In the mid nineteen seventies, I was experiencing a wonderful renewal of my faith. In fact, it was so wonderful that none of the painful circumstances of that time discouraged me. I was also greatly blessed by believing members of my family and the people of the little country church that surrounded me with love and enthusiasm for our Lord! We were mostly at the bottom of the economic ladder but on top of the world with the joy of the Lord! I felt as though nothing could stop this movement of the Holy Spirit, and had already seen great miracles in the lives of those who loved Jesus.
Little consideration was given in my mind at the time of another force that was also actively at work but against us. Subtle efforts were often made by our adversary to discourage us, and sometimes humiliate us. Even some of our fellow Christians attempted to dampen our joy with prophecies of doom and gloom. We have seen many healings and miracles, but we have also seen those we love fail in health and even die at a young age. We have seen individuals rise to heights of faith and victory but later to fall into sin, bitterness, addiction and poverty. However the presence of Christ has never left us and the vision of a brighter future has kept us alive in our faith.
If I let my thoughts drift very long from the powerful word of God that He Himself has instilled in my heart, I begin to feel as if I can hear the enemy laughing and mocking me for believing the things that I have expressed here. Recently I was reminded of the weakness of short-term thinking. In our modern world we want everything now. All of my life I have been told that the coming of Christ is very near, and only then will we see things change. For now our part is simply to wait for that day to come. What do you suppose the devil thinks about that concept? I suspect he is pleased with our inactivity and complacency. It amounts to a sort of truce between us and him that he is not obligated to honor. I am not saying that those who hold this view stop praying and serving Christ. But I do expect that their expectation is lower than the Lord would have it to be.
Think of it! Jesus declared that we could have mountain moving faith! He even said that all things were possible if we could only believe! Could it be that the limit of what God can and will do is only in our minds?
In the past few years we have seen many signs that our society is in serious trouble. Christian values are constantly under attack, which in turn affects all families. The believing community is the salt of the earth and the light of the world. When we become hopeless and disillusioned, how can we inspire hope in others? Lately I am realizing that my fight is not so much with the world but with my own despair. Defeatist attitudes among Christians do not help either. There are far too many who have given up on fulfilling the purpose of God for their lives to light up the world. Their hope is only in an escape from it. There are also those who would rather join the world in the current downward spiral and indulge in the many pleasures (and pain) it has to offer. Both These are paths that offer the least resistance to our human nature.
Jesus called His disciples to courage and sacrifice. He challenged both religious and secular leaders to face the immanent rule of God over all. He proved that none of us have what it takes to overcome sin and death but also that we can do just that by holding on to Him.
Over time a deep pessimism has crept into our hearts, our churches and especially our biblical understanding. As much as I try to dance around this issue, I am forced after all to face it head on. Yes there are dire predictions in the scripture about the fate of humanity. Yes, Jesus Himself said there would be great trouble such as the world had never known. We already know that the past 2,000 years have been filled with godlessness, apostasy, plagues wiping out large portions of the population and wars killing even more. Today technology has provided the means to wipe out every living thing on the planet. It is a major miracle that we are all still here now. But that is my point. The world and its history belongs to God. It is the miracle of faith in Him that preserves our hope.
This hope involves eternity with Him in another dimension of course. But it also involves this material creation which He created for His pleasure and His glory. We neglect the ancient passages of scripture to our detriment. The great New Testament story and those who preserved that story for us were deeply indebted to those who had gone before. Their faith could be strong because they witnessed the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies with their very own eyes. They also knew there was more to come. At this point I would like to plead with those of you who have come this far in our journey through the history of our faith. I am confident that if you can continue walking with us through this sweeping panoramic view of God’s eternal purpose, that this undying hope can stir your hearts to a fresh vision of His work in this very hour and in this very existence!
