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Weekly Word

Entries in Creation (8)

Tuesday
Nov132018

My Personal End Times: The New Heavens & the New Earth II

Revelation 22.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 11, 2018.

Today we will finish our series, particularly the New Creation that God will create.  Last week we looked at chapter 21 of The Revelation where it describes the New Jerusalem, that great city of Christ and the Righteous.  Chapter 22 continues that description, but moves to the center of the city where the Throne of God sits.

The whole point of Scripture is to persuade men to avoid a bad experience of judgment and to embrace a good experience of God’s love.  It is those who stop trusting themselves and the world around them, and start trusting Christ and the truth of God, who will experience the good that God has intended for us all.  These visions of what will be are intended to spark the hope of God in our heart, a strong faith in Him within our mind, and a powerful love for Christ throughout our whole life.

The throne of God is described

Though it is not specifically stated, this throne would be at the center of the New Jerusalem.  In Rev. 21:3 we see the city described as the tabernacle of God, which means that it is His dwelling place.  It emphasizes His presence with His people.  Also verse 22 states that Christ is the light of the city, again emphasizing presence and source.

We see that the river of the Water of Life flows from the throne.  In that creation the Waters of Life will have a physical existence, but throughout the Scripture this phrase was symbolically describing the Word of God.  To receive the Word of God and obey it was to drink from the Waters of Life.  Like the blessings of water flowing down to us from the mountains is the Truth of God coming down out of heaven.  This river is described as pure because it is not polluted with the ideas and thoughts of fallen angels or fallen humans.  Its source is God’s throne.  The phrase “clear as crystal” emphasizes the purity with imagery.

This image of a river from God has an Old Testament backdrop.  Psalm 65:9 states, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.” (NKJV).  This is notable because Jerusalem had no river.  The river the Psalmist sees is spiritual.  Ezekiel 47 gives a vision of a restored Temple with a river that comes out from the south side of the Temple and flows from Jerusalem.  Also, Zechariah 14 speaks of living waters that flow from Jerusalem to the East and to the West.  It would seem that there are several layers to this concept.  Today, we spiritually drink from the Waters of Life that flow from the events 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, people all over the world drink from this never ceasing river from God.  In the Millennium water will literally flow from Jerusalem and bring healing to the Dead Sea.  Ultimately, in the New Creation, The New Jerusalem will have the Waters of Life flowing from the throne of God.  Thus there is no longer any separation between men and God (this is the imagery employed by the temple).  Just because we experience these things spiritually today does not imply that none of this has a literal meaning as well.  In that day the spiritual and the physical will be united in harmony, just as God intended it.

Verse 2 describes the presence of the Tree of life.  The description is quite interesting.  It speaks of the tree being on both sides of the river.  Thus many see this as describing at least two Trees of Life.  Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden lest they eat from the Tree of Life and become stuck eternally in a sinful condition.  Here we see that God has fully restored our access to the Tree of Life.  Now this tree is no tree of this earth.  It has twelve different kinds of fruit that fruit each month, twelve times a year.  We are also told that the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  This does not mean that people can get sick and need healing in the New Creation.  Rather, the word that can be translated as healing can also be translated as health-giving, as in a preventative sense.  Thus the fruit is food and the leaves fortify the health of the body.  Obviously the mechanics and needs of that age are not described to our satisfaction and are left to the imagination and to our ability to trust God.  And so, that is where we will leave it. 

Verse 3 tells us that there will be no more curse.  For anyone who has ever cried out, “Why is the world this way,” God promises an end to that which makes life hard and difficult.  There will come a day when the curse will be completely lifted.  Of course, many reject God and follow the plan of Satan to overthrow the curse by overthrowing God Himself, but that plan is doomed to fail.  Trusting God is the only plan that is blessed with success.  The presence of God Himself and His throne is presented as the reason why the curse can no longer exist.  God does not dwell in a cursed place, though Christ did so for a season for our salvation.  Where God dwells there will always be life.

The experience of the servants of God is described

Though the scene is still centered upon the throne of God, it expands to include the saints of God.  Verse 3 states that they serve Him.  The picture seems to be one of direct service to God as opposed to the current state where our service is by faith and without being in His direct presence.  On one hand serving God involves our worship and honor of Him.  However, it will no doubt also involve any directives that He gives.  In fact the word used for “serve” is a word that speaks of service of one who is hired or paid for their services.  There will no longer be toil and suffering in the work that God gives us to do, but rather joyful and rewarding discovery.  Thus the “service” of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden should be the backdrop to this concept of our service to God in the New Creation.

