Sunday, February 03, 2008

New Testament Overview The Epistles and Revelation

New Testament Overview -The Epistles & Revelation

The Epistles:
Q: What is the meaning of "Epistle"?
A: A writing, directed or sent, communicating intelligence to a distant person; a letter. It is rarely used in familiar conversation or writings, but chiefly in solemn or formal transactions.

The Epistles of Paul

ROMANS, written to the Christians in Rome, is the most systematic presentation of Christian doctrine in the Bible. Its themes are judgment and righteousness, Jew and Gentile, law and grace, free will and predestination.....or in one word, salvation,
Romans, the sixth in chronological order of Paul's Epistles, was written from Corinth during the apostle's third visit to that city. 2Co_13:1 in A.D. 60. The Epistle has its occasion in the intention of the apostle soon to visit Rome. Naturally, he would wish to announce before his coming the distinctive truths which had been revealed to and through him. He would desire the Christians in Rome to have his own statement of the great doctrines of grace so bitterly assailed everywhere by legalistic teacher.
1 CORINTHIANS, written to the Christians in the Greek city of Corinth, is about a myriad of seeming!y unrelated issues--like law suits, communion, spiritual gifts, women in the church, matters of conscience, the resurrection. But the unifying theme is the community, or how Christians are to relate to one another in all kinds of settings and situations. The subjects treated are various, but may all be classified under the general theme, Christian conduct. Even the tremendous revelation of the truth concerning resurrection is made to bear upon that theme 1Co_15:58. The occasion of the Epistle was a letter on inquiry from Corinth concerning marriage, and the use of meats offered to idols ; 1Co_7:1; 1Co_8:1-13 but the apostle was much more exercised by reports of the deepening divisions and increasing contentions in the church, and of a case of incest which had not been judged.

2 CORINTHIANS. It seems that there were some leaders in Corinth who were questioning Paul's authority, so much of 2 Corinthians is autobiographical, defending Paul's calling and right to apostolic authority. The Epistle discloses the touching state of the great apostle at this time. It was one of physical weakness, weariness, and pain. But his spiritual burdens were greater. These were two kinds--solicitude for the maintenance of the churches in grace as against the law-teachers, and anguish of heart over the distrust felt toward him by Jews and Jewish Christians. The chilling doctrines of the legalizers were accompanied by detraction, and by denial of his apostleship.

GALATIANS was written to the Christians in the Roman province of Galatia, or modern-day Turkey. It is the declaration of the Christian's independence from the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. The theme of Galatians is that salvation is by grace..Jesus plus nothing. Galatians was probably written A.D. 60, during Paul's third visit to Corinth, The occasion of the Epistle is evident. It had come to Paul's knowledge that the fickle Galatians, who were not Greeks, but Gauls, "a stream from the torrent of barbarians which poured into Greece in the third century before Christ," had become the prey of the legalizers, the Judaizing missionaries from Palestine. Theme: The theme of Galatians is the vindication of the Gospel of the grace of God from any admixture of law-conditions, which qualify or destroy its character of pure grace.

EPHESIANS, written to the Christians in the Greek city of Ephesus, is about the church - what it is and how God wants to use it. See Ephesians 3:10.

(Eph 3:10-11 KJV)
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places
might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
{11} According to the eternal pu rpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

The letter should be addressed "to the saints and the faithful in Christ Jesus" anywhere. The doctrine of the Epistle confirms this view. It contains the highest church truth, but has nothing about church order. The church here is the true church, "His body," not the local church, as in Philippians, Corinthians, etc. Essentially, three lines of truth make up this Epistle: the believer's exalted position through grace; the truth concerning the body of Christ; and a walk in accordance with that position.
PHILIPPIANS, which Paul wrote from prison to the Christians in the Greek city of Philippi, is about the joy of our salvation. The theme of Philippians is Christian experience. Soundness of doctrine is assumed. There is nothing in church order to set right. Philippi is a normal New Testament assembly--"saints in Christ Jesus, with the bishops (elders) and deacons." The circumstances of the apostle are in striking contrast with his Christian experience. As to the former, he was Nero's prisoner. As to the latter, there was the shout of victory, the song of joy. Christian experience, he would teach us, is not something which is going on around the believer, but something which is going on within him. The key-verse is,

