa. 18:4). While the sea was chaotic, Yahweh, the “God of glory” (Ps. 29:3), “thunders above the vast water” (Ps. 29:3).

The idea of a storm god battling the sea was not unique to the OT. Many beliefs in the Ancient Near East and Indo-European religions held that the storm god battled the chaos of the sea (Green, The Storm God; Ara, Eschatology, 105-107). The difference with the OT is that Yahweh was shown to be the creator over both the clouds and the sea. He was sovereign over everything and brought order from chaos. No other entity was involved in creation outside of Yahweh. Yahweh’s battles did not bring about creation as was found in other worldviews. Rather, Yahweh, and Yahweh alone, was responsible for creation. Nonetheless, the sea became associated with the idea of chaos.

 

The Sea as a Representation of Evil

While Yahweh was the exclusive creator of the cosmos, the OT still holds that Yahweh was opposed by the enemy forces of darkness. The enemy of God is depicted as a marine serpentine animal known as the Leviathan. The Leviathan is a monstrous beast whose home is found in the chaos of the sea. Yahweh strips Leviathan of his power and causes him to be his servant (Job 41:4). Leviathan, the serpentine dragon of the sea, will be ultimately destroyed by Yahweh at the end of time (Isa. 27:1). This image is continued in the book of Daniel as the evil political powers are shown to be serpentine sea monsters rising from the chaos of the sea (Dan. 7:1-13). The Pharaoh of Egypt is depicted as a monster of the Nile who would be defeated by God (Ezek. 29:3-5). It is unsurprising that the Red Sea kept the Israelites from crossing over into the Promised Land—that is, until Yahweh overcame the power of the seas by dividing the waters and allowing them to cross on dry land. In Revelation, the antichrist is shown to be a beast rising from the chaotic sea (Rev. 13:1-10). Thus, evil serpentine powers of darkness are linked with the chaos of the sea.

 

The Savior’s Defeat of the Sea

The powers of chaos and evil were about to be dealt a lethal blow by the Savior. Jesus changed everything. He preached that the kingdom of God was at hand (Mark 1:15). He even proved the power of God’s kingdom had come by performing miracles. Two of Jesus’s miracles are especially pertinent. Jesus proved his power over the chaotic seas by walking on the water (Matt. 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-56; and John 6:16-24) and by calming the tumultuous sea (Matt. 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; and Luke 8:22-25). No wonder the disciples feared Jesus’s power after observing these potent displays of authority over the forces of nature and the powers of darkness. Ultimately, Jesus’s victory over the enemies of God will be full and complete (Rev. 19:11-16) in fulfillment of Isaiah 27:1 when the serpentine dragon known as Satan and his minions are thrown into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:19-21).

 

Conclusion: What the Absence of the Sea Really Means

After considering all the biblical data, it seems that the best interpretation of Revelation 21:1 suggests that absence of the sea is to be taken symbolically rather than literally. Yahweh created the oceans, lakes, and rivers (Exod. 20:11; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 146:6; Job 38:8-9; and Amos 9:6), and his creation was good (Gen. 1). If his creation of watery bodies on Earth is good now, the bodies of water will be perfect in the new creation. Rather than having no oceans or bodies of water in the new creation, Revelation 21:1 teaches that the new creation will bring an end to chaos and evil. The curse will be forever removed. Creation, humanity, and divinity will all live in eternal harmony. God brings order, harmony, love, and peace. His heavenly eternal creation will be a place of perfect peace. Chaos will be no more. As one who hates drama and chaos, this serves as just another reason why heaven is a wonderful and glorious place.

 

Sources

Ara, Mitra. Eschatology in the Indo-Iranian Traditions: The Genesis and Transformation of a Doctrine. New York: Peter Lang, 2008.

Green, Alberto R. W. The Storm God in the Ancient Near East. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2003.

Sarlo, Daniel. “Sea.” The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).

 

About the Author

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of the Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. Brian is a Ph.D. Candidate of the Theology and Apologetics program at Liberty University. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has served in pastoral ministry for nearly 20 years. He currently serves as a clinical chaplain.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Laymans-Manual-Christian-Apologetics-Essentials/dp/1532697104

 

© 2021. BellatorChristi.com.

The Deeper Truths the Falling of Ravi Zacharias Reveals about All of Us

Source: The Deeper Truths the Falling of Ravi Zacharias Reveals about All of Us

By: Brian G. Chilton | February 13, 2021

Shocked and betrayed. These are two words that describe my feelings as I read the report from RZIM noting the history of Ravi Zacharias’s sexually abusive practices. Ravi Zacharias was a famed apologist and author who launched the world’s largest apologetics ministry known as Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). At its peak, RZIM became a multi-million-dollar enterprise that employed numerous apologetic speakers in the UK, the US, and across the world. RZIM employed some of the biggest names in apologetics including famed Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox. Lennox holds a winsome demeanor, a frightening sharp intellect, and has debated some of the top named atheists of his day including Richard Dawkins.

