Friday, September 30, 2011

A personal Tour of Heaven

Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John

Heaven's Featured Attraction
Out of all the books in the Bible, none gives us a more detailed picture of the reality of heaven than the book of Revelation.  Only the Bible can give you accurate, true descriptions of this place.  As wonderful as it is, and as true as it is that it is the destination of those who have by grace alone through faith alone trusted in Christ alone, the place is not the focus.  If anything, the Person of Christ occupies the central theme of Heaven.  Jesus Christ is indeed the darling of Heaven. 

With that said, I would like to take the next several blogs to explore Heaven, and understand how the Bible communicates the glory of God through the visions of John in Revelation.  My prayer is that you, dear believer, will find encouragement and hope as we look together at these exquisite chapters of God's word.  If you are reading this blog, and have never experienced salvation through Jesus Christ, my prayer would be that the Holy Spirit would so move in your heart to receive and embrace Heaven's treasure - Christ Jesus.

How Revelation Communicates the Reality of Heaven
Five chapters in Revelation deal with the subject and reality of Heaven.  In giving a broad sweeping glance of Revelation 1, 4, 5, 7, 21 and 22, we can note the following observations about Heaven:

1. Heaven is God centered.  Revelation 1 alone mentions some 40 names or descriptions of Jesus Christ.  In Revelation 4 and 5 we find the throne of God, and the Lamb, dominating the scene.  Revelation 7 depicts God being surrounded by His saints, and the angels, praising Him for salvation.  Then in Revelation 21 and 22 we see the new Heavens and the New earth, centralized around the uncreated glory of God.

2. Heaven's Glory is Jesus Christ.  In Revelation 21:23 we discover that the glory of God is the light of the Heavenly reality to come, and that Christ is described as the lamp. 

3. Heaven's pleasure is God's people enjoying their God.  In Revelation 4 and 5 we see the 24 elders, representative of the Saints of all ages, casting their crowns at the Savior's feet.  Throughout Revelation we find the saints of God singing songs of praise, doxologies, to the glory of God.  Heaven is far from boring.  It is unendingly joyful.  For the people of God, beholding one another, behold the glory of God in and through and among them. 

4. Heaven is a real place.  Heaven is not an ethereal dreamscape, floating on clouds.  It is a real place, being built by Jesus Himself (John 14:1-6).  The New Heavenly Jerusalem, described in Revelation 21-22, is enormous.  As it comes out of Heaven, its boundaries would be large enough to cover almost all of North America, however its height, 1500 miles, would extend out into space.  There is enough square footage in the New Jerusalem to hold literally billions of people.  And that's just the city, not counting what will be the New earth!

Tomorrow we will continue with our tour of Heaven.  May the Lord bless you dear reader this day. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

When Christians will defy gravity

Acts 1:9 - And when he (Jesus) had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

1 Thessalonians 4:17 - Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

What is the "rapture"
    We saw in the last blog the truth of resurrection.  The resurrection of believers at the end of the age occupies one of the eight "definites" outlined in part one of this particular blog series on eschatology.  As we consider the Lord's return, another doctrine surfaces that has connection to the resurrection of believers - namely the believer's catching away by Christ or what is called  "The Rapture".  The word "rapture" comes from a Latin term "rapturo", which in turn is a translation of the Greek word from the original language of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 - "to be caught up". 

The reality of the rapture
    Almost no one disputes the reality of the rapture or "catching away" of Christians at Christ's return.  With His return will come the total and unmingled wrath of God on this world.  1 Thessalonians 1:10 reminds us that Christians do not have to worry about enduring God's wrath.  Clearly the rapture, much like our physical resurrection, has direct connection to the Lord ascending into Heaven in Acts 1:9.  No doubt the miraculous ascent of Christ will be repeated corporately in the life of every Christian.  If a Christian has already went to be with the Lord, upon Christ's return, that saint will be resurrected in a new body and then raptured, followed immediately by the living saints' bodies being transformed and raptured.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 gives us the fullest treatment of this mass miracle.  Other passages too give hints to the details surrounding this event in passages such as Matthew 24; 1 Thessalonians 5; 2 Thessalonians 2 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-57.

The question about the rapture's timing and occurence
    As we can include this doctrine in the definite doctrine of the believer's resurrection, we do have one area of which there is no consensus - namely the rapture's timing.  If you will recall, we gave three categories of doctrine: definites, positions and opinions.  In regards to the timing of the rapture, we would have to state that a number of opinions exist as to when it will occur. 

Pre-trib, Mid-trib or post-trib?    
    Three major opinions exist as to when the rapture will occur.  Many Bible teachers point to a period of time in which God's wrath will be unleashed upon planet earth that is called "The Great Tribulation".  From texts such as Daniel 9:23-27, we come to realize that this period will last 7 years.  Questions of course center around whether or not the church will be raptured "before", "mid-way" or "towards the end" of this period.  The opinions are respectively referred to as "Pre-trib", "mid-trib" and "post-tribulationalism". 
    If space permitted, we could appeal to many texts to rally support for each of these opinions.  Being that the Lord has purposely inserted a "mystery" element into the chronology of prophetic events, piecing together the sequence of events on Bible prophecy can prove challenging.  The reader is encouraged to look at passages such as Matthew chs 13 and 24-25; Daniel 9:23-27; Jeremiah 30; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and ch 5; 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 3,6,7,14 for further study.  I will let the reader determine from the scriptures where they fall on this issue.

Some further observations about the tribulation   
    The one thing all three opinions have in common is that all who engage in such a discussion are Pre-millennialists.  A-millennialists and Post-Millennialists tend to view the tribulation period as either having occured at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D or as a general reference to the "tribulation" all Christians suffer for Christ through the church's history.  Views such as these are called "Preterism" (which is a word meaning past) and use such texts such as Matthew 24 in an attempt to rally biblical support.  Though some respectable Bible teachers hold to these views, this author is not a preterist (believing that the tribulation occured in the past).  As always, our reasons for holding truth lies not in who holds them, but whether or not the Bible teaches such things.   

So why does the rapture matter?
    1 Peter 3:15 states - "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear".  The point of any definite doctrine, position or opinion on prophetic matters is to give reasons to the world why Christianity alone possesses hope for the here and hereafter.  Every Christian should have a good enough understanding of what they believe to help unbelievers see the hope of Christ.  This includes where one stands on the rapture. 
    Whether or not I believe the next big event is the rapture, the revelation of the anti-Christ or some major war does have immediate bearing on how I will live.  Being able to grapple with questions about the problem of evil and suffering, tsunamis and starving children are examples as to why it is our responsibility to live out our theology and have a living theology. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bible Prophecy and the resurrection

Philippians 3:10-11 -  "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;  11If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."

