Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Words of Life - A Poem

Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

The Words of Life - A Poem
I see an old Bible, wrinkled and worn
When it is preached, faith can be born
The Sinner's heart melts, the work is done
Faith grabs hold, the faith-walk has begun
Hearing is granted, obedience resides
To Christ flees the saint, in His presence He abides
The Bible is alive, its words are breathing force
In its hearing weak faith is strengthened
Resolve resumes its course
The saint faces trials, the Bible in his hand
Eyes raised heavenward, on God's word He does stand
Pages stained with tears, the Bible is a friend
Its truth unchanged, broken hearts it can mend
The Spirit speaks forth, pointing the way
See the Living Savior, become His today
Worn it may be, the words are timeless and true
Open your Bible and take in what God speaks to you

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Lordship of Jesus Christ

Romans 10:9 "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

What is meant when the New Testament refers to Jesus Christ as Lord? Today's blog aims to answer that question by offering a three-fold definition of Christ's Lordship from scripture:

1. He is God.

When the New Testament refers to Jesus as Lord, it is another way of saying he is God.  Matthew 12:28; Mark 2:28 and Luke 6:5 refer to Jesus Christ as Lord of the Sabbath.  Lordship refers to excercising dominion over a realm or Kingdom.  In Genesis 2:3 we read that God "rested from His work" after creating all things, meaning He was establishing Himself as the Sovereign, uncontested Lord over all things.  In fact, Genesis 2:4 tells us that it was indeed the "LORD God" who made the heavens and the earth, giving us the first appearance of the term "LORD" in the Bible.  By noting the Old Testament background, Jesus' remarks in John 5:18 make clearer sense, since in healing a man on the sabbath He makes a declaration of Himself as being equal with God.  The reason He could do that was because He was there, in co-equal power and being with the Father on the day of the first Sabbath back in Genesis!  In fact in Matthew 12:8 Jesus plainly states: "The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath".  Thus Jesus Christ's declaration of Lordship was His way of saying He is God. 

2. He is Sovereign.

When we speak of Christ's Lordship, we also are referring to His Sovereignty.  The term "Sovereign" means God's comprehensive reign over all peoples, places and times.  Sovereignty refers to God's right to reign.  Matthew 28:18 has Jesus saying: "All power has been given to me on Heaven and on Earth".  Other passages such as John 10:17-18 and 5:22 speak to this end.  As Lord He is Sovereign enough to both rise from the dead and excercise judgment.  He is Lord.  He is Sovereign.

3. He is Savior

The Lordship of Jesus Christ speaks to His role as the Saving Redeemer.  Passages such as Philippians 2:7; 1 Timothy 3:16 and Hebrews 4:15 refer to His function as the Savior who excercises His Lordship in salvation.  Romans 10:9 is the plainest verse:  "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."  Despite the attempts of some today, scripture's testimony is that you cannot divorce Christ's role as Savior from His role as Lord.  The latter term is what gives Him the power and authority to be the Savior.  As God, He is powerful enough to save and as Sovereign He has the Authority to save all who by grace through faith believe on Him for the forgiveness of their sins.  (Romans 10:8-10)

To confess Jesus Christ as Lord means I am trusting Him to be the Savior who leads me, sustains me and Shepherds me.  As my Sovereign, I am His Subject, and He my King.  As my God, He is the One who I worship and adore. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Prescriptions for Stronger Faith

Numbers 11:23 "The LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’S power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.”

The Disease of unbelief needed a Powerful Prescription
In this section of Numbers 11-12 we see the situation in the nation of Israel drastically plummet.  Numbers 11:1-3  tells us: "1 Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the LORD and the fire died out. 3So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the LORD burned among them."

For over 12 months since their deliverance out of Egypt, the people had been camped around the base of Mount Sinai.  They had every means of grace available. Yet as Hebrews 3-4 reveals, they ended up not entering into the land which God was calling them due to unbelief.  These two chapters of Numbers 11-12 are chapters about the complaining people of God. 

1. We see the Children of Israel compaining in Numbers 11:1-9
2. We see Moses companing about the people Number 11:10-15
3. We see Miraim and Aaron complaining about Moses 12:1-2

No faith, struggling faith and weakening faith
No one was happy.  These three groups of people were in a miserable condition.  The Nation of Israel camped around Sinai were operating with no faith.  Hebrews 3:19 describes the generation of Israelites coming out of Egypt being incapable of entering into the promised land due to unbelief. 

Moses was operating with struggling faith.  According to Hebrews 3:5, Moses was indeed faithful, a "faith-filled man", yet in this particular episode he was overwhelmed.  Then we see Aaron and Miriam dealing with weakening faith.  They had genuine faith, however jealousy and envy over Moses had sapped their spiritual energy. What these people needed was the same thing we need as God's people living in the 21st century: Stronger faith.

The people of Israel needed saving faith, Moses needed victorious faith and Aaron and Miriam needed greater faith.  In the middle of these two chapters we see Moses' raise further doubts to God's ability to provide.  It is in Numbers 11:23 that we see God says these words: "The LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’S power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.” 

It is from this text that I see the Lord giving us a set of prescriptions for stronger faith.  If someone is in need of saving faith, this prescription from Numbers 11:23 will guarantee salvation.  Perhaps you are reading this and are a believer in Christ already, however you are needing victorious faith or stronger faith.  May I urge you to consider the following prescriptions for greater faith from Numbers 11:23. 

1. Consider the Lord. Numbers 11:23a "The LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’S power limited?"
This was Moses' problem: He had considered his circumstance more than the Lord.  The question posed by Jehovah God can only yield one answer - of course the Lord's arm, ability, strength, is not too short.  The people needed to place their faith and trust in the saving power of the one who had rescued them out of Egypt.  Miriam and Aaron needed to be reminded that the Lord called Moses to do one thing, and they another.  The Lord's power is unlimited (Psalm 90:1). 

2. Consider the Lord's word Numbers 11:23b "Now you shall see whether My word will come true" 
Moses, the man of struggling faith, needed to hear the Word of the Lord.  The prophet of God, who had already composed Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus at this stage of redemptive history, was at a low point in his ministry.  He wanted to die. 

The nation of Israel had no faith.  Their failure to believe was not God's fault, but theirs.  Only the preaching of God's word can bring about the faith needed for the person to embrace Christ. (Romans 10:17).  That generation of people needed to be saved. (again compare Hebrews 3 and 4)  Miriam and Aaron had weak faith.  They needed to heed the Word they had received and consider their words carefully.  Dear friend, you and I need to consider the Lord's words more than our thoughts, our impressions and our opinions.  God was telling Moses that no doubt, He  was going to do as he had said.

