Revelation 2:8, The Christ Who Was Dead And Is Alive.

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write,
“These things says the First and the Last, who was dead and came to life.”

It’s with good reason that the Lord starts each letter with a reference to Himself.  Especially in this day of mega-churches and “personalities” (“Chrislebrities,” ugh! what a terrible word!), Jesus seems almost irrelevant.  Of course we believe in Him – we are Christians, after all – but with all the programs and projects and politics and all our efforts for the betterment of mankind, He kind of gets put on the back burner until something goes wrong, and then we run to Him, wondering why He doesn’t do something.  (Although, in this day of fast foods and microwaves, I wonder how many people know what a “back burner” is.  Anyway.)  If Christ were indeed to go away, how many churches would notice the difference?

I don’t mean to be critical, though I am, but without the Lord Jesus, there is no reason for “church.”  There is no salvation.  There is nothing.

Our Lord is simply reminding each church of that fact.  After all,

He is –

– “The First and the Last.”

Several cities in the Roman Empire claimed the title, “First (of something).”  There were several different categories for this.  Ephesus, Smyrna and Thyatira were among these cities.

I think the Lord was simply reminding them that long before Smyrna had been thought of, He could say, “I AM”, and long after the last ember of this planet has burned out, cf. 2 Peter 3:10, He will still be able to say, “I AM”.

We forget that.  Like Smyrna, there are places of incredible beauty and awe-inspiring scenery in this world.  Some of you have traveled all over it.  I’ve just seen a little of this country.  The vastness of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, fall colors in the Ozarks, the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains and Pikes Peak (the mountain in the header of this blog), the impressive vista of the Black Hills of South Dakota, the awesome feeling of the world’s highest suspension bridge holding sway 1000+ feet over the Royal Gorge and the Arkansas River.

And it does sway (move).  royal-gorge-bridge-again

Just a little….

You used to be able to drive over the bridge, but that’s long gone.  Cars got too big and heavy.

It’s enough to walk over it.

As an aside possibly only of interest to me, my grandfather worked in the steel mill in Pueblo CO where the steel cables were made that support the bridge.

With all that, there’s a great deal of beauty in this country that I haven’t seen.

Doesn’t matter.

One day, it’ll all be gone.

The Lord Jesus will still be the First and the Last.

But He also is the One –

“Who was dead and came to life.”  The Greek reads, “Who became dead and lived.”

It’s a study in itself just to consider the Lord’s “becoming.”  That’s why we split this letter into two parts.

In the first place, He became flesh, John 1:14.

The thing about this is, who was He before He became flesh, before He was born to the virgin in Bethlehem?  Everything rides on the answer to that question.

If, as some who knock on your door insist, He was just another created being, albeit maybe a little higher than you or me, if that’s true, then there’s no hope for any of us.  As and if only a creature like us, He would be completely responsible to God for Himself.  He would have to be perfection Himself in order not to be condemned.  His life would have value in this way only for Himself.  He would have nothing left over, as it were, for anyone else, or you or me.  We’d be doomed.

But John 1:1 says that before He became flesh, He was God.  Those same folks who knock at your door insist that John meant that Jesus was only “a god.”  It is true that in the original, there is no article, no “the,” before “God” in John 1:1.  If there were, then the Word would be the God, and the “oneness” folks are right.  But there is no article before the word, “God.”  In the Greek, there is no indefinite article, no “a,” and thus no way for John to write “a god.”

So?

The difference might be seen in comparing these two phrases:  you are the human; you are human.  The first phrase, “You are the human,” indicates a particular person.  It’s true, in English, to say, “You are a human” is possible, meaning that you are one among several, or as distinguished from them, but in NT Greek, you can’t say that.  To them, “You are human” would mean that you have the characteristics of a human, as opposed, say, to fish or birds.  And, no, we are not animals, although that’s another post.

What John is saying is that, whatever characteristics God has, the Word has.  He is God, not “a god.”

