“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Him by night, and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born bagain.” The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and you do not receive our witness. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things? And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
John is building on several themes using imagery, shapes, sizes, numbers and geographical directions in a historical narrative that is clearly not totally chronological. As we have begun to read John, we have made a presupposition that John presupposed his readers knew, at minimum, a cursory understanding of the historical narrative of Jesus. We have more proof of this today because Nicodemus speaks of all the signs of which Jesus has done but John has only recorded one–changing water into wine. Therefore also, it must have been an important sign. And as John builds, we are building as well, on the elementary foundation that Jesus was God made flesh.
Here, no matter how much it pains us, we utilize a hermeneutical tool called the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, 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. Unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. We keep the Bible caged by our traditions and teachings, presuppositions and preconceived notions. Unlocking the Scripture is often as easy as to keep reading, ignoring footnotes and verses numbers. Unless the footnote points the reader to an excellent example in our Old Testament tutor.
Since we are building and since context is king, if you have stumbled upon this missive and are reading these missives for the first time, welcome. This is part two of a two-part missive that builds on every other missive but leans especially heavily on the first part. You don’t have to go back to read it but it would help. But I get it–time is a concern, hence a two part missive. Even with two parts, we will barely scratch the surface. Let’s get to it.
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Him by night, and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.'”
We have seen light as a major theme in John’s gospel account yet Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, avoiding the light. What is obviously implied is that Nicodemus didn’t want to be seen by the other Pharisees. Nicodemus wanted to secure a secret meeting with Jesus, without the large crowds and certainly without other Pharisees who were beyond sceptical of Jesus, as we saw last time. They challenged the authority of Jesus when he chased out those selling sacrifices in the temple and asked him what sign he could give to prove his authority. He told them that the sign would be the tearing down of the temple and rebuilding it in three days– referring to his body–thus establishing that God is present in their midst, as promised, as the light. However the imagery is Nicodemus came to Jesus in darkness and the context confirms this.
It’s no wonder then, that Nicodemus, a fellow Pharisee, went to Jesus at night. Nevertheless I would argue that anyone had the authority to chase out those selling sacrifices in the temple. What was unlawful had become common-place. Their spiritual service had eroded to religion. They didn’t understand that which was written. All too common a problem–they were in darkness and Jesus exposed this. Jesus had every right and reason to do what he did, as a believing Jewish person but even more than this, it was his temple. At least it used to be. The temple had become worthless because the true temple had come to them.
We have seen this before but it is important to consider, nevertheless we will move quickly for time’s sake. John quoted Psalm 69, concerning the zeal of Jesus, look at the context: “Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; Dishonor has covered my face. I have become estranged from my brothers, And an alien to my mother’s sons. For zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.”
Malachi and Jeremiah both make strong allusions to this scene as well as Zechariah. In fact, the Law, which was being broken, and the prophets all point to Jesus coming to his temple and finding it out of order. Interestingly enough, John alludes to Zechariah but uses language found in Revelation. However it could be a coincidence. I believe that these things previously penned are part of what triggered Nicodemus to seek out Jesus, yet still, under the cover of darkness. And Jesus uses this against Nicodemus and his colleagues. Before the good news comes the bad news, except for this particular case. Jesus presents the good news first, and yet, somehow, it is still bad news for those who love their religion. Look closely at the exchange and discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus.
“‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'”
What does being born again have to do with Nicodemus confessing that Jesus must have come from God? It’s almost as if Jesus didn’t hear what Nicodemus said. It seems like Jesus ignored Nicodemus and went off on his own tangent. Nicodemus confessed that Jesus was sent from God but Jesus appears not to respond to this confession. Nothing could be further from the truth. Look back a bit and reread the following: “He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man.” Jesus knew what Nicodemus needed to hear. Jesus responded perfectly to a partial confession. Nicodemus admitted that Jesus came from God but Jesus told Nicodemus that this was not enough.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and an instructor of Israel and yet, Jesus rebuked him for not knowing the truth which Jesus spoke. This is extremely important. Notice; “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and you do not receive our witness. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things? And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up…”
Where does Jesus bring Nicodemus? All the way back to the book of Numbers, and Nicodemus knew the text, which is one reason Jesus went there but did Nicodemus understand the context? Clearly he did not; yet. But Jesus used the Old Testament, their sacred Scripture, to point Nicodemus to himself.