3. Consider your heart. Number 11:23 "Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.” 
What was the Lord trying to get Moses to consider.  He was trying to get him to consider the Lord, and the Lord's word.  But He was also appealing to the court of Moses' heart.  That word "you" takes what is impersonal and distant and suddenly brings it to bear personally and near.  Somewhere along the way, Moses' let the circumstance change his understanding about the Lord, rather than let His understanding of the Lord change His circumstance.

He who had seen the Lord split the Red Sea and rain fire on the Mountain was begging God to let him die.  I do not hold Moses in contempt, for I too have had those times, and I'm sure you have as well.  It is in those times of trouble that God has had me take stock of my heart. 

Proverbs 4:23 tells us - "Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life." Whenever my heart is out of tune with the Lord, it is because I have not considered Him nor His words.  This three-fold prescription of considering the Lord, His Word and your heart will lead to stronger faith.  Take it in daily, and watch your faith grow. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Using Cross-referencing and repeated words together

Numbers 11:1 Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

Two days ago we looked at Hebrews 3 and noted how we can use cross referencing, as well as a couple other Bible-study related tools.  In that chapter we noted that the author cross-referenced Numbers 12 and Psalm 95.  It was for the reason of Psalm 95 that we looked yesterday at the Bible Study tool of "repeated words".  Today I want to consider Numbers 11-12, the other text referred to in Hebrews 3, and explore it through the two tools we have learned in the past two blogs: namely "cross-referencing" and "repeated words".

1. Finding repeated ideas or words in Numbers 11-12
The immediate tone one finds in studying Numbers 11-12 is that of "complaining" or "murmuring":

a. The people are complaining. Numbers11:1,4,5,6
b. Moses is complaining. Numbers 11;10,11-15,21-22
c. Miriam and Aaron are complaining. Numbers 12:1-2

We also see God granting undeserved provisions of grace:

a. The manna. Numbers 11:7-9
b. His Spirit upon the seventy elders to advise Moses 11:24-26
c. Communication of His Word 11:23; 12:6-8, 14
d. His sparing of Miraim 12:15-16

So we see God's grace.  We see murmuring. 

Clearly we see examples to avoid.  We also see the need for God's grace to hang onto.

Which leads us to see the repetition of God and/or His attributes in these chapters:

a. God's provision of Manna, hence His Grace, unmerited favor
b. His Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God gifting selected people was taught in the Old Testament.
c. God's Special Revelation by His Word
b. God's mercy, or not giving that which is deserved, as in the case of Miraim
e. God's judgment, which is seen in giving the people what they want, the quail.  In scripture the worse form of judgment is when God gives the sinner what he or she wants, since the sinner has in their heart exchanged God for created things. (Romans 1:20-25)

2. Cross referencing in Numbers 11-12
Cross referencing to previous passages can provide fascinating insights and surprises in one's study of God's Word.  A prime example of this is in the people's murmuring over not having meat, and hating the manna that God gave to them in Numbers 11:1-9. 

Have we seen this type of complaining before? We have.1   Some 12-14 months before, the people had just been redeemed out of Egypt and were camped at the wilderness of Sin in Exodus 16.  There the people complained about not having any food.  God responds in Exodus 16 by doing the following:

a. He first supplies them quail in Exodus 16:13 on the evening of the day they had murmured against Him.
b. The next morning he then supplies them with manna to eat in Exodus 16:14-20, with the text stating in Exodus 16:21 that every man had as much as he could eat.
c. They were not judged to death.  God showed mercy.

Thus we see the pattern: Complaining--->The word spoken---> they looked and saw the glory of the Lord-->Quail provided-->Manna provided-->Mercy

Not hardly over a year later the people are complaining in Numbers 11 about the manna they had been receiving.  They were accusing God of short changing them.  They chose to forget that He had supplied them quail, then manna. Notice the reverse response in this second incident:

a. God kept supplying them manna.  It is described again and mentioned first in the Numbers 11 text. 
b. The provision of quail is given by the Lord in Numbers 11:31-35.  The text tells us that while the meat was in their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the Lord had kindled. (Numbers 11:33).  They could had spit it out.  They should have remembered how He first supplied them quail, and then bread in Exodus 16.  But alas, they spurned the grace of God, revealing they had never received it to begin.
c. Therefore God struck the people with a very severe plague. (Numbers 11:33)

Thus we see the opposite pattern: They complained--->Mention of Manna--->the word spoken--->they did not look at the Lord's glory--->Quail--->Plague--->Death

From these two incidents we see the crazy but true nature of repeating sin.  In cross referencing, we can note similarities, and also stark contrasts.  Most noteably I find that the people did not look to the Lord's glory in the second incident like they had in the first.  Their rebellion was more willful and deep than the first.2

It is from these patterns in Numbers 11 that we find the murmuring continuing in Numbers 12.  No doubt the Psalmist in Psalm 95 and the author in Hebrews 3 draws from these patterns. 

Conclusion from  cross referencing and repeated thoughts in Numbers 11-12
Thus from cross referencing and repeated thoughts in Numbers 11-12 we can draw a general conclusion about the text:
Namely, The Holy Ghost in all three texts is weaving together the pattern of prescriptions needed to strengthen one's faith and to avoid the peril that comes from murmuring against the Lord. 

End Notes______________

1. Numbers 33 gives an overview of all the journeyings of the Israelites from Mount Sinai to the plains of Moab some 40 years later.  In Numbers 33:12 we see the record of the people encamped at the wilderness of Sin, the location of the first quail and manna incident of Exodus 16.  Then in Numbers 33:17 we see the people camped at Kibroth-hattaavah, the scene of the second manna/quail incident in Numbers 11-12. 

2. The Preacher's Homiletical Commentary on Numbers gives this insight: "They had murmured aforetime, and the Lord gave them quails, and did not punish them (Exodus 16:2-13).  But now, after additional proofs of His power and goodness, they murmur again and more wickedly, and He sends them quails and smites them in anger."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Finding Scripture's meaning through repeated words

Psalm 95:1 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.

Making the main point the main point
Yesterday we explored Hebrews 3 and noted the most effective Bible study Tool - "Cross referencing".  Today I want to further explore a sub-point in that blog which actually utilized Psalm 95 - namely observing repeated words or ideas.  It cannot be over-emphasized that discovering scripture's meaning involves identifiying the author's main point or points.  To do that, you and I as Bible interpreters need to note repeated words or thoughts.  Below we are going to walk our way through Psalm 95 to underscore the repeated words or ideas so as to discover the Psalmist's main point.

