John 11:25-26 (Never Die)

Even the faithful of ancient Israel knew that they would one day die.  They knew it without a doubt, and had no hope that it could be avoided.  Delayed, yes; avoided, no.

Death was for them a time of silence, sleep, darkness.  It took place in a region below called Sheol.  Sheol housed all the dead.  It was assumed that those who lived rightously enjoyed a better state than those who lived unrighteously.  Yet everyone was dead, and captive to that overall state.

When Jesus was raised from the dead and took all the captives to heaven to be with Him forever, it created a whole new way of looking at life and death.  It would take even believing humanity some time to adjust to so dramatic a change.

According to the New Testament, Jesus went to heaven immediately but the rest of the dead did not follow until approximately a generation later.  That was when all the messianic promises were fulfilled: the kingdom of God came, the day of the Lord dawned, the new covenant took effect, and the new heavens and new earth were established.  This new order of creation no longer had a need for Sheol (Hades) because the dead were all transferred to heaven (“He led captivity captive”) in the instant of transition.  Every person who died thereafter would no longer descend to Sheol but rather ascend straight to heaven.  There would no longer be a sleep of death.  Humans would simply undergo an immediate metamorphosis to the new body that would required for life in heaven.

Because of this new order for us, Jesus could say that we would “live even if we died” and that we would “never die.”  The faithful of ancient Israel would understand exactly what He was talking about, for the arrangements for afterlife were different enough to justify such a dramatic description. 

Praise be to God who has delivered us from so great a peril as death – it no longer holds any power over us!

Jeremiah 29:11 (A Future and a Hope)

As human beings, we had no future beyond death.  We put death off as long as we could, but in the end…there it was.  Blackness.  No future.  No hope. 

Then God revealed His plan through His chosen people, the seed of Abraham, the nation of Israel.  Specifically, He revealed it through the most noble person that great people ever produced: Jesus of Nazareth.  That plan was that Jesus would die, but then be born again from the dead.  He would be born the Son of God.  He would be the firstborn Son of God who would open the womb of death.  Thus, He would be the firstborn of many brethren.  And the entire family of God would live forever in heaven.  What a future!  What a hope!

Do you wonder what people first thought when God promised through Jeremiah hundreds of years before Christ that He had plans to give them a future and a hope?  Could their expectations have been anywhere near as wonderful as what God ultimately revealed through Jesus Christ?  I can’t see how.  God has done exceeding abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think!

Humanity had no future and no hope beyond death.  It now has the hope of heaven with each other and with God.  If life on earth is interesting (and it was created by God), how much more interesting must heaven be!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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The Sons of God Were Made For Heaven

Everyone in the ancient world knew that heaven was the residence of deity. For the Jews it was the home of one God. For the Greeks and Romans it was the home of all the gods. Regardless of mindset, therefore, heaven was for deity and earth was for humanity.  The dead dwelt in Sheol (Hades) below; they certainly did not dwell in heaven.

If God intended for us to live in heaven, therefore, He had to have a way to make humanity into the offspring of deity.  Jesus was birthed from the dead that the rest of the dead might have a means of qualifying for adoption by God.  Otherwise, how could we live in His house? 

Consider the physical creation in which we dwell.  Every creature has its designated habitat.  Birds in the air, fish in the sea.  If a caterpillar is to become a butterfly, it’s habitat will change, for a caterpillar is designed for the land while a butterfly is designed for the air.  Therefore, while man is designed for the earth and angels are designed for heaven, God made resurrected man (that is, a human being born out of death – Jesus being the first) for the habitat of heaven – His home. 

Because Jesus is the firstborn of many brethren (Romans 8:29), we are by that fact sons of God and shall dwell in our rightful home with our heavenly Father for all eternity once our time on earth is complete.  “O Death, where is your victory?”  (1 Corinthians 15:55; Hosea 13:14)

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Jesus Was Born the Son of God from the Dead

Although Jesus is referred to throughout the gospels as the Son of God, there is a particular way to which His Sonship is tied to His resurrection.

