Part 3. Who is the Word Referring to?

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
 (John 5:39-40)

Since I began my faith life at the Sungrak Church, I grew up listening to the words of truth. However, people in other churches did not have the same experience. In the hymn we just sang, there was a line that goes, “Return to the Lord Jesus.” Do you know what the original lyrics were? “Return to Jehovah.” For us, this phrase feels awkward to sing as we wonder how to return to Jehovah now. The intention of this phrase is to express returning to God; however, in the Old Testament era, He was sometimes referred to as “God” and other times as “Jehovah.” Jehovah was used when referring to a specific one that appeared before their eyes, while “God” or Elohim was used when referring to the absolute God. Therefore, “God created the heavens and the earth” can also be expressed as “Elohim created the heavens and the earth,” but it is rare to use the expression “Jehovah created the heavens and the earth” because it is awkward. When He indeed appeared before them in person, they referred to Him as Jehovah.

The name of Jehovah is a memorial name. The memorial name is not commonly used, so it can be confusing. However, the term ‘title’ is more appropriate. The title means ‘to call’ in a sense. It is not a legal term but a name given to a designated one. This name of remembrance does not have legal authority. It is just a name created to refer to a specific one. Otherwise, they would be able to call to Him. “Oh, that’s the god who appeared before Abraham, who appeared before Abraham, Isaac, and who also appeared before Abraham, Jacob, you know that god…” Just like this, it is so complex to explain about this, so they designate the name on it. So every time this name is mentioned, they can immediately think of the one it refers to. When the name of Jehovah is referred to, his face can be visualized. Since we have not seen him with our own eyes, we cannot think of his image or appearance. However, when Moses heard the name “Jehovah,” he immediately visualized his face in his mind, and then when the Israelites heard it, they remembered the presence that appeared on Mount Sinai.

However, the one who can be seen with their naked eyes is not God our Father, but rather the One who sent Him is Father God. The One who is equal to the Father is Jesus, and He appeared as the Man in this world; this is what we believe, and it is our faith. Therefore, we are not returning to Jehovah but returning to Jesus; we are not returning to Moses and Elijah but to Jesus.

Then what were all the words revealed by Jehovah in the past? Those were all about Jesus Christ. Jesus also said, “These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.” Now we know the secret. Therefore, we have found the key to reading the Bible. Whether it is the words passed down by Jehovah or the books recorded by people inspired by the Holy Spirit, all of it is about the words of Jesus.

How did those who studied the Bible in the past read it? They placed special emphasis on the historical context and interpreted the scriptures based on the realities of that time period. They focused more on interpreting the historical background than on the biblical text itself. Therefore, while they were reading the Bible, they were actually learning about historical knowledge. This was the mainstream theological thinking in the 1970s and 1980s in the world.

For example, when they read Psalms, they never imagined connecting the content to Jesus Christ. “Why were the Psalms written in certain situations? David wrote these words under distress because he was being chased by his son and filled with sorrow.” They focused more on the situation of that period, so they naturally thought, “This is not a word given to me by God today, but simply something David said because of his circumstances at the time.” They could only get some lessons and knowledge from it.

We should not stop at this level. Jesus has already told us the key principle of how to read the Bible, saying, “All scriptures testify about me.” Those who recorded the Bible did not know this; some may have known, but only partially. But if we read the Bible with the principle of Jesus, we can clearly understand. And then, we can recognize that even the Passover is a representation of Jesus. If those people back then heard this, they would have found it ridiculous, thinking, “This is something we personally experienced. How can it be referring to Jesus 1,500 years later? This is nonsense.” Nevertheless, the Passover is about Jesus.

Also, the prophet Isaiah prophesied, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.” There were certain contexts when Isaiah spoke. There were several kings fighting against each other, so they asked Isaiah, “Can we win? What is the sign of victory?” He replied, “The sign will be that a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son.” Some people might say, “Look, this prophecy was only spoken in that context. How can you Christians interpret it as a prophecy about Jesus? It does not make any sense!” This is because they only focused on the situation at the time.

But we need to understand that God is the One who conducted all those situations from behind. How amazing! God uses not only human language but also human history as a metaphor to reveal Himself to us.

Usually, when we use metaphors to explain things, we use something in the world as a principle to illustrate it, but our God uses historical events as a metaphor. History is not created by a single person but by a multitude of people who consciously or passively work together to create it. However, all of this has become a prophecy in the hands of God, which is amazing! From this, we can know that God is the One who governs human history, and all of this history ultimately becomes a prophecy about Jesus Christ. We believe this and approach the Bible with this perspective. Therefore, when we read the Bible, we do not need to cling to the past historical background but consider them as all of this as a prophecy about the coming of Jesus Christ and what He will accomplish.

