Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Symphony And Unity Of The Bible As Seen In "The Great Marriage Theme"

Brunette Bride & Groom Wedding Cake Topper | Party City Canada
John 3:27-29 "John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full."

Introduction: The unity and symphony of scripture

        We recently have explored how the theme of "the great wedding" ties together the Bible's message of salvation. Additionally, this same theme has shed light upon predictive Bible prophecies of Jesus' return to retrieve believers unto Himself in "the rapture of the church". It truly is amazing to see the symphony and unity of the Bible. When I say "symphony", I mean all the various strands of truth that convey God's revelation of Himself in Scripture. When I speak of the "unity of scripture", I mean the incredible consistency of the message of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The "marriage theme" is one of those themes that demonstrates both of these traits of scripture. 

          Today's post is going to explore this theme further by taking as its point of departure the early days of Jesus' ministry in John chapters two and three. John 2:1-11 and John 3:22-36 represent bookends that expose readers to the theme of Jesus Christ as the Heavenly Bridegroom that came to redeem His bride. The Bible Knowledge Commentary notes this point about Jesus and the "bridegroom" theme:

"In Jesus’ growing influence, John found his own joy fulfilled. He illustrated this for his disciples by referring to a custom at Near Eastern weddings. The friend of the bridegroom was only an assistant, not the main participant in the marriage. The assistant acted on behalf of the bridegroom and made the preliminary arrangements for the ceremony."

The commentary later notes:

"His joy came when he heard the bridegroom coming for his bride. John the Baptist’s work was to prepare for the arrival of Christ, the “Groom.” John baptized only with water, not with the Spirit. Therefore Jesus must become greater and John must become less. This was not merely advisable or fortuitous; it was the divine order. John willingly and with joy accepted Jesus’ growing popularity as God’s plan."

       The Biblical theme of the "Divine Wedding" was used by God to portray His redemptive purposes in the Bible. In a more specific way, we want to see how this overall theme applies specifically to understanding the identity of Jesus Christ in John 3:22-36.   

1. The Old Testament's use of the "bridegroom theme"

        It is no accident that the most famous passage on salvation in the Bible - John 3:16 - occurs in the same chapter as John the Baptist's declaration of Jesus as the Bridegroom for the people. In the Old Testament, God planned to marry Israel as His wife (as portrayed in His promises to the patriarchs).  His covenant with them on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19-20) and His repeated appeals for them to be faithful as a spouse to her husband (see  Hosea 2:20-23) pervade the message of the Old Testament scriptures (also see Jeremiah 2:1ff). 

       Old Testament books like "Ruth" unite the marital language of the Old Testament with the concept of a "Kinsman Redeemer" who takes on a bride that was married to a near blood-relative that passed away so as to preserve that man's bloodline (see Deuteronomy 25:5-10). In such ancient contexts, widows had no way of redeeming themselves, and so not only did the "law of the kinsman-redeemer" preserve the dead man's lineage, but also protected the living widow. Such marital language is used in the Old Testament's pointing forward to Jesus, who came to redeem for Himself a bride that, metaphorically speaking, was formerly married to the deadness of sins, trespasses and the kingdom of darkness (see Ephesians 2:1-4 and 5:22-25). 

       The Old Testament unfolds this "marital" language in many more ways as it speaks of the relationship between God and His people (see Psalm 45 and Song of Solomon). With the great "marriage theme", we do come across unexpected "twists and turns", such as  the abrupt theme of divorce representing the breach of covenant by the people to God (see Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8; Hosea 2:2). The sad treachery of Israel is thankfully not the final word. Glimpses of promises of restoration sit on the horizons of the prophets. 

       Through prophetic predictions of a new Covenant and coming Messiah (Ezekiel 36:25-26; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Joel 2:28-31), Yahweh revealed His plan to restore unto Himself His people (see again Hosea 2:20-23). What all this means is that God's Sovereign purposes to restore His people were not going to fail. 

2. The appearance of the Heavenly Divine Bridegroom to achieve salvation for His people

      John the Baptist's remarks about Jesus being the "bridegroom" begins to unfold how it is God is going to restore unto Himself a people.  What surprises us is that God Himself, in the Person of the Son, was going to experience incarnation as the Groom who would offer Himself to Israel as her Messiah. Redemption is pictured in the New Testament as God's desire to restore broken fellowship with a people who rejected Him! 

3. The Tragedy and Triumph of the Bridegroom in redeeming His people

       As the reader journeys throughout the Gospels, we see the following thoughts developed regarding the presentation of the Son as "The Groom for His people":

A. The Divine Groom rejoices in coming for His people. Matthew 9:15; John 2:1-12

B. The Divine Groom rejected by His people. Matthew 22:1-5

C. The Divine Groom renders His life on behalf of His people. Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25-27

4. The surprising climax of the Bridegroom redeeming His people

       The New Testament's unfolding of this amazing theme centers almost exclusively on the Groom - The Son. However there is another twist, a surprise unforeseen by the Old Testament and faintly unfolded in the Gospels: namely, the mystery of the church (see Ephesians 3:9-10). The Son who rejoiced, was rejected, rendered His life to crucifixion and raised from the dead will return once again. Passages such as Revelation 19:7-21 portray how the Son is looking forward to retrieve His Bride - The Church. Furthermore, the current project of God the Holy Spirit involves calling forth, one -by-one, sinners to saving faith - which amounts to sinners saying: "I do" to Jesus. When we put together all that we have considered up to this point, and then consider how the remainder of the New Testament explains this theme, we discover the following:

A. The Bride is being prepared for her groom, (with Israel being set aside at this present time) - Romans 11.

B. The Bride will be presented to the Son as His bride in heaven the rapture - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 19:6-7.

C. The Bride will be presented here on earth at His second coming (at which point He will restore Israel) - Matt 25:1-13; Rom 11:25-26; 1 Thess 4:13-16.

D. The Groom will reign on earth with His Bride the church, along with Israel who will be folded into His bride to be at the end of His reign on earth - Revelation 20.

E. The Groom and Bride will be married for all eternity, thus completing God's purposes in presenting a bride, composed of all of those whom He chose, called and were converted by faith to His Son - Revelation 21-22.