1. Commands to Worship the Lord. Psalm 95:1-7
In Psalm 95 we see the phrase "let us" repeated seven times, with clusterings of this phrase found four times in Psalm 95:1-2 and the second clustering of three times found in Psalm 95:6.  In each clustering we find the one word "come". (Psalm 95:1,6)  The idea of "let us" is repeated as follows in this Psalm:

a. Let us Sing for joy to the Lord - Psalm 95:1a
b. Let us shout joyfully - Psalm 95:1b
c. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving - Psalm 95:2a
d. Let us us shout joyfully to Him with Psalms - Psalm 95:2b

This first clustering utilizes a feature of Hebrew Poetry wherein the author piles on phrases, one right after the other, with the intended effect of amplifying the power of His writing.  Thus we are to go from singing, to shouting, to moving forward as we sing and shout, to the full orbed shouting joyfully as we move forward singing and shouting. 

Then we see the second clusterings of the phrase "let us" used three times in Psalm 95:6:

a. Let us worship Psalm 95:6a 
b. and (Let us) bow down Psalm 95:6b (this would be more of a distinct command in the original text)
c. Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker  Psalm 95:6c

Just as in the first set, the author here utilizes that "amplifying effect" in his poetry: giving the sense of not just worshipping, but also bowing down and worship, and then taking it further and actually kneeling in humility before the exalted Majesty of God.

2. Important questions to ask when identifying your repeated ideas
Clearly this seven-fold repetition of the phrase "Let us" is in the form of commands.  Whenever you are looking at repeated phrases or ideas in a text, here are some questions to keep in mind (note I will illustrate these questions straight out of Psalm 95:

a. Is there a command for you to obey? O Come, Let us sing, shout, come before His presence, shout joyfully, worship, bow down and kneel. (Psalm 95:1-2, 6)

b. Is there a warning to heed? "Today if you would hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts.." (Psalm 95:7); as at Meribah (95:8a); as in the day of Massah in the wilderness (95:8b); "and said they are a people who err in their heart" (95:10)

c. Is there an example to heed or to avoid? Clearly the Psalmist uses the unfaithfulness of the Israelites in Numbers as examples to not repeat: "When your Fathers tested me" (95:9a); they tried me, though they had seen my work (95:9b)

d. Is there a promise to claim? Clearly the designation of those who truly worship Him by grace through faith as "people of His pasture" (95:7a) and "the sheep of his hand" (95:7b).  This condition describes someone who has found rest in the Lord.  The idea of rest is derived from the shouts for joy that result from having found such rest in the Lord's presence (95:1-2) and the lack of rest stemming from refusing to worship Him as a true believer.  Anyone who has been saved by grace through faith can claim these promises, since Jesus Himself identifies believer's as sheep and He as their Great Shepherd. (John 10) Only a true believer can truly worship God and call Him Savior and Lord. (Galatians 4:6; Romans 10:8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:3)

e. Is there can argument to consider? The word "for" is repeated twice (Psalm 95:3,7).  This word in the original text speaks of drawing an inference or implication from the preceeding or following material.  Thus the commands of Psalm 95:1-2 make sense, "for" the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods". Psalm 95:3)  It makes sense to worship God, since He made all things. (Psalm 95:4-5). 

The logic of the Psalmist's commands are further reinforced in Psalm 95:7, where we see the second "for" refering to the Lord as our Maker and Great Shepherd.  Why would you want to worship, bow down and kneel before Him?  Notice again that these questions were applied to phrases or ideas we saw repeated throughout the text.

3. Conclusion: The Main Point of Psalm 95
In considering these repeated ideas and thoughts, we can draw the following main point of this Psalm: Come (by faith) and sing for joy to the Lord (95:1), and do not harden your heart (95:7), for otherwise in so doing, you demonstrate yourself not to be a true worshipper who has entered His rest. (95:11)


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Power of Cross Referencing

Hebrews 3:1-2 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; 2He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house.

The Most effective tool for studying the Bible
In many Bibles today you will notice verse references either running down the center column of a given page of scripture or along the edges.  Normally these Bible verses are tagged, lettered or numbered to a word or phrase in the main biblical text.  We call these little verse references - "cross references". 

The practice of following a word or theme through the cross references is what we call - "cross referencing".  Such a practice yields untold treasures and often proves to be the most effective tool for studying God's Word.  Today I want to look at Hebrews 3 and note how the author uses cross referencing and other forms of referencing scripture to bring out the intention of the Spirit of God for the reader.  The aim of today's blog is to give the reader a practical step by step method for cross-referencing God's Word.

1. Consider the Context Hebrews 3:1
Before the author moves into referencing other passages to support his argument, he firsts of all casts his statements in light of the larger context.  Context is king when it comes to Bible study - and one word is crucial - the word "therefore".  The Greek word translated "therefore" specifically refers to "from which fact" or "for which reason".  When we see the word "therefore", we must ask the question: "wherefore is the word 'therefore therefore"? That is - the word "therefore" is connecting us to previous remarks and preparing us for what is up and coming.  In this case, Hebrews 3:1 connects us back to the writer's remarks on Jesus Christ coming into this world to partake and assume a human nature so as to be the believer's empathetic high priest. (Hebrews 2:9-18). 

With the fact established that Jesus is "able to come to the aid to those who are tempted" (2:18), the author has leverage to press his readers to consider the claims Christ has on their lives as Christians (3:1).  Without establishing the context of your passage, your cross referencing attempts will not be very fruitful.

2. Consider repeated words, phrases, or ideas to define the main point or points of the passage
As we begin to look at Hebrews 3, we notice the author reinforcing his argument with the repeated idea or throught of "consider, take heed, take care".  In other words, the writer is driving home the point of exhorting you and I to pay attention.  Notice how this idea is developed:

a. Consider, or pay heed to Jesus Christ  Hebrews 3:1-6
By identifying his readers as those who are "partakers of the heavenly calling" (i.e Christians), we see the first main exhortation: "Consider Jesus".  Now what is it that we're to consider? First that Jesus is the "Apostle" or quite literally "the sent one" as it would be translated from the Greek.  Then secondly, this Jesus, this "Sent One" (Apostle) is the "High Priest of our confession".  He represents God to us, and us to God.  He is fully God and fully man.  All of this is demonstrated in what He went through in His incarnation (God assuming human flesh) as spelled out in Hebrews 2.

b. Consider or pay heed to the Word of God Heb 3:7-11
In this second major section of Hebrews 3 we see the writer switching from "considering" Jesus Christ to "considering" the scriptures.  In quoting Psalm 95, the writer attributes that Psalm to the authorship of the Holy Spirit. 

c. Consider or "take care" or pay heed to your heart Heb 3:12-19
This third main section is headed up by this same idea as in the previous two sections, only this time the focus is upon the heart of the reader.   Whenever I'm outlining any portion of scripture, I look for several details in the text: is there a command to obey? a promise to claim? an example to consider or avoid? a warning to be heeded? a blessing to be encouraged by?  In Hebrews 3, we see three chief commands that bid us and warn us to take heed: Consider Jesus (3:1); Consider God's words (3:7) and consider your heart (3:12). 

