by Mike Ratliff
33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:33-35 NASB)
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 rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” What does that mean? To those who reject Jesus Christ, He is a stone of stumbling.
4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture:
“ Behold, I lay in Zion A choice stone, A precious corner stone,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
“ The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the very corner stone,”
“ A stone of stumbling and A rock of offense”;
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. (1 Peter 2:4-8 NASB)
Those who receive Jesus Christ are raised up.
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ ( by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-7 NASB)
What is Simeon speaking of when he said, “and for a sign to be 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, “to the end 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 while clinging to a false form of “christianity.”
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.
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty- four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38 NASB)
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.
I own 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.
Soli Deo Gloria!