Saturday, October 18, 2014

Eternity is demonstrated by Jesus Christ

Acts 17:31 "because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

Introduction and review
These last several days have been dedicated to exploring the evidence we see for eternity in this world. We have been exploring Paul's sermon that he preached before a crowd of skeptical Athenian philosophers at Mars Hill in Acts 17. This particular sermon of Paul's is important due to the fact he deals with the subject of seeing God's eternal nature and Person demonstrated in this world. Thus far we have considered the following main points:

1). Eternity is declared in creation. Acts 17:22-25

2). Eternity is discerned in humanity. Acts 17:26-29

3). Eternity is defined in the Bible. Acts 17:30

The audience to which Paul preached was moreso about finding fulfillment in this life and doing it all by themselves. Both the Epicureans and Stoics had worldviews that would correspond today to the atheism and agnositicism we see so prevalent in movies, books and culture. 

Main point of application: As we again about the subject of eternity, I point the reader it to a simple diagram featuring the name of God and two arrows doing out in either direction:
Why did Paul focus on this theme of eternity in his message? The point of application for this post, and really this blog series is: It is important how you respond to eternity in this life. Today we want to consider how Jesus Christ demonstrates the reality of eternity as seen already thus far in the course of this series. 

Eternity is demonstrated by Jesus Christ
Acts 17:31
Paul writes in Acts 17:31 "because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” The Biblical presentation of Jesus Christ is that He was One Person who being fully Divine from all eternity came to take upon Himself a fully human nature. (Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 10:4-5). Paul's emphasis here in Acts 17:31 underscores several undeniable truths that rise or fall together:

1. The reality of God (which we have established in the first three blogs of this series).

2. The reality of Jesus Christ (the focus of today's post)

3. The reality of Jesus' resurrection from the dead (which ties together the first two realities).

First, as Paul is winding down his address to these skeptical philosophers at Mars Hill, what began as an establishment of specific truth claims about God's eternal existence as demonstrated in creation, discerned in humanity and declared by the Bible becomes now an assumed given. Paul plainly states in Acts 17:31a "because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness...". This profound point not only tells us that this God is the beginner of all things, but also the completer of them. 

Next Paul asserts the historical reality of Jesus the man. Why underscore Jesus' humanity? Remember the audience to whom Paul spoke. The Epicurians believed that any truth worth knowing had to had verified direct evidence by experience through the senses. Stoics prized reason and the ability to arrive of conclusions on one's own as the best approach. Certainly the people of Paul's day had such direct evidence: eyewitness testimony of Jesus' life and the undebatable truth of Jesus' crucifixion. 

This naturally and seamlessly leads to the third reality of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Paul states in Acts 17:31b "through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”  The post-resurrection appearances and the dramatic growth of the early Christian movement would had been used by the early Christians, including Paul, to bolster the claims of Jesus Christ as being God in human flesh and thus the reality of eternity as demonstrated by Him. Such lines of argumentation are still used today in establishing the importance of Jesus' historical existence and the reality of His resurrection from the dead. 

Christian Apologist Dr. William Lane Craig lays out the following powerful argument that ties together proof for God's existence and the reality of Jesus' resurrection from the dead in his address "The Evidence for God" see link:

1. There are three established facts regarding Jesus' resurrection from the dead: the discovery of the empty tomb, His post-mortem appearances and the disciples' faith in His resurrection from the dead.

2. The proposed idea or hypothesis of God raising Jesus from the dead is the best explanation of these facts

3. God's raising Jesus from the dead entails that the God raising Jesus from the dead exists

4. Therefore the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth does exist.

Why is the Apostle's Paul's concluding point of his sermon on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the final judgment such an appropriate landing place for seeing the evidence of eternity in this world? Because in the Person of Jesus Christ both the Eternal nature of God and the physical nature of humanity  
meet. Moreover, with the historical existence and resurrection of Jesus being firmly established events, this brings the issue of eternity from the realm of the abstract to the necessity of every reader to respond appropriately to the mounting evidence of God's Eternal Presence and their need for salvation in Jesus Christ.

Closing thoughts
We have spent these past several posts considering how it is we see evidence for eternity in this life. As we considered Paul's sermon to the philosophers of Mars Hill in Acts 17, we noted the following four headings:
1). Creation declares eternity Acts 17:22-25

2). Mankind discern eternity Acts 17:26-29

3). Bible defines eternity Acts 17:30

4). Jesus demonstrates eternity Acts 17:31

Paul closes out his sermon and the response from his audience is anything but neutral. Acts 17:32-34 states - "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, somebegan to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” 33 So Paul went out of their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them."

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