3. Consider the other scriptures being referenced by the author
Having looked at the writer's appeal to the wider context and his intentional repetition of key ideas, we can now consider the other scriptures or "cross-references".  In Hebrews 3 we see several key Old Testament texts:

a. Numbers 11-12 is used in Hebrews 3:1-6
If you were to read the context of Numbers 11-12, the overarching issue was the complaining of the people against Moses and the Lord.  In Numbers 12:6-8 we see the specific text from whence the author of Hebrews is drawing his emphasis of how you and I need to consider Jesus Christ. 

b. Psalm 95:8-11 is used in Hebrews 3:7-11 and portions of Hebrews 3:12-19
Psalm 95 is all about "singing for joy to the Lord".  Seven reasons and seven commands are given in that Psalm as to why we should worship, bow down and enjoy our God.  The last half of the Psalm is issuing a warning from Israel's past with regards to the peril that befalls those who refuse to worship, bow down and enjoy their God.  Bitterness, hardness of heart and misery! 

c. The combination of Psalm 95 and the Book of Numbers is used to reinforce the final section of Hebrews 3:12-19
When you find cross references in a given text, trace those cross-references individually, but also notice the relationship they have to one another.  The writer of Hebrews connects his cross references, since Psalm 95, for example, references the passages of the Book of Numbers! 

In just this brief excercise of observing the power of cross referencing, we have noted how the Holy Spirit put together a section of scripture that warns us to pay heed to the Lord, His word and our hearts.  My prayer is that these principles will aid you as you utilize cross referencing in your own Bible study.  As a final note, try out the passage below and explore the power of cross referencing!

-Observe how John 3:14-15 is related to Numbers 21:4-9.  Write down how this connection helps you understand John 3:16.  Use the principles above to aid you in finding other connections.  I guarantee you will find John 3:16 to be richer than you ever realized. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

God's Eternal Covenant (Plan) of Redemption

Hebrews 13:20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord

The writer of Hebrews references the the eternal foundation of God's salvation by the words: "The Eternal Covenant".  It is this Eternal Covenant that gives the background and foundation for what would be God's redemptive plan of salvation.  This "Covenant of Redemption" merits our focus in today's blog, since apart from it we cannot have a complete picture of God's plan of salvation revealed in Scripture.  The Covenant of Redemption, or the Eternal Covenant as it is termed here in Hebrews, was an agreement between the God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  A quick tour of scripture reveals how the Triune God planned salvation in eternity.

1. God the Father planned redemption.
As we see in the text above, the "God of Peace" is the One who planned redemption.  God the Father is the Author, the Architect and Grand Planner of salvation.  Titus 1:2 states - "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." (King James Version)  This Covenant of redemption was worked out before He spoke the worlds into being.  2 Timothy 1:9 reveals - "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began"

As God the Father planned salvation, He entered into Covenant with God the Son.  We know the Son has been with the Father from all eternity, sharing the same Divine nature and loving relationship. (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:1-2)  There were no angels, no people, no created things.  Only God.  The Triune God.  God the Father wanted to give the Son a love gift, a redeemed humanity.  God the Son in turn responded, indicating His desire to pay the price for this redemption.

2. God the Son agreed to purchase redemption
With God the Father planning redemption, God the Son agreed to purchase redemption.  Hebrews 13:20 tells us - "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord".  As early as John 1:29 we see Jesus Christ identified as "the Lamb of God" who takes away the sins of the world.  The Apostle John would further clarify Jesus Christ as the Lamb who "has been slain before the foundation of the world". (Revelation 13:8)

The cross and redemption were not a reactionary "Plan B" following the fall, but rather an eternal well organized plan by the Father, with the Son agreeing to pay the price with His blood.  Acts 2:23 reveals - "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain".  Both Old and New Testament scriptures tell us that the Son was the Chosen One to pay the purchase price of salvation. (Isaiah  53:3-7; 1 Peter 1:20)

The cross was no plan "b", it was the only plan, the "plan A" of God.  God the Father planned redemption, and God the Son willingly agreed to purchase it.  But notice thirdly....

3. God the Holy Spirit agreed to apply redemption
According to Ephesians 1:11, the plan of redemption was based upon God's "counsel".  This determinate counsel was like a board meeting of the Trinity.  We know in looking at other texts such as Galatians 4:4 and Ephesians 1:9-10, that God the Son came into this world to take upon Himself human flesh.  John 3:16 reveals - "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, the whosoever believe on Him will not perish, but have everlasting life." 

So how is it that anyone would believe upon the Son who purchased their redemption and the Father who planned it?  The Holy Spirit is revealed as the applier of redemption.  Jesus states in John 16:8-11 concerning the Holy Spirit -8And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged."

The Holy Spirit is the one who brings the grace of God to sinners, brings the divine giftings of faith and repentance wherein the sinner believes on Christ and repents of their sins. (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:25-26).  Faith alone is sufficient and necessary for salvation.  The decision of the human will occurs in the context of the Holy Spirit's convicting work.   Following saving faith, the Holy Spirit continues to apply the sanctifying work of redemption to the child of God.  The Spirit of God makes clear the scriptures which He authored through the Prophets and Apostles. (2 Peter 1:21; 1 John 1:20,27).  He aids prayer and preserves the child of God unto the end. (Romans 8:26; Jude 24-25; 1 John 1:20,27).  

No doubt the Christian is the one living the Christian life, while at the same time it is the Holy Spirit communicating to the believer the Person and work of Christ. (Philippians 2:12-13; 1 Peter 1:8)  By the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit, Christ's power and Personal presence are imparted to the Child of God.  Like a sweet aroma, Christ is made progressively known to the Christian by the Holy Spirit by way of scripture, the people of God and prayer. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17)  

Christian salvation is made possible by the Eternal Covenant of redemption: whereby the Father planned it, the Son purchased it and the Spirit applies it


Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Bible: Book of Books centers around the King of Kings

Hebrews 1:1-2 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.

