“There Is A God In Heaven”

There is a great deal that could be said about this, but we’re interested mainly in the name or description of God that is used several times in Daniel.  That name is El Elyon, used most notably in chapter 4, where Nebuchadnezzar learns that there is someone higher than he is, someone he begins to understand who rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whomsoever He will, Daniel 4:17, 25, 32.  In that same chapter, the name also occurs in vs. 24 and 34, and it occurs as well in Daniel 5:18, 21.

Regarding this confession of Nebuchadnezzar, there are some who believe that he was converted.  I disagree.  Even though he was compelled to acknowledge the God of heaven, there is no evidence that he ever submitted to the God of heaven.  Even in his celebrated “confession of faith” in Daniel 4, (in which he does exhibit a higher view of God than many professing Christians), he makes an incredible statement about Daniel.  After admitting the failure of his own magicians and wise men to interpret a certain dream, he says, “But at last Daniel came before me (his name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the spirit of the Holy God), Daniel 4:8, emphases added.  In this statement, he plainly says that “the Holy God” is not “his god.”

It seems to me that the whole thrust of the Book of Daniel is to answer the question, “Who’s in charge?”  Nebuchadnezzar thought he was, and so did those who followed him.  Men still think that today, whether at the highest levels of government or among those whom they govern.  There is often a blatant denial of God’s existence or a complete disregard for what He has said.  Even when He’s “believed in,” it’s too often with thoughts along the line, “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.”  Even in “church,” He’s often relegated to a secondary place, as churches are more interested in buildings and budgets, politics and power, “health and wealth,” “nickels and noses,” that is, how much the offering was  and how many attended Sunday School or the morning service….  The preaching seldom extols Him, but implores people to “open the door and let Him in.”  He’s on the outside looking in and they have to take the first step toward Him before He can take a step toward them.

All this mischaracterization of God is answered by Daniel’s simple assertion:  “There is a God in heaven.”

Who is this God?

The name El Elyon tells us a great deal about Him.  The name is first used in Genesis 14:19, 20, where Melchizedek calls Him God Most High.  Abraham repeats and defines this name to the king of Sodom, who is offering him a substantial reward for help in defeating the king’s enemies.  Abraham refuses, saying that he had made a promise to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth that he would’t take even the smallest reward, even as much as a shoe lace.

The fact that humanity has rebelled against God and lives in more or less open defiance or ignorance of Him doesn’t diminish the fact that He owns this ball of dirt we live on and everything and every one on it.  Very early in Israel’s history, when He was giving them the conditions under which they would remain in the land, God told them the conditions under which they would also remain as “a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine,” Exodus 19:5 emphasis added.  It’s His to do with as He sees fit.

Along these same lines, just a couple of chapters later, Daniel makes an astounding statement to Belshazzar, who was Nebuchadnezzar’s son, or grandson, because of Belshazzar’s blasphemous misuse of the Temple vessels taken by Nebuchadnezzar many years earlier.  You know the story.  During a drunken banquet, Belshazzar had commanded that these vessels be brought in to be used in idolatrous honor and worship of his own gods.  A hand suddenly appeared and began to write on the wall.  Daniel was brought in to interpret this writing.  After recounting Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness and the insanity which only ended when he recognized the God of heaven, Daniel says this to Belshazzar:
“But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this.  And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven.  They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them.  And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see nor hear nor know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified,” Daniel 5:22, 23, emphasis added.

As troubling at the thought may be to some that God “owns” the ways of a drunken idolater, who believe that God must wait patiently on the sidelines of His own creation until we decide to send Him into the game, the simple fact is that God is in heaven and He is in charge.  Belshazzar was as much in His hand as Daniel.  This doesn’t mean that God approved of, was accountable for, or accepted what Belshazzar did.  It simply means that in the midst of Belshazzar’s deliberate and drunken defiance of God, God was as in control of the situation as He was when Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den.

Centuries later, Paul put it more generally to a bunch of Greek intelligentsia on Mar’s Hill:  the God who created everything has no need for men to “take care of Him,”
“since He gives to all life, breath, and all things,…and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,” Acts 17:24-26.

Daniel and Paul aren’t the only one with this high view of God.  Centuries before them, David had put it on a personal level in Psalm 139:16, Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.  And in your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.  

To Jeremiah himself, God said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.  Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”  And Paul wrote something similar about himself, …it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace…, Galatians 1:5.

To Sennacherib, an enemy of Israel, God declared, “Did you not hear long ago how I made it, from ancient times that I formed it?  Now I have brought it to pass, that you should be for crushing fortified cities into heaps of ruins…, Isaiah 37:26.  He goes on for a few verses after this, but these and the other verses, as well as many others in Scripture, amply verify that, in the words of Daniel, “There is a God in heaven.”