If like me, you desire to fully live in the moment as did the early Christians, you must first believe that this is even possible. These followers of Christ only had their Hebrew bible and the stories of their heroes of faith to look back upon. We have both the experiences of those who lived before Christ appeared and those who came afterward. If they could embrace the faith and miracle-working power of the older days, we might find we can embrace the lessons of both eras. Certainly those ancient believers can make us a bit uncomfortable as they were much less “civilized” than we think we are today. In some cases they seem even barbaric to us. Yet that very discomfort might be just what we need today in modern Christianity.
My hat goes off to the many pastors and teachers today who pray and exhort other believers to help fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. I am all for that! It is in fact, my belief that a greater understanding of what God has done and plans to do through us now can help empower us to find our place in that great mission! However when we only have short term thinking and look for quick fixes we can get easily discouraged and disillusioned. What God began with Adam and Eve He continued in the lives of untold millions after them. Four thousand years of preparation led up to the “fullness of time” when Jesus came preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God. God is patient and not running out of time to work out His plan. (2 Peter 3:9). My hope is to live to see the greatest turning to God that has ever happened in history. Yet, I can live and work in the expectancy of it today. Because of the Word of God that cannot fail, I can already see it, even if it is several lifetimes away!
May God shake us free from our complacency and apathy! What ever it takes! There is an adventure, a quest that is already underway for you and I to join! Underneath the decay and decline of society we see all around us, there is an undercurrent of faith and hope bubbling up. It is the Holy Spirit stirring hearts to believe in the impossible for the glory of God. The Gospel of the Kingdom is going out into all the world even now. It is the Good News of Jesus Christ and His reign over all, that begins in the hearts of you and I!
17 For they (evil men) eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.
18 But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day.
Chapter 10, The Promised King
In the previous chapters of this book I shared some of my personal experiences and some of what I have learned from them. Also I have attempted to show that God has always had a plan from the beginning that supports His desire to bless His creation and humanity. The reason I mention this again is that often we can get caught up in our individual daily lives. It is easy to forget that we have been given a greater and higher purpose by God than what is often thought. The Christian faith can become sort of a habit of living with customs like Sunday church attendance, Easter and Christmas celebrations, and giving support to missionaries. Then each Christian denomination can have somewhat different habits, practices and beliefs as well. This is not to say that habits, traditions and beliefs are inherently wrong. Whether one is a believer in God or an atheist, we all have basic routines and assumptions about life.
The point I am making here and hope to continue to make is that all of our daily routines and goals can have greater meaning in the context of God’s marvelous plan. While Jesus did promise us, His followers eternal life, He also said He came that we might have abundant life even now! In fact the eternal perspective we gain from our relationship with Him can have tremendous impact on the here and now. Story after story in the bible will demonstrate this fact: that which is invisible and eternal can truly shake up and transform our physical reality!
How sad it is when repentance is viewed as a signed contract for fire insurance and salvation is only for the purpose of keeping us out of hell. Somehow, God is often shown to work around our misconceptions about Him and the Christian faith, and I am thankful for that fact. At the same time I am also thankful that He is willing and able to give us a greater vision of His plan and the reason we are here. So I have been sharing a very condensed overview of the Old Testament because I feel that many important aspects of God’s eternal purpose are presented there. It is true that the New Testament is more directly applicable for us today, but the fact remains that they are linked. The New Testament simply cannot be fully understood without knowing what came before and was written about in the Old. I strongly believe that the oversimplified “lite” version of the Gospel we often hear today is a result of our neglect of the Old Testament. What we need today is the powerful, life-changing and world changing Gospel of the Kingdom!
When John the Baptist and Jesus came preaching “The kingdom of God is at hand,” this message did not come out of a vacuum. As civilization expanded the people of God became increasingly aware of the need for God’s righteous ways to be applied not only in the nation of Israel but also in the affairs of all nations. Their prophets had many things to say concerning the nations of the earth, and His plans for them. From men like Isaiah and Daniel, they learned of the wondrous future God had planned for all of us. This no doubt led to their interest in the messages of both John and Jesus.