Salvation or Christian faith in its three stages
    When we talk about salvation, it is common to speak of salvation occuring in a three-fold way: What happened in my human spirit at a point and time in the past - regeneration/conversion through faith; what is occuring as a process in my human soul right now - sanctification and what will occur in the future when my soul and spirit are untied with my transformed human body - glorification. 
  The first has to do with God convicting and quickening in my human spirit so that I by faith can see the awfulness of my sin and the awesomeness of Christ - thus SAVED FROM THE PENALTY OF SIN (Romans 5:1). 

    Following from this is the ongoing process of the Spirit making me more like Christ in my soul, and I co-operating with His work by prayer and the word in sanctifcation - thus SAVING ME GRADUALLY FROM THE POWER OF SIN (Romans 6:4-11; 8:1-5). 

    When we speak of what will occur when I as a believer go on to be with the Lord, salvation is then spoke of in future terms - whereby I WILL BE SAVED FROM THE PRESENCE OF SIN (Philippians 3:21; 1 Peter 1:9).  It is with this last stage of salvation that the idea of resurrection takes center stage.
 Resurrection was first revealed in the Old Testament
    The idea of resurrection was given by God to man almost immediately from the fall.  We see inklings of it in Adam's naming of Eve (life-bearer) in Genesis 3:20, indicating his reception of God's promise of salvation to her in Genesis 3:15.  Abraham of course is the first person credited in history for believing in it, since in placing Isaac on the altar he believed God could raise his son from the dead (Hebrews 11:19).  Job, the oldest book in the Bible, mentions the faith of Job in seeing God with his own eyes in resurrection (Job 19:25).  In prophetic scriptures such as Daniel 12:1-3 the resurrection forms the hub of events in the final judgment.    

Resurrection fully revealed in the New Testament
     The New Testament gives us a complete and detailed picture of what to expect at resurrection.  As much as this concept is used to illustrate what happens spiritually at conversion (see John 5:24-25; 1 Peter 1:3); our concerns here deal with the physical resurrection that every Christian can look forward to at Christ's return.  1 Corinthians 15:45-58 gives us the fullest treatment on the importance and explanation of the resurrection.  In other words, we can note five pairs of truths about the resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15:45-58....
1.  15:45-49 The believer's resurrection will be formed upon Christ's resurrection
2.  15:50-51  The believer's resurrection will involved being transformed from this decaying body into a non-decaying body

3.  15:52   It will be an instant event, not an ongoing process like our current sanctification
4. 15:52    The resurrection will occur instantly at Christ's return

5. 15:53   The resurrection will be taking the old and changing it into a new body
6. 15:53   The resurrection  will bring to pass the completion of salvation for every Christian

7. 15:54-55 The resurrection will signal that death is done for8. 15:54-55 The resurrection will signal that sin is done away
9. 15:57  It reaches back into our present to give us power for the Christian life
10. 15:58 It reaches back into our present to give us purpose for Christian service

When surveying the more than 40 passages that speak of resurrection in the New Testament, we can offer this conclusion about the doctrine of the resurrection for our Christian identity....
Resurrection is rooted in Christ's first work - the cross and empty tomb, reassures about Christ's current work - sanctification and renders proof of Christ's future work - His return

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How God governs history and prophecy

In yesterday's blog we considered the area of Bible prophecy that deals with how God is governing both past and present, as well as the future.  The first view we looked at - dispensationalism, pictures our world and universe like a big house - over which God is the Chief Sovereign.  In today's blog we want to consider a second system, which suggests God governs our world and prophetic events by means of covenants.  We will then offer a third suggested picture that combines the best of both these valid options. 
    The second position suggests that God uses a more "covenantal" approach in promoting His plan of salvation.  Two covenants are proposed by what is called "Covenant theologians".  The first is the covenant of works, which was given by God to Adam and Eve.  Based upon their obedience to certain commands, God would determine whether or not they would attain eternal fellowship with Him.  They failed of course and so God had to offer a second covenant called "The Covenant of Grace", whereby through faith in His promise, Adam and his descendants could be saved by grace through faith. 
    Throughout history, God offered versions of the covenant of grace to Abraham and David, with the ultimate fulifllment in Jesus Christ.  Through His obedience to the Father Christ fulfilled the broken Covenant of works, thus being our New Adam (compare Romans 5:11-21).  Furthermore, Christ paid for the Covenant of Grace on the cross.  Covenant theologians tend to see all of the promises to Israel being fulfilled in the church, and thus consider the church to be "The New Israel".  Since Israel forfeited her role as God's chosen nation, the church has replaced her as God's covenant people.  Most of the time, but not always, folks who are into covenant theology will either be A-millennial or Post-millennial. 
        Both positions are ways of taking the biblical record and determining how it is God is administering salvation and how He will end the world.  Dispensationalism has the strength of keeping the distinction between Israel and the church.  It also matches best with what Paul writes in Romans 11 about God's dealings with Israel and the Gentiles.  Being that Dispensationalism by nature is into making "distinctions", it can sometimes run the risk of drawing lines too sharply.  
       Covenant theology's strength best explains how the events of the first three chapters of Genesis relates to the rest of the Bible.  The weakness of Covenant theology is in how it replaces Israel and makes all of her promises applicable to the church.   If we are recipients of Israel's blessings, then we must also be willing to accept the curses too.
       It is the opinion of this blogger that combining the strengths of both systems might be the best approach in understanding Israel, the church and God's purposes for prophecy.  Of course the reader is encouraged to search the scriptures, since the Bible alone can form our conclusions on whatever matter we may be studying.  
Maintaining the continuity of what took place in the fall with the ultimate purposes of God in Bible prophecy will provide a necessary starting point for one's eschatology.  Furthermore, understanding that God still has a plan for Israel, and that plan is seen in the coming of Christ will provide the appropriate end point for one's eschatology as it relates to The church, Israel and Prophecy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Prophecy, Israel and the church

Romans 11:26 "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob"

2 Thessalonians 2:1 "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him"

1 Thessalonians 1:10 "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come."

One sure thing, God's people won't have to suffer wrath
    One of the "definites" of eschatology is the fact that the people of God will not have to suffer the wrath of God at the end of the age.  If you will recall from part one of this blog series, "definites" comprise the core area of any Bible doctrine.  The fact that God's saints won't have to undergo the final outpouring of wrath in the end is an unmoveable truth (please compare 1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Its the one fact that distinguishes the destiny of the saints from those who reject Christ ultimately and finally.
    Now in today's blog we want to consider positions that stem from this definite conviction.  When it comes to identifying the people of God in the Bible, the Bible tells us that there are two such designations - Israel and the church.  The place where differences arise is in whether or not these are two different names for God's people, or whether thet are two distinct categories with distinct characteristics.  We will now briefly consider the major positions on these, as well as there implications for understanding Bible prophecy.  The first position we will consider is what Bible teachers call "dispensationalism".

