Beyond

A while back, I wrote a post about “the God who goes beyond”. This post is along a similar line except that it gives specific instances where God goes beyond. We have such a tiny God in most of our thought. Such a God is not the God of Scripture.

When we consider the God of Scripture, we see:

* Time beyond telling.

We talk about God being “eternal,” or just think or talk about “eternity”. Us, with our clocks and calendars and day planners, measuring time in seconds and minutes and days and years. In a couple of days, as I write this sentence, I will have been married for 50 years. You may read this post on our anniversary. A couple of weeks after that, I will turn 80. So quickly! For both of them.

It’s all about time.

These figures mean nothing in light of eternity.

The Psalmist understood this. In Psalm 90:4, we read, For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night.

Peter picked up on this in 2 Peter 3:8, when he wrote, But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. This is in the context of scoffers who ridicule and deny the Second Coming of our Lord because it’s been a long time, He hasn’t come back, and things are going on as they always have.

But the clock is ticking…

And His concept of time isn’t ours!

In the next place, we see:

* Riches beyond counting.

The other day, as I was walking back from the mailbox, in the rocks and gravel that cover the driveway, there was a quarter partly buried. I picked it up. Several years ago, in a parking lot, someone apparently had emptied their ashtray from the car. I’ve known people who keep spare change in an ashtray in their car for things like parking meters. Instead of cigarette butts, there were several coins: pennies, nickels and dimes. I picked them up. As a young man, I worked in a department store. One day, there was a quarter on the floor. There was a lady a counter or so over, so I asked her if she had dropped it. Was it hers? She said, “It is now,” and took it out of my hand.

I was raised by a grandmother who went through the Great Depression of the 1930s. She lived on a pint of milk a day for awhile. She understood being in need and being frugal. One time, I bought a book of cartoons, a collection of one of those in the newspapers, and she saw it. She said, “I bet you spent two or three dollars on that!” She wasn’t happy. She was even less so when I told her what it really cost.

With God, though, our riches are nothing. In John’s description of the New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:21 NKJV, he says, The twelve gates [of the city] were twelve pearls: each individual gate was one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. I believe these are actual pearls and real gold, but even if they’re just “symbolic,” they tell us that God’s idea of “wealth” is much different than ours.

Further, our Lord taught, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Matthew 16:26, see also Mark 8:36 and Luke 9:25. As I sit here at 10:00 PM typing this, or as you read it, at whatever time, our souls, for each of us, are worth more than this whole planet. And I think you could extend that to its entire existence. I’m not going to get into how long that is right now. Still, you get the idea.

I recently saw an article about someone who has become the world’s first trillionaire. That’s $1,000,000,000,000.

That’s a lot of zeroes.

That’s a lot of wealth, no doubt. Yet you and I, and all believers, have more than this person can even dream of. We have our souls. Without those, it’s all zeroes.

Next, we see:

* Grace beyond comprehension.

When we quote Ephesians 2:8, do we really think about it? By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Or are we so “familiar” with it that the words are sort of automatic?

Christmas is just around the corner. Already. I wonder how many haven’t finished paying for last Christmas. Still, Christmas isn’t about us, at least not in that way. It has nothing to do with Santa or trees or decorations or presents or Hallmark programs.

Christmas is about sin.

Our sin.

That little Baby, lying there in a feeding trough because there was no room anywhere else for Him. One baby among perhaps hundreds in Israel. Perhaps millions around the world.

One baby.

Yet, in the purpose and grace of God, those two – our sin, that baby – were destined to meet.

On a Cross.

He has made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, 2 Corinthians 5:21.

There are depths there that I don’t know that we’ll ever get to the bottom of.

But further, we see:

* Kindness beyond understanding.

Titus 3:4 tells us of the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man.

Kindness.

Love.

These aren’t just synonyms.

The word translated “kindness” is also translated gentleness or good or goodness. David knew about this attribute of God. In 2 Samuel 22:36, and Psalm 18:35, he said to God, “Your gentleness has made me great.” God doesn’t “roughhouse” with His children. And in 2 Corinthians 10:1, Paul referred to the gentleness of Christ.

The word translated “love” in Titus isn’t the word we usually associate with the love of God, which is “agape”. The word in 1 Corinthians is “philanthropia.” I’m sure you recognize it; it’s come into English as “philanthropy”. It means “benevolence”.

The gentleness and benevolence of God. That is what led to Calvary.

The Lord didn’t die so we could make pretty jewelry out of crucifixes, or hang one on a wall. They’re not decorations. They’re not just religious symbols. They’re a reminder of the awful price that was paid for our redemption.

The life and the death of the Son of God.

Finally, and on the flip side of all these things, we see:

* wrath beyond coping.