Simply put, history is only God performing in time what He planned to do before time.  All prophecy is simply the unfolding before it happens of “preappointed times.”  The old idea that God has an office full of angels busily writing down everything that happens (or, I suppose, to update the image, “inputting” into their computers) is not Scriptural.

Speaking of “prophecy,” does it really matter, all this fuss about it?  What a person might believe about it doesn’t determine whether or not they are saved.  It’s commonly said that prophecy isn’t really one of “the fundamentals of the faith,” not really something to break fellowship over.  That might be true to a certain extent.  Perhaps prophecy isn’t as important as what you believe about the deity of Christ, or the inspiration and authority of the Bible, or a number of other doctrines.  There are saved people in all camps of prophecy and there are lost people in all of them.  Does it really matter then, for example, if the Bible teaches that there is an earthly element to the “kingdom of Christ,” in which He will rule over this world for 1000 actual years?  Or if those Old Testament prophecies of a coming kingdom just find their fulfillment in Christ’s “spiritual” rule in the hearts of His people?  Or perhaps they will all come to pass in eternity, when this world’s sad history is over and done with.  Does it really matter??

While it is certainly true that one can be saved regardless of his or her views on prophecy, I do think it does matter what one believes about it.  After all, about 1 verse in 4 verses in Scripture is prophecy, some of which has been fulfilled and some of which has not.  All these verses are as inspired by the Holy Spirit as the others, and I think it’s a great insult to Him to say that it doesn’t really matter what He says in them.

At the same time, there are good men on all sides of the question.  So, though perhaps useful to know, it’s not of great importance what Dr. So-and-So or Pastor Such-and-Such teaches about the subject.  May we in all humility ask Paul’s question in Romans 4:3, “..what does the Scripture say?”  What does God say about the future?

One final thought for those concerned about “free will” in discussions of God’s sovereignty.  In addition to the Scriptural teaching that God is in control of this world and its inhabitants and happenings, note that Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar did exactly what they wanted to.  Nebuchadnezzar wanted to be a great conqueror and ruler of the world.  He was.  Belshazzar wanted to throw a party.  He did.  Neither of them was the least bit concerned about the God – “god” to them – of a bunch of captives and slaves.  Yet both of them were absolutely in the hand of that God.  So is humanity.  It always has been.

There is a God in heaven.

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“This Daniel”

Our title is found in the first few verses of chapter 6.  In organizing his government, Darius divided his kingdom into 120 satrapies, or districts and set men over each district.  Over these 120, he set three men as governors, to whom the 120 district managers were responsible.  The three men were responsible for seeing that the king suffered no damage anywhere throughout his kingdom.  Daniel was appointed to be one of these higher-ranking officials, and did such a good job and was such an excellent administrator that the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm, v. 3.  This didn’t set well with the others and so they set about to trap Daniel and get rid of him.

The life of “this Daniel” is filled with lessons for us.

1. His dilemma, 1:1-7.

Daniel was taken in the first of three deportations from Israel, about 19 years before the final captivity, cf. Jeremiah 52:28-30.  The third and final deportation accompanied the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the dissolving of the nation.  Because of Isaiah’s prophecy to King Hezekiah in Isaiah 39:6, 7, it’s believed that Daniel was of royal blood, though that isn’t stated anywhere in Daniel.  There were indeed some of the king’s descendants chosen for special training for service to the king of Babylon, but there were also some of the children of Israel and some of the nobles chosen for this, the only requirement being that they possessed certain qualities and abilities, 1:3, 4.

So, though quite possible, it isn’t certain that Daniel was of royal blood.  That doesn’t matter anyway.  As the story plays out, it’s apparent that he was of royal character, which is far more important.  Furthermore, it doesn’t matter where he had been; what’s important to the story is where he is:  a captive in a pagan land to be trained to serve a pagan king in a pagan court.  What will he do?  How will he survive?

2. His determination, 1:8-13.

As the story unfolds, Daniel and the other young men were to be well taken care of.  Verse 5 tells us that they were give a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank.  However, it’s likely that these provisions had first been offered to pagan gods.  Furthermore, Daniel and his friends lived under a strict dietary code about clean and unclean foods that probably wasn’t high on the list in Babylon.  Therefore, Daniel made a conscious decision that he wouldn’t defile himself with the king’s food, generous though it might be, and, no doubt, delicious.

At the same time, he wasn’t of a rigid legalistic spirit.  What is right and what is often considered to be right aren’t necessarily the same.  He was considerate of the steward who was responsible for his welfare.  This man had real and legitimate concerns about deviating from the king’s directions.  Daniel was concerned, and rightly so, about diet, but the steward was concerned, and rightly so, about death.  Therefore Daniel proposed a simple and short test, after which he would abide by the steward’s decision.  Test him and his friends for ten days with a diet of vegetables and water, then compare them with the other young men, and as you see fit, so deal with your servants, v. 13.  Courtesy and consideration need not be considered foreign to a stand for the truth.  2 Timothy 2: 24, 25 says, a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, apt to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.