The apostle Paul speaks of this in Acts 13:33 when he quotes Psalm 2:7.  In that psalm, God declares to the Messiah, “You are My Son; today I have begotten You.”  This, of course, attaches a day of birth to the Sonship.  Paul makes the point in Acts that it was through the raising Jesus from the dead that these words were fulfilled. 

Paul makes this same point in the opening of Romans when he writes that while Jesus was the son of David according to the flesh, He was “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” 

Up until the resurrection, the arc of Jesus’ life was exactly like that of all other human beings:  conception, birth, life, death.  Jesus introduced a new step in the sequence by being born out of death (or you could say born again after death) to eternal life.  He was raised from the dead, past earth, all the way to heaven.  This was now to be the extended progression for all humanity. 

As the Son of God in this resurrection sense, He belonged in heaven for that is God’s home.  Thus He ascended there.  Because we are being conformed to the image of God’s Son, we shall follow.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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The Firstborn Among Many Brethren

In Romans 8:29 Paul says that Jesus was intended to be the firstborn of many brethren.  He was not speaking, of course, about Jesus’ earthly birth.  Rather, he was speaking about Jesus being the firstborn from the dead. 

Our modern minds must continually be brought to remember that before Jesus’ resurrection, no one expected the afterlife to exist above in heaven.  Rather, it was understood to exist below in Sheol (or Hades in the Greek language).  This was the case for everyone who died.  No one went to heaven when they died.  No one even hoped they would go to heaven.  It was an unheard of notion.  People were doing well just to hope that God would some day resurrect the dead to earth, yet they knew it would create complications.  For this reason the Sadducees parted company with the Pharisees, the former giving up on the idea of resurrection altogether because of such complications (e.g. multiple husbands for widows who had remarried). 

Out of this very uncertain hope of resurrection, God raises Jesus from the dead and brings Him all the way to heaven indicating that resurrection would not be to earth, but to heaven.  Jesus had already made this known during His earthly ministry (Matthew 22:30), but punctuated the lesson dramatically when He was lifted up in the sight of His apostles (Acts 1).  

The point of all this was not for Jesus to have this experience for Himself but that He might create a way for humanity to have a permanent and blessed existence after death.  Thus we human beings are the “many brethren” for whom He became “the firstborn.”

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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The Firstborn Who Opens the Womb

Luke 2:23 explains that Jesus was brought as an infant to Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord.  The Law of Moses (Exodus 13:2) had stated that “every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.”  Since Mary had been a virgin, Jesus was indeed the firstborn of her and Joseph’s family.

This earthly experience presaged the even more momentous experience that would occur in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead some thirty or so years later.  That is, Jesus would be the firstborn to open the womb of the dead!  The dead had simply been dead.  But when Jesus was raised from the dead, it was the first time anyone had been born from the dead…never to die again (Romans 6:9).

Through His resurrection, Jesus had turned the tomb into a womb.  Being the first, He had opened the womb.  And because He had opened the womb of death, the rest of the dead would follow.  Praise be to the name of Jesus, the firstborn who has opened the womb of death – let Him be called “holy to the Lord” for sure!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

The Firstborn from the Dead

In the first chapter of Colossians, the apostle Paul refers to Jesus as “the firstborn from the dead.”  In the first chapter of Revelation, the apostle John does so as well.  This is a stunning description of Jesus, absolutely true and important in every way.

Death had been the natural course for human beings ever since the beginning of creation when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command.  No one had ever escaped death.  Everyone who died was held permanently captive by it.  God’s faithful hoped that He would do something about this dilemma, but no one knew His plan.  No one knew it, that is, until Jesus was raised from the dead, or should we say, was born from the dead. 

People had been raised from the dead before.  It was rare but it had happened.  Even Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  But Lazarus eventually had to die again; Jesus wouldn’t be there in the flesh to continue raising him.  God’s solution was to birth people from the dead so that they would never die again.  Jesus was the firstborn of this plan. 

