The Sinking Ship

Acts 27:27-34

But when the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven about in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching some land. And they took soundings, and found it to be twenty fathoms; and a little farther on they took another sounding and found it to be fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. And as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship, and had let down the ship’s boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat, and let it fall away. And until the day was about to dawn, Paul was encouraging them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing. Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation; for not a hair from the head of any of you shall perish.” And having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all; and he broke it and began to eat. And all of them were encouraged, and they themselves also took food. And all of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons. And when they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing out the wheat into the sea. And when day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a certain bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could. And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders, and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach. But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves. And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, that none of them should swim away and escape; but the centurion, wanting to bring Paul safely through, kept them from their intention, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest should follow, some on planks, and others on various things from the ship. And thus it happened that they all were brought safely to land.

I am not obsessed with Tom Brady. I live in New England and certainly appreciate his longevity and accomplishments and have enjoyed the culture of winning he, in part, has brought to the region. But I am not sure if I would even call myself a fan of Tom Brady–certainly not of the NFL. For those reading in the future, all we see in the headlines is Coronavirus, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, President Trump and whether or not Tom Brady, the best quarterback ever, will return to the New England Patriots to play at the age of 43 (a great age) or go to another team after 20 years. Tom Brady has ruled out retirement. I am not obsessed with Tom Brady.

I am obsessed with the obsession over Tom Brady. Every day, another dozen or so articles from repudiated yet revered media, come out with some new aspect of Tom Brady and his free agency and people cling to every word, every hint as to where Tom Brady will play next year. Problem: people simply want to know exactly what will happen to Tom Brady and no one can say for sure, all we have been given are whispers and gossip. Patriots’ fans are hoping that he stays put and fans of teams needing a good quarterback are hoping that he will join the squad for which they route. Tom Brady did not become the greatest-of-all-time quarterback by not having a plan, a backup plan and a back-up to the backup plan. In football lingo, that’s called a quarterback option, where Tom Brady could either run with the ball (highly unlikely) or throw it to the “hot” receiver if his intended reciever is either too well covered or in the wrong spot. But even before the quarterback option comes into play, Tom Brady can call a new play at the line of scrimmage. Tom Brady always has options, even taking a sack to reduce the risk of a turnover. In life, Tom Brady also has options, options of which he will choose based upon what he believes will be the best for his family and for his career. Everyone knows this, but figuring out the options and the choices of Tom Brady, without consulting Tom Brady, are mere speculation and conjecture based upon insignificant and unverified information.

The apostle Paul and the 275 people aboard this second ship heading to Rome​ have no collective plan b and no need for, or an allowance of, a metaphorical quarterback-option. Jesus has declared to Paul that the people on the ship will be saved even though the ship will suffer shipwreck. Nevertheless we notice that the ship’s crew and the gaurds had a plan b and then a plan c and d–escape in a life boat leaving the prisoners behind (like the rapture), driving  the boat onto a beach and then killing the prisoners so that they couldn’t escape. That was not the Lord’s plan and Paul made sure that they knew that God’s plan had to be followed or they would not be a part of God’s plan.

A movie, a full-length feature-film could be made based upon Luke’s short but descriptive historical narrative concerning this event alone. For two weeks these men, numbering 276, were tossed about on the stormy sea, in a first-century vessel without any land in sight. At midnight on the 14th day the crew began to believe that they must be near land. The waves breaking, battering and beating the ship,  suggested to the sailors that the shore should be seen soon. They therefore tested the depths of the deep and their suspicions were settled by these soundings, the sea was shallow, land must be near. But at midnight, during a storm, they risked running into rocks, they scattered towards the stern of the ship so that they could cast the rear anchors to slow the ship lest they strike a ragged rock at full speed and in the pitch black of the middle of the night. Then they prayed for daylight.

Numerous times I have written and said, “the translators of the Bible did a very good job, but…” this is another one of those times. I prefer the NASB because it indicates Old Testament quotes, is readable and is accurate, most of the time. But in what I perceive to be a separation between the known Christians and the known pagans, the translators changed the word for prayer to “wish.” I believe that the translators truly wanted to make a distinction between a real prayer from a Christian to the real God and that of a heathen to a false God. Problem; Luke didn’t make that distinction and almost every other English translation uses the word, “pray,” not “wish.” Luke wrote, “And fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and prayed for the day to come.” I believe that it is important to point this prayer out because it shows the severity of the situation in the soul of the sailors. It was dark in a severe storm, it was enough for anyone, even a seasoned sailor, to be brought to his knees. There are no atheists in a strong storm of Biblical proportions. Yet believing in a god is far from knowing the true God.

