Saturday, February 27, 2021

Saturday Synaxis

Arise, O Lord, and shine
In all Thy saving might,
And prosper each design
To spread Thy glorious light:
Let healing streams of mercy flow,
That all the earth Thy truth may know.
Bring distant nations near,
To sing Thy glorious praise;
Let every people hear
And learn Thy holy ways:
Reign, mighty God! Assert Thy cause,
And govern by Thy righteous laws.
- from #603 in the Augustine Hymn Book, 19th century

Friday, February 26, 2021

Bible Study Resources: The Seventy Weeks of Dan. 9

 (Note: the following is a handout prepared for one of our church's Bible studies, which lays out detailed interpretive options for Daniel's vision of the seventy weeks in Dan. 9:24-27)

Icon of the Prophet Daniel, 14th cent.

-        A total period of seventy “weeks” of years is prophesied (i.e., 490 years total, though it is possible the numbers are symbolic instead of literal)

-        This period will culminate with the “end of sin, atoning of wickedness, and bringing in everlasting righteousness” (v.24)

-        The seventy weeks begin from the issuing of a decree to rebuild Jerusalem (v.25)

-        Three divisions of the weeks are envisioned: the first seven weeks, then sixty-two weeks (though these two together might just constitute a single period of 69), and then a final week, which is divided into two 3½-year periods

-        An “anointed one” (literally, Messiah/Christ) will come at the end of the first 69 weeks (this figure is sometimes also referred to as a “ruler/prince,” as in v.25)

-        The Anointed One will be “cut off” at this time (v.26)

-        A “ruler/prince” comes at this time (possibly just another name for the Anointed One because the same title is used of him in v.25, or possibly a different character altogether), and after instituting a covenant of some kind, an end of sacrifices, war, and destruction will result (vv.26-27) in the final week.

o   Please keep in mind: the terms used in v. 27 can be legitimately translated in a number of different ways, allowing for plausible fulfillments in any of the interpretations below


Interpretive Option #1: Fulfillment in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabees

-        The prophecy views the period between King Cyrus’ decree allowing the Jews to return to their homeland (539/538 BC) to the period of the Maccabees (167-160 BC) – this results in a total of about 380 years, which means the seventy sevens must refer to symbolic time periods, not an exact tally of literal years

-        The first seven weeks might refer to the time period between the Temple’s destruction under the Babylonians (586 BC) until the re-consecration and anointing of a new high priest (possibly Joshua the priest, a character known from other Old Testament books)

-        The period of sixty-two weeks, then, would be the time in which there were anointed priests in the rebuilt Temple, a period that would end with the murder of high priest Onias III by the followers of the wicked Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes around 170 BC. Onias III, then, would be the “anointed one” who was “cut off.”

-        Antiochus Epiphanes would correspond to the second mention of a “ruler/prince” character (v.26), and his actions, over a roughly seven-year persecution (after affirming a “covenant” with apostate Jews who abandoned their religion), resulted in the end of sacrifices to God and the desecration of the Temple.

-        This interpretation fits well with several other places in Daniel, which focus significant attention on prophecies regarding the time of the Maccabees (as, for example, in Dan. 8:19-25), and fit very well with other descriptions of Antiochus; however, the vast majority of the Christian tradition sees this passage as finding its fulfillment in Christ. As with many other Old Testament prophecies, it is possible that it has a partial fulfillment in earlier events (the Maccabean period), but a complete and final fulfillment in later events (the coming of Jesus Christ).

Interpretative Option #2: Fulfilment in Jesus Christ

-        Most interpretations pointing to Jesus accept the seventy sevens as a literal set of numbers. (There are, however, some Christian interpretations that allow the numbers to be symbolic rather than exact: in such cases, the first seven weeks would signify the period of Jerusalem’s rebuilding after the exile, with the next sixty-two weeks being the interim period between the Old Testament and the New). In the traditional Christian interpretations, the first seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks are often taken together as a single period of 69 weeks (483 years).

