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.

 

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Acts 14: 13-15a, We’re Just Men

13] Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.

14] But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15] and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things?  We also are men with the same nature as you,”

This is the response of Barnabas and Paul to the  efforts of the astonished townspeople and leaders of Lycaonia to sacrifice to them as a result of the miraculous healing of the man born crippled and unable to walk, as the previous verses record for us.  Barnabas and Paul were greatly distressed at this misguided attempt to worship and honor them, and did all they could to dissuade the people from this, even tearing their clothes and crying out.  They were barely able to stop the people, v. 18.  We’ll have more to say about these verses, Lord willing, but for now want to focus on their assertion that they were just men with like nature as the Lycaonians.  They were no different from them, not superior to them, not “gods”.

I think sometimes that it’s easy for us to forget this.  Men, and women, are just that – men and women.  And it doesn’t matter whether they are in the US or Africa or Asia or Europe or some island in the sea – they, and we, are just human, “just men”.  Men and women have been able to do astonishing things, amazing things, things which might seem to belie the fact that they, and we, are “just men”.  But they’re still “just men,” just human.

Paul had to deal with this problem, as well.  Writing to the Corinthian believers, he said, For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.  Now I say this, that each one of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you”  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  1 Corinthians 1:12, 13.  It’s easy to set men on a pedestal.  Those whose ministry has been blessed to us – it’s easy to hold them in high esteem.  And Paul even tells us to do that:  Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine, 1 Timothy 6:1.

The problem with these what seem to be contrary ideas is that while there is to be a certain respect paid to those who lead us in the Lord, at the same time we must remember that it is the Lord who has called these men and equipped them for their ministry.  We may “plant,” and we may “water,” and indeed, we must do these things, but unless the Lord “gives the increase,” there will be no growing, no flowering and no harvest, 1 Corinthians 3:6.  The reason the church, and thus the culture, is in such a mess is that we’ve forgotten that basic truth and have tried to bring about the harvest – that is, to “get results” – on our own.

There has only been one time that “the gods,” and I hate even to put it like that, “have come down to us in the likeness of men,” one time when the true God came down to this earth.  It was the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men, Philippians 2:6, 7.  Believers are so used to that idea that we really don’t stop to think about what that means.  “Oh, yes,” we say, “Jesus was God incarnate, God in the flesh,” but do we really stop to consider that the One who walked the dusty roads of Israel was the some One who created and sustains the planet on which those roads were located.  Paul mentioned this.  He wanted these Lycaonians to turn from the useless false gods they worshiped to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, Acts 14:15.

We’ll have more to say about this, Lord willing, in our next post.

Acts 4:32-37: Generosity….

32] Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.  33] And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  And great grace was upon them all.  34] Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35] and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

36] And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37] having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  (NKJV)

These verses have been used by some to promote communal living, whether voluntary or required, as in communism.  We saw in Soviet Russia that communism doesn’t work, though there are increasing numbers, mostly younger people never exposed to the evils of that system, who want a socialist form of government.  As for voluntary forms of community living, there is no particular Scripture forbidding it, but neither is there a Scripture requiring it.  In the case in Acts, we will see that it didn’t work.

In Acts, the shared experiences of these people gave them a bond and a unity.  Remember, it still hadn’t been all that long since Pentecost.  Quite possibly, many of these had seen and heard the Lord Jesus and had witnessed the horror of His crucifixion.  Some of them might even have been among the 500 who saw the resurrected Lord, 1 Corinthians 15:6.

Further, there is a bond in the Spirit that the world cannot duplicate.  This bond has nothing to do with material things or ideas and philosophies put forth by the world.  It has to do with the Lord Jesus, who He was and what He did.  This is the bond these believers in Acts had.

This bond opened their hearts and their hands so that there was an open sharing of their possessions.  No one said, “This is mine!”  Though these words have been used to justify communism or other socialist ideas, nothing could be farther from the truth.  In the first place, this was voluntary.  No one was forced to do this.  Second, there was no government involvement or intrusion.  There was no outside compulsion for these believers.  Nor did they require others than themselves to do this.  And, it did not work, as we’ve said.