Further, I believe that implicit in Daniel’s request was faith that God would intervene in this situation – as He did.  The results of this test are well known, 1:14-20:  Daniel and his three friends were far superior to the other young captives.

3. His devotion.

We see this in several places.  He never forgot that changes in earthly realities, even what we might consider catastrophic changes, never change eternal realities.

Daniel was a man of prayer, 2:17, 18, 6:10; 9:3-19; 10:12.

One of the best known portions of Daniel is the account of his overnight stay in the lions’ den.  Perhaps what is overlooked is something that happened just before, after the giving of Darius’ foolish decree, but before Daniel was caught by it.  Daniel 6:10 tells us, Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home.  And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.

There is so much here, more than we have space for.  As we said above, Daniel was a man of prayer, but it was habitualThat day was no different in that regard than any other day he had lived.  He had been a man of prayer since early days.  This prayer wasn’t brought about by the sudden appearance of danger because of Darius’ decree.  I’m sure that was included, but Daniel prayed every day – three times – every day!  Oh, what a rebuke this is to our shallow and too often sporadic prayer lives.

And don’t forget his situation.  He wasn’t as if he was retired and had all the time in the world!.  No, no, he was a prominent, busy and responsible member of the king’s court, and no doubt had to make time to pray.  And I’m sure prayer was the first thing he put down in his day planner.  Prayer wasn’t just squeezed in; everything else was.

Further, he was a man of The Book.

This is in chapter 9:2,  In the first year of his [that is, Darius’] reign, I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of years specified by the word of the Lord, given through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

Not only was Daniel not too busy to pray, he was not too busy to study the Word of God.  How this rebukes us!  The lamentable lack of Bible knowledge among professed Christians is, well, lamentable.  The superintendent of a young peoples’ group I attended in Bible college admitted to us one day that, even though he had been a teacher for 17 years, he had never read the Bible through.  He is not alone in this.

There might be coming a time when we don’t have the free access to the Word that we enjoy now.  This is already true in a large part of the world.  We argue over which version to use, while large numbers of God’s children are thrilled to have just a few verses.  It will not go well with us when we stand before God if we know the TV or cable listings better that we know His Word.

Perhaps there is a reason for this neglect.  While I was in Bible college, I met and fell for a young woman in another state.  I was convinced she was the one.  She wasn’t, God had someone else for me (someone just right!), but I didn’t know that at the time.  We wrote letters.  Oh, how I waited for those letters!  I devoured them!  I almost had them memorized.  I didn’t have to have a “reading schedule” for them.  I didn’t have to “force” myself to read them.  I didn’t just read a few lines and then get on with the business of the day.  Those letters were preeminent!  Then she broke up with me.  Perhaps God had someone else just right for her.  After we broke up, I read some of those letters again.  Funny, they didn’t have the appeal they once had.  They seemed empty and hollow.  They weren’t “mine” anymore.  Perhaps that was because she wasn’t “mine” anymore; there was no relationship between us.  We had become strangers.

I threw the letters away.

Could it be, my friend, that the Word of God has no meaning to you, no interest, because you don’t know the One who wrote it?  You are a stranger to Him?  His words aren’t really “yours”?  Oh, it’s not enough simply to go to “church” or to have your name on a church roll!   To go through some ritual or ceremony!  To partake of “the sacraments”!  To be able to recite some creed or to agree with a particular doctrine!  To one who had more along this line than most of us will ever have, our Lord said,”You must be born again,” John 3:3, 7.  Without that life, which comes from the Spirit of God, you and I will never understand the Word of God.

There is one other thing, germane to our study.  Daniel expected a “literal fulfillment” of Jeremiah’s prophecy.  To him, it wasn’t about “principles” or “ongoing processes.”  It’s true that additional information was given to him, but he expected, and there was, an actual, real, true, literal fulfillment of the seventy years Jeremiah wrote about.  Likewise, the New Testament gives us further information about the Old Testament prophecies and promises, but we can expect that there will be an actual, real, true and literal fulfillment of the Kingdom and promises made to the nation of Israel.  One thing the New Testament does not teach is that these have all been fulfilled!

4. His dedication.

Even in the face of certain death, he was faithful to that which had been the habit of his life.  Someone has well said, “When we are young, we make our habits.  When we are old, our habits make us.”  And in his prayer, he gave thanks before his God.  We can’t emphasize this enough.  “Thanks” in the face of certain death!  No moaning, no groaning, no “why me?”  Though he had never read it, he knew and exemplified 1 Thessalonians 5:18, In everything give thanks….

5. His destiny, 12:13.

Daniel had a lot of questions about what he had written.  Some of those questions were answered; others were not.  At the end, God told him, “But you, Daniel, go your way until the end; for you shall rise to your inheritance at the end of days.”  God told him that his future was secure and when this life was over, he would enter into an inheritance far greater than he could ever have known in this world, even if he had never been captive, and if he could have had anything and everything he ever wanted.

