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Riding the Clouds

“Jesus said to him, ‘That’s what you say. Nevertheless, I tell you from now on you will witness the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’”

(Matthew 26:64)


“But Jesus said, ‘I am. and you will see the Son of Man seated on the right hand of power and coming with the clouds from heaven.’”

(Mark 14:62)


“‘From now on, the Son of Man will be seated on the right hand of the Power of God.’ So, they all said to him, ‘Are you therefore the Son of God?’ So he said to them, ‘You say that I am.’”

(Luke 22:69-70)


So what is it that Jesus is speaking of when he mentions Caiaphas seeing him at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds? In the New Testament, we certainly affirm that this is speaking of Jesus’ ascension to his Father’s side and his return again in judgment (Hebrews 1:3; 1 Peter 3:22), but how would this make sense from the perspective of one with only the Old Testament scriptures to guide him? In fact, the Old Testament speaks much to this work of the promised Messiah.

To begin with, Psalm 110 speaks of the Messiah seated at the right hand of Yahweh in power until his enemies are crushed beneath his feet (Psalm 110:1, Matthew 22:44), that the Messiah is seated at the right hand of Yahweh (Psalm 110:5) and that he will execute judgment on the nations (Psalm 110:6). Though it is not alluded to here by Jesus, this is the psalm that also speaks of the Messiah being part of the Priesthood of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4). In addition, in Daniel’s prophesy of the coming Messiah, he spoke of the “One Like the Son of Man” being given power and dominion over the nations (Daniel 7:13-14).

Even more pronounced is the language of the Messiah walking on the clouds of heaven in judgment. For example, Psalm 104:3 speaks of God making the clouds his chariot, Isaiah 19:1 speaks of God riding a cloud in judgment over Egypt, Nahum 1:3 speaks of God’s was as in a whirlwind and in a storm with the clouds being scattered like dust at his feet, and once again in Daniel 7:13 we find the Messiah descending from the clouds of heaven. God even presents himself to Job in the whirlwind (Job 38:1).

It is clear that in putting these things together, Jesus is identifying himself with the promised Messiah of the Old Testament and based on Caiaphas’ response in the verses that follow, it is clear that he understood Jesus’ reference. But what of Jesus’ reference to Caiaphas seeing him in the clouds? It seems to be a reference to judgment, that in the end, what these wicked priests will receive is wrath and judgment, not glory. When these men passed away from this world the next thing they would see is face Jesus once again, but that time with Jesus in the seat of power and pouring out judgment for their sins — a fearful position, indeed.

Loved ones, recognize that this is not the way one should desire to confront Jesus. The sad thing is that many people we know and care about will see Jesus in exactly that way and we have often been silent about it. May we be warned with the warning that Jesus gives to the Priests, while the believer in Jesus Christ will escape judgment, those who reject Christ as Lord and Savior will taste of God’s wrath.

For What Will You Be Remembered?

“And God was with the lad and he was mighty; he dwelt in the wilderness and became a great archer. He dwelt in the wilderness of Paran and his mother took for him a wife from the land of Egypt.”

(Genesis 21:20-21)


And so, Hagar and Ishmael separate from the presence of Abraham and move to the wilderness of Paran. The region of Paran is traditionally located toward the western side of the Arabian Peninsula and it should be noted that Muslim tradition states that it is Mecca where Ishmael settled, again noting the connection between Abraham and Sarah’s sin of trying to rush God’s plan and the Arab nations today. In addition, he did not take a wife from “his own people” as would Isaac, but chose a wife out of Egypt…an idolater.

Notice the contrast between Ishmael and his father in terms of how they are remembered. Abraham is remembered as the Father of the Faithful (Romans 4:11-12) and the Friend of God (James 2:23); Ishmael is remembered as being a good archer, a hunter (not unlike the language that is given of Nimrod — Genesis 10:8-9). One being remembered for eternal things and the other for earthly things. The contrast should be profound.

How often we who know eternal truth find ourselves much more concerned with earthly matters than with heavenly ones. How often we would rather be remembered for our accomplishments on earth than for our faithfulness to God. How often we invest our time and money into things that will not last but for a few moments on the timeline of eternity. How often we behave more like the pagans in terms of what we value than we do like the men and women of God that have walked before us. Loved ones, may it be faithful Abraham who is our example and not Ishmael. May we invest our energies in building the Kingdom of God and not worry so much about building our own man-centered kingdoms. May we be remembered not as a “Great” man or woman, but as “Friend of God.”

Warnings from Israel’s Past: Egypt (Idolatry)

“Now I want to remind you, though you have known all these things, that the Lord once saved a people from the land of Egypt and afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”

(Jude 5-7, ESV)


Within this section that offers warnings from the history of Israel, we find three sins that are being addressed:  Idolatry, Pride, and Sexual Perversion.  In the context of the letter of Jude, these sins are likely the sins that these false teachers have brought with them.  Jude wants the church of his day, and by extension, the church of all ages to understand just how dangerous these sins are and that God will not permit these sins to flourish in the life of his people.  These are sins of the world and Christians are not to be of the world.