Closing thoughts:

       So when we consider all of the above observations with what John says in the opening text of John 3:27-29, we can see why he was so excited. Truly the promises of redemption and restoration were decisively revealed in the life of the incarnation of the Son in Jesus. This grand "marriage theme" conveys to us the symphony and unity of the Bible, as well as the identity of Jesus. May we all fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of Faith (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Getting Ready For The "Big Day": Tracing The "Great Wedding Theme" Through Scripture

Nearly half of Japanese people who want to get married 'unable to ...
Introduction: Getting ready for the "Big Day"

       When Debi and I were getting ready for our “Big Day” (i.e., our wedding day), she had made me 31 paper hearts with individual messages of love and encouragement. I can recall how in the summer before our wedding, she and I wrote daily letters to one another. For us both, the "Big Day" was ever on our minds. We still to this day have that container, with all those hearts. Such memories help me to get a sense of the much greater anticipation Scripture conveys as it directs our attention to what I call "the great marriage theme" of the Bible. 
16 Best The Marriage Supper of the Lamb images | Marriage supper ...
       With those thoughts in mind, we turn to Revelation 19:7-9, where we find a vision of celebration of the future “Marriage Supper of the Lamb”. In the last posts, we looked at God's RSVP and how it was He prepared history for the arrival of the Son of God, the intended Bridegroom for the Church He would come to redeem. Revelation 19:7-9 tells us the following vision of the great, future, "Marriage Supper of the Lamb" in the following words:

"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”

           As we saw in the last couple of posts, this passage presents the Church as complete and perfect, ready for eternity with her Bride-groom, the Lord Jesus Christ. In this post, I want us to once again see how the Church is brought to the point we find here in Revelation 19:7-9, with particular reference to what Jesus is doing in Christians now to get them ready for their "Big Day". From Revelation 19:7-9, we will hop over to John 13 for the remainder of this post, which appropriately we will call: “Getting Ready for the Big Day”. 

       As we will see again in today's post, you and I have been invited to be part of Jesus’ Bride – the Church, by grace through faith, to what author Sinclair Ferguson speaks of as "the great celebration". 

How the marriage theme gets us from Old Testament to New Testament
God of Jacob, God of Israel - Part 2 | Rapture Forums
          To review from the last couple of posts, God issued a call to a people to become a nation. He redeemed her out of Egypt and prescribed the Passover celebration to remind her of what He did and to point ahead His intention for her to worship Him (see Exodus 5:1 and Exodus 12). Once Israel was gathered at Mount Sinai, we find God repeated His identity as Her Redeemer. He then revealed the Law or, what the New Testament refers to as the "Old Covenant" to provide a context in which they and Yahweh could relate to one another. 

      As we often see when studying scripture, God never relates to His creation nor His people apart from such binding agreements or covenants. God, for instance, created all that we see by way of a "binding-agreement" or "covenant of creation", pledging Himself to sustain and bring all He made to His intended purpose (see Jeremiah 33:25). Whenever God dealt with Adam and Eve, He did so by way of a "Covenant of works" (see Genesis 2; Hosea 6:7) and then later a "Covenant of Grace" (see Genesis 3:15, 20-21). Other examples of God's covenant method of dealing with His people include Noah (Genesis 8-9), Abraham (Genesis 12,15,17) and David (2 Samuel 7:13-16); so too when it came to the nation of Israel. After God revealed the Ten Commandments, we then see Moses and the leadership have a feast before God on the slopes of Mount Sinai (see Exodus 24). 
Ancient Jewish Wedding Procession - YouTube
      What emerges in the retelling of the Exodus is the extraordinary pattern of an ancient Jewish wedding scene, namely, a betrothal feast (in this case, the Passover); followed by the "Groom-to-be" or "Bridegroom" going ahead of the Bride to build a dwelling (God's words about "going to the mountain to celebrate a feast to Him) and then the groom retrieving His bride and marrying her (the scene in Exodus 19-20). It is later in the prophetic books we discover that God envisioned His covenant with Israel as that of the formation of a Husband and wife relationship (see Jeremiah 2:1; Ezekiel 16; Hosea 2). Jeremiah 2:1 specifically likens this historic event to a wedding: 

“I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, The love of your betrothals, Your following after Me in the wilderness, Through a land not sown.” 

       Tragically, Israel would reject Yahweh and per Isaiah 50:1.  He and Israel would metaphorically have a divorce. However, God pledged to restore Israel. When we come to the New Testament, we discover God sent His Son to be the Bridegroom to call forth individual sinners to believe and become part of His church, His bride. Ephesians 5:25 summarizes this point: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” 
Do You Love Jesus, But Not the Church? | Desiring God
     God, as the Person of the Holy Spirit, is gathering specific sinners from every nation to be part of the Bride of Christ, to get ready for His return and to bring Israel back to Himself (see John 16:7-11). What follows from here will continue on with this wider theological framework of "the great marriage theme" and explore the specifics of  Jesus' commencement of the New Covenant meal – the Lord’s Supper, as His pre-wedding meal to His Bride, the church. Here is what we will discover today…

1. Jesus paid for believer’s future with 
Him. John 13:1-30

2. Jesus’ provisions for believers as they 
await Him. John 13:31-38

3. Jesus’ promise to retrieve believers 
to live w/ Him. John 14:1-3

The great marriage theme and what Jesus is doing for Christians in this present age to get them ready for their "Big Day"

       As we expound John 13:1-14:3, we will find how the text corresponds quite nicely to three stages in an ancient Jewish wedding that I alluded to earlier: 

1.  Bridegroom’s betrothal to the bride.

2.  Bridegroom’s building of a home for 
     the bride. 

3.  Bridegroom returning to retrieve his 

This will aid us as we explore how God is getting believers ready for their “Big Day” in which they’ll be retrieved by Jesus. Let's note the following main points that help us unpack these truths which each correspond to the ancient ritual of a Jewish wedding.....

1. Jesus paid for believers’ future life with Him - John 13:1-30 (This corresponds to the Bridegroom’s betrothal to the bride).
The Crucifixion of Jesus - Facts About His Death on the Cross
      In a typical Jewish wedding pattern, the first stage was what was termed "betrothal". This is where the Bridegroom would make a journey to the home of his intended bride and negotiate terms of marriage with the bride's father. What follows is a summary of this first stage (and notice how Jesus' institution of His New Covenant meal, "The Lord's Table", flows nicely with this ancient ritual.