But it wasn’t just about “possessions.”  With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, v. 33.  As I write these words, it is Sunday, the day the early church rejoiced in the Resurrection.  Perhaps there was also an anticipation that the Lord was going to return very soon.  Perhaps this was part of what was in the mind of the early believers; the Lord was coming back and they wouldn’t need “things.”  Their hope was in the next world, not this one, cf. Philippians 3:19-21.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I toured the mansion that had belonged to the owner of the Oliver Plow Co.  In this day when too many people think that milk comes from the dairy section of the store and vegetables from the produce section, that may not mean much, but the Oliver Plow was a giant in farm implements in its day.  Oliver was a competitor with John Deere, perhaps a more familiar name.  Anyway, this house was ornate and beautiful and filled with treasures.  It bore the marks and personality of the lady who had lived there until her late 90s.  But nobody lived there anymore.

Our house is much more modest, and is not likely to be turned into a museum.  But there is coming a day, perhaps not so far off, when a “for sale” sign will be out in the front yard, and someone else will sit in this room and look out the window at the cardinal, the blue jays, the red-headed woodpecker, and the robins, sparrows and squirrels who share the yard with us.  Perhaps other children or grandchildren will run up and down the hill in back.  I don’t know.  We won’t live here anymore.

I don’t know where that lady is as I write about her.  She’s been dead for 20 or more years.  If the unbeliever and skeptic is right, she isn’t anywhere and her bodily remains have decayed into dust and bones.  (If you have recently suffered a loss, I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to add to your grief.)

For the believer, Scripture has a much brighter promise:

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens….For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.  Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord,
2 Corinthians 5:1, 4-8, emphasis added.

“The resurrection.”

These early believers had a hope beyond this world and the grave.  But they had something else as well, something I don’t think we value like we should in this day of “free will,” and “human potential.”  Great grace was upon them all, v. 33.  Without the grace of God, we’re just animated bodies, capable perhaps of doing great things, but still wrapped up in this world.  Even if we believe in some sort of “higher power,” the most we’ll ever have is “religion.”  Without the grace of God, the Bible is just another holy book and Christianity is just another world religion.

But the grace of God comes in with resurrecting and creating power, and, in some incomprehensible way we are made new.   To one degree or another, we see that the Bible is truth, and this world is just a bus stop on the way to eternity.

The practical effect of all this to the early church was that there was not anyone among them who lacked, v. 34.  Needs were met and there was no lack to any of them.

Sadly, that’s not the end of the story.

Acts 3:17-18, Foretold and Fulfilled.

17]  “yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.  18] But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 

In our last post, we saw that Peter refused to take credit for the healing of the lame man, but rather turned the attention of his audience to what was important, namely, that they had rejected and crucified their Messiah, probably because He didn’t “measure up” to the expectations of the rulers and the people.  They though He would come in regal splendor, destroy the Romans and all other of Israel’s enemies, and set up the Davidic kingdom promised in the Old Testament.

They didn’t understand that there was a greater enemy to be destroyed and a greater need to be fulfilled.  They didn’t understand that they, themselves, needed to be redeemed.  True, they had been “redeemed” from Egyptian slavery and made into a nation and were known as God’s people, but that didn’t do anything about their sin problem.  Even though the Old Testament foretold that Messiah would give Himself as a Sacrifice for sin, that He would “suffer,” they really hadn’t focused on the idea.  As Peter put it, they were “ignorant” of God’s purpose.

This should give us something to think about.  Especially with the rulers, here were men who were well-versed in the Old Testament, probably beyond what any of us could hope to achieve.  These men, no doubt, knew the “letter” of the law, and yet had never spelled out its message.  So when the promised Messiah came, they put Him on a Roman cross.

However, and contrary to those who believe that God is done with Israel, it was through the very means of their rejection of Messiah and His death that Israel will eventually be redeemed and restored, Romans 11:26, Jeremiah 31:1.  Their sins had to be paid for, just like yours and mine.

At the same time, let us apply this personally.  Do WE know the Word, or do we just know ABOUT it?  A very small percentage of professing Christians have ever read the Bible through, yet that Word is the only place we can learn about God, about ourselves and about this world, both now and in the future.  Does the Word bear fruit in our lives?  Does it bring us in repentance and faith to the feet of Jesus?  I’m not talking about “being saved” over and over, but rather with dealing with the fact of our inborn sinfulness, as mourned over by Paul in Romans 7.

Yet it wasn’t Peter’s intent in Acts 3 to have the people focus on themselves, or just to beat themselves up.  His intent was to bring them to that One who had foretold the death of Christ, and then had fulfilled His Word.  As we said earlier, no power on earth or elsewhere could have put Christ on the Cross if He had not been willing to go there, and no power on earth or elsewhere could have kept Him from it once He decided to go.

