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An Overview of Jonah as Prototypical Primer for Catacomb Church and Homeschool Study

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Jonah in distress in the 8th century B. C.  He was a prototype of coming distress for the Northern Kingdom of Israel and Samaria.  Is there a contemporary historical analogy and application?

 

     I am most honored to be with you today as an invited guest on this Sunday afternoon.  Let me say at the outset that it has been a long time since I’ve been in front of a group of evangelicals in a home or classroom setting to provide an overview of a Biblical book or a topic of history or systematic theology.  Years ago when a most improbable set of circumstances brought me to the now defunct Texas Bible College in the Alamo City to teach Biblical courses, apologetics, church history, and communications for several years, I had the pedagogical experience of my life in front of a group of young people who saw learning the material as an exciting journey and odyssey of a lifetime.

     What I remember most is what Lutheran pastor and theologian Helmut Thielicke once referred to as “intense listening.” I covered the context of Pastor Thielicke’s phrase in a presentation I delivered to a Lutheran gathering in the Middle West 4 years ago.  In a nutshell, Dr. C. George Fry chronicles that context in his article on Thielicke in the Handbook of Evangelical Theologians (Baker, 1993) on pages 219-233.  Dr. Fry explains how and why this great man was in academic and professional exile in the early days of World War II, how he came out of exile under circumstances that can only be explained as the work of God in history, and how through his teaching skills and personal acquaintance with the Gospel, the Stuttgart Cathedral lectures to the beleaguered German people transpired even as Allied air raids drew ever nearer to them.  Fry noted that:

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Helmut Thielicke: Preaching the Gospel near Midnight in the Stuttgart Cathedral during the apocalyptic Allied Air Raids.  He experienced “intense listening” never seen again.

     “As he lectured [in Stuttgart Cathedral] on its five principle parts [Small Catechism of Luther]–the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper–‘evening after evening some three thousand persons gathered together; workers and businessmen, students and professors, soldiers and generals, Nazi functionaries (naturally in civilian clothes!) and Jews, Dutch compulsory laborers . . . and sometimes whole classes from the schools.  It was an overwhelming time for me.  Never since have I experienced such intense listening.’      Soon the massive air raids began.  When the streetcars could no longer run, people ‘came on foot, often from many miles away, through the fields of ruins and rubble’ even on dark and frightening winter evenings.  But then the [Stuttgart] cathedral was destroyed.  Thielicke wrote, ‘I can still see the towering torch of this venerable house of God.  . . . I stood there holding in my hand a key to a door that no longer existed.’

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The original Stuttgart Cathedral is located in Stuttgart-Bad-Canstatt. Its history goes back all the way to 1470. After massive destruction during the Second World War, the church was rebuilt in 1954/55.

     The lesson is this:  When there is great opportunity for evangelical believers to gather together around a meaningful study of the Word of God, that is an opportunity to be seized at the moment in time it is offered.  Just as the Stuttgart Cathedral was torched in a single evening of air raids, so it was that Texas Bible College closed under less dramatic circumstances after a handful of semesters of teaching for me there.  Thielicke noted later in his life that those times of “intense listening” would never come again.  I never experienced it again either, although I sense in our group this afternoon that the Lord has many mutual blessings for us in the handful of occasions when I will be your guest in this house to share my thoughts and materials with you.  And please keep in mind that just as there was a sense of great apocalyptic and eschatological expectation among the German people who flocked to the Thielicke lectures in Stuttgart Cathedral, there is a strong scent of apocalyptic and eschatological expectation in history among those of us in the Remnant Church most desirous of spending more time in the Word of God and in fervent intercessory prayer.  I addressed this very thing in the last public theological presentation made to anyone in 2017 in “The Church of Smyrna Speaks to the Confessing Church of Christ in this Darkening Hour.”  Later in the year, I would be given 5 minutes to speak at a Lutheran convention in a foreign country with reference to this article.  In addition to the shortness of time allotted, the convention folks were preoccupied with choosing a new president and adopting a new organizational structure.  John on Patmos and the application of the Apocalypse to the present historical situation of the Remnant Church in the Western World and elsewhere wasn’t apparently on their agenda for the week.  I know it is on yours or I would not have been asked to come here.  The point is this:  You know the hour.  You want your loved ones to have the best grasp of Scripture possible as persecutions and circumstances worsen.  And I’d rather be with 7 folks here in this house on a Sunday afternoon than all the denominational meetings and conventions extant.  Put slightly differently, I tend to hate those gatherings.  Enough said.

     My second introductory point pertains to the political realm in the world, our need to be presently informed and watchful observers of the events within it in this country and abroad, and to take note of Paul’s warnings in Ephesians 6 about the demonic realm’s influence and operations within world governments.  Why?  Because: 1) The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and both the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament Apostolic Writers underscore the importance of discernment in battling demonic deception in world history at every point on the linear time line which runs from the Fall to the Second Advent of the Lord.  2) No Biblical writing can be properly studied and even partially understood without constant reference to the historical context and events that enshrouded the particular author, including Jonah. And what Biblical principles at these various stages of redemptive history properly inform the Remnant Church now as to what God is accomplishing at present through individuals, collective entities, world leaders and empires, and technological advancements making global surveillance systems, economic manipulations, media misinformation, and military weapons of mass destruction and mass murder ever greater threats to the survivability of the planet? Does not the age of the Tower of Babel in Genesis, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in Daniel, and Nero and Domitian of the Ancient Roman Empire as chronicled by the Apostle John on Patmos in Revelation, provide us with prototypical clues regarding the New World Order and the impending unveiling of Antichrist?   And to reiterate, 3) the Lord in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24/Mark 13/Luke 21) mentions the concept of deception more than that of any other idea in his chronicling of the run-up to the end of history and His return.  The principle and the lesson is this: Assiduous study of the Word of God, acquiring proper tools in doing so, developing solid principles for applying the Old and New Testament to legitimate contemporary applications, including discerning the larger meaning of present and future events in history, are within your grasp and mine as we work within our mutual limitations as best we can, and ask the Holy Spirit of God to reveal what He desires that we truly hear, see, and take to heart in the times in which we live.  Only these things can and will enable us to penetrate falsehoods and deceptions in these end times and to recognize false prophets and wolves when they insiduously infiltrate and attack.  Rest assured that they are, and that they shall. And as we shall see shortly, interpretation and understanding of the context of the story of Jonah is inextricably linked with the political developments of his time as they pertained both to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the nation of Assyria.