Why didn’t Jesus calm this storm; he calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee? Was the Adriatic Sea too big or the storm too intense for Jesus to rebuke the waves, causing the storm to subside by simply speaking, “peace be still?” Or was it Jesus who sent the storm? Could Paul have not invoked the name of the Lord and turned the raging sea into a sea of serenity? We see clearly that the raging sea was all part of God’s great plan. I am reactionary in my writing. I respond to the ridiculous, rapture radio shows and writings, which claim an imminent rapture rescue because of revelations revealed to the speakers and writers directly from God, based upon texts of Scripture of which we are carefully considering the context. One such presumed prophecy pundit, predicted a pretribulational rapture rescue any day now based upon the calm before the storm in the text of Acts 27. She claimed a revelation from God which states that Paul’s journey to Rome is indicative of a soon, rapture rescue. Problem; today’s text and God contradict her claim. God is not Tom Brady, he has no need for a plan b. The church is neither parenthetical nor a plan b. God was not standing on the line of scrimmage, looking at the devil and expecting a blitz, therefore calling an audible, running a quarterback option. That is a presupposition required by the predominantly pessimistic,  pretribulational, prophecy pundits. If one takes away the “plan b” of eschatology, like the proverbial house of cards in the wind, the purported pretribulational prophecy is gone with the wind. However, the most difficult thing for a person to admit is when they are wrong.

Now factor in the fact that in some of their minds, God spoke to them a revelation and we understand why I always write, unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. Someone had to tell this person that God audibly still speaks. Or, they suffer from mental illness, which is nothing to be ashamed of because I have yet to meet one who is completely sane. Before I continue down this proverbial path, I want to assure everyone, everywhere that God has spoken. He spoke with Adam and Eve, Cain the killer and many others up to Moses, to David, to Isaiah and Jeremiah, Micah and Malachi, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and of course, to Paul, even on this sinking ship seen today. But most importantly I believe, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.” Simply stated, when one contradicts what was said by The Son, The Son of God, The Son of Man, Jesus Christ, the have delved into deep delusions, suffering shipwreck on the ship of Script-torture, as Hank Hanegraaff would say.

Therefore to link the sinking ship from Alexandria on its way to Rome with a rapture rescue is not only a delusion, it is anti-scriptural. Look closely at the context, aspiration of Luke to his audience, the genre of historical narrative and explore other examples, such as the disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee. God’s plan for the disciples on the sea of Galilee was to calm the sea but in today’s text it was shipwreck. Notice also that on the Adrymittian ship, both Jews and Greeks set sail, as both Jews and Greeks were on board the Alexandrian ship. Both Christians and nonbelievers were also aboard both ships but most importantly, Paul was on both ships. How then does this reflect the rapture, where the church escapes, being presumably the first ship, but the nation Israel sufferers shipwreck, (aka the great tribulation or time of Jacob’s Trouble) when Paul and Luke were aboard both ships as were Greeks? Also, and most importantly, notice that everyone survived, Jews, Greeks, hybrids and pagans, but they were not yet in Rome, because this is not, nor was there ever, a plan b.

In Galilee in the year of 30 AD, it was fourth and 10, from God’s own 45 yard line, in the fourth quarter with the clock running out at :54, :53, :52. God has no more timeouts remaining and is down by four points–a field goal simply won’t win the game. God huddles with his Son and Spirit and the Old Testament prophets, quickly thanking them for a hard fought game as time ticks away. He calls a play, the aptly named, “Hail Mary,” telling all eligible receivers to run with all their might to the endzone and get open. They break the huddle with a clap on the count of three, which is also the snap count. The ball is to be snapped at the count of three and when three, the third number be reached, the ball will be snapped, on three. After the snap count is stated to be three, and the huddle is broken on three, God takes three steps to the line of scrimmage and stares at the ferocity in the eyes of the devil, and the pride in the eyes of the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes. God’s heart is beating three times a minute, which is really fast for someone to whom one-thousand years are like a day. Sweat pours of his forehead as his anxiety increases exponentially. Looking at the enormous crowd in the stands, the nervous God begins to consider his chances of winning this game. Hut 1, Sweat pouring down as his voice crackles and hands start to shake as he wipes the sweat off onto his pants at the thought of the all but insurmountable task at hand begins to overrun his focus. His eyes are now burning and stinging from the sweat, only his tears give any relief to his eyes which are now blurried beyond belief; hut 2, almost inaudible due to the overwhelming anxiety as the devil creeps closer to the line of scrimmage indicating the impending blitz. And then… God calls an audible and decides to punt the ball away.

“What are you doing?” Jesus asked. To which God replied, “we’ll get ’em in two thousand years. Look at the nations in the stands, I forgot about them, let’s deal with them for a while and then come back here.” Jesus looking puzzled reminded God that this was not part of the plan for which he and the apostles were preparing. The prophets now join in the conversation as time runs out on the play clock and by penalty, the game clock–game over. The prophets cannot believe what has happened. God didn’t send them to give up and throw in the proverbial towel. God comforts them all by telling them that this punt is only a parenthetical plan b, eventually their work will be useful.

