Monday, December 30, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Ezra 3-10

Readings for this week

Monday: Ezra 3
Tuesday: Ezra 4
Wednesday: Ezra 5
Thursday: Ezra 6
Friday: Ezra 7
Saturday: Ezra 8
Sunday: Ezra 9

Introduction to Ezra 3-10

The prophets Haggai and Zechariah tell the people to rebuild God’s House. And so Joshua and Zerubbabel restart reconstruction. 

But Governor Tattenai of Trans-Euphrates tattles on them to Darius the Great. And so Darius the Great looks into the law records of Cyrus, seeing his former decree to rebuild the Temple, and he decides to give his blessing to the Jews as well. 

The Jerusalem Temple is rebuilt over next four years, and once completed the people celebrate Passover again. 

But there’s some opposition to the rebuilding. Their enemies send threats and attempt sabotage, and even petition King Xerxes I. They later petition Artaxerxes, who orders the construction to halt. 

Eventually, in another wave of resettlement, Ezra arrives in Jerusalem. Ezra is a scribe and a teacher and is sent by Darius the Great in order to instruct the people in God’s laws. He is entrusted with silver and gold for the Temple, and he returns some of the Holy Items to the Temple that had been plundered by Nebuchadnezzar. He also recruits Levites to serve in the Temple. 

And, strangely enough, Darius the Great threatens the Jews with death, banishment, or confiscation of property if they do not follow the laws of their God. 

At the end of Ezra’s book we see an intermarriage dilemma take place. Ezra sees that many Jews married pagan wives, and their children knew nothing of God, and so Ezra accuses the people of their sin. The people confess, and the men end up divorcing their wives. Interestingly, the book of Ruth, a story about King David’s great grandmother, a Moabite, began to become a popular book among the people at this time.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Ezra 1-2

Introduction to Ezra 1-2

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one united work written during Persian dominance over the world.


Ezra 1:1–6:22 – Rebuilding the Temple
Ezra 7:1–10:44 – Reforming the Community
Nehemiah 1:1–7:73 – Rebuilding the city wall
Nehemiah 8:1–10:39 – Hearing and doing the Law
Nehemiah 11:1–13:31 – Further reforms by Nehemiah

Chapters 1-2 

The book of Ezra begins with the decree of Cyrus king of Persia proclaiming freedom for the exiles to return to their homeland. 

“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: 

‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them.'” 

Then comes the reign of Darius the Great. 

And so in the first wave of return led by Zerubbabel the people began to rebuild an altar, and Zerubbabel, who becomes governor, as well as the High Priest Joshua begin reconstruction.

Friday, December 27, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Paul’s Letter to Philemon

Paul’s Letter to Philemon 

Context of Philemon 




Philemon’s house church, probably at Colossae in western Asia Minor 

Date and place of composition: 

About A.D. 55-56 if from Ephesus, 61-63 if from Rome, or 58-60 if from Caesarea (dating depends on the location of Paul’s imprisonment). 

Occasion or purpose: 

To reconcile Philemon with one of his slaves, Onesimus, and perhaps to secure Onesimus’s services for himself. 

Themes of Philemon 


Contemporary readers are typically shocked that Paul, who had proclaimed the essential equality of all believers united in Christ (Gal. 3:28), does not use this occasion to denounce the institution of slavery as totally incompatible with Christian faith. Although Paul does not condemn the practice of buying and selling human beings – probably because he believes that the Greco-Roman world order will soon end – he does argue persuasively for a new relationship between master and slave. He asks the slave-owner, Philemon, to accept his runaway slave, Onesimus, as a “beloved brother,” thereby establishing a new bond of kinship humanely linking Christian owners and their slaves. 

Chapter 1 

The letter begins with a salutation and claims to be written by Paul and Timothy. They present greetings to their friend Philemon, sister Apphia, Archippus the soldier, and the church that meets in their home. A blessing of grace and peace is given. 

Paul says he thanks God because he’s heard about their love for God’s people and their faith in Jesus. He says he prays that their partnership will be effective and that their understanding of the good they share in Christ will be deepened. He says their love has given him great joy and encouragement and they have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

Paul then appeals to Philemon in love even though he feels he has the right to order Philemon what to do here. Paul refers to himself as an old man and as a prisoner for Christ. He appeals on behalf of Onesimus who had become Paul’s helper while he was in chains. He admits that he was formerly useless to Philemon, but now he has become useful both to Philemon and to me Paul.

Paul says he is sending Onesimus back to Philemon and he calls Onesimus his “very heart.” Paul says he would have liked to have kept Onesimus around as he had been very helpful to Paul in Philemon’s absence. But he wanted to make sure he wasn’t forcing Philemon into doing anything that wasn’t voluntary. Paul says that maybe the reason Philemon and Onesimus were separated for a time was so that they might be reunited again – but not as master and slave, but as brothers in Christ.

Paul says, “So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.”

Paul writes out an agreement saying he will repay anything Onesimus may owe to Philemon, but points out that Philemon already owes Paul “his very life.” Paul tells Philemon he is confident he will be obedient and do even more than what he is asking of him.

Paul also asks Philemon to prepare a room for him so that he may have a place to stay when he visits the church as he hoped to do

Paul then gives his final greetings, and also gives greetings from Epaphras (whom he refers to as his fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus), Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke.

And he blesses them, saying, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Monday, December 23, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Paul's Letter to the Colossians

Readings for this week

Monday: Colossians 1
Colossians 2
Colossians 3
Colossians 4
Friday: Philemon 1
Saturday: Ezra 1
Sunday: Ezra 2

The Letter to the Colossians 

Context of Colossians 

Paul had not yet visited the city when he wrote this theologically important letter. A small town in the Roman province of Asia, Colossae was located about 100 miles east of Ephesus, the provincial capital. Epaphras, one of Paul’s missionary associates, had apparently founded the church a short time prior to Paul’s writing. Colossians was probably composed at about the same time as Philemon, to which it is closely related. In both letters, Paul writes from prison, including his friend Timothy in the salutation and adding greetings from many of the same persons – such as Onesimus, Archippus, Aristarchus, Epaphras, Mark, and Luke. 

