Upon This Rock

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This post began to be written in September 1986. I had recently turned 18 years old. I had a very strange dream that night. I dreamt that I was at Graceland Baptist Church, outdoors in front of the Prayer Chapel. It was storming fierce, with hail coming down all around me and killing people around me. This storm did not feel like any storm that would even be possible on earth. I felt like a storm om another planet, like a storm that might occur on Jupiter or Venus. There was a downward wind blowing – blowing so hard that it pushed me to the ground on my stomach. It pushed so hard that I could not get up. I felt hail hitting me but I was not harmed. I could feel and hear people all around me getting killed by that same hail.

I wondered what could possibly cause such a storm. I was instantly in the back parking lot between the church building and the school building. I was still on my stomach, but I could raise myself a few feet off the ground. There was a man in front of me lying on his back. He had apparently lost his legs from this storm. His legs extended only to the thigh portion above the knees. I would meet this man in real life ten years later. In real life he is an anointed man of God with years of experience in prophetic ministry. In the dream he answered my question. He referred to a demonic prince that he called the Evil Spectre as the power behind this storm. I said I must confront him.

In the next instant I was in the hallway/locker area of the school building. I see a hooded figure that looked like the grim reaper. I began to grow fearful, but I resolve to face him. I said to myself that “I must face the music.”  He pulls out a silver gun and fired three fiery red bullets at me. Two of them hit my center chest bone and the third hits my heart, but I am not harmed. In the next instant he is immediately in front of me, trying to choke me. We wrestle in place for what seemed to be several seconds. During this time the lockers fade away and the hallway morphs into a cave. I look to my left and I see a smoothed corner that looked like mason worker finished it, but there was no human hand involved in its manufacture. I then hear a voice saying “Jesus is the cornerstone, hit his head against the corner of the wall!!!” I then repeatedly strike the head of this demonic prince against the corner. I do not remember how many times I struck his head against that corner, but at the final blow his skull collapsed and my right hand made contact with the corner. I killed this powerful demon using Christ, the cornerstone, as my weapon.

In the years to come I had a deep consciousness that Christ must be the rock. I struggled with the how. The answer to this question is much trickier than some naive analyses would suggest. There are two classes of answers that are wanting.

One class, sometimes discussed under the label “Arminian,” puts the onus on what we do with the grace of God. If I have the power to “make Jesus Lord,” then I am the one in charge. If I “appropriate the grace of God,” then it is ultimately up to me. I am ultimately the foundation. There is another class of answers, sometimes discussed under the label “Calvinism,” that emphasizes the  Sovereignty of God to the exclusion of human agency and free agency.  This solves the problem of hoe Christ is the foundation but tells us little about how God actually moves in the world. While God certainly can  move independently of human action and intentionality, His normal activity in the world is mediated through both  human actions and the use of free will to make decisions relevant to salvation and sanctification. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, God “works in us so we can both will and do His good pleasure (4:13). With this in mind, it should be noted that Christ could have stepped into the dream and killed the demon for me. He instead provided me everything I needed for victory and spoke His word to me to instruct me on how to get the victory.

On Thursday, May 21, 2020, at about 4:15AM, on the 39th anniversary of my earthly father’s death, the word of the Lord came to me in the moments before I woke up. It is also noteworthy that May 2020 on the Gregorian Calendar has an identical calendar configuration to May 1981.

At 4:15AM, just before I woke up, the Word of the Lord came to me saying “Upon this rock (confession), I will build My Church.” This is Matthew 16:18, with the word confession interpolated. The pondering the meaning of this word led me to a renewed study of Matthew 16:18, comparing it with other relevant Scriptures to show how we can build with Christ as the Rock.

Matthew 16 begins with an account of an encounter with some Pharisees in which they ask for a sign from Heaven:

The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

-Matthew 16:1-4 KJV

Christ Jesus rebuked them here. He first appealed to their natural reason concerning the weather to make an analogy. If they could use their observation to discern the weather, why could they not consult the Scripture to discern that this is the time of the Messiah. Had they read Daniel 9, they should have known that their generation was the generation. They could have, with a modicum of research, realized that Jesus was born in the exact town that the Messiah would be born and was of the correct lineage – of the House of David.

Any recognition of Jesus’ lineage, however, would put a big damper on their gravy grain. The House of David at this time was politically and economically marginalized. These leaders, by accepting Jesus as the rightful heir to the Throne of King David, would have to take a back seat in their cushy arrangement with Rome. Their desire for a sign was birthed in their rejection of God’s Word and a desire to plug the Kingdom of God into their existing carnal paradigm that kept them privileged. They were not prepared to give up their gig even though the new world that would open up for them would be much bigger than their current whale in a sauna existence.

Jesus does promise one sign – the sign of the prophet Jonah. Elsewhere He connect this to the Cross. as Jonah was temporarily in the belly of the whale for three days and nights, Jesus would be buried in the earth. The Cross means the end of life in this world, and the resurrection open up access to new world of in finite possibilities that lay beyond this present world but occasionally manifest in this world.

Jesus was spiritually minded and had a vision of these realms far beyond this world. He knew how these realities can transform this world and of the glory of the age to come. He was frustrated that the Jewish religious leaders could not see these things. He, with his disciples, proceeded to make a trip on the sea of Galilee. He would soon be frustrated at His disciples lack of vision. The disciples forgot to bring bread for the journey. While they were nearing their destination, Jesus begins to speak spiritually. He warned them to “beware the leaven of the Pharisees.” Jesus was warning them against making the Word of God relative to their absolutized carnal thought processes. What did the disciples do? They  responded  by making these words relative to their carnal thought processes.  The disciples began to immediately discuss among them selves about whether He said that because they brought no bread. The disciples were thinking in purely carnal terms.