I wanted to expand upon what I wrote yesterday regarding how the Bible - The Book of Books, reveals the Unique Person of Jesus Christ.  In yesterday's post I divided up the Old and New Testaments into there repsective sections - noting that each Testament can be divided into four sections - each revealing Jesus Christ in some fashion.

Today I wanted to give some specific examples of each of those sections to give the reader a tool by which they can see the unity and coherence of God's Word as centered around the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

1. The Law Points to Christ
-He is the "Seed" Promise in Genesis 3:15 and 12:7
-He is the Burning Bush and Water from the Rock in Exodus
-He is the One pointed to by the various sacrifices in Leviticus
-He is pointed to by the raising of the Serpent on the pole in Numbers 21 (compare John 3:14-15)
-He is the Future King and Prophet pointed out in both Deuteronomy 13 and 18

2. The Historical Books Picture Christ
-He is Joshua's Captain of the Lord of Hosts in Joshua 5 and Ruths Kinsmen Redeemer
-He is the "Seed" of David in 2 Samuel 7
-In the historical books we see Christ pictured primarily through three historical offices of prophet, priest and King

3. The Poetic Books Personify Christ
-He is Job's Intercessor in Job 9
-He is the Psalmist's Eternal Son and King in Psalm 2 and 110 and Solomon's Son of God in Proverbs 30:4-5
-He is shown on the cross in Psalm 22
-He is the beloved Bridegroom in Song of Solomon

4. The Prophets Predict Christ
-He is Isaiah's Wonderful King in Isaiah 9 and Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53
-He is predicted to be the Good Shepherd in Jeremiah 23
-He is Daniel's Son of Man in Daniel 7
-He is predicted to be born in Bethelehem in Micah 5
-He is the Son of Righteousness at the end of Malachi

5. The Gospels Portray Christ
-Matthew shows Him as King
-Mark shows Him as the Suffering Servant
-Luke 19:10 tells us He is the Son of Man that came to seek and to save that which was lost
-John 1 shows Him to be the Eternal Son of God

6. Acts Preaches Christ
-Almost 20 sermons are recorded in Acts, centering around the person and work of Christ
-Peter speaks about Him Theologically in 5 sermons
-Stephen preaches about Him historically in Acts 7
-Phillip preaches Him evangelistically in Acts 8
-Paul speaks 11 times about Him redemptively

7. The Epistles Explain Christ
-Romans reveals Him to be the believer's righteousness
-He is Christ Crucified in 1 Corinthians 2 and Christ Risen and returning in 1 Corinthians 15
-2 Corinthians 11 shows us Christ as the faithful Husband
-Galatians states He is the Seed of Abraham in Galatians 3:16
-Ephesians tells us He is the Husband of the Church
-Philippians tells us He is God in human flesh
-Colossians tells us He is Christ God over all
-1 and 2 Thessalonians reveal Him to be coming again
-1 and 2 Timothy and Ttitus reveal Him as the Chief shepherd over His church
-1 and 2 Peter  reveal Him to be the spotless lamb of God
-1,2,3 John reveal Him to be the Love of God personified

8. Revelation shows Christ Pre-eminent
-Revelation 19 reveals Him to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords
-Revelation 21 shows Him as the Lamp of God
-Revelation 22 shows Him to be the Bridegroom along with the church calling sinners to repentance

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Bible is Book of Books because of its Central Person

Matthew 1:17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

The Bible is the Book of Books.  It is the book of books because of its authority, its inerrancy, its unity and its prophecies.  Truly the scriptures cover much ground, history, and represent as diversity of writing styles while remaining unified.  From whence does this unity derive?  The Bible as God's written word is centered around Jesus Christ the Living Word.  As can be seen in the passage above, all history, prophecy, types and shadows of Old Testament thought culminate in Christ. 

When we consider the Old and New Testaments, we can divide each of them up into four sections in our English Bibles:

Old Testament's Four Main Divisions
1. The Law = Genesis through Deuteronomy
2. History = Joshua through Esther
3. Poetry = Job through Song of Solomon
4. Prophecy = Isaiah to Malachi

New Testament's Four Main Divisions
1. Gospels = Matthew through John
2. Acts
3. Epistles = Romans through Jude
4. Revelation

Now as you look at each of the testaments and their respective divisions, we can classify these two groups of four under four main headings:

                         Old Testament             New Testament
1. Foundations:   The Law                            Gospels
2. History:          Joshua-Esther                     Acts
3. Writings:         Job - Song of Solomon      Epistles
4. Prophecy       Isaiah to Malachi                Revelation

Now in considering each of the Testaments in their respective divisions, watch what occurs when we consider Christ as the central figure of scripture.

Old Testament
1. The Law points to Christ
2. The Historical Books picture Christ
3. The Poetic Books Personify Christ
4. The Prophetic Books Predict Christ

Thus by the time you get to the end of the Old Testament, you know that it is pointing to something, that something is pictured in various ways, that something is someone, and that Someone is the subject of prophetic thought.  

It is when we come to the New Testament that we discover the following:

New Testament
1. The Gospels portray Christ
2. Acts is full of sermons which preach about Christ
3. The Epistles Explain Christ
4. Revelation shows the Prominence of Christ

Throughout the Bible Christ is central, predominate and key to understanding all 66 books.  As He said Himself in Luke 24:37 and 24:44, the scriptures, in the whole and parts, speak about Him.  He is the Central person. 

The Bible is the Book of Books because it reveals the King of Kings.  Let me close today's blog with this quote from the last book of the Bible in Revelation 19:16 - "And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Bible: The Unique Book of Books in its prophecies

Matthew 1:1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (KJV)

Yesterday we began noting the Bible's unique role as the Book of Books.  We noted that it alone is authoritatively God's Word, that it is inerrant or without error and that it is unified in its parts and whole.  Today we want to continue on considering further reasons as to why the Bible is uniquely the Book of Books.

The Bible is unique not only because of its authority, its inerrancy and its unity but also...

The Bible is unique due to its prophecies
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 makes this statement under its article "The Bible": "It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried."

How can a book not only "be" but "remain" into the future the true center of Christian union? I have all sorts of books on my shelves that are constantly being updated to new editions.  Even the Baptist Faith and Message itself, as wonderful as it is in summarizing the Christian faith, has went through three revisions (1925, 1963 and 2000).  Creeds are authorities, but not final authorities.  They are confined to either the past or the present.