In these days of the “health and wealth gospel,” which has nothing to do with the gospel, I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that this world is not our home, that everything we see on this planet, even the planet itself, will one day be destroyed and new heavens and a new earth will take its place.  The mansions of the rich will be destroyed along with the hovels of the poor.  All the beauty of this world will be destroyed along with the ugly.  There are a lot of questions about the future, a lot of discussion about prophecy and how to deal with it, but one thing is certain.  The Christian’s hope isn’t in this world, but in the next.  God help us, like Daniel, to be faithful in whatever situation He has put us, but also may He help us, like Daniel, to realize that something far better awaits us, Romans 8:18; 1 Peter 1:3-5.

There’s something else here.  I believe it was due in part to Daniel’s writing that certain wise men came many years later seeking One who was born King of the Jews.  Now, do you suppose that Daniel sat down one day and decided that he was going to write something that one day would lead men to the promised Messiah?  No, no, he was simply faithful where he was and God used him then, used him much later for the wise men, and according to our Lord, will use him yet again.  Let this be a lesson to us to be faithful where we are, because who knows what God might be pleased to do with our efforts?

After all, God has done stranger things.  He saw to it that the deliverer of His people from captivity in Egypt was raised in the household of the one holding them captive.  When Stephen was stoned to death, God replaced him with the man who was holding the coats of the men killing him.  Never, ever believe that God is limited by circumstances or by our own failings and fallibilities.  He created everything out of nothing; He still likes to bring His something out of our nothing.  He used Daniel, a captive in a foreign country.  There’s no reason he can’t use us.

Framework For The Future

Studies in the Prophecies of Daniel
(with comments on prophecy in general)

Introduction

General introduction.

In the study of the Bible, I think that sometimes there is a dichotomy perceived between the Old and New Testaments.  On the one hand, there is the Reformed view that all the Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled.  For example, in its study notes of Matthew, the Reformed Study Bible says this about Matthew’s use of several OT prophecies:  “His citations are not presented as isolated predictions and fulfillments, but as proof of the fulfillment of all the expectations of the Old Testament,” emphasis added, p. 1360.  If this is true, and we don’t agree that it is, then it seems to me that there is really very little, if anything, to be gained by studying Daniel or other prophets.

On the other hand, there is the Dispensationalist view that the Old Testament belongs to an earlier time, and so has little to say to us today.  This is especially true of the differences between law and grace.  A study of these differences is outside the scope of these studies; let me simply say that while the Bible is crystal clear that we are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, it is also crystal clear that “grace” in no way lessens the authority of God’s Word or our responsibility to obey what it says to us.

Dispensationalism at it’s very simplest teaches that there is a difference in God’s redemptive purpose between the nation of Israel and the church.  The Reformed view is that the NT church is the continuation, spiritually speaking, of Israel.  They speak of “spiritual Israel,” and treat the the prophetic portions of the OT as if they speak to us.  According to this view, God is done with Israel and she as a nation has no further part in God’s purpose.

At least the dispensationalist studies the prophecies of the OT.  There is, however, at the same time an unfortunate tendency to set dates for the return of our Lord.  According to one such earlier writer, we should now be about 50 years into the Millennium.  At the same time, I suppose that’s balanced out by the Reformed teaching that we’ve been in the Millennium since the Book of Acts,  though I do wonder where it finds a single national government that acts like it’s being obedient to “King Jesus”.  That can’t even be said of a lot of churches.

After a lifetime of reading and studying the Scriptures, I simply cannot accept the idea that every prophecy in Daniel, or the rest of the Old Testament, has been fulfilled.  To say that they have been is a very broad statement, to say the least, and makes it very difficult to read the Old Testament prophecies with any clarity.  And it seems to me that it also makes understanding the prophetic portions of the NT, if not a good deal of the rest of it, almost impossible.

Background of the Book.

There are really only two areas of concern about the Book of Daniel:  who wrote it and when?  Whether or not it is truly prophetic is wrapped up in the answer to these questions.  We’re not going to deal at length with these answers, but simply state what we believe to be the truth about them.

1. Author.

The Lord Himself referred to “Daniel the prophet,” Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14.  The phrase He quoted, “the abomination of desolation,” is found in Daniel 11:31 and 12:11.

2. Date.

The incredible detail given in chapter 11 has caused unbelieving scholars to assert that it must have been written after the events described and not before, during the times of the Maccabees around 165 B.C.  These sinners against their own souls, to say nothing of those who follow them, simply cannot accept that there is anything supernatural in the writing of the book, a view they hold about all Scripture, not just Daniel.  Conservative scholars believe Daniel to have been written before the events, some time in the sixth century B.C.

