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Wrestling with the Word, episode 51: Third Sunday of Advent, Year C (December 13, 2009) November 26, 2009

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Third Sunday of Advent

Some time ago, I learned that when I write to someone requesting a favor, I should never thank him or her in advance. As I recall the lesson in diplomacy, the reason for the prohibition was the audacious assumption that the person would accept, almost reducing the freedom of the person to choose. Yet the Bible abounds in calls to thank and praise God for the promises about coming near to us, comforting and saving us, and even turning the world upside down. In other words, the Bible calls us to thank God in advance. However, far from an enticement to improper etiquette, the call assumes that once God has made a promise, the thing promised is as good as done! With that assurance of God’s effective word, we can already give thanks and live with the joy that the coming event has already defined our lives now and eternally. This Third Sunday of Advent opens our eyes to the possibilities of the Reign of God as well as to the dangers of assuming God’s coming will be warm and fuzzy.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 51: Third Sunday of Advent, Year C.

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Isaiah 12:2-6
This song of thanksgiving and praise bears many resemblances to the Song of Moses at the deliverance of the people from the Pharaoh and his army (Exodus 15:1ff.). That early hymn immediately follows the announcement that “Thus the Lord saved Israel on that day” (Exod. 14:30). The song here in Isaiah 12 begins with the announcement “You will sing on that day” (12:1), but now “that day” and the event of salvation lie in the future. The call to thank and praise the “name” of God for that salvation yet to come pulls together the wording of several psalms (Ps. 119:82 in verse 1; Psalm 105:1 in verse 4) and uses words similar to Isaiah 52:7-10. The cause for joy and celebration among the people is the salvation of the Lord and the Lord’s presence among them (also in Zeph. 3:14-18a).

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Zephaniah 3:14-20
Having warned the people through the prophet about the judgment on the Day of the Lord, God promises to appear among them to conquer evil and establish the divine reign as one of joy and a homecoming celebration.

Context
The prophet Zephaniah was active during the reign of King Josiah, 640-609 B.C. During the early part of this reign, the people’s worship of Canaanite gods, especially Baal, was still prominent. The threat of the Lord to “cut off from this place the remnant of Baal” (1:4) seems to be consistent with the reform measures taken by Josiah in the 9th year of his reign. The attitude of some of the people during this period is that God is irrelevant, that nothing about him really matters, and so the people say that the Lord is ineffective (1:12). The leaders of the people seem to be of no help, and so officials, judges, prophets and priests all come under the judgment of the prophet (3:3-4).

Like the prophets since the time of Amos, it was necessary for Zephaniah also to correct the impression that the expected day of the Lord will be a bed of roses. Repeatedly he proclaims that the day of the Lord is near, and then he adds “a day of wrath is that day” (1:7, 14, 15). Nothing can deliver the people from the coming wrath except repentance (2:1-4), and although most will not respond to the invitation, a remnant will be saved (2:7, 9) from the worldwide judgment (2:12-15). The agent of the Lord’s judgment in these oracles is difficult to identify, although there are some clues that point to the Scythians. Escaping the onslaught, Jerusalem escapes the predicted doom. Over the humble and lowly remnant, God will reign, turning shame into praise (3:19).

Key Words
V. 15.  melek yisrā’ēl YHWH beqirbēk = “the King of Israel, YHWH, is in your midst”:  In the ancient world a god usually attained kingship by accomplishing a victory over his enemies. In order to accomplish that victory, it was necessary that YHWH be a mighty Warrior (v. 17) to fight in Israel’s midst against the foe. In the days Moses and of the judges, the understanding of YHWH as the Divine Warrior who fought on Israel’s behalf was particularly prominent (see, e.g., Exod. 14:14; Josh. 10:1-11). Among the many characteristics of the so-called Holy Wars of YHWH was the notion that he was present (see the role of the pillar of cloud and fire in Exod. 14; note also the announcement of God’s presence in Ps. 46:5).

V. 19.  wehôša‘tî ’et-hatstsōlē‘â wehanniddāchâ’ aqabbēts = “and I will save the lame and gather the outcast”:  See  Mic. 4:6-7 for the same understanding that the outcasts will be in. In other portrayals of the kingdom, the lame will be healed (see Isa. 35).