Until now, we’ve seen good things. These are all things about God that we agree with, these things which lead to His blessing. Some folks think that’s all there is in God’s dealing with humanity. After all, “God is love”. According to this view, everyone is going to that “better place” out there somewhere.

That’s not what our Lord taught. In Luke 16, He tells us of a rich man who died and was buried, v. 22. That’s all we can see. That’s all his family saw. The Lord Jesus saw more. He saw where the man was, not the body which lay in a grave, but the man himself.

We have difficulty with thoughts like this. Our whole life is associated with and lived through a body. We don’t know anything else. But this body of flesh and bone and aches and pains is just a dwelling place, a “house” we live in; it isn’t “us”. Paul deals with this more fully in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8. We won’t go there now, but you might read and think about it later.

The man in Luke 16, his body was dead and buried, but he was in torments in Hades, v. 23. We have difficulty with thoughts like these, too. Revelation 20:15 tells of people, like this man, who are thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 21 describes it further as the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, v. 8. And Revelation 20:10 speaks of it as being forever and ever.

Some folks deny any such place as hell altogether. It’s just a swear word. Others think of it as a place of destruction, that is, though terrible beyond description, it isn’t forever. According to these folks, those who are there will be destroyed, like wood in a fireplace. Still others add another destiny: purgatory. This is where sin is suffered and paid for. It, too, isn’t forever.

All these views are incorrect. And fatal.

This is a hard subject to write about: this idea of burning forever. I knew a lady whose hand had been burned in a fire. It had actually shrunk a little bit. It was an awful experience for her. As I think about being thrown alive into a lake of fire, I shudder. That sudden immersion – complete immersion – in flame and fire. Like being thrown into a body of water, but not really like that at all….

Not into cold….

Not for just a few moments….

Oh, listen. Eternity by itself can be a fearsome topic. This idea of never-ending something. The idea of heaven, well, that’s good. We can go for that. But this idea of hell, that’s something else altogether. And the only thing standing between us and the lake of fire is the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He died on the Cross so we won’t have to suffer the second death, Revelation 21:18. There’s so much more to it than that, though. He died to save us from the reason men go to hell: their sins. The angel told Joseph, “He shall save His people from their sins,” Matthew 1:21, not just from their result.

He died so that we might live.

Do you know this Jesus?

In all the coming festivities, and, yes, I know it isn’t Thanksgiving yet here in the US, but in all the tinsel and decorations and fun and festivities that will follow four weeks afterward, don’t forget “the reason for the season:” that One who came to be our Savior.

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

How Long is “Forever”?

“Silly man! It’s forever, of course.”

We talk about eternity, but I don’t know that we really understand the concept of “forever.”  It’s just a word; nothing endures like that in this world.  We talk about days and weeks and months and years.  We can manage some idea about centuries and millennia, and, going the other direction, even seconds and nano-seconds, which is a billionth (!) of a second (!)   And we live by our calendars – and our clocks.

Let’s just pick a number, say – a hundred million years from today – now, I have no idea of what the concept of “time” might be so far in the future, or if there will even be such a concept – but I understand from Scripture that every single person who has ever been conceived and or walked the surface of this planet will still exist.  That includes you and me.

“Nah!” I can hear someone say.  “That can’t be; look at all the graveyards everywhere, and all the skeletons that have been found.  Death ends everything.”  So says the wisdom of this world.

But that’s not what Scripture says.  In Luke 20:37, 38, in one of His many confrontations with the scribes and Pharisees, the scholars of His day, and their discussions about the resurrection and life after death, our Lord said, “But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’  For He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him.”

“all live to Him,” is, literally, “they all are living to Him”.

It is only to us, who are creatures of a few minutes in this world, that there are past generations.  But to God, Adam and Eve are still around, as well as all their descendants, though their earthly bodies may have long since died and been buried.  They “all are living to Him.”  This doesn’t mean that they just live in His memory, like my mom and grandmother live in mine, though they’ve been gone more than forty years.  These folks are alive in the presence of God.

That idea lends a different viewpoint to the statement made about the deaths of several OT saints, that they each were gathered to his people: Abraham, Genesis 25:8; Ishmael and Isaac, Genesis 25:27, 35:29; Jacob, Genesis 49:33; Moses, Deuteronomy 32:50.  Maybe it’s not just a polite way of saying that they died; maybe it’s a literal statement.  Might we say that it’s a reunion? 

This was Paul’s hope and assurance in 2 Corinthians 5:1, 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 (emphasis added).

And this also from Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54:  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:  “Death is swallowed up in victory,” emphasis added.

It’s true that Paul is teaching about the resurrection of our bodies, so that this body which sits in this chair and is typing these words, will be the body, in a perfected state, that walks the street of gold.  And so will a multitude of others, Revelation 19:1, 6.  Even though Scripture says that earthly relationships as such, like marriage, won’t be in heaven, Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:35, I can’t believe that married couples in this life won’t recognize each other in the next, or that sons and daughters and parents won’t recognize each other.  We, too, will be “gathered”.