One of the unmistakable implications of the term “firstborn” is that there would be others.  For if something is “first,” how can it be the “only”?  In fact, it was for the others (i.e., us – those who are subject to death) that Jesus Himself went through this process.  He did not need the redemption for Himself for He was the Author of life!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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David Led Captivity Captive

In 1 Samuel 30, we read of the Amalekites taking captive from Ziklag the women and children of David and his men.  David was particularly distressed because, in addition to losing his own family, his own men were threatening to stone him for having let this happen.  David inquired of the Lord and, having received encouragement, set about with his men to rescue the captives.  David succeeded in his mission, and brought back everyone single person who had been taken into captivity.  Thus we have in this narrative a type or picture of the deliverance that Jesus brought to those who had been taken captive by death.  (See the earlier post Jesus Led Captivity Captive and also Abram Led Captivity Captive.)

As a footnote, this story also relates how during the process of the mission, David had to leave behind 200 of his 600 hundred men because they were too exhausted from previous battles to go to this one.  When the 400 returned with the spoils and everyone was rejoicing in the victory, some “worthless and wicked” men of the 400 complained that the 200 should not receive a share since they had not fought.  David would have none of it, saying that since it was the Lord who had granted the victory everyone should share in it.  Even so, in our day some will complain the everyone who dies should not get to go to heaven.  Jesus will have none of this talk.  Everyone shares.  As to how big a share each should get in heaven, He will be the judge of that.

(For more on this, see Does It Bother You That Everyone Is Going to Heaven?)

Abram Led Captivity Captive

When King Chedorlaomer and his allies made captives of Lot and his family (Genesis 14), Abram set out to rescue them.  Abram was successful and brought back Lot and all that was Lot’s.  Thus Abram led captivity (Lot and his family) captive.  This was a type or picture of the rescue that Jesus would undertake on behalf of those who had been taken captive by death (see yesterday’s post: Jesus Led Captivity Captive).

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Jesus Led Captivity Captive

In Ephesians 4, Paul quotes Psalm 68 when He describes Jesus as having ascended on high, leading captivity captive in the process.

Who was the “captivity” He led?  Those captive to death – in other words, every human being who had died.  God had pronounced the sentence of death for sin in the garden of Eden.  Every human being who sinned, therefore had to die.  Every human being (except Jesus) did sin, and thus died.  All were thus held captive by death.  Their resting place was Sheol (or, as the Greeks called it, Hades).

This group then is the captivity that Jesus led captive into heaven.  They did not go with Him immediately, however, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.  Though “captivity” had not yet made it to heaven when Paul was writing letters, they made it not too long afterwards.  Those who have died since have proceeded directly to heaven.  Thus you and I will go directly to heaven.  There is no longer any Sheol or Hades.  This earth is now as low as you can go in this creation (because we live in the new heavens and new earth that Isaiah, John, and Peter promised).

Those who had been captive to death would now be captive to heaven…because of the generosity of Him who led them!

(If you are unaware of the Bible’s teaching that we all go to heaven at death, see Everyone Is Going to Heaven.)

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Jesus Punched a Hole in Heaven!

No one had ever ascended into heaven before Jesus Christ (John 3:13).

We should dwell upon the glory of His having done so.  It opened a way for all of us.  As it was prophesied in Micah 2:13, the Breaker went up before us.  He led the way.  He is our King, and He certainly went before all of us.  In fact, we know that He went to make a place for us (John 14:2). Had He not done so, the grave would still be our home, for there was no place for us in heaven apart from Him.  We humans were designed for earth and consigned by death to a pit below (which the Hebrews called Sheol and the Greeks called Hades).

The pit below was only for those people who had sinned.  The problem was, everyone sinned!  Therefore, everyone went below.  Jesus, because He did not sin, broke out of that pit not just back to earth, but all the way to heaven!

He “punched a hole” in heaven, if you will, that we might go in after Him!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

Jesus Is the Breakthrough

In 2 Samuel 5, David was fighting the Philistines.  They had arrayed themselves across the valley of Rephaim.  David inquired of the Lord as to whether he should attack.  The Lord gave the clearance and David achieved victory that day.

In gratitude and humility, David named the place Baal-Perazim.  The first part of the phrase means “lord,” “master,” or “possessor.”  The second part means “breaches” or “breakthroughs.”  Therefore, we could translate David’s intended memorial as “Lord of the breakthrough.”