“To Boldly Go…”

I’ve been a fan of science fiction all my life.  The adventures of John Carter on Mars from the pen of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the writings of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, the imagination of Hugo Gernsback with his Ralph 124C41, written in the early 1900s, yet foreshadowing many ideas which have actually happened.  I realize that most sf is indeed fiction and much of it has little “science” behind it.  Indeed, it’s all written from an evolutionary standpoint.  If life evolved on this planet, then no doubt it also evolved on numerous other planets, and so we have the pronouncements of a Jean Luc Picard opening the TV show “Star Trek, The Next Generation,” saying, “These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.  Her mission is to seek out new cultures and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before….”

As for any idea of “God,” in another show, Picard, in great anger, says that mankind got ride of that superstition (his word) a long time ago.  For all his ability and ingenuity, man is still “a fool,” Psalm 14:1.

Another show has the opening line, “Space, the final frontier….

I doubt that man will ever be able to really enter the frontier of space, let alone “cross” it.  Man may have left his footprint on the moon, and yes, I believe he did, but Scripture says that the heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s, but the earth He has given to the children of men, Psalm 115:16, emphasis added.  The moon may be within our reach, and even, in some yet unforeseeable way, the solar system or parts of it, but the nearest star, not counting our own Sun, is 4 light years away. Sf shows talk about some place in space as being 3 or 4 or so light years away, as if that’s nothing – just a couple of hours or days away – but that doesn’t really show the enormous distances involved.  A light year –  the distance a ray of light travel is said to travel in a year – is a little over 4 trillion miles.  That means the nearest star is 24 trillion miles away or 39 trillion kilometers! 

I used to drive for a living and figure I drove about 600,000 miles.  Counting all the years that I’ve been driving, or was simply a passenger in a car, train or plane, perhaps I’ve traveled close to one million miles.  But even that great distance is “only” 1/1000th of a billion, which itself is “only” 1/1000th of a trillion.  So, to look at it another way, I’ve “traveled” 1/1,000,000th of 1,000,000,000,000 miles.  At that rate, I’d have to live 1,848,000 years to get to the nearest star.  In computing space travel, we’re dealing with distances which are so vast that they are nothing we can relate to.  We have no yardstick to measure them.

But space isn’t really “the final frontier” men and women face.

In my reading the other morning, I read Ecclesiastes 8:8, There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war, (KJV).

Many folks have a document that says that they served in a particular branch of the Armed Forces.  It’s their “discharge”.

Until the Lord comes back, there is no such “discharge” in the “battle” of life.

According to Hebrews 2:15, part of the reason the Lord came the first time was to release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

What “fear”?  What “bondage”?

Hebrews 9:27, And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.

There is an innate knowledge that death is not the end of everything, that there is something beyond, something Hebrews calls “judgment”.  I grant that our “modern” culture has pretty much thrown out such “outmoded” ideas as God and salvation and judgment to come.  We worship “science,” not the Savior.  We see the evidence and result of such thinking every day in the newscasts on TV.

Nevertheless, death is an irrefutable “fact of life” and Scripture tells us that it is not the end of our existence, merely the turning of a page, as it were.

Our Lord came to prepare us for that event, that change.

How did He do that?

First, He came as a Substitute.  In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the Israelite would bring an animal to the door of the Tabernacle or to the Temple.  He would place his hand on the head of that animal, thus signifying that he himself deserved to die, but the animal was taking his place.  This was only a temporary arrangement and the countless animals that died during the centuries before our Lord bore eloquent testimony that they could never take away sin, Hebrews 10:4.

Second, He came as a Sacrifice.  Hebrews 10:11 says, This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sin forever, sat down at the right hand of God.

“One sacrifice for sin forever.”

One sacrifice.

Sin must be paid for.  Either you and I will pay for our sins with an eternity in hell, because we could never even ever pay for one sin, let alone the countless multitude we are guilty of, or someone must pay it for us.

That Someone is the Lord Jesus Christ.

His life and death are the only ones God will accept, because He is the only one whose life and death meet the requirements of a holy, righteous and just God.  His are the only ones without sin.

Those who receive Him as Lord and Savior escape final judgment for their sins because the Lord Jesus took their place as their Sacrifice.  I say, “final judgment,” because sin does have consequences.  God may forgive adultery without restoring the marriage that was destroyed by it.  He might forgive drunkenness without restoring the bodily damage that was done by it.  Sin does have consequences.  For the true believer, though he will give an account to God for the sins he committed in this life, and there might be consequences in this life, he can never be lost because of them.  Jesus took his place.

John 1:12 says, As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.  There is only one Name God will accept, only one life and death, only one way into heaven.  Contrary to a lot of modern thought, not everybody is going to a “better place.”  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me, John 14:6.

“No one.”

There is only one way into heaven and that is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Oh, friend, have you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?  Do you trust Him as the payment for your sins?

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.