Does that preposterous parable help or has our understanding of God’s sovereignty been reduced by the admixture of other people’s opinions? When the dust settles and Tom Brady resigns with the Patriots, or doesn’t, will we look back on the media circus and remember everything that was written and said that was wrong? We will not and “Christianity” is the same. Hananiah was a false prophet in Jeremiah’s day, yet the people sought to kill Jeremiah. Hananiah preached a soon return to the land–Jeremiah preached the opposite. Once again we see, as we always do, the people wanted the promise of an easy path. Oh how history loves to repeat itself. Notice how the heathens prayed for daylight and wished to escape as Paul demanded that they stay and encouraged them to eat and drink. I wonder if any of the sailors had their fiancees aboard, whether or not Paul would have officiated a wedding or two (a sarcastic reference to the days of Noah when the wicked were whisked away and the righteous remained; the exact opposite of what we are told by the purported prophecy pundits). Most christians see the error in Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell and Hananiah, yet we still buy books on blood moons and the end of the world. Sensationalism sells but hard work and getting our hands dirty doesn’t. Imagine I wrote a book entitled, “Work hard until you die, expecting no reward until you die,” would you buy it, much less buy into the idea of pouring your blood sweat and tears into the kingdom of God? What if next to my book was a book called, “Glorious Appearing” or “The Blessed Hope,” which one would you purchase? In the same way, if you were on YouTube, which video would you click on, one that promises a soon departure to leave this wicked world or a video which warns you to wash and witness to this wicked world? In conclusion, what will you believe based upon the various positions and your presuppositions? The most difficult thing for a person to admit is when they are wrong.

Modern day prophets are exactly as the modern media, speculating sensational sophistry. Picture Tom Brady going to another team after 20 years and for half the money of which he was payed by the Patriots. Also picture that he wants to play defense and goes to the worst rated team in the league. That’s sensational but still doesn’t account for or explain a dozen or more articles of speculation each day. And Tom Brady is a mortal man, how much worse is it to mess with God’s plans, perfectly purposed and prophesied progressively to push us to this point–planting on this planet, kingdom building on earth. We are called to reproduce disciples of Christ, not disciples of dogmatic dispensationalism. Nevertheless, as Paul was heading to Rome, he did meet with many detours according to God’s provisional plan–the only plan.

The Olivet Discourse is a fairly large chunk of Matthew’s gospel account as  Paul’s journey to Rome is a fairly large chunk of the Acts of the Apostles. What do they have in common? Road blocks, detours, trials, tribulations and most importantly, getting out of Jerusalem. Jesus promised persecution and tribulation, he also promised them that the temple would topple. This was a foundational teaching in the early church. We remember reading in the book of Acts that the early disciples sold their properties in and around Jerusalem. Yes, it benefited the early church but remember also that Paul had to bring money to the church in Jerusalem because of the promised famine. They sold the property to not only give to those in need, but because they also knew that they would not be needing said property in the not-so-distant future. “But Russell P, they sold their property because they thought Jesus was coming soon, in a rapture rescue.” Jesus was coming soon but not for a rapture rescue but in judgment against Jerusalem. Why would Tom Brady be silent about where he knows he is going? Because he doesn’t know where he is going. Why would God want the early church to expect a rapture rescue if he had no intention of providing said rapture rescue? Why would Jesus write to seven churches about things of which they could not possibly understand? Simply stated; if Revelation is addressed to them, shouldn’t we understand that it was written to them just as Acts was written to Theophilus? It doesn’t mean that we cannot learn from them but that we are not allowed to add to them our own interpretations. Peter wrote, “no prophecy of Scripture is of one’s own interpretation.” “But Russell P, what’s the context?” That is an excellent question; the context is cleverly derived tales, not followed by the apostles but the truth of Jesus. When one starts with the presumption that prophecy applies only to those in a modern generation, they should start sounding the depths of their delusion because they are headed headlong into the rocks of wrongly revealed revelations. When one looks for signs and wonders like a wicked generation, one should throw the four anchors off the stern to try and stop the ship. And yet, these are only metaphors ripped from today’s text. The CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics requires us to: consider the context, aspirations of author to his audience, jive with the genre, explore and examine examples and divide rightly the word of truth, letting the Bible interpret the Bible.

God’s plan for Paul and the rest of the passengers was for them to live, yet suffer great loss. And all of this was to take place before Paul made it to Rome. But all of this had to be done according to God’s plan a, because any attempt at a plan b would not be good. “But when the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven about in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching some land. And they took soundings, and found it to be twenty fathoms; and a little farther on they took another sounding and found it to be fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and PRAYING for daybreak. And as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship, and had let down the ship’s boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, ‘Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.’ Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat, and let it fall away. And until the day was about to dawn, Paul was encouraging them all to take some food, saying, ‘Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing. Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation; for not a hair from the head of any of you shall perish.'”

