From Old To New

I got a new Bible.

Yeah, I know, “stop the presses!”

What??

Giving my age away with that one.  There’re probably a lot of kids who’ve hardly ever seen a newspaper, let alone read it.  They know nothing about newpaper editors coming into the press room with a hot new news item and hollering, “Stop the presses!”  They’re all glued to the screen in their hands.  It amazes me, the people I see, even one driving the other day, who can’t seem to tear themselves away from their latest I-toy.  At least the guy driving had it up where he could watch the road and talk on the phone at the same time.  Yes, yes, I know.  It’s the 2010s, not the 1910s.  Electronics have been revolutionary in our culture, a lot of good, the iPhones, etc., but some not so much. 

Anyway….

I got a new Bible.

It’s not the first new one; it’s just when I opened this one this morning for my reading, the pages were empty.  Not empty of words, of course,  but of the notations, markings, underlinings, etc., which had filled the old one.  The other one was an old friend, even to the duct tape holding it all together.  Wonderful invention, duct tape.

It saddens me, the professing Christians who never open a Bible, never read it, who know very little of the treasures it contains.  Early in our marriage, Sharon and I visited the church I had attended as a child.  Aside from the fact that the auditorium seemed a lot smaller than I remembered, so far as I could see, we were the only ones among the 2 or 3 hundred people there who had Bibles.  Now, of course, churches have these ginormous screens up front so people don’t actually need their own Bible.  Or they’ve got these little things they can stick in their pocket.  It’s today.  Sad.  No book to actually hold and read.

This is the Word of God.  Yes, I know.  A whole lot of people, among them professing Christians, don’t really believe that.

This is the Word of that God who called everything into being and who keeps it going.  This is the God who has counted the innumerable stars in the heavens.
This is the God who has named every single one of them, Psalm 147:4.

And this is the God who moved a bunch of men to write down His Word, so that we may know Him and His works.  Know ourselves and our sinfulness.  Know the Lord Jesus Christ, how He came to this world to do for us what we could never do for ourselves:  live a sinless, righteous life and die an unspeakable death, all to pay our sin debt.  Thank you, Lord Jesus.

And God had it all written down so we could know it….
_______________

I got a new Bible.

Goodbye, old friend.

Hello, new friend.

 

 

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Acts 5:30-32, A Prince and Savior.

30] “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.  31] Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  32] And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also in the Holy Spirit whom God has given to them who obey Him.”

The thing we’re interested in in this portion of Scripture is what Peter says about what happened to the Lord Jesus after His resurrection:  God exalted Him to His own right hand.  The question is, what is He doing there right now?  Not “doing there” as if there were some question about His right to be there, but rather, what are His activities there?

A common view is that He is ruling His church as its Head.

Is that what the Scripture teaches?

Our Scripture tells us He is “Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (emphasis added).  We emphasized “to Israel” because a common view is that God is done with Israel, that their crucifixion of Jesus forever closed the door to them, that the church has taken her place as “spiritual Israel,” and, ultimately, the Old Testament prophets didn’t really mean Israel when they said, for example, Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit, Isaiah 27:6.

It is true that Israel as a nation has been set aside in this age, but Scripture says that is only until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, Romans 11:25, (emphasis added.)  Earlier in the chapter, Paul wrote, I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall?  Certainly not!  But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.  Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! Romans 11:11, 12.  Though I’ve seen it done, you can’t really say that “their fall” and “their failure” refer to Israel without also saying that “their fullness” refers to Israel.

“Their fullness.”

What is that?

Instead of the crucifixion cutting them off from God’s grace, it is through that very thing that they will be brought to the feet of the Crucified One.  Zechariah 12:10, 11 quotes God as saying, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one grieves for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.  In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem.”  John quotes part of this verse at the Crucifixion, John 19:37.

Just in passing, Zechariah quotes “the word of the LORD” in this portion, the word “LORD” being capitalized refers to Jehovah, and yet it is He Who is crucified.  This is just one of many incidental references in the Old Testament that demonstrate that Jesus is Jehovah.  He wasn’t just a Man born illegitimately to a peasant girl in Israel, but was God Incarnate.

