“The Ages To Come”

Our last post was about “heart trouble.”  In that post, we made the statement that, just as our heart pumps blood to every cell of our being, so our human nature affects every minute of our lives, concluding, “And this isn’t just for the few minutes of this life, but of all that follows.”

Many Christians know Ephesians 2:8, 9, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  Verse 10 really can’t be left out:  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  However, the verses in the earlier part of the chapter lay the foundation for all these verses:

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in [“energizes”] the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, just as the others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved), and has raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:1-7 emphasis added, NKJV.

“The ages to come….”

Not just the “threescore and ten” of this earthly life, but a span of existence we can’t even begin to imagine. We have no experience of a life w/o temporal boundaries.  We have no experience with perfection.  It isn’t to be lost in some “collective,” like the Borg in “Star Trek,” where the individual is “lost in the crowd,” so to speak.  Nor is it to be found in an excessive individualism, in which “I” am the only one who really matters.  This was the error of the “hippie” or “beatnik” of earlier generations, or “the flapper” of even earlier generations.

And it’s a lot of our trouble today, too much “I” disease.

We forget that the few minutes of this life are nothing as compared to what is waiting for us on the other side. 

And it isn’t just a matter of more “time.”  There will be a whole new experience, starting with our physical bodies.  For you youngsters out there, that doesn’t mean much.  But to the hearing aid crowd, the walkers, the canes, the various “transplants” medical science has figured out, the aches and pains of bodies lived under Adam’s curse, to say nothing of current social and economic ills, – for us, it’s something to look forward to.

Then there are the sins and the failings of “the flesh,” our fallen Adamic nature, that plague some of us.  l say, “some,” because it really seems that the majority of folks couldn’t care less about their spiritual condition.  They seem to be quite content “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind,” as Paul wrote.  This is nothing for the “some of us” to brag about; it’s only because of the grace of God that He’s shown us what we’re like left to ourselves.  He’s been pleased to show us “mercy,” as in Romans 9:15-18.  It seems, at least in our culture, where anything that doesn’t bow down to the depravity of the times is scorned and hated, that the “hardening” mentioned in those same verses has also happened.  The last part of Romans 1 seems to be happening all over again. 

There is one caveat to all this.  “Something to look forward to” only applies to those to whom the grace of God has come and they have seen their need of a Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ, as Ephesians 2:1-7 tells us.  “The grace of God” makes all the difference, and it’s the only thing that can make the difference.  Left to ourselves, we might be out there with the worst of them, Isaiah 1:9, Romans 9:29.  And God would be perfectly just if He left us there.  It is, after all, His grace that saves us through faith.  We don’t deserve it; we can’t earn it; we can’t obligate God to give it to us.  It all comes to us because of and through His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  And only because of and through His grace.

In Christ Jesus.

That’s the only place.

It isn’t in ‘”church,” although COVID-19 has taken care of that.  There are no “church services,” at least for a while.  It isn’t in the sacraments or in some other ritual or ceremony.  Not in the waters or drops of baptism. 

Only in the Lord Jesus.

“Neither is there any other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” Acts 4:12.

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

Passover

Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.  Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying:  ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.  And if the household is too small for a lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb.  Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year.  You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.  Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month.  Then the whole assembly of the congregation shall kill it at twilight.  And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.  Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.  Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in the fire – its head with its legs and its entrails.  You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains until morning you shall burn with fire.  And thus you shall eat it:  with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand.  So you shall eat it in haste.  It is the LORD’s Passover.

‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment:  I am the LORD.  Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are.  And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations.  You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance,” Exodus 12:1-14 NKJV.

In these verses. God is instructing Israel about what they are to do in preparation for their literally being thrown out of Egypt.  We don’t usually think of it that way, but when the Egyptians discovered at midnight that the LORD [had] struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock.  So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead, Exodus 12:29, 30, then the Egyptians, including Pharaoh, v. 30, urged the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste, v. 33, emphasis added.  They couldn’t wait to see the last of them!

There’s an interesting sidelight to all this.  Perhaps you’ve read about it in one of my earlier posts, but here it is again.  As God was telling Moses what would happen and how Israel was to prepare for their sudden departure, He said, “But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move its tongue, against man or beast, that you may know that the LORD does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel,” Exodus 11:7.

What does this mean?