Themes of Colossians 

Correction of false teachings (i.e., worship of angels) 

The supremacy of Christ 

Christ is supreme because God’s power now manifested in him was the same power that created the entire universe, including those invisible entities the false teachers mistakenly worship. When they realize Christ’s supremacy and experience his indwelling Spirit, the Colossians are initiated into his mystery cult, voluntarily harmonizing their lives with the cosmic unity he embodies.

Chapter 1 

The salutation claims the letter to be written by Paul and Timothy and addresses the Colossians as faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. In the first part of the letter, Paul gives an orthodox explanation on the sufficiency of Christ. He first offers a thanksgiving and prayer for the Colossians, saying, “We always thank God for you” because of… 

Your faith in Christ Jesus
The love you have for all God’s people

Your faith and love come from hope.

Your hope is…

Stored up in heaven
Heard in the truth of the Gospel

The Gospel is…

Bearing fruit (productive)
Growing (spreading) throughout the whole world
Growing within you
what you learned from Epaphras

Epaphras is…

A fellow servant
A minister of Christ on the Apostles’ behalf
The one who reported the Colossians’ love to the Apostles

Paul then offers a prayer for the Colossians’ knowledge and growth, saying, “We always pray for you” so that you may…

Know the knowledge of God’s will
Live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way
Bear fruit in every good work
Grow in the knowledge of God
Be strengthened with all power
Have great endurance and patience
Give joyful thanks to the Father

The Father has…

Qualified you to share in the inheritance of his people in the kingdom of light
Rescued us from the dominion of darkness
Brought us into his beloved Son’s kingdom

By the Son…

We are redeemed
We are forgiven

Paul then offers a Hymn to Christ the Lord, saying the Son is…

The image of the invisible God
The firstborn over all creation
Creator of all things

He created all…

Things in heaven and on earth
Things visible and invisible

The Son…

Was before all things
Is the one who holds all things together
Is he head of the body, the church
Is he beginning and firstborn from among the dead
Holds supremacy in everything

It was God’s pleasure to…

Have his fullness dwell in the Son
Reconcile all things to himself through the Son

All things include…

Things on earth
Things in heaven

How was this peace of reconciliation accomplished?

By the blood of the Son, shed on the cross

Paul then affirms Christ as the Reconciler. He tells the Colossians that back in the old days, they were…

Alienated from God
Enemies in their minds
Practicing evil behavior

But now they are…

Reconciled by the physical death of Christ’s body
Holy in God’s sight
Without blemish
Free from accusation

But the condition to this is that they…

Continue in faith, established and firm
Do not move from the hope held out in the Gospel

This Gospel…

Is what they heard
Has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven
Has made Paul its servant

Paul then discusses his commission concerning the Mystery of Christ. Paul’s past labors aimed at perfection in Christ. Paul rejoices over his suffering for the Colossians and he says he “fills up in his flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” (in other words… not only did Christ have to suffer for the Colossians salvation, Paul did as well). Has become a servant for the church and has been commissioned by God to present the word of God in its fullness.

The word of God…

Contained a mystery kept hidden for ages
Now discloses the mystery to the Lord’s people
Makes known this mystery among the Gentiles

The mystery is…

Christ in you, the hope of glory


Proclaim Christ
Admonish and teach everyone with all wisdom


To present everyone fully mature in Christ 

Chapter 2 

Paul’s discussed his present concern regarding defection from Christ. Paul claims to be working extremely hard for…

the Colossians
the Laodiceans
everyone he has not personally met

Paul’s goal is that…

They may be encouraged in heart
They may be united in love
They may have the full riches of complete understanding
They may know the mystery of God, which is Christ

This mystery called Christ contains all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Why is Paul saying this?

So that no one will deceive the Colossians with fine-sounding arguments
Because he is physically away from them but with them spiritually
Because he loves their discipline
Because he loves the firmness of their faith in Christ
He wants them to continue living for Christ
He wants them to overflow with thankfulness

In the next section of the letter Paul responds to heterodox arguments that deny the sufficiency of Christ. He makes a statement against heretics, saying, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

He then restates Christ’s sufficiency in his authority:

In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form
In Christ you have been brought to fullness
Christ is the head over every power and authority.

He then restates Christ’s sufficiency in his power in us:

In him you were circumcised not physically but spiritually
He cut off the flesh that ruled over you
You were buried with him in baptism
You were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

He then restates Christ’s sufficiency in his victory:

When you were dead in sin, God made you alive with Christ
He forgave all our sins
He canceled our debt

He says that our debt…

Condemned us
Was taken away by Christ
Was nailed to the cross by Christ

He says that the powers and authorities…

Were disarmed by Christ
Were made a public spectacle by Christ
Were triumphed over by Christ on the Cross

Paul then discusses the Colossians’ practices as a form of denying the sufficiency of Christ. He tells them not to let themselves be judged by…

What they eat or drink
A religious festival
A New Moon celebration
A Sabbath day


These are just a shadow of things to come
The reality is Christ

He tells them to not let themselves be disqualified by…

False humility
The worship of angels

He says that people like that are…

Prone to go on and on about what they’ve seen
Are puffed up with idle notions
Have unspiritual minds
Have lost connection with the head (Christ) from which the rest of the body (church) grows

Paul then discussed how The Colossians’ practices are a contradiction of their corporate life in Christ, and that death with Christ means death to human regulations. He says that they died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, so why should they submit to their rules of “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”

These rules…

Have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use
Are based on merely human commands and teachings
Have the appearance of wisdom
Have self-imposed worship
Have false humility
Treat the body harshly
Lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence 

Chapters 3-4 

Paul says that resurrection with Christ means being brought into a new perspective. He says that since they have been raised with Christ, they should set their “hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” He adds, “Do not set your heart on earthly things.”