Moses had led the descendants of Israel by the Word which came directly to Him from God. His law was their governor and protector. His judges and prophets were the interpreters of His law and the Spirit gave them guidance. Many times God even ruled them directly by demonstrations of His power. Eventually there came a time when they desired a king like the other nations around them. He first gave them Saul to teach them about the disadvantages of this decision. Then He gracefully gave them a king who was more desirous of His Heart. So David, the shepherd boy who killed Goliath the giant became the king over all of Israel.
David was by no means a perfect man or a perfect king. He was, however, a great example of one who loved God and desired to please Him. This we learn from the written record of his life and the Psalms he wrote for worship in the congregation. It was in these psalms of praise and worship that David declared God in heaven to be the true King! (Psalms 10:16, 24:7-10, 29:10) In His desire to honor his God he planned to build a temple to replace the tent as permanent dwelling place for God’s dwelling among His people. At first, David’s prophet and adviser Nathan thought this was as great idea. Later that night, however, the Word of God came to Nathan, saying:
4 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in. 5 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day. I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another. 6 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their leaders whom I commanded to shepherd my people, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ‘
7 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock, to be ruler over my people Israel. 8 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 9 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 10 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also subdue all your enemies.
“‘I declare to you that the LORD will build a house for you: 11 When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. 14 I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.'” (1 Chronicles 17:4-14 NIV)
Here is an early and clear prophecy of the reign of God over the earth through a descendant of David. In the first sense it was fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. David would go on to plan and prepare for the building of the temple, but Solomon, who had never fought in war would oversee the building of the first temple for the LORD. After Solomon, David’s dynasty, his “house” would continue until David’s devotion to God was abandoned and the kingdom crumbled.
Yet the hope for a future “Son of David” did not disappear. God spoke of this future Messiah (anointed One) in other ancient writings.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse (David’s father); from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD — 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
In this and in many other places, Isaiah and others foresaw a world that more closely resembles the Garden of Eden, or Paradise. (Revelation 2:7). This should be no surprise to us, for a wise person once wrote that God “has set eternity in their heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) From around the world, and in ages past, philosophers and thinkers have yearned for something they hoped was once real — that could be real again. There is a longing in all of our hearts for what the heavenly hosts declared to some shepherds near Bethlehem while praising God. They announced:
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14 KJV)
How this will fully come about (if you believe these prophecies have any real meaning at all), remains to be seen. And yet we have from scripture a clear indication on when it started to unfold.
Foundational to all Christian belief is the truth an angel brought to the virgin Mary 2,000 years ago.
30 The angel said to her, ” Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
After the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, both descendants of David, brought their child to the temple at Jerusalem to present Him before the Lord. There they were approached by an older man named Simeon. Simeon was compelled by the Holy Spirit to hold Him in his arms and speak these words:
29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
Simeon had waited all of his life for this moment. He believed that this descendant of Abraham would some day bless all the families of the earth. This calling was to bless the gentiles, or the nations outside of his covenant with God. He even quotes from the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 42:6-7). Now he is satisfied to die in peace, for He had seen the Lord’s salvation in the person of this infant child! What faith! What confidence in the written Word of God and witness of the Holy Spirit! In his heart and mind the scripture was already fulfilled!
Later, when Jesus began His public ministry, people who were healed by Him, saw His miracles, and His triumphant ride into Jerusalem loudly proclaimed Him to be the promised “Son of David.” (Matthew 9:27, 12:23, 15:22, 21:9).
After the Crucifixion, many abandoned Him. Yet He kept a strong core group who became the leaders of a great movement that began to cover the then known world. Many were martyred for simply refusing to deny that He was Lord of all! The Kingdom of God was real to them and in them! They had experienced true righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit! (Romans 14:17)
What about you? Has the promised King, the Son of David come to reign in your life? Are you learning to look for His future reign in all the earth, in every heart, while you enjoy His wonderful life, love and Kingship over you today?