I’m not really certain this is it, but I used to have a landlady who told me a story about her dog and the death of one of her family, or acquaintances.  I don’t remember for sure; it’s been a very long time.  Anyway, when this individual died, the landlady’s dog began to howl, quite some time before the lady herself was notified of the death.

My own mother had a similar incident.  She had befriend an elderly lady and was visiting her one day.  This old lady had a cat; my mom loved cats and easily befriended them.  But on this day, Star, the cat, would have nothing to do with Mom, but kept skulking around the edges of the room, acting like she was seeing something Mom couldn’t see.  All of a sudden, the lady died and Star streaked out of the room, never to be seen again.

Did these animals see, or somehow know of, the death angel?

I don’t know for certain, but these incidents may shed some light on what happened all those centuries ago in Egypt.  In the dead still of the night, maybe, dogs all over the country began to howl.  People woke up, saying, “What in the world…?” or whatever ancient Egyptians said in such cases, and began to investigate, only to find dead babies, sons, brothers, fathers, husbands, uncles, grandfathers.  Maybe more than one of these.  In every household.

Every household….

And out in the yard, dead sheep, cattle, goats, donkeys, oxen….

Only in those houses where blood was visible on the doorposts or the lintel on top of the doorway was there no death.

A substitute had died.

I’m certain you can see the application.

1 Cor. 5:7, Paul wrote, Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

Death stalks our land.  Even without the events so much in today’s news, each one of us has a “sell by” date, an expiration date.  As I look down the road to my 80th birthday (where have the years gone??), I’m more aware of that than ever.

Many people have the idea that death is the end of it, or that we all go to “a better place” when this life is over.  If that were true, then there’d be nothing to worry about.

However, Scripture says, “It is appointed to men for men to die once, but after this the judgment”.

You see, death isn’t the end of life; it’s just a change of scenery.  For some, their lives will catch up to them.  They may have gotten away with it, or so they thought, only to find out that “it” has gotten away from them, and they will have to answer for it.

For others, their suffering, their “bad times” will be over, and they truly will be in “a better place.”

What makes the difference?

A substitute has died.

Hebrews 9:27 says, as it is appointed for men to die once, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.

As surely as the blood of an innocent sacrificial animal applied to the entryway of that ancient house protected the inhabitants of that house, so the blood of an innocent Sacrifice applied to the life of an individual in our day protects that individual, not from the consequences of their sin, but from its final judgment.

We live in a time when the Gospel has largely been forgotten, or is being ignored.  We have become “churchians,” and not Christians.  Religious lectures have taken the place of Gospel preaching, which has largely been lost, or a substitute put in its place – and we see the results, not just today, but from about the last 50 or so years.  We’ve had all sorts of decisions and results, but very few apparent conversions.  Years ago, I even had preachers admit to me that they thought that 90% of their people were lost.  Yet, this never seemed to bother them.  I couldn’t understand it.

It’s gotten worse since then.

And, no, I’m not perfect, far from it.  My faults, failures, and shortcomings would take more space than WordPress is willing to allow me, if I were even inclined to try.  I write to you, not from some ivory tower or imaginary “higher plane,” but as another one himself badly in need of a sacrificial lamb.

Today, as I write this, Passover will start at sundown.

Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed, Hebrews 9:28.

Has the blood been applied to your life?

Oh, that you might think about it!  If it hasn’t, then may today be the day!

Turn to the Lord Jesus as your Substitute.

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

One Or The Other

Thus says the LORD:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD.  For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.

“Blessed in the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is in the LORD.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit,”  J
eremiah 17:5-8 (NKJV)

As I was reading in Jeremiah the other morning, I was struck by 17:6, which describes the life of the man “who trusts in man…whose heart departs from the LORD”:   “A shrub,” “the desert,” “shall not see when good comes,” “parched places,” “wilderness,” “salt land,” “not inhabited.”

Not a very appealing picture, is it?

This is especially true when we compare it with verse 7, which describes the blessing of “the man who trusts in the LORD”: “a tree,” “planted by the waters,” “spreads out its roots,” “by the river,” “will not fear…heat,” “its leaf will be green,” “will not be anxious in…drought,” “nor…cease from yielding fruit.”