Science books also fall into this category.  Theories of the nature of physical reality are being constantly tweaked as new evidence comes in and replaces former understandings.  Again, science as a discipline is confined to the past or present and can at best attempt to predict the future. 

Scan what you can of every religious book. All of those books are confined to either the present or the past.  Not a single one contains any example of fulfilled predictive prophecy.  As much as Mormonism claims to be a revealed religion, not one example of fulfilled prophecy exists in its three main works (Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price nor Doctrine and Covenants).

So what of the Bible? Does it have predictive prophecy? Consider the facts below:1
-1/5 of the Bible is about Bible Prophecy
-1/3 of Bible prophecy is about Jesus Christ and His second coming
-There are over 600 prophecies
-109 are confirmed, fulfilled prophecies that were fulfilled in Christ's first coming
-224 prophecies point to His second coming
-Of the 46 Old Testament prophets, 10 speak of the 1st coming, 36 speak of the second coming.
-There are over 1500 Old Testament passages and 1 out of every 25 New Testament passages that speak of Christ's second coming

Did you catch that? Hundreds of examples of fulfilled predictive prophecies exists in the Bible.  Outside of text of scripture, not one example can be found.  You tell me, which book in all the world is not confined to the past and present, but also is accurate about the future? I'll tell you - the Bible!

No Doubt, the Bible is the Unique Book of Books
The Bible is the Book of Books due to its hundreds of fulfilled predictive prophecies.  Is it no wonder that Matthew wrote what he wrote in his opening section of his Gospel? In fact, even in his work there is already the appearance of prophecy as early as Matthew 1:21, where the name of the Christ child was to be Jesus: "since He will save His people from their sins." 

The Bible as a Book of Books is uniquely authoritative.  Again Matthew assumes this to be so, otherwise he would not had wrote what he did in Matthew 1:17 - "So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations."

Thirdly, the Bible is uniquely authoritative due to its inerrancy.  Matthew trusted the text of the Old Testament to compile his geneaology.  Jesus Himself in Matthew 5:18 and 24:35 asserts biblical inerrancy (without error). 

Then finally, the Bible is unique due to its unity.  In Matthew's opening statement, the time from Moses writing about Abraham to Samuel's writing about David represents over 400 years, from David to the deportation is nearly 300 or so years and from the deportation to Jesus' day would had been nearly 600 years.  In our English Bibles we have 39 books in the Old Testament.  These are the works from whence Matthew drew.  To see all of that history presented so seemlessly in its diversity and unity is possible only if the Book itself is Divinely authored through the 40 authors.  

End Notes
I got these stats from a sermon I heard preached by Dr. John MacArthur.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Bible as the Unique Book of Books

Matthew 1:1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (KJV)

Today's blog is going to speak on the subject of the Bible: Book of Books.  Here in the Gospel of Matthew, the King James Version renders the beginning of the New Testament with these words: "The Book".  No doubt Matthew is writing about the Gospel he is going to present to us about the King Jesus Christ. 

Whether we are talking about Matthew, or the other 65 books that make up the Bible, the term "Bible" is theological shorthand for referring to what I term "The Book of Books".  The Bible is God's Divine library - featuring His mind in words, focusing on the revelation of Himself in the Second Person of the Trinity Jesus Christ and the power of His presence in the Third Person - the Holy Spirit. 

Today I want to take this first verse of Matthew and unpack why it is that the Bible alone can be called "the book of books"

The Bible is a unique book.
Matthew's Gospel shares in common with the other 65 books the unique designation of being the "Word of God".  Why? What makes the Bible Unique? In using Matthew's words of Matthew 1:1 we can note the following reasons:

a. The Bible's Authority as the Book of Books.
Matthew 1:1-17 gives us a 2,100 year summary of the history between Abraham and Jesus.  52 names, divided up into three sets of 14 generations, presents the broad sweep of redemptive history.  Matthew is utilizing the entire Old Testament Canon in drawing up this opening of His Gospel.  He is trusting the Bible to be uniquely authoritative in all matters of history, science, culture and faith. 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us - "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."  As God's Word and God's words, the Bible alone is authoritative.  It is profitable for teaching me how to be right; for reproof - or telling me when I'm not right; for correction - or telling me how to get right and for training - or telling me how to stay right. 

b. The Bible's inerrancy as the Book of Books
In Matthew's text we read after the words "the Book" the next set of words "of the generation" (KJV), or as it says in the NASB "the genealogy".  Matthew, as we already mentioned, lays out three sets of fourteen generations. In order for this to be a reliable geneaology, all of the history and the events of each of these names had to be without error in order to demonstrate Jesus' legal right to the throne of David.  Biblical inerrancy lies at the center of Biblical authority. 

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 makes this statement pertaining to the Bible's inerrant authority:
"The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy."  To say that the Bible is the Word of God and yet to deny its inerrancy is to contradict oneself.  Proverbs 30:5 tells us - "Every word of God is tested;  He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him."  In Matthew 5:18 and 24:35 Jesus asserted the perfection and soundness of the Biblical text. 

James Montgomery Boice and J.I Packer wrote a little book called "Does Inerrancy Matter?" 1 These were the reasons they gave for the importance of biblical inerrancy:
-Inerrancy meets the Christian's need authority
-Inerrancy meets the Preacher's need for preaching
-Inerrancy is behind the health of a local church

c. The Bible's Unity as the Book of Books
As you continue reading Matthew 1:1, note the middle words: "Jesus Christ."  Only the Bible can claim the title of being uniquely unified above all other would be contenders.  Consider some of the following statistics:

-Over 1500 years of time needed to write it
-40 different authors = i.e farmers, prophets, Kings, Priests, statesmen, a former texcollector, a medical doctor, a scholar, a fisherman and others wrote as the were moved along by the Spirit of God. 2 Peter 1:21
-Three different languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek were used.
-The Bible was composed on three continents: Asia, Europe and Africa
-The Old Testament has 39 books, 929 chapters, 23,214 verses and 593,493 words
-The New Testament has 27 books, 260 chapters, 7959 verses, 181,253 words

The miracle of the Bible is as much in its diversity as its unity.  Its central person is Jesus Christ.  I've read other books claiming to be Divine revelation.  The three marks of authority, inerrancy and unity do not exist in any other book like they do in the Bible.  The Quran - the book of Islam, does not have it.  The Book of Mormon has no flowing progression of thought.  The Upanishads and Bhagavad-gita, the books of Hinduism, have neither logical progression nor unity.  All these other books have one author, were written on one continent and were written in a period of years or decades.  They are books of men, representing a tainted collection of religious philosophy.