We are told that the saints see His face.  Adam and Eve also began in the Garden of Eden and walked with God and talked with Him in the cool of the day.  This is the same kind of setting.  There is no more disapproval of God.  We have complete fellowship with Him and complete acceptance from Him.  It is interesting that the Old Testament underlines the point that sinful man cannot survive seeing the face of God.  However, God is able to purify us and make us into His Sons, who can look into His face and not die.

We are told that His name will be upon our forehead.  Of course that might seem strange to us and predispose us to reject this as literal.  However, customs always seem strange to those who are not from that culture.  When we stand in that place, we will be a new people with new customs entering into a new world for all eternity.  What strange things will we encounter and participate in then?  There is little detail given about it.  The emphasis is that we are marked by God as a sign that we belong to Him and no other.  On one hand it gives outward assurance to something that we must take by faith in the present world.  Our position in Christ will not be a matter of faith then.  It will be an objective reality.  On the other hand, Satan and his angels have lost their bid to steal the bride of Christ, and thus it represents an eternal declaration of our inseparability.  We are identified with Him forever!

Verse 5 says that there will be no more night.  This is explained as a result of the presence of Christ.  His glory is a source of light that never wanes or is blocked by the rotation of the earth.  In fact, we are not told how far His glory shines.  Perhaps, just as this universe is marked by a great and black darkness with only small points of light here and there, we will find that the new universe will be marked by a great and white light that fills the whole of the cosmos.  Keep in mind that even the present universe is filled with the whole spectrum of electromagnetic radiation.  The darkness we see is actually the limitation of our eyes to see the whole spectrum.  It is possible then that nothing changes but our ability to perceive all the light of God in every spectrum.  Symbolically this means that we will never be separated from God or return to a state of ignorance and deception again.  We will forever bask in the truth and knowledge of God. 

It also says that we will reign with Christ forever.  Literally it says, “into the ages of the ages.”  Like a book left unfinished, so eternity opens up new chapters for humanity to write with God.  God will have kept His promise to the many generations of believers that have put their faith in Him throughout all the ages of this earth.  Every time a dictator rises up and crushes the people beneath them, we grow fearful that it will never come to an end.  However, God promises us that He will bring the reign of evil everywhere in the universe to an end.  We will then reign with Him.

The promises made to Christ’s followers

Before we close, I want to point out some important promises that are stated in the last part of this chapter.   In verse 7 it says, “Behold, I am coming quickly!  Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”  The word translated “keep” has the idea of paying careful attention to something.  It was used of a shepherd keeping his sheep.  It involved careful observation and wise response to what we see, including protection.  We will be blessed if we take the time to carefully observe what God’s Word says, and respond wisely in our lives to what it says.  We also need to protect God’s Word from being twisted in our minds and changed by those who speak like Satan did in the garden.  “Did God really say …”  There is a blessing and a happiness that can only come from taking God’s Word seriously and recognizing that the enemy of God has a vested interest in getting us to fail in our duty to “keep” God’s Word.

Verses 12 and 14 state, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work…  Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the Tree of Life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”  Here we see the emphasis that what has been described is a reward for those who work for Christ.  Yes, we have a foretaste of our reward in this life.  We have the fellowship of other believers and the Holy Spirit within our heart encouraging us.  We also have the good life-experience that often comes with living righteously, although not always (persecution is always not far away and yet, even then, God shows His goodness to us still).  Yet, at His Second Coming, Christ is coming to give us our reward.  Of course there is a flip side to this.  He also comes to give the wicked their “reward,” which in reality is a punishment.  Do not lose heart in following Christ.  You will be rewarded.  I would point out that the emphasis on His coming quickly means that we won’t have time to be lazy and get ready when we see Him coming.  You will either be ready or not.  Thus believers are called to be ready always, always prepared for His coming.

Lastly, verse 17 says, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’  And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’  And let him who thirsts come.  Whoever desires, let him take the waters of life freely.”  What a beautiful promise.  God has not created obstacles to having the living waters.  It is our rebellion and sin that has created barriers.  However, through Jesus, God has removed the barriers and these things are now freely available to those who will come to Christ and simply drink.  It does not cost so much that only the rich man can have it.  Rather, any who will can come and drink the waters of life.  Of course that does not mean it is completely without cost.  It will cost us our pride and identification with this world.  It will cost us the desires and lusts of our flesh.  When we believe God’s Word and live it out in this world, we are spiritually drinking from the Waters of Life.  In the New Creation we shall both spiritually and physically drink the life giving waters of God.  Why would you hesitate or pull back?  Let today be the day that you say, “Yes, Lord, I want to drink life!  I want to hear your word, do it, and live!”