Among other things, David was a military man.  To have a Lord capable of breaking through was no small advantage.

Of course, the Lord Himself is our breakthrough.  He broke through the heavens to take upon Himself flesh and live as one of us.  He broke through the unbelief of this world and carved a path of righteousness that we can follow.  He broke through the bonds of death, making a way for all of us.  He broke through the heavens once again to return to His throne.  He is indeed the Lord of the Breakthrough.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

See Jesus in the Scriptures, and Follow Him – Addendum

(Be sure you’ve read yesterday’s post first.  Today’s post will give you another example of the process.)

See the promise in 2 Chronicles 16:9?  Was anyone’s heart more completely God’s than Jesus’ heart?  Therefore, Jesus fulfills this Scripture. 

Now remember that after His resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven and was named Lord.  Therefore, since then it has been His eyes that have been moving to and fro throughout the whole earth. 

Does the Lord Jesus see your heart?  Absolutely.  Is it completely His?  Only you and He can say.  But if your heart is completely His, then He will surely show Himself strong on your behalf.  This is how you inherit the promises that were His.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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See Jesus in the Scriptures, and Follow Him

In Psalm 34 we read that the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and His ears are open to their cry.  In his first letter, Peter quotes these words (1 Peter 3:12) and makes clear that they are a means of blessing for us – even though we know we are sinners and undeserving to be called righteous.

Here’s how we receive the blessing:  Jesus is the Righteous One.  It is to Him that these words first and foremost apply.  David was a prophet and knew that God had promised to one day seat a descendant of his upon his throne.  Therefore, he looked ahead and wrote of the Messiah (Acts 2:30-31).  Therefore, the eyes of the Lord were upon Jesus and God’s ears were open to His cry.  Indeed in the days of His flesh, Jesus cried with loud crying and tears that He might be saved from death…and was heard because of His piety (Hebrews 5:7).  Thus He was raised from the dead, never to die again (Romans 6:9).

Jesus was raised all the way to heaven and named Lord (Psalm 110:1).  Now therefore He is the Lord of Psalm 34:15.  We are the righteous by virtue of belonging to Him.  Thus He hears our cry.  He is the one who has made a way for us to be beneficiaries of this promise.  Thus, Peter says we “inherit” this blessing (1 Peter 3:9).  Indeed, all the promises of God are ours in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).  Jesus received these promises by being a descendant of Abraham and David according to the flesh (Matthew 1:1); we receive them by belonging to Him (Galatians 3:29).

To summarize: see where Jesus fulfills prophecy as a man, understand that Jesus has now changed places and become Lord, and call upon Him as Lord while you take His place in the promise as human being.

Further to the point, here is an addendum to this post.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Everyone Knows Him

We live under the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-12).  Under this covenant, God’s laws are inscribed on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10).  This is true for every human being – not just Jews or Christians, for Paul wrote in Romans 2:14-16 that in our day (i.e. the days of the kingdom of God) even the Gentiles would demonstrate that God’s law was within their hearts.

For this reason, we do not need to exhort anyone to “know the Lord” for all know Him (Hebrews 8:11).  You can, however, exhort them to return to the Lord when  they have wandered, for he who thus turns a sinner from the error of his way saves his soul from death and covers a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20). 

All are children of God and we are not to be judges of one another (James 4:11).  However, if you see your brother sin, love requires you to admonish him gently, looking to yourself lest you, too, be tempted (Galatians 6:1; Leviticus 19:17; Matthew 18:15).

Jesus Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, of the living and the dead, of the Jew and the Gentile, of the Christian and the non-Christian.  He is Lord of all.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Do You Know What Kind of Spirit You Are Of?

Jesus rebuked the sons of Zebedee for wanting to call fire down from heaven on a village of Samaritans (Luke 9:51-56).  His point was that they didn’t take note of the spirit that was animating them.  Of course, James and John were merely trying to reenact the experience of Elijah (2 Kings 1:9-16) in which he called down fire from heaven to consume two companies of fifty soldiers each before the commander of the third company pleaded for mercy.