But we cannot stop there. If we only stop at Jesus Christ, we will only exclaim, “Wow, amazing!” and then it will end. However, we are people who experience these words being fulfilled in ourselves. Here, we must be careful not to gradually evolve from “the Bible is written for Jesus” to “the Bible is talking about me.” Last week, when Pastor Ki-Dong Kim was having a ‘Return to the Word’ special lecture, he said that some people took the word of God, “Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you” as words of comfort and encouragement from God to themselves. He sarcastically commented on those people. In other words, they arbitrarily placed the words on themselves, but these words are about Jesus Christ. Then what are these related to us today? The key point is here. We have now become a part of Jesus, and that is the main point. Otherwise, the Old Testament actually has nothing to do with us because all of it is about Jesus, not about us. But now, through baptism, we are united with Jesus and become one with Him, and so all the contents of the Old Testament now become words spoken to us. So, in Jesus Christ, those words are accomplished to us.

God promised Abraham, making him a blessing. He is a blessing. If you cannot understand this, when we say, “I am a blessing” or “You are a blessing,” it will seem absurd. Whether outside or in the church, when we say, “I am a blessing,” others will question you, “How can you be a blessing? Abraham is a blessing. God is a blessing itself, and Abraham is a blessing. That’s how it should be said.” But if you examine the original version of the Bible, you will find that Abraham is also a blessing itself. Therefore, what God actually said was, “Abraham, you are a blessing.” In the Korean version Bible calls him the source of blessings, but what the original version of the Bible says is, “You are a blessing.” Anyway, “You are a blessing, so all people will be blessed because of you.”

God referred to Paul as the blessing, and likewise, we become the blessing. In fact, this is referring to Jesus because everything is accomplished through Jesus, so Jesus is the true blessing. Now, because we are united with Jesus, we also become the blessing. Therefore, the words in the Bible become mine in Jesus Christ. Now all we have to do is strive to advance towards the Kingdom of Heaven.

Some people mistakenly think that the words of the Old Testament have all been abolished. The Koreans who are tightly bound by morality and ethics have a unique obsession with “I must be a good person,” and this concept is very strong within them. At the same time, they naturally assume that they are good people, and if they hear someone say that they are not good, they will suddenly become angry and furious. Whenever I see people saying this, it feels very awkward. Have you always thought of yourself as a good person? What are you good about? Even if you are very kind, you are still one of the people who killed Jesus. Even if you are very kind, you are only kind to certain people. The real standard is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the standard. Therefore, no matter how kind a person is when they come before Jesus Christ, they are not kind. They are all people who killed Jesus. But why do people still pretend to be very kind? However, people feel a great burden when it comes to being kind, which is very burdensome. Compared to the pressure of survival, the pressure brought by the concept of “I must be kind” may be greater. I do not know why this concept is so strong, and it leads them to forcefully accept the Law by also using the phrase “I must be kind.”

But the Law does not emphasize only the content of “being kind.” There are also laws in other religions that emphasize ethics and morality, not just the Law does. But more importantly, God gave the Law to fulfill the covenant with Abraham as I had promised, and it is called the terms. These terms and conditions, there are not only about ethics and morality but also about how we should treat God. Within that, not only ethics and morality but also murder is in the term. How can it be good for a mother to stone her own children to death, even if the Law does not consistently emphasize ethics and morality? How can this be considered ethical?

What all the Law talks about is Jesus: you can receive the blessing of Abraham by observing all of the Law. But because of man’s own limitations, it is impossible to fully obey the Law, and God is deeply aware of it. Therefore, to those who confess that they are sinners, God sent Jesus Christ to complete the Law and gave the Holy Spirit to accomplish what the Law could not do. Through this, the blessing of Abraham came upon us. Furthermore, the Law shows God’s character, so it not only enables us to learn many useful lessons but also becomes a law for us to serve God.

2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scriptures are inspired by God.” Scriptures here do not refer to the New Testament but to the Old Testament. “The Bible is God’s revelation, and it is useful to teach, to censure, to correct, to teach righteousness.” This means that after you have believed in Jesus, you must teach, rebuke, correct, and teach righteousness. So, when those who have been saved read the Old Testament, they are rebuked and recognize, “I should not have done this. It is wrong…” And they can be corrected, and their behaviors are becoming righteous. In other words, they can become a man who aligns with God’s will. Therefore, the pursuit is not merely contented with salvation but also to be like God and learn God’s character.

In the early stages of my marriage, my wife and I frequently argued during the first year. With so many decisions to make and responsibilities to fulfill, we each had our own jobs to focus on. Twenty-five is just entering the social age, but I was married at that age. So, I had so much to learn, should work to earn money, and also had to task the responsibility of married life. You can imagine how much pressure I am going to have! Thus, we had a lot of arguments back then. But now, we do not argue much, and we have found ways to avoid it because the two sides have become more and more alike in the process of learning from each other. We used to have very different perspectives, but now we have become remarkably similar. It is truly incredible. We say the same thing at the same time when we see something. It has occurred more than once or twice. Because we see the same things, listen to the same words, and eat the same food every day, our thinking is becoming more and more alike. It is strange how often we express the same thoughts at the same time. Sometimes, the message she sent me was exactly what I intended to send her. In this way, both sides gradually become more and more alike and understand each other’s thoughts in the process of grinding together. The same goes for us.