Two positions on how God has administered salvation in human history

      How God deals with His people and how He runs our world and salvation is a major discussion in the study of eschatology.  The first position pictures our world as "God's house" over which God has placed human beings and His people to manage and run.  In the Old Testament it was Israel, and in the New Testament it is the church.  This system or "economy" of God's dealing with Israel, and then the church, is what we call "dispensationalism". 

What is a dispensation?
 A dispensation is a period of time by which He administrates salvation and tests human beings in response to whether they will trust in Him or rebel.  Dispensationalists see Israel and the church as two sets of God's people, with Israel being now set aside but later restored.  Dispensationalists differ on how many "periods" or "dispensations" there have been in history.  Typically the scheme is to have a dispensation of law, followed by the current church age, with a final age of the Millennium (which is why dispensationalists are typically Pre-millennial).

This description of course is very general and does not take into consideration that various adjustments that have occured in this viewpoint over the years.  However for now this will suffice in helping us understand this particular approach to the Bible as it pertains to eschatology (or the study of prophecy).  In tomorrow's blog we will look at a second approach to understanding how God guides history and prophecy - Covenant theology

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A closer look at the positions on the Millennium

In yesterday's blog we began discussing the Bible's teaching on the Millennium.  We focused briefly on Pre-millennialism.  In today's blog we want to briefly discuss two other positions that have existed throughout the history of biblical Christianity. 

Why the Millennial views are important for the Christian to know
      How will the world end?  Is there a purpose to life?  Will history end more on a positive note or a negative one?  Can Christianity give true hope in the midst of changing times?  Questions like these are answered by studying Bible prophecy.  1 Peter 3:15 reminds us to give an account to the world for the hope that is in us.  I always tell people when studying prophecy, to consider all the passages that speak on the subject.  Our limitation in studying prophecy, unlike other Bible doctrines, is that much of what we study as not yet happened.  However that does not mean that we should not have something to say to a world in need of the Gospel.  1 John 3:2-3 tells us that the soon return of Christ purifies the saint of God and gives much hope in the here an now. 

With that said, lets continue our study of the positions on the Millennium by noting Amillennialism and Post-millennialism. 

A-millennialism - This position is the one held most commonly among Christians worldwide. It suggests that Christ began His reign at His ascension into Heaven and is ruling and reigning over a spiritual kingdom right now.  Being that it denies a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ, the term "A-millenialism" is used (a=no and millennium = 1,000 years).  History will continue in its downward spiral and at the end Christ will return, judging the world and satan, and bring about the new heavens and new earth.  Some have appealed to passages such as Matthew 13 for proof.  Amillenialism's strengths are its simplicity, its scriptural justification and that it is held by the vast majority of Christians worldwide.  However one has a hard time holding to this position in light of Revelation 20, which clearly states four times that Christ "will reign 1,000 years".  Also too, most Amillenialists (not all) do not see a future restoration of national Israel, a teaching that is taught in passages such as Romans 11.

Post-millennialism - This position has been in and out of popularity.  It proposes that Christianity will continue to increase until the whole world is taken over by the gospel.  Though not every individual will be saved, yet post-millennialists contend that every nation will eventually see many of their people saved.  It generally teaches that the church will in a sense evangelize until so many people are converted that Christ will then return at the end of the future golden age or "millennium" )post = "end" millennium= 1,000 years).  Post-millenialists take passages such as Psalm 2 and missionary passages such as Matthew 28:18-20 to refer to the triumph of the gospel over unbelief.  The perks to this position is the optimism it communicates and its robust view of missions.  Some of the greatest, conservative Bible teachers of church history have been Post-millenialists.  Unfortunately its greatest criticism have been the general trend of history is decline rather than improvement. 

That completes the overview of the Millennial views.  Tomorrow we will continue in our study of prophecy and end times (eschatology).  I pray that you, dear reader, are increasing in hope and faith in our soon coming King, Jesus Christ.   

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bible prophecy and the Millennium

Acts 1:7 "And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power."
1 Thessalonians 4:13 "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope."

Two guard rails of Bible prophecy
    The two passages above give us guard rails to use when studying eschatology or what is more commonly called "Bible Prophecy".  On the one hand, eschatology by its nature is not a precise science, being that God has not told us how everything (in minute detail) fits together.  We can certainly make definite statements in warning people of Christ's literal bodily return, however the timing and chronology of events can be a bit more tricky.
    With that said, the second text reminds us of how important it is to know what we believe on Bible prophecy, since our responsibility is to tell people why it is we have such hope about what Christ is going to do in the future, and why it is they need to get ready for His return (please read 1 Peter 3:15).

In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials flexibility, in all things love
    Christians in general, and Baptists in particular, have held that when it comes to viewpoints on the timing and events surrounding Christ's return, legitimate differences do exist that should never cause Christians to break fellowship with one another.  For instance, in the September 22, 2011 edition of Baptist Messenger, a paper produced by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (Southern Baptist), a fine series of articles were written by Godly, respected Bible scholars.   Though differing in their takes on the timing of events surrounding Christ's return,  they all affirm the literal bodily return of Jesus Christ.  From yesterday's blog, we would say that the literal bodily return is a "definite", the various views on - say the millennium - are "positions" and the various views on - say the rapture - are "opinions". 

Defining the Millennium and its major positions
    In our last blog we saw the 8 definite areas of Eschatology.  Today we want to begin noting some key positions that one finds when studying this area of doctrine.  Clearly all Christians are in agreement that Christ will have a literal, bodily, visible return.  According to Bible Teacher John MacArthur, 1 out of every 25 New Testament passages speak on His return. 
   With that said, the areas of difference arise from what is believed will occur once He returns, and whether or not to expect a 1,000 year reign on earth, or if the kingdom is more of a spiritual kingdom.  Three major positions exist on this matter, with all of them centering around the nature of what Bible teachers call "The Millennium" or "the 1,000 year reign of Christ".  Today's blog will feature what is called "Pre-millennialism". 