     In closing this second point of introduction, let me note what many of you already know from things you have read or heard about me.  I have been intensely involved in the political realm for many years, for reasons directly related to what I believe about eschatology, and what I believe are the particular forces Satan has been working through in both the United States specifically and the West generally to destroy Christian societies, civilizations, and churches, especially since the earliest portion of the 20th Century onward.  My last post in this arena was this past January.  I do not know if there will be any more, or any additional TV or radio commentary.  My mission in all of this may already be past. It is my hope that people in the future who come across my work since 2001 will understand the context of why I embarked upon this journey in the critical years in question, and what I was trying to accomplish as one of a relative handful of voices exiled in the desert in wintertime.  Time tells.

     Beginning today, I hope to equip you with a basic structural methodology for studying any Biblical book.  The book you have selected as a test case example is Jonah.

     Before beginning our quest to examine the Book of Jonah more closely, let me say several things about tools for studying Scripture and consulting the best sources available to you or me.  The first is the Annotated Bibliography.  I emphasize Annotated because this term underscores that one is not simply provided with a list of books on a particular subject or discipline, but helpful comments and guidance on the strength and weaknesses of a particular book, the ideological background of the author(s), and the particular tradition or school of thought out of which said author(s) comes.  As but one example, is the author an evangelical/orthodox scholar theologically, as we understand that term shall be used in this class, or does he/she come from the realm of Higher Criticism and Historical Criticism which provide a brand of scholarship with far different presuppositions and conclusions than any of us would accept as viable?  Among evangelicals, what is a Dispensational Premillennialist?  An Amillennialist? What is the context of the Calvinistic-Arminian controversy over free will and election?  What is the difference between a Lutheran and a Zwinglian in interpretation of major Biblical passages pertaining to the Lord’s Supper?  What are the different schools of interpretation that have existed in history to explain the Prophecy of 70 Weeks in Daniel, chapter 9?

     These are just a few of the important ideas to have an acquaintance with in any evaluation of what we read in any commentary on these subjects at hand.  Hint:  All of us come to the Biblical narrative with a background and historical framework, whether we are conscious of this or not, or frank enough to acknowledge the obvious. Just in brief Internet search I found an interesting list with comments here. Check out another possibility for Jonah research here.  The evangelical Denver Seminary has a list of Old Testament commentary recommendations here.  And the famous evangelical Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, an offshoot of Princeton historically, has a variety of tools available to any of us.  I introduce two suggestions at this point with Annotated Bibliographies:  1) Those prepared by known evangelical schools and sources are likely to be best for our use.  2) Having said that, please do not cheat yourself of the insights and contributions to be made in understanding a subject often contributed by scholars we do not agree with in key areas.  Example:  The great Lutheran scholar and historian, Jaroslav Pelikan (later Eastern Orthodox), had a view of the Scriptures heavily influenced by historical criticism and at odds with that of more orthodox, evangelical Lutherans.  Having said that, if one engages in the study of historical theology, it is impossible not to avail oneself of his brilliant mind and research as exhibited in his 5 volume set on Church History, entitled The Christian Tradition:  The History of the Development of Doctrine.  I have this set, and am presently reading Volume 2 on my own, to learn more about Eastern Orthodoxy.  Do you know what I was exposed to on this subject in an evangelical seminary?  Absolutely nothing is the correct answer.  The lesson is this:  Protestant evangelicals are heavyweights in exegesis of the Word of God.  They tend to be extremely weak as historians in the area of the development of doctrine.  Take the predominant eschatological position of evangelicals on the final events of world history, especially as they pertain to the modern State of Israel vis a vis the Israel of God.  How many know the beginning of the rudimentary elements of this position first emerge in the writings of a Jesuit priest in the 16th century, subsequently to be systematized by John Nelson Darby and popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible in the 19th century?  One evangelical source for examining this subject and providing a fair treatment to both sides of this debate may be accessed here.  The Annotated Bibliography for this single key subject alone is enough to fill a few libraries in and of itself. Enough said.

     Where tools are concerned, the multi-volume Zondervan Charts are critically valuable.  I have been collecting them for years.