Chapter nine: The Promised Deliverer
Because of his obedient faith in his creator God, Abraham received the promise that a great nation would come forth from the son of his old age. This might not seem as important to us in our time when many worry about the planet having to support too many people. It was different 4 thousand years ago. Having a family was even more important to Abraham, whose original name meant “exalted father.” Later the name given to him by God would be Abraham, or “father of a multitude.” In ancient days a person’s name often described him. Abraham’s very purpose in life was not simply to prosper in business, but to inherit the Promised Land, and to populate that land with his family. This family would then be God’s instrument through which all families of the world would be blessed!
Ironically, his family did not really flourish at first in the promised land. Many things would transpire before that time. Abraham’s grandson Joseph, was betrayed by the jealousy of his own brothers, and he became a slave in Egypt. In his integrity and faithfulness to God he endured much suffering and abuse, but was rewarded in the end. His God enabled him to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh and to lead Egypt through a great famine. Finally his brothers humbled themselves before him, and they were reconciled.
In this we see another parallel with Jesus, who while on the cross asked for forgiveness for his own people who in their jealousy rejected Him! The natural children of Abraham mostly have failed to recognize Him to this day, with only a minority believing in Him. However, we look forward in great anticipation with the apostle Paul who saw the day when their eyes would be open in great numbers! (Romans 11:25-29). Like Joseph and his brothers who wept and embraced one another, there will also come a time when the natural sons of Abraham will reconcile with the One who rescued them as well!
8 “In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them. 9 “And it will come about in that day that I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born.
It appears that this mourning will not be limited to Israel, but to all nations, for we read in Revelations 1:7:
7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen.
What a great day that will be when all who have pierced Him with their words and actions of hatred, selfishness, pride and injustice finally grieve over their ways as He reveals Himself to them!
The Great I AM
This wonderful story of Joseph and his brothers had a happy ending. He brought His father and all that were with him to live in Egypt, where there was plenty of food which he had stored up during the seven plentiful years. The seventy families that were brought down with Jacob multiplied there greatly. However, after the death of Joseph another Pharaoh came to power. He feared that they might rise up against him, so he enslaved them and forced them to build great cities. In spite of this they multiplied even more! His next plan was to control their population growth by infanticide. The parents of Moses were wise and courageous enough to hide him and at the same time hopeful enough to risk sending him down the river to freedom. What would become of him? Would the God they trusted in watch over him and use him for something special?
Having been rescued by Pharaoh’s own daughter and raised in the palace, he could have been very content with his life. This situation might have been that easy for some, but not Moses. He saw how his people were being mistreated and he got involved. This led to his accidental killing of an Egyptian which resulted in his flight from Egypt. Then he again found a relatively good life as a shepherd. Could he at last find contentment? No. Like Joseph, Moses would be another example of Christ, the greatest of all deliverers, by leaving a place of comfort and ease for a place of suffering and struggle. This would lead to a greater purpose, the purpose of lifting others to a higher life! All of this prefigures our Savior Jesus Who left the riches of heaven to become the servant of all. (Philippians 2:5-11)
While in the wilderness, Moses would meet the Great I AM, The Eternal One, Who has no beginning or ending. Out of a bush on fire but not consumed by the flames, he received the call to go back to Egypt to deliver his people. God would give many great and powerful signs through Moses to demonstrate His superiority over the gods of Egypt and to liberate the children of Israel from slavery. Moses would be God’s spokesman throughout his lifetime and revealing in great detail how this great family was to become a civilized nation, and an example to the world.
So much could be said about the importance of Moses, but here I simply want to point out how his ministry fits into the eternal plan of God through Christ. It was Moses who was instructed by God to oversee the building of a place where God would meet with His people. The tabernacle in the wilderness was built to show how serious God was about renewing that relationship He had with Adam and Eve in the garden. In it He provided a place where they could express repentance for their sins and also receive His grace and be at peace with Him. His blessing would be demonstrated in the glory of the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night and the provisions made for their journey back to the Promised Land.
