Sunday, August 30, 2015


Subject: Theophanies
Date: Aug. 30, 2015
Target passage: II Peter 1:12-21

Peter wrote to a prime market.

A vast marketplace of ideas -- theological and philosophical -- latched itself to a new Christian movement hoping to cash in on its dynamism. Many of these competing ideas were subtle and sometimes innocent errors. Others were outright denials of the established truth and even sought to remove Christianity from its Hebrew roots.

Peter, by virtue of walking with and being called by Jesus, makes him an Apostle. That pedigree alone gave him the clout to effectively warn the early churches against the temptation to follow unorthodox teachings that have set up shop (see chapter 2). Note his fatherly tone, especially in v. 19 ("... you will do well to take heed ..."). He spoke with authority.

Peter was up against some destructive ideas creeping in to the young church; young, though as old as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by being the continuation of Israel. Here, the Apostle lays out the fact that he was not only eye-witness to God the Son and full of the Holy Spirit, but witness to an expression of God the Father.

The radiant glory of God's full presence would kill a mortal man (Exodus 33:20). So the Father has made himself known by various "theophanies."

A theophany is a rather high-minded theological term for something very simple: God showing himself in a way man can directly experience. The word literally means "God appearing," though it does not appear in the Bible. Some theophanies are more direct than others (Genesis 32:24-30, Exodus 34:5-28, Isaiah 6 -- some scholars limit it to these) but most take a more muted form, such as a vision or a voice.

Peter relayed a theophany that he and John experienced while on "the holy mountain" with Jesus.

In tonight's meeting, we discussed a few of several theophanies found throughout Scripture. We noted that these tend to happen before God "changes the age." They're often associated with a promise. Read up on the below theophanies we talked about and see if you don't agree:

  • Matthew 17:1-10 -- The Transfiguration. As mentioned above, John and Peter went up with Jesus to the top of a mountain, where they briefly saw Jesus standing with Elijah and Moses. A voice from a bright cloud acknowledged Jesus as God's Son. Jesus said not to share the event until he has risen from the dead.
  • Genesis 18:1-10 -- Abraham to be a father with Sarah. At the terebinth trees of Mamre (hey, I said the thing!), God revealed himself in the form of three man-like figures. Long story short, God announced that Sarah would conceive a child by Abraham ... at age 90! And by this, Abaraham became "Father Abraham."
  • Numbers 7:89 -- the consecration of the Levites. God's voice spoke to Moses and Aaron from "the mercy seat" of the Ark of the Covenant, and announced the beginning of a priesthood and commanded several things be done, such as the setting up of seven lampstands. We as believers today are the fulfillment of that, as we are all priests in Christ Jesus, our high priest. Which brings us to ...
  • Revelation 1:12-19 -- The Alpha and the Omega. Jesus in his resurrected radiance speaks to John, in a vision, walking among the seven lampstands. Jesus asserts himself as the high priest and identifies himself as one with the Eternal One. The beginning and the end. Through this relationship with our High Priest, believers in him today may boldly approach the Throne and pray in a way that used to take ceremonial intercession. We no longer need a temple or prescribed ritual!

It's clear in Scripture we all don't get theophanies like Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Mary, Peter, and John experienced. But Peter does hint of an experience with God we can have:
" ... We heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him [Jesus] on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;"
Stop there. Bookmark that. Read on ...
"... knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."
The theophanies were carried to us by oral tradition in the earliest times, then written down as the Old Testament. Faithful saints such as Peter carried on this tradition through "living letters" to his disciples and the churches he shepherded. This is how we "know" that our faith is not just a myth or a fable designed to teach moral lessons.

Through the "morning star" (also translated "day star") rising in our hearts, we have personal confirmation of the truth.

The morning star in sky-watching terms is either Sirius or the planet Venus. Either way, it's that one bright dot in the sky that shines along with the moon amid a gradually blue sky just before the sun comes up.

It testifies of the coming morning -- if you see it while driving home, you know you've been out late. Sirius is best seen during the hottest days of summer and in the dead of winter when there's an absence of moisture and other interference in the air (metaphor alert!).

It's clear to me that this rising star is the work of the Holy Spirit -- testifying of the ultimate theophany to come, which is the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ back to earth!

The day is coming. If the morning star isn't yet risen in your hearts, seek your own "theophany" with God. Even if you're already saved. Even if you're not sure about this Christianity thing. All it takes is a prayer, and a genuine openness to be surprised by God as Abraham and Sarah were.

And we sung a hymn ...

What is our calling’s glorious hope,
But inward holiness?
For this to Jesus I look up;
I calmly wait for this.
I wait till He shall touch me clean,
Shall life and power impart;
Give me the faith that casts out sin,
And purifies the heart.

This is the dear redeeming grace,
For every sinner free;
Surely it shall on me take place,
The chief of sinners, me.
From all iniquity, from all,
He shall my soul redeem;
In Jesus I believe, and shall
Believe myself to Him.

When Jesus makes my heart His home,
My sin shall all depart;
And lo! He saith, I quickly come,
To fill and rule thy heart.
Be it according to Thy Word;
Redeem me from all sin;
My heart would now receive Thee, Lord,
Come in, my Lord, come in!

--"What Is Our Calling's Glorious Hope,"
written by Charles Wesley (1724)/composed by Edwin Moss Llandaff.

No comments:

Post a Comment