     And finally, if one desires to learn enough Greek and Hebrew through a reputable online course, the best tools for subsequent word studies and research include the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Harris, Archer, Waltke), the updated version of the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Moises Silva, ed.), and the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (10 vols, Kittel/Friedrich).  The classic Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, the accompanying Index to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, the infamous Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich or “BAG”) and An Index to the Revised Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Greek Lexicon (John R. Alsop, Zondervan) round out some of the basics for those who want to dabble in these scholarly arenas. We do not have to be world-famous scholars to use these.  Over time, I can easily show you how.  By the way, the Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich (“BAG”) edition is a first edition.  Later, there was a second edition in 1979 that involved my late Lutheran colleague William Danker, hence the later acronym BAGD.  And to make matters even more ridiculous for you, when a 3rd edition of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature was subsequently issued in 2000, the acronym for the 4 scholars was rearranged for reasons beyond me. This 3rd edition is referred to by insiders as BDAG (Bauer-Danker-Arndt-Gingrich).  Go figure.  As for me, I still have the 2nd edition known as BAGD.  This is for reasons of nostalgia that go back almost 37 years. The legendary Dr. Douglas Moo (follow your Annotated Bibliographies for the New Testament) was the one who beat me to death in summer Greek Exegesis courses in 1981 after I barely passed the crash course of 2 years of college Greek in 2 previous semesters at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School to qualify for Moo.  He found it humorous when I slipped him a note to suggest early termination of a class that academically overwhelming summer of 1981 to get to a Cubs game in Wrigley Field that particular afternoon.  The note read:  “Dr. Moo.  May we BAG this for the Cubs’ game today?  Dankof. (BAGD from that time on wasn’t for Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker but for BAG [this]D[Signed, Dankof].” His response:  “Funny, but I have BAGGED your suggestion. Dr. M.

     If you would like to explore the possibilities for yourself or your kids in learning enough New Testament Greek for the use of some of these tools in word studies, my written transcript of today’s conversation will contain a link here.  Again, this may never be your desire, but I always chronicle these things in order that someone will have a resource to consult months, years, or decades later.  I still use my notes, my course syllabi, references on note cards to something discovered in a particular resource, flash cards, and updated Annotated Bibliographies as needed, to get to the bottom of something in my personal studies.  Two classic examples involve a single piece of paper where my late friend, Pastor John Eppler, tutored me for a week in the Hebrew alphabet and its phonetic sounds, to enable me to pass summer months of constant Hebrew immersion with Dr. Samir Massouh at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the summer of 1982.  Sadly, we lost Pastor Eppler in late 2004.  After John got me through the alphabet and Hebrew immersion with Dr. Massouh, I would enjoy OT 711, or “Poetry and Post-Exilic History” with the latter that fall.  Sadly, Samir Massouh now struggles with esophageal cancer and chemotherapy at the St. Francis Hospital in Kenosha, Wisconsin, north of Chicago. How I miss these men.

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The late Pastor John Eppler’s handwriting instructs me in the Hebrew alphabet and phonetic pronunciation on a piece of notebook paper in the summer of 1982.

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Dates of OT significance to memorize in the Fall of 1982.

     One nostalgic story about Samir Massouh is in order.  In my last Hebrew course in the summer of 1982, the final exam contained a lengthy translation.  I “Aced” that portion of the exam.  Several days later, he asked me to come to his office.  He seemed troubled.  I knew what was bothering him.  He noted my never-before-noted-and-sudden brilliance on that portion of the exam.  He also ventured that he believed me to be 1) an honorable person and 2) an improving but still mediocre Hebrew student at the graduate level.  With those hypotheses ruminating in his mind, he asked if I had an explanation for my sudden foray into Hebrew exegetical skills matching his own, or Gleason Archer’s.

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The Crucifix and the Sacramental Altar of Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Wahiawa.  Every Wednesday morning, The Venite was sung by the children in the Matins Service (Psalm 95).

     My answer was truthful and explanatory:  “The answer is the Venite which I sang every Wednesday morning in 3 years of grade school at Trinity Lutheran School in Wahiawa, Hawaii in the 1960s during the Chapel Matins Service.  It’s contained in the Matins Service on page 32 in The Lutheran HymnalThe Venite is Psalm 95 used as a canticle in the Western liturgy, usually for Matins.” (Massouh’s test translation for the last Hebrew exam of the summer of 1981 was Psalm 95. Virtually none of the pan-Protestant evangelical students taking that exam knew anything about historic liturgy, especially in the Evangelical Free Church of America, the Bible Church tradition, the Conservative Baptist denomination, et. al.  But the singular Lutheran with a childhood background in Western Liturgical Worship knew it by heart.)

     Samir Massouh’s countenance reflected a combination of humor and relief.  He said, “So this explains why you were humming while you were writing.”  My response:  “Exactly.  After two lines, I recognized the entire pericope.  But I could best bring everything back to total recall by humming the melody of the liturgical setting for Psalm 95 used then for Matins.  It went much faster than trying to recite it without the music.

     I asked him if I would still receive my A.  He said with a smile and beaming eyes, “Yes. and get out of here.”  My response as I was opening the door to leave was “See you for Post Exilic History this fall.”

     There is a postscript to this story.  In the following spring of 1983, Trinity Journal (TRINJ 04:1/Spring 1983, page 84) came out with an article by Dr. Massouh. It was entitled, “Exegetical Notes Psalm 95,” and began with introductory comments on worship:

     “Recent publications have reflected a renewed evangelical interest in the nature and manner of worship. Some have advocated incorporating charismatic enthusiasm while others have promoted the use of more liturgy. It is in the light of such revived interest that this study of Ps 95 is given, in order to establish some biblical principles about the nature and manner of worship.”

     I ran into him on campus shortly after the article was released.  I observed wryly, “You’re the first Trinity professor who ever plagiarized any of my stuff.” He got the humor.