It also sheds light on our Lord’s statement in Matthew 16:26, For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

He isn’t saying that it doesn’t matter how rich we might become in this world, we’re all going to die.  That is true, but perhaps He was thinking of that hundred million years from now for a lost person who dies:  “What will he give in exchange for his soul?”

This world is a mere blink of an eye in comparison to eternity.  Now, I know it doesn’t seem like that, and I’m afraid things are likely to get much worse before they get better, but, one of these days, it will be over.  Either death or the Lord will take us from this world and usher us into the next.  There’s no doubt about that, even though there are a lot of doubts expressed about it.  God said it and that settles it, whether anyone believes it or not.  It is appointed to men once to die, and after that.., Hebrews 9:27 

This is not to say that this world isn’t important.  It is.  After all, the Lord Jesus died for it – and I think that includes more than just the people who live on it.  Romans 8:21 says, the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

“The creation itself….”

I don’t know what that will be like; what all will be involved.  I just know that it’s all in God’s hands – and there’s no better place to be.

Or no worse place to be.

Scripture says that while there is indeed a better time coming, there will first of all be a judgment as to how we’ve lived in this time.  For those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, there could be nothing better than what’s coming – for them.

For those who have heard and rejected the Gospel, for whatever reason, there will be no worse place to be than in God’s hands, Revelation 20:11-15.

This world won’t forever get away with thumbing its nose at the One who created it.

A hundred million years….

Are you ready?

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

Evolution: The Devil’s Gospel

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? Psalm 11:3, NKJV.

Though this text may be applied in several ways, I want to use it as a reference to the foundations of our faith as Christians.  If those foundations are destroyed, what happens to our faith?

To destroy the faith has been the aim of the devil since the beginning of human history.  Though we’re given no time frame, I don’t think it took very long in the very beginning of our history in the Garden of Eden before Satan questioned the accuracy and authority of God’s Word.  He came to Adam and Eve and asked, “Has God said…?”

That’s the genius, if I can use that word in this context, of the idea of evolution:  it gets rid of God.  Things just happened, no rhyme, no reason, no purpose, no Garden of Eden and, above all, no God and no devil.  There are no absolutes, except that one, nothing beyond us to tell us what to do, except maybe aliens in the distant past who “seeded” our planet with life and then took off.  Six 24-hour days of creation?  Nonsense.  It took millions and millions of years of evolution from get from a single cell life form, which just happened one day, ..no Maker, no Creator, …just popped up out of the primordial ooze, …to you and me.  No heaven, no hell, no responsibility.

Our culture, our “science,” have fully bought into this lie.  Even many Christians have been taken in by it.  You’ve heard of “the gap theory” in Genesis 1:1, 2, which reads, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  And the earth was, or, became, without form and void, or empty.

“Became”.

So the view was put forth that something catastrophic happened after creation, perhaps a pre-Adamite civilization which was judged for some sin, to explain dinosaur fossils and the cavemen and all that, and the earth “became without form and empty.”  This idea puts the alleged millions of years into the “gap” between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.

The fact that the earth was empty and without form doesn’t mean that it was only a mass of gas or stellar material, as evolution teaches.  It just means that God hadn’t done anything to it yet.  It had no features.  It was “empty.”  The rest of Genesis 1:2 says that the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”  Then it describes the creation of this planet and the abundant life that is on it – in the course of less than a week, not the ages and ages and ages imagined by atheistic science, which starts off with the assumption that there couldn’t possibly be a God who created it all.

I hesitate to model God’s behavior on our own, as I once heard a radio preacher do who said something to the effect that if we multiplied man a billion times, then we’d have some idea of God.  Not true.  Not true.  If we could somehow magnify man a trillion times, we’d still have just a man.  Now it is true that Genesis 1:26, 27; 2:7 says that God made man in His image.  This doesn’t mean that He made us “little gods,” or anything like that; it means that He made us as rational and moral beings.    That is, we are able to think and reason and learn and do things and make things – we’re not just upscale animals – and we have an innate sense of “right and wrong.”  These may not agree with God’s view, witness the news the last few days, but they are there.

So, when Scripture says that the Spirit was hovering over the waters, does it mean that He was looking things over?  Was He laying out, as it were, where things would go:  Europe here, Asia there, the US over there, and so on?  The names may be modern, but the land masses have been around since the second day of creation, Genesis 1:9, 10.

Evolution gets rid of all that.  There is no God; that’s “the gospel according to evolution.”

That’s the Devil’s gospel.

If evolution is true, and it isn’t, but if it were, then there is no life after death, no hell, no judgment, no eternal torment for the devil and those he deceives.  That would be “good news” indeed for the devil.