-        The starting-point of the prophecy (“from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem”) is usually taken as one of the two declarations of King Artaxerxes to this effect (earlier decrees by other Persian kings had to do with the end of exile or the construction of the Temple, but not specifically with the rebuilding of Jerusalem itself):

o   Artaxerxes’ decree in 457 BC + 69 weeks of years = late 20s AD, which may correspond roughly to the time of Jesus’ baptism and the beginning of his ministry

o   Artaxerxes’ decree in 445 BC + 69 weeks of years (using a possible ancient calendar of 360 days per year) = early 30s AD, which may correspond to Jesus’ death and resurrection

-        The final week of years, the 70th week, can be interpreted in several different ways:

o   A few interpret it as the period of Jesus’ ministry (for the first 3 ½ years) to the scattering of the Jerusalem church by persecution (the second 3 ½ years) in Acts.

o   Others see it as Jesus’ ministry (3 ½ years), then a gap during the apostolic age, and then the final 3 ½ years in the Jewish war against Rome (67-70 AD), up to the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple, since the language of “desolation” and “abomination” in Daniel 9 relate better to that event than to the persecution of the early church.

o   Still others, who see Jesus’ ministry as ending with the end of the 69th week, see the final seven in the full span of the Jewish war (67-73 AD), with the destruction of Jerusalem in the middle (70 AD).

o   A popular current position has Jesus’ ministry as the end of the 69th week, and then a very long interim throughout the church age before the 70th week begins (at some future point) with the coming of the Antichrist in the end times.

-        The characters of verses 26-27 can be read in two different possible ways:

o   1.) Jesus may be both “the Anointed One” and the “ruler/prince” throughout the passage (verses 25 & 26). In this scheme, it’s important to note that Daniel says it is the people of the ruler, not the ruler himself, who bring on the destruction of the city and Temple (that is, the Jews’ actions in their revolt against Rome). The “covenant with many” would be Jesus’ establishment of the New Covenant, and his “end to sacrifice” would be his death on the cross, rendering the Temple sacrifices empty. The final phrase of v.27 can be translated as “and on the wing of abominations will come the desolator, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator.” In such a case, it is clear that Jesus as the ruler/prince does not cause abominations or become the desolator; rather, the Jews cause the abominations of war, and the “desolator” is Vespasian, Titus, and the Romans.

o   2.) Alternatively, Jesus might be the “Anointed One” and the first “ruler/prince” mentioned in v.25, but not the “ruler/prince” mentioned in v.26. In this scheme, the second ruler/prince would be an Antichrist-type figure, either Vespasian/Titus/Romans in a 70 AD fulfillment, or a final Antichrist in a future fulfillment, who causes abominations, desolations, and an end to Temple sacrifices.

Bottom Line: This prophecy shows an astonishingly accurate prediction of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Anointed One. His ministry occurs exactly within the window of 69x7 years after the decree of King Artaxerxes for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, just as predicted by Daniel hundreds of years beforehand. And with the coming of Christ, as Daniel foretells, comes “the end of sin, atoning of wickedness, and bringing in everlasting righteousness” (9:24). The passage also includes hauntingly accurate portrayals of destruction and judgment that recur in cycles of fulfillment during the Maccabean revolt (160s BC), the Jewish war against Rome (70 AD), and possibly also in the end times.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Heroes of the Faith: Charles Finney & D.L. Moody

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9

Charles Finney: Basic Facts

 - Charles Finney (1792-1875) was an evangelist in the Second Great Awakening. He preached at revivals across the US and Britain, and claimed 500,000 conversions.

- Originally trained as a lawyer, his preaching followed the pattern of a law argument: carefully reasoned, and calling for a decision one way or the other at the end.

- He emphasized human responsibility to respond to God’s call, and, like many Christian leaders of his day, he believed that the growth of the church and the reformation of society would usher in the return of Christ (postmillennialism). But his greatest impact was not in his theology, but his practices of revival preaching. He preached often about hell, instituted the practice of ‘altar calls’ and ‘anxious seats,’ did away with pew rents, and encouraged lay witnessing and the greater involvement of women in public worship.