     Lesson:  Never forget the most special people God has ever placed, or will place, in your life.  Think about the principles of instruction provided.  I will say it again.  I will never forget those men, and those times.  And if the truth be known, one of the great mistakes in my life was not staying there for a much longer period of trial and hardship to develop the skills and the calling I did not realize were emerging until many years later. I have one thesis to finish and one more language exam to finance and sustain in preparing for whatever remains of my life in the time left. Only God knows how this will be possible or where in this present world it leads, but He assures us he is in the Impossibility business (Luke 1:37).

     Now we move on to a brief roadmap of introductory structure and notes for the Book of Jonah, which as indicated earlier is in prototypical form and concept what I do in the study of any Biblical book.  (Aside:  If you’re counting, my Word Processor informs me that you and I have now covered not quite 3500 words.  Again, the electronic version of this conversation will enable you to get to the Links to some of the resources discussed here in the living room of this house.)

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When God calls us to go to a destination 550 miles away, His purposes through us will still be accomplished if we run 2500 miles in the other direction. [Book of Jonah]

A Roadmap of Structures and Concepts for Studying a Biblical Book:  Test Case is Jonah.

Place of the Book in the Canon and in the Redemptive History Timeline: For your Prototypical Analysis, think Patriarchs and Israelites/United Monarchy/Divided Monarchy/Babylonian Captivity/Intertestamental PeriodJonahDivided Monarchy.  Northern Kingdom of Israel. Minor Prophet.  

Title:  Named after its principal character. Jonah means “dove.” Compare with Hosea 7:11; Psalm 68:13 and 74:19.

Date: 800-750 B. C. for the prophetic ministry of Jonah.  Authorship of the book prior to the destruction of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel at the hands of the Assyrians in 722 B. C. Hint:  Compare evangelical commentaries with those of higher critical/liberal persuasion on this issue.  The date of the revival in Nineveh recorded in Chapter 3 is believed to coincide with the reign of Ashurdan III (773-755 B. C.). Interesting speculation:  Did two plagues in Assyria (765 and 759 B. C.) and a solar eclipse in 763 B. C. prepare the people for Jonah’s message of repentance or judgment?

Author:  The book does not identify its author.  Tradition assigns it to the prophet himself. (Consult both evangelical and non-evangelical commentaries and sources for the debates on this which ensue.  One recommendation:  see Gleason Archer’s section on Jonah in his Introduction to the Old Testament [Moody Press] if you can locate this volume.  It is especially valuable for providing responsible academic representation of evangelical arguments for the reliability and accuracy of the Biblical narratives as it rebuts the most enduring objections of Higher Criticism and Historical Criticism. I can provide excerpts of these if needed. Archer discusses authorship issues in his comments on Jonah.  Don’t dismiss these arguments as personally irrelevant.  You or your kids may well need a handle on some of this to provide rebuttal to the unbelieving cynics some of you will encounter in circles of American “higher education.”  Enough said. Hint:  The arguments you will encounter revolve around higher Biblical critics who claim that Jonah was authored the 5th and 3rd centuries B. C., as a historical fiction espousing universalistic views to counter the “narrow nationalism” of Ezra and Nehemiah.

     Jonah is identified as the son of Amittai (1:1) from Gath Hepher (2 Kings 14:25) in Zebulun (Joshua 19: 10,13). 2 Kings 14:25 references him as a prophet in the reign of Jeroboam II of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Here, we read that under Jeroboam II, the borders of Israel were expanded according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He had spoken through his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher (3 miles north of Nazareth in lower Galilee).”  Keys:  the reign of Jeroboam II, Jonah as prophet of the Northern Kingdom, Jonah as a Galilean. Hints:  See John 7:52 for a good case of Pharisaical error.

Historical Background:  Know your Kings of Judah (south) and Israel (north) after the end of the United Monarchy!  There were 20 Kings of Judah8 were good. 12 were bad. As for the Northern Kingdom of Israel, all 19 of their Kings from the end of the United Monarchy to the onset of final destruction of the Kingdom and Samaria in 722 B. C. at the hands of the Assyrians were bad. See here.  [There are all kinds of historical gems and discerning contemporary application of these gems of instruction.  One could look at the last 5 kings of Judah, beginning with Josiah (good) and 4 terrible successors leading to the Exile.  Possible application:  Think about the succession of American leaders in recent times, the state of the American Empire, and what many American Protestants have embraced as the doctrine of American Exceptionalism.  Is that ideology Biblical? How does it square with the reasons for the rise and fall of Empires Biblically? Is this idea a foundational basis for present day susceptibility to deception? End of point.  . . . as for Jonah, zero in on Jeroboam II (782-753 B. C./co-regency/41 years in the electronic source, Archer says 793-753 B. C. in his Introduction).  Consult the historical background section of the Commentaries you select out of our list.

     The reign of Jeroboam II is pivotal to the context of both Jonah and Amos.  What are the key points to underscore in understanding the historical backdrop of these prophets and their respective proclamations?

     1.  The key nations (3) in the historical backdrop are the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Damascus (center of Aramean power), and Assyria.

     2.  Circa 797 B. C., Elisha spoke to the King of Israel about future victories over Damascus (2 Kings 13: 14-19).

     3.  The Assyrian military campaign against Damascus in 797 B. C. enables the King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Jehoash (798-782 B. C.), to recover territories previously lost to the King of Damascus (2 Kings 13:25).

     4.  Jonah prophesies the restoration of the Northern Kingdom under Jeroboam II predicted by Elisha (2 Kings 24:25). Internal troubles in Assyria enable Jeroboam II to complete the restoration of Israel’s northern borders.