A. 13:1-14, Pronouncement of Love. 

     Just as God the Father in the O.T. commenced the Passover to express His intent to redeem and love a people that He would, metaphorically, make His wife (i.e. Israel), the Son would transpose that original covenant meal into our New Covenant meal, expressing His intent to redeem and love His Church. You can see this in John 13:1-4. Jesus also expresses this Luke’s version in Luke 22:15-16

 "And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

In ancient Israel, a groom-to-be would declare his love publicly to His betrothed by saying something to the effect: "She is my wife, and I am her husband". Betrothal's purpose was to make a legal covenant what would create a legal marriage (but without the physical intimacy, which would occur roughly a year thereafter when the bridegroom would return to retrieve His Bride and take her to the home He built for her and have the public wedding ceremony and feast).  

B. 13:4-17 (esp vvs 5-7) Payment of the Bride-price.

          Jesus’ foot-washing not only gave the disciples an example of the type of humble, self-sacrificial love they are to have for one another, but also to typify the humility He exercised in His incarnation. Philippians 2:5-7 spells this out:  “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

      The point of Jesus' incarnation was three-fold: to provide perfect righteousness through an actively, obedient humanity; to destroy the Devil's works as the Second Adam and to provide atonement for sins through His substitutionary death on the cross. As we read in Acts 20:28, the work of Jesus on the cross would pay the price for His Bride, the Church. Furthermore, passages such as 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 remind believers that they "are not their own, but have been bought with a price". 

C. 13:1-30 Prescribing the New Covenant Meal.
         As a Jewish man would had went to the bride’s parents and gave them the “bride-price” to take care of the Bride while He goes away to build them a home, the parents would put on a public betrothal meal. The bride’s younger female attendants would had been invited. They would play a key role in helping her get ready for the unannounced coming of the Bridegroom a year later (see Mt 25:1-10). The betrothal meal would signify that the groom and bride were in a legally binding covenant relationship. Jesus even tells His church to “celebrate this until I come” (1 Cor 11:26). 

2. Jesus’ provisions to believers as they wait for Him - John 13:31-38 (This corresponds to Bridegroom building a future home for he and the bride, and what He provides the bride as she waits for His return).

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     Whenever a Bridegroom would leave his betrothed bride-to-be, he would disappear for roughly a year to build their future home. In the first century of Jesus' day, multiple generations of families would have a family compound, wherein each generation would build their house onto a pre-existing structure of the "Father's house". When the bridegroom had paid the "bride-price" in the betrothal ceremony, included in that payment was provisions for the bride while he was gone. We can see how Jesus had provided for Christians and thus, His church, while He is currently away "preparing a place for us" at His Father's house. Here in John 13-16, we find some of these spiritual provisions for the Christian:

*John 13:1-30 Practice of Lord’s Supper 
  and Baptism.

*John 13:34a Power of God’s Word.

*John 13:34b-35 Personal love for one 

*John 13:36 Pain and suffering. By trials and testings, the Christian is made pure and, counter-intuitively, stronger in their faith (see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 1 Peter 1:6-7).

*John 14:26-27 Person of the Holy 
Spirit. He was sent to give strength and aid in our journey from the world of sin to the throne of God, what the Apostle Peter describes as our "pilgrimage" or sojourn (see 1 Peter 2) as a Kingdom of Priests called forth from "darkness to light".

3. Jesus’ promise to retrieve believers to live with Him - John 14:1-3 (This corresponds to Bridegroom returning to retrieve His bride. The doctrine mentioned here is the “rapture” of the church, wherein Jesus will “catch-away” Christians.).
   Is the Rapture in the Bible? - Saint Innocent Orthodox Christian ... 
           Now we will only skim the surface of this final thought, since a whole other post could easily devote its time to unpacking the doctrine of the rapture of the church. Suffice it to say, Jesus is the first to mention what is called "the doctrine of the rapture" or the “catching away” of the church (the word "rapture" derives from a Latin root meaning "to snatch, to sieze", which corresponds to the underlying Greek term translated in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 as "caught-up"). 

      In ancient Jewish wedding practice, the bridegroom would come at an unannounced time to retrieve the bride. He would had been 12 months constructing their home. We pick up this language of "going to prepare a place" and "coming again to receive you unto Myself" in John 14:1-3. Jesus' words were not only intended to encourage His disciples, but also us reading them. This truth is very encouraging for the Christian, as we see in other "rapture" passages below.

A. John 14:1 The rapture is a comforting truth. 

        That is, it strengthens our faith. As Jesus says: “Do not let your hearts be troubled”. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 states: “Therefore, comfort one another with these words”.

B. John 14:2 The rapture is a clarifying truth. 

         That is, it brings focus to our faith. Phil 3:20 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

C. John 14:3 The rapture is a certain truth. 

     That is, it stabilizes our faith. 1 Cor 15:51-52  "Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed".

Closing thoughts: The Bridegroom is coming soon to retrieve His Bride, the Church, for "the Big Day".

The ultimate groom checklist for your wedding day!
      We won't go into the timing of the event of the rapture, which again is another discussion all in itself. Rather, the rapture or "catching away of Christians" is closely connected to the formal second coming of Jesus to earth at the end of this age. How closely we distinguish these two events, and whether there is a span-of-time between the rapture and Jesus' second coming are questions that inform the discussion of the placement of the rapture in discussions on Biblical eschatology (i.e. "study of last things"). What we can say, in closing, is that the rapture metaphorically represents that next-to-the-last stage in the Jewish wedding cycle, with the final step being that of the wedding feast and consummation of the relationship. Revelation 19:7-9 is where we find ourselves in the final stage of this glorious truth. Indeed, the Christian looks ahead to the day when their Savior comes to retrieve them for their "Big Day". 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Part Two - Notes from a recent sermon on Revelation 19:7-9 and Matthew 22:1-14 entitled: "God's RSVP" Doris Home 50 pcs/lot Gold Rsvp cards with white ...

       In the last post, we looked at some notes from a recent sermon I prepared on the subject of tracing the great "marriage theme" through the Bible. This sermon, entitled: "God's RSVP", represents a short series devoted to grasping the message of Revelation 19:7-10, wherein God invites sinners to become part of the "Bride of Christ" and to prepare for what will be "The Marriage Supper of the Lamb". The main passage for this sermon derives from Jesus wedding parable of Matthew 22:1-14. In this post, I'm halfway through the sermon. My prayer is that the last post and this one helps unify the scriptures in our mind as we consider what God is doing in our world at this time. For those wanting to review the last post, simply click here: For those who would like to hear the sermon as it was preached this past Sunday, click on the video link here:

     In what follows, I continue on in points two and three of the sermon, detailing out the overall message of the New Testament and then the personal invitation of God to you.