Sadly, as is often the case, many missed the point. Far too many worshipped outwardly but not from the heart, right up until the time of Jesus. Jesus pointed this out to many religious leaders of His day who thought they really understood Moses:
45 “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. 47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
So how did Moses write of Jesus? The answer might be found in a concept described by the author of the letter to the Hebrews.
10:1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near.
Paul also made a similar observation in Colossians 2:16-17:
16 Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day — 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
Around the time of the First Century, biblical scholars were looking into allegorical interpretations of the Scriptures. The New Testament apostles and teachers also began to see amazing parallels between the old and new covenants. Jesus Himself took special time to show that He was written about in the law of Moses, the writings of the prophets and in the poetry of the Psalms and the wisdom literature of the Hebrew canon. (Luke 24:44-45). When individuals become open to see how Jesus was concealed in the stories, the characters, and the rituals of the old testament, a rich and wonderful portrait of Christ becomes available to them. He reveals Himself by the Spirit to the humble of heart.
The law given by Moses, with it’s ethics, with it’s order, with it’s sacrificial system and it’s clear method of separating His people from the world — was a mere shadow of the good things to come in Christ! In depth studies of this marvelous, and mysterious body of literature have proven to encourage many to believe in God’s eternal purpose in Christ and His Church! Not only was He the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, but also the Light of the world as seen by the candlestick in the tabernacle. Likewise the bread on the table in the tabernacle pointed to Christ who is the Bread of Life.
The entire tabernacle tells the story of how fallen humanity returns to intimacy with God through the work of Jesus on the Cross. Christ is the door of the tabernacle, He is the sacrifice on the brazen offer which represents my repentant heart. He is the sanctuary where we receive His Light from the candlestick, the sustenance from the Showbread, and we can offer up prayers and praise in the golden alter of incense. Finally, by His grace we can enter into the holiest place of all, where His presence, His word and His blood on the alter seal our relationship with God forever! (Hebrews 9:1-15, 10:19-22)
As Moses defeated the mighty Pharaoh and his false gods, Jesus brought down the lies of the devil by proving the love and goodness of God on our behalf, as well as His power over death. (Hebrews 2:14-15). Moses led his people out of bondage in Egypt and on their journey to Canaan. Christ snatches us from our old lives of sin and the corruption of this world. Even now He provides for us all we need on this wilderness journey while being surrounded by hostile forces.
Moses on Mount Sinai gave Israel the law written by the Finger of God, to prove to the world their identity as God’s chosen people. Jesus revealed the true intent of that law in His Sermon on the Mount to prove that by faith we can become citizens of heaven while still living on this earth!
Moses could have been speaking of Jesus when he made this statement:
15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.
Peter and others declared that Moses was in fact foretelling the coming of Jesus even back then. (Acts 3:19-22, John 6:14)
Are you beginning to see how the many pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together in Jesus Christ? But here we are just beginning, there is so much more to come! Christ is not only delivering us from the effects of the fall, He is restoring us to the relationship we had with Him in paradise before the fall! Not only that, but something greater! We already bear the image of God in an earthly manner, but we are to also bear the image of God in a much deeper way. Even now, those who worship Him are being daily transformed!
In the third chapter of his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul describes a situation where some biblical scholars had failed to see the portrait of Christ hidden in their scriptures, our Old Testament. Their minds and their hearts were blinded, as if separated from seeing Him by a veil. But — when any heart turns to the Lord, that veil is taken away! Of course we know that it can only be the Holy Spirit Who warms our hearts, convicts us of our sin and forgetfulness, and leads us to repentance.
2 Corinthians 3:13-18:
14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
Did you get that? We can be transformed into the image of Christ, who is the express image of the invisible God! (2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3).