Reports of Zacharias’s dishonest behavior began to surface when opponents questioned his doctoral label. Ravi was often introduced as Dr. Ravi Zacharias. However, he had not earned a doctorate degree. Rather, he was given doctorates from different schools. Anyone who has worked for and especially earned a doctorate at a legitimate, accredited school knows the difficulties associated with the degree. The title “Doctor” should never be given flippantly. Nor should the title be associated with a given degree, but only used by those who legitimately earned the title from years of hard work. Improper use of the title is insulting to those who have suffered through long and arduous hours to earn the title.

Additionally, in 2017, further reports of Zacharias’s dishonesty surfaced from Lori Anne Thompson, a Canadian woman who claimed that Zacharias manipulated her into sending sexually explicit texts and photos to him (Silliman and Shellnutt, CT, 2021). Reports note that the leadership of RZIM not only failed to investigate these claims when they were initially made, but they also hired an aggressive officer to intimidate the accuser and discount the claims—actions for which the leadership team now repents and regrets (Silliman and Shellnut, CT, 2021). Zacharias launched a lawsuit against Thompson in 2017. However, further allegations of Zacharias’s misconduct continued to surface as more victims came to light.

RZIM hired Atlanta-based law firm, Miller & Martin, to investigate these claims, perhaps due in part to the pressure placed on them by their fundraisers such as UK-based Zacharias Trust (Silliman and Shellnutt, CT, 2021). Their investigations unveiled shocking information released in a 12-page report by RZIM. Zacharias’s mobile device contained more than 200 images of different younger women, including nude photos of Malaysian employees (Crary, San Diego U-T, 2021). The investigators interviewed 50 witnesses and examined devices used from 2014 to 2018 (Silliman and Shellnutt, CT, 2021). They discovered that Zacharias had hidden his exploits under the label of “humanitarian aid.” He would provide funds for oppressed women through his massage parlors and other exploits overseas. He added the requirement that they were to have sexual relations with him in exchange for his help. He claimed that the women were blessed to have relations with him, that they were God’s reward to him for his ministry, and warned them that if they should tell anyone, they would be responsible for the millions of souls who would never know Christ because of his damaged reputation (Silliman and Shellnutt, CT, 2021).

How in the world did this happen? It was not as if there were no warnings. Apparently, atheist Steve Baughman had been tracking and reporting on Zacharias’s claims since 2015. Here we are now. A ministry that has done much good is now shamed and possibly damaged beyond repair. Additionally, the accusations of an antagonist of the faith were proved to be true.

The fallout from these accusations is immense. Lennox has excused himself from the RZIM ministry until the ministry rebrands itself as an independent entity. He noted, “The current allegations are of such a serious nature that I cannot be involved in any ongoing activity in the name of RZIM” (Silliman and Shellnutt, CT, 2021). Reports are surfacing that many have been, or will be, laid off from RZIM. Estimates hold that the ministry will only operate at 10% of the capacity that it did at its peak. Even then, those estimates are optimistic.

Let me be clear: I was among those taken by Zacharias. When Zacharias passed, I wrote an article for Bellator Christi that honored him for his honest pastoral demeanor. The article has since been removed from the website in light of recent allegations. Furthermore, others online have still defended Zacharias despite the evidence to the contrary. Tim Tebow and former Vice President Mike Pence spoke at Zacharias’s funeral claiming him to be a good, honest man.

Standing juxtaposed to these allegations are the teachings and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus certainly did not advocate such behavior. What does this say about the status of the modern church considering the teachings of Jesus? It seems like an ongoing narrative for the church in recent years. Ravi Zacharias, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Paige Patterson join an ongoing list of Christian leaders who have either fallen or have supported unChristlike behavior. Yet standing opposed to these actions, Jesus commanded love. He emphasized integrity. He challenged the very power structures that the church seems to continuously form for itself. The fall of Zacharias reveals that the modern church has become eerily similar to the Church of Laodicea (Rev. 3:14‑22). The Church of Laodicea had unlatched itself from its Christian moorings. They felt as if they could do all they needed to do without the help of Christ. They possessed all the goods they needed without Christ. They became a worldly church. Like the Church of Ephesus, they had “abandoned the love [they] had at first” (Rev. 2:4). The fall of Zacharias reveals three things about the church and its similarity to the Church of Laodicea.

 

Reveals our worship of celebrity status.

For a semester in 1999, I attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, NC. I loved the school and had intended to complete my bachelor’s degree at SEBTS. However, circumstances beyond my control did not permit me to complete my studies at the time. While at SEBTS, I met several amazing individuals with whom I often met for breakfast on Friday mornings. I recall one pastor working on his MDiv telling me that he overheard a group of doctoral students who exclaimed, “I am about to become a doctor. I am going to be a pastor of a large church, will make lots of money, and will have many people hear me each Sunday.” The aged pastor noted, “Not only am I concerned about their humility, but I also wonder if they are even saved.” While I would not necessarily go as far as the aged pastor, he does address a problem found in the modern church and especially amid the apologetics community. Furthermore, I am reminded of his admonition as I hope to complete my doctoral studies soon.