This experience shows the potential peril of “doing what the Bible says.”  God’s not looking for us to imitate the outward form of actions we see in the Bible as much as He wants us to adopt the inward motivations of righteous thinking.  Jesus wanted the apostles to imitate the spirit of Elijah.  It was of no value to imitate Elijah’s actions because the times were different.  God’s purpose transcends all generations but His approach was different in Old Testament times than it was in New Testament times.  Elijah lived in a time when God was managing the kingdom of earthly Israel.  Jesus had come to bring the eternal kingdom of God.  Those are two different administrations which required very different approaches.

We see the same difference when David is commended for taking on the giant Goliath but Peter is rebuked for taking a sword and cutting off the ear of the high priest’s slave.  As it says in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything.  Make sure you know what spirit is motivating you.  Otherwise, you can’t fulfill Galatians 6:1.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Let Us Labor in Their Spirit

The prophets and the apostles are the foundation of all that we know of the Lord from the Scriptures, He Himself being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

They and all who labored with them were of sterling spirit.  They were human beings of whom the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11:32-40). 

It was proverbial for a prophet to be persecuted, and the apostles fared no better.  Yet they never complained. 

Those of us who labor in the name of Christ should embrace the spirit of those who have labored before us.  If we do their work, in their spirit, we shall receive their persecutions, but, more importantly, their reward.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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We Have Entered into Their Labor

Those of us who labor for Christ benefit from all the labors of those before us.  There is so much for which we can be thankful.

First of all, the Scriptures themselves are available to us in abundance.  You can find them online, you can find them in bookstores, you can find them in libraries, you can find them almost anywhere.  The Scriptures are translated for us so that we don’t have to be able to read Hebrew or Greek.  Moreover, these translations come with an abundance of study tools.  Most notable among these are cross references of each verse to related verses and concordances which can list every word found in the Bible and its location.  But these are only the beginnings of our benefits.

Because others have labored before us, the word of God exists in more hearts.  Because others have labored before us, we have examples of ministry that achieves God’s blessing and ministry that does not.  Because others have labored before us, we can build on their knowledge and not have to plow again and again the same furrows.

Most of all, we can be thankful for those who have suffered loss to bring us the word of God.  Think of the persecutions of the prophets and apostles.  Think of the oppression of those who down through the ages since have stood up for God that we might also hear His word.

We must never think that we labor alone, and certainly never feel sorry for ourselves.  We have joined a great army of laborers and soldiers.  We benefit from all that they have been and all that they have done.  We stand on their shoulders and any victories we achieve should be shared with them.  We are part of something much larger than ourselves.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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In Praise of Literal Translations

For those of you who love to read and study the Bible, but cannot read Hebrew or Greek, there is perhaps no greater gift than a literal translation of the Bible.  The foremost among these, of course, are the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Version, and the King James Version (new and 1611).   

I wrote Which Translation? for those new to Bible reading, and I stand by it.  Yet for those who are determined to spend a significant amount of time in the written word of God, it will be common to migrate to the more literal translations.  This simply because such translations bring you closer to the original words inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore less susceptible to changes in meaning inadvertently introduced by the translators.

God is able to overcome Babel’s curse (Genesis 11) which humanity brought on itself by disobedience, and has done so in dramatic fashion (Acts 2).  Yet for the daily lot that some of us have chosen (i.e. studying the Holy Scriptures), a literal translation is a welcome , if comparatively mundane, blessing.  For those who would see Jesus in the Scriptures and must depend on English, it is the clearest lens.  

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Are You Becoming the Righteousness of God in Him?

In the last verse of 2 Corinthians 5 Paul states God’s goal as making us become the righteousness of God in Christ.  How are you doing in that regard?

Jesus did not come to bless us irrespective of our sins.  He came to bless us by turning us from our sinful ways (Acts 3:26).  He was given the name Jesus because His aim was to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21).  He exists to change our attitude from disobedient to obedient (Luke 1:45) and from proud to humble (Philippians 2:3-13). 

None of this can happen if you are not yielding to the Lord Jesus every day.  Some people think that our transformation from sinner to the righteousness of God is effected in a single transaction.  They teach that “the sinner’s prayer” or an appropriate “confession of faith” is the means whereby this transformation instantly occurs.  This is not true, not logical, and not effective.  Anyone can see that there are as many such “born again” people with bad reputations as there are with good ones.  We can turn to God in an instant, but we have to stay turned to Him if we want to see His grace become effective in our lives.