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Remember the original blessing in Genesis One? God had intended all along for humanity to bear His image, to rule the earth on His behalf and to fill the earth with His glory. Disobedience and sin disrupted that plan, but God could not fail in His purpose. The world was being prepared for the promised deliverer by God’s work through many beforehand. Glimpses of Him would be seen in Abraham, Joseph, Moses and others. In fact the entire created universe testifies of Him. (Romans 1:20).
Throughout the ages God has been working with us as a potter works with clay in his hands. Everything that has happened and is happening is leading to a great climax in which the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea! (Isaiah 11:9, Habakkuk 2:14) Creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption and into the glorious liberty of the children of God! (Romans 8:20-21)
In all of this you and I have a part to play. We get to be incorporated into the the very Body of Christ, Who is the Seed, the descendant of Abraham through Whom all the families of the earth will be blessed! Where do I get this crazy idea? In the bible of course!
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Once we begin to see the big picture, from a great panoramic view of the entire bible, the individual pieces of the puzzle begin to fit into place. Have you ever tried to work a picture puzzle without having the cover of the box that shows the end result? Sometimes we just see individual pieces in God’s plan without having a clue to the way they fit together. If you can bear with me, I believe we can show in this simple study how beautiful the bigger picture really is. More than that, I hope each of us can find what our part in God’s great plan might be, giving us a greater sense of purpose in this life!
Chapter 8: The Promised Sacrifice
In case someone might think that I am making things up as I go along, let’s look at another Old Testament story from Genesis. We believe that the New Testament cannot be fully understood without some understanding of the context in which events recorded there took place. The context was a nation that sprang forth from Abraham, whose faith gave him the privilege of being called the Friend of God.
Even before Abraham the Good News from God stated that the evil one who deceived the whole world would be defeated by one who would descend from Eve. (Genesis 3:14-15). Later Abraham set the pattern for all who would follow God by acting on his faith in God’s Word, His promises. His promise to Abraham and Sarah was not only for a son in their old age, but through that son his descendants that would number as many as the sands of the seashore and the stars of heaven that cannot even be counted! Not only that, but these descendants would bring forth one particular “seed” through which all the families of the earth would be blessed! (Galatians 3:8-9,16). This is part of that “Impossible Dream” that I wrote about in the last chapter. And yes, this is also part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of the Kingdom to be announced 2,000 years later.
When Abraham set out with his wife to find the home God had planned for him, his faith was expressed. But after his son came into the world, his faith would be tested. In this test, we can look back and see another glimpse of what would come to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
In Abraham’s day there were no church services to attend, no preaching to listen to or hymns to sing. His primary act of worship was to leave his home and migrate to another land, a land that his descendants would later possess. His faith, his trust in His God was already shown to be real by the great risks he had taken so far. While so many were migrating to the fertile lands of Mesopotamia, this man and his family were leaving their security and journeying into the unknown. This theme of a quest, or a journey into unknown territory would appear again and again in both the old and new testaments, and in the entire history of the church of Jesus Christ.
When the promised son finally came to Abraham and Sarah, he would face his greatest test. Would his faith sustain him?
The God who led Abraham out from his home to become a tent dweller in Canaan and gave him the son that was promised, was now asking him to give that son up as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah. Abraham took his son and before they went up the mountain, he told his servants that both of them would later return. Did he really believe that, or did he mislead the servants? In the New Testament Abraham was seen as a model of great faith. Perhaps he still believed in God’s promise to make a great nation from Isaac. In order to fulfill it maybe he hoped God would raise him from the dead even after offering him. (Hebrews 11:17-19). In another place he made an even greater confession of faith that would not be fully understood for 2,000 years. When Isaac asked his father about the animal that they needed for the sacrifice, he gave us another one of those statements in the Old Testament concerning Jesus! He answered: “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:8).