- Finney’s most famous book was his Lectures on Revivals of Religion, which is said to have inspired the great Welsh revivals of the 1840s.

- Finney’s theology contributed to the influential Holiness and Keswick movements, which emphasized the possibility of complete obedience to God.

- Finney ended his career at Oberlin College, which led the way in women’s rights and the abolition of slavery.

Quotes from Finney

“Revival comes from heaven when heroic souls enter the conflict determined to win or die—or if need be, to win and die!”

“A revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God.”

“When sinners are careless and stupid, and sinking into hell unconcerned, it is time the church should bestir themselves. It is as much the duty of the church to awake, as it is for the firemen to awake when a fire breaks out in the night in a great city.”

D. L. Moody: Basic Facts

- D. L. Moody (1837-1899) was an evangelist who spoke at revival meetings across the US and Europe. Though originally an impoverished shoe salesman with only an elementary-school-level education, he became an internationally-known speaker who presented the Gospel to 100 million people.

- His early work involved social outreach with the YMCA and a Sunday School program in Chicago, but when the great Chicago fire of 1871 burned down his ministry-buildings, he decided to become a traveling evangelist.

- Moody differed from Finney on several counts: he gave little emphasis to doctrinal theology (preferring to focus on the big picture), almost never preached about hell (preferring to focus on the love of God), and rarely used altar calls or pressed for immediate decisions (believing that it was the Spirit’s task, not his, to prompt a decision of faith).

- Moody, unlike Finney, was inspired by premillennialism—a new and more pessimistic view of the end-times that put greater stress on saving souls.

- Moody pioneered some new revival-meeting techniques: co-operation among local churches, and the featuring of a gospel soloist. (Moody’s own musical partner was Ira Sankey, whose hymns remain popular today.)

- Moody’s legacy includes several colleges, seminaries, and publishing houses. He was influential in launching the Student Volunteer mission movement of the early 20th century.

Quotes from Moody:

 “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”

“Faith makes all things makes all things easy.”

“It is the greatest pleasure of living to win souls to Christ.”

“God never made a promise that was too good to be true.”

“The law tells me how crooked I am. Grace comes along and straightens me out.”

“There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”

“The monument I want after I am dead is a monument with two legs going around the world—a saved sinner telling about the salvation of Jesus Christ.” 


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Photo of the Week







Be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

- 1 Peter 4:7b-8

Monday, February 22, 2021

Quote of the Week

"The purpose of our creation is that we may know the majesty of our Creator. Our business is to know God, and to love him above all else... The principle work of our attention is to seek God, to affectionately desire God, and to settle down nowhere else other than in God."

- John Calvin, from his Instruction in Faith

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Saturday Synaxis


Great Ruler of all nature's frame, we own Thy pow'r divine:
We hear Thy breath in every storm, for all the winds are Thine.
Thy mercy tempers every blast to them that seek Thy face;
And mingles with the tempest's roar the whispers of Thy grace.
Those gentle whispers let me hear, till all the tumult cease;
And gales of paradise shall lull my weary soul to peace.

- Philip Doddridge

Friday, February 19, 2021

Big Questions and the Bible: An Invitation

This past year, because of Covid restrictions, the midweek Bible study I do at church has migrated to online videos that we post to our church's Facebook and Youtube pages (to find them, simply search for Second Baptist Church of Calais on each site). Having completed a study of Hebrews, I'm now starting up an open-ended question-and-answer study series. I'll be tackling a range of topics, all having to do with "big questions" that come up about the Bible, theology, or Christian living, and we'll look for answers together in the pages of Scripture. But I want this series to be participatory, as much as is possible, so I'm opening it up for anybody to submit a question to be covered in the video study. If you have a question you'd like to see me answer, simply send it my way via the "Pastor Matt" email address listed at the bottom of our church's contacts page ( 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Heroes of the Faith: The Judsons & the Burma Mission

“As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments, and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as imposters; known yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”  – 2 Corinthians 6:4-10

Adoniram & Ann Judson: Basic Facts

- Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) was part of the first group of foreign missionaries sent out from North America, and founded the first long-term Protestant mission to Burma (Myanmar). Burma at the time was a powerful and xenophobic Buddhist empire, seen as the most dangerous mission territory in the Far East. (For a complete assessment of his missionary work, click here to read my paper on the subject, posted in four sections on this blog.)