But he knows it isn’t true, cf. Matthew 8:29, where we have the account of two demon-possessed men who came into the presence of the Lord Jesus and cried out, “…Have you come here to torment us before the time?

The Devil knows full well where he is going to end up and he wants to take as many folks with him as possible.  So he has produced many false gospels, many false ideas, many distractions, to accomplish just that.

I don’t know of many who deny the fact of death.  (If you have recently experienced such a thing in your family or friends, I’m truly sorry).  The discussion is about what happens afterward.

Is there an “afterward”?

Many deny any such possibility.  We die and that’s it.

Another Devil’s lie.

Scripture says, yes, there is an “afterward,” that …it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, Hebrews 9:27, emphasis added.

As I’ve written before, death isn’t the end of things; it’s just a change of scenery.  For those who know the Lord Jesus as Lord and Savior, we cannot begin to imagine the joy and happiness of those who enter His presence and heaven.

For those who do not know the Lord Jesus and die without receiving Him as Lord and Savior, we also cannot imagine what they will suddenly discover: eternal judgment and torment, Luke 16:22, 23.

There are many questions about all this.  What about this?  What about that?  What about the other?

The question is, what about you?

What will be your “afterward”?

Nor is there any salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved, Acts 4:12.

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

May God add His blessing, for Jesus’ sake.

Genesis 1:4, 5: Night and Day

And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.  So the evening and the morning were the first day (NKJV).

Night.  Day.

The two elements of time which define our calendar.

The distinction between them has been somewhat blurred by the technology which allows us to work or play almost equally well regardless of what the clock or the calendar say.

The Scripture has a lot to say about these two elements of time.  Here are some OT references.

Genesis 8:22, “While the earth remains,…day and night Shall not cease.”

Psalm 74:16, The day is Yours, the night also is Yours; You have prepared the light and the sun.

Jeremiah 33:20, 21, “Thus says the Lord:  ‘If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers.

It’s interesting in Jeremiah that the Lord compares the continuing orderly succession of day and night with the perpetuity of the Davidic and the Levitical covenants, and that only if that solar covenant can be broken could it be that David should not have a son to reign on his throne.

It’s commonly believed that the Davidic Covenant has been fulfilled and, as a result,  the Lord Jesus sits on the throne in heaven.   But then, what about “the Levites, the priests, My ministers”?  Though descendants of Levi might still exist, there are no Levites ministering today.  Indeed, only the Lord knows who they might be.  And there is no Temple in which they might minister.

Ezekiel 40-48 give us the answer to this difficulty.  Though not yet, there is coming a time when there will be a Temple in Jerusalem.  Only the Lord knows the time when all that will be fulfilled, but it will be fulfilled as Ezekiel foretold it.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

But there’s more to this “night and day” and light and darkness than just the chronological side.  When God created this world, He made man to be different from the various animals.  Though I don’t like to use the term because of the way it’s been misused in our culture, God made man to have a relationship with Him, something that animals do not have.  This does not mean that everyone is saved, as the term “relationship” is used today; it means that we are His creation, His subjects, and that we are innately aware of it.  We are dependent on Him for even the very breath we take into our lungs, Daniel 5:23 – and we are to know it, something never said of the animal world.  We are to live for Him, to glorify Him, honor Him, serve Him.  We are spiritual creatures (not “spirit” creatures – like angels), not just or only flesh, bone and blood.

We especially see this in the New Testament.

Though not a reference to night and day as such, one of the very first references to the light or darkness which characterize them is in Luke 1:76-79, where Zechariah the priest, finally freed from his long silence, says of his son, John,

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace,

“To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.”

John was to be the forerunner, the herald, of the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Without meaning to be funny, the Lord came to give us a light far different than just a new kind of light bulb.  I’m sure His time and culture would be astonished beyond words by what we have in that way in our time, but He came to give us a different, eternal kind of light.  He came to give us wisdom and understanding in the things of God.  Proverbs 9:10 says, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

The Lord Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John 1:4, 5 says, In Him was life, and the life was the light of men,  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The Jews did not understand Him at all, and our time and culture no longer understand Him either, though there was time when we did, contrary to those who say otherwise.  The Jews rejected Him, and so have we.

The Jewish nation disappeared, and I fear our culture and nation will also disappear one of these days.  I’m afraid I see more than the beginnings of this dissolution in the news every day.  As were the Jews of His time, I’m afraid we, too, will be condemned because of our rejection of the Lord Jesus.

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God, John 3:19-21.

What do you think of the Lord Jesus?

Is He just another religious figure?

Is He fictional, the product of men’s imagination?

Is He who the Bible says He is, God incarnate, conceived miraculously and born of a virgin?

Is He the Savior?

Is He your Savior?

When this planet is a distant memory, in a future we can’t begin to imagine, your answer to those questions now will determine where you are then.