God is not done with Israel.  Though Zechariah 14 describes a terrible time for her just before the Lord returns, yet He will return and claim her for Himself.  Zechariah 13:1 says, “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”

But our Lord won’t just come back as Savior.  Peter says He will come back as Prince, or Ruler.  Perhaps Revelation 20:4 is the best known verse about this:  And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”  Leaving aside the uproar about “the Millennium,” except to say that the Holy Spirit inspired John to use that phrase five times in six verses for some reason, perhaps to indicate that He meant “1,000 years,” this isn’t the only verse to refer to our Lord as King.  In giving a further description of our Lord’s return, Revelation 19:14-15a say this:  And the armies of heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself shall rule them [the nations] with a rod of iron.  

Zechariah 14 gives us a little idea of this “rod of iron.”  It says, And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.  And it shall come to pass that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there shall be no rain.  If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.  This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, vs. 16-19.

And Matthew says, The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire.  There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth, Matthew 13:41, 42.

There will be no “diversity,” no “freedom of religion.”  Everything will be in accord with the Word and will of God, to “saved” and “unsaved” alike.  That is why Satan will be able to get together people against the Lord, whose number is as the sand of the sea, Revelation 20:7.  This will forever answer those who say that people go wrong because of education or environment or economic conditions.  Conditions will be the best they have been since the Garden of Eden and people will still rebel against God.

Hell is Real

A few years ago, there was a book titled, “Heaven is Real.”  It related the story of a young boy who was said to have gone to heaven.  The gist of the story is that, because of the experiences of this lad and his family, we can be assured that “heaven is real.”

In my last post, I said that, because of our sin, we have no claim on God, but He has a claim on us.  I said, “That claim concerns His justice.  We have broken His Law.  We have come under its penalty.  We have incurred a debt.  That penalty involves eternal separation from Him.”  Then I said I would have more to say in a later post, Lord willing.

This is that post.

Based, not on experience, but on the clear and authoritative teaching of our Lord, we can be assured of another truth about the future:  Hell is real.

There is a lot of discussion about the existence of Hell.

To some people, it’s nothing more than a curse word.

To some, who deny any existence beyond death and the grave, it doesn’t even exist.  Neither does heaven.

To some, the bad experiences of this life are hell.  One place I worked, one of the ladies there said she believed this life is hell.  Based on the difficult place we worked, I could understand her feelings, though I didn’t agree with her.  It’s the only job I ever held that, when I woke up in the morning, I was sorry I wasn’t sick, so I could call in.

To some who will knock on your door, “hell” is just the grave.  If that’s true, then why did our Lord warn us in Matthew 5:27-30 that if a part of our body leads us into sin, it would be better to cut off that part, rather than your whole body be cast into hell”?  Hell is not just the grave.

To some, hell is just about remorse and sorrow that one has missed out on the blessings of salvation.

In contrast to these ideas, our Lord gave a different view.  In Luke 16:19-31 (NKJV),He said,

“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.  But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.  Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.  So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.  The rich man also died and was buried.  And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and say Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
“Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.  And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’  Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’  But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead’.”

There’s some discussion as to whether this portion tells a real story or is just a story, a parable.  I think it’s real, but that doesn’t really matter.  Even if this is only a parable, well, Jesus’ parables were designed to teach and illustrate truth.  There is truth here.

1. There is existence after death.

If we had only the phrase, the rich man also died and was buried, we might be able to say that was the end of things for him.  But we have the account of the death of Lazarus and what happened, as well as the conversation he and the rich man had afterward.

This is in agreement with other Scriptures.  Hebrews 9:27 says, …it is appointed for men once to die, but after this the judgment….  There is an “after” as far as death is concerned.  It isn’t the end of things.

This portion also tells us –

2. There is a time of reckoning after death.

…after this the judgment….  Matthew 5 doesn’t tell us everything about what happens to people after their death.  It’s designed to warn us that there is something after death, and that what happens in this life isn’t necessarily an indication of what will happen then.  The rich man lived a life of luxury and plenty, yet he wound up being tormented; the beggar lived in sickness and poverty, yet he wound up being comforted.