The focus on being seen and heard, being the biggest and brightest, and becoming “untouchable” in popularity has overshadowed Jesus’s call to serve the Lord in humility and grace. Jesus taught that if a person does something good, don’t broadcast it. Don’t let your “left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matt. 6:3). Jesus says, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). Yet, it seems that we value celebrity status over humbly serving Christ. Because of the love of celebrity-hood, leaders shown to be guilty are still defended and the victims are further victimized. This is a far cry from Isaiah’s call to “Pursue justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause” (Isa. 1:17).

 

Reveals our inability to self-assess.

While the church should not become so obsessed that it looks for demons under every rock, it likewise should not simply give a free pass to leaders because of their celebrity status. Jesus challenged the seven churches of Asia Minor to self-assess themselves and correct any bad behavior. The prophets called for the same of the faithful in their day. Either the church corrects its problems or God will. Jesus tells some of the churches that if they do not correct their behavior, then he will come and remove their lampstand (Rev. 2:5)—indicating that the church is no longer a church approved by God—or, worse yet, Christ will fight against the church (Rev. 2:16). For the Church of Laodicea, Christ told them that he would “vomit them out” (Rev. 3:16).

In many ways, we are to blame for the exposure of these problems. Jesus tells us that things done in secret will be brought to the light (Mark 4:22). In other words, correct your behavior, or Jesus will. Jesus’s words proved truthful in the case of Zacharias. Ultimately, all things will be revealed on the day of judgment.

 

Reveals our loss of a Christlike ethos.

The Sermon on the Mount is as controversial today as it was when Jesus first delivered it. However, it seems that the church has lost the ethos taught by Christ. Because of his political entanglement, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, said, “A Christian writer asked me, ‘Don’t you want the president to embody the Sermon on the Mount?’ I said, ‘Absolutely not’” (Miller, SBC Voices, 2017). While I am sure the political pundits will claim that I am a weakling for calling out Jeffress on this matter, I fear Christ more than the politically-crazed minions of our day. Is this what we have become—replacing the teachings of the Author and Finisher of our faith with political allegiance and fervor? The same mentality was found when the accusations originally surfaced about Zacharias. They were attributed to political propaganda rather than claims based on truth. Sure, not every accusation should be believed, and a person is innocent until proven guilty. However, one must use discernment and investigate accusations when they are presented, especially when the accusations are as grave as the ones made against Zacharias. The church desperately needs to go back to the basics of the faith. We all would benefit from learning the ethical teachings of Jesus our Founder afresh and anew.

 

Conclusion

This article became much longer than was intended. But perhaps it should be. As a church community, we can no longer blame our problems on other entities as we have internal crises that must be rectified. So, where do we go from here? I think it can be summarized in four simple steps. First, we must regain our primary devotion to Christ. Evaluate the time we spend speaking of Christ and spiritual issues compared to the time spent on other issues. Second, establish our primary objective. What is our primary goal in life? Are we using Christ as a platform to be seen and heard? Or would be still serve Christ if no one ever knew who we were? Are we using Christ for our purpose or are we being used by Christ for his purposes? Third, place ourselves in the fires of spiritual evaluation. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to evaluate your lifestyle and see if there is any wicked way in your life (Psa. 139:23). Allow God to expose it and to correct it. Finally, always be transparent. If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear. It is only when a person lives in darkness that one tries to hide in darkness. Remember that the darkness will not be hidden forever. The light of Christ will expose all things (John 3:19-21) in the end. We essentially have the choice to either bring our misdeeds before the Lord to have him sanctify them, or have the Lord judge us by our misdeeds when he inevitably exposes them. As for me, I choose to turn things over to the Lord. I know I will have numerous things for which I will have to give an account. However, I realize that I am nothing without God. He has been too good to me to do otherwise. We all can fall and most certainly will fail. But what matters most is a heart of repentance. May we all share that heart of brokenness and repentance. For those who become repentant and contrite, we must encourage and build them up in the ways of the Lord. The goal should be to restore the penitent. But the person must be repentant before that can occur.

Even in our failures, God can have the glory if we give ourselves to his holy ways. But if we do not, then he will expose our failings and misdeeds. At the end of the day, each person must ask oneself what they are living for.

 

Sources

Crary, David. “Law Firm Details Sexual Misconduct by Global Ministry Leader,” San Diego Union-Tribune, (February 12, 2021), Law firm details sexual misconduct by global ministry leader – The San Diego Union-Tribune.

 

Miller, Dave. “Robert Jeffress and Romans 13: Troubling Comments.” SBC Voices (August 12, 2017), https://sbcvoices.com/robert-jeffress-and-romans-13-troubling-comments/.

 

Showalter, Brandon. “RZIM Apologist Urges Ministry to Repent, Address Failures for Mishandling Ravi Zacharias Scandals.” Christianity Today (December 15, 2020), https://www.christianpost.com/news/rzim-apologist-asks-ministry-to-repent-address-failures-mishandling-ravi-zacharias-scandals.html.