Why not?

Because you died
Because your life is now hidden with Christ in God

He says, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, you will also appear with him in glory.”

Paul then discusses orthopraxy… the sufficiency of Christ experienced. First, he discusses the sufficiency of Christ experienced individually. And he discusses the “putting off the old man.”

He says to put to death…

Whatever belongs to your earthly nature
Sexual immorality
Evil desires
Greed (which is idolatry)

He says that because of these things the wrath of God is coming. He says that they used to live like this, but now they must rid themselves of…

Filthy language from their lips
Lying to each other


they have taken off the old self with its practices
they have put on the new self
they are being renewed in the knowledge and image of their Creator

In this new life…

There is no Jew or Gentile
There is no circumcised or uncircumcised
There is no barbarian or Scythian
There is no slave or free
Christ is all
Christ is in all

Paul then discusses “putting on the new man.” He says that as God’s chosen people…

they are holy
they are dearly loved

And he says that they must clothe themselves with…


And that they must…

Bear with each other
Forgive each other’s grievances
“Forgive as the Lord forgave you”

And he says, “Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” And he tells them to be thankful and let the message of Christ richly dwell among them.

He instructs them to teach and admonish each other with…

All wisdom
Songs from the Spirit
Singing to God
Gratitude in their hearts

And he adds, “…whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Paul then discusses the sufficiency of Christ as experienced in the home. First, he addresses wives and husbands. To wives he says, “Submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. To husbands he says, “Love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”

Paul then addresses children and parents. To children he says, “Obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” And to parents, specifically fathers, he says, “Do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”

Paul then addresses slaves and masters. To slaves he says, “Obey your earthly masters in everything. Do it not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor. Do it with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart. Work as for the Lord, not for human masters. You know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

And he adds, “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs. There is no favoritism.”

To masters he says, “Provide your slaves with what is right and fair. You know that you also have a Master in heaven.”

Paul then discusses the sufficiency of Christ as experienced in relation to others. First, he talks about the Colossians’ own relationship with himself. He asks them to devote themselves to prayer and to be watchful and thankful.

Paul says to pray for them so that…

God may open a door for their message
They may proclaim the mystery of Christ (for which Paul is in chains)
Paul may proclaim it clearly (as he should)

Paul then discusses the sufficiency of Christ in relation to unbelievers. He says that in the way they act toward outsiders they should…

Be wise
Make the most of every opportunity
Let their conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt
know how to answer everyone

Paul then offers his final greetings. He first commends Tychicus, saying that Tychicus will tell them all the news about him. he says that Tychicus is…

a dear brother
a faithful minister
a fellow servant in the Lord

He says he’s sending him to update them on their circumstances and to encourage their hearts, and he mentions that he is bringing Onesimus with him (see Paul’s letter to Philemon), whom he describes as a faithful brother and one of the Colossians’ number.

Paul then gives greetings from his co-workers. He starts with his fellow Jews: Aristarchus (whom he calls his fellow prisoner), Mark (the cousin of Barnabas, whom he says to welcome as already instructed), and Jesus (aka Justus).

Paul then gives greetings from his non-Jewish co-workers. He starts with Epaphras whom he describes as a prayer-wrestling member of the congregation and servant of Christ. He says he’s always praying that they will stand firm on God’s will and be mature. He says he vouches for him because he’s always working hard for the benefit of the Colossians as well as those in Laodicea and Hierapolis. He then gives greetings from Luke (his dear friend and doctor) and a man named Demas.

Paul then gives his own personal greetings to:

The brothers and sisters at Laodicea
Nympha and her house-church

Paul also leave instructions to let the Laodiceans read this letter after they’re done and to make sure to read the letter from the Laodiceans as well. He says to tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”

He closes the letter by saying:

“I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”

Monday, December 16, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Esther 4-10

Readings for this week

Monday: Esther 4
Esther 5
Esther 6
Esther 7
Esther 8
Esther 9
Esther 10

Introduction to Esther 4-10

Chapter 4 

The Jews mourn over the edict. Mordecai sends a message to Esther, telling her to plead with the King to change his mind. His words echo Samuel’s words to Saul: If you don’t do what God has called you to do, God will punish you and replace you with someone willing. Esther and Saul were both from the tribe of Benjamin. Mordecai tells her “Perhaps you were born for such a time as this.”

Chapter 5 

Esther appears before Xerxes uninvited. The death-penalty was the usual punishment for this act. But Xerxes extends his golden scepter towards her, as a sign of protection. Esther invites Xerxes and Haman to a dinner party that night. Xerxes and Haman are pleased to be honored by the queen. After dinner, Esther invites them both back again tomorrow night for another dinner party.

Haman leaves in good spirits, but he passes Mordecai on his way home and becomes angry again. He decides he cannot wait until the edict goes into effect, and he goes back to the palace to get the King’s permission to kill Mordecai early. And he tells his servants to construct a pole 50 cubits high on which to impale Mordecai. 

Chapter 6 

Xerxes is listening to scribes read the royal records to help him sleep. He reads about Mordecai saving his life, and he wonders why Mordecai was never rewarded. Xerxes notices Haman standing outside, and sends him in. Xerxes cuts Haman short, and asks him how to go about honoring somebody special. Haman thinks the king is talking about him, so he says it would be a good idea to dress this man in royal robes, put a crown on his head, have a prince put him on a royal horse and march him through the streets proclaiming, “This is how the King treats those who please him!” Xerxes agrees, and tells Haman to do all that for Mordecai. Xerxes chooses Haman to be the prince leading Mordecai’s parade. 