Heaven, and the blessing and wonder of eternity, because of the Lord Jesus and your faith in who He was and what He did.

Or…

Hell, and torment and guilt because of your sins.

Which will it be?

It will be one or the other.

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

“To Boldly Go…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What “fear”?  What “bondage”?

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

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

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

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

How did He do that?

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

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

“One sacrifice for sin forever.”

One sacrifice.

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

That Someone is the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

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

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

“No one.”

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

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

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

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?

Revelation 22:1-5, Paradise Regained.

1] And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  2] In the middle of its street,and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.  The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  3] And there was no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.  4] They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.  5] There shall be no night there:  They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light.  And they shall reign forever and ever.  (NKJV)

These verses continue and finish the description of “the new heaven and the new earth” begun in chapter 21.  So far we’ve seen something of the New Jerusalem and of the inhabitants of the new earth.  Now we see something of the blessings of that eternal life.

In Psalm 46:4, the Psalmist wrote, There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.  We believe this is a prophetic reference to “the pure river of water of life” John described in v. 1.  By the way, this river flows “out of,” not “by,” the throne, as one religious song used to put it.

However, John describes some things the Psalmist didn’t mention.  V. 2 might be translated, “Between its avenue on this side and its river on that side was the tree [or, wood] of life bearing fruit twelve times, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree [or, wood] were for the healing of the nations.”

John describes what we would call a lush, beautiful park.  The Greek word is, “paradise,” hence the title.  As in the beginning, God fellowshiped with our first parents in a park, so throughout eternity He will do so in the New Jerusalem.

The leaves of the tree are for the “healing” of the nations.  The Greek word is where we get our word, “therapy”.  I don’t understand what might be involved in that thought, but Adam and Eve ate before the Fall.  Our Lord ate in His resurrected body, though it wasn’t necessary to His well-being.  Though the saints will have glorified bodies, there will be others who, though perfect and sinless, will have ordinary physical bodies, which perhaps will need some care.  As I said, I don’t really know.

V. 3-5 gives us the reason why eternity will be perfect for God’s people:  “there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.”  Never again will the glories of Heaven be marred by the intrusion of rebellion.  “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.”  Only once or twice in Biblical history have men been allowed anywhere near to the God of heaven and that was only very briefly.  Here such association will be forever.

There are records of men having been caught up into heaven and telling their stories.  I make no judgment on these stories, but after being caught up into the third heaven, Paul wrote that he heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful to utter, 2 Corinthians 12:4.  The ESV translates this, he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.   There is only one source of “heavenly things” and it’s not the minds or experiences of mere men.  Besides, these things “cannot be told.”  How could we?  What do we have in this life or world to compare?

It will be a time of continual day, with no need of artificial light, v. 5.  Cf. 21:23.  We will have the “true light,” that One who said, “Let there be light…,” Genesis 1:3.  God is light and in Him is no darkness at all, 1 John 1:5.

We live in a time when Christians are increasingly disregarded, even despised.  In some countries, the tag is a death sentence.  Somewhere in this world, a brother or sister may be killed while you read these words.  We won’t read or hear about them because, in the world’s eyes, they’re not important, maybe even deserve to die.

The time is coming when that won’t be true:  “they shall reign forever and ever.”  The devil will not forever have his way in this world.

This verse closes our view of the future.  Vs. 6-21 deal with other things.  We only have a brief glimpse of things which must shortly take place, v. 6.  Again, we don’t believe the angel was telling John that these things would happen soon, as we’ve said elsewhere.

But…

They will happen.

Revelation 8:7-13: “As In the Days of Egypt”

7] The first angel sounded:  And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth.  And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.  

8] Then the second angel sounded:  And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood.  9] And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

10] Then the third angel sounded:  And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.  11] The name of the star is Wormwood.  A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.

12] Then the fourth angel sounded:  And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened.  A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.
13] And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”  (NKJV)

The title of this post is taken from Micah 7:15, in which God says “As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show them wonders.”  In this verse, God promises something of a repetition of what happened just before Israel escaped Egyptian bondage.  This is important because similar things are said to happen in Revelation 8 as happened before the Exodus, e.g., water turned to blood, cf. Exodus 7:20.  Many scholars and teachers who will accept that things which happened before the Exodus were actual things will say that the same things mentioned in Revelation are only “symbolic” and not actual events or things at all.  It seems to me that Micah 7:15 tells us that they are “real”.  That God will once again intervene in the affairs of men in such a way that it can’t be denied, cf. 6:17.