Once we become one with God, we need to gradually understand how God thinks and learn what He puts first. We need to understand how God works, what He likes, and what He dislikes. All of these are things we need to learn, and they are all recorded in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is not unrelated to Jesus. If we do not connect the Old Testament and Jesus, we will not gain anything. Nowadays, people often use academic terms such as “form criticism,” which simply means going back to the past. If we can treat all of these as words about Jesus Christ, then all of these words will be fulfilled in us.

During the years when the separation sect in our church, we happened to be studying the first and second Kings and the first and second Chronicles. We found that what was recorded there was surprisingly similar to our current situation. At the same time, the solutions and answers were also recorded. What to do at that time and what to do at this time were already written down, which is really shocking. If they read and understood them well, learning valuable lessons from them, they would not have committed such things and could firmly hold onto salvation. But because they did not study the Bible correctly, they forgot all these lessons from the past.

Since we emphasize the Gospel rather than the Law, some people might misunderstand and ignore the Law. However, this is incorrect because Jesus Himself emphasized, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” The issue is not following the example of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They, too, taught the Law, but what was their problem? What was the biggest difference between them and Jesus? They preached the Law without Jesus, which resulted in becoming hypocritical and trapped in human traditions. On the other hand, those who clearly understand that the Law is about the words of Jesus Christ will become like the Apostle Paul.

When Paul preached the gospel, he frequently referenced the Law. For example, what did he use parables to describe Jesus? It is what we usually say. When we connect Jesus with the Old Testament, what can you think of? It is that “Jesus is the Lamb.” This parable is to connect Jesus with the Old Testament. But those who do not know the Law do not understand the meaning of this sentence and will ask, “Jesus is the Lamb? Isn’t Jesus cute?” Also, those who eat lamb often ask, “Is Jesus delicious?” Such misunderstanding could occur in this manner.

However, those who have studied the Law know what the word “lamb” means. They not only sacrifice it but also slaughter it as a Passover lamb and offer it annually as an Azazel lamb. When John the Baptist said to Jesus, “Behold, this is the Lamb of God,” he might have said it about the sacrifice of the Azazel lamb. Sometimes the Bible also calls Jesus the Passover Lamb because, through Jesus’ blood, the plague has passed.

The Bible states, “Jesus is our propitiation.” How can someone who lacks understanding of the Law understand these words? The “propitiation” is that the Israelites eat together the sacrifices offered to God in the peace offering. In the peace offering, there are not only parts that God has received but also parts that people have left to eat. Consequently, Jews and we react very differently to the propitiation because we do not know about offerings, whether it is the burnt offering or the peace offering. Within the peace offering, the Jews dedicated certain parts to God, such as fat and innards, and then they ate the flesh which men desired to eat. So, their heart was filled with joy. Therefore, when it comes to “Jesus is the propitiation,” if we understand the significance of the peace offering, we would be filled with joy because it signifies our reconciliation with God and our unity with Him. Moreover, when we have Holy Communion, we break bread together as a way to remember Jesus’ words, “Eat my flesh.” He is our propitiation. Likewise, the difference between those who know the Law and those who do not know the Law is so great.

When we learned the Berea Academy, the word did shock us that “The Bible spoke about Me,” and the word of Jesus has opened our eyes to read the Bible. Then, we have to look at it with that eyes.

The Old Testament contains many valuable treasures and records them in great detail. During Paul’s ministry, someone asked him, “Why do you want to be appreciated and get money?” Then he answered, “I have never received money as appreciation; I preach the gospel at my own expense. Besides, even if I receive it, wouldn’t that be natural?” In the Old Testament, there is a saying, “Do not shut the ox’s mouth while he treads the corn.” It is written in the Law, regulation. Therefore, when oxen tread on harvested grain, they naturally consume some of the food on the ground. In some countries, including Korea, oxen are fitted with muzzles in order to prevent them from eating. However, the Jews permit oxen to eat while they are working freely, and that is not considered wasteful. It is well recognized by the Law of God. Why does the Law care so much about even oxen? It is actually something that is said to Jesus, and it is something that is said to those in Jesus. That is to say; it means do not hinder the mouth of those who are working for the sake of the gospel.

Usually, pastors are paid in the church and occasionally receive tokens of appreciation from some church members. However, some people might dislike this practice and attempt to hinder it by questioning, “Why do you take extra money privately when you are paid every month?” But the Bible tells us not to forbid it. Like this, the Old Testament contains many of the ways and principles of the church’s operation.