Yet the Bible alone is unified, took a millennium and a half to write, has diversity of human authorship and is truly an international, transcultural book, Divinely inspired, authoritative and inerrant. 

More tomorrow....

End Notes:
1. James Montgomery Boice and J.I Packer - "Dooes Inerrancy Matter?" International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. Oakland, CA. 1977

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Covenant for Day and Night

 Jeremiah 33:20 “Thus says the LORD, ‘If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time,

Today we want to consider what the Bible calls: "the covenant for day and night."  God's creation is a covenant based work - meaning He has committed Himself to see it through to the end. (Romans 8:18-25)  The significance of this covenant lays the groundwork for the laws God wrote to govern our universe, life and humanity.  Just some thoughts below out of Jeremiah 33:20-26 reveal to us what God did in the creation of the heavens and the earth through this Covenant of "day and night".

1. God wrote the laws of creation.  Jeremiah 33:20 When God speaks about day and night's "appointed time", He is speaking literally about the sequence and regularity of the earth's rotation on its axis and its orbit around the sun.  Laws of gravity, mass, the speed at which the earth itself goes around the sun were taken into consideration.  The earth rotates at a rate of over 1,000 miles per hour, orbits the sun at over 60000 miles per hour and takes 365 1/4 days to make one orbit.  Not only that, but God also created the moon on the fourth day in Genesis 1, which we know from modern Astronomy functions to regulate the tides.  The moon, being roughly one quarter of the size of our planet, is some 240,000 miles away, orbiting our planet every 29 days.  The sizes and shapes of our planet and moon were factored into the processes that God made to sustain life on our world. 

2. God made the creation to have consistency.  Scientists call this feature of our physical laws "constants".  The laws governing the earth orbiting the Sun in an ellipitical orbit, which enables it to be closer to the sun in the summer months and further away from the sun in the winter months. 

3. God determined the size of our universe. Jeremiah 33:22 states - "As the host of heaven cannot be counted and the sand of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.’”  When you look at the creation account of Genesis 1:6-8, it speaks of Him creating an "expanse", a stretched canopy of atmosphere over our planet.  The idea of "stretching" our space is found over fifteen times in the Bible.  At this present moment, all Astronomers can do is estimate how many stars are in our universe:

a. The size of our universe is estimated to be over 70 billion light years across

b. Our own Milky Way Galaxy is estimated to be some 100,000 light years across. 

c. Estimates between 100 billion to 400 billion stars are given for the amount of stars in our Galaxy, with and estimated 100 billion galaxies stretched across our universe

d. Our sun, a medium size star, is gravitationally connected to 30,000 other stars in our particular portion of the Milky Way Galaxy. 

These numbers defy the human mind in terms of their sheer enormity.  The Bible is right, we cannot pin down the exact numbers.  Why so much? One answer - to put on display the glory of God! (Psalm 19:1-6)

4. God preserves the creation that He made. Jeremiah 33:25 tells us - 25“Thus says the LORD, ‘If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established. " The underlined word here in Jeremiah 33:25 is the same Hebrew word that we sometimes see translated elsewhere in scripture as "statutes" or "laws". (Psalm 119:23)  A statute is an instruction in God's Word that tells me "how I ought to live for God from day to day by means of His preserving grace".  Thus think of the "statutes" or physical constants as God instructing the universe on "how" to function under the Sovereign, providential work of preservation made possible by the direct supervision of God the Son. (Colossians 1:16-17)

When God completed the creation of the Heavens and the earth in six days, the Bible says He "rested", meaning He established Himself as King over all he had made.  All of the laws, constants and sizes of things went from being created to regulated - preserved.  Thus God is no longer creating things, rather He is, through God the Son, preserving and sustaining all He has made. (1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16-17). 

Application - The Principles of Creation also carry over into how the Lord deals with His people.
In citing this covenant of "day and night", Jeremiah is using it to illustrate two covenants that He made with His people in the Old Testament - The Covenants with Abraham and David.  Note how the principles above tie into and correspond to how God deals with believers on a daily basis:

1. God wrote His will down for our lives in the words of scripture.  (Deuteronomy 29:29)  God's Word is reliable, and His promises sure.  Just as His promises to the Jewish people will be fulfilled (the main point of Jeremiah 33 in evoking the covenant of "day and night"), so it is concerning the promises of God to believer's living life here in the 21st century. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

2. God's Word is the constant for the Christian, providing the means by which to regulate and maintain our Christian growth. (2 Timothy 3:17)

3. Jesus Christ is the author and Finisher of the Christian's faith.  He determines which trials will enter into our lives to test and grow us, and what blessings to remind us of His great love for us. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

4. The Lord is preserving the believer until the day of Christ's appearing.  A Christian is defined as a new created creature at salvation. (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Following the miracle of regeneration at faith and repentance, the ongoing growth in Christ is what we call sanctification.  God the Holy Spirit is preserving us as we go through process.  All true Christians will make it, will persevere and be presented faultless and blameless before His throne with great joy. (Jude 24-25)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

God created space, time and matter

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states in the first sentence of its article entitled "God": "There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe."

This statement of course derives from such passages as Genesis 1:1. In the original Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1 seven words begin God's revelation of the Book of Ages - The Bible. 
In these seven words we find the most compact, most accurate and comprehensive statement anywhere regarding the origin of the universe:

1. God created time: The Hebrew text could be translated: God created "in the beginning" - that is "time".  Time is what God created to give the flow of "past, present and furture".  As will be seen below, God also created two other elements: space and mass.

2. God created space: The next phrase in Genesis 1:1 is "the heavens".  The plural word "heavens" indicates there to be multiple areas or "spaces" in the creation.  The Bible calls these spaces "the heavens" and identifies three of them: the 3rd Heaven (God's abode, and on the outer boundary, the invisible realm; the 2nd Heaven (the visible universe) and the 1st Heaven (earth's atmosphere)

a. Third Heaven. In 2 Corinthians 12 the Apostle Paul speaks of being caught up into "The Third Heaven".  This third Heaven speaks of the very dwelling place of the Triune God.  Admittedly this realm of space is as mysterious as it is vast.  With the term "third heaven" used to refer to God's throneroom, we can by implication from scripture draw the conclusions that there are two other created spaces called "heaven" (which scripture does indeed call the visible universe and atmosphere around our planet).