The good news is that after all of Paul’s predictions, the sailors finally began to listen to him. It’s utterly ironic how we listen to media people who know nothing about Tom Brady’s plans but don’t listen to Tom Brady himself, who had publicly stated that he doesn’t know the future. What’s more ironic than that is this: we listen to those who say that Jesus meant that generation when he specifically said, “this generation.” The heathen sailors are better listeners than our leaders. Notice, notice, notice; Paul encouraged them to eat until satisfied and then dump the rest overboard. Paul knew exactly what was going to happen and when. He knew that they needed food for strength but not food for the long run. Much like the property sellers early on in Acts, who knew the money in the present was of benefit but the property would soon be worthless. Am I saying that they had insider trading insights? Absolutely. And as the people on the ship abandoned their plan b and their food, while it was still dark and with impending doom, Paul gave thanks.

“And having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all; and he broke it and began to eat. And all of them were encouraged, and they themselves also took food. And all of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons. And when they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing out the wheat into the sea. And when day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a certain bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could. And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders, and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach. But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves. And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, that none of them should swim away and escape; but the centurion, wanting to bring Paul safely through, kept them from their intention, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest should follow, some on planks, and others on various things from the ship. And thus it happened that they all were brought safely to land.”

Now that is a severe storm to break up a vessel that has held 276 people for two weeks in said storm.

Abandoning their plan b of escaping in the life boat because of Paul, and after nourishment, the sailors saw land but didn’t recognize it, nor did they recognize God’s plan–still. They also didn’t understand Paul’s instructions. They came up with a new plan; drive the ship on to the beach. Problem; a reef was in the way. Once again, to beat the proverbial dead horse, notice; it was not God’s plan to safely run the ship aground on a sandy beach. Look again; loss of everything but life. Why can’t the sailors get this into their minds? And even amongst all of this loss, God’s plan progresses perfectly because that which was destroyed became life rafts for those who couldn’t swim. But I am getting way ahead of myself.

Before God’s perfect and progressive plan prevailed, the sailors and the gaurds had another brilliant idea, even though Paul insisted that there could not be any loss of life–kill the prisoners so that they could not escape. This goes to their mentality, their preconceived notions and presuppositions as it were. Persistently Paul proclaimed, “no loss of life.” Yet here they are, planning to kill the prisoners. How do they justify this? How is this ok in their minds? Have they not understood Paul? Indeed, they have not, not at all, as the mega-church pastors don’t get it and as modern day prophets don’t get it. Look closely, Paul never specifically said that the prisoners couldn’t be killed up until this point. It turns out that the sailors were hyper-literal, like the Pharisees and the dogmatic dispensationalists. Except that they weren’t and neither are the dogmatic dispensationalists. Last time I checked, which was very recently, in both Spanish and English, this means this and that means that. Admittedly, Spanish is a bit more difficult to explain because of masculine and feminine nouns. Meaning that this it is not as simple as this: this and that. Also, locust being helicopters is not a literal interpretation. Furthermore, to absolutely annihilate the dead horse, Gog and Magog, Tubal and Rosh, is literally fought with swords, without walls as it was in the time of Esther and not nuclear weapons. And Rosh does not literally mean Russia, but rather “head,” as in Rosh Hashana. However we don’t have the time today to take a long view and a long look at Esther or Ezekiel and the battle of Gog and Magog against the un-fortified cities of that generation in Israel, after the initial burning of Judah and return of the exiles. Nevertheless, do we see significant similarities? Absolutely because we see the progression through pain and prosperity to not only God’s people but the tares also. Both are allowed to grow together until the harvest where the wicked are swept away throughly on the threshing floor, like in the days of Noah.

Paul and the prisoners, along with the sailors and guards, survived much peril but still have yet to make it to Rome, the prophetically promised land to Paul. If that isn’t ironic, I don’t know what is. This is exactly why we take a long view of Scripture. This is why I write, unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. This is why I promote a hermeneutical tool such as the CAGED method, where; context is king, author’s aspirations to his audience are apex, genre is the general, expository exegesis of examples enlightens and dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. We let the Bible interpret the Bible and not some silly pastor speaking in tongues, or a purported prophecy pundit because every single one of us is flawed and has been wrong before. God never has, therefore let’s study his words in their context. As always, I point to “four blood moons, something is about to change.” The results were like Tom Brady’s potential return to the Patriots, a whole lot of hype but in the end, nothing changed. This dogmatic approach to dispensationalism is a sinking ship. The generation that saw the rebirth of Israel is getting old and most have died. My hope is that all will see the error before this generation passes away. Look at Paul’s sinking ship, they didn’t make it to Rome on that ship, but they survived to tell the story.

 

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