But these same folks again, persistent, aren’t they, will say, “Yes, but Jesus Himself said that the Father is greater that He is, John 14:28.  According to them, this means that He isn’t equal with God.  He isn’t Jehovah God.

Is that true?

Not at all.

When the Word became flesh, He laid aside His divine prerogatives, His “rights,” and came to this earth as a human being.  And He was truly human, not a phantom or apparition, as some teach.  In doing so, He did not cease to be God.  He just quit acting like it, for the most part.  Walking on water isn’t ordinarily a human thing.  When He comes back, He will act like it.

As a man and as a Jew, He was born under the Law, Galatians 4:4, and was as responsible to obey it as any other Jew.  In this way, because He was truly human, the Father was greater than He.  This doesn’t deny His deity at all, but merely affirms His humanity.

Further, He didn’t come to glory and fame.  He wasn’t born in Rome to a wealthy or noble family, but in Bethlehem, to a poor family from a despised race.  How do we know His family was poor?  When His mother, Mary, made the required offering after His birth, she offered turtledoves or pigeons, the offering prescribed for the poorest Jew, Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:8.

He made Himself of no reputation, Philippians 2:7.

But more than all that, and the reason for it, He became a sin offering, Hebrews 9:26, but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.  

Then there’s 2 Corinthians 5:21, For He [God] has made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  I don’t even begin to understand all that’s involved in that.  I don’t think we ever will.

But the cross and the tomb weren’t the end of it.

“He became alive.”

This was the message of the apostolic church, And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, Acts 4:33.  It’s what they were supposed to preach:  Then He [Jesus] said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations,” Luke 24:46, 47, emphases added.

Why go through all this “doctrine”?  Why emphasize it?  Because if that isn’t who Christ was to Smyrna, they had no hope.  They were suffering for nothing.  And if that isn’t Christ to us, we have no hope.   Indeed, as Paul put it, If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable, 1 Corinthians 15:19.

(photo credit:  2roadsdiverged.com)

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March Memories: “If Jesus Is God,….”

[In a couple of our last “March Memory” reviews, we looked at what the Bible says about the deity of the Lord Jesus, that He was truly God manifest in the flesh.

“Yes, but…”]

“If Jesus is God, how can the Father be greater than He is?”  “Does Jesus pray to Himself?” “Doesn’t that make Him His own Father”  “”How can He call God, ‘My God’?”  “Why were there things He didn’t know?”

And on and on go the questions.

All such questions were answered by Paul in Philippians 2:5-11:

Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This incredible Scripture has three parts.

Jesus as God, vs. 6, 7.

1.  His being, in the form of God.

In our post on “The Third Genealogy,” we noted that nowhere does the Bible speak of Jesus “becoming” or being “created” as God, or a God.  John said that as the Word, “Jesus” being His human name, He was, or, existed as, God.

To us, the word form carries the idea of “shape.”  However, to the Greek mind, the word carried the idea of nature or character.  In agreement with John, Paul was saying that the Word was Deity, was God.

2.  His thinking, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.

Though there is discussion among scholars about the meaning of the words translated, “consider it robbery,” it seems to me that the best meaning is that He didn’t think equality with the Father was something to be selfishly held on to.  We’ll return to this thought in a moment.

3.  His action, made Himself of no reputation.

Scripture teaches that there was a group of people who would otherwise have been lost who were chosen by the Father, Who gave them to the Son.  Jesus called them “His sheep.”  However, since these people are by nature the children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3, something had to be done about their sin and their sinfulness.

Jesus agreed to come into this world as the Redeemer and Representative of His people, “His sheep,” Matthew 1:21.  He was their “Shepherd.”  However, He didn’t come with glory and honor, such as He had in Heaven with the Father, and which He could rightfully have claimed.  He didn’t “hold on to” the honor He had as God.  He didn’t come as a “personality” with a huge following, like some in the Church today.  He was born into an ordinary family in an obscure village in a part of Israel that was looked down on.  He spent 90% of His life unknown and even when He began His ministry, it was to ordinary people, the rulers and leaders wanting nothing to do with Him.  Indeed, it was they who ultimately demanded His death.