God now calls the nations to receive Him. “God’s RSVP to the nations, N.T.” Matthew 22:8-13

        Whenever we come to the N.T, we begin to see “how” the nations and Israel will somehow fit together in God's continuing redemptive plan. The sending of the Son to the earth was to present "The Bridegroom" first, followed by what would be the emergence of a whole new revelation - namely that of the "The Church". As we discover, the whole New Testament is designed to set up the narrative of God gathering together a Bride for His Son. What follows below is a thumbnail sketch of this unifying concept. 

a. Majesty of the Bridegroom. 

Per Jesus in Matthew 22:8-10, we see Jesus presented as the Bridegroom John 3:29 - "The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete."

b. Mystery of the Church revealed. 

      Per Jesus Matthew 22:10. Since Jesus is the Bridegroom, who is to be His bride? The church. Paul writes in Ephesians 3:9-10 - 

"and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places." 

        Although I won't have time to tease out the implications about the mystery of the church in the sermon, it nevertheless follows that the point is vitally important when we consider the distinction between Israel and the Church. Israel is a wife whom Yahweh is going to restore at the second coming of Jesus and whom, right now, is temporarily set aside to "make jealous" as a result of the nations coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah (see Romans 11). The Church as a people are described in this present age, not as "the wife of the Son", but rather, "The Bride" (see Revelation 19:7-9). As a matter of clarity, the Apostle Paul compares his role as an Apostle to the nations as one preparing the church to be presented as a "chaste virgin" to her Bridegroom - Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 11:1-3). 

c. Mission of the church (till Jesus comes). 

       Per Jesus Matthew 22:11-13. The church is to be the bride of Christ. A brief consideration of ancient Jewish wedding practices sheds much light upon what we see going on in the New Testament with respect to Christ and the Church. As I have studied this incredible background, consulting such resources as the "Jewish Encyclopedia" gives a view of all this through Jewish eyes. Also too, great expositors of prior years such as Dr. John Walvoord, Dr. Dwight Pentecost, Dr. Renald Showers and other commentators validate the little summary which follows. In the Jewish wedding imagery, we find three stages: 

#1 Betrothal (preparation time, this age, Christ has went to the Father’s house to get things ready for us).  

#2 Coming for the Bride (we’ll cover in later weeks, the rapture of the church) to bring bride to His home to finalize marriage. 

#3 Marriage supper (again, later message), we find in Revelation 19:7-9. For now, the Spirit is calling one-by-one, sinners from every nation to be part of the bride. We must note that in this present age, there will be those “in the church” which are not “in Christ”.  Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

       This three-stage scenario for Jewish weddings will prove helpful as we tie together today's sermon with what will follow in the remaining two sermons I plan on preaching from Revelation 19:7-9. 

God is calling you to respond to Him in faith. “God’s RSVP to you today” - Matthew 22:14

      In the sermon, we have covered Matthew 22:1-13. We have noted the grand-scale "marriage theme" of the Old Testament into the New Testament to visualize God's RSVP to Israel and then the nations. What needs to be done now is to get this "Big Picture" down to our level. Matthew 22:14 is a short verse which, if handled correctly, can enable us to capture Jesus' personal invitation to each one of us. 

      Now as I consider how we will bring this message down the homestretch, and as I appeal to the Holy Spirit for aid at this point, a question arises: what do we do with this final verse? It presents to us the two pillars of Biblical salvation: 

A. God’s Sovereign purpose of grace and...

B. Man’s responsibility to believe. 

       That both are true, this we affirm. How both are true at the same time, that I cannot tell you. I sometimes will explain these by three questions. 

Why do some not get saved? Because they’re unwilling. 

       Whenever you see “many are called”, this tells you God will issue the call, but not all will respond, because those who won’t respond do so of their own choice. The great 19th century preacher C.H. Spurgeon notes that the outward call of the Gospel reaches the intellect and men may pay respect to Jesus, yet they won’t commit to Him. They want benefits, but not the Benefactor. There must needs be that inward call which gets past these external ears. What I often like to do is find scriptures which present both God's work in salvation and mankind's need to respond. Acts 13:46 states -

"And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles."

Why do some get saved? God’s purpose of grace. 

      When you see that phrase: “few are chosen”, that tells you that salvation is of the Lord’s doing. 

We read in Acts 13:47-48 these words - 

"For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

           So we have seen the first two questions when considering God's Sovereign work in human salvation and man's need to respond by faith. Now let's consider the final question, which will also bring this message to a close with a final appeal to the reader...

What must I do to get saved? Believe in Jesus.

       Luke writes these words of Paul to the Philippian Jailer's question about how to get saved in Acts 16:31 - "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved". This dear friend, is God’s appeal to you. Would it be that this Gospel call penetrate beyond your physical ears into those inward ears of the heart. Jesus would often say: “He who has ears, let Him hear”.  May that be said of you and me - that we have responded to God's RSVP.      

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Part One - Notes from a recent sermon on Revelation 19:7-9 and Matthew 22:1-14 entitled: "God's RSVP"

How to RSVP by Post to a Wedding Invitation – Monoset

       In today's post I want to share notes from a current sermon I'm preaching from the book of Revelation. My main text is Revelation 19:7-10 (with emphasis on 19:7-9). Revelation 19:7-9 is what I refer to as "God's RSVP". We all know God is working even in this time of a worldwide pandemic. His invitation to sinners to respond by faith to His gracious call is ongoing even at this time. In the passage, we find these words as follows:

"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God."

     As I began studying this passage, I realized that John is showing us a vision of a completed process. The Bride in the vision (i.e. "The Church") is portrayed as having completed her journey with God in sanctification. She is viewed as composed of individual believers whom received glorified, resurrected bodies and which are free from sin in Heaven. 
        What I began to ask myself was this: what all brings believers to the point of what will transpire in Revelation 19:7-9? More importantly: why is John putting this forth as an invitation for people to respond in faith to the Gospel in this present age? Such questions prompted me to begin tracing what I call "the wedding theme" through the entire Bible. What follows in this post (and the next post) entails the process of preparation in thinking through the scriptures for this sermon. I hope too that readers will find their appetites whetted for God's Word and for Jesus' soon return. 