As I was thinking these verses over, it seemed to me that they presented “Two Extremes.” That was the original title for this post.  But the verses don’t really propose two extreme ways of living; they describe one or the other of the only two ways of living there are:  trusting in man, being self-confident and trusting to our own wisdom, or, trusting in the LORD because we can’t really see the next year or day or minute or second.  Last year, for example, I doubt anyone foresaw COVID-19.  And, yes, there are conspiracy theories about it all, but that’s not my purpose here.  Nobody knows when it will end or what it will ultimately do to our nation and culture – and the nations and cultures of the world.  No one can absolutely see and be sure of what will happen next – in anything.

At the same time, even though we can’t see tomorrow, there are things we’re to do today; we’re not just to sit around.  If a farmer expects a harvest, for example, he has to get out and do some hard work.  Crops don’t just appear magically.  They take several months of attention.  Houses don’t build themselves.  Meals don’t cook themselves.  The parts of a car don’t assemble themselves.  Life may go on, but so must we.  At the same time, it is the Lord gives us the intelligence, the strength and even the life to be able to “go on”.  When we do, though, we just don’t always know how things will turn out.  Ecclesiastes 11:6 says, In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, Either this or that, Or whether both alike will be good, emphasis added.

Jeremiah 17:7 has been a favorite of mine for a long time:  “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD.”  The thing is, you can’t separate it from verse 6.  As I wrote above, these verses describe the only two possible ways to live:  self-confident, or, if I may coin a word, Lord-confident.  There is no middle road here; it’s either one or the other.

Verse 6 describes a man “whose heart departs from the LORD,” and tells us what the result of that is.  Verse 9, which we didn’t quote at the beginning, tells us why the “heart” is not to be trusted.  The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked: Who can know it?  Obviously, “the heart” isn’t referring to the physical organ which pumps blood throughout our body, and is a truly wonderful creation.

No, no, the “heart” here is the inner man, so to speak, the one we can’t see, our thoughts, motivations, desires, impulses, our “operating system,” as it were.  Our human nature.  They – it – may tell us that some thing, some action, some thought, some viewpoint, is all right and to go for it, even though God’s Word says otherwise.  Our human natures, corrupted by the Fall, simply cannot be trusted.

Man says there are many roads to heaven.

Man says he can take it (religion) or leave it.

Or that one religion is as good as another.

Or, as some seem to think, “no religion” at all is even better.

But Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6, emphasis added.

But, having succeeded at it in the beginning, the Devil continues to say, “Has God really said…,” Genesis 3:1, paraphrased.  So wickedness has pretty much become the law of the land and this once great nation may be on its way to the trash heap of history.  I can hardly believe the deterioration in just the last few years.

I’m afraid this nation has pretty much gone to the devil.

But that’s ultimately the choice for each and every one of us:

Christ or the devil.

Heaven or hell.

One or the other.

The Cherubim

“…And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the ends of the mercy seat.  Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat.  And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat, Exodus 25:17-20 NKJV.

We wrote about the mercy seat in our last post, but these cherubim were part of it.  We left them for a separate post because of the place cherubim have in other Scriptures.  Most of the time they are associated with various buildings Israel made:  the Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple, the Temple Ezekiel envisions in his book, Ezekiel 41.  But there are other places in the Old Testament where they appear.

In Genesis 3:24, we read that God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden because of their sin, and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Someone once wrote that the cherubim were placed there to keep the way to the tree of life open, but it seems to me that they were placed there to keep the way shut that led to the tree, to prevent access to it.  The Scripture tells us about what happened as a result of Adam’s sin:  Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.  And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” – therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.  So He drove out the man: and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life, Genesis 3:22-24 (NKJV).

These are unutterably solemn words.

This was an act of inexpressible justice, but it was also an act of incredible grace.  IF Adam had eaten of the tree of life after he sinned, he would have indeed lived forever, God Himself said that – but he would have lived forever a fallen sinner, condemned and under the judgment of God.  There would have been no redemption, no grace, no mercy, nothing but a live forever in the heartache and misery of sin.  It would have truly been the “hell on earth” foolish men sometimes talk about.

They have no idea….

But that’s not the end of the story.