(Phil 1:20-21 KJV)
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed,
but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body,
whether it be by life, or by death.
{21} For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

COLOSSIANS, written to the Christians in the Greek city of Colosse, is about the magnificence of Christ. Epaphras, who laboured in the Word in the assembly at Colosse, was Paul's fellow-prisoner at Rome. Doubtless from him Paul learned the state of that church. As to fundamentals the church was excellent (Col_1:3-8), but in a subtle way two forms of error were at work: The first was legality in its Alexandrian form of asceticism, "touch not, taste not," with a trace of the Judaic observance of "days"; the object of which was the mortification of the body (cf Rom_8:13). The second form of error was false mysticism, "intruding into those things which he hath not seen"--the result of philosophic speculation. Because these are ever present perils, Colossians was written, not for that day only, but for the warning of the church in all days.

PHILEMON is a short personal letter from Paul to a wealthy Christian by the name of Philemon. Paul had somehow met Philemon's runaway slave, and sent this letter back to Philemon, imploring him to receive back his former employee - as a brother in Christ.

1 THESSALONIANS. The Epistle was written from Corinth, A.D. 54, shortly after Paul's departure from Thessalonica (Acts 16, 17), and is the earliest of his letters. Theme: The theme of the Epistle is threefold:
1. To confirm young disciples in the foundational truths already taught them;
2. To exhort them to go on to holiness;
3. To comfort them concerning those who had fallen asleep. The second coming of Christ is prominent throughout. The Epistle is incidentally most interesting as showing the richness in doctrine of the primitive evangelism. During a mission of about one month the apostle had taught all the great doctrines of the Christian faith.

SECOND THESSALONIANS was evidently written very soon after Paul's first letter to that church. The occasion may well have been the return of the bearer of the former Epistle and his report. The theme of Second Thessalonians is, "day of Christ is at hand"
The Thessalonian converts were "shaken in mind" and "troubled," supposing, perhaps on the authority of a forged letter as from Paul, that the persecutions from which they were suffering were those of the "great and terrible day of the Lord," from which they had been taught to expect deliverance by "the day of Christ, and out gathering together unto him" (2Th_2:1). The present letter, then, was written to instruct the Thessalonians concerning the day of Christ, "and our gathering together unto him" 1Th_4:14-17 and the relation of the "day of Christ" to the "day of the Lord." First Thessalonians had more in view the "day of Christ"; the present Epistle the "day of the Lord.

As the churches of Christ increased in number, the questions of church order, of soundness in the faith, and of discipline became important. At first the apostles regulated these things directly, but the approaching end of the apostolic period made it necessary that a clear revelation should be made for the guidance of the churches. Such a revelation is in First Timothy, and in Titus. The key-phrase of the Epistle is, "That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God." Well had it been with the churches if they had neither added to nor taken from the divine order.

The touching letter was written by Paul to his "dearly beloved son" shortly before his martyrdom (2Ti_4:6-8), and contains the last words of the great apostle which inspiration has preserved. Second Timothy (in common with Second Peter, Jude, and Second and Third John) has to do with the personal walk and testimony of a true servant of Christ in a day of apostasy and declension. The key-phrases are, "All they which are in Asia be turned away from me" (2Ti_1:15); and, "A good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2Ti_2:3). The Asian churches had not disbanded, nor ceased to call themselves Christian, but they had turned away from the doctrines of grace distinctively revealed through the Apostle Paul This was the proof that already the apostasy had set in its first form, legalism.
TITUS are personal, instructional letters from Paul to his young understudies. Titus has much in common with First Timothy. Both Epistles are concerned with the due order of the churches. The distinction is that in First Timothy sound doctrine is more prominent 1Ti_1:3-10 in Titus the divine order for the local churches Tit_1:5. The permanent use of these Epistles lies in this twofold application, on the one hand to churches grown careless as to the truth of God, on the other, to churches careless as to the order of God's house. The importance of this order is made solemnly emphatic in that the tests by which true elders and deacons may be known are repeated ; 1Ti_3:1-7; Tit_1:6-9.