 

Silliman, Daniel, and Kate Shellnutt. “Ravi Zacharias Hid Hundreds of Pictures of Women, Abuse Du…… | News & Reporting | Christianity Today.” (February 11, 2021), https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/february/ravi-zacharias-rzim-investigation-sexual-abuse-sexting-rape.html.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).

 

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of the Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. Brian is a Ph.D. Candidate of the Theology and Apologetics program at Liberty University. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has served in pastoral ministry for nearly 20 years. He currently serves as a clinical chaplain.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Laymans-Manual-Christian-Apologetics-Essentials/dp/1532697104

 

© 2021. BellatorChristi.com.

 

(Podcast 2.10.21) The Sermon on the Mount: Part Two–The Origin of Sinful Behavior (Matt. 5:13-32)

Source: (Podcast 2.10.21) The Sermon on the Mount: Part Two–The Origin of Sinful Behavior (Matt. 5:13-32)

What Will You Do with the Messages of Jesus

Source: What Will You Do with the Messages of Jesus

By: Brian G. Chilton | February 8, 2021

 

“What would you do…ooo…ooo for a Klondike bar?” The sing-song question was used by television advertisements to ask what depths a person would go to obtain the chocolaty ice-cream goodness of Klondike ice-cream. For one man, he willingly gave his mother-in-law a foot rub to get his hands on a Klondike bar. The commercial argued that Klondike ice-cream bars were so good that a person would do anything possible to buy one. While Klondike ice-cream bars are really good, the same question must be asked about a person’s level of devotion to Jesus. To what lengths will a person go to follow Jesus?

People flocked to Jesus when they thought that he could or would do something for them. After Jesus fed over 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and a few fish, people flocked to Jesus from every imaginable place. People loved Jesus…that is…until they heard his messages. When Jesus taught the moral and ethical standards of God’s kingdom as found in the Sermon on the Mount, people drifted away from him. If they were getting a free meal or watching an amazing display of power, they stuck around. They were entertained and fed. Yet Jesus wanted more from them. The crowds diminished when they heard the message of Jesus. At one point, so many people left that Jesus asked his own disciples if they were also going to leave (John 6:66-71). Peter replied that he did not know to whom they would go since only Jesus spoke words of eternal life (John 6:69). What was it about the message of Jesus that was so challenging? In my estimation, I believe Jesus challenged the early crowds much as he does people from every generation. Jesus’s messages challenge people in three ways.

 

Jesus challenges our devotion.

When Jesus overturned the tables in the temple, he was not trying to cause trouble. Rather, Jesus challenged the people’s devotion. Was a person more faithful to a building, traditional systems, or to God alone? When he met the woman at the well, he challenged her devotion to Samaritan holy places. Jesus held that the true worshipers of God worship him in spirit and in truth, seeing that God is Spirit (John 4:21-24). When asked what was the most important commandment, Jesus pointed to Deuteronomy 6:5, noting that one should worship the Lord with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength (Matt. 22:37-38). Additionally, when people attempted to make him a political ruler, he absconded. Jesus noted that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). Undoubtedly, people will debate about possible interpretations behind Jesus’s words. However, what if he meant what he seems to suggest? What if our focus should be more on God’s kingdom than political parties and the latest conspiracy theories? If Jesus asked you to step away from political focus, would you? If Jesus asked you to simply trust him, would you? Jesus wisely noted that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). Where is our treasure found?

 

Jesus challenges our ethics.

Jesus challenges a person’s ethical standards at every turn. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples to love their enemies and to pray for those who harm them (Matt. 6:43-48). Political allegiances and an “us versus them” mentality are unraveling the fabric of society. However, a Christian cannot behave in this manner. The Christian cannot claim a right relationship with God while advocating a racist mindset. Jesus taught the Parable of the Good Samaritan using a Samaritan man as the hero of the story. Considering that he delivered the message to a group of people who loathed the Samaritans, he challenged the racial and ethnic bias of the people.

Jesus was revolutionary in his ethical standards. He accepted the worship and devotion of even a Roman centurion (Matt. 5:8-13). While Samaritans were despised, Romans were hated by the Jewish occupants, Roman centurions especially. Yet Jesus accepted Roman centurions, Syro-Phoenicians, and Samaritans. What does this say of our ethical standards? When Jesus says to love our neighbor as ourselves, the second great commandment, he did not place restrictions on whom we were to love. Jesus said that his disciples were to be known by their love (John 17:21; 1 John 4:7-21). If unbelievers were to sue us on account of our love for Christ merely by the love we express to others, would there be enough evidence to convict us?

 

Jesus challenges our faith.

Jesus told his disciples to have faith in God. At least five times, Jesus charged the disciples with having little faith. On one occasion, the disciples were caught in a storm that seemed to threaten their survival. After being awakened by the frightened disciples who thought they were most certainly doomed, Jesus peered into their eyes and asked them why they had no faith (Matt. 8:26). Afterwards, the disciples were terrified of Jesus’s power as he stilled the storm and the waves. Later, Jesus invites Peter to join him as he walked on water. Peter started off well. But then he began to look at the waves and feel the wind. He made the critical mistake of taking his eyes off Jesus. Jesus picks him back up and asks why he doubted (Matt. 14:31). As God grows us into the image of Christ, he often challenges us in ways that require us to place our total trust in him. While these instances are very uncomfortable, we learn more about God’s sovereign protection than any seminar could teach us. Faith is not grown in times of comfort and pleasure. Faith is like diamonds. It is often developed under times of intense pressure and heat. How can we claim faith if we are never tested? How can we demonstrate our faith if we never endure trials?