Adam and Eve tried to cover their sin, their nakedness, with fig leaves.  Sometimes they are pictured in art like this.  But there is no “covering,” no little something we can do to hide what we are in ourselves or what we do in life.  There is nothing “good” in anything we do that can cover sin, can take it away.  Satan has told us otherwise, so there are all kinds of religions and “good works,” and charities and things, but Scripture says that even the plowing of the wicked is sin, Proverbs 21:4.  The things we do merely to provide the necessities of life are sin in the eyes of God.

But someone might say, “Yes, but that talks about ‘the wicked’.”

I’m thankful that there is “good,” humanly speaking.  This world would truly be a terrible place if that were not true.  I’m sure that even Hitler did “good” in some areas of his life, but that’s only “humanly speaking.”  In God’s sight, There is none who does good, no, not one, Psalm 14:1, 3; 53:1, 3, Romans 3:12.  According to His standards, which are infinitely higher than our own, and apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re all “wicked”.

“Fig leaves” will never get the job done, never cover our sin, never open the way to the tree of life.

God took away Adam and Eve’s flimsy, ineffective covering and gave them tunics, or coats, of animal skin.  We’ve mentioned this before, but God acted this way to show them, and us, that we can only live because of the sacrifice of an innocent substitute.

In a few weeks, it will be Christmas.  TV shows, advertisers, retail stores – all are gearing up for this busiest of all seasons.  Churches will have their Christmas pageants, and there will be a lot of talk about “the Christmas story.”  It will be a time of rejoicing, of family get-togethers, of “the twelve days…”.

Very little of this will have anything to do with the events they’re supposed to represent.  God provided coats of skin for our guilty first parents; He provided an innocent Substitute for us.

I’ve often thought that a true picture of Bethlehem would show a little infant in a crib or a bed or whatever Mary might have had to put the infant Jesus in, but falling across this idyllic picture would be the shadow of a cross.  Jesus was born in order that He might die.

“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins,” Acts 10:43.

As Abraham told Isaac all those centuries ago, Genesis 22:8, God provided for Himself a lamb.

Called and Equipped

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,  And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.
“And I, indeed I have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all I have commanded you:”
Exodus 31:1-6 (NKJV)
And Moses said to the children of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.
“And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.  He has filled them with skill…,”
Exodus 35:30-36a (NKJV).

God is giving some instructions to Moses about the building of the Tabernacle, the place of His presence among the children of Israel.  But this building will not suddenly just appear; God will use men to build it.  He called the earth into being by His word, but not this.  Men have the honor and privilege of working with God.  Make no mistake about that.  He doesn’t need any of us; He is pleased to use us.  More glory to Him, to use such poor instruments.

Two men are named, Bezalel and Aholiab.  One was from Judah, the head tribe of Israel, and one from Dan, perhaps the “tail” among the tribes.  It doesn’t matter where we’re from; what matters is where we are, and what we’re doing.  One thing about Bezalel.  He was mentioned hundreds of years later when David brought the Ark of the Covenant to the place he had prepared for it prior to the building of the Temple by Solomon, 2 Chronicles 1:4.  His work was still valuable and useful.  Who knows how the Lord will be pleased to use our efforts for Him?  The thing is, they will last far longer than any mere thing of this world we can do, necessary though those may be.

These two men were the foremen, if you will, of the artisans doing the work, 31:6, but the other men were also gifted for their work.  1 Corinthians 12:4-7 has something for us here:  There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all. 

That last phrase could be translated, “for the mutual benefit.”  The gifts of the Spirit aren’t about us.  It’s about those around us, especially in the assembly and how we may be a blessing and benefit to them.

Early in our marriage, Sharon and I attended a church who taught for a while on the ministry and gifts of the Spirit.  The emphasis was on how we could know which particular gift was ours.  For some reason, this bothered her because she couldn’t figure out “which” gift was hers.  That seemed to be focus of the series and it really bothered her that she couldn’t see her “gift”.  She couldn’t teach or sing or play the piano.  But one of the gifts of the Spirit Paul lists in I Corinthians 12 is helps, v. 28, and that was and is her “gift”.  She has always been more than willing to pitch in, to help.  This says nothing of the fact that she has put up with me for more than 48 years….