Premillennialism - This is by far the most familiar to many readers.  Those who hold to this teach that, when Christ returns, He will set up a literal earthly kingdom for 1,000 years, followed by a brief loosing of Satan to deceive the nations, the Great white throne judgment and then the bringing in of the "New Heavens and New Earth".  Pre-millennialists draw their conclusions by combining the "earthly" descriptions of Christ's return in the Old Testament and Matthew 24, as well as the term "1,000 years" in Revelation 20.   

Among the strengths of the Pre-millennial position is first of all its longevity, being the longest held view in the history of the church.  Biblically this position is able to handle the many "earth-bound" descriptions of the coming kingdom seen in the Old and New Testaments as well as giving room for the future restoration of Israel at Christ's return.  Many Pre-millennialists (not all) will also point out that the promises of God to Abraham and David of the Savior and King coming through their bloodlines were and are to be fulfilled in both a heavenly and earthly way.  Some of the weaknesses of the position are that in a literal Millennium, there is a mixture of both resurrected saints and people born who are living in unressurected bodies.  Others have pointed out that many of the disciples' desire for an earthly manifestation of Christ's kingdom was seemingly dismissed by Jesus when he emphasized the coming Kingdom's predominately "spiritual" and "unseen" characteristics. 

More could be said, however we will only offer thumbnail sketches of these major positions.  The aim right now is to introduce the reader to the major viewpoints in Bible Prophecy, so as to encourage further study of scripture.  In tomorrow's blog we will look at two other positions on the Millennium.  

Friday, September 23, 2011

Beginning your study of Bible Prophecy

1 John 3:2 "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.  And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."

Defining the term "Eschatology"

    As much as the scripture addresses issues of what Christ did and what He is doing in believers at this present time, it is equally important to realize that God's purpose for the future is also covered.   This study of Bible doctrine is what Bible teachers call "Eschatology" or "study of last things" ("eschatos" = last and "ology" = study of).

Important distinctions: Definites, Positions and Opinions

   In any area of doctrine in the scriptures there are some issues which are more "weighty" or more central to Christian identity than others.  The first category are what I term "definites".  A "definite" is a core doctrine that determines salvation.  The second type of doctrine is what I term a "position".  This is a doctrine that, though important, is not a determining matter on the nature of one's salvation.  The third type of doctrine is what I term "opinions".  These are doctrines which are "in-house" debates among Christians, which have valid scriptural support, and are by no-means determinate of one's salvation.  With these categories understood, we can  now list the eight major "definites" the comprise any discussion of Bible prophecy or "Eschatology":

8 major definite areas in Eschatology (or Bible Prophecy)

a. Christ's literal, bodily, visible return - By far the most important
b. Final Judgment
c. Resurrection
d. Satan will be finally defeated
e. The Saints will never suffer God's wrath
f. Everything the Bible says will come true
g. Christ is the focus of Bible prophecy
h. Hope in Christ is the goal and result of Bible Prophecy

Why Eschatology matters

As you look at those eight major "definites", each of them are innerconnected to each other.  In surveying all of the major patterns of thought that have been promoted in the history of the church on Bible prophecy, these themes are the ones that are common to all.  Chief among the list of definites is the first one: Christ's literal, bodily return.  

These definites also impact other areas of doctrine. For instance the belief in the Final judgment impacts what I believe on the Sovereignty and goodness of God.   When I realize that "everything that the Bible says will come true", it is based upon a high view of scripture - which states that the Bible is without error in every word. 

Finally, knowing what are "definites" will enable me as a student of scripture to keep the "main thing the main thing".  If for instance I develop a theory of Bible prophecy that leads more to despair and less focus on Jesus Christ, then I need to go back to the drawing board of scripture.   In our next blog we will look at the various "positions" found in eschatology that flow from the "definites" just listed (see above definitions of these terms). 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thoughts towards the future

As I was thinking on what I had submitted in today's blog, I was struck once again by the wonderful prophetic hope we find in God's word.

The Bible can be summarize by four major events
When we consider the scope of biblical revelation, four events dominate the fabric of scripture:

1. The Bible's first big event - creation.  Over 60 passages speak on the God of glory creating the heavens and earth in six 24 hour periods of time.  Man was originally created sinless, yet capable of choosing for or against God.  Genesis 1-2 are the chief chapters that deal with this event.  Not only did God create what is seen, but also what is unseen - namely the angelic realm. 

2. The Bible's second big event - the fall.  From Genesis 3 onward we find the first and greatest catastrophe ,the fall.  It is here where Adam and Eve broke the Covenant of works, having been tempted by the fallen angel Lucifer, who led a third of the angelic hosts astray and by himself, entered the garden of Eden in the form of a serpent.  (Please compare Ezekiel 28, Revelation 12). 

With the Covenant of works broken, God offered a second Covenant, the Covenant of grace.  As God would repeat that second covenant in various forms through various people (like Abraham, David), two things were being assumed: that a redeemer would have to come and fulfill the first covenant that had been broken - the covenant of works, and that this same redeemer would also come to pay for and fullfill the Covenant of Grace.

3. The Bible's third big event, the cross.  It was in God the Son assuming upon himself human flesh that led to the third event - namely His death, Burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven.  For 33 years God in human flesh - Jesus Christ - lived in active, perfect obedience to the Father's will.  According to Romans 5, Jesus Christ is the New Adam, who did accomplish the completion of the Covenant of works. 

By doing that, Christ then submitted himself in obedience to the cross, thus purchasing the price for the Covenant of grace.  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that "by grace are you saved through faith, this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, lest any man should boast."  Thus when I, called by grace, am positioned by God, I then by faith truly receive the benefits of all that Christ accomplished.  The event of the cross truly becomes an experience in my life.

4. The Bible's fourth big event - Christ second coming.  Following Christ's ascension into heaven, the apostles (the disciples who witnessed Jesus' life and ministry and who preached the gospel in the early church) were told that Christ would come back again.  The Bible in both Old and New Testaments speaks about Christ's second coming, with eight times more mentionings of His second coming than His first coming! This event of course has yet to occur, however its of such great significance that it not only determines the purpose and end of history, but affects how Christians live their lives now  (please compare 1 John 3:1-3). 

Starting tomorrow, I want to focus our attention on what the Bible has to say about Christ's return and prophecy, with the aim of raising our hope and our eyes to our Imperial Majesty, Jesus Christ. 