 

Conclusion

In many ways, modern Christianity, especially in the Western world, has grown much in common with the flippant followers of Jesus—those that wanted a meal or to be entertained—and less like the genuine disciples of Christ. I remember speaking with a woman years ago who grew up on a farm. The woman said that her family did not have much, but they had God and each other. While the work was difficult and the situations were anything less than ideal, she said something that I will never forget. She said, “I miss those days.” Why would she miss times where she had little material goods and engaged in hard, laborious work that would make most pass out from exhaustion? She missed those days because of the love and dependence her family had on God and each other.

Granted, I am one of those irritating optimists. Nonetheless, I think that God is working on something great. To develop us into the people we need to be, he must put us through the fires of discipleship. These fires are much like my Bibliology class with Dr. John Morrison. It was difficult and the nights reading and working on papers were long. Yet I learned more in that class than in nearly any other that I have taken. Jesus challenges us in the same way. He does so out of his great love for us. Christian fruit is not grown on the mountaintops of life. Rather, it is grown in the valleys. We must ask ourselves whether we have enough trust and dependence on Jesus to do what he commands. Klondike ice-cream bars taste good to the taste buds. But following Jesus holds eternal rewards that exceeds anything that ice-cream could ever afford. While we may sacrifice certain things to get a Klondike bar, the sacrifices made for Christ have far more lasting value.

 

About the Author

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of the Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. Brian is a Ph.D. Candidate of the Theology and Apologetics program at Liberty University. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has served in pastoral ministry for nearly 20 years. He currently serves as a clinical chaplain.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Laymans-Manual-Christian-Apologetics-Essentials/dp/1532697104

 

© 2021. BellatorChristi.com.

In Memory of Chad Fultz: Bellator Christi’s Biggest Fan

Source: In Memory of Chad Fultz: Bellator Christi’s Biggest Fan

By: Brian G. Chilton | January 16, 2021

 

Chad Fultz was a giant man of the faith. Physically, he stood around 6’5” and hailed from the mountains of Tennessee. Larger than his frame was the love that he had for Christ. I first met Chad in-person during an intensive with Dr. Randall Price at Liberty University in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics. While most everyone else in the class was dressed in professional business attire, Chad was known to come to class wearing his overalls, especially on Fridays when everything was more casual in nature. Chad had a deep voice, comparable to the great Adrian Rogers, with a steep Tennessee dialect. Don’t let the dialect fool you, Chad was a wise and highly intelligent man. He would engage in theological debates while talking about how one theologian “whooped up” on the anti-Christian scholar in written form.

When I first met Chad, he approached me and shook my hand. I looked up at him and thought, “Wow! That’s a big guy!” When he approached me, he said, “Are you THE Brian Chilton?” I said hesitantly, “I am.” He shocked me with his reply, “I cannot believe I am shaking hands with THE Brian Chilton!” He continued, “I have read your articles and heard your podcasts. I can’t believe that I am in class with THE Brian Chilton!” Being a foot shorter than Chad, he made me feel like I was nine-feet-tall. But that was Chad. Chad elevated those around him. He encouraged everyone he met. Even when he and his family shared a meal with me at Cookout, they made me feel like the guest of honor.

The Liberty community received word yesterday that Chad had lost his fight with COVID-19 and complications from the virus. While the Liberty University and Bellator Christi communities mourn the loss of Chad, we know that he is celebrating in heaven. I believe it is quite possible that we might have gatherings in heaven likened to the in-person intensives. Perhaps, we will have conferences listening to the heroes of the faith from times past. After visiting with Jesus, I envision Chad even now talking with the prophet Elijah asking him what it was like to “whoop up” on the prophets of Ba’al and Asherah.

In a world full of pretentiousness and hate, we could use a lot more Chad Fultzes. While my heart is broken over the loss of a good friend and colleague, I take comfort in the fact that I will one day see my buddy from Tennessee again. The next time, we will have a larger-scale intensive with the saints and heroes of the faith in that celestial university of God’s kingdom. While he claimed it was an honor to meet me, it was truly an honor for this country boy from the hills of North Carolina to meet THE Chad Fultz.

 

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of the Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. Brian is a Ph.D. Candidate at Liberty University in the Theology and Apologetics Program. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has served in pastoral ministry for nearly 20 years. He currently serves as a clinical chaplain.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Laymans-Manual-Christian-Apologetics-Essentials/dp/1532697104

 

© 2020. BellatorChristi.com.