Chapter 7 

After the parade, Haman arrives at the second dinner party. Esther’s declares that she and her people “have been sold to be destroyed” … by “this vile Haman!” Xerxes is shocked, and he goes out to the garden to think. Haman falls upon Esther, begging for mercy. Xerxes returns, sees what appears to be Haman attacking his Queen, and orders the guards to grab Haman. A servant suddenly reports that the pole that Haman asked them to prepare for Mordecai is now built, and so Xerxes impales Haman on it, and also kills Haman’s family.

Chapters 8-10 

Esther asks Xerxes to repeal the edict of genocide against her people. Xerxes instead makes a new edict which provides all Jews with weapons to defend themselves and gives them special permission to execute any of their enemies in the land.

On February 13th the edict goes into effect, and the Jews slaughter all of their enemies who had conspired against them. Many people from other nationalities decide to become Jews themselves before this takes place.

On the day of this battle, the Jews were saved from destruction, and established a new festival to be celebrated on February 14th and 15th. This festival came to be known as “Purim” and is still celebrated today.

In the end, Haman was impaled on the pole prepared for Mordecai, and Mordecai was promoted to the job that had been prepared for Haman.

Friday, December 13, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Esther 1-3

Introduction to Esther 1-3 

The story of Esther is set during the reign of Xerxes I (or Ahasuerus) in the period of Persian dominance over the world. Xerxes I was the king who battled the 300 Spartans. He also had a really bad temper. Once, as he was preparing to fight the Greeks, a flood came and washed away the bridge he had just built over the river. He had one of his slaves take a whip and strike the river with it hundreds of times as punishment for knocking down his bridge.

This book is the first book to refer to God’s people as “Jews.” This is because God’s people in this book were mainly made up of the people of Judah. Benjamin was also grouped in with Judah. Esther was from the tribe of Benjamin. 

Chapter 1 

Xerxes held a big wild party for all of his nobles. He called for Queen Vashti to come out and strip-dance for him and his several hundred drinking buddies. She refused. His buddies told him that if he didn't punish her then all women in Persia would follow her example and disobey their husbands. They recommended Xerxes get a new queen and Xerxes agreed. 

Chapter 2 

Xerxes needed a new queen, so all the virgin girls of the region were brought to his palace for a beauty contest. Enter Esther. She was a Jew. Her real name was Hadassah. She was raised by her older cousin Mordecai, who was a palace guard. Esther was prepped and pampered for a year and made it to the final round. Xerxes was stunned by her beauty and chose her to be his new queen. Esther kept her nationality a secret.

Two men named Teresh and Bigthan tried to assassinate King Xerxes. Mordecai learned of their plot and reported it to Esther, who reported it to the king. The two assassins were then executed, and for the time being Mordecai continued on with his normal palace duties. 

Chapter 3 

The character of Haman is then introduced. He was the King’s second-in-command, and was an Agagite, a descendant of Agag. People bow to Haman as he rides through streets, but Mordecai refuses to bow. Haman holds a grudge against Mordecai and is filled with fury. He brags to his family about his own greatness, but he is depressed when he thinks of Mordecai’s defiance. Haman and his family plot to get revenge on all Jews, not just Mordecai.

Haman petitions Xerxes and tells him about a race of thugs out to assassinate him. Xerxes issues a decree granting the Persians permission to slaughter all the Jews in the area. The edict would go into effect on February 13th. Haman rolls dice to decide the date. And the edict is signed by the king with the irrevocable seal of the Medes and Persians.

Monday, December 9, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Ephesians 3-6

Readings for this week

Monday: Ephesians 3
Tuesday: Ephesians 4
Wednesday: Ephesians 5
Thursday: Ephesians 6
Friday: Esther 1
Saturday: Esther 2
Sunday: Esther 3

Introduction to Ephesians 3-6

Chapter 3 

Paul then discusses his own relation to the mystery of this new spiritual community. First, he discusses the content of the mystery that was revealed to him. He says, “This is the reason I, Paul, became a servant of the Gospel by God’s grace and through his power. Surely, you’ve heard about the grace God gave to me for you (ie. the mystery revealed). When you read what I write, you can see my insight into the mystery of Christ. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ. This mystery was hidden in past generations but revealed by the Spirit to the Apostles and Prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

He then discusses how the wisdom of the mystery was revealed to spiritual beings. First, he says, “Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: To preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery.”

He says that this mystery was hidden in God in the past, but now he has chosen to reveal it to all the rulers of the heavenly realms through his church. He says that it was accomplished through Jesus, and in him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

And he tells the church to not be discouraged by his sufferings which are for their glory.

Paul then offers a prayer for love, with the goal being to maintain the church’s practical unity.

The Content of the Prayer:

“This is why I pray to the Father. Every family in heaven and on earth gets its name from him. I pray that he will strengthen you by the Spirit and that Christ will live in you by faith. I pray that because you are rooted in love that you will also have power with all God’s people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Paul then describes the immensity of God’s resources in a doxology:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Chapter 4 

Paul then addresses the unity of the Church practically. He begins by discussing the concept of maintaining unity through diversity. He says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Paul was apparently under house arrest during this time.

He then says to “be completely humble and gentle.” And he adds, “Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ancient Greek culture often viewed humility, meekness, gentleness, and self-sacrifice in negative terms, as weaknesses. But Paul taught that the love experienced in Christ is to be extended to others.

He then goes on to say, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

He says that there is…

One body
One Spirit
One Hope (just as when you were first called)
One Lord
One faith
One baptism
One God and Father of all ...who is over all and through all and in all.

Paul then goes on to talk about the diversity of spiritual gifts in contributing toward unity. He says that Christ apportioned grace to each of us. And he quotes from the Scriptures, Psalm 68, which says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”

And Paul points out that if he ascended… then he also descended to the earth. And he proclaims that he who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.