He didn’t just “think about” doing something.  He went ahead and did it.

The phrase could be translated, “He emptied Himself,” and there is discussion about what this means.  Some teach that He emptied Himself of His deity, that as Man He ceased to be God.  That isn’t what the term means at all.  We’ll come back here in a minute.

Jesus as Man, vs. 7, 8.

When Paul wrote that Jesus took on the form of a bondservant and the likeness of men, he wasn’t saying that Jesus just “looked” like a man.  He was emphasizing that Jesus was really and truly human.  As human as you or me, without the sin which plagues us.  Though we speak of “the virgin birth,” it was His conception which was miraculous.  Once conceived in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, though, He developed like any other baby.  Like any other baby, He was born into this world, where He grew and developed as a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager (though that is a recent concept), and then as an adult.  Indeed, in His culture, once He reached adolescence, He would pretty much have been considered an adult.

It’s difficult to visualize the Creator of the Universe as having to learn how to walk,

This is where all the questions come in about the so-called limitations of Jesus.  As a human being, He didn’t have the infinite capabilities that He had as God.  It is this He divested Himself of, His divine glory and the independent exercise of His divine power, though there are still glimpses of them.  He turned water into wine, walked on water, stilled storms, healed the sick, raised the dead.  These aren’t ordinarily human activities.  Though Man, He did not cease to be God.

As for those who say that He never claimed to be God, those who heard His statement in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM, clearly understood that’s what He was saying, that He was Jehovah.  That’s why they tried to kill Him – and why they couldn’t.  See also John 5:18; 10:33.

Even though Jesus was, and is, God, He had a human mind and mere human abilities.  This is why, though as God He is omniscient, there were things He didn’t “know.”  It wasn’t because He wasn’t God, but because He was also Man.  As God, He is omnipotent.  As a Man, He got tired and hungry.  As God, He is omnipresent, being here and there.  As a man, He had to walk from here to there.

In addition, Paul wrote that Jesus was born under the Law, Galatians 4:4.  As such, He was responsible to live by its demands.  This would include acknowledging the Father as His God just like any other Jewish person.  This is why, when talking to Mary Magdalene about His ascension, He could say that He was going to “My God and your God,”  John 20:17.  Notice, however, He didn’t say, “our God.”  There was still a distinction.

As a Jewish man under the Law, He would have been subject to the Father.  It was because of this that He could say that the Father was greater than He.  It has nothing to do with some “inferiority” on His part, but has everything to do with the relationship He had with the Father at that time.  It had nothing to do with His not being God, but everything to do with His being human.  In addition, He had come to do the Father’s will, John 5:26 and many other verses.  He had come as the Servant of Jehovah, Isaiah 42:1-4.  As such, He was  obedient….

As the ultimate evidence of His humanity, He died.  God cannot die.  This is why the Word had to take on Himself true humanity, so that, as “Jesus,” He could die.  But He didn’t die easily, in glory and honor, with a morphine drip, as terminal patients do today.  He even refused what relief was available back then, Matthew 27:34.  He died the most cruel death imaginable, a death even the Romans considered despicable, though they weren’t slow to use it.

In the words of Paul, He died even the death of the cross….

But, His story doesn’t end there.

Jesus as Lord, vs. 9-11.

As far as the world is concerned, Jesus has little, if any, relevance or significance.  He might as well still be dead.  Many believe that He still is.  Certainly, there is no government which honors Him or tries to live by His word.  Even “Christendom” has relegated Him to a secondary, or less, role.  In fact, many churches still have Him on the Cross.  Others have taken His place as Head of the Church or as who guides how it functions.

To many unbelievers, Jesus is little more than a cuss word.  Or a name to be mocked and ridiculed.  Many doubt that He really existed.  Sadly, even many professing Christians don’t give Him the honor He deserves, seeing Him only as a buddy, or “a Jewish carpenter.”  Views about Him are more likely to be from sentiment than they are from Scripture.