The Mark of the Beast: A Biblical and Theological Approach

Source: The Mark of the Beast: A Biblical and Theological Approach

By: Brian G. Chilton | January 10, 2021

 

The world suffers from great turmoil and distress. People are distrustful of one another, and they certainly do not trust their governmental representatives. Unfortunately, conspiracy theories have taken center stage. What was once the discourse of backyard talk has now become talking points on Capitol Hill. Numerous people have asked my thoughts on the COVID-19 vaccines and whether the vaccine could represent the mark of the beast. Vaccines are not the only things postulated to be the mark of the beast. At one time, it was thought that the electronic numbers used by credit cards could represent the mark of the beast. Doing my part to emphasize rational discourse and valid hermeneutical practices, it is necessary to investigate the source behind the mark of the beast.

In full disclosure, this article affirms the futurist perspective of the book of Revelation. Futurists believe that much of the book of Revelation speaks to future prophetic events that will play out in the end-times. Preterists represent the opposing view, instead believing that most of Revelation speaks of events that occurred in the first century. Thus, presuming the futurist position, what can we learn about the mark of the beast? Before we engage the mark of the beast, we must first read what the book of Revelation says about the dubious mark.

11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; it had two horns like a lamb,, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast on its behalf and compels the earth and those who live on it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 13 It also performs great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in front of people. 14 It deceives those who live on the earth because of the signs that it is permitted to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who live on the earth to make an image of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 It was permitted to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could both speak and cause whoever would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16 And it makes everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark: the beast’s name or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom:, Let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, because it is the number of a person. Its number is 666” (Rev. 13:11–18).[1]

With the text in hand, two questions need to be considered. First, what is the mark of the beast when kept in the proper context? Second, what can the other theological teachings of the Bible tell us about the mark of the beast?

 

What is the mark of the beast?

The mark of the beast is found in the larger context of Revelation 13 which deals with the second beast. It must be understood that the powers of darkness attempt to mimic God at every turn. God is Triune, existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the book of Revelation, Satan tries to copy this trait coming as a dragon (Satan), a beast (antichrist), and a false prophet. The beast of the sea in the early part of Revelation 13 most likely is the antichrist, a worldly political leader filled with the power of Satan. The antichrist is essentially Satan incarnate.

The beast of the earth is most likely the false prophet. The antichrist imitates Christ’s resurrection by suffering a perceived mortal wound and is healed from it (Rev. 13:13). People worship the beast because they think him to be godlike (Rev. 13:4). Remember, Satan wants to be God and desires people to worship him rather than God.

The second beast arises in Revelation 13:11. The second beast is a religious leader who is also known as the “false prophet” (Rev. 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). The false prophet appears to be gentle, represented by the “two horns like a lamb” (Rev. 13:11), but speaks and behaves viciously. The second beast deceives (Rev. 12:19) through signs and wonders, most likely faked, serving the lie of Satan (2 Thess. 2:9). Here is the critical point to consider: the false prophet leads people to erect an image paying homage to the first beast (the antichrist) so as to worship the first beast. Three things take center stage when identifying the mark of the beast.

The mark is a seal of worship to the unholy trinity. It is uncertain whether the mark is an actual mark or not. It could be. But no matter if it is a physical branding or not, it is undeniable that the mark is a seal of devotion to Satan, the antichrist, and the false prophet. In this case, Satan imitates the Father, the antichrist imitates the Son, and the false prophet imitates the Holy Spirit. Paying homage to an idol was not unique in John’s day as will be shown later in the article.

Is the mark a secretive thing? No! The mark is not something that one takes unaware. Whatever the mark is, it is taken as a cognizant and willing act of devotion to the unholy trinity. The mark will be public, and everyone will know it when it comes. A person taking the mark of the beast publicly identifies oneself with the antichrist much as a baptized believer is publicly identified with Christ.

What does 666 mean? The number hexakoioi hexekonta hex (666) is the numerical value of the antichrist’s name. Each letter in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic—the languages of the Bible—held numerical value. Arabic numbers had not been invented by this time. Thus, each word and name hold a numerical value in the biblical text. To calculate the numerical value for each word, the numbers for each letter were added. Jesus’s name equals the numerical value of 888. 8 is a number representing new beginnings and resurrection as it is one digit higher than the number of perfection—the number 7. The beast’s name is one digit below perfection—the number 6. Thus, 666 represents the name of the antichrist and his unholy nature. Ironically, the name Kaiser Nero equaled the value 666. John is telling his readers who were knowledgeable of Nero’s horrific exploits against believers that the future antichrist would be like Nero, but only worse and on a global scale.

 

How does this text merge with other theological teachings in the Bible?

            Already, it has been noted how the mark of the beast finds its meaning in the context of Revelation 13. However, three additional theological teachings help to further understand the mark of the beast. When a text becomes difficult to interpret, it must be gauged according to other major teachings in Scripture. As such, consider three important truths.