You see, it may not be the man behind the pulpit; it may be the ones who listen to him.  Do you pray for your minister?  His “job” is perhaps one of the most important there is.  He stands in front of men and women who will never cease to exist and it may be that something he says either prepares them for an eternity of glory or for an eternity under God’s wrath because the sin question has never been answered for them.  Spurgeon used to say that the sight of the crowds he preached to at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London crushed him to the ground because he recognized his responsibility toward them.
But standing behind a pulpit is not the only “ministry”.  Your job is a ministry, if you could but see it, how you do it.  Do you have little ones?  Oh, the ministry there!  Those little souls, so impressionable and willing.  They’re like sponges, and they likely learn more from what they see you do than they will from what you say.  Our culture may devalue them, but they are a treasure.

Nothing is unimportant in the life of a believer.  After all, God has numbered the hairs on your head, Matthew 10:30.  If you’re that important to Him as His child, do you think your life and doings are unimportant to Him?  Nothing is “minor” or of no concern to Him.  As little as a cup of cold water given in His name will be richly rewarded, cf. Matthew 10:42.  As Paul put it, let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith, Galatians 6:9, 10.

According to Pattern

“According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all the furnishings, just so you shall make it,” Exodus 25:9 (NKJV).

The tabernacle wasn’t a ramshackle affair.  It wasn’t something made up as they went along, but every part of it, down to the clasps which held the sides to the frame, was set forth and described.  There were no revisions, no “TabernaclePlan.02”  It was complete as it came from the mind of God to the hand of Moses.

That’s equally true of everything in creation.  Many may believe that this world came into being as the result of a chance event, but someone has calculated the odds of such a thing happening as 1 in 40 to the tenth power, or as 1 followed by 40 zeroes.  That is a lot of zeroes: 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.  We probably don’t even have a name for such a number.  It seems to me that it’s a lot easier to believe Genesis 1-3 than it is to believe in such a throwing of the dice, as it were.  Of course, that does get rid of God and any obligation mankind might have to obey Him.  We think we’re so smart, but all things considered in perspective, an amoeba may be smarter than us.

The truth is, God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, or order, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33.  While Paul wrote primarily to correct some serious problems in the Corinthian church, what he wrote is applicable in a lot of places.  No matter where one looks, whether through a microscope or a telescope, he sees order and design.  Even in the so-called random movement of atoms, there is a discernible pattern.

This is true also of life.  He has not left us on our own, as it were, but has given us instructions about pretty much every area of life.  Whether individually, in our church, in our family, our neighborhood, our city, our country or our nation, there are principles and practices either commanded or forbidden, the doing of which in either case will have discernible results.  We do reap what we sow.

55 years ago, a woman decided we should ignore what God says, so she went to court.  We see the results around us today.  True, she wasn’t the first publicly to oppose God, but she was the most outspoken and successful.  I’m old enough to remember “back then,” what it was like before Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her atheism permeated society.  People left their front doors unlocked.  Cars were left unlocked – we can see this in the old TV programs.  Women could walk down the street at night without worrying about it.  I’ve mentioned this several times before, but the high school I attended was in a “tough” neighborhood.  I hate to think what it’s like today, 59 years after I graduated.  This “tough” school had a rifle range in the basement, with rifles and live ammunition.  I qualified as a marksman on that range.  People today get all upset at the very ideas of “guns” at all, let alone around or in schools, but there was never any problem at that school.  Young men carried rifles in a rack in the back window of their pickup trucks.  No one thought anything about it.  Was there crime?  To be sure.  But nothing at all compared to today.

But now….

To paraphrase Hosea 8:7, “We have sowed the wind and have reaped the whirlwind.”  Or, in the immortal words of Pogo, for you “old-timers:”  “We have found the enemy and they is us.”  I don’t mean to minimize the problem or make fun of it, or to imply that Walt Kelly, the author of Pogo, would agree with my views.  He probably wouldn’t.  But he was right in this case, whether he meant it as I take it or not.

“We” are the enemy.  Having decided that we’re too sophisticated for those old-fashioned “Puritan” ideas, we’ve thrown them all out in the name of “freedom.”

Having rejected “order,” we have opened the door to “confusion”.

Right On Time

Now the sojourning of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.  And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years – on that very same day – it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.  Exodus 12:40, 41.  (NKJV)

With this post, we want to start a series on the Tabernacle, that building which accompanied Israel on its sojourn from Egypt to the Promised Land and then served as the center of worship for many decades until the building of the Temple during Solomon’s reign.  However, the children of Israel had to get out of Egypt before any of that could happen.  This post is about the beginning of those events which led to the construction of the Tabernacle.