We will consider the story in Numbers with more detail in the future, Lord willing. But for time’s sake today, a super short summary. The people bit by the fiery serpents died and the only way to live was to look upon the image of a serpent, lifted up on a pole. Nicodemus should have been looking for this and everything else written in the Law and prophets in the life of Jesus. Nicodemus was born of water and flesh, to be sure, but he was not yet born of Spirit. This is nothing new. God’s chosen people were, are, and will always be God’s chosen people, Israel. But “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.” I don’t know why this is so difficult to digest for the dogmatic dispensationalists. The entire Bible is a tale of two cities, apostate Israel represents those who are the seed of the serpent, their father is the devil and true Israel are people from every nation, tribe and tongue who are born of water and then the Spirit who have the faith of Abraham, whose father is God, whose temple is Jesus and walk in the light rather than darkness.
Skipping ahead a bit, because Lord willing, we will hit the middle part of this passage hard next time, we see the contrast between darkness and light.
“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
Which once again brings us back to the beginning and the end of the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.”
“And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’…And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it. And in the daytime (for there shall be no night there) its gates shall never be closed; and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Is this the end of the world or the beginning of a new world? You may be shocked to know my opinion, so I will shy away from giving it at this point.
Let the prophecy pundits make a big deal about our generation and the nation Israel; but let us make a big deal about Jesus, John certainly did. Look at the language used by John when referring to Jesus juxtaposed to the language used to describe Israel and Jerusalem.
Of Jesus, John recorded; “I am; the way, the truth, the life, the light, the door” etcetera. And in Revelation; “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born 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, and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.”
It’s strange that the dogmatic dispensationalists argue against Jesus having dominion until he reestablished earthly Jerusalem as his capital.
Of earthly Jerusalem, John writes: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! And she has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.”
The prophecy pundits debate amongst themselves about who this “Babylon” will be in the future. To them, it has to be future, not past, and can’t be Israel because it doesn’t fit into their false narrative. The problem is, for them, that the continuing context is clear–Babylon was earthly Jerusalem–was; past tense.
Watch this; call it considering the continuing context or even exploring examples, I call it it reading the Bible and letting Scripture interpret Scripture: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, who has made all the nations drink the wine of the passion of her immorality.” And; “And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, ‘Come here, I shall show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, and upon her forehead a name was written, a mystery, ‘BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.’ And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.”
John continues by quoting the witnesses of “Babylon’s” destruction; “Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.”
Then John quotes the strong angel; “Thus will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.”
But this theme began earlier in Revelation, hence it was revealed who Babylon was; “And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. “
Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem; earthly Jerusalem which previously held the temple but now the Heavenly Jerusalem has come down from heaven, temple and all–light, truth, justice, grace and eternal life.
Do we truly believe that the prophets pointed to our days or did they point to the perfect person, God made flesh, “who took on the form of a servant?” We have seen the beginning and we have seen the end, in the middle is Jesus, as in the beginning and in the end. Remember that it is the Revelation of Jesus Christ and not the Revelation of a great tribulation.
Let the Scripture interpret the Scripture and see the sublime string. God divided the light and the darkness on the very first day, and has been doing so ever since. God has had his dwellings on earth and these were mere shadows of the substance of Christ Jesus. Jerusalem is not God’s holy habitation on earth. His people, true Israel are his holy habitation. We are the moon to his sun. We are to reflect his glory and his light. We are his Holy temple, at least we are supposed to be.
Throughout the Old Testament, the coming of Messiah was promised through imagery, numbers, shapes, sizes and geographical directions. Why then are we like Nicodemus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? We see light in Genesis and Revelation but ignore the light seen in John’s gospel account. We see vines in Ezekiel, John the Baptist in Malachi, a small stone in Daniel, a tabernacle, a temple and then in John’s gospel account, Jesus clearly claiming himself to be the New Temple, which was revealed through the old temple. Perhaps it’s because like Nicodemus, we follow taught traditions and the letter of the Law rather than the Spirit of the Law. We read books on prophecy and not the Bible in its context.
Here is the toughest pill to swallow, even though it is clearly in the context of John’s gospel account: Jesus is making all things new and not all new things. The world is not being judged by Covid19 but is being made new through Covid19. Lawlessness is not increasing because Paul told us this would happen, because he didn’t tell us this would happen in our days. Rather he told it to Timothy in his days. We let lawlessness run rampant because the social Marxisst are better at making disciples than we are. Apostate Israel, namely the unrepentant Pharisees and Sadducees, were a “synagogue of Satan.” They were the whore of Revelation and they sat on Rome, the real beast from the sea. Jesus came to them as light and life, promising life eternal but they rejected the Messiah and tribulation befell them, and the false temple and the earthly Jerusalem were destroyed, exactly as Jesus promised would happen to their generation, in Matthew 24. We see in creation the light as we see it in Revelation and according to John’s gospel account, Jesus came to them as the light, yet they loved the darkness.