- Judson and his wife Ann suffered through the constant threat of persecution, multiple waves of tropical diseases, the deaths of their two children, and a long imprisonment in a Burmese jail, all for the sake of making a few converts from among the ever-suspicious Burmese.

- Over the course of his four-decade ministry in Burma, Judson translated the entire Bible and created a Burmese-English dictionary.

- Although starting out as a Congregationalist, Judson became a Baptist and soon was a regarded as a Baptist hero and a celebrity in the US.

Themes of Judson's Life and Ministry:

Faith and Doubt – Judson, a pastor’s son, had a period in college where he gave up his faith and became a Deist (belief in a Creator, but nothing else). He was brought back to faith through a chance meeting with a deist friend who was on his deathbed. Throughout his life, he would go through dark periods of questioning and depression, but he never lost his faith again.

Trust in God’s Providence – Judson and his friends had to help build the infrastructure of support for sending foreign missionaries from America. Even though the system often failed, Judson never lacked for food or resources during his mission in Burma.

Perseverance – For the Judsons, giving up and going home was never an option, though many other missionaries in their situation did that very thing. They felt that they were called by God to this work, and that the salvation of even just one Burmese was worth it all.

Ambition and Humility – Judson knew his mission would give him a place in history; at the beginning, it may have been one of his driving motives. By the end of his career, when he realized that he was a celebrity in the US, he knew only too well how unworthy he was.

Suffering – In the Christian life, suffering is the cost of true discipleship—but God is still with us.


“The future is as bright as the promises of God.”

“I can assure you that months and months of heart-rending anguish are before you, whether you will or not. Yet take the bitter cup with both hands, and sit down to your repast. You will soon learn a secret, that there is sweetness at the bottom.”

“The motto for every missionary, whether preacher, printer, or school-master, ought to be: ‘Devoted for Life’.”

Adoniram’s letter to Mr. Hasseltine, asking permission to marry his daughter Ann: “I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to see her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of perishing immortal souls?”

George & Sarah Boardman:

- The Boardmans, from Maine and New Hampshire, joined Judson’s Burma mission in 1827. They began to evangelize the Karen people, an isolated native tribe living in the hill country, and they met with vast success. The Karen, because of their folk traditions, were well prepared to receive the Gospel. George passed away early in the mission, but Sarah continued on for years, eventually becoming Adoniram Judson’s second wife.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Photo of the Week

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, 
 and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

- Psalm 130:5-6

Monday, February 15, 2021

Quote of the Week

"For many, it is prosperity of life that constitutes the greatest trial."

- Basil, fourth-century theologian, echoing Christ's and Paul's warnings on wealth

Friday, February 12, 2021

A Selection from Matt's Poetry-Prayer Journal

Bless us, O Lord,
In all our innocent endeavors,
And may even our guilty ones
Become avenues of your grace.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Heroes of the Faith: Robert Morrison & the First Protestant Mission to China

Through [Christ] we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. – Romans 1:5

The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”  – Acts 5:27-29

Robert Morrison: Basic Facts

- Robert Morrison (1782-1834) was an early British missionary to China and an early translator of the Bible into Chinese. He learned Chinese in a period when the Chinese government had made it illegal for foreigners to be taught the language, and when no language-learning aids like dictionaries or grammars existed.

- Morrison was the first Protestant missionary to China, but there had been two other major Christian mission efforts there previously: the Nestorian Church of the East had spread the Gospel in China from the 8th to 10th centuries AD, and the Roman Catholics (particularly through the Jesuits) had been there in the 17th and 18th centuries.