Mark of God. Not only is there a mark of the beast, but Scripture also mentions a mark of God. It is amazing that the next chapter is not read when examining the mark of the beast. In chapter 14, Jesus (aka., “The Lamb of God”) stands on Mount Zion with 144,000 of his children. The 144,000 are most likely Jewish believers saved during the horrible time of tribulation. Nonetheless, notice what is on the foreheads of the 144,000. They had “his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Rev. 14:1). In Revelation 22, the new heaven and earth are occupied by those who have God’s name written on their foreheads. The text reads, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:4). In the OT, believers were told to bind the Word of God on their foreheads and hands (Deut. 6:8). The Israelites took this command seriously as they created phylacteries that contained Scripture and placed it in these boxes on their foreheads and wrists. But was this literal or metaphorical? God says that he will write his word on the hearts of his people (Heb. 8:10). This leads me to wonder whether the mark is a literal mark at all. Perhaps the mark is one’s identification or allegiance to someone or something. The person’s wholesale allegiance to a person or entity may be what the mark represented all along.

Unpardonable sin. When thinking about the mark, one needs to consider a very important teaching given by Jesus himself. When accused of performing miracles at the hand of Satan, Jesus first instructs his accusers that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Matt. 12:25–26). Jesus then notes, “Anyone who is not with me is against me, and anyone who does not gather with me scatters. Therefore, I tell you, people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matt. 12:31). The only sin that is unforgivable is the rejection of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of Jesus. That is, the unpardonable sin is to reject Christ unto death. Whether the mark is a literal branding or an allegiance of the heart, the thing that makes the mark unforgivable is a rejection of Christ unto death. The mark is taken willingly and publicly whether it be for Christ or Satan. Even now, people bear a mark of Christ or a mark of the beast in their own lives depending on who rules their heart.

Comparison to the book of Daniel and John’s day. One last point needs to be made before wrapping up. This point is historical one that bears upon the interpretation of the text. People of John’s day would have known what John had in mind when speaking of the mark of the beast. The Greco-Roman world was replete with gods and goddesses. People were instructed to worship certain gods and goddesses in their regions which differed according to the location. These manmade idols were thought to embody the gods they represented. Scripture notes that when people worshiped these idols, they actually worshiped demons (Deut. 32:16–17).

The book of Revelation finds many parallels to the OT. This may be an area that finds a root in the OT as well. In the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar set up a 90-foot-tall by 9-foot-wide idol and ordered everyone to worship the idol (Dan. 3:1–3). Whoever did not worship the idol was thrown into a furnace of fire (Dan. 3:6). Nebuchadnezzar’s command caused a problem for the devout Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego). Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah chose the flames of the furnace over worshiping a false god. However, they were spared by the Fourth Man walking in the fire with them (Dan. 3:25). With this backdrop in mind, the mark of the beast becomes evermore clear. The mark of the beast represents a person’s allegiance to the dragon (Satan), beast of the sea (antichrist), and the beast of the earth (false prophet).

 

Conclusion

The mark of the beast is not so much about an actual mark as it is about one’s allegiance to the powers of darkness. Each person already bears a mark of some sort in one’s heart and life. Scripture indicates that the Holy Spirit is the seal of God upon the believer’s life (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13–14; 4:30). Either a person is marked by God or marked by Satan. A person’s allegiance can change from the influence of Satan to the power of God. But going back to the mark of the beast, people do not need to constantly worry about being deceived into taking a mark that will eliminate their chances of entering heaven. Vaccines and electronic devices do not represent what John had in mind when it was recording the revelation of God. He speaks of a person’s public denial of Christ and affirmation of a public, political leader who is directed and filled with the power of Satan. With this in mind, as Joshua challenged the Hebrews, we are challenged as well to “choose this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15).

 

About the Author

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of the Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has served in pastoral ministry for nearly 20 years.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Laymans-Manual-Christian-Apologetics-Essentials/dp/1532697104

 

© 2021. BellatorChristi.com.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman, 2017).

Athanasius of Alexandria

Source: Athanasius of Alexandria

By: Michelle Johnson I December 30, 2020

Last week, listeners to the Bellator Christi podcast heard Brian and Curtis discuss Athanasius’ writing – On the Incarnation of the Word of God.  (Bellator Christi Podcast 12.23.2020) If you haven’t had a chance to hear their conversation, head on over to the podcast and take a listen.   As a student of church history, a few questions begin to pop into my head.  Who is Athanasius?  Where and when did he live and work?  Why is he significant in church history?  Was the incarnation of Jesus the main focus of his efforts?

Let’s get to know Athanasius by exploring answers to some of these questions.  Most sources agree, Athanasius was born in (or close to) the year 298.  The exact location of his birthplace isn’t exactly clear, but Athanasius was educated, lived and worked in the city of Alexandria, Egypt.  Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great, some 600 years before Athanasius lived there.  It was, and still is a busy, seaport city that lies on the northern coast of Egypt along the Mediterranean Sea.  Alexandria was a wealthy and influential city, home to a significant library and considered a center of learning in the ancient world.  Such is the city in which we find Athanasius.

Most biographical accounts of Athanasius’ life begin when he was in his twenties.  Not much information about his childhood and youth seems to exist.  Johannes Quasten suggests his education was “classic and theological”.  (Patrology Vol 3 p20) By the time Athanasius was in his mid-twenties he had been ordained by bishop Alexander as a deacon in the church.