If you are not growing in grace, repent and turn back to Him.  If you are growing in His grace, keep growing until you have fully matured into His likeness.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Moses and All the Prophets Spoke of Jesus

References to Jesus Christ in the Old Testament aren’t just isolated to occasional prophecies of the Messiah.  Rather, the apostle Peter tells us that Moses and all the prophets who spoke announced the days of Jesus (Acts 3:18-24).  Peter explicitly says “Moses” in verse 22, and “all the prophets” in verses 18 and 24.   He repeats “all the prophets” in Acts 10:43. 

Paul, also speaking of Jesus, makes a similarly comprehensive reference to the prophets (implying “all,” which, of course, includes Moses) in Acts 13:27 (also in Acts 24:14-15; 26:22-23; 28:23).  Since the authors of the Scriptures were known to be Moses and the prophets, any reference to the Scriptures can also be considered a reference to Moses and the prophets (see Acts 17:2-3, 11; 18:28)

Moses began the process of messianic prophecy by making many references to Christ both by promise (e.g. Deuteronomy 18:15, Numbers 27:16-17, and Genesis 49:10) and by foreshadowing (e.g. Genesis 5:24; 12:1-3; 14:18; 45:5,7; Hebrews 11:18-19).   

Christ was not an occasional thought for Moses and the prophets – He was their consuming interest (1 Peter 1:10-12).

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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The New Testament Is Not the New Covenant

The parts of the Bible written before Christ are called the Old Testament and those written after Him are called the New Testament.  There’s nothing wrong with naming them that way except that people can assume that they are two sets of documents each representing a separate covenant.  This, of course, is not true.

In the times of Jesus and His apostles, there was only one set of Scriptures and it is what we call the Old Testament.  It contained the covenant between God and Israel.  This covenant included a reference to a new covenant that God would make (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  When Jesus Christ came, He made it clear that He had come to enact that new covenant.  The new covenant was actually implicit in the old.  That is, the old covenant referred to the Law of Moses, and spoke to things of the flesh.  The new covenant would be to take those same words but allow them to apply to spiritual matters.  For example, when Jesus was raised from the dead He made it known that references to Zion or Jerusalem would henceforth refer to heaven – that is, spiritual Zion or spiritual Jerusalem. 

What we call the New Testament was therefore not the new agreement (that is, covenant with God).   That new agreement was the Old Testament understood in new terms.  What we call the New Testament therefore could perhaps be more accurately thought of as “the apostles’ teaching” Acts 2:42) – which was really “the Lord’s teaching” since He was the apostles’ source for this point of view.  Of course, the Lord was simply being consistent with what the Old Testament prophets had seen all along (1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Corinthians 10:1-11; Romans 15:4).

There is nothing wrong with calling the New Testament by that name, but just remember that the new covenant is actually the old covenant interpreted in spiritual rather than physical terms.  Another term for this is the kingdom of God.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Law Through Moses; Grace Through Jesus

The apostle John crystalized the understanding that the Lord had given the apostles when he wrote that the Law was given through Moses but grace and truth were realized through Jesus (John 1:17).

What Moses wrote as a legal and religious code for the nation of Israel was transformed into the charter of the kingdom of God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  In one of the most notable examples of this transformation, circumcision was no longer to be a physical act undertaken for the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh.  Rather, it was recognized as a work of the Spirit by which hearts would turn to the Lord and worship Him in spirit and truth.  It is the same set of words about circumcision, but with a spiritual (the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ) instead of a fleshly (the Law of Moses) meaning.

Not all of this meaning was opened immediately.  Even today, most of us do not see all of Moses’ Law laid out in terms of grace.  Yet Moses Himself said that Jesus would explain everything to us if we would only give heed to Him (Deuteronomy 18:15).  If our understanding has ceased to grow, it can only mean we have ceased listening to our Teacher.  Let us return to Him!