The Trinity's intention in creating human beings - p2

Yesterday we looked at why the Triune God originally created human beings.  We discovered that humanity cannot be defined apart from Christ, and that the only way one can discover what it means to be human is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Today we continue noting why it is that human beings were created, and why it is that our humanity makes no sense apart from the God of the Bible. 

God had entered into covenant with man    
                 Genesis 1:26-30 and Genesis 2:16-17 form what is called by theologians "The Covenant of works".  Quite simply put, God had given man the promise of inheritance to man.  It was man's to take and man's right to rule over the earth.  God had entered into covenant with man.  All man had to do was obey four simple rules:

a. Be fruitful and muliply
b. Rule the earth and all in it
c. Eat freely from every tree in the garden
d. Not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil

If Adam and Eve obeyed these four simple rules, then their status as God's man and woman without sin would remain forever.  This covenant arrangement was still based in grace, since God offered it freely from His own heart.  The question of the hour would be: "would man follow through with all the God laid before him?"  It certainly was within his ability - since he was created free from sin and able not to sin.  However man was also created with a free will - meaning that at some point he would be given the opportunity to follow through or forfeit all that God had given him.

Only by Grace through, not works, can man discover his real identity
Man broke the original Covenant of works, so God had to offer one of Grace.  That Covenant, revealed in God slaying to two animals in the place of Adam and Eve, and covering them with coats of skin, would be the only way man could now have relationship and fellowship with the Lord.  By grace, through faith, in the shed blood of promise, would be the only way. 

However man forfeited that when he rebelled against God in the Garden.  The "title deed" to earth was transferred over from man's dominion to Satan's control.  The only way the title deed was going to be returned back to its rightful owner would be if a man would come to both reclaim its rights and then take up complete dominion over the planet.

         Jesus Christ, the New Adam, has done that very thing. (Please compare Romans 5)  On the cross he defeated Satan and by right is the heir.  All who by grace through faith trust in Christ, are considered co-heirs with him.  (Please read Ephesians 2:6-9)  We look forward to the time when Christ returns, and sets up His earthly kingdom, that his right as the heir will become a sure fact in His Kingly reign upon the earth. (Please read Revelation 20)   
God's original inheritance for man is regained through the New Adam            The fact that God gave man the authority and privilege to rule the earth is proven in the title deed we see here in Genesis 1:26-30.  Man was to be God's "co-regent" or "co-king".  Every square inch of planet earth, every last form of life was to be under man's supervision. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Trinity's intentions in creating human beings

Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

        By the time we reach this portion of the creation account in Genesis 1, God has already spoken 11 different times, creating everything from stars to moons to plants to animals.  It is on this twelfth occasion that God addresses Himself and says the words: "Let us".  Why the plural "us"?  From what we have studied in previous blogs concerning the nature and character of God, we can say at least this early in the Bible that God is communicating within Himself, undoubtedly foreshadowing what would be the later revelation of God's Triune nature.                  

The significance of man being made in "God's image"
        The fact God is wanting to create a creature unique from all other animate or inanimate created things means God is doing something on a grand scale.  Genesis 1:26-30 and Genesis 2 gives us the account of God's creation of the man and woman, Adam and Eve.  Today we want to unfold the significance of the phrase "image of God" to understand how it gives us insight into God's purposes and character as it relates to relationship with human beings.
1.God alone can define man                  Mankind was to have "dominion" over three realms in the earth - "the sky, the land and the sea".  Like God, man, (in a delegated sense) had the capacity to have authority, excercise rulership and manage the affairs of the domain under his supervision.  Man alone was given the capacity to have a one on one relationship with God.
2. God desired to become man                  When God made man he gave him the name "Adam", which is the literal Hebrew word for "man".  Whenever you take the name "Adam", you discover it is made up of two words.  The first part "a" is an abbreviated form of the name of God "Adonai".  The second part of "Adam" - "dam", comes from a Heebrew word meanin "blood".  Whenever we consider these two words together, "Adam" literally means "Lord of the blood".  Within the very name of "Adam" is spelled out the intent and plan of God that was agreed upon before man came on the seen.  In fact, Genesis 5:2 tells us that God called the name of the man and woman together by the term "Adam", indicating that His plan of entering into the human bloodline was going to involve them both.

Tomorrow we will explore further the significant intentions God had in making human beings. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Three Unbreakable Promises for daily living

Your Christian life can be likened to a ship, traveling upon the sea of life.  At times that sea may be tranquil as glass, with the sails of your faith fully unfurled and the mast of your obedience pointed strait at the sun in a cloudless sky.  At other times our Christian walk is that same ship, only the sea of life is a couldron of white capped waves.  Our ship is being tossed about, the sails of faith are being ripped and the mast is creaking.  We fear we will be capsized if Christ, the Master of the sea does not show up and speak into our lives. 

I have found three incredible promises in Hebrews 13 that gives hope to Christians who are in that second description.  Though our faith may flicker, God has promised that by His word it will not go out.  Though our little ship, called the Christian walk, may threaten to capsize and be made shipwreck, yet in the hands of our Lord, it will not.  May the three promises below anchor you today my friend, as they have anchored me.

Promise #1 Hebrews 13:5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “(I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”

Promise #2 Hebrews 13:6 6 so that we confidently say,    “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?”

Promise #3 Hebrews 13:8 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cultivating Passion for God

2 Peter 1:8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The past two blogs has dealt with defining the essence of the Christian life in its three main aspects: namely that it is practical, supernatural and doctrinal.  As Peter penned those words by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he laid down one of the grandest summaries of the Christian walk in God's word.  But now he did not merely leave us in the realm of theory.  Peter puts legs on his grand summary and gives us a seven step process to cultivating Passion for God.  This Passion for God involves living daily in the supernatural, practical and doctrinal realms. 

Much more to the faith walk than just faith
Following our conversion to Christ by faith, their needs to be fruit issuing forth from the root of faith.  Though we are saved by grace through faith alone, we are to remember that in the faith walk we are being sanctified by a faith that should never be alone.  Notice what Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:5-7 in cultivating Passion for God:

1. In your faith supply moral excellence 2 Peter 1:5
2. And in your moral excellence, knowledge 2 Peter 1:5
3. And in your knowledge, self-control  2 Peter 1:6
4. And in your self-control, perseverance 2 Peter 1:6
5. And in your perseverance, godliness 2 Peter 1:6
6. And in your godliness, brotherly kindness 2 Peter 1:7
7. And in your brotherly kindness, love.