It’s sometimes difficult for us to see the hand of God in the things of life among the many other “hands” with which we have to do.  Unbelievers and skeptics scoff at or deny that He exists at all.  Others seem to have the idea that He stands anxiously on the sidelines of our lives until we decide to send Him into the game.  But in this most evil of all events – the crucifixion of God incarnate, God was at work to fulfill His eternal purpose, Ephesians 3:11.  As Daniel, standing before the most powerful king of his time, said, He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.  No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”  Daniel 4:35.

He is faithful to His promise.

Acts 2:37-39: “What Shall We Do?”

37] Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

38] Then Peter said to the , “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  39] For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 

These verses record the response of the crowd to Peter’s impassioned explanation of what had happened earlier with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as well as his declaration that the One whom they had crucified was not a criminal, but was in fact their Messiah.

These verses are among some of the most well-known verses in Scripture.  But do they really teach what is so commonly said of them?

For example, I’ve heard a preacher tell his audience, “Repent, every one of you, and be baptized for the remission of sins.”  I was in a Bible study at a home and a young woman was baptized in the pool in the backyard.  When the ceremony was over, the teacher said that the young woman’s sins were at the bottom of that pool.  I’m afraid I didn’t appreciate the moment because my first thought was, “Boy, I don’t want to go into that water!”  It’s not really funny.

In the first place, this is not a general command for all audiences and all time.  Peter never repeated it in his preaching.  In fact, in his next recorded preaching, he told his audience, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,” Acts 3:19.  In that lengthy record, there isn’t one reference to baptism.  And Paul one time said, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,… For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, 1 Corinthians 1:14, 17.  This seems a strange statement if baptism is essential to salvation.

The question asked by these men is not, “What must we do (to be saved)?” but, “In regard to our guilt with regard to the crucifixion of Christ, what is to be done?”  It is a question in a specific historical context.  Messiah had been rejected by the nation, as represented by the high priest and other officials who had orchestrated His arrest and death.  Peter is saying that these men must reject the counsel of the nation and receive this One as their Lord and Christ.

As far as baptism goes, it is indeed important.  After all, it was commanded by our Lord, Matthew 28:19.  But Peter himself fixes its place regarding salvation once and for all, in Acts 10 and the account of the conversion of Cornelius the centurion.  Baptism is to be the believer’s “profession of faith,” not going forward or raising the hand or any of the many other things men have dreamed up.

Without getting into all of Acts 10, we read in v. 44, While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.  Peter never got to “finish”.  He never got to give an altar call or an invitation.  He never got to ask if they would like to “accept Jesus,” the things we think necessary in our time.  But that they were saved was beyond doubt, for they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God, v. 46a.

Then Peter answered, “Can any forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”  vs. 46b-47 (emphasis added).

Unless we are to believe that lost people can receive the Holy Spirit, it seems to me that this verse forever puts to rest the idea that people must be baptized in order to be saved.

The other teaching that is used from these verses is found in v. 39, where Peter said, “For the promise is to you and to your children….”  Thus, we are told that just as children were included in the blessings of the Old Covenant – the Mosaic law and circumcision – so they are included in the blessing of the New Covenant – and infant baptism.

This view doesn’t recognize the differences in those two covenants.  Without going into great deal – we covered this in our series on infant baptism – the Mosaic Covenant, or the Law, was national and corporate.  The individual Israelite did indeed have a responsibility to obey Moses, but he had a “relationship” with God simply because he was a member of the nation.  Circumcision was the sign of that relationship, but had nothing whatever to do with the man’s spiritual condition.  Under the New Covenant, the relationship is individual and personal.  It has nothing to do with which “nation” you belong to, your heritage or your parents, and everything to do with your spiritual condition.  It was to one who probably had everything the Old Covenant had to offer, if we can put it like that, to whom our Lord said, “You must be born again.”

Beyond that, v. 39 itself has information about this:  “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as our Lord shall call.”  If we are to baptize our infants on the basis of this verse, then what are we to do with those who are “afar off.”  Are we to baptize them, as well?

You see the difficulty.  It seems to me from Ephesians 2:11-13, that Peter is including both Jews – “you and your children” – and Gentiles – those who are “afar off” – in the provision and possibility of “the promise.”  The early church, which was composed of Jews, had a hard time accepting the “availability” of the Gospel message.  After all, Israel had been the only nation God had chosen for Himself.  If one came to God, he had to do it through Israel.  It had been like this for centuries.  “Gentiles” were cursed and Israel had gotten into trouble more than once for being friendly with them.  It was a radical and unheard-idea for a Jew of that time that Gentiles could be blessed as “Gentiles”.