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Philippians 4:4-7
The nearness of the Lord brings cause for rejoicing and gentleness, diminishing cause for worry and enabling prayer to be accompanied by praise and thanksgiving.

Context
Paul begins to conclude his letter, having expressed longing to see them again and preparing for his thanks over their financial support.

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Luke 3:7-18
Through the preaching of the prophet John, God announced the “good news” of the imminent Day of the Lord and all the judgment that would take place in connection with that day.

Context
Luke identified all the players in 3:1-6 and gave us his explicit understanding of the identity of John:  he is the one who announces the forthcoming salvation event but is not himself that event.

Key Words
Vv. 7-15.  Note the list of players who come before John:  multitudes, tax collectors, soldiers, the people, all people. Compare the list of people in Zephaniah’s audience. The multitudes are called “brood of vipers” in v. 7, and the paragraph indicates they are Jewish people who claim to have Abraham as their father as though that makes them immune from the judgment to come. Of the list, the tax collectors are the only ones of whom it is said that they came to be baptized; they were the outcasts of the society who were now offered the invitation to come in (cf. the promise at Zeph. 3:19).

Vv. 10-14.  Note what is required to avoid the wrath to come:  share clothing and food with the poor, be honest in taxation, avoid robbing and violence and false accusation. None of these forms of repentance have anything to do with ritual or cult but with just relations with one another, especially with the poor. Recall the repentance Zephaniah called for in the face of the coming Day of Wrath: “seek righteousness, seek humility” (Zeph. 2:3)

V. 15.  The reference to the people who “were in expectation” indicates a debate in the first century about the actual role of John. Here his identity as the Messiah is clearly denied.

V. 18.  euēggelizeto ton laon = “he preached good news to the people”:  It is difficult to imagine how these many exhortations could be classified as “good news.” It is important to recognize that in Luke’s Gospel the noun euaggelion is never used, only the verb as here. In this sense Luke follows the use in the LXX. In the LXX the verb is used in two non-theological ways:  (1) to announce the victory from the field of battle (see 2 Sam. 18:19-31 for example); and (2) to announce the birth of a baby (Jer. 20:15). In both cases, what is announced is such good news that it brings about a new time. That new time of which John speaks is the Day of the Lord when the Reign of God will begin.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 50: Second Sunday of Advent, Year C (December 6, 2009) November 17, 2009

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Second Sunday of Advent

God is full of surprises. What else are the Incarnation of the Word of God and the appearance of God’s Son as an artisan from Nazareth? At the same time, God consistently sends messengers to prepare people for the surprise. The biblical narratives abound in God’s use of messengers—Moses preparing the crowd at the foot of Mount Sinai for God’s appearance (Exodus 19:10-15); Second Isaiah preparing the people for the imminent salvation of God that would take them home from exile (Isaiah 40); the appearance of Elijah as “my messenger” to prepare people for the Day of the Lord (Malachi 3—4); and now comes John the Baptizer and the Apostle Paul. What makes the coming of God such a surprise is that it is usually very ordinary. The messengers warn and instruct us to see what we will be looking at and to listen to what we will hear.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 50: Second Sunday of Advent, Year C.

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Luke 1:68-79 (the Benedictus)
Filled with the Holy Spirit, the priest Zechariah, who had been mute for the past nine months, opens his mouth. His words bless God as Zechariah interprets God’s purpose for his newborn son John (vv. 68-75). The emphasis on salvation is typical of Luke, and the verbs “looked favorably” and “redeemed” appear in the past tense to indicate that the promise is as good as done. The song testifies to the faithfulness of God to promises by pointing to “the oath that he (the Lord) swore to our ancestor Abraham” (v. 73). True to the message given him by the angel Gabriel at 1:17, the proud father speaks to his baby son about the role he is to play:  as “prophet of the Most High”: he will fulfill the function of Elijah in turning the hearts of people to one another and to God He will prepare the way for the promised salvation and God’s kingdom (v. 76). The goal of his mission appears to be that of giving “knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins” (v. 77).

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Malachi 3:1-4
As a response to the priests’ weariness with their roles of sacrifice and of instructing the people in the ways of justice, God sends a messenger to refine the relationship that once existed between the Lord and the Levitical priesthood.