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Jesus Is Explicit in the New Testament, Implicit in the Old Testament

That Jesus Christ is the subject matter of the New Testament needs no emphasis.  This fact is plain to anyone who reads it.  Open the New Testament to any page and Christ is the focus.

What is less obvious is that Christ is the subject matter of the Old Testament as well.  Some references to Christ in the Old Testament are clear.  They are the prophecies of Messiah.  These include passages about one to be born who would bring God’s rule to earth (e.g. Isaiah 9:6-7; Psalm 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:12-14).  Other passages speak of Him more obscurely.  These include, for example, the description of the Passover lamb.  This lamb foreshadowed the sacrifice of Christ for our sins and gave rise to John the Baptist calling Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  Even the entire Passover feast itself speaks of Christ, such that the apostle Paul calls Christ “our Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7). 

You can find Old Testament references to Christ by reading the New Testament.  This is much easier if you use a Bible that distinguishes Old Testament quotes clearly and give the chapter and verse in a sidenote or footnote.

You can also find Old Testament references to Christ by simply reading the Old Testament and being sensitive to the Holy Spirit who can quicken your heart when He wants to make known a reference to Christ.  When that happens, don’t take the experience lightly.  Pause and reflect on what you have seen.  Act on the light that such a revelation of Christ beings to you.  As you act on what you learn, more will be shown to you.  Nothing is hidden, except to be revealed.  Let the Holy Spirit make Christ recognizable in the Old Testament.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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The Scriptures Are About Jesus

It’s obvious to everyone that the New Testament is about Jesus Christ.  What’s less obvious is that the Old Testament is about Him, too.  When Jesus walked the earth, and the New Testament did not yet exist, Jesus said that the Scriptures bore witness of Him (John 5:39, 46).  ‘

Upon being raised from the dead, Jesus made known to His disciples just how extensively the Old Testament wrote of Him (Luke 24: 25-27, 44-45).

(I should say parenthetically that when you read or hear the Scriptures speaking of Jesus, it does something to your heart:  Luke 24:32.)

Years later, Paul would remind Timothy that the Old Testament leads nowhere else but to faith in Christ (2 Timothy 3:14-15). 

In his first letter, Peter made clear that the Old Testament was not written primarily for the sake of people in Old Testament times but rather to reveal and bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:10-13).  In his second letter, written just before his death, Peter stressed that the apostles’ eyewitness testimony made the words of the Old Testament even more sure (2 Peter 1:15-21).

(Let me say parenthetically again that it is the Holy Spirit who does that something in your heart:  2 Peter 1:20-21.  Only He inspired the Scriptures; only He can interpret them.  And He always interprets them to us as a disclosure of Jesus.)

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Can Jesus Inflict Wrath?

Can the Jesus we know inflict wrath?  He can, and does.  He is God Almighty and has a responsibility to bring wrath in response to sin.

God’s wrath is just.  It is a wise and thoughtful response to our sin, designed to prevent its recurrence and direct our attention to righteousness.  Psalm 2, which prophesied of Jesus, spoke of His mercy and His wrath.  This theme is repeated in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and  5:9, and elsewhere in the New Testament.  These two possibilities of mercy and wrath are amplified dramatically throughout the book of Revelation.  And His stern warnings combined with comforting promises in the second and third chapters are reminiscent of the warnings and promises that came by the mouths of the Old Testament prophets.

Because people do not see the Jesus of the gospels inflicting wrath, they can’t easily picture Him doing it as God.  There was the occasion of His clearing the money changers out of the temple and cursing the fig tree, but such examples are rare and isolated.  We mainly see Him healing, comforting, teaching, and otherwise bringing aid.  The explanation of this weighting toward the blessing side of God and away from the wrathful side of God is that Jesus of Nazareth was a human being.  Human beings have no right or authority to bring wrath on other human beings.  We are not judges in the earth.  We are the judged, and we are called to be merciful to others.  Jesus was simply acting appropriately as a human being and that means leaving all judgment and wrath to God.  As God, He has different responsibilities.