Paul then says that in order to equip his people for works of service, Christ gave…

The apostles
The prophets
The evangelists
The pastors (shepherds)
The teachers

Paul says that they were given so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and become mature. He says that when we attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, as we lovingly speak the truth, we will grow to become the mature body of Christ, who is the head. And he adds that with the head leading, the rest of the body is joined and grows up in love and works together, each part in its place.

Paul then discusses morality and how we are members of each other. First, he talks about morality and the former lifestyle. And he offers a negative example: pagans. He insists that they don’t keep living like the Gentiles who live in darkness and ignorance, separated from God’s life because of their hard hearts. He says that they’ve lost all sensitivity and have become slaves of sensuality and greed.

He then offers a positive basis: death of the “old man.” he says that the pagan life is not the type of life they learned about in Jesus. They were taught to put off the old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, and to be made new in the attitude of their minds by putting on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Paul then discusses morality and the present life in Christ. He says that since we’re all in the same body, we must stop being false and speak truthfully to our neighbors. He says not to let anger lead to sin, giving the devil a foothold, and if you’ve been stealing… stop stealing, start working, be useful and learn how to share. He says to replace nasty words with helpful words, and not to grieve the Holy Spirit who sealed you for the day of redemption. He says to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice, and to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 

Chapter 5 

Paul then discusses the believer’s relation to unbelievers. First, he says not to conform to their sinfulness, and to walk in the way of love as children loved by God, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

He says it’s not proper for God’s holy people to have a hint of any kind of impurity or greed – even foolish talk and dirty jokes should be replaced with thanksgiving. He says he’s sure that those who are immoral, impure, and greedy are idolaters and don’t have an inheritance in Christ’s kingdom. He says not to be partners with those whose empty words would trick you into thinking that God’s wrath doesn’t come to the disobedient.

Paul then says to confront unbelievers with the Gospel. He says they they were once darkness, but now they are light in the Lord, so they should live as children of light and find out what pleases the Lord. He says that the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth, so don’t store away and cover up fruitless deeds of darkness – bring everything into the light, even the secret things too shameful to speak of, because everything that is illuminated becomes itself a light.

He says that’s why it’s said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Paul then discusses the believer’s relation to the Spirit. First, he gives an admonition for Spirit-filling. He says that since they live in evil times, they should try hard to live wisely and to make the most of every opportunity. He says that instead of being foolish, they should try to understand what God’s will is. He says not to fill up on wine that will lead them to sin; rather fill up on the Spirit that will lead them to sing and make music to the Lord and be thankful for everything in Jesus’ name.

Paul then offers the test of Spirit-filling… the believer’s relation to the extended family. First, he talks about the relationship between wives and husbands. He tells them to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

He tells wives to submit themselves to their own husbands as they do to the Lord.


Because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

And he adds that as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

He tells husbands to love their wives, “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

He tells them to love their wives as their own bodies.


He says “because he who loves his wife loves himself. Do you hate your own body!? Do you feed and take care of yourself!? Take care of your wife the way Christ takes care of his church since we are all members of his body!!”

He adds that marriage is a profound mystery… “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” He says he is really talking about Christ and the church, but, husbands need to follow Christ’s model and love their wives as they love themselves, and wives need to respect their husbands. 

Chapter 6 

Next, Paul talks about the relationship between children and parents. He tells children to obey their parents in the Lord, “for this is right.”


He says because the first commandment with a promise was to “honor your father and mother, so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

He tells fathers not to exasperate their children, but to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Next, Paul talks about the relationship between slaves and masters. He tells slaves to obey their earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as they would obey Christ. He says to obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from their hearts. He says to serve wholeheartedly, as if they were serving the Lord, not people.


He says because they know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

He tells masters not to threaten their slaves


He says because slaves and masters both have one Master in heaven who does not show favoritism.

Paul then discussed the believer’s present relation to the devil… spiritual warfare. He says to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”, and to “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. Stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Additionally, take up the shield of faith to extinguish all the evil one’s flaming arrows. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

He adds:

“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.”

Paul then offers his final greetings. First, he commends Tychicus, saying that he’s sending him to them so that they will know how they are doing and to encourage them.

He closes the letter with a benediction:

“Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”

Saturday, December 7, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Ephesians 1-2

Introduction to Ephesians 1-2 

Who wrote the Letter? 

The letter to the Ephesians was possibly written when Paul was in prison in Rome sometime between 60-64 AD. It’s very similar to the letter to the Colossians in its themes. However, while Colossians was written to the church at Colossae, Ephesians appears to have originally been a general letter directed at more than one church in the province of Asia Minor. The oldest copies of Ephesians that we have do not mention the Ephesians at all. 

So why was the phrase “to the church in Ephesus” added later? 

Probably because the church in Ephesus was responsible for preserving the letter. Paul spent three years in Ephesus – longer than any of his other church plants – and the Ephesians were very close friends with him. This letter was one of the last to be written by Paul and they would have wanted to preserve the legacy of their founder. 

Many scholars even think that Paul might not have written the entire letter on his own, but the Ephesians perhaps wrote down what Paul had taught them and preserved these teachings as a letter written on his behalf after he was executed by the Emperor Nero in Rome. However, by the late 2nd Century AD most church historians believed Ephesians was most likely written by Paul to the church at Ephesus while he was imprisoned in Rome. 

Who were the Ephesians? 

The Book of Acts says that at the beginning of his third missionary journey, Paul stopped in Ephesus and found twelve disciples of John the Baptist who had apparently missed the part of his message about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and had only heard the part about the water baptism of repentance. Paul reminded them of John’s words about the one who would come after him – Jesus – and the disciples believed and received the Holy Spirit when Paul placed his hands on them. 