         To begin this first sermon (which will likely be the first in three overall sermons), I can recall the wedding invitation Debi and I had nearly 24 years ago. An RSVP was included. I had always wondered what "RSVP" meant? "RSVP" derives from a French expression, "répondez s’il vous plaît", for "please reply". 

       For me, reflecting back on our preparation (let me correctly say, my wife's preparations!) caused me to see how God always issues a "RSVP" to fallen sinners - whether Israel in the Old Testament or sinners scattered among the nations today. I can remember as the time approached, we were wondering why not everyone on our list had responded. It was an invitation. We don’t know why everyone didn’t “RSVP”. 
        Revelation 19:7-10 issues a Divine RSVP (it is worth reading Revelation 19:7-9 to hear the words of God's invitation). After having read this marvelous text, what I want us to do is slingshot over to Matthew 22:1-14, where we will camp in the remainder of today's sermon. As we will spend the remainder of our time in Matthew 22:1-14, we will begin to consider how God is calling forth sinners to become part of the Bride of Christ – the church. As we will discover, when God issues a RSVP for salvation, none are interested. His gracious working, by the Spirit, is required for anyone to respond (more on that later). 

              Now, why this focus upon the "wedding theme"? Well, this theme of “the marriage between God and His people” provides a lens to better understand Biblical salvation as presented throughout scripture. In this message, we will look at how God prepared history for the arrival of His Son – the Bridegroom, and how the Lord Jesus is now calling sinners to become part of His bride – the church. The relevance of this message is in how you and I need to respond to this Divine RSVP. 

      What I want to see happen in this message is a connection between the whole Bible to that of Revelation 19:7-9. In the second message, I plan on detailing how God is preparing the believer for what will be that glorious meeting with the Bridegroom - the Lord Jesus Christ - spoken of in Revelation 19:7-9. Then in the third sermon, we will focus particularly on Revelation 19:7-9 to culminate the grand vision of the wedding theme as intended by God in His Word.
1. God called a people that would reject Him. “God’s RSVP” to Israel, O.T. Matthew 22:1-7

a. God’s calling began. 

       God's invitation to sinners and His desire to have a redeemed people began in the Book of Genesis. The Old Testament uses the metaphor of marriage as signifying a marriage-of-sorts between Yahweh and Israel. The Bible often uses metaphorical language to depict God's adaptation of the revelation of Himself to His people's understanding. Metaphor as a vehicle of communication doesn't make what He reveals any less true. 

       As I had one professor explain to me years ago, a metaphor is an "implied comparison" between two unlike things. The intended affect of metaphor helps us to connect to what is true about God. If I say for instance: "it is raining cats and dogs", you would know I'm speaking metaphorically (afterall, we don't see poodles and kittens on weather maps!) The affect of my figurative way of speaking would bring about the affect in you that, "indeed, it is raining a bunch!) God does this often too, since we are finite people. 

      There are those instances, of course, when God makes known direct statements about Himself (such as He being "all-knowing" in Psalm 139). Now I likely won't cover these thoughts in the sermon, however, it helps me to think through why God would reveal marriage in the first place - because the institution tells us something true about His love and devotion to His people. Whichever mode God communicates, the idea of metaphorical language is to convey God's desire for relationship with those whom He calls to Himself. This idea of God making a covenant with His chosen people to redeem them and commission them to be a light to the nations is a major point of the O.T. 

      God’s ordaining of marriage in Genesis 2 set the tone for this wondrous metaphor. Literal marriage’s intent is to picture what is spiritually the case between God and His people. Later, We see His calling of Abraham in Genesis 12. It would be in Genesis 24 that Abraham would send his servant to fetch a bride for his son of promise, Isaac. Now at this point I won't spend too much time on the details we find in Genesis, only to say that the "marriage theme" sets the stage for God's formal covenantal arrangement with Israel at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19-20.

b. God’s calling reissued. 

        In the sermon, we will turn to Jesus' marvelous summation of the Old Testament account of God's dealings with Israel as a husband with his wife. Spans of centuries are passed over in the first three verses of Matthew 22. Per Jesus in Matthew 22:1-3, we find God sending his first group of servants or slaves to His people Israel, which derived from Abraham and the patriarchs. Servants (i.e. prophets), such as Moses and Samuel, we could classify in that first group. They were rejected and thus, God was rejected as Israel’s King. We could say Jesus' recounting would cover the contents of the Old Testament from Exodus to 1 Samuel.

c. God’s calling, final notice. 

      Per Jesus again in Matthew 22:4-6, we see God sending a second group of servants (David, Elijah, Major and Minor Prophets). They too were rejected. The attempts of Yahweh to convince Israel to remain loyal to Him is metaphorically a husband trying to convince his increasingly estranged wife to come back to him. God's love ever extends to fallen sinners, captured within the small picture of what was going on in Israel throughout the remainder of the Old Testament revelation.

d. God’s covenant broken, promise of restoration. 

       Per Jesus again in Matthew 22:7, God would send first, the Assyrians in 722 b.c. and then, the Babylonians, beginning in 605 b.c., to exile the people (respectively the Northern Kingdom of Israel and then Southern Kingdom of Judah). The one feature of the "marriage theme" that some may find shocking is that Yahweh would experience the pain of divorce. God was metaphorically pictured in the O.T. as having issued a Bill of Divorce to Israel for her unfaithfulness (Isaiah 50:1). 

       Per Hosea 2, this metaphor of God as a husband and Israel as His wife is featured (one of several spots in the O.T. prophets). Why the Divorce? Israel had broken covenant. However, God would then issue prophecies and promises of Israel’s restoration. Yahweh’s wife, Israel, will be restored to Him in the earthly reign of Messiah. God says at the end of Hosea 2:23 “And I will say to those who were not my people, Your are my people! And they will say, “You are my God!”. The O.T. states what will take place (Israel’s restoration). It even hints at the nations somehow having involvement. However, it does not say “how” (part two of this sermon will cover the New Testament's teaching on the church, which will explain the "how", in the next post).

      God never ceases extending His invitation to fallen man – the O.T. gives us an example in the heart of the Father. If one can keep in mind that the Old Testament is summed-up as "God's initial calling"; "God's calling reissued"; "God's calling - final notice" and "God's covenant broken and promise of restoration", then the general purpose of the Old Testament to New Testament truth should come into view.

