26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
1901 ASV Translation:
26 And it had been revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, that they might do concerning him after the custom of the law,
28 then he received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
Textual Issues:In 2:26 the text of the Nestle/Aland 26 has an untranslated particle that is not found in the text of the Textus Receptus. In 2:28 the text of the Textus Receptus has the word "his" which the Nestle/Aland 26 does not have.
I. Luke has used 2:21-25 to prepare us for what we should "see" in his record of Simeon's experiences and words.
A. In those preparatory verses, we have been exposed to the issue of man's separation from God (presented through the issues of uncleanness and Simeon's presence in Jerusalem).
B. We have also had the fact of a divine program for solving that separation presented to us (given in the issues of purification, sacrifice, and presentation).
C. As we consider the raging conflict in this world over man and his participation in the blessedness of God's Kingdom, we are presented with the fact that everything comes to the fore in terms of the "Lord's Christ". Just as there are multiple seconds that make up each day and have their places in the details of that day, so there are multiple hosts of details involved in the processes of getting individuals to "buy into" God's plan for reconciliation under the reality of a single "day" -- a single "Big Issue" that pulls all of them together: the Lord's Christ as an individual whom God has provided to bring the plan to pass. Luke has selected a few of the salient details of Simeon's setting and experience to enable us to see that "Big Issue" in light of some of the details.
I. Our First Consideration: the Revelation by the Holy Spirit to Simeon.
A. The "revelation".
1. The word so translated is a word used by the writers of the New Testament to express the giving of a specific word of guidance to a person by God or His messenger.
a. In Matthew 2:12 we are told that the Magi were "warned by a dream" not to return to Herod; so, they did not.
b. In Matthew 2:22 we are told that Joseph was "warned according to a dream" not to go back to Jerusalem, so he went to Galilee.
c. In Acts 10:22 we are told that Cornelius was instructed by a holy angel to send for Peter to hear his words.
d. In both Acts 11:26 and Romans 7:3 this word is used to indicate that someone was "identified as" something or another by reason of the actions that someone took.
e. In Hebrews 8:5 Moses was "admonished" to be careful to build the tabernacle so that it resembled the pattern shown to him on the mountain.
f. In Hebrews 11:7 Noah was "warned" about unseen things so that he was moved by fear to build the Ark.
g. In Hebrews 12:25 believers are cautioned not to "refuse Him that speaketh" because there were those who "refused" Him who spake on the earth. In all of the various words regarding "speaking", the word used regarding the warning is the word Luke selected to indicate Simeon's experience of being "told" that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Christ.
2. The point is this: most of the texts are not very specific about exactly how the information came to be regarded by those who received it as "from God", but they did and they were moved to action on the basis of it. The word means that divine revelation has been given so that those who get it know it is divine revelation. How they know is not addressed; that they know is fundamental to the word itself.
3. Luke's Point: Simeon had a God-given, settled conviction that he was not going to die until he had seen the Lord's Christ.
a. What is the point of this "point"?
1) Clearly, Luke wanted Theophilus to believe that the Holy Spirit was being very active in identifying Jesus as God's "Instrument of Salvation".
a) The Holy Spirit is specifically mentioned three times in respect to Simeon: He was "upon" him (2:25); He had "spoken" to him (2:26); and He had "brought" him to the temple (2:27) at the very time when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple to present Him to the Lord.
b) The actions involved were too "ordinary" to have any significant impact on anyone unless they were deliberately elevated to "Significance" by God.
i. Mary and Joseph were likely to have been one couple among several who had firstborns to present to the Lord on that day (what are the chances that Jesus was the only male child born in Israel on the day of His birth?).
ii. Though the rituals involved are not detailed for us in the text, there had to have been some issues of protocol that parents of firstborns went through.
iii. Without some kind of special "event", the presentation of Jesus to the Lord would have slipped by without special notice by all of those involved -- including even Joseph, Mary, the particular priest(s) involved, and any/every on-looker who happened to be close enough to observe. "Routine" does this to us.
