St. Irenaeus Ministries
Scripture Studies brought to you by the St. Irenaeus Center.
St. Irenaeus Ministries - a center of orthodox Catholic mission and renewal in Rochester, NY

The Second Coming of Christ is a key doctrine in our Creed. And yet, it often does not receive a great deal of attention. It necessarily completes and complements the First Coming. Without a lively anticipation of Our Lord's return, our faith is left a great deal diminished. 

The Psalms speak to the Messianic Hope and the glory of God in the First and Second Comings. In the beginning of Hebrews, the author quotes from Psalm 102 and produces one of the clearest attributions of divinity to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. 

We read about King Ahaz in 2 Kings, during a time when God was with the people of Israel though the king acted wickedly and not in accordance with God's commands. In contrast to the starkness of King Ahaz' reign, Isaiah speaks of a child being given, and of a peace which will have no end. 

In Isaiah's prophecies of Christ we see predictions of a final victory. There is nothing ambivalent in the predictions - the Messiah is to usher in a type of fabled age pictured as a time when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb. This is a glorious picture, a child possessing not only heroic but divine qualities. One of his titles is listed as "Mighty God". 

Direct download: Advent_8.mp3
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Prophecy plays a key role in the Old Testament understanding of hope, particularly that great Messianic hope. Prophecy should be understood as speaking with Divine Authority to convey the message that God wills for a particular audience. We see from the Bible that becoming a prophet was nothing that anyone took upon themselves. It is all Grace, a gift given not for maturity's sake or for exceptional sanctity. The prophet's role is that of a speaker, a mouthpiece for God. We see this in Chapter 18 of Deuteronomy where God says "I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him" (Deuteronomy 18:18). 

It is also clear from the Old Testament texts that false prophecy is a grave matter, and some rules are given to the Jewish people to discern true and false prophets. In the Old Testament tradition, a true prophet cannot contradict the Torah, preach immorally, or make false predictions. 

Direct download: Advent_7.mp3
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The young David, a singer of God's praises, would come to set up temple worship as a mature man. He was a great sinner, and a great repenter. The Psalms give us a detailed account of his inner dispositions. All of David's great accomplishments look forward to an even greater reality, which is seen in God's promises regarding a "son of David". The Gospel of Mathew, chapter 22, explicity refers back to this promise. 

We see the depth of God's promises to David, through the prophet Nathan, in 2 Samuel 7. "Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth form your body, and I will establish his kingdom". 1 Chronicles 17 repeats the promises of 2 Samuel, emphasising the events that are yet to come.

In the promises to David, a Messianic hope arises. This occurs despite David's shortcomings and failures. His profound spiritual yearning and great repentance made him a man after God's own heart. As Christians, we too are sinners. Like David, we too can look forward to the promises that await and present blessings available to us.

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Biblical hope is not calculated, not contingent; it is absolute. We know that God always intends good for those who hope in Him. Biblical hope is more of an expectation, with an element of eagerness. As we read in Hebrews 11:1, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for".

The covenent between God and Abraham is an example of Biblical hope. Most important to us God gave a promise to Abraham of universal blessing for mankind (Genesis 12:3). In Genesis 22, we see God call Abraham to sacrfice to Isaac. We also see God confim this universal blessing. God's reason for this blessing is simple - "because you have obeyed my voice" (22:18).

All these promises are prophetic of things which were yet to come. They required a firm conviction of hope, which was often tested. We too must imitate the patriarch's steadfast hope, trusting in God's promises to us. 

Direct download: Advent_5.mp3
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The Biblical concept of hope appears in the stories of all the great patriarchs. With Jacob, great promises are given despite his imperfections and slow spiritual growth. His son Joseph is a savior-figure, a type, who we can see as looking forward to Jesus Christ. In Genesis 49:10, we read of the "sceptre of Judah". In this prophetic verse we hear of nations being obedient to a leader who is to rise from the tribe of Judah. 