More next time....

Friday, May 15, 2020

A Bird's-eye View of the Bible - The theme of humiliation and why Jesus underwent humiliation for our sakes

Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet: Preparation for Holy Week ...

    In our last post on our series "Bird's Eye View of the Bible", we looked at four reasons why Jesus, the Son of God, came to become also truly man for us: 

1. To provide righteousness by His 
    perfect obedience.

2. To provide redemption by His death 
    on the cross.

3. To raise from the dead.

4. To ascend and inaugurate His royal 
    reign in Heaven. 

    For anyone wanting to review the last post for this series, simply click here:

     The point of this series is to explore the Bible through major themes. As to our study through the New Testament, we've looked at what we identified as the first major theme of the New Testament: "incarnation". Today we continue onto a theme which describes what it was that the Son experienced in His descent from Heaven to Earth - "humiliation". 

        I'm sure none of us want humiliation. We all prefer people to like us. Almost everyone I know, including myself, avoids humiliation in preference to having a better view of themselves or having others look at them in a positive way. Yet, whenever we observe what Jesus did for us by humbling Himself, as truly God, to also be a true human 
being, what He did was humiliating. 

     Why did Holy God lower Himself not only to experience life as a man, but to live a human life in a sinful world that would mock Him, doubt Him and crucify Him? The journey of the Son of God from the glories of Heaven to the sinfulness of this world is worth a closer look. Let's consider some reasons for Jesus' humiliation, or, why He as God came to be man.

1. The humiliation of the Son of God 
    tells us how much He humbled 
    Himself to be our Savior.

 The Humiliation and Exalation of Jesus from Philippians 2 (With ...   
       Philippians 2:5-11 is the key Bible chapter we look to when understanding the journey Jesus took in coming to be a true man while still remaining God. We call this journey of the incarnation the Son's "humiliation". The above depiction of this journey of "humiliation" was first viewed by me in the ESV Study Bible years ago. Other authors and Study Bibles have used similar illustrations to aid in grasping this overall experience of the Son of God from "humiliation" to what will be a later theme to explore in this study, namely "exaltation". 

        Philippians 2:5-6 tells us, in summary, that Jesus did not consider being equal with the Father as a privilege He ought to keep hold of in a selfish way, but instead, He humbled himself, being found as a man, as a lowly servant. In other words, the eternal Son willingly came to be the man, Jesus Christ, still remained truly God while withholding from Himself the advantages that come with being also God. A case in point is when Jesus states in Matthew 24:36 that no one knows the day nor the hour of His return - including Himself. If we understand that Jesus is speaking with reference to His own self-imposed limitation of access to that area of His omniscience as a man, we then can grasp how it was He yielded Himself to the Father's will (recalling all the while He never ceased being omniscient as truly God).
WHITE PAPER: Hospitals Examine Problems Caused By Wet Mopping Floors

      Anytime someone lowers themselves to give help to those in need, we describe such an act as being "humble". I recall once seeing the pastor of a rather large church grabbing a mop to clean up a spill left by a child. The Pastor could had asked one of his assistants or a church member to do the mopping. Instead, the Pastor rolled up his sleeves and got the job done. He didn't stop being the Pastor of that church. In fact, he then went in to preach a great sermon before a crowd of many. Our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world saying these words: "I have come to do your will, God, as it is recorded of me in the Book" (Hebrews 10:4-5).

2. Jesus humbled Himself to be our  
An Example Worth Following? - Christian Faith at Work
       We read of Jesus humiliation once again in Philippians 2:7 - "but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men." Why did Jesus come to be a human being like you and me? Jesus came not only to save us from our sins, but also to restore back our humanity that was greatly harmed by our sins. Jesus is our example of what it looks like whenever any follower of His trusts God in faith, obedience and courage to the end. We read in 1 John 2:6 - "the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked." Elsewhere, the Apostle Peter reminds us that Jesus came as a sinless man to serve as our example, so that we could walk in the way he followed after God (1 Peter 2:21-22). The amazing truth about Jesus humbling Himself to experience what it was like to be a man was that He did so willingly (Hebrews 10:4-5).

3. Jesus humbled himself to be a 
    man to represent sinners on the 
What Does the Cross Represent in the Christian Faith? | Oak Ridge ...
     When Jesus died on the cross, a number of results were acheived, among them: 

A. Removal of the curse.

B. Forgiveness of sins.

C. Reconciliation or bringing sinners to 

       Whenever Jesus came into this world, the experience of living life as a man would had more than demonstrated His humility. If all that was needed for Jesus to forgive sin was the bleeding of His blood, then He could had come on a weekend, pricked His finger with a needle, and went back to Heaven. The problem would had been of course that the curse of sin would still had remained, meaning no provision of salvation. Jesus' humbling of Himself as a man included going to the cross, since scripture tells us that His dying on the cross meant taking away the curse of sin (Deuteronomy 21:33; Galatians 3:10-13).

4. Jesus humbled Himself to become the second Adam to give access to the benefits of salvation.

     We have looked in past lessons at how the original Adam represented all human beings in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned, it resulted in all human beings being judged as sinners (see Romans 5:12-21). Jesus' humbling of himself to become a man functioned as a second type of Adam, a new Adam.  He lived such a perfect life as to fulfill the original covenant of works broken by the first Adam which we saw at the beginning of this study (see Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:45-47). The original Adam brought about death and a curse on all human beings. Jesus came to be cursed on the cross and make forgiveness available to all who receive Him by faith (Gal. 3:10-13). 

        We can also see how the cross resulted in providing forgiveness of sins. He provided the right to be with God due to Himself being the perfect man, meaning, all humans who trust in Him by faith inherit salvation on forgiveness of sins (Romans 3:25-26). We understand from the Old Testament that only God can forgive sins (that is, grant salvation to all who trust in Him, Isaiah 43:10; Jonah 3:9). For God to forgive sinners, there must be payment given to God by the giving of an innocent life on behalf of the sinner. We've talked about this in a past lesson, calling Jesus' payment to provide forgiveness of sins "redemption". 