     5.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel subsequently falls into a period of nationalistic arrogance, complacency, and spiritual decadence after the restoration under Jeroboam II.  The prophetic implications are covered by Amos and Hosea.  Amos prophesies an exile beyond Damascus (Amos 5:27).  He will proclaim that God’s patience with the Northern Kingdom is at an end (Amos 7:8; 8:2). Hosea indicates that the tool of God’s judgment will be a politically and militarily revived Assyria (Hosea 9:3; 10:6; 11:5).  It is in this context that God sends Jonah to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, to warn it of the imminency of its own eventual judgment.  Hint:  To contextualize why Jonah attempted to run from God’s command and flee to Tarshish, run a Search Engine probe for “Assyrian Empire Cruelty.”  This will bring up many fascinating articles, including one I just discovered for you at Realm of History.  Or try this article from the Biblical Archeology Society (Jan/Feb 1991) which is in PDF format.  

Christ in Jonah:  Gleason Archer tells us in his Introduction to the Old Testament on page 313 that ” . . . one cannot reject the historicity of Jonah without also rejecting the authority of Christ.”  See Matthew 12: 38-41 (and the Luke account).  Hint:  Isolate the word “sign” for further examination (σημεῖον).  Jonah is the only prophet whom Jesus likened to Himself.  What are the implications? Compare this account to the aforementioned John 7:52. Think Jonah and Jesus in terms of TypologyFurther suggestion:  The eschatological warnings about signs and wonders in the New Testament.  What are the implications?  (For now, simply file this in your notes for future study.)

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Matthew 12:  The deeper implications of the word “sign” (σημεῖον) may lie within the pages of the revised version of the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Moises Silva, ed.)

Structure of the Book:  Let’s keep this simple.  Some of your commentaries will be more elaborate, but simplicity of structure is often best retained in the mind during study.

1.  Jonah flees. (Chapters 1-2)

2.  Jonah reluctantly fulfills. (Chapters 3-4)

     Related structural issues40 verses tell the story of a single, extended episode.  8 additional verses cover Jonah’s prayer of thanksgiving, giving us a total of 48 verses.  Jonah’s employment of structural symmetry and style are often compared to the Book of Ruth.  The story is told in two parallel cycles (Chapters 1-2/Chapters 3-4) of comparisons and contrasts.  There are 3 Confessions of Jonah (1:9; 2:9; 4:2.) The “Middle Confession” of 2:9 is decisive. It proclaims that “Salvation is of the Lord,” and emphasizes that the word of the Lord is the last and final word on anything.

Key Verses2: 8-9, and 4:2.  (Last 2 Confessions of Jonah)

Key ChapterChapter 3Revival in Nineveh.

Key Ideas for Discussion and Reflection:  Is it possible to succeed in running away from God?  Are there limits/no limits as to what God can use to get an individual’s attention?  An Empire’s attention?  Does failure disqualify someone from serving God?  What are the consequences of running away from God?  What is the experience of the individual who attempts it?  Can nationalistic patriotism impede the relationship between the believer and God’s plan?  Does Jonah’s testimony reveal a universal concern for all people on the part of the Biblical God?  What are the implications of the fact that Nineveh responded to the preaching of Jonah better than the Northern Kingdom of Israel or the Southern Kingdom of Judah did with any of their prophets?  Is there a prototypical parallel here with the various reactions to the preaching of the Kingdom of God by Jesus and His apostles recorded in the New Testament? Hint:  Compare the reaction to the message of Jonah by the Ninevites to that of those who claimed to be the Sons of Abraham (John 8: 31-41). Implications?  Is there a link to 722 B. C., 586 B. C., and A. D. 70? And possibly to Matthew 24/Mark 13/Luke 24/2 Thessalonians 2/Revelation 13?

     We are now at the end of our first session together.  It is my hope that this overview serves its purpose, not only as an introduction to the Book of Jonah, which we will examine in greater detail in future sessions by studying the text verse-by-verse and chapter-by-chapter, but as a Prototype for the Catacomb Church and the Homeschooling Community in covering any Biblical book.  This process is essential to laying out the roadmap for all of the study, all of the discussions, and all of the developments for further study that will inevitably follow.  Sometime in the future, I will develop a Prototype for a Topical Study in Scripture which will be shared with you when completed.

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Not a Bad View for an Exile on Patmos: An Aegean Sunset.

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John on Patmos Pens The Apocalypse: Exiled Because of Resistance to the Emperor Worship Cultus of Domitian (A. D. 81-96).

 

 

 

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The Church of Smyrna speaks to the Confessing Church of Christ in This Darkening Hour: Mark Dankof on Tribulation, Remnant, and Martyrdom for the LMS-USA 2017

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Jesus Christ, the Logos, speaks to the Apostle John in exile on Patmos regarding the Church of Smyrna in Asia Minor: Revelation 2: 8-11.

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:  ‘The words of the First and the Last, who died and came to life.  I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a Synagogue of Satan.  Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you in prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.  Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.”

Jesus Christ speaks to the Apostle John on Patmos (Revelation 2: 8-11)

(Pastor Mark Dankof’s presentation to the LMS-USA national conference in Wisconsin chronicled here is a condensed and edited version of his remarks delivered on June 9th, 2017. This presentation was preceded by previous lectures in the last two (2) decades, including Creeds and Confessions as Liturgy; The Famine, The Watchman, and The Remnant; The Chosen People of God:  Who are They?; and The Hands of Time and The Appearance of Logos.)

———————-

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The Logo of the LMS-USA and the Pillars of Luther’s Reformation: Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Scripture Alone.