Scripture says that God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand.  There is a lot of discussion about what this means, and the place of the Lord Jesus in the current scheme of things.  Arguments abound over the interpretation of Old Testament Scriptures which tell of a “kingdom” over which Messiah will reign.  It’s not the purpose of this post to get into all that.

It’s enough to say that there is coming a time when every single created being will bow before the Lord Jesus and confess that He is who He said He is. Every knee will bow before Him, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.  There are those who believe that this means that everyone will eventually be saved.  Scripture teaches otherwise.  The atheist, the skeptic, the false religionist, the demon, all will be forced to bow before Him and acknowledge Him.  This bothers some people who are concerned about “free will,” but there is no “free will” in this, any more than in a criminal forced to acknowledge his sentence and enter prison.  And there will be no appeals from this court.

God WILL be glorified in this, His Son, this One despised and rejected of men.

Though one day, even the lost will have to admit that He is Lord, He is Lord, and He has willing subjects.

Are you one of them?

There’s really only one thing left to consider….

What do you think about Christ?  Matthew 22:42.
_______________

(originally published, May 8, 2013.)  edited and additional material.

If Jesus is God,….

The phrase, “If Jesus is God,” is always followed by questions like, “How can the Father be greater than He is?”  “Does Jesus pray to Himself?”  “Doesn’t that make Him His own Father?”  “How can He call God, ‘My God’?”  “Why were there things He didn’t know?”

All of these questions, and all similar questions, are answered by Paul in a few verses of Scripture in Philippians 2:5-11 (NKJV):

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This incredible Scripture has three parts:

Jesus as God, vs. 6, 7.

1.  His being, being in the form of God.

In our post on “The Third Genealogy,” we noted that nowhere does the Bible speak of Jesus “becoming” or being “created” God, or a God.  John said that as the Word, “Jesus” being His human name, He was God.

To us, the word form carries the idea of “shape.”  However, to the Greek, the word carried the idea of nature or character.  In agreement with John, Paul was saying that the Word was Deity, was God.

2.  His thinking, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.

Though there is discussion among scholars as the meaning of the words translated “consider it robbery,” it seems to me that the best meaning is that He didn’t think equality with the Father was something to be selfishly clung to.  We’ll return to this thought in a moment.

3.  His action, but made Himself of no reputation.

Scripture teaches that there was a group of people who would otherwise have been lost who were chosen by the Father and given to the Son.  Jesus called them “His sheep”.  However, since these people are by nature the children of wrath, it was necessary that something be done about their sin and their sinfulness.

Jesus agreed to come into this world as the Representative and Redeemer of His people, His “sheep,” Matthew 1:21.  He was their “Shepherd”.  However, He didn’t come with glory and honor, such as He had in heaven with the Father, and which He rightfully could have claimed.  He didn’t “cling” to the honor He had as God.  He didn’t come as a “personality” with a huge following, like some in the Church today.  He was born into a family of ordinary people who lived in an obscure village in a part of Israel that was looked down upon.  He spent 90% of His life unknown and even when He began His ministry, it was to crowds of ordinary people, the rulers and leaders wanting nothing to do with Him.  Indeed, it was they who ultimately demanded His death.

The phrase could be translated, “He emptied Himself,” and there is discussion about what this means.  Some teach that it means that He divested Himself of His deity, that as Man He ceased to be God.  That isn’t what the term means at all.  We’ll come back here in a minute.

Jesus as Man, vs. 7, 8.

When Paul wrote that Jesus took on Himself the form of a bondservant and the likeness of men, he wasn’t saying that Jesus just looked like a man.  Paul is asserting that Jesus was fully and really human.  His birth was like any other.  His conception is actually what was miraculous, though we speak of “the virgin birth.”  Once conceived, though, He developed like any other baby and was born into this world, where He grew and developed as a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager (though that is a fairly recent concept) and then as an adult.  Indeed, once He reached adolescence, He would pretty much have been considered “adult.”

It’s difficult to think of the Creator and Upholder of the universe as having to learn how to walk.