“Full Time Service”

There’s no Scripture heading for this post because it’s a “rabbit trail” from the previous post.  That post finished with the idea that, short of death itself, the Apostle Paul could never stop serving his Lord and God.  He was, heart and soul, into “full time service.”

Every so often, we’ll hear of a young person who has surrendered to go into full time service.  Usually this means that he has been called into some form of ministry, a pastorate, missions, or some other form of full time involvement.

The truth of the matter is, every true believer is called into full time service.  This does not mean that we’re all called to preach or teach or some other “public” thing.  The world needs Christian janitors as much as it needs preachers.  It needs Christian delivery men, secretaries, plumbers.  It needs Christian men and women on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday, as well as on Sunday, and perhaps moreso.

If one isn’t “a Christian” on the other days of the week, does Sunday matter all that much?

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Acts 14:19, 20: Left For Dead

19] Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.  20] However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city.  And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

Perhaps this is the time Paul experienced what he recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a one was caught up to the third heaven.  And I know such a man – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows – how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

From time to time, someone comes along who claims to have died and gone to heaven, only to return to this life and tell us all about it.  Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, “God knows,” but Paul says some things about his experience that we ought to compare these other experiences by.  First, what he heard was “inexpressible.”  Second, it’s “not lawful for a man to utter.”  Third, lest he be puffed up with pride over this experience, he was given a “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet” me, “lest I be exalted above measure,” v. 7.

If we were actually caught up to heaven in this body, I’m not sure we’d be able to describe that experience.  There is nothing in this life to compare it with.  That’s one reason the Book of Revelation is so difficult to understand.  We’ve very little, if anything, to compare it with.  “Streets of gold,” “gates of pearl.”  John describes these things that he actually saw, but maybe these visions, while describing things that are real, are also the Spirit’s way of telling us that God measures wealth by a far different standard than we do.

That’s not the interesting thing to me, though, about these verses.  Verse 19 tells us those multitudes who once wanted to worship Paul as a god, now wanted to kill him.  Ah, the fickleness of human nature.  Popularity may come and go, and usually does, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.   “I am the LORD God, I change not,” Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6.

There’s only one sure and certain thing in this world, and that is the faithfulness of God.  Even in those relationships of life which are the closest to us and the most meaningful – spouse, parent, sibling – there are likely to be disappointments.  Even on those occasions where we blame God for “disappointing” us, the fault is with us, not with Him.  We have too much of Adam in us, wanting to do things our way, but His way is the good way.

The other thing that interests me about vs. 19, 20 is Paul’s “reaction” to being killed – as the townspeople thought.  His body was dumped outside the city.  However, that’s not the end of the story.  V. 20 continues, However…  As the disciples gathered around his body, he stirred, rose up and went into the city.  And the next day, he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

“The next day”…!

A few cultures still practice stoning, but such a thing is far removed from us here in the West.  Indeed, we bend over backwards to protect the “rights” of the condemned.  Not so in this case.  Surely, Paul had severe cuts and bruises, perhaps some broken bones.  These “stones” were not little pebbles.  And I’ve read that as a final stroke a large rock was used to crush the skull and finish the job.  That may or may not have been the case with Paul, but whatever happened, his condition would not have been good.  No doubt, his injuries were treated as best they could by the disciples, but still….

The next day.

The next day, Paul was “back on the job,” so to speak.  Nothing short of actual death could prevent him from serving His God.

Isn’t this a lesson for us?

Acts 14:15, “The Living God Who Made…” …Everything.

“We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, Acts 14:15.

We referred to this in our last post, that the Lord Jesus walked on dusty paths in Israel on the planet which He Himself had created.  Of course, in our “enlightened” society, we no longer believe such out-dated ideas as creation by an omnipotent being.  We can look at the marvels of nature – the flit of a butterfly, the soaring majesty of an eagle, the grace of a deer, the speed of a cheetah, the marvelous engineering of a honeycomb, the unbelievable complexity of even a single cell – and are quite convinced that these all sprang – albeit over a v-e-r-y  l-o-n-g  t-i-m-e – from a blob of very hot material which suddenly appeared all on its very own.  We ourselves finally decided to come down from swinging in the trees and began to walk upright, leaving them to our close relatives, the apes, monkeys, etc.

The stories in Genesis 1 and 2, which tell a far different story, are dismissed as irrelevant, disagreeing as they do with the latest “science.”  However, these two chapters are not the only references to creation that are found in Scripture.  As I read through the Bible, I’m struck by how often it’s mentioned.  We’re going to look at these references to see how thoroughly embedded the idea of the divine origin of things is in Scripture.

Genesis.

1:1; also chapters 1 and 2, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:1 makes the simple assertion that God created everything by His word and power.  He spoke…and it was so, as in v. 7 and others.  Further, each part was finished and complete as it came into existence.  Ten times in chapter 1, it’s emphasized that the animate part of creation, birds, fish, animals, were to reproduce according to their kind, or its kind.  That’s also true of vegetation, vs. 11, 12.  This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t room for adaptation to changing situations; it does means that guppies give birth to guppies, cocker spaniels give birth to cocker spaniels, and dandelions produce seed for more dandelions.