Context
The Book of Malachi seems to address the post-exilic community of Israel. Sufficient time has elapsed since the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem (520 B.C.) that the priests (1:6) have become weary at offering their sacrifices (see 1:12-13) and have failed at their responsibility for instructing the people in ways of truthfulness and justice. Further, they blame the people for asking the whereabouts of the “God of justice” (2:17). As a result, the Lord no longer accepts their offerings (2:13). While the priests are weary with worship, the Lord became weary with them (2:17).

Key Words
V. 1. hinenî šālēach mal’ākî = “Behold I am sending my messenger”:  The Hebrew word  mal’ākî provides the name of the book. While the identity of “messenger” becomes the prophet Elijah at the end of the book, the messenger in 2:4-9 seems to be a Levite priest, and the covenant mentioned in our passage is probably the one mentioned at 2:4-5 (“my covenant with Levi” as a “covenant of life and well-being”). More important is the almost identical expression in 4:5:  hinnê ’ānōkî šōlēach lākem ’ēt ’ēlîyyâ hannābî’ = “Behold I am sending to you Elijah the prophet.” Elijah’s ascent on a cloud with the chariot of fire (2 Kings 2) leads to the hope that he would return.

V. 3. wehāyû laYHWH maggîšê minchâ bitsedāqâ = “and there will be bringers of sacrifice in righteousness”:  The unclarity of the expression raises a note of caution, but the sense seems to be that in contrast to the sacrifices made out of the priests’ “weariness” and the lack of “justice” (2:17), a different attitude, one of righteousness, will prevail when the Lord refines the priesthood.

V. 4.  we‘ārebâ … kîmê ‘ôlām ûkešānîm qadmōniyyôt = “and pleasing … as in the days of old and in former years”:  The reference might be to the sweet-smelling (i.e., acceptable) sacrifice which Noah offered following the chaos of the flood (see Gen. 8:20-21). One will recall that the result of the cessation of the flood was a new creation, not unlike the expectation here.

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Philippians 1:3-11
In anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ, Paul moves from his personal thanks for the congregation at Philippi to his prayer that they may abound in love, so that they might be pure and blameless on the day of Jesus Christ and will have demonstrated the harvest of righteousness.

Context
Philippi was the first stop on Paul’s journey into Europe. He established a congregation there as early as A.D. 49, making it the first European congregation Acts 16:12-39). Paul indicates clearly in the paragraph following our pericope that he writes this letter from prison.  The traditional view is his imprisonment in Rome (Acts 28:14-31), dating the epistle about 59-60. However, other scholars argue that the imprisonment mentioned might be the one in Caesarea (Acts 23:33–26:32), dating the epistle about 56-58. Still others point to the imprisonment in Ephesus (1 Cor. 15:30ff; 2 Cor. 1:8ff.), indicating the earliest date of 53-55.

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Luke 3:1-6
Through the preaching of John the Baptist, God commences the dawning of the new Day and the ensuing kingdom that God promised through the prophets.

Context
The passage of time since Jesus’ birth can be traced somewhat by the reference in 2:1 that Jesus was born during the reign of Augustus, while the action in our pericope occurs after Tiberius had succeeded him. The 15th year of Tiberius would be A.D. 28, a date which is also consistent with the governorship of Pontius Pilate (26-36). The list of persons in 3:1-2 in quite intentional, as it lays forth the characters who will appear later in the Gospel:  Tiberias at 20:20-26; Pilate at 13:1 and ch. 23; Herod Antipas at 3:19; 8:3; 9:7, 9; 13:31; 23:7-15; Philip at 3:19; Caiaphas at 22:50, 54.  Only Lysanias is not mentioned again.

Key Words
V. 2. egeneto rēma theou epi Iōannēn = “the word of God came to John”:  The typical expression of prophetic address implies that John is a prophet. The following OT quotation from Isaiah 40:3-5 verifies the claim and points to his function. Recall that in the Benedictus by John’s father Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79), the baby was identified at his birth as “prophet of the Most High,” who would go before the Lord to prepare his ways (1:76).

V. 3.  kēryssōn baptisma metanoias eis aphesin hamartiōn = “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”:  Recall the song of his father Zechariah in which John is destined to “give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins” (1:77). In Matthew’s Gospel, the sermon that both John and Jesus preached was the same: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2 and 4:17). Mark adds “repent and believe in the gospel” to Jesus’ announcement about the nearness of God’s kingdom (Mark 1:15), to limits John’s sermon to the words used here in Luke (Mark 1:4).