PHILEMON Onesimus ("profitable"), a slave of Philemon, a Christian of Colosse, had robbed his master and fled to Rome. There he became a convert through Paul, who sent him back to Philemon with this letter. It is of priceless value as a teaching in practical righteousness;
in Christian brotherhood; in Christian courtesy; and in the law of love.
HEBREWS Although modern "liberal" scholars have a problem with Pauline authorship of Hebrews, the early Church attributed this letter to Paul. The second Epistle of Peter, an Epistle evidently written to Hebrews, declares that Paul had written an Epistle to them.

(2 Pet 3:15-16 KJV)
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation;
even as our beloved brother Paul also
according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
{16} As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things;
in which are some things hard to be understood,
which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest,
as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
This refers to some particular letter, sent to the same persons whom Peter was addressing, and hence there seems to be little doubt that there existed, before Peter died, an Epistle to the Hebrews written by Paul. There are also many internal evidences that show this to be true. Written to Jewish Christians, Hebrews is perhaps the most profound book of the New Testament. The letter presents a comparison between the Old Covenant of law and ceremony and the New, or "better" Covenant of grace in Christ. Paul being a learned Pharisee and having studied under Gamaliel, a famous Doctor fo the Law, would be amply equipped to have written this complicated book, It also has a parallel structure to Romans, if you examine its outline.

(Phil 3:4-5 KJV)
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh.
If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
{5} Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin,
an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

(Acts 22:3 KJV)
I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia,
yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel,
and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers,
and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.

(Acts 5:34 KJV)
Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law,
had in reputation among all the people,
and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;
JAMES was written to Christian Jews of the Dispersion. The church began with such Act_2:5-11 and James, who seems not to have left Jerusalem, would feel a particular pastoral responsibility for these scattered sheep. They still resorted to the synagogues, or called their own assemblies by that name Jam_2:2, where "assembly" is "synagogue" in the Gr.). It appears from Jam_2:1-8 that they still held the synagogue courts for the trial of causes arising amongst themselves. The Epistle, then, is elementary in the extreme.It is a short but powerful letter about the importance of how you live out your faith. It is a kind of New Testament book of proverbs.

1PETER, While Peter undoubtedly has scattered Jewish believers in mind, his Epistles comprehend Gentile believers also (1Pe_2:10). The present Epistle, written from a church on Gentile ground (1Pe_5:13), presents all the foundational truths of the Christian faith, with special emphasis on the atonement. The distinctive note of First Peter is preparation for victory over suffering. The word "suffering" occurs about fifteen times, and is the key-word to the Epistle. Among other things, 1 Peter focuses on how the Christian is supposed to respond in adversity. Keywords in the book are sanctification, suffering and obedience.

2 PETER, Second Peter and Second Timothy have much in common. In both, the Writers are aware that martyrdom is near (2Ti_4:6; 2Pe_1:14 with; Joh_21:18-19); both are singularly sustained and joyful; both foresee the apostasy in which the history of the professing church will end. Paul finds that apostasy in its last stage when the so-called laity Rev_2:6) , have become infected (2Ti_3:1-5; 2Ti_4:3-4); Peter traces the origin of the apostasy to false teachers (2Pe_2:1-3; 2Pe_2:15-19). In Peter the false teachers deny redemption truth (2Pe_2:1); we shall find in First John a deeper depth--denial of the truth concerning Christ's person (1Jo_4:1-5). In Jude all phases of the apostasy are seen. But in none of these Epistles is the tone one of dejection or pessimism. God and His promises are still the resource of the believer.

1,JOHN 1,2,3 John are three letters by the "Apostle of Love" ...the same John who wrote the Gospel of John. The themes of the epistles are Christian love and character, assurance of salvation, and truth. First John is a family letter from the Father to His "little children" who are in the world. With the possible exception of the Song of Solomon, it is the most intimate of the inspired writings. The world is viewed as without. The sin of a believer is treated as a child's offence against his Father, and is dealt with as a family matter (1Jo_1:9; 1Jo_2:1). The moral government of the universe is not in question. The child's sin as an offence against the law had been met in the Cross, and "Jesus Christ the righteous" is now his "Advocate with the Father." John's Gospel leads across the threshold of the Father's house; his first Epistle makes us at home there. A tender word is used for "children," teknia, "born ones," or "bairns." Paul is occupied with our public position as sons; John with our nearness as born-ones of the Father.