Furthermore, all this took a mere six days.  There was no need for the millions or billions of years imagined by evolutionary teaching.  If it’s argued that God could have taken such a long time to create, the simple fact that vegetation was created before the sun – how did the plants survive without sunlight for ages and ages?  Further, in Exodus 20:10, 11, as Moses gives the Law to Israel, he said that they were to work six days in the week, “but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God….For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them….”   See also Exodus 31:17.

Genesis 1 and 2 record the original creation.  Chapter one deals with creation in general; chapter 2 focuses on the creation of mankind.  Adam was created out of the dust of the earth, v. 7, by a special and unique act of God.  He didn’t “descend” from “other” animals.

Genesis 6:5-7 says that because the wickedness of man was great in the earth, that the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, whom, He said, “I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them,” emphasis added.  See also 7:4.  God created in infinite variety; things didn’t just “evolve” without rhyme or reason.

Without getting into detail, Genesis 1-11 forms the foundation for the rest of Biblical teaching.  We’ve dealt with this in other posts.  Without these chapters, we have no account of the Fall of man and thus the need for redemption, the wickedness of man and his judgment by means of Noah’s flood, which was not just a “local” flood or else God lied when He said He would never again flood the earth, or the dispersion of nations and the rise of many different languages, see 9:11.

Exodus.

Exodus 20.  In this chapter,  the Lord Himself gives commands as He enters into a covenant relationship with Israel.  We know the first seventeen verses as the Ten Commandments, though there is a great deal more involved in what God promised to and expected of Israel than just a few verses in Exodus.  In His instructions regarding the Sabbath, or the seventh day, God said Israel was to “labor and do all your work” in six days, but was to “remember the Sabbath” and do no work,” because “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.”

Just in passing, have you ever wondered why God told Israel to remember the Sabbath day?

The answer is in Exodus 16.  I’ll leave you to read it, but Israel was to “remember” the Sabbath because they had already been given it.

Exodus 31 tells us that the Sabbath, or the seventh day, was given to Israel as “sign forever between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth,” v. 17, emphasis added.  I emphasize that the Sabbath was given to Israel because of those who insist that Christians are also obligated to keep it.  We’ve dealt with this in other posts, as well.

Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 4:32.  In this review to a second generation of Israelites of the giving of the Law, Moses simply asks if it’s ever happened before “since the day that God created man on the earth” that God has said and done the things He’s done for Israel?  Again is emphasized the fact that man was created; he didn’t come in any way from “lower” animals.

2 Kings.

19:15.

Then Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, “O LORD God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.”  

Hezekiah and Israel were in trouble.  Assyria had invaded the land with superior forces, after having overrun a good part of their world.  Jerusalem was surrounded by the enemy and the leader of those forces taunted Hezekiah for trusting in God.  This leader mistakenly thought that Israel’s God was no different from, no more powerful than, the gods of the lands he had conquered: “Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” 2 Kings 18:35.

He found out.  When he got up the next morning, he discovered 185,000 of his men dead in their tents, 2 Kings 19:35.  Indeed, as the next verses tell us, he also found out that his own god couldn’t protect him from his own sons, who murdered him while he was worshiping in the temple of Nisroch his god.

2 Chronicles.

2:12.

Hiram also said:

Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who made heaven and earth….

Hiram supplied most of the materials with which Solomon built the Temple.  Even a pagan king recognized creation.

Nehemiah.

9:6.

You alone are the LORD;
You have made the heaven,

The heaven of heavens, with all their host,
The earth and everything on it,
The seas and all that is in them,
And you preserve them all.

In this worship service of Israel returned to her land after the Babylonian Captivity, the Levites rehearsed the sad history of an unfaithful Israel and the faithfulness of her God, Who is the creator of the heavens and the earth.

Job.

35:10, 11.

But no one says, “Where is God my Maker,
Who gives songs in the night,

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth,
And makes us wiser than the birds of the air?”

38:4-11.

Here God answers Job and his three “friends,” though He doesn’t really “answer” them.  He just reveals Himself in chs. 38-40.  We’re quoting only a small part of that revelation, which shows God’s creation and control of this world.

4] “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding
.
5] Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6] To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
7] When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

8] “Or who shut in the sea with doors,
When it burst forth and issued from the womb;
9] When I made the clouds its garment,
And thick darkness its swaddling band:
10] When I fixed My limit for it,
And set bars and doors;
11] When I said,
‘This far you may come, but no farther,
And here your proud waves must stop!’

The Psalms.

33:6.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.

90:2.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,

Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

115:15, 16.

15] May you be blessed by the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

16] The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s;
But the earth He has given to the children of men.