Vv. 4-6.  “the words of Isaiah the prophet”:  The Isaiah passage from Isa. 40:3-5 is part of the call of the prophet Second Isaiah, and it comes in the context of the new time of salvation for the Israelites who have been held captive in Babylon. The understanding of the people’s salvation from that long exile was based upon the Lord’s announcement that Israel has paid double for her sins and so the people would now be allowed to return home.

V. 6. kai opsetai para sarx to sōtērion tou theou = “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God”: These words belong to end of the quotation from Isaiah 40:3-5 where they introduce the preaching of Second Isaiah to the exiles in Babylon. They also appear at Isaiah 52:10 where they demonstrate the consequence of Israel’s homecoming to Jerusalem as the Reign of God. Furthermore, the words are virtually identical to Psalm 98:3 where they speak of the universal response to the victory of God over chaos, the result of which is the Reign of God.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 49: First Sunday of Advent, Year C (November 29, 2009) November 12, 2009

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First Sunday of Advent

The time of Advent calls on us to perform an unnatural act: wait. The word “advent” means “coming,” and the arrival we await is (1) the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, to become one of us and live among us, (2) Christ’s appearance at the end time (the Second Coming). The first two Sundays of Advent focus on the Second Coming of Christ. The third Sunday focuses on the announcement of John the Baptizer who pointed to the coming ministry of Jesus. The fourth Sunday centers on Mary who, as God’s faithful servant, waited for Jesus’ birth. The New Testament writings developed after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus but obviously before the Second Coming when all things will become new. The critical question from New Testament times until this very day is not really the apocalyptic question about how long must we wait. Rather the question for the church in any day is: what do we do with our lives in the meantime? How do we wait? For what do we wait? Why do we wait?

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 49: First Sunday of Advent, Year C.

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Psalm 25:1-10
This acrostic psalm is a lament in which a pious worshipper pleads that those who wait for the Lord will not be put to shame. Typical of a lament, the worshipper acknowledges a history of God’s mercy and counts on it in the present situation to forgive sins. Wrapped up in this divine mercy are God’s salvation (v. 5), steadfast love, and faithfulness (vss. 7, 10). Along with the petitions are examples of Wisdom as the psalmist prays for instruction to bear the present time in faithfulness. (The plea for forgiveness in v. 7 is repeated in vv. 11 and 18).

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Jeremiah 33:14-16
In the midst of disaster all around and in spite of Jeremiah’s own personal tragedy, God promises through that prophet the new day when God will establish a peaceful reign and set over the kingdom a Davidic ruler.

Context
At the time of Jeremiah’s call, Josiah was king of Judah (640-609 B.C.). Josiah was succeeded by Jehoaz who ruled only a few months. Then Jehoiakim, king from 609-598 B.C., was succeeded by Jehoiachin who was king at the time of the first deportation to Babylon (598-597 B.C.). Jehoiachin himself was among the first deportees, and so Nebuchadnezzar put on the throne Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah and changed his name to Zedekiah (“Yah is righteousness” or perhaps “Yah is legitimate”). This puppet king, not directly of Davidic lineage, reigned until 587 B.C. (Note: this passage is virtually identical to Jer. 23:5-6.)

Key Words
V. 14.  wahaqîmōtî ’et-haddābār hattôb = “and I will establish the good word”:  The word is the promise God made to David (2 Sam. 7). That there was now an uncle rather than a succeeding son makes Zedekiah, the present king, illegitimate.

V. 15.  ’atsmîach ledāwid tsemach tsedāqâ = “I will cause to spring up for David a righteous branch”:  The image of the royal family tree as roots and branches occurs at Isa. 11:1. The prophecy there interprets the future king’s reign as one on which he judges the poor with righteousness and even wears “righteousness” as his intimate apparel. Further, at Zech. 3:8; 4:12 the candidate for the royal office is the “legitimate” successor Zerubbabel.

V. 15.  mišpāt ûtsedāqâ = “justice and righteousness”:  “Justice and righteousness” are the means by which YHWH rules the world, “the foundation of his throne” (Ps. 89:14; 97:2), and so the Davidic king, as the representative of God, reigns with the same foundations (Ps. 72:2).

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1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
In anticipation of the coming again of the Lord, Paul prays for reunion with the congregation, for their abundance of love to one another and to all, so that the Lord might make their hearts unblamable in holiness before God.