There was controversy rising within the church and a conflict between the views of a priest named Arius and bishop Alexander.  These two were at odds over the nature of Christ.  Arius had believed and taught that Jesus Christ was a created being and therefore not God (a position that became known as Arianism).  Alexander, on the other hand, understood scripture to say Jesus Christ was indeed, fully God.  The debate had been brewing in Alexandria and eventually caught the attention of emperor Constantine.  Constantine was favorable to Christianity, having issued the Edict of Milan in 313 which gave Christianity a tolerated status within the Roman Empire.  Constantine, like many of the other emperors were interested in maintaining peace throughout their realm.  Fearing an issue that would cause division within Christianity, Constantine called the first ecumenical council, to take place in the city of Nicaea.  This was a gathering of theologians and church leaders from around the empire that would hear the arguments on both sides and determine which one was right.  Arius and Alexander went to Nicaea to present their cases.

It is common to look back to the Council of Nicaea and see it dominated by Athanasius.  While he does become a major player in this debate, initially he attended the council as the secretary to bishop Alexander.  The debate was between Alexander and Arius.  The council sided with Alexander and established as its official position – Jesus was indeed divine.  Arianism was determined to be a heretical belief.  This however was not the end of the debate.  Arianism continued to spread within the church.  Just three short years after the Council of Nicaea bishop Alexander died.  Athanasius succeeded him as bishop as well as defender against Arianism.

Athanasius would serve as bishop of Alexandria for the next 45 years.  However, his tenure would not be without significant difficulty.  He would be exiled no less than five times for a total of 17+ years.  His first challenge occurred in 335.  Emperor Constantine requested Arius be accepted back into communion with the church, after being declared a heretic by the council.  Athanasius refused and was exiled by Constantine.  Exile number two came in 339 and wasn’t fully resolved until 346.

One of Constantine’s sons, Constantius, now ruling as emperor was responsible for exiling Athanasius for the third time.  This time Athanasius remained exiled until Constantius’ death.  He sought refuge with monks and individuals who had established a thriving and quite popular monastic lifestyle in the desert of Egypt.  Saint Antony, possibly one of the founders of this movement, would become the subject of a biography written later by Athanasius.  This particular writing would become significant for the monastic movement.

Athanasius once again returned to Alexandria.  Constantius had died and the new emperor Julian recalled the exiled Athanasius back to his position.  This was to be short lived, however, as Athanasius found himself at odds with Julian and back in exile (#4) within the year.  The death of Julian brought Athanasius back once again to Alexandria.

The new emperor Valens exiled Athanasius for a fifth and final time.  This exile didn’t last as there were those that expressed their displeasure to Valens over this decision and Athanasius was recalled back to Alexandria.  Thus, as bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius found himself in a constant state of back and forth.  Following this fifth and final exile, Athanasius was allowed to function as bishop for the last seven years of his life.  (exile timeline found in Patrology Vol 3 p 20-22)

The podcast conversation centered upon one particular writing of Athanasius that addressed the incarnation.  Did he write anything else?  Yes!  Athanasius wrote a number of things.  He used his writing to continue the argument against Arianism.  He wrote in defense of monotheism and he explained his understanding of biblical redemption and countered the beliefs of pagans in yet other writings.  The monastic life and the example set by St. Antony occupied at least one book.  We have letters written by Athanasius.

Athanasius is probably most noted for his involvement in the Arian controversy.  His position of prominence in this debate really came after the council of Nicaea’s decision, when he became the bishop.  Because of Arianism’s continued proliferation, Athanasius would take up the mantle of champion of the deity of Christ.  This issue would continue beyond his lifetime.  The Cappadocian Fathers – Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus would follow in his footsteps as the debate expanded to include discussion about the divinity of the Holy Spirit.  The decisions made at the council of Constantinople in 381, eight years after Athanasius’ death, would finally bring closure.  The significance of the work of these two councils – Nicaea and Constantinople – are at the core of what we, as believers confess today, belief in the triune God – one God, three persons – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

So here we have Athanasius, certainly a significant individual in the history of the church.  To study his life gives one the opportunity to witness how key doctrinal decisions came about within the early church.  It is impossible to know about Athanasius and not be challenged to examine what scripture says about exactly who Jesus Christ is and no better time than the Christmas season to consider the incarnation of God Himself and what that means for each of us.  If you haven’t checked out last week’s podcast, I’d encourage you to do so.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Sources

Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K: Baker Academic; Paternoster Press, 2001.

Quasten, Johannes. Patrology:  The Golden Age of Greek Patristic Literature. Volume 3. Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1990.

About the Author

Michelle Johnson earned her M.A. in Theological Studies and her M.Div. in Professional Ministries at Liberty University, where she is also working on her Ph.D. in Theology and Apologetics.  Michelle is also a graduate of the University of Minnesota.  She and her husband Steve live in Mankato, Minnesota, where she also serves in women’s ministry.  In addition to a love of theology, apologetics, and church history, Michelle also has a passion for creationism studies.  When she is not spending time reading or writing, Michelle can often be found dreaming of her next travel adventure or enjoying a great cup of coffee.