121:2.

My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

124:8.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

134:3.

The LORD who made heaven and earth
Bless you from Zion!

146:5, 6.

5] Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,
Whose hope is in the LORD his God.

6] Who made heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them;
Who keeps truth forever.

Isaiah.

37:15, 16.

Isaiah 36 and 37 give us Isaiah’s account of Assyria’s invasion of Israel and her miraculous deliverance from the enemy.

15] Then Hezekiah prayed to the LORD, saying: 16] “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.  You have made heaven and earth.” 

40:22, 28.

22] It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.

28] Have you not known?
Have you not heard?

The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.

45:12, 18.

In these verses, God says,

12] “I have made the earth,
And created man on it.
I – My hands – stretched out the heavens,
And all their host I have commanded.”

18] For thus says the LORD,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who established it,
Who did not create it in vain,
Who formed it to be inhabited:
“I am the LORD, and there is no other,” 

65:17.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.

A similar statement is in Revelation 21:1, where John wrote, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.  Also there was no more sea.”  And Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:10-13, But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  Therefore, since all these things are to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells [or, “is at home”, certainly something that can’t be said about this present world].

There’s some discussion about these verses which mention new heavens and a new earth.  I’ve dealt with this elsewhere.  Some say they all refer to eternity, as indeed the verses in Revelation do.  But Revelation also says in 21:4, there shall be no more death….  That’s not what Isaiah 65 says in verse 20:  
“No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.”

This is not a “mistake” in the Bible.  It is God saying that there is more than one time when He will yet actively intervene in the affairs of men.  While John indeed refers to eternity, we believe Isaiah refers to that time we call “The Millennium,” where the Lord Jesus will rule this world from Jerusalem, where the very physical structure of this planet will be altered, Zechariah 14:4, 6-7, to say nothing of it’s social structure, Revelation 19:15; 20:4-6.  For more detail, see our posts on Revelation 20:1-6 and 20:7-15.

Jeremiah.

10:11, 12.

11] Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.”

12] He has made the earth by His power,
He has established the world by His wisdom,
And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion.

31:35.

Thus says the LORD,
Who gives the sun for light by day,
The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night,
Who disturbs the sea,
And its waves roar
(The LORD of hosts is His name):

51:15.

He has made the earth by His power;
He has established the world by His wisdom,
And stretched out the heaven by His understanding.

Jonah.

1:9.

So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

Malachi.

2:10.

Have we not one Father?
Has not one God created us?

Matthew.

19:4.

And [Jesus] answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’  Also Mark 10:6.  Adam and Eve were made “at the beginning” of this earth’s history, on the sixth day of creation, and not at “the end” of a few billion years.

Luke.

10:21.

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.”

John.

1:3.

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Acts.

4:24.

So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them,

14:15.

and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things?  We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them.”

1 Corinthians.

11:9.

Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.

Ephesians.

3:9.

and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ.

Colossians.

1:16, 17.

16] For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him. 17] And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

Hebrews.

11:3.

By faith we understand that the worlds [or “the ages”] were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

Revelation.

4:11.

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”

10:5, 6.

5] The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven 6] and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer,
________________

These 35 or so references show that the idea of God creating the earth and the heavens isn’t just some arcane idea found only in Genesis 1 and 2.  It was woven into the very warp and woof of Israel’s existence.  I’m sure there are more references to creation that express it differently than the words I used in searching a concordance.  In fact, three or four showed up which I was typing this, one even heading a program I use to search, and one as I was reading the Bible.  And this doesn’t include the many references to the Lord, or the God, of heaven and earth beside the one I listed.  The God of Scripture wasn’t just some “tribal” god, the god of a bunch of ignorant slaves in Egypt, created by a priestly class to empower it over the people.  He is the God who created the heavens and the earth and sustains them by His power and providence.

So….

What does this mean to the average Christian, or even an unbeliever, for that matter?  It means that if Genesis 1 and 2 are untrue, then there is no explanation for the origin of the earth or mankind, it just happened; there are no absolutes (except that one), there is no real “higher being” to whom we are accountable, there is no need for redemption and, thus, no reason for the birth, life, or death of the Lord Jesus, and, finally, nothing beyond the grave after all.

But these chapters are true and even a cursory glance at this world, corrupted and ruined as it is because of the wickedness of men, still shows evidence of the handiwork and wisdom of its Creator.

Do you know this God?  More importantly, do you know His Son, the Lord Jesus?  He came to this planet He created; He walked its dusty paths, breathed its air and died on one of its hills.  But He didn’t stay there; He rose from the dead, ascended into the heaven He created, and one day will return from there to judge the world and restore things to righteousness.  He came to die for sinners like you and me, and those who receive Him as Lord and Savior, those who throw down the weapons of their rebellion against Him, will live and reign with Him forever and ever.

Do you know this God?

The living God who made…everything.