The New Heavens part 2 audio

Tuesday
Oct302018

Your Personal End Times: The Great White Throne

Revelation 20:11-15.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 28, 2018.

Two weeks ago we were looking at that amazing time called the Millennial Kingdom, which lies in our future.  What a wonderful time that will be as we experience life on this earth without war and unchecked unrighteousness.  For the believer who has been resurrected, it will be even more amazing because we will not have a body that is bent towards its own lusts.  Yet, the Bible tells us that the 1,000 years of peace will come to an end when Satan is released from prison and he is able to deceive a vast number of mortal humans to go to war against Christ and His glorified saints.  This Final rebellion is quickly defeated as Revelation 20:9 says, “fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.”  We were then told that the devil would finally be thrown into the Lake of Fire where he will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  Some may wonder why God would put the devil in prison and then release him again.  Though the Bible does not give an explicit reason, it should not escape our insight that the devil and mortal man is given another chance to refrain from rebelling against God.  This seems to be the final argument in the case of God as for why all these are deserving of the Lake of Fire.  Regardless, it is a reality we must all deal with.  Even when given 1,000 years of peace and prosperity, multitudes would choose rebellion and the tyranny of sin over again when given the chance.

Our passage today follows on the heels of the fire falling from the sky and destroying the rebellion.  It focuses on a great day of judgment in which all the wicked dead throughout history will be brought up out of Hades and placed before the Lord.  You will remember that we previous spoke about a person who dies and is not in right relationship with God.  Such a person will find themselves in torments in Hades, the spiritual holding place we call the grave.  Most of what we have talked about has dealt with what the righteous will experience after death, but now we return to the wicked dead.  Though it was clear what their judgment would be when they died, technically they have not been sentenced yet.  One day their experience in Hades will be interrupted by this fire from heaven and they will be resurrected in order to stand before Christ for their sentencing.

The final judgment of creation will occur

Up to this point we have seen that the believers from every generation will have been resurrected and they will have glorified bodies (indestructible, imperishable, etc.).  They have already been judged.  In verses 11-15 we are dealing with the unrighteous dead.

Verse 11 begins with the earth and the heavens flee from the presence of the One who sits on the throne, but no place is found for them.  The idea is that they can’t hide and disappear from the scene as all the unrighteous dead are brought before Christ.  It is very likely that this passage and the fire that falls from heaven in verse 9 are tied to the prophecy that Peter makes in 2 Peter 3:10.  There Peter says, “But the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  This doesn’t fit with what we have seen regarding the 2nd Coming of Christ.  Though we typically think of the Day of the Lord as referring to the Second Coming, it actually refers to the whole period from the pouring out of God’s wrath, to Christ’s 2nd Coming, including the Millennial Kingdom and the Great White Throne Judgment.  So basically the whole universe melts into plasma before the full glory of Christ.

Thus as this creation is removed, we see the source of its melting.  A Great White Throne towers above all the other thrones that have ever been mentioned in Scripture, even Christ’s millennial throne.  This is the heavenly throne of God.  It is white because of the purity of the One who sits upon it.  Simultaneously the Second Resurrection occurs.  Though the phrase is not explicitly stated here, it is a logical necessity from the details of verse 5.  There we are told that the Resurrections that have occurred before this are a part of a class called the First Resurrection.  It then pronounces a blessing on those who participate in the First Resurrection and a danger upon those who do not.  Elsewhere in the Bible the resurrection is always described in two phases or at least two kinds.  Daniel describes two different resurrections it in chapter 12 of his book when he writes, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”  Jesus described two resurrections and in John 5:29 the second one is specifically called “the resurrection of the condemnation.”  Paul describes it in Acts 24:15 as “the resurrection of the unjust.”  Thus the Second Resurrection is a time when all the wicked dead are raised up in order to receive condemnation and shame.

The picture is advanced as we see Hades completely emptied as all in it are brought before Christ.  It also mentions the sea being emptied of any in it and brought before Christ.  This is to emphasize that even those who could not be buried would be brought before Christ.  No one will escape this judgment, but the righteous who have already been judged as worthy of life.