2) Did Luke wish to give Theophilus the impression that "believers" should be both "expecting" and "looking for" this activity by the Holy Spirit as a matter of course?
a) He could not have intended that: the Holy Spirit was not "upon" most of the people of God in that dispensation.
b) The actions of the Spirit are deliberately "unique" to make the identification of Jesus a "stand-out" event. If this was the "norm", it would have removed the very impression of uniqueness that Luke was attempting to create.
c) The question of uniqueness raises its own set of related questions (for instance, How were Joseph and Mary to believe that Simeon was really guided by the Holy Spirit if this kind of thing was abnormal?), but those issues are irrelevant to the record for one simple reason: God is the One Who takes responsibility for "convincing" people that a thing is from Him when He wants them to know and believe. It is a huge mystery why one person will experience a certain set of events and come away "convinced" of a given perspective and another person who experiences the same set of events comes away with a "conviction" that is significantly different from the conviction of the other(s) involved. The fact is that God, to accomplish His objectives, simply MUST be involved at the "convincing" level.
3) The "point" of this point is, then, that one of the details of the message of Life is that Jesus was declared to be the Lord's Christ when He was presented to the Lord by His parents. This was, effectively, the identification of the nature of the Lord's "task" for which Jesus was being "presented" to the Lord. And, it was Luke's contention that this identification was overseen by the Spirit of the Lord Himself. Thus, Paul's contention in Romans 1 that Jesus was "declared to be the Son of God ... by the Spirit of Holiness" is more true than we might have first thought -- for the Holy Spirit began this "declaration" as early as the 40th day of His life on this earth (and even earlier if we take Gabriel's words as from Him). It probably should be noted that the primary impact of all of this event was upon Joseph and Mary (2:33), not a great crowd of "others". The ground-work is being laid detail by detail just as the seconds fill the day.
B. The personal point of the revelation to Simeon.
1. The issue involved: what was God's "ministry" to Simeon in informing him that he would not "die" until he had seen the Lord's Christ?
a. That the vast majority of the Lord's people lived and died without seeing the Lord's Christ has to mean that "seeing the Lord's Christ before you die" is not a spiritually "necessary" experience.
b. That a great number of the Lord's people "believe, though they have not seen" and that this is a "greater" blessedness is unequivocally taught by Jesus Himself in John 20:29 and echoed by Peter in 1 Peter 1:8.
c. That it was a special privilege for Simeon to not only be "convinced" by the Spirit of the privilege coming to him, but also to "experience" the "seeing", is not debatable if one accepts "experiences" as "privileges" extended by God. What is questionable is the Point. What was God's "point" in "revelation" to Simeon of his privilege?
2. The "parts" to God's "point".
a. First, it was God's "point" to make sure that Joseph and Mary had this experience to ground them in the fact that their Son was the Lord's Christ. Much was to come that would generate serious doubts. Doubts are the thief of Life.
b. Second, that Luke recorded this information to enable Theophilus to grow in faith that what he had been told was really true, shows that the experiences of Joseph and Mary were going to impact a lot more people than just Joseph and Mary -- though that impact wasn't going to happen if Joseph and Mary were not moved to faith so that their behavior and speech would be directed by it. There was to be an ever-growing number of people who were going to hear about these events simply because Joseph and Mary were not going to be silent in Nazareth as they lived out the seconds of their days.
c. Third, that Simeon considered it a significant blessing to be able to see the Lord's Christ before he died is beyond dispute: the question is "of what sort of blessing is this?".
1) It is no small thing to "see" God fulfilling His words. Everyone who "believes" has a deep-seated sense that God is going to fulfill His words. But, that deep-seated sense of confidence is not the same thing as being "in on it" when God actually does what He promised. In John 11:40, Jesus made a distinction between the experience of believing and the experience of seeing. Who would argue that the latter is not greater than the former? In 1 Peter 1:9, Peter made it clear that there is a huge difference between "enduring by faith" and ultimately "receiving what was promised".
2) Neither is it a small thing to "believe" that God is going to fulfill His words. It is a significant ministry to the soul for God to convince us that He is going to do something. It puts our souls into the position of being "at rest" (Matthew 11:29). But, it is clear from the declarations of Scripture that "faith" is not the "end" and "believing" does not wipe out all of the problems of the soul. The "end" is the fulfillment of the words; faith is simply a confidence that enables us to endure until that fulfillment comes. And, there are several examples of "faith" that were attended by serious soul-problems (note the fear of the woman healed of an issue of blood) that were not erased by the "faith". Jesus made a distinction between the various levels of "faith" in His comment about the "great faith" of the centurion who was not a Jew.
3) So, we can conclude that "faith" is to "fulfillment" what "diligent labor" is to "having an abundant harvest in the barns". Simeon's blessedness was not given to anyone but himself, but it was the blessedness of having his "faith" rewarded by "sight".