And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

-Matthew 16:5-12 KJV

Christ rebuked them for lack of faith. He first brings to their remembrance the miracles where bread was multiplied. Physical bread was a trivial concern to Him as He could create an unlimited quantities of bread ex nihilo by speaking the Word of Faith. He then plainly states that the leaven was not in reference to bread. The disciples then realized that it was the Pharisees doctrine.

While the disciples realized it was the Pharisees’ doctrine Jesus was warning against, they did not yet have the full answer. When they reached their destination, Jesus get to the point. He asks them several questions about who He is. It is here that Peter confesses “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

-Matthew 16:13-20 KJV

Jesus boldly proclaims “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” The three operative terms here are Peter (petros), rock (petra), and church (ekklesia). Jesus does a word play here with rock. Petros is masculine and is always translated Peter. Petra is feminine and is usually translated as rock. It should be apparent that Peter himself is not the rock. If Christ had wished to communicate any idea remotely close to Peter as the father of an apostolic succession, He would have employed the masculine gender in both instances. By employing the feminine form He was distinguishing petra from Petros.  Petra is like petros in that they are linked ontologically (metaphysically), but it is not the personage of Peter but his confession of Christ that is the rock. It is Christ, as the rock, who reveals God’s Word. Peter’s confession of that Word grounds Peter in Christ the Rock. Peter’s confession did that for him, and our confession  of Christ’s word will do that for us.

Scripture also speaks of the rock of the church in the writing of  Peter himself. He writes by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Peter proclaims that Christ is the cornerstone and states the purpose of the church – God’s ekkelsia. Ekklesias were legal assemblies in Greco-Roman times. The Church is a legal assembly constituted to confess or testify to Christ before the Throne of God.

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

-1 Peter 2:5-9 KJV

In this passage the purpose of God’s ekkkesia is stated at both the beginning and the end. At the beginning we find an ekklesia whose purpose is to “offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. ”  What are spiritual sacrifices. We get an answer at the end of this passage, where the purpose of the ekklesia is reiterated as “shew[ing] forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” Spiritual sacrifices are sacrifices of praise.

Scripture uses the phrase  “sacrifice[s] of praise” in three passages. What is a sacrifice of praise? Unlike the animals that were killed for sacrifices in the Old Testament, it is not the praise itself that is killed. The New Testament, Romans 12:1-2, speaks of bring transformed by the renewing of our minds and to present our selves as living sacrifices.In Jeremiah 17 “sacrifices of praise” is revealed in a textual parallel that draws a contrast between trusting God and trusting the flesh. Verses 5 through 8 draw a sharp contrast between trusting God and trusting in  the flesh.

Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

-Jeremiah 17:5-8 KJV

Immediately after this the Lord instructs Jeremiah that He is testing people, trying them to see what is in them, whether they will trust Him or not. God does not go by people “feels” or whims. He tests us by trying our works to see what we really believe. In verses 9-10 we read “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?  I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. ” Upon hearing Jeremiah prays for  God to save him. Jeremiah knows that no one will make it by his works. After his prayer God answers with another parallel of contrast. God contrasts  hallowing the sabbath to working and engaging in commerce on the sabbath. Why is God singling out the sabbath here? Remember what He said about searching the heart. He is using the law of the sabbath to reveal what is in the heart of man. Was Israel going to trust God and rest in  that or resort to their own works of the flesh.

And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates: Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction. And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein; Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever. And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD.

-Jeremiah 17:20-26 KJV

For those who trust in the Lord, God brings restoration of the land and the temple in  which people bring sacrifices of praise. We see this promise revisited where a desolated Israel is restored and the temple rebuilt where “sacrifices of praise” are offered. This raises one question: if Israel is already restored, how are these praises a sacrifice?

Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth. And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me. And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it. Thus saith the LORD; Again there shall be heard in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast, The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD.

-Jeremiah 33:6-11 KJV

In both places in Jeremiah where the term “sacrifice of praise[s]” is used, it follows restoration. Hebrews turns this on its head in a major paradigm shift in the New Testament. We are to go “outside the camp” to offer sacrifices of praise. Hebrews in particular emphasizes our condition as aliens on earth.

We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

-Hebrews 13:10-16 KJV

Hebrews here points to the temple in Heaven when it says “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.” The earthly temple was still in operation at the time of the writing of this epistle. The offering of sacrifices of praise precedes our earthly restoration because it is directed at Heaven. Christ, through the cross, seated us in Heaven and gave  us access to the Heavenly sanctuary. Here we offer up sacrifices of praise – and according to this  text – give thanks to His name. These sacrifices of praise are indeed post- restoration as Christ has provided everything and accomplished a finished work through the Cross. The reality of everything God is going to do is already set in his Word. To use quantum mechanical language, it is front-loaded into the wave-function. We offer up sacrifices of praise s a sanctified, restored people. They are sacrifices because we are offering them while our earthly experience has yet to see these realities.

Making sacrifices of praise involves praising Him for setting you free when you are still in bondage in your earthly experience.

Making sacrifices of praise involves praising Him for your financial blessings when you are still in a pauper in your earthly experience.

Making sacrifices of praise involves praising Him for giving you joy when your earthly experience is one of depression.

We are to speak to each situation what he Word of God says and hold fast to that Word precisely at the point where earthly experience waxes the most contradictory. Faithfulness in such sacrifices releases supernatural power.

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