by Mike Ratliff
And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:33-35 ESV)
Apostates, false teachers, those who seek redemption via religion, tares, and goats, have overrun the Church in our time. Since the beginning these people have been part of the visible Church, but now it appears that they have captured it and hold it prisoner. Much of the blame for this belongs to those who should be coming of age to lead the Church who have been compromised by humanistic teachings that make being a minister a “career move.” As a result these people are leading their churches further and further away from the real Jesus to follow one of their own making.
However, when Jesus was presented at the Temple for circumcision two of God’s people were led by the Spirit to prophesy about Him to Mary and Joseph and everyone who witnessed it. First Simeon came, led by the Spirit, to proclaim that this babe was the Messiah. After prophesying, Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph, telling them, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” What does that mean? To those who reject Jesus Christ, He is a stone of stumbling.
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” (1Peter 2:4-8 ESV)
Those who receive Jesus Christ are raised up.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:1-7 ESV)
What is Simeon speaking of when he said, “and for a sign that is opposed”? This statement is a form of synecdoche, which means that Simeon is referring to a subset or part of the rejection of Jesus as the Christ of God by the Jews while in fact referring to all of their actions that sprung from it. Their rejection rose much higher than verbal insults or mere opposition. It culminated in their supreme hatred of our Lord that eventually led to His crucifixion. Mary witnessed our Lord’s crucifixion. Simeon prophesied that that would pierce her own soul like a sword. Her own personal grief and agony while watching her first-born son die horribly is in focus here.
What did Simeon mean when he said, “so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” This is God’s work of dividing those who believe from those who don’t. This division reveals either His good work of giving saving faith to those who accept Him or the appalling apostasy of those who reject the Biblical Jesus as the Christ.
We lament the sad state of affairs in the Church in our time as we should. However, we must remember that God is using this to reveal the authenticity of the faithful in contrast to the apostasy of the merely religious. That is why we must hang onto our Lord Jesus Christ in our faithfulness by the power of the Holy Spirit no matter what “Christian leader” attempts to capture us and lead us into following them into destruction.
“And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38 ESV)
The title prophetess refers to a woman who spoke God’s Word. Anna was a teacher of Sacred Scripture. This title does not necessarily mean she was a source of revelation. However, she was a teacher of the Word, gifted by God. All teachers of the Word are given the gift of teaching. This means that they can hear the Word, study the Word, and then are able teach others the truth in the power of the Holy Spirit. Not everyone who preaches or teaches actually have this gift. Those who do and faithfully use their gifts for God’s glory alone will never teach people about another Jesus or misinterpret scripture along humanistic lines. Anna was not one of those. She was at least 84 years old. She was a widow who lived in the Temple. She spent all her time there serving God, praying, fasting, and teaching.
She arrived on the scene as Simeon prophesied. She heard the prophesy then understood that this babe was the long awaited Messiah. Her tender heart knew the truth because her spirit bore witness with the Holy Spirit that it was so. What did she do? She gave thanks to God because her deliverer had been born. The redeemer of all genuine believers was right before her eyes. She knew that the Old Testament prophecies about Him were being fulfilled in Him.
Are we following the Jesus that Simeon and Anna worshiped or are we following the humanistic Jesus of the apostate compromised church? The real Jesus saves sinners for whom He died. The other Jesus along with the untold numbers of facsimiles of him cannot save anyone, but they will lead their followers to destruction. God is using the division in the visible Church right now to test us. Will we remain faithful to our Lord or will we follow the popular, easygoing, humanistic Jesus whom the disingenuous follow? As this rift grows wider, do not be surprised if those who do not follow the crowds of people into the Purpose Driven deception or the Willow Creek downgrade or the New Evangelism are looked upon as trouble makers and divisive who want to keep the Church mired in the past.
My wife gave me a fantastic Christmas present this year. It is a 1560 Edition of the Geneva Bible. The English in it has not been modernized. The spellings from the 16th Century are intact. I love reading it because I have to concentrate and do research and work hard to dig into the passages in it. I am of the mind that God’s Word works best in our hearts when we dig into it rather than simply read it like just another book. Does this make me someone who is mired in the Reformation? Perhaps, but I highly recommend digging into the Word, seeking the treasure therein with a heart that deeply desires to hear from God. God says that if we will draw near unto Him, He will draw near unto us. If we will do this with penitent hearts bent on obedience in all parts of our lives then God will do a good work within us to draw us into His perfect light and change us so that we can serve Him in ways we could never imagine.