It’s widely believed that there is only “a better place” out there after death.  According to our Lord, that is not true.  There is also, if I may put it like this, “a bitter place.”    There is a time, and a place, where the things of this life will be examined and judged, a time when those who have “gotten away with it” will discover that, no, they haven’t.

3. There is a place of torment after death.

Luke 16:22b-24 says, The rich man also died and was buried.  And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  Then he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”

This isn’t the only place where the Lord mentions such things. In Mark 9:43-49, He said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched – where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched – where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’  And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire – where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’  For everyone shall be seasoned with fire….”

This is perhaps the hardest thing to accept, especially in this day when the Word of God is generally held in such low esteem, and when faulty views of God are so prevalent.  How can a “God of love” send men and women to a place of torment?  People just can’t reconcile this idea with the idea that God could do such a thing, and so, reject it.

Our Lord teaches otherwise.

You see, as I said above, we have broken God’s law.  We are guilty and under sentence of its punishment:  eternal separation from God.  Though the body dies, the soul lives on, and the body will one day be resurrected, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation,” or as the KJV put it, “the resurrection of damnation,” John 5:29.

Don’t misread that “good” as though there are some who will go to heaven because of it.  Our Lord was speaking from the viewpoint of being under the Law, wherein there were some who were considered “blameless,” for example, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist.  Luke 1:6 describes them as both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

“Blameless.”

Even the Apostle Paul, before his conversion, considered himself “blameless,” Philippians 3:6.  But, as he put it, “I was alive once without the Law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died,” Romans 7:9.  This has nothing to do with his “fellowship with God” being broken after his conversion, but rather, the cataclysm that occurred in his life as he traveled toward Damascus with the sole purpose of rooting out and destroying those who followed Jesus of Nazareth, cf. Acts 26:9-11.  Afterward, he looked at those things of which he had been so proud as no better than the refuse of his own body, Philippians 3:8.

Later in life, he wrote, There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.  They have all turned aside, Romans 3:10-12.

“None righteous” –

None who measures up to the standards and requirements of God’s holiness.  There is a lot of “religion” among men, but, apart from the Lord Jesus, there is no righteousness for all that.

“None who understands” –

None who understand that we come short of what God requires of us.  None who understand that nothing we can do measures up to what God requires of us.  Indeed, some are offended at the very idea that God can “require” anything of us.

“None who seeks after God” –

None who understand that the only place to get that righteousness God requires is from God Himself.  That righteousness is the righteousness of Christ imputed to those who believe on Him.

Apart from that righteousness, we all stand condemned in the sight of God, John 3:18, He who does not believe is condemned already.  In a very real sense, to the unsaved person, this life is little more than a cell on death row, waiting for the day of execution.  For the unbeliever, a place in hell is as assured as a place in heaven is for the believer.

But how can that be?  How can that be “just”?

We question the “justice” of this because we minimize sin.  Let me put it this way.  If one swats a fly, nothing is thought of it.  If one were to assault me, well, that might be considered more serious.  If, however, one were to assault the President of the United States, that would be considered very grave indeed.  Why the difference?  Because of the dignity and position of the person assaulted.

Sin is an assault against God.  Since we have brought God down to a level below us (in that we believe that we can confound His will and prevent His purpose), we don’t think of it like that.  However, because God is infinite, acts against Him bear infinite consequences.

Sin brings an infinite consequence:  an eternity in hell.

When the Lord Jesus died on the Cross, He suffered that consequence.  That doesn’t mean that He actually went to Hell; He did suffer that separation from God that is the essence of hell, Mark 15:34.

With our sanitized crucifixes and pictures, our superficial, “contemporary” Christianity, we have no idea whatever what that means.

It means that there is no salvation apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  It means there is no escaping our sin and its eternal consequence apart from Him.   Apart from Him, everything we do is sin, Proverbs 21:4, even the providing of the necessities of life.  Why is that?  Because we do it with no thought of Him.

And, apart from Him, there is no hope, Ephesians 2:12.

This is why Scripture urges us to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, because there is no salvation anywhere else, only condemnation, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved, Acts 4:12.