1. The first trumpet, 8:7:  Vegetation destroyed.

Ezekiel 38:22 foretells of a time when God will rain down on him…flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.  The “him” refers to those forces who will gather for what seems to be one last time to overthrow and destroy Israel, as seen in Ezekiel, chs. 38-40.  I believe that Ezekiel refers to the same thing as  Zechariah 14:1-3.  It will seem that at long last Israel has been defeated, Jerusalem has been captured and terrible atrocities committed against her inhabitants.  Learned scholars will likely appear on television and proclaim that, at last, the “Jewish problem” has been solved. Little do they know!  This is also likely what Paul referred to in 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8 as he describes the scene when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I would sound one note of caution in the study of prophecy, even in our study.  Some ministries devote their whole attention to it.  That’s fine.  I don’t agree with those who say we ought to ignore it because there is so much discussion and controversy over it.  If God said it, we ought to study it and know as much about it as we can.  At the same time, there is an enormous amount of material throughout the Bible about the future, not just ours, but things future to those to whom it was originally given, much of which we view as history.  Much of it has been fulfilled; much remains.  And it isn’t all neatly strung together for us like pearls on a necklace.

I believe prophecy is about actual history and events told about before they happen.  It is not merely symbolic teaching about something or other.  Having said that, I expect that, when all is said and done, what is done will not be exactly as we, that is, teachers and preachers, might say it will be.  We will, however, see that it was fulfilled exactly as God has said it would be.

With regard to the effect of the first trumpet, I don’t know exactly how it will be fulfilled, whether every tree in a certain area will be destroyed, or just some trees over a wider area.  It doesn’t matter.  It will be evident what has happened: a lot of trees gone, as well as all green grass.  People will no doubt be aghast as this blow to the environment, that environment so many seem almost to cherish, even almost worship.  And we ought to take care of it; after all, we live in it.  But there is coming a time when that which is so important to us, even vital to our lives and well-being, will be greatly affected and destroyed.

2. The Second Trumpet, 8:8:  Oceans struck.

This trumpet and the next one refer to separate events which will greatly affect the waters of this planet.  The thing mentioned in this verse seems to be very large, perhaps like an asteroid or other larger cosmic body.  It won’t be the first time this has happened, cf. the meteor crater in Arizona.  There are other places as well which also bear witness to the violence this world has suffered before.  Our atmosphere has protected us from much of it, but still, some things get through.  Whatever this is will get through.

Its impact will result in great loss, as well as a great change in the ocean itself.  John says a third of it will become blood.  There is some discussion about this. Some say it will simply be a natural occurrence, like the Red Tide.  This phenomenon is caused by a harmful red algal bloom, which produces a neurotoxin that can be fatal to marine animals who ingest it and then to humans who eat the marine animals.

I don’t know if this will be the explanation or not, though I don’t think it will be.  I do believe these events will be beyond the ability of “science” to explain.

As for the destruction of ships, imagine the tidal wave, or tsunami, produced by the collision of this object with the ocean.  It will dwarf the one which made headlines a few years back.

3. Fresh water affected, 8:10-11.

This seems to be a smaller object, what we might call a shooting star.  It will affect a third of fresh water, so that many people die from drinking it.

4. Cosmic disturbances, 8:12.

A third of the heavens will be affected.  Even time itself will seem to be affected, with the shortened length of day and night.

How will all this be done?  Only God knows.

But that’s the point.

Today’s materialistic science prides itself on asserting that things are simply the results of natural processes, operating over billions of years.  There is no God involved, no supernatural interference with the natural order of things.

Science says that everything can be explained.

These phenomena will show that to be a lie.

5. A supernatural announcement, 8:13.

Newer translations say that an eagle flies through the heaven with this announcement.  However it’s accomplished, men are put on notice that there is worse to come.
__________

Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.  We live in a time when there seems to be little, if any, evidence for God in everyday life.  The Bible has little effect, indeed, is forbidden in our government, in our schools, and in much of everyday life.  Secular philosophy rules the day.  Men and women live as if this life is truly all there is; there’s nothing “out there”.

God gave us books like Revelation to be something more than the subject of discussion.  It’s not just to be dabbled in or made a subject for speculation.  Granted, we may not understand a lot of what it says.  It says enough, though, to warn us that this life is not all there is, that in the words of Hebrews 9:27, …it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.

The thought of Hebrews 9:27 is continued in v. 28:  And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.

We can’t even begin to understand those verses.  We’ve sanitized and cleaned up the idea of crucifixion.  We’ve made the cross into pretty jewelry.  But it wasn’t pretty; it was an awful, bloody, painful thing.  Beside all that, our Lord endured the wrath of God against sin.  There’s no way to picture that.

So, you see.  There is coming a time of judgment, for this planet and for every single individual who’s ever lived on it.  For those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, that judgment is past.  He endured it in our place.  Apart from Him, that judgment is still to be faced.

