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Sunday, September 24, 2006

82 - The Integrity of Christ [B]

Revelation 3:14 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:52 mins 11 secs

The Integrity of Christ


Revelation 3:14 NASB "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:  The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this."


The character qualities that are emphasized at then beginning of each of these evaluation reports are particularly relevant to the problems or the successes of the congregation in that location. So we have three attributes that are emphasized according to these three titles. He is first of all called "The Amen." This is based upon the Greek word HO AMEN [o( a)mhn] which comes from a Hebrew word amen, so it is a title brought over into the New Testament that has its roots in the New Testament. This particular title emphasizes the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Usually this noun was used as an affirmation, like Let it be so; I agree with that. The use of the article with the noun here is unusual. This is the only place where this phrase is used this way as a title or as a personal name for the Lord Jesus Christ. So where do we get the application of this title to the Lord Jesus Christ? It must be understood in the context of the Old Testament. So much of what we have in the New Testament is grounded in Old Testament theology. In Isaiah 65:16 we have the use of the Hebrew word amen, and it is usually translated "truth," but this noun amen in the Old Testament is only translated "truth" in this one verse, and it should not be so translated. NASB "Because he who is blessed in the earth Will be blessed by the God of truth; And he who swears in the earth Will swear by the God of truth; Because the former troubles are forgotten, And because they are hidden from My sight!" Some translations continue to render this "Will bless himself in the God of the amen." That is a literal translation. Everywhere else you find this form of the word in the Hebrew text it is always translated as amen. The reason it has been translated "truth" is because there is a relationship between the Hebrew word for "truth" and the Hebrew word for "steadfastness" and "faithfulness." They are all various forms of the same basic root. Stability and faithfulness is one dimension of this and then other forms of the word emphasize truthfulness, and there is a correlation there between truth and faithfulness and stability, that there are certain things that are always true and you can always count on them, and this is grounded and we would say as believers, in the person of God, that He is the foundation of all truth.

We get an idea of where this word comes from in a somewhat obscure passage in 2 Kings 18:16 KJV "At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria." This takes place at the time of Hezekiah when the Assyrians are threatening Jerusalem. Hezekiah is going to buy them off with a ransom and so he strips the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord and from the pillars. For our purposes here the only thing we want to note is the word that is translated "pillars" here is really the foundation stone for the massive doors in Solomon's temple. They put these huge foundation stones down in order to give stability to this enormous gate that was set on top of them. The word that is translated "pillar" or "foundation stone" is this word amen. It indicates that which is stable, that which provides stability and strength. Most people think that the largest stones that have been moved around are in the great pyramid in Egypt where the largest stone weighs about 30 tons. The largest foundation stone that is known of underneath the temple mount weighed something like 536 tons. That's 500 tons more than the largest stone in the great pyramid. That's what we are talking about here. This gives us the basic idea that when we talk about truth, about the faithfulness and dependability of God, this is the rock-solid image that we should have in our mind. So this comes to indicate a certain character of God. Isaiah 25:1, the same word is found KJV "O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth." The word for faithfulness is aman, and the word for truth is amuna. Deuteronomy 7:9 emphasizes this attribute of God. NASB "Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments." He is dependable, He will always do the same thing. When He makes a promise He doesn't back off of that promise, there is security in anything that God says. Everything around us may change but God will never ever change. Lamentations 3:19-23 NASB "Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers And is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. {They} are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness." The hope is based on what Jeremiah thinks. The hope in the Bible always refers to a future expectation, it is not some sort of uncertain optimism, which is the way we often use the word.

In the New Testament we see that the same attributes that are applied to Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Old Testament are applied to Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament. Jesus Himself makes this claim in John 14:6 NASB "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." Each of these nouns has the article with it, indicating specificity. He is making an incredible claim here. He is the only way to God. Truth is determined by the very thinking of God; he is truth, and that gives Him stability. We see in Hebrews 13:8 that that stability is present in Jesus Christ, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can always count on Him no matter what surprises or shocks us in life Jesus Christ remains the same. 

So the first title emphasizes stability, and at Laodicea there would be times of instability, they were putting their emphasis on their own personal wealth and their own personal success, according to verse 17, but this would not last forever because there is coming a future judgment.