       Lastly, Jesus' humiliation on the cross meant that the ability for God and believing sinners to be together could really take place (1 Peter 3:18). One of the descriptions the New Testament gives of everyone born into this world is that they are "lost", meaning they are separated from God and His enemies (Ephesians 2:1-3, 12). The moment we trust in Jesus results in us being brought into a relationship with God - or what the Bible calls, "reconciled" (2 Corinthians 5:15-20).

       Jesus certainly went through a lot of stuff to accomplish our salvation. Thankfully, there is more beyond the state of humiliation, which is what we will look at in the next theme.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

National Day of Prayer May 7, 2020 Devotional - "When God Has You In A Holding Pattern"

2020 National Day of Prayer Events - Kenneth Copeland Ministries Blog
Introduction: Recalling a holding-pattern

        I can recall one vacation several years ago in which we had went to visit some family. After saying our goodbyes, we proceeded to drive the ten-minute journey to the major interstate highway that would take us home. As soon as we got onto the on-ramp, we found ourselves in a traffic jam that stretched for miles. For two hours we were in a holding pattern – not moving an inch. Admittedly, we all were getting anxious, wondering what the “hold-up” was. We heard overhead helicopters, saw flashing lights – but nothing more. Gradually we began to move. We would later hear that an armed gunman had aimed shots at another motorist over a road-rage situation. The state troopers had to shut down traffic to address the situation and ensure everyone’s safety. Holding patterns are never enjoyable. Oftentimes, a holding-pattern is never understood due to not having the far- bigger picture.  

        As we approach this National Day of Prayer for 2020, we come upon what is perhaps one the most unique National Day of Prayer in its 69 year history. Never in the history of any National Day of Prayer has there been a worldwide pandemic that has affected people's lives to the scope of COVID-19. As we approach this situation in prayer to God, having a time in which Christians can come together to pray is the most appropriate response we can give. We are all in a holding pattern. I recently heard a well-known pastor remind his listeners to not waste this time of solitude. 

Meet a prophet who was in a holding-pattern        
        As we turn our attention to the prophet Habakkuk, we find a prophet who is wrestling and trying to comprehend exactly what is going on in his world. He sees around him a people who have fallen into moral and spiritual decline. I heard a preacher once describe Habakkuk’s situation in this way:

“Habakkuk is like a wrestler grappling with the problem of evil who becomes a watcher, waiting on his God to act. This watcher, by the end of His prophecy, becomes a worshipper who praises God for granting him strength and faith to trust him.” 
       I often refer to Habakkuk as the “Job” of the prophets. Much like Job in the Old Testament, Habakkuk did as his name signifies - he “clung”. He clung tightly to God while experiencing internal turmoil from all the circumstances that he saw around him. Chapter 2 of his prophecy finds Habakkuk put into a holding pattern – which I suspect all of us find ourselves today. Listen to what is described in Habakkuk 2:1-4

I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved. 2 Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. 3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. 4 “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith. 

       You can see this in the first three verses. My question to you and me this day is this: what do we do when God places us in a holding pattern? There is no question in my mind that we are in such a circumstance. What we need is a word from God as to how we can not only function from day to day in this current situation, but more importantly, what we will do in the wake of this predicament. I find in this second chapter three marvelous truths that give us handles with which we can grab onto as we exercise faithfulness to God during our holding pattern. 

1. The Power of the Gospel. Habakkuk 2:4.
         Let me point to you first the power of the gospel we find this in Habakkuk chapter 2 verse 4 which reads: “Behold as for the proud one his soul is not right within him but the righteous will live by his faith.” The latter part of verse four is found three times in the New Testament. The first reference is in Romans 1:17 where Paul writes: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith." The second place we find this verse is in Galatians 3:11 “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” And then the final time we find Habakkuk 2:4 quoted in the New Testament is in Hebrews 10:38 which reads: "But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him." 
All three of these New Testament verses underscore our need for the Power of the Gospel.
Southern Kingdom Israel - Judah Divided Kingdom             Now to understand a little bit further the message of Habakkuk, we need to consider the background of this prophecy. Habakkuk ministered during the time in which the southern Kingdom of Judah and its capitol Jerusalem in moral and spiritual decline. The year was 620 b.c, and the people were 15 years away from being conquered by the Babylonian empire for the purpose of captivity and exile. The only bright spot that shone during this time was a godly king by the name of “Josiah” (you can read about King Josiah’s reign and the background of Habakkuk in 2 Kings chapters 22-23). 

       The reason I point your attention to King Josiah is because he literally embodied what we find here in Habakkuk 2:4, namely, he as a righteous man lived by faith in God.  King Josiah clung to the power of the Gospel. God's grace affected him to trust the LORD as a young lad. As a grown man, leading a nation amidst difficult circumstances, the king would lead his people in a revival and renewal. 

      Josiah’s example provides a picture of what it looks like when we “walk by faith, and not by sight” (see 2 Corinthians 5:7). Moreover, Josiah is in the biological bloodline that would lead to the bringing about of the humanity of Jesus as the incarnated Son of God. Such a life that “lives by faith” is like a neon sign, pointing to Christ. When we find then that when we are in a difficult holding pattern like we are now, we must cling onto the power of the gospel. But let me point your attention to a second truth that helps us to get through holding patterns such as this and that is…..

2. The promise of God's glory. Habakkuk 2:14

       We find these words in Habakkuk chapter 2:14 - which reads: “For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Now mind you, when Habakkuk was writing these words, God was actually delivering to him what would be a scathing judgment against the Babylonians whom he was going to send to judge the Southern Kingdom of Judah and its city, Jerusalem. It seemed as if the future was nothing but a hopeless and helpless mess. Yet, God gave this promise that the day would come when the entire earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. We come to the New Testament and we find such statements like this in many spots. For example, we read in 1 John 3:1 – 

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. (2) Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is."

      And then the Apostle John writes in 1 John 3:3 – “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." It is our hope in the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ that sustains us in the here and now as we look forward to his coming in the sweet by and by. When we are going through any valley of shadow and darkness, the only place to which we can look is up (see Psalm 121). Surrounding such a shadowy valley are the mountains over which shines the coming glory of God. It is when such light begins to illuminate the sky that we find our ability to trek through such spiritual valleys, supernaturally enabled by God (see 1 Corinthians 3:16).  So whenever we find ourselves in a holding pattern we look to the power of the gospel and the promise of God's glory but let me point out to you one more truth that we find in Habakkuk 2, and that is….