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

Revelation 4, There Is A God In Heaven

Revelation 4:1-11, After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven.  And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.  And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne in appearance like an emerald.  Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.  And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices.  Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal.  And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.  The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.  The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within.  And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“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.” (NKJV)

John has given us a view of seven churches of his time.  Perhaps, perhaps not, they also foreshadow the history of the church in general.  Regardless, in the ebb and flow of church or national history, the rise and fall of cities, nations, kingdoms, or empires, he now points us to one throne that is eternal.  We look back on far more history than Daniel did, and see the rise and fall of many nations, kingdoms and empires yet future to his time, yet he, too, saw the rise and fall of nations under Nebuchadnezzar, and he points out the one central fact of existence.  In the words of Daniel 2:28, “There is a God in heaven.”  And, further, Daniel 5:26, “His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed.”

As we get into the chapter, note what the “voice” said to John, “I will show you things which must take place after this,” v. 1.  “Things,” not “principles,” not “processes.”  Not even just “generalities.”  Things.  Events.  True, there is a lot of discussion about this, but it’s my view that Revelation is the disclosure of history before it happens.  Actual, verifiable history.  Events future to our time which people will be able to point to in the book and say, “See.  This is what is happening.”  We’ll get into this later, Lord willing.

The first thing John saw was a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne, v. 2.

This is where every worldview, every way of thinking about life, without exception, begins.  What do you think of this One who sits on the throne?  Even those who flatly reject Him, or don’t know of Him at all, or worship other gods, live their lives in view of an answer to this question, though they may never actually come into contact with the question.

There are several such incidents in Scripture, beginning with Genesis where Adam and Eve enjoy fellowship with God in the cool of the day, though this soon came to an end when they concluded they could decide for themselves what was “good” and what was “evil”.  In Exodus 24:9,10, after the giving of the Law and Israel’s agreeing to keep it, though they had no idea what they were getting into, we read that Moses, Aaron and his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, along with seventy elders of the people, climbed Mt. Sinai and they saw the God of Israel.  This, too, never happened again because Israel very quickly broke her promise.

There are other such incidents, but perhaps my favorite is found in Ezekiel 1:25-30, where Ezekiel describes his vision of the likeness of a throne and goes on to describe a little of what he saw, ending with this:  like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud in a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it.  This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

“Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud in a rainy day.”

Have you ever seen a rainbow?

Really seen one?

I used to drive for a living and one of my vehicles was a well-used 1982 Dodge van.  One day, it rained.  As the storm passed and the sun began to break through the clouds, there was a rainbow.  Not like the ones you see on the horizon, this one looked like it came out the hood of that old beater.  It was right there, two feet in front of me.  I can’t even begin to describe it.  It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

That’s how Ezekiel saw the glory of God.

That’s how John saw the glory of God, with a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.  This is different from the 7-color rainbows we see.  It had just one color, a glorious color “like an emerald.”

As I look out the window, I see the drabness of winter, with just a leaf or two here and there clinging to a branch, defying the pull of gravity.  Soon, though, we’ll begin to see green, just a tinge at first, but it tells us that spring is coming, that life will triumph.

Perhaps John is telling us that here he is seeing life at its most triumphant, in the presence and glory of God.

But he sees something else, as well.  Leaving aside much of the description of what John saw, and the description of the “living creatures,” John tells us of “twenty-four elders” who sit on thrones around the central throne.

Who are these “elders”?  There’s a lot of discussion about this.  My own view is that they represent the redeemed of Israel and the church.  I believe this is borne out by the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, which has twelve gates, named after the tribes of Israel, and twelve foundations, named after the twelve apostles.  This tells me that, no matter how they may be united in the future, Israel and the church will never lose their distinct and separate identities.

What are these elders doing?  Vs, 10, 11 tell us:

…the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,  

“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.”

This is probably as good a place to end this year as chapter 5 is to start the new year.  It takes us back to the beginning and tells us that we’re not here just as the result of some mindless, random, meaningless cosmic explosion.  Strange, isn’t it, that “science” is willing to believe that that’s how it all started, in spite of the fact that no one has ever been able to create anything by blowing nothing up and making something out of it.  They do tell us that there was this tiny amount of matter, and that’s what blew up, but they never really deal with where that came from.  They never really deal with “origins.”   It seems to me that it takes a great deal more “faith,” though of a different kind, to believe as they do than it does to believe –

In the beginning God created…. 

So, as we ring out the old year in a few days and bring in the new, let this be the confidence in which we rest, the hope that we cling to.  Regardless of what the new year brings, let this be our firm foundation:

There is a God in heaven.