Besides, Peter himself continues with a qualification in this verse – “even as many as the Lord will call.”  In other words, those who have been saved.  They and they alone are the Scriptural and proper candidates for baptism.

Revelation 20:7-15: The End.

7] Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison, 8] and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.  9] They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city.  And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.  10] The devil, who deceived them, was cast it into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are.  And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

11] Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.  And there was found no place for them.  12] And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, bu the things which were written in the books.  13] The sea gave up the dead which were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.  And they were judged, each one according to his works.  14] Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  15] And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

In our last post, we looked at the first two of the four things contained in Revelation 20.  They were, 1) the binding of Satan, and, 2) the 1000 year reign of our Lord.  In this post, we want to consider the other two things.

1. The freeing of Satan from his prison, vs. 7-10.

We might ask, why is Satan freed, v. 7?  Has he served his sentence?  “Paid his debt?”  Is he out on parole?

Why is he let go?  What purpose could possibly be served in letting this archenemy of God and man loose?

Verses 8-10 give us the answer.

Satan immediately sets about to gather together the nations of mankind and rally them against God and His people.  And he is successful.  He will demonstrate once and for all that unrenewed human nature is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be, Romans 8:7.  For 1000 years, Satan has not been able to deceive or mislead a single person, but will be bound and imprisoned – in a “solitary confinement” no earthly prison can begin to approach.  An environment as ideal as possible has been established on the earth.  War has been abolished and peace reigns universally.  Government will be just and righteousness, with no trace of the corruption so often associated with it.  Slums will be cleared away; there will be no “underprivileged” class.  The problems of pollution will be done away with.  Human longevity will be greatly increased, and death and disease, though still present, will be greatly curtailed.  “Evil influences” will be publicly unavailable and righteousness will be the order of the day.  Weather and physical changes on the earth will be beneficial and fertility will be greatly increased.

But, does all this blessing and improvement lead men to turn to God?  Psalm 18:44, As soon as they hear of me they obey me; the foreigners submit to me, and 66:3, say to God, “How awesome are Your works!  Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You,” indicate otherwise.  The margins of both verses translate “submit” as “feigned obedience”.  Though everything on the surface seems to be ok, it will be seen to be only a superficial conformity to the rule of the Lord Jesus.  Human nature may be restrained by force and justice, but it can be renewed only by grace.  Isaiah 26:10 says, Let favour be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD (KJV).  In fact, it often has the opposite effect,  Exodus 8:15; Ecclesiastes 8:11.  1000 years of “favour” will be showed, but multitudes indeed will not “learn righteousness.”

But doesn’t the Millennium start with everybody being saved?  Where do all these rebels come from?  Remember those who survive the Great Tribulation and are accounted “righteous” at the judgment of the nations will enter the Millennium, Matthew 25:34.  Unlike the OT and church saints, who will be in glorified bodies, these will still be in their natural bodies.  They will have children.  The favorable conditions and long lives will probably result in a great increase in population.  But these children, born under such different conditions as we know, will still be born sinners, Romans 3:23, and will still need to be saved.  Those who aren’t saved will become the rebels.  Once and for all, God will show that it is their nature and not a poor environment or the lack of education which makes men sinners.  They, and we, are born to it.

Verse 9 shows the result of this rebellion:  utter destruction.

This is the final scene of the last act of this earth’s history.  Man still refuses to bow to the God who created Him.

V. 10 shows the final judgment on Satan:  he joins the Antichrist and the false prophet in the lake of fire.  Many have difficulty accepting what these verses plainly teach: that hell is a place of torment, not annihilation, and it is forever and ever.  Though it may be said that this verse refers only to the Devil, the Antichrist and the False Prophet, Scripture teaches no other fate for those who go there than what we read here.

2. The Great White Throne judgment, vs. 11-15.

This judgment isn’t the same as the judgment recorded in Matthew 25:31-46.  Matthew records the judgment of nations before the Millennium; Revelation records the judgment of individuals after the Millennium, indeed after all human history is over and time itself, at least as we know it, is no more.  These verses are looking into eternity.