After some instructions from the LORD about the Passover, which was to serve as a reminder of slavery in Egypt and their deliverance from it, verse 51 repeats what vs. 40, 41 said:  And it came to pass, on that very same day, that the LORD brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.

“On that very same day….”

Four hundred and thirty years had passed.  Several generations of Israelites had come and gone in Egypt.  Things had gotten much worse, Exodus chapter 1 – I think Satan knew that the time of God’s promise was drawing near and, while there was nothing he could do to prevent that from happening, he determined he’d make it as rough as possible on the people of God.

But finally, that last day dawned, and “on that very same day,” Israel was delivered from Egyptian bondage.

“That very same day.”

In the Old Testament, God had promised that the Messiah, the Deliverer, would come to His people after a certain period of time had elapsed, Daniel 9.  Indeed, another “time promise” of God’s had led Daniel to intercede for his people.  In v. 2, Daniel wrote, in the first years of Darius’ reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

“Seventy years….”

That seventy years served as a springboard for another “time promise” – Daniel’s “seventy sevens” in the rest of Daniel 9.  It’s not our purpose here to get into all that is meant here, but there is one more Scripture germane to the fulfilment of what God promised.

In Galatians 4:4 we read,

when the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son….

“the fulness of the time

At the exact moment of time – “the time” – ordained in the purpose of God, cf. 1 Peter 1:20, a virgin girl in Israel was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, and God’s deliverance of His people – from both Testaments – was set into motion.

What does all this mean to us on this rather gloomy fall day in this year of our Lord 2018?

It means that we can trust God.

We don’t know for sure what each day will bring.  We might have a general idea, get up and go to school or work, or any number of other things, but we don’t know for certain what will happen.

God does.

David rejoiced in this fact.  In Psalm 139:15, he wrote,

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,

The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them (emphasis added).

Some people are bothered by the idea of God’s sovereignty in our affairs, perhaps preferring to believe that God can be caught by surprise, but there are no such “oops” moments with God.  He never has to call “an emergency meeting of the Divine Council,” as one writer put it years ago.  He has no “Plan B”.

Our text, and the other verses we used, all remind us that God is never late.  He is always on time, and He is always there.  He is always here.

Oh, that we might lift our eyes upward!  We get so caught up in the affairs of life – and, yes, we are supposed to pay attention to our lives.  Still, we too easily forget God.  I’m thankful He never forgets us.

“At The Right Hand of the Father”

This continues our side trip into some questions and ideas about “the kingdom”.  In Daniel 2:44, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that the God of heaven was going to establish an eternal kingdom.  Reams of paper and gallons of ink, to say nothing of gigabytes of data, have been used to explain what that is.  Our last post dealt with the idea that this kingdom can never be an “earthly” one.

The post today deals with the question, “Yes, but isn’t Jesus already reigning at the right hand of the Father?”

Without a doubt, the New Testament is clear that the Son is seated at the right hand of the Father.  The question is, What is He doing there?

Scripture tells us.

Leaving aside our Lord’s statements during His trial before the Sanhedrin that they would see Him sitting on the right hand of power, here are the verses which teach that He is at the right hand of the Father.

1. Acts 2:33, “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God.”  This is Peter’s explanation on the Day of Pentecost about the events of the day and relating them to the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus.

2. Acts 2:34, “For David did not ascend into heaven, but he says himself, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ‘  Here he quotes Psalm 16:8-11.  This is an important testimony.

3. Acts 5:31, “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”  Compare Acts 2:36. Christ was not an executed criminal, but had been exalted to be a Ruler, in order for Him to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  As grateful as we ought to be that mercy has been extended to us Gentiles, never make the mistake of believing that we have taken over all the promises and prominence given to Israel.  Whatever was given to them still belongs to them.  Note carefully the present tense in Paul’s listing of the advantages of being a Jew in Romans 9:3-5.

4. Acts 7:55, 56, The dying Stephen sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God, a phrase which is repeated twice.  Though in this one instance He is standing, Jesus is still “at the right hand of God.”  Some have suggested that this single recorded instance of His standing is because He is waiting to receive the first martyr of the church.