Cultivating Passion for God is your responsibility
Did you notice the underlined word in all seven phrases?  "Your".  This tells us that in cultivating passion for God, I need to make the promises of salvation my own.  I need to take possession, ownership of my passion for God - that is - personal involvement.  As a Christ-follower, you and I are not called to be merely spectators in the stands but participators on the field. 

God's Grace is necessary to cultivate passion
Now it may sound like that cultivating passion for God is a matter of us getting up enough gumption to go ahead and just do it.  However the scripture here is quick to point out an important twin truth - namely that God's grace is necessary.  As you look at those list of qualities (the ones in blue), whose are they?  Are they generated by you - or are they given by God?  Remember, 2 Peter 1:5-8 is based off of what we saw in 2 Peter 1:3-4.  It is through the partaking of the Divine nature that I am given these seven graces.  Many of them in fact are described by Paul in Galatians 5 as the "fruit of the Spirit". 

So even though cultivating passion for God is my calling, my responsibility, my duty and should be my delight; yet it is only made possible by God's Grace.  Galatians 2:20 summarizes this twin truth for us: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."

Oh may you and I Cultivate Passion for God by the Grace He gives us.  For it is by the Grace made readily available that you and I can indeed live the supernatural, practical and doctrinal Christian life.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Supernatural,Practical, Doctrinal Christianity - P2

Yesterday we explored the practical and doctrinal elements of the Christian life.  Today we want to explore that third element: The Supernatural side. 

Picture a 3-legged stool
When I think of the Christian walk, I picture a three-legged stool.  The Christian life is all at one time a supernaturally practical, doctrinal lifestyle.  It includes all three, not just two of the three or one of the three.  All believers will gravitate to at least one of the legs more than the other two.  Some are very practically minded, others love the intellectual challenges of deep doctrine and still others are more mystical in their Christianity.  Peter is challenging us to be equally balanced in all three.

The Christian Walk is Supernatural
Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:4 "For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust."  The Christian life certainly includes the practical and doctrinal  aspects that I wrote about yesterday - but it is so much more than that.  It is indeed supernatural.

What does it mean to "partake of the Divine nature"?
This terms used by Peter is remarkable.  In the original language it could be translated: "To draw one's common identity from the Divine life of God".  How is it that our finite, creaturely existence can truly know and be known by the infinite God of glory?  Colossians 2:9 uses the same word as Peter uses here in our text translated "Divine".  Paul writes: "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form".  That "Him" in the Colossians passage is Jesus Christ.

So it is in relationship and fellowship with Jesus Christ that I fellowship, have in common, the ability to know and interract with God.  Without Jesus Christ, believers could never have any interraction with the Lord.

It must be recalled the God the Son partook of our human nature
In order for truly fellowship between God and believers to be a reality, God had to make the first move.  Hebrews 2:14-15 states: "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives."  That word there for "partook" is the same word used by Peter here in 2 Peter 1:4 - i.e "fellowship, have in common". 

To partake simply means to have a common, shared experience with one another
Now take these two passages together, 2 Peter 1:4 and Hebrews 2:14-15, and you will see two incredible, supernatural truths emerge about you own Christian identity:

1. Just as Christ entered into the human experience by partaking of a human nature, as a believer, I can, through Christ, enter into experiencing life with God Himself by partaking of the Divine nature.

2. Just as Christ got to experience the limitations of human life without ever ceasing to be God, I get the chance, through Christ, to experience the unlimited joy and love going on in the Trinity while still remaining human.

A Christian is a supernatural human being
I heard one preacher describe all that we have talking about in this way: "The day I became a Christian, natural me, by faith, stepped into supernatural Jesus, and Supernatural Jesus stepped into natural me, thus making me supernatural."  This is why the supernatural aspect of the Christian life is not confined only to the realm of the five senses. 

I believe for instance that when I pray, what I pray for here can affect someone across town.  How is that?  I'm localized, still a creature.  Yet Christ in me is living His life out through me.  The Holy Spirit residing in my human spirit can sense nuances of situations and life that otherwise would be closed off from my eyes and ears.

Or how about in a church service when the Bible is preached.  How is it that you can get insight into a situation from hearing the preaching of a given text, and yet your neighbor walks away with another insight?  How is it that it seems that preacher made that sermon for you, and the hundreds of others in that service?  It wasn't the preacher reading your mail that day - it was the Holy Spirit of God who authored the Bible that you're reading.

These are common examples of everyday, supernatural Christianity.  In its doctrinal, practical and supernatural aspects, the Christian life is indeed remarkable.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Supernatural, Practical, Doctrinal Christianity - P1

2 Peter 1:3-4 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

One of Jesus' twelve disciples, Peter, penned the above words as the Holy Spirit guided him by divine inspiration over 2,000 years ago.  In them contain a glorious summary of the Christian life.  In today's blog I want to explore the essence of this entire blog site, with the thought of laying out the Christian life in its three aspects: Supernatural, Practical and Doctrinal elements.

The Christian Life is Practical
Peter writes: "seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness".  This one verse covers all the bases.  We see how God has given to the Christian everything needed for the everyday demands of Christian living in the 21st century.  Now what do those demands entail?  Peter states that this "everything" pertains to two overlapping realms: "life" and "godliness".  For the believer, you can't have life without godliness, nor can you have godliness with no life.  Life without godliness leads you into the ditch of worldliness and compromise.  On the same token, godliness without life leads you into the ditch of legalism and religion.  The practical Christian walk is both "life" and "godliness". 

The Christian Life is Doctrinal
Peter goes onward by saying next: "through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises".  Is it possible to be effective in the practical Christian life without doctrine?  From the pen of the great Apostle, the answer is obvious - it is impossible. How I live hinges on what I believe.  What is "true knowledge"?  How do I know the difference?  The answer is doctrine.  The Bible of course is the source book to which I go in search of "The true Knowledge", and doctrine is the vocabulary I use in placing the Bible's teaching into my mind, my heart and my life.  