The death of Isaac was not God’s plan all along, but a test of Abraham’s faith. In the story God intervened and did provide a ram that had his horns caught in a bush. He did provide an immediate sacrifice for Abraham but there is an even higher, deeper, prophetic meaning to his words. 2,000 years into the future God who through His great love for the world would offer His only son Jesus to atone for all of our sins. Through belief in Him we can now have everlasting life! (John 3:16, 1 John 2:1-2, 1 Timothy 2:1-6) Allow me to go even further out on a limb with this declaration. God did not only provide a sacrifice, but He provided Himself as a sacrifice! Is this a play on words or did God actually surrender Himself on the Cross for the sins of the whole world?
If you believe that there is only One God who is revealed and personified as the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, you might be able to see that He is so at one with Jesus that He suffered with the Incarnate Son, the one Who is fully Human and fully divine — the Great I AM! (John 8:58, 10:30, 14:8-11, 17:5).
So God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not counting our trespasses against us! (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) This great cosmic and catastrophic event paved the way for the very promise which Abraham received from God, that his descendants would be impossible to count! Through Jesus the wall of separation between Jews and gentiles would be brought down and all of us can become a part of that great family! How? By faith and trust in His righteousness and not our own! (Ephesians 2:12-22). (6 minutes)
God does have a plan for the ages! Paul wrote about this in his letter to the Christians at Ephesis:
8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
God had been preparing the world for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah from the very beginning. Even Abraham had a glimpse of Him! (John 8:56) Later, when his descendants found themselves enslaved in Egypt, they had a preview of Jesus in their deliverer, Moses. Amidst all of the miracles and astonishing events that God performed through Moses, He also demonstrated the manner in which an innocent lamb would protect them from the curse of sin and death. Only those who sacrificed a flawless lamb, consumed its nourishment and applied its blood to their dwelling would be spared the plague of death that took the firstborn of all Egypt.
From that time on, Israel would look back on that day every year without realizing they were also looking ahead to the day when God would offer His son not only for their sins, but for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2). Every sacrifice and offering they brought would remind them of their weaknesses and dependence upon God and point to the time when God would more fully take up residence in them to live His righteous and holy life in them! In Christ we are made one and complete in Him! He identified with us in our weaknesses so that we can identify with Him in His victory over sin and death!
2 Corinthians 5:21:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 8:9:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
All of this takes us back again to the original blessing in Genesis 1:26-28:
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
God is still in the process of making mankind into His image. He is determined to fill the earth with His sons and daughters, in order that Jesus would become the firstborn in this great family of God! (Romans 8:28-29) Jesus died on the cross to deliver us from the curse, and also that God’s eternal purpose could be fulfilled in us! Then He sent His disciples out into the world with the Gospel, teaching all the nations His Kingdom principles of faith, hope and love. This was the time to be fruitful and to multiply in a greater and higher order!
While some would postpone this purpose until the afterlife, I find great inspiration in knowing that it can be fulfilled in space and time!
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
So let us not diminish the great sacrifice of our Lord, the spotless Lamb of God. Let us wholeheartedly, as did our spiritual ancestors, anticipate the fullness of what God desires for His creation! Let us honor and cherish His great act of love for us that cannot fail to bring about His plan for His glory!
Chapter Seven: The Impossible Dream
Over the last 2,000 years the church of Jesus Christ has seen periods of explosive growth, as well as times when it appeared that all was lost.
Chapter 6: The Simplicity of Christ
The premise of this book is that Light has come into this world. We are currently working to better understand what that means to us in our daily lives. First we looked at the possibility of the renewed vitality and sense of adventure that is available to believers and unbelievers alike in the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Secondly we considered the difference a change in perspective can make for us all. In chapter three we looked at some examples in scripture of how God has given and continues to give a clearer picture of reality through supernatural means to those who desire Him.
If we can keep in mind that God has not forgotten His original intention for humanity, if we also keep in mind that He cannot fail, then it might become easier to see how His plan continued to move forward in Genesis. Immediately after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He informed them of the consequences of their sin. Life would be much harder than before. At the same time He also gave them a promise of the future victory.