Context
Cassander, a general in Alexander’s army, founded Thessalonica, a city in Macedonia, in 316 B.C. When Macedonia became a Roman province in 146 B.C., Thessalonica became the capital. The city’s prosperity was due in large part to its location along the Via Egnatia. According to Acts 17:1-9 Paul visited the city (Acts 17:1-9), accompanied by Silas and perhaps Timothy (Acts 16:1; 17:14-15; 18:5; 1 Tim. 1:1). His letter, written probably from Corinth in A.D. 50-51, seeks to guide the congregation that he founded and had to leave prematurely. His teachings focus on the Second Coming of Christ, the glories it will bring, the ethical responsibilities in the meantime, and the unpredictability of its timing.

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Luke 21:25-36
In response to the concern about the sign for the Day of the Lord, Jesus tells of a variety of signs common to human existence, and he urges constant preparedness to stand before the Son of man on the last day.

Context
Whether or not the author of Luke-Acts was the Luke that traveled with Paul, he wrote some time between A.D. 70 and 90, probably in the 80s. The author addressed his work to an audience consisting primarily of Gentile Christians. He quoted the Old Testament in the LXX version rather then the Hebrew. He used no Hebrew words, as did the other evangelists. Further, the content of his writing betrays a broader, even universal, message than that of the other synoptic gospels. In his two-volume work, the author presents the history of salvation in three periods: (1) the time prior to Jesus Christ; (2) the time of Jesus; (3) the time of the church.

As he presented the passion story, Luke began his account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at 19:28. Jesus’ teachings in the city and the temple had, in the previous verses, prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem (21:20-24), a subject raised earlier in the chapter (21:5-6).

Key Words
V. 25.  ēchous thalassēs kai salou = “at the roaring of sea and waves”:  The words recall the chaotic force of the sea versus the orderly reign of God (see Isa. 17:12-14; Ps. 46:1-3; in NT see Mark 4:35-41 and parallels).

V. 27.  ton huion tou anthrōpou erchomenon en nephelē = “the son of man coming in a cloud”: In Dan. 7:13, the source of the quotation, the direction is from earth to the heavenly throne of God.

V. 28.  dioti eggizei hē apolytrōsis hymōn = “because your redemption is near”:  Luke uses the expression “is near” in reference to the kingdom of God at 10:9 and at 21:31, and then connects the coming kingdom with Jesus’ coming near Jerusalem (18:35; 19:29, 37, 41). The nearness of the kingdom, of course, lies at the heart of Jesus’ own preaching (Mark 1:14-15).

V. 32.  hē genea autē = “this generation”:  In light of the date of Luke in the 70s or 80s, the author would know that many people in Jesus’ generation did pass away. Perhaps the expression refers to the kinds of people who seek signs, indicating it is evil (see 11:29).

Wrestling with the Word, episode 48: Christ the King, Year B (November 22, 2009) November 8, 2009

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Christ the King

Nothing is what it seems, and what is real does not appear. As we look around the world at its disastrous events—human-made and natural, it seems that chaos rules supreme. That God and not chaos rules the universe is contrary to human sense and unobservable to human senses. Since it is neither a political agenda nor a social phenomenon, God’s reign is independent of votes and opinions. Moreover, completely contrary to worldly reason, the Reign of Christ occurs only through Jesus’ suffering on the cross at the hands of religious and political authorities and his resurrection from that awful death. God’s rule over the cosmos and the Reign of Christ the King are comprehended only through faith.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 48: Christ the King, Year B.

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Psalm 93
This song of praise of YHWH’s kingship is the one of a series dealing with the same theme (47, 95–99). It begins with the acclamation that the Lord indeed is king. That the reign of God extends not only over Israel but over the whole world results from God’s creating and arranging the world’s order. Though tumults threaten his rule, God is firmly established on the throne.

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Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
In the vision, God Almighty who is seated on the heavenly throne, grants everlasting dominion to one like a son of man who appears before him.

Context
Although the story of the book dates the action in the Persian period (6th-4th centuries B.C.), the authors of the book lived in and wrote for people between 167-164 B.C. This period was a time of persecution by the Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

After six chapters in which the people of faith accomplish all kinds of miracles in the face of their persecutions by the Persians, this chapter begins a series of visions. While the former part of the book appears to emphasize the old wisdom theme that the righteous will be rewarded, this latter section is apocalyptic. It focuses on the end time and the timing of the end.