Hebrews 10:1-25, The Way to God, part 1

[1]For the law, having a shadow of the good things come and not the very image of the things, could never with those same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.  [2]For then would they not have ceased to be offered?  For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.  [3]But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  [4]For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.  [5]Therefore, when He came into the world, He said, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.  [6]In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.  [7]Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God’.”  [8]Previously saying, “Sacrifices and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), [9]Then He said, “Behold, I come to do Your will, O God.”  He takes away the first that He may establish the second.  [10]By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  [11]And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  [12]But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, [13]from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.  [14]For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
[15]But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, [16]“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord:  I will put My laws in their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” [17]then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  [18]Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
[19]Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, [20]by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, [21]and having a High Priest over the house of God, [22]let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  [23]Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  [24]And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, [25]not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.  (NKJV)

In our last post, we noted the absolute contrast between the Old and the New Testaments, which are much more that just the respective collections of books that we know by those names.  As we saw, the Old Testament, or Covenant, was a two-fold revelation from God:  1) what was required if one were to come to God on his own merit, and 2) what was required since no one has such merit.

In other words, the Old Testament showed in the Law the absolute and inviolable perfection required by the nature and character of God.  The sacrificial system showed that no one ever had, or has, such perfection.  It also demonstrated the twin principles of substitution and sacrifice, principles shown from every sacrifice from that given for Adam and Eve down to the last one animal slain before the death of Christ.  His was the final sacrifice, and the only one that ever effectively dealt with sin.  Perhaps too simply put, “substitution” means that an animal died in the sinner’s place, and “sacrifice” means that the sinner lived in the animal’s place.  So with Christ:  He died in our place, and we live through Him.  Paul put it like this, For He [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Corinthians 5:21.  You see, the issue isn’t simply about “life” and “death,” but about “sin” and “righteousness”.

Though we’ll only look at part of these verses in this post, there are two things in our text:

1.  Preparation of the way to God, vs. 1-18.
2.  Participation in the way to God, vs. 19-25.

1. Preparation for the Way to God, 10:1-18

Giving of the Law, 10:1-4.  As we noted in earlier lessons, the Law was not given in order to provide a way of salvation, but to show that salvation was needed.

1. The Law was “the shadow of good things to come,” v. 1.  The Tabernacle and the sacrifices foreshadowed two things.
a. the sacrifices foreshadowed forgiveness.
b. the Tabernacle foreshadowed fellowship with God.
The purpose of redemption isn’t just so that we can go to Heaven, but that we may enjoy it when we get there.  Think about it.  If a person has no time for church or Scripture or spiritual things, but spends his time submerged in the things of this world, he would have nothing in common with the inhabitants of Heaven.  If he lives only to fulfill the desires and goals of the flesh, what will he do when these things are no longer important, or even possible?  If he knows only to curse God, how will he praise Him?  It isn’t just “streets of gold,” or “mansions” that will occupy us in heaven, but God Himself and the Lord Jesus.

And that’s not just for the future, but for this life, as well.  Death won’t be some magic transformation that changes us from what we are here to what we will be there.  The work is begun in this life, else there is nothing good in the next life.  Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, there is only a “lake of fire” awaiting the lost, Revelation 20:15.  Redemption is the resumption of what was begun – and lost – in the Garden of Eden.  The Fall of man no more messed up God’s original purpose for mankind than the rejection of Jesus by the Jews messed up God’s plan for the Kingdom.

2. The Law was powerless to “take away sins,” vs. 2-4.  Why then was it given?  To drive home the truth about sin.  “By the law is the knowledge of sin,” Romans 3:20.  “The wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23.  “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire,” Revelation 20:15, which v. 14 refers to as “the second death.”  Sin isn’t just some momentary foible or weakness; it has enormous, and eternal, repercussions.  After all, it was a “minor” sin, as we judge such things, that plunged the race into the misery it suffers now.  “Hell” may only a swear-word to many folks, but they will find out when it is too late that Hell is an awful and eternal reality.

Generating ofa body,” vs. 5-8.
1. desirability, vs. 5, 6.  “Wherefore” – the sacrifices weren’t just for the sake of sacrifices – God had “no pleasure” in them – but to teach salvation by substitution and sacrifice, the two cardinal truths of the Gospel.  There is no other way that God saves sinners.
2. declaration, vs. 7, 8.  This is a quote from Psalm 40:6-8.  “I come” is the prophecy of the One Who would “do your will, O God.” – Who would keep the Law perfectly and satisfy its penalty completely.  This was typified but never accomplished by the sacrifices.

Giving of the Sacrifice, vs. 9, 10.

These verses clearly tell us that we are neither justified nor sanctified by the Law, but by the sacrifice of Christ, also v. 14.  Verse 9 tells us what Christ meant in Matthew 5:17-20 about “fulfilling” the Law.
1. He came to clear away the traditions of men and to present the Law as it really was.
2. He came to satisfy all its requirements so that it has no claim on Him as a human being, and, therefore, no claim on those for whom He came as Substitute.

The New Covenant removes the necessity of the First Covenant, v. 9.  It accomplishes what the First Covenant required – perfect obedience and righteousness, but could never provide.