After nearly three years of training his disciples and teaching in the synagogues and outdoors in the lecture hall, Paul decided he was going to go back up to Jerusalem. Around that time, a guy named Demetrius who crafted and sold idols in the city stirred up all the other craftsmen against Paul because the people weren’t buying their idols anymore. Soon the whole city was in an uproar. Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples wouldn’t let him. Eventually, the city clerk calmed the crowd down by telling them that they didn’t need to fight for their goddess – Artemis – because she could defend herself. The Christians were not a threat. 

After this, Paul ended up leaving Ephesus and traveling around to places like Macedonia and Troas. On his way back to Jerusalem, he met with his Ephesian disciples once again to say his good-byes. He blessed them and warned them to be on their guard against false teachers who would try to take over their group. And they wept because they knew they would never see him again. 

Chapter 1 

The letter opens with a claim that it is written by Paul, and it is addressed to the “faithful.” A blessing of grace and peace offered. 

Paul first discussed the unity of the church positionally, and he offers his theological preface: Why God is blessed and should be praised. 

He first discusses how the Father elected believers in eternity past. He praises God for giving us spiritual blessing in Christ. He says that he chose us before word’s creation to be holy, and he predestined us to be his adopted children through Christ and freely gave us grace in Jesus.

Paul then discusses how the Son redeemed believers in the historical past. He says that Jesus’ blood redeems and forgives us, and that God’s mystery has been revealed to us in Christ and will one day reach its fulfillment when all of heaven and earth are united under Christ. He says that we were chosen beforehand to be the first to put our hope in Christ.

Paul then discusses how the Spirit sealed believers in their personal past. He says that you were included in Christ when you heard the gospel, and that you were sealed with the Spirit when you believed. He says that the Spirit is a deposit of our inheritance until our redemption.

Paul then offers a prayer for knowledge, attempting to relate the Church’s positional unity.

He prays:

“Ever since I heard about your faith and love, I always thank God for you and pray for you”

He prays that they’ll get the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to know God better, and that the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened in order that they may know the hope to which he has called them, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for those who believe. He says that this power is the same as “when he raised Christ from the dead, when he seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, when he placed him above all rulers and powers and every famous name in the present and the future, when he placed all things under his feet, and when he appointed him as head of the church, which is his body, and is the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” 

Chapter 2 

Paul then discusses individual reconciliation and the individual believer’s former state. He says, “You used to be dead in sin. You used to follow the world’s ways. You used to follow the ruler of the kingdom of the air whose spirit works in the disobedient. All of us used to live that way – living for the flesh.”

He then discusses the individual believer’s present state. He says, “God made us alive in Christ when we were dead in sin because of his great love and mercy. He raised us with Christ and gave us a seat with him in the heavenly realms. He did this so that in the coming ages he might show his rich grace through his kindness in Jesus. You are saved by grace through faith. It’s a gift from God, not something you earned to boast about. We are God’s handiwork. He created us in Christ to do good works that he prepared in advance for us.”

Paul then discusses horizontal (Jew to Gentile) and corporate reconciliation. First, he discusses the Gentiles’ former state… isolation. He says, “You who are Gentiles used to be separated from Christ and called ‘uncircumcised’ by Israel and ‘foreigners’ of the Covenant, but now in Jesus you have been brought nearby his blood.”

He described the Gentile believers’ present state as incorporation into a new spiritual community. And he describes the peace which Christ accomplished in his death. He says, “Jesus is our peace, making the two groups one. He has destroyed barriers of hostility by using his own flesh to set aside the Law. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, making peace. He reconciled in one body groups through the cross. The cross puts hostility to death. He came and preached peace to those far and near and gave access to the Father to both groups by one Spirit.”

Paul then discusses the foundation which Christ laid through his apostles. He says, “Because of all this, you are no longer strangers but citizens and members of God’s household. This house was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus as the chief cornerstone that holds the whole building together and turns it into a temple in which God lives by his Spirit.” 

Monday, December 2, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Paul’s Letter to the Philippians

Readings for this week

Monday: Daniel 12
Philippians 1
Philippians 2
Philippians 3
Philippians 4
Saturday: Ephesians 1
Ephesians 2

Introduction to Paul’s Letter to the Philippians




Congregation at Philippi in northeastern Greece

Date and place of composition 

About A.D. 56 if from Ephesus, 61-62 if from Rome, or 58-60 if from Caesarea (dating depends on the location of Paul’s imprisonment)

Occasion or purpose 

To express his friendship with the Philippians and to thank them for their monetary support

Chapter 1 

The introduction of the letter begins with a salutation, claiming that the letter is written by Paul and Timothy to “all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.” A blessing of grace and peace is given.

A thanksgiving and prayer is then given. Paul says that he thanks God when he remembers the Philippians and he prays for them with joy because of their long-standing partnership in the gospel. He says he’s confident that God will complete the good work he started in them until the day of Christ Jesus. Paul says he has them in his heart and they share God’s grace together in spite of his chains

Paul prays:

May your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Paul then discussed his own circumstances and offers encouragement for the church. Paul talks about his attitude towards his circumstances, saying that his troubles have served to advance the gospel and that the entire palace guard now knows that he is in chains for Christ, and that because of this the brothers and sisters in Christ have grown confident to proclaim the gospel.

Paul then says that some people preach the gospel out of envy and rivalry in order to try and cause trouble for Paul while he’s in chains, but that others do so out of goodwill and love. And he adds that what matters is that Christ is preached period.

Paul rejoices because he knows that because of the Philippians prayers and the power of the Spirit of Jesus what has happened to him will lead to his deliverance. He hopes that he will not be ashamed but have courage so that Christ will be exalted in his body in either life or death, saying, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He says it’s good to live because he will keep working… but dying is better because he will be with Christ. But he adds that he hopes to stay alive so that he can encourage the believers.