Unfortunately, verses 11-12 are omitted from the reading. They describe the slaying of the final beast and the loss of dominion by all the beasts mentioned in vv. 4-8. Their loss of dominion and the granting of dominion to the one like a son of man provide a necessary sequence that is lost by the omission of these two verses.

As a whole, this vision is about four beasts representing the kingdoms of the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and Greeks. In other words, the history of the people of Israel from the eighth century B.C. until the present second century B.C. is laid out, indicating that human history has run its course, the cosmic clock is ticking away, and the kingdom of God is about to break in.

Key Words
Vv. 9-10. Much of the imagery used in these verses (and in the preceding ones) appears in the vision of Ezekiel in the first chapter of his book:  fire, four creatures, throne, wheels, brightness, a likeness of a human form.

V. 13.  wa’arû `im-‘anānê šemayyā’_’ kebar ’enāš ’ātēh hawâ we`ad-‘attîq yômayyā’  metâ ûqedāmôhî haqrebûhî = “and with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him”:  Two major issues appear here. First, the direction of movement of the one like a son of man is from earth to heaven. Second, the identity of “the son of man” figure as the recipient of the kingdom (v. 14) is “the saints of the Most High” (vss. 18, 22, 27).

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Revelation 1:4b-8
To those in tribulation the author assures that they can count on God’s enduring existence and constant love and on Christ’s resurrection and lordship over the world.

Context
After a brief introduction (vv. 1-3) these verses make up the salutation of the letter and a description of the first vision.

Old Testament Allusions
V. 4.  “who is and who was and who is to come”:  Exod. 3:14; Rev. 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 16:5.

V. 4.  “seven spirits”:  Isaiah 11:2-3 (a messianic reference).

V. 5.  “first-born” and “ruler of the kings on earth”: Psalm 89:27 (a Davidic allusion).

V. 5.  “witness”:  Isaiah 55:4 (a Davidic allusion).

V. 6.  “kingdom, priests”:  Exod. 19:6 (cf. 1 Peter 2:9).

V. 7.  “coming with the clouds”:  Dan 7:13 (used of one like “a son of man).

V. 7.  “will see … pierced … wail”:  Zech 12:10-12 (used of Davidic family and the people of Jerusalem).

V. 7.  “all the tribes of the earth”:  Gen. 12:3 (the mission given to Abraham and Sarah).

V. 8.  eigō eimi = “I AM”: Exod. 3:14; Isa. 42:6, 8; 43:1, 3, 10, 11, 13, 15, 2, etc;

V. 8.  “the Almighty”:  Amos 3:13 and often (used for Yahweh starting at Gen. 17:1); Rev. 4:8; 16:7.

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John 18:33-37
While the Jewish authorities lead Pilate to believe Jesus has claimed to be a king, Jesus admits only to kingship/kingdom, identifying his domain as out of this world.

Context
Following Jesus’ arrest in verse 12, the soldiers and the officers of the Jews led him first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest.  After Caiaphas questioned him, they led him to Pilate the governor. In the praetorium (NRSV “headquarters”) they accused Jesus as an evil doer and a claimant to Caesar’s royal title. Pilate urged them to judge him by their own law, but they indicated their own law did not permit capital punishment.

V. 36. “my kingship/kingdom is not from the world”: Neither, according to John’s Gospel, is Jesus’ origin from this world (1:1-14; 3:1-2, 13). Likewise, the Reign of God in the OT is not from this world but from above. Since God is the Creator of the world, God’s reign does not originate with the world. The issue of Jesus as king continues through chapter 19 where the soldiers mock him as king (title, crown, and purple robe) while Pilate seems prophetically to write the title on the cross.

V. 36. “if my kingship/kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight:” In 6:15 Jesus withdrew from the crowds when they, inspired by his miraculous feeding, wanted to “take him by force to make him king.”

Vss. 37-38 alētheia = “truth”: The connection between “truth” and Jesus begins with the 1:14, continues in Jesus’ teaching in the temple 8:32-36, and becomes part of his identity in the I AM saying at 14:6. As in the OT, “truth” is not a philosophical principle or an ethical norm; it is as relational as knowledge, righteousness, loyalty, and fidelity.