This is where all the questions come in about the so-called limitations of Jesus.  As a human being, He did not have the infinite capabilities that He had as God.  It is this He divested Himself of, His divine glory and the independent exercise of His divine power, though there are glimpses of it.  He turned water into wine, walked on water, stilled storms, healed the sick, raised the dead.  These aren’t ordinarily human activities.  Though Man, He didn’t cease to be God.

As for those who say that He never claimed to be God, those who heard His statement in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” clearly and certainly understood that that was exactly what He was claimed, to be Jehovah.  See also John 5:18; 10:33.

Even though Jesus was, and is, God,  He had a human mind and mere human abilities.  It is because of this that there were things He didn’t “know,” even though, as God, He is omniscient.  It wasn’t because He wasn’t God, but because He was truly human, as well.  As God, He was omnipotent.  As a man, He got tired and hungry.  As God, He was omnipresent, being here and there.  As man, He had to walk from here to there.

In addition, Paul wrote that Jesus was born under the Law, Galatians 4:4, and as such was responsible to live by its demands.  This would include acknowledging the Father as His God just like any other human being, but especially the Jews.  This was why, when talking to Mary Magdalene about His ascension, He could say that He was going to “My God and your God,” John 20:17.  Notice, however, He didn’t say that He was going to “our” God.  There was still a distinction.

As a Jewish man under the Law, He would have been subject to the Father.  It is because of this that He could say that the Father was greater than He was.  It wasn’t because of some “inferiority” on His part, but simply the relationship He bore to the Father at that time.  It has nothing to do with His not being “God,” but with His being human.  In addition, He had come to do the Father’s will, John 5:26 with many others.  He had come to save His people from their sins, an activity begun by the Father in election and brought to pass by the Spirit in regeneration.  He had come as “the Servant of Jehovah,” Isaiah 42:1-4.  As such, He was obedient….

As the ultimate evidence of His humanity, Jesus died.  God cannot die.  This is why the Word had to take to Himself humanity, so that, as Jesus, He could die.  But He didn’t die easily, in honor and glory, with a morphine drip to ease His agony, like terminal patients have today.  He even refused what relief there was available at the time, Matthew 27:34. He died the most cruel death imaginable, a death even the Romans considered despicable, in the words of Paul, even the death of the cross.

But His story doesn’t end there…

Jesus as Lord, vs. 9-11.

As far as the world is concerned, Jesus has little, if any, relevance and significance.  He may as well still be dead.  Indeed, many believe that He still is.  Certainly, there is no government which honors Him and seeks to live by His words.  Even “Christendom” has largely relegated Him to a secondary, or less, role.  Many churches still have Him on the Cross.

To many unbelievers, Jesus is little more than a cuss word.  Or a name to be mocked and ridiculed.  Many even doubt that He really existed.  Sadly, even many professing Christians don’t give Him the honor He deserves, seeing Him as little more than a buddy, or “a Jewish carpenter.”  Views about Him are more likely to be from sentiment than they are from Scripture.

Scripture says that God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand.  There is considerable discussion about what this means, and about the current place of the Lord Jesus in the scheme of things.  Arguments abound about the interpretation of Old Testament Scriptures which foretell a “kingdom” over which Messiah will reign.  It’s not the purpose of this post to enter into all this.

It’s enough to say that there is coming a time when every single created being will bow before the Lord Jesus Christ and confess that He is Who He said He is.  Every knee will bow, before Him, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.  There are those who believe that this means that every single person will be saved. The Scripture teaches otherwise.  The atheist, the skeptic, the false religionist, the demon, all will be forced to bow before Him and acknowledge Him.  This idea bothers a lot of people who are concerned about “free will,” but in this there will be no freedom, any more than a criminal has “freedom” to disregard sentencing for his crimes.  God will be glorified in this, His Son, this One despised and rejected of men.

Though one day all, even the lost, will have to confess Him to be Lord, right now He is Lord, and He has willing subjects.  Are you one of them?

There’s really only one thing left to consider…

What do you think about Christ? (Matthew 22:42,)