He then says that whatever happens they should conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. He’s not sure if he will ever see them again, but he knows that they stand firm in the one Spirit and are not frightened by opposition. Their courage is a sign that their enemies will be destroyed. He says it’s been granted to them to not only believe in Christ but also to suffer for him as Paul has. 

Chapter 2 

Paul then discusses the topics of humility and obedience. He says that if they are united with Christ then they should be united with each other, sharing the same Spirit in love and compassion. He says not to be selfish or vain but humble, looking out for others’ interests as much as their own. He points to the example of Christ’s humility. He tells them that in their relationships with one another, they should have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, and he sings about Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
–Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

He calls for them to continue to work out their salvation in fear and trembling through God who works in them – not only when Paul is there but also when he’s gone. He says to do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that they may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation” so that they will shine among them like stars in the sky as they hold firmly to the word of life. He says if they do this he will be able to boast about them on the day of Christ. He knows that he didn’t run the race in vain, even if he is poured out like drink offering in sacrifice, and so he rejoices with them.

Paul says that he hopes to send Timothy to them soon so that he can report back good news. He says that Timothy is unique in his genuine concern for their welfare. He says that people tend to worry about their own issues, but not Timothy – he has proved himself, working for the gospel as though he were Paul’s own son.

Paul then says he also plans to send back a man from among them named Epaphroditus who had worked for Paul. Epaphroditus wanted to return to Philippi because he missed them and he knew they were worried about him because he almost died from an illness. Paul says God spared him from death and saved Paul from yet another sorrow, and so he wants to send him back quickly in order to ease relations between all parties. He adds that they should honor Epaphroditus because he risked his life to make up for the help that the Philippians themselves could not provide. 

Chapter 3 

Paul then gives warnings against the false teaching of the Judaizers and to steer clear of their legalism. First, Paul says to rejoice in the Lord. Then he says to watch out for “those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.”

Paul’s solution is that they follow his own example. Paul says that it is the Church that is the true “circumcision” … “we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.” Paul adds that if anyone has a reason to put confidence in the “flesh” it is him… but he doesn’t.

He then lays out his Jewish credentials:

Circumcised on the eighth day
of the people of Israel
of the tribe of Benjamin
a Hebrew of Hebrews
in regard to the law, a Pharisee
as for zeal, persecuting the church
as for righteousness based on the law, faultless 

But he says that whatever he gained back then he now considers loss for the sake of Christ. He says, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage (Greek word here is stronger than “crap” but less vulgar than “s***”), that I may gain Christ and be found in him…”

He says his righteousness come from faith in Christ and is not from his own work at rule-following. He says, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” He says he hasn’t attained all of this yet, but that he strives to move forward in Christ rather than backward. He calls them to live up to what they have already attained, following his example.

He also says he weeps over those who are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose destiny is destruction, whose god is their stomach, and whose glory is their shame. In contrast to this earthly thinking, we are citizens of heaven and we eagerly wait Jesus’ return when he will bring everything under his control and will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. He tells them to stand firm in light of this. 

Chapter 4 

Paul then gives his final exhortations. He first addresses some disputes. He begs two women named Euodia and Syntyche to “be of the same mind in the Lord.” He asks for assistance with these women because they have worked for the Gospel along with Clement and others “whose names are in the book of life.”

He talks about the topics of joy and prayer. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

He then talks about how believers ought to think and live. He says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

And he adds, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Paul says he is happy that the Philippians have renewed their concern for him, and he adds that they must have always been concerned but were not able to show it. He adds that he doesn’t need anything from them – he is content in any circumstance, knowing what it’s like to be in need and to have plenty, to be hungry and to be well-fed, because he can do all things through him who gives him strength.

Paul thanks the Philippians for sharing in his troubles and for their donations, for no other church has donated since he left Macedonia. He adds that they donated multiple times when he was struggling is Thessalonica. He says he is not asking for more gifts, but rather he wants them to receive credit. He says he has more than enough in the gifts they sent with Epaphroditus to him.

He concludes, “They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

He then gives his final greetings and closing:

Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus.
The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings.
All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Monday, November 25, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Daniel 5-12

Readings for this week

Monday: Daniel 5
Tuesday: Daniel 6
Wednesday: Daniel 7
Thursday: Daniel 8
Friday: Daniel 9
Saturday: Daniel 10
Sunday: Daniel 11

Introduction to Daniel 5-12

Chapter 5 

Chapter 5 takes place under Belshazzar’s reign. According to historical records, Belshazzar served as co-regent with his father Nabonidus (perhaps because his dad was a little crazy). Belshazzar held a great feast for 1,000 of his nobles and it turned into a great drunken orgy. Belshazzar had the golden cups that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem used to serve the wine at the party. Suddenly, “the fingers of a human hand appeared” and wrote on the wall near the lamp stand. The King turned pale and could hardly stand. None of the King’s enchanters, astrologers, or diviners could interpret the writing on the wall.

Daniel interpreted the writing:

Mene --> “mina” (form of money/counting, numbers) --> “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end”

Tekel --> “shekel” (form of money/weights, measures) --> “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting”

Parsin --> “peres” (Persians/form of money/half-mina or half-shekel) --> “Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians”

Belshazzar gave Daniel a purple robe and a gold necklace. That night, King Belshazzar was killed and Babylon was conquered by the Medes and the Persians. The text says that Darius the Mede took over the throne of Babylon. Historical details about Darius the Mede are fuzzy, but he is associated somehow with Cyrus the Persian through the Median-Persian alliance. 