5. Romans 8:34, Who is He who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  Paul here tells us that Christ is not “reigning,” but interceding for His people.  His work as High Priest, begun on Calvary, isn’t finished.  His work as “King” hasn’t yet begun.

6. Ephesians 1:19-21, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality….
Here Paul taught the Ephesians that the power that regenerated and saved them was the same power that resurrected the Lord Jesus and brought Him back to heaven.  That’s the same power that saves us.  It isn’t without reason that the Bible likens salvation to a creation, a resurrection, a birth.  That same power that created the heavens and the earth and called forth Lazarus from the tomb is the same power that calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light – an effective, irresistible power.  

7. Colossians 3:1, …where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  The complete verse says, If then you are raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  This verse isn’t so much about where He is right now, as it is about where we are right now.  Are we, like people of the world, content with the paltry things this world offers, or are we like those of whom the book of Hebrews speaks, These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, Hebrews 11:13.

8. Hebrews 1:3, …when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….  Note carefully the words, “by Himself.”  He doesn’t need “the saints,” or Mary, or the church, or “the sacraments” to save His people.  By Himself He paid the awful penalty.  By Himself He purged, “cleansed,” “put away,” our sins.  He says, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28.  You won’t find rest at the front of a church, or in baptismal waters, or in ritual or routine.  Only in the Lord Jesus is there salvation from sin.

9. Hebrews 1:13, to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?  This is the second time this Psalm has been quoted in this connection.  Our Lord quoted it in Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 21:41-44 to confound the Pharisees in their attempts to trip Him up.  The fact that this incident is recorded in all three Synoptic gospels is of some significance.

10. Hebrews 8:1, …We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven….  Again, the reference to Christ as High Priest.  He is not yet “King”.

11. Hebrews 10:12, 13, But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifices for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  Again, and this cannot be emphasized enough, one sacrifice for sin.  One sacrifice.  One.  One.  ONE!!!

12. Hebrews 12:2, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Cross was no walk in the park for the Son of Man.  Even He only “endured” it.  We really have no idea what the Son of God “endured” on that day, with our glib and powerless Christianity, our sanitized pictures, our pretty crucifixes, blasphemous as these are because the cross is empty, and the death of Christ was a horrible and ugly thing, because of which, by faith, God saves us.  The early church was accused of turning the world upside down.  I’m afraid it must now be said that the world has turned the church upside down.

13. 1 Peter 3:21, 22, …Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.
What does this mean?  Weren’t they already subject to Him?  They were subject to Him as God, but He laid all that aside when He came into this world to live and die for His people.  At the Ascension, His humanity and human nature were exalted to the same level as His deity and divine nature.  A real human being is seated at the right hand of the Father, a Being who is fully Human and, at the same time, fully God.  To Him, to this Man, this God-Man, angelic beings were brought into subjection.  That cannot yet be said of humans.  The time is coming when it will be.  The question is how and when that will happen.
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These verses certainly teach that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.  But notice how He Himself characterizes this in Revelation 3:21, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (emphasis added).  Right now, according to the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus is seated with His Father on His Father’s throne.

So, when does He sit on His own throne?

Hear His own words in Matthew 25:31-34,

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will divide them one from another, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats.  And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right hand…,” emphasis added.

The Lord Himself calls Himself “the Son of Man” at the time of His Second Coming.  It isn’t until then, when He returns to this world, that He sits “on the throne of His glory.”  His sitting on His own throne as King is connected with His Second Coming, not His Ascension.

Matthew 19:28 also bears witness to this.

So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory….”

The rest of the verse answers a question that Peter had, which has no bearing on our subject.  In the part we read, our Lord referred to “the regeneration”.  I believe that  Scripture teaches a regeneration of society just as it teaches the regeneration of an individual.  We call this, “The Millennium”.  If one asks, “Why?” I believe it is to answer once and for all the idea of some that all that is needed is the proper education, or the right economic conditions, or some other improvement, and men will finally show that, at heart, they are basically good people.

Yet, Scripture tells us that, after 1000 years of the most perfect government and environment this fallen world has ever known, Satan will have no trouble fomenting a world-wide rebellion, Revelation 20:7-10.  This will demonstrate once and for all that man is not basically good.  He is basically evil.
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In our next post, we’ll discuss the title of our Lord Jesus:  “King of Kings”.

“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?