 

     We have been privileged today to have two (2) fine presentations by Pastor Erickson and Pastor Spears. Pastor Erickson’s summation on The Early Church and the Need for Continuing Reform is an excellent overview of centuries of church history from Pentecost to the Protestant Reformation.  I especially value his repristination of a list of ancient heresies similar to my own presentation in Indianapolis in 1996, since those challenges to orthodox Biblical and Creedal theology continue to reappear in various forms and guises over time, especially in this 21st century milieu of heresy and apostasy in which the Remnant Confessing Church of Christ finds itself, especially in a post-Christian Western World which includes our own United States.

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Pastor Ralph Spears of Indianapolis, Indiana presents a paper on the Reformers and the Martyrs at the LMS-USA Conference in 2017.

     Pastor Spears’ presentation of The Reformers underscores the character of key figures in the 16th century and their traits which mirror Biblical reformers throughout redemptive history.  As he reminds us there, “Reformers are people of faith who lived and were willing to ‘lay down their lives for their conviction of faith.'” We will shortly see how the theme of Martyrdom in both of these fine discussions appears again in what I am about to share with the faithful people of Christ Lutheran Church in Chetek, Wisconsin from John’s Apocalypse (Revelation 2: 8-11).

     Let me say at the outset that we will not be discussing the dreadful developments in the Lutheran Church specifically and the American Church generally which have been sufficiently covered in previous conferences.  I will simply state again that in my lifetime, as American culture and life continues its precipitous downturn into the bottomless abyss, our own denominational tradition and affiliation has degenerated into an absurd dialectic between the apostate universalists, higher critical cynics, and Cultural Marxists on the left, and a compendium of isolationists and sectarians on the right for whom the use of the term evangelical is tragi-comic.  In the left-right dialectic in American Lutheranism today, rampant institutional political power struggles and pathology on both ends of the spectrum are strikingly identical.  The proclamation of the Gospel and Biblical teaching and instruction often seem but an afterthought, where everyday ministry to those starved for the Word, proclamation of forgiveness of sin in Jesus Christ and His love to all who believe, historic worship, and evangelical outreach and vision, are all too often lost in the shuffle of business-as-usual.  Jeremiah described this very sort of scene in the 6th century B. C. context of disaster which had befallen Jerusalem and ancient Judah as the Babylonian Exile and Temple Destruction unfolded:  “Her gates have sunk into the ground; He has ruined and broken her bars; her kings and princes are among the nations; the law is no more, and her prophets find no vision from the Lord.” (Lamentations 2: 9)

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Pastor Mark Dankof, whose presentation on the Church of Smyrna in John’s Apocalypse instructs a segment of the Believing Remnant of the Confessing Church of Christ at the LMS-USA national conference.

     If this looks increasingly like the unfolding and impending state of the American Empire and Church it should.  The hour is increasingly late (Matthew 24).

     Where does all of this leave the Believing Remnant of the Confessing Church of Christ?  Put more directly this afternoon, where does this leave you and I as a part of such a fellowship and movement?  Where is God in all of this for you and me?  Where are his promises?  Where is hope for the present and the future? How does he provide for the Remnant when none of the present circumstances in history are favorable to our sustenance and survival?

     It is these questions to which we shall now turn.  The key prototypical Confessing Church for our purposes today is the Church of Smyrna in Asia Minor during John’s exile on Patmos courtesy of the edict of Emperor Domitian of Rome (AD 81-96). As already read, our text is Revelation 2: 8-11.

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Pastor Tylan Dalrymple of Christ Lutheran Church in Chetek, Wisconsin and the Subscriptional Clergy Roster of the LMS-USA.

     It is noteworthy that the exile of the Apostle was due to his refusal to acquiesce to the demands of the Roman Emperor that Domitian be venerated and worshiped as the virtual incarnation of God on earth.  Put slightly differently, John understood what was Caesar’s, and what belongs to Christ alone.  For that faith and confessional witness, he found himself in the Roman penal colony on Patmos, an island 4×8 miles in the Aegean Sea, 50 miles southwest of Turkey.  It is identically noteworthy that Smyrna (modern Izmir) was closely aligned with the Roman Empire and had a large, active, and hostile Jewish population in open hostility to the Gospel (see Romans 2: 28-29; Matthew 26: 57-27:44; Revelation 3:9 to the Church of Philadelphia). Confessing faith and witness in this context often led to incarceration and/or death.

     My counsel and admonition to all of us who are Remnant Believers today:  It is not hyperbole to understand and acknowledge the evidence of increasing hostility to the Gospel in a post-Christian America and Western World in the 21st century, accompanied by lawlessness, decadence, perversion, blasphemy, violence, deception and societal disintegration on a breathtaking scale.  The Satanic forces in play are reminiscent of those between 81-96 A. D. during the reign of Domitian.  The challenge to us is the same challenge posited to the Church of Smyrna, but so are the reassuring provisions of God to His people that underscore His sovereign control of events in history, and His love of those who are faithful.  The key point is this:  God’s people are entering what is eschatologically the most dangerous period in all of linear time and redemptive history (Heilsgeschichte).  We must be prepared for any contingency thrust upon us by Satan and the world.  But nothing can separate the believer from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8: 31-39).

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Martin Luther: We are Justified by God Through Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone. (Pastoral Library: Christ Lutheran Church of Chetek, Wisconsin)

     Let me emphasize four (4) points from the Apocalpyse in today’s conversation about the assurances of God to the Israel of God, the Confessing Church of Christ, throughout time.