Chapter 6 

King Darius appointed rulers over his kingdom. He appointed 120 “satraps” who were overseen by three administrators. Daniel was an administrator. He was successful in his work, and Darius planned to make him second-in-command. The other rulers were jealous, and they tried to catch Daniel doing wrong but failed, so they used Daniel’s religion against him. They petitioned the king to sign a law decreeing that there would be 30 days of no prayer except prayer to Darius with death by lions as punishment for breaking law. The law was signed with the “seal of the Medes and Persians.” Daniel continued to pray 3 times a day and got caught. Daniel was cast to the lions and a stone was placed over the mouth of the den. Darius was greatly distressed, and said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” And he refused to eat, sleep, or be entertained. At dawn, Darius rushed to the lions’ den and called out, “Has your God been able to rescue you?” Daniel answered, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” Darius set Daniel free, and threw the schemers to the lions – they were “killed before touching the ground.” Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and Cyrus. 

Chapter 7 

Daniel had a dream about four beasts. This vision was apparently given to Daniel during the first year of the reign of King Belshazzar of the Babylonians, but Daniel kept it to himself at the time. The beasts are symbolic of different kingdoms.

Lion = Babylon 
Bear = Medes and Persians
Bear raised on one side = dominance of Persia 
Bear has three ribs in mouth = perhaps the three conquered kingdoms of Babylon, Egypt, and Lidia 
Leopard = Greece under Alexander the Great 
Leopard has four heads = four generals who replaced Alexander the Great
Leopard has four wings = four divisions of Greek Empire after death of Alexander the Great 
Beast with ten horns = Succession of leaders after Alexander 
The “boastful” little horn = Antiochus IV Epiphanes 

Daniel says that at the end of all of this, the Ancient of Days took His place and God’s Kingdom was given to His faithful people. 

Chapter 8 

Daniel had a vision of a ram and a goat. Daniel apparently received this vision in the third year of the reign of Belshazzar of Babylon, but kept it to himself at the time. The angel Gabriel assisted Daniel in interpreting the vision.

Powerful ram with two horns = The Empire of the Medes and Persians 
Goat with one large horn = Kingdom of Greece led by Alexander the Great 
Goat attacked ram and broke its horns = Alexander attacked Media-Persia and conquered it 
Four smaller horns replaced the large horn of the goat = four generals who replaced Alexander the Great 
Smaller horn that appears later = another leader with apparently supernatural abilities and a particular hate for God’s people, possibly Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Gabriel also said that this vision concerned “the time of the end.” The end of what? End of Greek rule? End of the wait for the Messiah? End of the world? He is not clear. 

Chapter 9 

This chapter is set during the first year of the reign of Darius. Here, the text says that Darius was the son of Ahasuerus, or Xerxes I (the king in the Esther story). In this chapter, Daniel recalls that Jeremiah had prophesied that the “desolation” of Jerusalem would last for 70 years. Daniel prays to God and confesses the sins of the people of Judah. He admits that they had broken covenant with God and so the curses of the covenant had come upon them. Daniel prayed that God would rescue His people from captivity and bring them to the Promised Land, just as He had done through Moses.

The angel Gabriel shows up and confirms that Jeremiah was right when he said that Judah’s punishment would last 70 years, but then he multiplies that number by seven in order to say that though the exile has ended after seventy years, the current era of trial and testing will continue for 490 years. He refers to this period as “seventy sevens” or seventy periods of Sabbath years (490 years). When this era ended, several things would happen: 

Time to finish transgression and put an end to sin 
Time to atone for wickedness 
Time to bring in wisdom and righteousness 
Time to seal up vision and prophecy 
Time to anoint the Most Holy Place

He then goes on to divide this era into periods of “seven sevens and sixty-two sevens” or 49 years and 434 years before “the end” would come in the final seven years. At the beginning of this era of 490 years, an order would given to rebuild Jerusalem and its Temple. This took place when the Persians took control of the world under Cyrus. After the first 49 years, the "Anointed One" would take his place in Jerusalem. This is probably referring the anointing of the High Priest Joshua and/or Governor Zerubbabel during the time of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. 434 later, a ruler would arise who would put the “Anointed One” to death. This happened when Antiochus came to power and murdered the High Priest Onias. This ruler would conquer Jerusalem and desecrate the Temple. He would make a “covenant” with the people for seven years, but halfway through it, he would put an end to the Jewish sacrifices and set up the “abomination of desolation.” At the very end of the 490 year era of trial and testing, Gabriel says that the Most Holy Place in the Temple will be anointed once again. This took place after the Maccabees retook Jerusalem from Antiochus and rededicated the Temple to Yahweh. 

Chapter 10 

Daniel had a vision of a man during the third year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia. Daniel saw a shiny man standing on the bank of the Tigris River. The people with Daniel didn’t see anything, but were suddenly filled with fear and ran away. Daniel fainted, but the man helped him up and gave him strength. He said that he had come in response to Daniel’s prayer, but that he had been detained for 21 days by the “prince of Persia” until Michael, one of the “chief princes,” showed up to help him. The shiny man said he was there to tell Daniel what would happen to his people in the future, saying that he would soon go off to fight against the prince of Persia, and then after him the prince of Greece would come. He also indicated that Michael was his only ally in this struggle, and that they had been allies since the first year of Darius the Mede. 

Chapter 11 

The shiny man continued talking. He said that Persia and Greece would eventually go to war with each other and Persia would lose. After the time of this great ruler of Greece (Alexander the Great), Greece would be divided up into four different kingdoms. Over many years, two of these kingdoms would continually go to war against each other. 

Kings of the North = Seleucid Greek rulers over Syrian lands 
Kings of the South = Ptolemaic Greek rulers over Egyptian lands 
The last King of the North = Antiochus IV Epiphanes 

Antiochus IV Epiphanes set up the “Abomination of Desolation” in the Temple of the LORD. This period of time would see a lot of trouble and persecution, especially during the last three-and-a-half years of the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The apocryphal books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees deal with the history of Judah during this time. The popular Jewish festival of Hanukkah also originated because of the events that took place during this time. We learn from John’s Gospel that Jesus later celebrated Hanukkah (the Feast of Dedication).

Chapter 12 

The shiny man says to Daniel:

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” 

“But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” 

“Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” 

“As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”