This is not a trial in any sense of the word.  Many have the idea that our “good” and our “bad” will be weighed in the balance and whichever is more determines our eternal destiny.  This is not a “general judgment” to determine such destiny, but a sentencing of the unsaved according to their works.  And John 3:18 says that, apart from faith in the Lord Jesus, we are condemned already.

No one will escape this judgment.  Even those long lost in the uncharted depths of the ocean will be there.  I don’t understand the references to “Death and Hades” in vs. 13 and 14, but it doesn’t matter.  God knows what He is doing.  No one will escape judgment.

V. 15 has the only “ray of hope” in this dark scene.  There is a “Book of Life.”  Those whose names are found there, and they only, escape being sent to the Lake of Fire.

While there is life, there is hope.  But after life is over, so is hope.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

Revelation 20:1-6, It Can’t Possibly Mean That!

1] Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.  2] He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3] and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.  But after these things he must be released for a little while.

4] And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them.  The I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not receive his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.  And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  5] But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.  This is the first resurrection.  6] Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.  Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Revelation 20 continues the events begun by the return of our Lord in ch. 19.  The events in this chapter conclude human history.  They include the binding of Satan, the 1000 year kingdom, the loosing of Satan for the final rebellion, and the Great White Throne judgment.  We’ll look at the first two in this post.

1. The binding of Satan.

We’re not going to spend a lot of time on this, just a couple of things.  Satan will be bound, not just “hindered,” as, say, by the preaching of the Gospel.  Some have the idea that he’s just going to be like a dog on a chain in the backyard, but still have a limited amount of freedom.  Scripture says he will be bound up and put away. Out of sight and out of mind.

Some object to the idea of a “chain” binding a spirit creature like Satan.  However one may choose to look at this, the teaching is plain:  Satan will literally be taken out of the picture, by whatever means God chooses to use.

2. The “1000 years”.

These verses are some of the most controversial in Scripture.  The very idea of “an earthly, carnal, kingdom” where the Lord sits on an actual throne in the actual city of Jerusalem is just too far beyond what some can accept.  According to this mindset, these verses can’t possible refer to an actual 1000 year period, but, as one writer put it, simply refer to our present Gospel dispensation of nearly 2000 years (!)

I think there’s a reason the Holy Spirit inspired John to use the phrase “1000 years” five times in six verses.  It’s to impress on us that He means 1000 years, not just some indeterminate amount of time!  Besides, isn’t it an insult to our Lord to describe any rule of His, regardless of where it is, as “carnal”?

Revelation doesn’t tell us a great deal of what will happen during these years, but other Scriptures give us some idea.

1. Satan will be bound.

We’ve already seen this.  The chief enemy of God and His people will be taken out of the picture.

2. Israel as a nation will be saved, Zechariah 12:9-14.  They will realize that this One whom they crucified is actually their Redeemer.  Some have objected that their sin shut them out of the possibility of being saved, but, in fact, it will be the means of their eventual conversion.

3. Israel as a nation will be judged, Ezekiel 20:33-38.  When our Lord come back, not every Jew will bow to Him as Lord.  Those refusing to do so will be purged out of the nation.

4. The living Gentile nations will be judged, Matthew 25:31-46, apparently on the basis of how they have treated the Jews.  This might have some reference to the invasion of Israel.

5. The curse will be removed from the earth, Isaiah 65:17-25.  This is the time Paul said that creation was looking forward to, Romans 8:19-21, where creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption.

Some have take Isaiah’s reference in  65:17 to new heavens and a new earth to mean eternity.  Revelation 21:1 also describes such a creation.  However, I don’t think Isaiah and Revelation refer to the same thing.  I may be wrong, but Isaiah says there will still be death in his vision:

“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, Isaiah 65:20.

In contrast, John describes a place where “there shall be no more death, no sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away,” Revelation 21:4.

Considering the radical changes that will take place when the Lord comes back, I think it can safely be said that things will indeed be “new”.

The beast and his minions had killed those who refuse to bow down before him and receive his mark.  Here we find, though, that these same martyrs are resurrected and share in the millennial glory.  This isn’t simply “conversion,” as some teach, but an actual coming back to life of those who gave their lives for the Lord.

What about OT and church saints?  Paul taught that OT saints will come back with the Lord at His return and NT saints will be resurrected then.  These won’t be left out of the blessings.

Man longs for and dreams of a “utopia” in which everyone lives happily ever after.  That will not be realized in any real sense until our Lord comes back and establishes His kingdom on this earth.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.