God is no doubt infinitely above and unique from the invisible angelic realm which He created to serve Him (Psalm 104) and believers (Hebrews 1:14).   God created this space whereby He could set forth His decrees and Sovereign rule over the remaining "two heavens" or spaces.  The Bible reveals to be the invisible realm that functions as the "hinterland" or outer edges that connect the third heaven to the second heaven.  King Solomon stated at the dedication of the Temple in 1 Kings 8:27 that the "heaven" and "heaven of heavens" cannot contain God. 

God's presence suffuses throughout every square inch of the third heaven and invisible realm, and the visible realms of the second and first heavens.  Yet God is infinitely different and unique from all he created. 

b. The Second Heaven. Since there is a "third Heaven", we can by implication say then there to be a second heaven.  The "second Heaven" we could classify as the visible universe. This visible universe is called the "visible realm" in passages such as Colossians 1:16-17.  Scripture indicates that the "second heaven" of the visible realm and the invisible realm that is connected to the third heaven are innerconnected.  Colossians 3:1-3 speaks of "things above" and "things here below".  It is this second heaven that is the familiar space/mass/time universe. 

Astronomers tell us that there are an estimated 100 billion galaxies, each with 100 billion stars.  In having viewed Hubble photographs of the Galaxies stretching across vast expanses of our visible universe, the Galaxies appear to be grouped together in what Astronomers call clusters.  Those clusters are in turn part of even larger structures of Galaxies called "Super-clusters" - stretching for hundreds of millions of light years.  Between these super-clusters are empty "voids", wherein there are no stars or galaxies.

This pattern throughout our universe roughly corresponds to what happens when a pebble is droped into a bowl of water - with ripples of ever-increasing circumference.  The Galaxies are grouped in concentric shells, with empty areas of space in between.  This tells us that when God created everything, there is a discernable center to our universe.    

c. First Heaven.  This realm refers to the atmosphere or sky surrounding our planet.  It too is translated "heaven" in scripture. In comparison to the first two "heavens" or "order of space", this realm is extremely small.  God's greatness in creation is not only seen on the canvas of the large, but also on the canvas of the very small.  We see God's purposes and plan executed on the globe that is surrounded by this "first heaven". 

3. God Created Mass or Matter: We now come to the last two words here in Genesis 1:1 - "the earth".  This refers mainly to our planet earth and by extension all of the sub-atomic particles and physical laws that He devised to bring into being the "stuff" of our visible universe or "matter".

Understanding how God set Space, time and mass in motion
God's creative abilities are indeed amazing.  Whenever he created time, He wove into the fabric of time itself a direction - past, present to future.  In order to have a way of displaying this property of time - God created space, and wove time into the space of the invisible and visible realms.  God alone can operate and see all times and places at the same time.  Within our universe, God made physical matter to interract with the "space-time" through a force called gravity.

Trampolines, Bowling Balls and Marbles
Think of the vastness of our visible universe like a trampoline, with the masses of stars and planets sitting on that trampoline.  Lets say I place a bowling ball into the middle of that trampoline to represent a large star like the sun.  If I roll a marble (which we'll pretend to be a planet) onto that trampoline, it will go about in an elliptical orbit.  If I were able to keep that marble rolling around at a constant speed (which astronomers call angular momentum), that little marble would continue in an elliptical orbit around that bowling ball.

From Genesis 1:1 we can see that God's creation of time, space and mass set the stage for the remainder of what we see in the Bible.  He set all things into motion (creation) and governs every moment and space of creation (providence).  Truly God our Creator is worthy to be praised!   

Monday, September 17, 2012

Covenants and Dispensations - Biblical Binoculors

Hebrews 1:1-2 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.

Being able to see up close in 3-D
A set of binoculors enables a viewer to peer at our world through two eyepieces.  Whenever we think of how the human brain processes visual information - it is quite remarkable.  If you take one of your hands and hold up a finger at arm's length - close one eye, and then alternate with the other eye while watching your finger move back and forth. God has designed a region in your brain called "The Occipital Lobe". Located in the back of the brain, it is the chief area where visual information is taken in by the eyes, through the optic nerve, and through electrical impulses transforming information  into three-dimensional images.  Truly our God is to be praised, since the wonders of creation ever proclaim his glory and wonder! (Psalm 19:1-6) 

Biblical Binoculors
A pair of binoculors is designed around this feature of human vision.  We need two eye pieces to get not merely a better view, but a better three-dimensional view of objects.  Why? Depth perception, range of motion and other features God has so built into our world to reveal His glory.  Whenever I look at the Bible as both the Book of Ages and the Book of Covenants, I'm looking through a set of binoculors.  By means of both the dispensations and covenants, I can by the Spirit's help see God's plans and purposes in all their depth and range of motion - so as to appreciate the glory of God in Jesus Christ. 

Sampling scripture's outline through the biblical binoculors
So when I look at the Bible as both a Book of the Ages and Book of Covenants, what features stand out?  Below is a suggestion:

Bible Book of Ages (Dispensations)    Bible Book of Covenants
1. Beginning Age-----------Adam---------------Covenant of Works
                                                                    The Fall
2. Old Testament Age----Adam & Eve-------Covenant of Grace

         Preflood era------Adam to Noah--------Noahic Covenant
         Post-flood era----Shem---Abraham
         Patriarachal era--Abraham--Moses----Abrahamic Covenant
         Giving of the Law---Moses and Israel---Mosaic Covenant
         History and Kings--------------------------Davidic Covenant
         Prophets-------------------------------------New Covenant
         John the Baptist and Jesus
         Cross and Resurrection--closing out Old Testament

3. New Testament Age----Pentecost---------Birth of the church
                                                                  (New Covenant is
                                                                   inaugurated in church)
4. Kingdom Age------Christ's Return, Israel restored, Christ reigns  
                                                                                   1,000 years
                                                                   (New Covenant
                                                                   fulfilled completely
                                                                   in restored Israel)

5. Age to Come---Final Judgment----Eternal state

Like our pair of eyes or like a pair of eye-pieces on a set of binoculors, the ability to see in three dimensions is accomplished by "overlapping areas" on each side.  When viewing the Bible through the ages, the ages will lead one into another.  The Covenants too will see initial and then ultimate fulfillments. 

The whole point of today's blog is not only to see the Bible as a whole pictured in its unity and diversity of major themes, but to begin seeing it as God's moving picture of Divine revelation revealed in words.  The thumbnail sketch above is not meant to be exhaustive - however I pray that the reader has been moved to see the grandeur of scripture through the binoculars of Covenants and Dispensations.