Therefore, everything that happened in the Old Testament is meaningful in Jesus, and none of it is disposable. It is infinite, and it is reflected in the New Testament. So, to discover the meaning of these things, reference to the Old Testament can be of great help.

Last week we learned about Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks (Festival of Harvest), Feast of Ingathering, and Feast of Tabernacles, and we can relate them to Jesus Christ as we learn their spiritual meanings. Passover represents Jesus who was killed, Jesus who bled. And the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Jesus enjoined us against leaven, the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Although they preach the Law, Jesus says that it is his own teaching, the Law that Jesus is missing eventually leads to the doctrine of hypocrites, so Jesus discards it. In this sense, Jesus abolishes the Law. Therefore, the Feast of Unleavened Bread represents Jesus, who abolished the Law. In other words, Jesus, who completed the Law.

The Feast of Firstfruits represents Jesus as the firstfruit of the resurrection. After fifty days, it came to the Festival of Harvest, that is, the Feast of Weeks, which was the day of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came because Jesus went to Heaven. Jesus promised us, “When I go to the kingdom of heaven, I will ask the Father to send down the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, this feast indicates Jesus, who ascended to Heaven. Next is the Feast of Ingathering, which means harvesting crops in a barn. When Jesus will come again and gather the harvest, He will be to gather them all in the barn. Just like that, Jesus will keep all of us who believe in Jesus where He is, where the Father of Jesus Christ was. Therefore, the Feast of Ingathering represents Jesus Christ, who is coming again.

Following that is the Feast of Tabernacles. When the Israelites had finished the Feast of Ingathering and had received all the corn in the barn, they were full of wine and food and were at ease. In order not to let their heart be grease marked, that is to say, to prevent them from being arrogant, God instructed them to dwell in tabernacles reminding their past. For seven days, God made them dwell there, prompting them to reflect on their past lives and acknowledge that all these things were not gained by their own efforts but a result of God’s immense grace.

Furthermore, God made them remember that their physical life on Earth was nothing more than a life in a tent, despite the abundant assistance they received from God. As Paul also said, “If we take off the tents of this earth, we shall have the tents of that day,” the tents of the Earth are like thatched tents, and our true dwelling place is in Heaven. Therefore, let us hold on to the hope of living in the Kingdom of Heaven so that the promise of God may be fulfilled, “I will be your God, live among you, and be your God forever.” Ultimately, this shows Jesus, who fulfilled the blessing of Abraham, and Jesus Christ with us forever in Immanuel.

How astonishing! All these six feasts were prophecies of what Jesus Christ would fulfill in the future. Since all these have been accomplished, the real hero has come to fulfill. Then all of His words will be fulfilled. So when He said, “I will come again, and receive you to me,” it will undoubtedly be fulfilled. At that time, He will reward each person according to what they have done.

So, what is important to us? First of all, let’s look at what Jesus emphasized. Does He emphasize quantity or number? Quantity is God’s responsibility, and now He demands a hundred, sixty, thirty times fruit from us, with special emphasis on number, which is God’s concern. Therefore, it is said, “The glory of the king belongs to the people.” 144, 000 in the Book of Revelation is the number of the people of Israel, whereas the number of the Gentiles is uncountable so that no one can count them. We now use number units up to trillions, trillions above quadrillion, and so on; there are many, all originating from India. However, regardless of the magnitude of the number of units, it is impossible to count the number of Gentiles. This cannot be counted in any country or national dialect in this world. So, the number of people in Heaven is unimaginable. Maybe anyone who believes in Jesus can go to Heaven. Paul said the same thing. “I criticize you so harshly, but I believe you have more than enough room to go to heaven.” But the problem is that everyone in Heaven will be placed on a different level. Some people cannot get close to Jesus and even cry and gnash their teeth there. They will shed more tears than they ever did on Earth. What would it be like to weep in Heaven?

However, anyone who serves God patiently, faithfully, and persistently will not have to weep and gnash their teeth. Now we have to worry about how close Jesus will be in the Kingdom of Heaven because God has promised us that His Word will come true.

Just like now, if we look back, we can see that God’s promises have been fulfilled. Similarly, when we go to Heaven and look back on the word of the Lord, we find, “Wow! That is amazing! It has been accomplished as expected!” So let us accept the word of the Lord for that day! So let us pray for inspiration to know the Bible, and let’s practice it. And pray for all of our teams so our work of spreading the seed mission will progress well.

Thank you, Father, for allowing us to know God correctly and for filling our hearts with the joy of knowing God so that we may speak this word boldly. Help us so that we can all be evangelists to souls who do not know the truth. To this end, strengthen our church. Thank you, Lord! Pray in the name of Jesus! Amen!

Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
Lunch prayer meeting, Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on June 10, 2019
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team