It is evident that what Peter is aiming at is not merely the "message" of the scriptures, but the very "words".  How do we know this?  Peter mentions the the term "promises".  Over 30,000 promises exist in the Bible.  When I study the scripture, I need to be answering some basic questions: Is there a command to obey?  A Principle to Apply?  An example to follow?  A promise to claim?  A sin to avoid?  An attribute of God to delight in?  It is in the realm of questions like these that I begin to mine the caverans of the Bible for gold, silver and precious stone.  Doctrine is the pearl necklace that is worn by the church and the saints of God. (Please compare Titus 2:10)

With these first two thoughts, we are well underway into establishing a better understanding of the Christian life.  Tomorrow we will look into that third aspect fo the Christian life - the supernatural. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hell and the question of fairness

Yesterday we began looking at the difficult doctrine of hell - with particular focus upon Jesus' account of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.  We noted how this chapter in Luke helps us to understand this difficult, but nonetheless true teaching of scripture.  Today we want to deal with an even more difficult issue: the fairness of hell.  Below is a continuation of yesterday's discussion.

When we see the attitudes and words of this rich man, we can say that he got what he deserved.  But now we ask: is the punishment too severe? 

1. Consider the Nature of the Offended
To deny the fairness of hell as punishment, as well as its eternal duration, is to not grasp the nature of the sinner's offense against God.    God is an infinite being.  When we look at the concept of justice and punishment, the punishment of the offender always fits the nature of the offense committed against the offended. 

2. The nature of the offended party determines the nature of the punishment
If the offended party is a finite creature, then a finite punishment would be warranted.  However, God is not finite, but infinite.  To do violence to His reputation in any form is sin.  Being that His reputation (His glory) is without limit, then any attack against Him is regarded an infinite attack.              

3. God is Just and Loving
Romans 9:22-23 reveals that it will take eternity to put on display the glory of God's justice and mercy.  Heaven was created for the redeemed, since God through them will be displaying the glory of His mercy.  Hell was created for the devil and his angels, and by default, all those who follow the enemy and die without Christ.  Thus God will be displaying the glory of His justice for all eternity. 

So when we consider those three points above, we can only conclude that in light of the attack that sin is on God's inifinite Holy character, Hell, sadly but truly, is not an unfair punishment. 
IF THERE WAS NO HELL, WE WOULD NEVER KNOW IF GOD WAS A GOD OF JUSTICE             When Christ suffered on the cross, He suffered God's wrath in the place of all who would ever believe on Him.  He also suffered in the place of the rest of humanity to give them space and time for repentance.  Even though Christ's death in the historical sense was for all men, yet in the eternal sense His death was to be applied to all who would ever believe.  Thus God displayed His justice and grace in the cross.  For those who die rejecting Christ, they will suffer in hell because they never took advantage of the grace poured out at the cross.  Thus as difficult as the doctrine of hell is, without it we could never say God is Just and fair.  In order for God to be a good God, He has to be a Just and Loving God.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Difficult Doctrine of Hell

Today we begin delving into the difficult doctrine of Hell.  Jesus states why it was originally created: for the Devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).  Today we are going to look at the fairness of hell as it pertains to the destiny of those who die without Christ.  Now when we speak of the "fairness of hell", we are referring to the Justice of God.  We must also hasten to add that in speaking of hell's fairness, we do not take away from the sorrow and horror of hell, nor do we grieve any less over those who die without Christ.

          In Luke 16 we see the clearest explanation on the place where unbeliever's go who die without Christ.  Despite what some may teach, Luke 16:19-31 is a literal account of an actual event that Jesus is using to teach on hell. 

WHY DO UNBELIEVERS WHO DIE GO TO HELL IF HELL WAS MADE FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS?              Those who are born into this world are under the dominion and authority of Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 3:10).  Jesus referred to the Pharisees as having as their father "satan" in John 8:44.  When we explore Genesis 3:15, we discover the term "seed" as referring to that portion of humanity who refuse to believe on the "Seed" of Eve - Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 2:1-3 also reminds us that all human beings are "children of wrath" and "children of disobedience".  Thus the destiny of unbelievers who die without Christ is the same as satan because they are alligned in their mindset and their wills with his program.  Their hatred of God, their disregard for the law of God all reveal the nature of their heart (please compare Romans 3:13-23).

WHY HELL IS FAIR          When we look at Luke 16, we can note the attitudes and words of this rich man who went to hell:
1. There is no repentance in hell.  (Luke 16:24)           If this rich man would had been crying out to God, acknowledging His wrongdoing and betrayal of God's Holy character, then we could say hell is unfair.  However when you look at what the rich man is saying here, he is more concerned with his own comfort than anything else.  Whatever characterized him in his time on earth will be magnified in hell.  The reality of the flames and pain of torment also show us that Hell is a real place.
2. There is remembrance in hell. (Luke 16:27-28)        This rich man was very conscious of the fact that his brothers were still alive on earth.  Again, despite the fact he wants them to be warned of avoiding his fate, the message is not centered on repentance, or getting right with God through the shed blood. 

3. There is no regard for the authority of God's word (Luke 16:30)           The rich man viewed his opinion as carrying more weight than the law of God.  He thought that by sending Lazarus back from the dead, perhaps the brothers would repent.  True self righteousness will attempt to do God's will apart from the cross and apart from the word.  People in hell will never acknowledge nor agree with the verdict of God's word in the realm of salvation.  They will still insist on their way.  This rich man still wanted Lazarus to do his bidding.  The last thing he would ever acknowledge is the uniqueness of God's word to warn and convict sinners. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The cross - the lone solution to the problem of evil

WHY CHRISTIANITY ALONE CAN ADDRESS GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL            We have been exploring the problem of evil and the Sovereignty of God in these past few blogs.  Though no one has a comprehensive answer as to how evil could arise when God is both infinitely good and powerful enough to have prevented it, yet Christianity alone can effectively explain why God uses it for His purposes.  Unlike all other worldviews, Christianity has the one event where evil was effectively dealt with - the cross.  The cross reminds us that God did do something about the problem of evil.  Whenever people question the goodness and power of God, I take them to the cross.  Whenever the problem of evil becomes overwhelming, I point people to the cross.  Only at the cross did the most unimaginable evil get addressed by the infinite depths of Divine love.

           Since we have looked at this issue as it played out in the angelic realm, we now can consider how this issue impacts the human realm.
The one thing we must remember about the problem of evil is that no one can ultimately and completely understand how all of this fits together. All we can really do is say what took place, second, that all good is from God and all evil is done by creatures and thirdly, this all works together to accomplish God's good purposes.

JUDAS CHOSE TO BETRAY CHRIST           Case in point, Judas was predicted to be the betrayer of Christ (Psalm 69:25). Clearly God willed it to happen, since nothing occurs outside his will. We also know that Judas was responsible for his actions. We have these two truths of scripture. We also know that if Judas had not betrayed Christ, the events leading to the cross would had never taken place, thus no salvation, thus no glory to God.