3. The present awareness of God's activity. Habakkuk 2:20

     In Habakkuk 2:20 we read - "but the Lord is in his holy temple let all the earth be silent before him." There is something about waiting on God and seeing what he is going to do that causes us to collect our thoughts and our faith which may very well had been shattered into a million pieces. We read in Isaiah 40:30-31 –

"Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, (31) Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary."

      There is something about waiting on God and being still that causes us to get refocused on him. There is a wonderful book of written prayers by a group of late sixteenth and seventeenth century Christians called: “The Valley of Vision”. In one of those recorded prayers, we find an excerpt which expresses to God how we can cope through difficulty by gaining awareness of God through silence: 

"I bless thee that the court of conscience proves me to be thine.
I do not need signs and wonders to believe, for thy Word is sure truth.
I have cast my anchor in the port of peace, knowing that present and future
are in nail-pierced hands."

The prayer continues....

"Thou art so good, wise, just holy,
that no mistake is possible to thee.
Thou art fountain and source of all law;
what thou commandest is mine to obey.
I yield to thy sovereignty all that I am and have; do thou with me as thou wilt.
Thou hast given me silence in my heart
in place of murmurings and complaints.
Keep my wishes from growing into willings, my willings from becoming fault-finding with thy providences,
and have mercy on me."

      As Isaiah 26:3 reminds us (as we find it in the KJV) – “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” 

Closing thoughts

      Thus, as we look to the power of the gospel, the promise of his glory as well as increasing our awareness of his presence, we will find strength while we are in our holding pattern.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Bird's-eye view of Bible - Why the incarnation is important for you today - Jesus raised from the dead, ascended into Heaven and is coming again

Creation and the Virgin Birth | The Institute for Creation Research

        Whenever we come to the New Testament, we see the following truths about God:

1. God is One God and three "Who's", a Unity of Deity in Three Persons - i.e. a "Trinity". Each "Who" or "Person" of the Trinity is truly God and identified as Father, Son and Spirit. 

2. The doctrine of the Trinity is composed of three main truths: 

a. God is "One God", who is first revealed as "the Father" in the redemptive work of God to Israel. 
b. Second, the Son, revealing Himself in the flesh as the historical Jesus, is the decisive revelation of God in history who, as truly God, came to be truly man for us. Jesus' miraculous birth, fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, miracles, substitutionary death, resurrection from the dead and ascension all affirm Him as truly God, equal with the Father and Holy Spirit. As we read Jesus' self-described Divine actions, titles and abilities, as well as His claims of being "One" with the Father, we see the Deity of Christ as the second great truth comprising the Trinity. 

c. The third truth comprising the doctrine of the Trinity is that of the 
Personality of the Spirit, who is also truly God as much as the Son and the Father with the same perfections that come with being God.

      I mention the above truths recorded in the New Testament so as to understand how Jesus' incarnation is situated within the Biblical doctrine of God generally and revelation of the Son specifically. The incarnation of the Son of God was discussed in a prior post in this series that I wrote a number of weeks of go and is found in the link here:    

What is meant by "incarnation".

      To understand what is meant by the term "incarnation", we can look at the introduction or "Prologue" to John's Gospel. John 1:1 begins by distinguishing the Person of the Son (called by the title "The Word") dwelling in eternity with the Father (called by the general title of deity: "God") as seen in the first part of the verse: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God". Next we see the Word distinguished from another Divine Person whom we know is the Father but is called "God": "and the Word was with God". 

       When we go down to John 1:14, we discover that the Word (that is, the Divine Person of the Son) entered into our world to live life as a man: "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." The eternal Word or Son came to be "incarnated" or "in the flesh". Put another way, the Son, having always existed as truly God, came to express Himself a second way by becoming truly man, while still remaining truly God. 

Why the incarnation of the Son of God?

       Having defined the event of Christ's incarnation, we are reminded of two reasons why the Son of God came to be man that we looked at in the prior post of this particular series (see the link above). 

      The first reason why the incarnation is so important was for Jesus to provide righteousness (that is, so that God could count those who receive Jesus by faith as right with Him). The second reason for the incarnation was so that Son of God could, by His death on the cross, redeem us for the forgiveness of sins (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; 1 Peter 3:18). What follows are two other reasons why the incarnation of the Son of God is vital for our understanding today. 

The third reason the incarnation is important is so that Jesus could raise from the dead.

                What if Jesus had remained dead after his death on the cross? If Jesus had remained in His tomb, then everything we just said about His incarnation would mean nothing. Jesus' resurrection from the dead proved that all He achieved worked in living His perfect human life and death for sinners. 

       Jesus' resurrection could only take place if He first died on the cross. In order for Jesus to qualify as the perfect sacrifice for sinners on the cross, He himself had to live a sinless human life. For Jesus, to live a perfect human life meant He, as truly God, had to have His humanity conceived in the the Virgin Mary's womb. The uniting of a truly human nature to the Person of the Son who already possessed (and remained so) to retain a truly Divine nature, is what is called "the hypostatic union". Quite literally, the uniting together of a "truly divine nature" and "truly human nature" in One Person, the Son, is the result of the miracle of the incarnation. 

        As man, He could die and be raised. As God, all He achieved would have infinite value. Because Jesus raised from the dead, all who receive Him by faith are counted as being right with God (Romans 4:25) and forgiven of their sins (1 Corinthians 15:20). 

The final reason the incarnation is important is so that Jesus can reign as King in Heaven.

                We have considered three main reasons why the incarnation is so important, so that the Son of God could provide: 

1. Righteousness, that is, the right to 
    be in God's presence.

2. Redemption, which is to say, 
    forgiveness of sins and.....

3. Resurrection, so He could raise from 
    the dead

      What did Jesus do after He raised from the dead? We know from the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) that Jesus appeared on a dozen occasions to groups and individuals, to believers and those who had yet to believe that He had risen. After forty days, Jesus had His disciples gather outside of Jerusalem for them to witness His going up into Heaven (Acts 1:11). Jesus' "going up" is what we call His ascension, meaning He inaugurated His reign the true King of the church at the right hand of the Father. 

       Jesus retained His physical humanity and revealed in heaven, once again, what He had always been and ever will be: truly God. Now He reigns as the God-man, praying for believers and ready to return to earth to rescue His people and judge the world (1 Thessalonains 4:13-18; Acts 17:31). This theme of "incarnation" is vital for understanding the New Testament, the Christian life and salvation.