The next thing that is attributed to the Lord Jesus Christ is "the faithful and true Witness." The emphasis here is on witness. "Faithful and true" are adjectives modifying the noun "witness." He is a witness in His humanity. One of the objectives in the incarnation was to provide a witness to who God the Father is. John 1:18 NASB "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained {Him.}" He is the one who reveals who God the Father is. We see this title applied to Jesus Christ in Revelation 1:5 NASB "and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood." So when we read this at the beginning of this evaluation report in 3:14 it is an allusion back to what was said 1:5. Faithful witness refers to the fact that His life and ministry during the first advent were related to demonstrating the veracity of God the Father and being a witness to His grace and truth within the angelic conflict. The term "witness" always emphasizes the legal concept. It is not just the concept that He observed something but that He is bearing witness or giving a testimony within a legal context. He is giving evidence as to who the Father is and what the Father's character is. The term MARTUS [martuj] here which is the noun form in the Greek for witness is used three times in Revelation, in 1:5; 2:13; 3:14. In 2:13 it referred to a man called Antipas who was arrested and killed for his witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. So he is not just a witness, He is the faithful and true witness, and in John 8:18 he says, NASB "I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me." So He recognizes that what He is doing plays a legal function within the overall purposes of God. All of this goes back to the character of God.

We know from our study of Scripture that Satan challenged God in the time before creation, that in eternity past at some point when God created the angels the highest of all the angels was Lucifer. After a while he decided that he wanted be worshipped just as God is worshipped, and he wanted to run the creation in God's place. So he challenges God. He challenges His sovereignty, His right to rule. This was a lack of humility on Satan's part. He challenged God's integrity, the standard of His rule. He challenged the application of standard of God's standard, His justice. How could a just God send His creatures to the lake of fire? He challenged God's love. How can a loving God send His creatures to eternity in the lake of fire? So as a result of that is that God in His grace and according to His own purposes decided to create a test case, a demonstration, as it were, of His grace and His love and that no creature could ever run creation on his own. So he created the human race, restored the planet, and He puts man on planet earth, and man is going to demonstrate down through all the periods of human history all the different permutations and possibilities of creaturely autonomy. So we see that at different stages of human history we see that God has different amounts of revelation, He gives man different amounts of aid, and throughout it all we will always and consistently discover that the creature just can't make it apart from the creator. So we have to depend upon the creator, and that is what Jesus Christ is doing. He is showing in His life that apart from 100 per cent dependence upon the Father for everything in life as a creature there is no stability, no happiness, and we cannot fulfil our meaning, purpose and objective in life apart from that. So Jesus Christ is hypostatic union, as the God-Man, demonstrates in His humanity what it means to walk in dependence upon the Lord. In that He is a witness, he demonstrates these truths and for that he is sent to the cross.

The word for "faithful" is the Greek noun PISTOS [pistoj] which describes His character. He is faithful to God, He never violates God's plan or purposes. He is without sin; he is impeccable. When we bring together these attributes of immutability and deity, this terminology takes us back to Psalm 89, a meditation on the Davidic covenant where God promised to David in the Old Testament—2 Samuel 7:14ff—that his seed would sit on an eternal throne and he would have an eternal dynasty. In verses 36, 37 NASB "His descendants shall endure forever And his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, And the witness in the sky is faithful." It is connecting the seed, the Lord Jesus Christ, to this faithful witness. The title "Faithful Witness" comes out of Psalm 89:37 and brings into focus the entire Davidic covenant and the fact that Jesus Christ is the one who will rule forever upon the throne of David. When we look at the Lord Jesus Christ we can learn about God. He is the one who reveals Him.

Faithful witness indicates His role in the incarnation, that he was to be a legal witness in a courtroom type of setting which would relate to Satan's challenge of God. Jesus Christ was also faithful in carrying out the mission of salvation, so that He went to the cross and completed God's plan of salvation and dying for our sins, paying the penalty for our sins. He is faithful in His mission to set the precedence for the spiritual life. Jesus Christ was tempted in all areas as we are, yet without sin. What we learn from Hebrews 2 &3 is that Jesus Christ handled temptation in His humanity by relying upon the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. He doesn't rely on His deity, that would be no test at all. So he has to go through those tests in His humanity without relying on His deity at all, and He is faithful in doing that. And then he is also faithful in His teaching.

In the last phrase He is the beginning of the creation of God. This phrase was misunderstood back in the fourth century by the Arians. Arius taught that there was a time when Christ was not. In other words, He is a creature. His beginning was before the foundation of the earth but He was created some time in eternity past; he had a beginning. So they would go to this passage, but it is a misunderstanding of what is meant by "the beginning." The Greek word here is ARCHE [a)rxh] which has the idea of pre-eminence; He is not the first in kind, He is the first in order. In other passages He is called the beginning and the end. That means He is the one from whom we come and to whom we go. It is all about Jesus Christ, in other words. He is the ARCHE, the first and foremost one in all of creation. This is indicated in such passages as Colossians 1:18, 19; 2:9. To be full deity He has to be eternal. Colossians 1:15, He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn, i.e. the pre-eminent one, over all creation. This is clearly stated in John 1:1-3.

So the emphasis at the beginning of this evaluation report is on His deity, His humanity, and on the fact that He is the beginning and the end of all things. Everything goes back to the Lord Jesus Christ. Since He is the focus of everything in our life there is no basis for becoming a lukewarm Christian, which is what happens to the church in Laodicea.