     The first (1) is this:  God provides for His people through select individuals who accomplish the Lord’s purposes for those purchased with the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Pastor Spears’ presentation and overview illustrated some key people throughout history who carried out God’s directives to provide for and nurture those otherwise in isolation and despair in a hostile world.  Look at the way in which the Word of the Lord during the persecution of believers during Domitian’s reign continues to be proclaimed through the selection of the Apostle John (Revelation 1: 1-3) on Patmos to reveal mysteries and reassure the People of God.  Tellingly, John states in 1:9 that, “I John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, and the kingdom, and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”

(Ἐγὼ Ἰωάννης ὁ ἀδελφὸς ὑμῶν καὶ συνκοινωνὸς ἐν τῇ θλίψει καὶ βασιλείᾳ καὶ ὑπομονῇ ἐν Ἰησοῦ
ἐγενόμην ἐν τῇ νήσῳ τῇ καλουμένῃ Πάτμῳ διὰ τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ.)

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John on Patmos Pens The Apocalypse: Exiled Because of Resistance to the Emperor Worship Cultus of Domitian (A. D. 81-96).

     How much plainer can it be? Although we have no living Apostles or inspired writers of Scripture in our midst today, God continues to provide brothers and partners in the trials and tribulations of our lives as believers in this darkening age and world.  These brothers and partners are also ours not simply in trials and tribulations, but in the Kingdom of God both present and future.  Just look around this classroom. I recognize people here who joined me in the uphill fight to preserve the Biblical faith in our tradition over 30 years ago.  Among those in that category, I’m unbelievably the youngest one of the 4 still left and who still perseveres alongside these men.  Because of their faithfulness to the Gospel and their enduring friendships with me, I’ve been encouraged to continue when the temptation to give it up in these last 3 decades intensified.  Because I continued by the grace and provision of God alone, I’ve come to know many of the rest of you who have attended these conferences for 22 years now.  We are brothers and sisters in the trials and tribulations present and future.  Can we be any more blessed than this?

     Mysteriously, we possess the Kingdom of  God now, and yet not completely until the return of the Lord.  And how we presently possess the inspired, inerrant, inscripturated Word of God of the Prophets and Apostles, including John right now in our midst, assuring us of blessings present and future through Christ! This empowers God’s humble people, such as all of us gathered here in Wisconsin today, to rejoice in the midst of sorrow, to be confident in the midst of unspeakable trials and discouragements, and to have the faith which comes only from the Holy Spirit of God. Forget the numbers game of the Church Growth Movement in America.  Jettison the “Health, Wealth, and Prosperity” philosophies of the televangelists and the worship fads of an American Church that looks more like the world of sin, the flesh, and Satan with each passing week.  Embrace the joy of the Biblical Gospel, worship in continuity with the Confessing Church of Christ of the Ages, read and take to heart the Lutheran Confessions and what they affirm about sin and salvation only in Christ.  And be confident that God has not forgotten his Remnant People wherever they may be, as He has numbered the very hairs on our heads and has our names written in the Book of Life.

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30 years together in joint fellowship and proclamation of the Gospel in the Lutheran Church since 1987: Pastor John Erickson, Pastor Ralph Spears, Pastor Donald Thorson, and Pastor Mark Dankof (L to R).

     The second truism (2) is this:  God works through select groups of remnant believers throughout the trials and tribulatons of His people in the midst of hostile societies, natural disasters, wars and rumors of war, and upswings in Satanic activity throughout human history.  When we look for a select group of remnant believers in the past to serve as a prototype to be emulated by faithful Christians today in the midst of the perils of the 21st century, we need look no further than the Church of Smyrna.  What characterized this Confessing Church in the all seeing eyes and all knowing mind of our Lord Jesus Christ?  He states that, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a Synagogue of Satan.”  (Revelation 2:9)

(Οἶδά σου τὴν θλῖψιν καὶ τὴν πτωχείαν ἀλλὰ πλούσιος εἶ καὶ τὴν βλασφημίαν ἐκ τῶν λεγόντων
Ἰουδαίους εἶναι ἑαυτούς καὶ οὐκ εἰσίν ἀλλὰ συναγωγὴ τοῦ Σατανᾶ.)

     The characteristics of the Confessing Church of Smyrna are thus clearly discernable, as are the characteristics of the Remnant in historical and eschatological times of political, cultural, moral, economic, and theological disturbances which seek to devour those who are Christ’s and Christ’s alone.  There was and will be tribulation (θλῖψιν)There was and will be slander (βλασφημίαν) against God’s people until the end of linear time and redemptive history.  These slanders emanating from the Synagogue of Satan (συναγωγὴ τοῦ Σατανᾶ) are to be understood as a phenomenon manifested in both the 1st century and the 21st (see Romans 2: 28-29 and Dr. E. Michael Jones’ The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and its Impact in World History for the enumeration of the context of Revelation 2:9).  

     And yet with all of these sobering facts and developments, the Lord reminds the Church of Smyrna, and our gathering here today, that we are yet rich (ἀλλὰ πλούσιος εἶ )The world cannot know this richness, because it cannot know Jesus.  The world cannot know this richness, which can only be revealed by the Holy Spirit of God to the believer (I Corinthians 12:3).  Only the believer can possess all that is contained in this spiritual richness, juxtaposed in this case with worldly richness, and understand that tribulation, slander, and economic poverty cannot separate he or she from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8: 31-39).  This is the faith that leads to eternal life. This is the faith that remains when Emperors and Empires fade away in the twilight of time and space, be it the Babylonian version, the Medo-Persian version, the Greek version, the Roman version, or the American version as the years pass in this 21st Century.