- Morrison’s Bible translation enabled a new wave of missions and church growth in China to take off.

Timeline of Morrison's Life and Ministry:

At age 15, Robert Morrison dedicated his life to Christ, and two years later was convicted of a missionary calling after reading a Christian magazine. His great desire was to go to either Africa or China—he prayed “that God would station him in that part of the missionary field where the difficulties were greatest, and, to all human appearances, the most insurmountable.”

1804 – After several years of ministry training, Morrison was accepted as a worker for the London Missionary Society. He committed himself to going to China, prompted by the challenge of translating the Bible into Chinese. The East India Company, which controlled British interests in China, remarked that “the undertaking was a practical impossibility.” Another missionary later said that learning Chinese “requires bodies of iron, lungs of brass, heads of oak, hands of spring steel, eyes of eagles, hearts of apostles, memories of angels, and lives of Methuselah.” But Morrison set about learning the language nonetheless

1807 – The East India Company—the only British service with access to China—refused to allow missionaries to work in its areas of interest. So Morrison had to travel to China on neutral vessels, sailing first to the USA, then all the way around South America and across the Pacific, arriving in Canton in September of 1807. He immediately engaged some secret teachers and began buying all the Chinese books he could afford.

1808-09 – Morrison was forced to move to Macao, a Portuguese colony where the Roman Catholic Church had been active, but the Catholics strongly enforced the Chinese government’s policy against foreigners learning Chinese. Morrison wrestled with a period of depression, but also had some encouragements along the way: he got married and began working as a translator for the East India Company.

1810-12 – The very first of Morrison’s Bible portions are published in Chinese: first Acts, then Luke, and then several books of Christian instruction, all while he continued to work on Chinese dictionaries and grammars. But in 1812, the Chinese government made it significantly more difficult, declaring that printing Christian books in Chinese would be a capital crime.

1813 – After six years, Morrison finally got another missionary colleague, William Milne, only to have the authorities forbid Milne from staying in China. So Milne took up residence on an island and began evangelistic tours in the other Chinese colonies scattered around southeast Asia, all while assisting Morrison in his translation.

1814-18 – Morrison baptized the first Chinese Protestant convert, Cae Gao. Two years later, another, Liang Fa, was baptized, and he became a leading Chinese evangelist. In 1815, Morrison’s wife and two young children had to leave China for health reasons, leaving Morrison alone once again. He was also nearly fired from the EIC during this time.

1819 – A first version of the fully-translated Chinese Bible was finally completed, along with a dictionary and grammar to enable other missionaries to learn the language.

1820-23 – A series of tragedies hit the mission: Morrison’s wife, who had returned to China, passed away from cholera, followed by Morrison’s colleague William Milne; then a fire ravaged much of his hometown of Canton.

1824-26 – Morrison returned home to England for a furlough, where he discovered that he was a celebrity in the scholarly world. He remarried and returned to China, now focused primarily on preaching and printing ministries.

1827-34 – His final years in China were full of more challenges and new opportunities: his press was often threatened and shut down, both by the Chinese government and Catholic authorities in Macao; but new Protestant missionaries were arriving. By 1832, after 25 years in China, Morrison only had 10 Chinese converts, but the harvest was only beginning.


[Skeptic]: “Now, Mr. Morrison, do you really expect that you will make an impression on the idolatry of the Chinese Empire?” [Morrison]: “No, sir. But I expect that God will.”

“Some men will not plant a tree because it cannot attain its proper size in their lifetime; but the tree of knowledge which we would plant is not for our individual use alone; it is for the healing of the nations around us.”

“There is now in Canton a state of society, in respect of Chinese, totally different from what I found in 1807. Chinese scholars, missionary students, English presses and Chinese Scriptures, with public worship of God, have all grown up since that period… The words of the New Covenant of our Lord and Savior are in the hands of the Chinese… There are now Chinese missionaries [throughout southeast Asia]… May God forgive the imperfections of our service, and glorify his name.”