2,JOHN Second John gives the essentials of the personal walk of the believer in a day when "many deceivers are entered into the world" (2Jo_1:7). The key phrase is "the truth," by which John means the body of revealed truth, the Scriptures. The Bible as the only authority for doctrine and life, is the believer's resource in a time of declension and apostasy.

3 JOHN The aged Apostle had written to a church which allowed one Diotrephes to exercise an authority common enough in later ages, but wholly new in the primitive churches. Diotrephes had rejected the apostolic letters and authority. It appears also that he had refused the ministry of the visiting brethren (3Jo_1:10), and cast out those that had received them. Historically, this letter marks the beginning of that clerical and priestly assumption over the churches in which the primitive church order disappeared. This Epistle reveals, as well, the believer's resource in such a day. No longer writing as an apostle, but as an elder, John addresses this letter, not to the church as such, but to a faithful man in the church for the comfort and encouragement of those who were standing fast in the primitive simplicity. Second John conditions the personal walk of the Christian in a day of apostasy; Third John the personal responsibility in such a day of the believer as a member of the local church. The key-phrase is "the truth"

JUDE is a fiery little letter about serving God with purity and integrity. It is not so much Jude who speaks, as the constraining Spirit (Jud_1:3) and the theme is, "Contending for the faith" (Luk_18:8), In this brief letter the apostasy of the professing church is predicted, and the cause and course described. As in Second Timothy and Second Peter the apostasy is treated as having already set in.


REVELATION It's purpose, is to present Jesus Christ as risen and glorified, and in total control of the universe. There are messages to the Church, and then the focus turns to end- times prophecies regarding Israel, and the destruction of sinful and rebellious gentiles. Also we are allowed to view the last Judgement of sinners, the casting of Satan into the Lake of Fire, and a brief glimpse into Heaven, the New Jerusalem and future glories.

Priniciple one: Read the book of Revelation as literal, unless
Principle two: The book itself tells you that something is a symbol.
The Book of Revelation is a book of revealing, not a book of hiding and mystery.
For those who were alive at the time of the writing of the Book of Revelation, there is also the purpose of providing comfort and hope to those undergoing persecution for their faith. It can be simply stated, that Jesus and his kingdom will triumph, no matter how bleak life becomes. This was an incredibly important message at the time, because the church was going through one of the most fierce persecutions in its history.

The theme of the Revelation is Jesus Christ (Rev_1:1), presented in a threefold way:

1. As to time: "which is, and which was, and which is to come" (Revelation 1:4);
2. As to relationships--the churches (Revelation 1:9 - 3:22), to the tribulation (Revelation 4:1 - 19:21), to the kingdom (Revelation 20:1 - 22:21);
3. In His offices--High Priest (Revelation 8:3-6), Bridegroom (Revelation 19:7-9), King-Judge (Revelation 20:1-15).

But while Christ is thus the central theme of the book, all of the events move toward one consummation, the bringing in of the covenanted kingdom. The key-phrase is the prophetic declaration of the "great voices in heaven" (Rev_11:15), lit, "The world kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ has come." The book is, therefore, a prophecy (Rev_1:3)

(Heb 8:8-13 KJV)
For finding fault with them, he saith,
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
{9} Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day
when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt;
because they continued not in my covenant,
and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
{10} For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord;
I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts:
and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
{11} And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying,
Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
{12} For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness,
and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
{13} In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old.
Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

(Mat 26:26-30 KJV)
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it,
and brake it, and gave it to the disciples,
and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
{27} And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying,
Drink ye all of it; {28} For this is my blood of the new testament,
which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
{29} But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine,
until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
{30} And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

(1 Cor 11:23-26 KJV)
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you,
That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
{24} And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said,
Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
{25} After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying,
This cup is the new testament in my blood:
this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
{26} For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup,
ye do show{Grk=proclaim, preach} the Lord's death till he come.

(2 Cor 3:5-6 KJV)
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves;
but our sufficiency is of God;
{6} Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament;
not of the letter, but of the spirit:
for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

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