     And make no mistake.  There is no doctrine of American exceptionalism here to the Biblical principles that have governed Empires and Nations from Genesis to Revelation to the present.

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St. Polycarp of Smyrna, rejecting Emperor Worship and the Synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2:9) for Faith in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ Only, Forever and Ever.

     The third truism (3) is this:  The Remnant Confessing Church that is poor but rich, sets a foundation for many fruits to be made manifest in the future glorification of God and the proclamation of His kingdom in Christ.  In the case of the Church of Smyrna of the 1st century, its foundation produced the 2nd century Bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp (A. D. 69-155).  He is regarded as one of the 3 chief Apostolic Fathers in history, along with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch.  It is no accident or coincidence of history that the name Polycarp literally means, “much fruit.” A disciple of the Apostle John, and ordained by him as a Bishop, we must turn to 3 primary sources for information about this embodiment of witness to the Crucified and Risen Christ whose life and death continue to resonate now, even as I speak.  These 3 sources are 1) The Martyrdom of Polycarp, a circular letter composed by the Church of Smyrna and distributed to the churches of Pontus; 2) Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, which I first encountered in my first year of theological study in California almost 40 years ago; and Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians.

     Let’s cut to the chase here.  If the issues of Emperor Worship and oppression of the Christian in the 21st century Western World’s Central States increasingly looks like the ideological matrix that exiled John to Patmos and executed Polycarp, can we envision ourselves having to make the ultimate choice of Christ or Caesar, Christ or Antichrist, under penalty of death for an evangelical confession and proclamation of faith?

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Polycarp of Smyrna (69-155).

     The subject of martyrdom came up in a systematic theology course I was taking in suburban Chicago years ago under Dr. Paul D. Feinberg at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  The question of Martyrdom for the Faith was under intense scrutiny and examination one particular day and lecture.  I can’t say to anyone that I thought I was brave enough then–or now–to follow in the footsteps of Polycarp or any of the other martyrs for Christ.  I will say to all of us here what Dr. Feinberg told me then in response to my questions and doubts about being able to cling to the Lord and witness to the truth under penalty of the ultimate sanction.  He said that we should never ask for the dying grace of God before we actually need it (Matthew 24: 9-14).  If or when we face contemporary versions of the Sanhedrin with its demands for recantation and capitulation, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit of God will give us the thoughts and the words to say when we are not capable of otherwise standing up to those who seek our very lives (Mark 13: 9-11; Luke 21: 12-15).

     Polycarp understood this; the Lord was faithful to him in his ultimate hour of need.  In the case of the former’s death, we read that:

In the Martyrdom, Polycarp is recorded as saying on the day of his death, “Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong”, which could indicate that he was then eighty-six years old or that he may have lived eighty-six years after his conversion. Polycarp goes on to say “How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked.”

Polycarp was burned at the stake and was pierced with a spear for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor. On his farewell, he said “I bless you Father for judging me worthy of this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ.”

     These words have haunted me at night for almost 40 years since first reading them late one evening in a dormitory room on the highest peak in Berkeley, California that overlooked the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco.  It was an irenic visual scene I enjoyed for almost a year.  But my night thoughts about the Apostle John and Polycarp of Smyrna were anything but irenic.  Would I really ever have what it took to confess the faith under their circumstances? 

     I don’t recall having read this sort of thing recently in any of Joel Osteen’s books I have perused at Barnes and Noble (laughter).  I couldn’t find a single thing on Polycarp when I checked several of their stores around San Antonio either.  His witness runs counter to everything I see in contemporary American “culture,” which like its ancient Roman counterpart is increasingly evil and antithetical to the Gospel.  But if we follow John’s witness on Patmos, and the subsequent witness of the 2nd century Bishop of Smyrna, we will experience the fruits of the endurance (ὑπομένω) that God promises His people in their darkest hours, and in the darkening skies of the present historical horizon (Matthew 24:13).

     Finally, there is the fourth truism (4) bequeathed to the Church of Smyrna by the Lord.  It is also your promise and mine :  “Be faithful unto death and I will give thee the Crown of Life” (Revelation 2: 10).

(γίνου πιστὸς ἄχρι θανάτου καὶ δώσω σοι τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς.)

     It is this foundation alone which gives us peace, the peace (εἰρήνη) which only the Lord gives and which the world and its Prince with his targeted tribulations and attacks can never know (John 16:33). We are guaranteed to experience these trials and tribulations, and an intensification of such in the context of the approaching eschatological signs of the end of the age.  But Jesus assures us he has overcome the world, an assurance He gives to the disciples just before experiencing the most agonizing death in all of history, a death to be followed by the evidence of his overcoming of sin and the world in the reality of the Empty Tomb.

     Take heart today my friends. Be encouraged. As deception, wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecutions and martyrdoms of believers, apostasy, evil, and lovelessness continue their present upswing (Matthew 24) leading to the appearance of the Antichrist in history, we will “overcome and will not be hurt at all by the second death” (Revelation 2:11).

     We have gathered again in Wisconsin today to reaffirm the truths of God to His people in Christ, and to rejoice that as orthodox Lutheran Christians, we are but a small slice of the Confessing Church in history and presently, focusing only on the things of the Lord in Word and Sacrament and our love for one another, even in the midst of a nation and a world that increasingly does not know Him and which is coming to despise who and what we are.  We must be discerning about the truth and the hour.  We must be ready.  And together, we shall be.

(Ὁ νικῶν οὐ μὴ ἀδικηθῇ ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου τοῦ δευτέρου.)

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The Island of Patmos in a peaceful Aegean Sunset.