As it says in Psalm 2:12, do homage to the Son…lest His wrath be kindled.  We are all going to heaven, but you don’t want to get there the hard way.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Rightly Understanding the Book of Revelation

Most people would agree that the book of Revelation is distinguished among books of the Bible as one of the hardest to understand.  Strangely, this does not stop many of them from quoting it liberally to embellish their wild doctrines of the future.

We do not have to regard such doctrines of the future for they are erroneous in two important ways.

First, the book of Revelation makes clear from the beginning that it is a revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1).  That is, the book is about Jesus – His identity, His nature, His activities, His enemies, His victories, and so on.  Any teaching of the book of Revelation (or of any book of the Bible for that matter) that does not center on Jesus Christ is not of God (2 John 1:9; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).

Second, the events described in the book of Revelation have all occurred.  You can know this by simply paying attention to the plainer, and easier to understand, parts of the document – that is, its beginning and its end.  In the opening of the letter, the apostle John says it was written to make known the events that were to soon take place (Revelation 1:1).  He then emphasizes that the time is near (Revelation 1:3).  At the close of the letter, he repeats the same point five different times (Revelation  22:6, 7, 10, 12, 20).   If the time of the prophecy’s fulfillment was near in the latter part of the 1st Century A.D., how can it be anything but distant past in the 21st Century?  The letter’s emphatic emphasis on the nearness of fulfillment implies an awareness that some would misread and misuse its contents.  As if to warn against just such misuse, the letter closes with curse on anyone who “adds to or takes away from” its words.  Sadly, modern-day prophets ignore the warning and take away the words regarding its timing.  Do not follow such people.

If you do not know anything else about the book of Revelation you may know this for certain from its own testimony:  it is about Jesus Christ, and it is fulfilled.  Follow only Him.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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The Yoke of Jesus Versus the Yoke of Church

The yoke of Jesus is light (Matthew 11:28-30).  The yoke of church has proven to be burdensome, just like the yoke of Moses’ law which preceded it (Acts 15:10).  The yoke of Moses’ law was to last approximately 1,500 years – that is, from the time of Moses to the time of Christ.  The yoke of church was to last but a generation, for it was a first fruits of the kingdom of God.  Both yokes were to give way to the yoke of Christ’s kingdom.

Jesus has been revealed to be God.  He is thus omnipresent and omniscient.  He would have us think every thought for His pleasure.  Does this seem like a burdensome yoke?  Only to those who have not attempted it.

Do you want a better relationship with God?  Cast away all other yokes and wear only the yoke of the kingdom of heaven.  This is right relationship with Him.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Jesus in Heaven

After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus ascended into heaven to sit down at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19; Psalm 110:1).  Heaven was thus His resting place during the time of the ministry of the apostles (i.e. the time during which the New Testament documents were written).  This was to be the case until the restoration of all things described by the prophets of Israel in the Holy Scriptures (Acts 3:21).  At that time, the time of His coming again, He would be revealed from heaven as God Almighty, He who inflicts wrath and grants deliverance (2 Thessalonians 1:7; Romans 1:18; Psalm 2). 

He who sat in heaven while the New Testament was being written has since filled the heavens and the earth.  Even the entirety of the heavens and the earth cannot contain Him.  He is our God, this Jesus whom we crucified.  Let us bow our hearts always before Him for is worthy of our constant devotion, and His blessing delivers the obedient from His wrath.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Hebrews 9:8

The way into the holy place has not been disclosed as long as the outer tabernacle is still standing.  Thus the way into heaven was not disclosed as long as Jesus was still in the flesh.  When the outer tabernacle of His flesh was discarded and He ascended into heaven, then the way was made known.  That way is to follow Him.

No one had ascended into heaven except He who had descended: our Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:13).  He is the one who went up to heaven before us to make a way (Micah 2:13).  He Himself is the way (John 14:6). 

Every human being follows Him in death and therefore every human being goes to heaven.  But those who follow Him in this life experience the kingdom of heaven (i.e. the kingdom of God) in this life, and then receive honor in heaven. 

The world has known Christ in the flesh but we know Him thus no longer (2 Corinthians 5:16).  Let us worship the risen and omnipresent Christ.  The outer tabernacle has fallen and the way into the holy place has been disclosed for all to see through the eyes of faith.

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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