This way of reading the texts of the Old Testament is fundamental to the Christian understanding of the Bible as a whole. As far back as Genesis we see the earliest glimmer of God's promises that find their ultimate fulfillment in Christ. The Torah offers a way of life that leads to God - it has nothing to do with legalism but rather offers a moral roadmap to God. We ought to think of Torah as instruction; the way in which to go, containing the promises that reflect God's covenent with His chosen people. 

Direct download: Advent_4.mp3
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The full Biblical concept of hope is a central theme that runs throughout the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. We must first know the Scriptures to have a true sense of lively Christian hope. This is a life-giving hope that all Christians must make their own.

Trust and hope come together in the figure of Abraham; In Genesis, God gave promises to Abraham regarding his posterity that would not go fulfilled for many years. How are we to understand his faith? In Hebrews 11, faith is defined in terms of hope. There is an absolute confidence attached to faith - a confidence in something that we have not yet seen. This is the key to understanding the entire drama of the Old Testament - faith and hope are tied together. 

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Sonship, obedience, and relationship are three vital themes that permeate the Scriptures. When we contrast Genesis with the Gospels, we see the striking parallels between the disobedience of Adam and the obedience of Christ. Adam was called a son of God, who by his inordinate disobedience brought sin to the human race. Christ's sonship is, in a sense, a very different type of sonship.

"Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). In Philippians we read "Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men". In this way, we see how Jesus lived a life opposite that of Adam. As Christians, we are called to imitate Christ in His obedience no matter the cost.

Direct download: Advent_2.mp3
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The season of Advent is one of preparation; preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus who reconciled humanity with God. The whole of the Bible from Genesis to the Gospels outlines this preparation. The present series takes a cursory look at salvation history, allowing us to enter into the hope that God's people felt throughout the Scriptures. The Biblical concept of hope is more than a mere wish - it expresses an expectation based on promises given by God. We see the first of these promises in Genesis, the story of creation and God's first covenent with His people.

 

Modern Christian readers are advised to treat Genesis as Jesus, St. Paul, and the early Church Fathers did; as more than a cobbled-together collection of myths. While Genesis is not a scientific text of astronomy or geology, it is a vitally important and fundamentally true account of God's action, the fall of humanity, and the subsequent hope that finds its ultimate fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ.

Direct download: Advent_of_Hope_1.mp3
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What was New Testamant Christianity really like? We must look to the Acts of the Apostles, as well as the records of the early Apostolic Fathers. Theirs is a critically important witness to the actual Apostolic Deposit. The foundations of the Apostolic Age were mission and community. The role of the Holy Spirit was evident, as many were drawn to the Church in spite of persecution and no material gain. These believers were literally "incorporated into Christ", to use their own language. Though the faith of the early believers was intensely personal, it was not individualistic. 

The central thrust of the Church was not to gather a few people together and meet privately. It was to go out. For this reason, Christianity was a threat to the structure and balance of the worldly powers in the first centuries AD. 

Heresy and disunity were the greatest internal threats to the Early Church. Wholeness was very much connected with holiness. The early apologists saw the Church's unity as a reflection of God's own wholeness. Corresponding to the universal call to holiness was the importance of catholicity - universality and unity. 

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Luke's Acts of the Apostles is an account of some of the pivotal moments in the Church's earliest history. Historical records give us good reason to believe all of the early apostles, with the exception of John, died a violent martyr's death. They kept the faith unaltered, despite being widely scattered and seperated for years. The churches they founded continued in the Faith, and in some cases continue to this day. This is the amazing testament of the first century of Christianity. These early churches were not wholly independent congregations. The historical record shows that the early Church was indeed a catholic (universal) Church held by moral authority and a desire for unity.

Jerusalem and Rome appear as the two central cities for the early Church. Great trials and tribulations faced Christians in both cities including Nero's attempt to blame the great fire of Rome on the Christians. In spite of the difficulties, Christianity continued to spread. Early pastoral letters of Ignatius and Polycarp provide additional extra-Biblical evidence for the early Church's unity and fidelity. 

Direct download: Early_Church_2.mp3
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