WE CANNOT HARMONIZE GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY AND HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY, SINCE BOTH ARE TAUGHT          Acts 2:23 says on the one hand that Christ was delivered up by the determined will of God, yet in the same verse we read He was crucified by wicked men. Which is it? The answer, both. All we can say is this:
1. God willed evil (that is, in His permissive will)
2. God also created creatures with moral responsibility
3. God wills the means (activity of creatures, both good and bad) as well as the ends (His glory) to bring about whatsoever comes to pass (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 11:36).

ILLUSTRATING WHAT I HAVE SAID ON THE PROBLEM OF EVIL AND GOD'S SOVEREIGN WILL: DIAMOND RINGS AND DARK CLOTHES    When I was getting ready to ask Debi to be my wife, I went to the Jeweler to look at engagement rings. The Jeweler brought out a dark piece of cloth. Now did I want the cloth? No. Then the Jeweler brought out some rings. Now they did shine, but was I able to see their beauty completely? Well, no not really. The cloth and the diamond are two completely different things. The diamond is a diamond, whether I see it or not. The dark cloth is completely useless and undesired by me. However, the Jeweler took the ring and placed it on the cloth. Wow! Did that ring ever pop out!              
    Romans 3:5-6 states - If our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengence (I speak as a man) 3:6 "God forbid: For then how shall God judge the world?" How is it that someone came up with idea of putting together a dark cloth and a diamond ring as a means of making the diamond more desireable to the onlooker? I don't know. Likewise, how is it that God could will evil and suffering in His plan to offset His unending glory? There again, I don't know. All I know is that a dark cloth in the background of a diamond ring worked and made me desire the ring. 
Only when we come to the cross can the problem of evil begin to make sense as a part of God's overall Sovereign plan.  I pray these series of blogs have proven helpful to you, dear reader.  As always, I welcome any comments.  May God richly bless you as you aim to grow in the grace of Christ.   

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Problem of Evil - The Invisible realm Part 2

As we continue in this series on the problem of evil and suffering, we will again explore how this issue is understood as it pertains to the existence of the demonic realm.  The scripture gives us clear answers as to why God permits such beings to exist.  Thankfully, we have a good and all powerful God who is Sovereign. 

The demonic realm, despite being that 1/3 number who followed Lucifer in the Satanic rebellion, are still by nature angelic - albeit "fallen angels".  In Colossians 1:16-18 and Ephesians 6:1-11 we read of Satan and powers and principalities and rulers.  In the book of Daniel we see a glimpse of prince demons assigned over pagan nations such as Persia.  Deuteronomy 32 tells us that Israel is the only nation in the world that has God directly excercising rule over its affairs, assigning Michael the good angel as its angelic representative.  Jude 6 tells us that there were some demons that were reserved in chains in the blackest parts, reserved for judgment.  Obviously there are other demonic spirits who were allowed to roam our visible world, since Christ and the apostles had to deal with them. 

The power of the demonic realm was broken at the cross, however the persuasive devices of the demonic realm is left for the church to defeatColossians 2:14-15 states - "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;  15And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it."  The cross is the objective event in time and eternity that God ordained to break the power fo the demonic realm.  When God the Son came from eternity into time to become a man, He did something that had never occured: He excorcised and subjected demons to His control.  At the cross, he asserted His supremacy over them.

With the Sovereignty of Christ established at the cross and demonstrated by His resurrection, the Church of Jesus Christ has the responsibility to spread the gospel.  By the word of God Christians are to take ground for the Kingdom.  The demonic realm still assaults the church.  However the Christian does not have to be bound by these beings.  We as Christians must remember the following things about the demonic realm:

1. There are more good angels than fallen angels. 

2. Christian are positionally seated with Christ.  Thus we have delegated authority
3. The scriptures, prayer and the preaching of the word are the God appointed means by which the church asserts its victory won by Christ at the cross
4. God permits demons and the kingdom of darkness to exist for the church to experience victory that was already won at the event of the cross
5. Greater is the Lord who is in the Christian than the enemy and his minions who are in the world (1 John 4:4)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Problem of Evil - The Invisible realm Part 1

Revelation 12:3-4  3And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.  4And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

All the angels were created goodWhen God created the heavens and earth, He stated seven times that all He had made was good.  By the end of the creation week in Genesis 1 and 2, we see a completed creation.  When we add in Psalm 33 and Psalm 104, we observe that in the invisible realm, all was good.  We have also noted in this blog series that God is not the author of evil, however in His permissive will he did permit evil to come into the heart of Satan to achieve Satan's prideful lust for his own exaltation. 

Some of the Angels chose to rebel, following Lucifer
Was Satan alone in his rebellion?  Though scripture gives us a faint sketch of what took place in the heavenly realms following the creation week of Genesis 1-2, we do know that the Satanic rebellion took place very shortly thereafter.  In Genesis 3 we see Satan in the Garden of Eden, posturing himself to tempt the man and the woman.  In the passage above we are given the clearest summary of the scope and nature of this rebellion that took place between Genesis 2 and 3. 

As Lucifer turned into satan, 1/3 of the angelic host became the demonic realmThe Bible tells us that the angelic host is ultimately more numerous than we can count (Hebrews 12:22).  Around the throne of God alone is over 100 trillion angels (Revelation 4 and 5).  Yet we do know that the number of angels is not infinite, since Revelation 12:3-4 gives us the number of 1/3.  These angels were swayed by Lucifer.  According to the profile we read in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, Lucifer most likely was the choir leader of heaven, the chief over the Cherubim - the guardians of God's very presence.  When he rebelled, it was undoubtedly the last thing any angel would had expected.  As a result, 1/3 of the angelic hosts, of all different kinds and ranks, followed Lucifer, and were cast out of heaven. 

Different types and ranks of angels and demonsThe angelic realm is noted for the fact that it was created in orderly ranks.  There is Michael the archangel (Daniel 10, Revelation 12:3-4), there are angels that worship God, called "seraphim" (Isaiah 6) and there are four angels committed to the throne of God called "cherubim" (Revelation 4 and 5).  There are angels that will be assigned to execute God's judgment, as well as messenger angels and guardian angels (Matthew 18).  There are even angels assigned to cover children and illuminate their way prior to their reaching the age of accountability (Matthew 18).  The sheer number of angels could number way above the trillions.

In tomorrow's blog we will look more into the issue of the problem of evil as it relates to the invisible realm.