These are also extraordinarily dangerous sins.  The medieval church developed what they called the “Seven Deadly Sins” which were wrath, avarice, sloth, pride, lechery, envy, gluttony.  One pastor friend of mine argues that all sins stem from the sin of pride—as pride was at the heart of the first sin.  I would argue that Jude is laying out a trio of sins that God deals most harshly against.  There are certainly some sins that God is a bit more lenient towards when you read the ancient law, for example, but these three sins are sins against which God’s heaviest wrath is poured out.  And, I would suggest that the reason for this is two-fold.  First, these three sins will surely and rapidly take you out of fellowship with God.  Second, these sins produce other sins in a person’s life. 

Remember well the Apostle Paul’s argument in Romans 1.  The reality of God can be seen in his natural revelation—Creation itself—but people chose to chase after their own desires, “exchanging the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25).  Their punishment for their denial of God was to be left to their sin.  Sin destroys—it corrodes our souls.  But Paul emphasizes three sins in particular:  Idolatry (vs. 25), Sexual Perversion (vss. 26-27), and Pride (vs. 28).  These are the same three sins that Jude is bringing out, and from these three sins, flow all other sinful living (Romans 1:29-32).

The greatest problem that the Israelites had in their wilderness wanderings was Idolatry.  Over and over again, the people are contending with Moses about how things were so much better in Egypt.  They made the golden calf, and as they approached the promised land, they also engaged in idolatry with the pagans of the region.  Because of this, God kept them in the wilderness for forty years so that none of the original people who left Egypt would enter the Promised Land.  Many of these were even killed directly with sickness, war, or natural disaster.  Yet, even in the midst of such idolatry, God preserved a faithful remnant for himself.

We may be tempted to wonder about what God was doing, rescuing his people and then killing off those who were unfaithful.  Yet, what happened in the wilderness is a picture of what will happen in judgment.  There are many who have entered into fellowship with the visible church, but not all of these people are born again believers.  There will come a time when we will all stand before God’s throne of judgment and whether we are redeemed or condemned will have nothing to do with which membership card we held in life.  It will have everything to do with whether we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Anything that has captured our hearts other than Jesus—whether that be our money, our careers, our families, our accomplishments, etc…–this is idolatry.   And idolatry is not something that God tolerates in his body.

The Dating of the Exodus

            There is a great deal of debate as to the dating of the Exodus.  Some scholars, based on archaeological evidence, place the Exodus in the 13th century BC.  Others, citing both Biblical and extra-Biblical evidence, place it in the 15th century BC.  To support the later dating, scholars like John Currid cite the massive building projects that took place in the 13th and 14th centuries BC.  They also note that one of the greatest of the builders was Rameses II, who reigned between 1290 and 1224 BC, who built a new capitol city in his honor, named Pi-Ramesse (“Domain of Rameses”).  Exodus 1:11 records that the Jews were used to build the cities of Pithom and Raamses.  It is also important to note that it was not until the 13th century that Egypt lost its control over Canaan as a province.  There are also Egyptian reliefs that depict the Israelite conquest of Canaan that date between 1224 and 1214 BC.

            The most convincing evidence, though, places the Exodus in the 15th century BC.  Scholars like Keil and Delitzsch begin with the termination of the 70 year exile, which took place in the first year of Cyrus’ sole reign (536 BC).  Thus, dating backwards, the captivity began in 606 BC.  According to the chronologies in the book of Kings, Judah was carried into captivity 406 years after the year the building of Solomon’s temple began, placing its beginning in 1012 BC.  1 Kings 6:1 also tells us that the building of Solomon’s temple began 480 years after the Exodus from Egypt, placing it at the year 1492 BC.  Their dating concurs with the traditional Christian and Jewish chronologies which date the Exodus.  This also concurs with archaeological evidence which shows that the likely date of the destruction of Jericho was in the early 1400s BC.

            How do we understand this earlier dating of the Exodus in light of modern archaeology?  First, archaeology is not an exacting science, but a lens through which to view history.  Archaeological facts are largely the result of educated deductions and scientific hypotheses, not divine revelation.  In terms of the specific evidence, Exodus 1:11 speaks of the building of tAnK.s.mi yrE[‘ (store cities), not capitol cities.  There was likely a store city of Rameses already in existence when Rameses II build Pi-Ramesse.  With respect to Egyptian influence over Canaan, Israel would not have been considered a kingdom by the Egyptians until the enthronement of Saul.  Given the upheaval in the land during the time of Joshua’s conquest and the time of Judges, the point where Egypt would have lost all of it’s influence in the land would coincide with the later accounts of the judges or that of Samuel, where some sense of identity was firmly established in the land.

            To set this event in its larger context, it is worth recognizing what is going on in the world surrounding Egypt and the wilderness at the point of the Exodus.  Assuming an early date of 1492 for the Exodus to have begun, the city of Sparta would be formed two years into the Israelite wilderness wanderings.  In addition, the nations of Athens (1556 BC), Troy (1546), and Thebes (1493) had been founded at this point.  What would later become the Olympian Games (then called the Panathenaean Games) also had its beginnings during this era (1495).  The Areopagus was established in 1504 BC, and in 1493 Cadmus is credited with bringing the 15 Phoenician letters into Greece, which gradually changed in form to become the Romans letters used predominantly in Europe and America today.  Though these events may not seem to bear very heavily upon the Biblical text, it is important to note that this era was a time when civilizations were being born and establishing themselves.  Growing up in the Pharaoh’s household, Moses would have been aware, particularly of the politics of these (largely Greek) new nations.  Who better than one trained in such legal codes to receive and teach the Law of God to God’s people?  Who better to organize God’s people into a nation than one who had watched nations form?