We are also told that both the small and the great are brought before Christ.  No one will be too insignificant to escape this judgment, and no one will be too powerful to resist it.

Next we are told that books are opened and the Book of Life is opened.  The “books” plural are a record of the works and actions of each person.  The Book of Life is a ledger of all the “imagers” of God who have been created.  If they did not put their faith in god and His Christ then their name was blotted out of the book (see Psalm 69:28 and Acts 3:19).  When we put our faith in Christ, our name remains in the Book of Life and the record of our sinful works is blotted out.  Whether these are actual books in the heavens or merely symbols of God’s ability to record everything, it is clear that this is not a trial.  Though evidence is present, there is no rebuttal or counter evidence.  This is a sentencing phase where all will stand silent as the decision of Christ regarding them is made clear and carried out. 

Some have asked this question.  What about the righteous mortals of the Millennium?  It stands to reason that not everyone will join the Final Rebellion.  The glorified saints, of course, are able to withstand the fire that destroys all things.  Though it is not stated, it would seem very probable that any righteous mortals will be instantly transformed and caught up to the side of Christ along with the other glorified saints.  This will complete the First Resurrection.  The resurrected righteous from every generation will stand as witnesses to this judgment alongside Christ.

Those whose names are not in the Book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire.  This is described in verses 14 and 15.  Up until this point, we have seen that the Beast and the False Prophet are the first to go into the Lake of Fire (at the 2nd Coming) and then the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire at the end of the Millennium.  It would seem appropriate that, as the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire, so his angels would be thrown in as well.  Jesus himself said that hell was created for “the devil and his angels.”  (Matthew 25:41).  The wicked humans are now joining the fate of the wicked supernatural beings.  The Lake of Fire is a place of separation from God and all His goodness. 

Thus they will never again be able to interact with God’s creation, specifically the New Heavens and the New Earth that are to be created and appear in Revelation chapter 21.  Nothing that is wicked or potentially could become wicked will be allowed to go into the New Creation.  Adam and eve were in paradise, but they were also ignorant to evil and wickedness.  Thus they could easily be deceived.  The glorified Sons of God who enter into the New Creation will not be ignorant.  We will be completely convinced of the goodness of God.

Let me leave you with the challenge to make sure that you are right with God.  Unless you surrender your life and put your faith in Jesus, you cannot escape the torments of Hades, the Great White Throne Judgment, and the Lake of Fire.  Why choose death?  Choose the life that God puts before you today.  Some reject this offer and present all manner of arguments why God should not be worshipped, but this is folly.  You will not judge God, He will judge you; and you are not truly righteous, but He truly is.

Are you angry at the idea of judgment and resentful towards God and His supposed goodness?  You should read David Guzik’s commentary on Revelation 20:12-13.  Here is part of what he has to say. 

“i. Because this is a sentencing and not a trial, those who stand before the throne have nothing to say. Many think they will “tell God a thing or two” at the final judgment, as reflected in this letter to Dear Abby (a newspaper advice column) written some years ago:

 Dear Abby: I am troubled with something a reader wrote: “What right do we mortals have to demand an explanation from God?” Abby, that writer has never known the gut-wrenching pain of losing a child...

God didn’t answer my prayers, and I resent being told that I have no right to question God. If there is a God, and if I ever get to meet him face to face, you can bet your life I will have plenty of whys for him to answer.

I want to know why my little girl died and why that drunk was allowed to go on living. I love her more than my life, and I miss her so. I am mad that I am having to live in a world where she no longer lives, and I want to know why. Why shouldn’t I have the right to ask God?

Aren’t we supposedly created in his image? If so, surely he has a heart and soul capable of hurting just as I hurt. Why would he not expect to be questioned if he has anything to do with miracles?

I don’t fear the Lord. And I don’t fear hell, either. I know what hell is like. I’ve already been there since the day my precious daughter was killed.

Please sign me... A Bereaved Mother

ii. Of course, there will be no criticism of God on that day. This desperate woman will see not only the righteousness and goodness of God, but she will also see her own sin and rejection of Him more clearly than ever. One could only pray and hope she came to understand how the Father Himself knew the pain she experienced, and sent His Son to give her hope and redemption.”

Great White Throne audio

Tuesday
Oct162018

Your Personal End Times: The Millennium Part II

Zechariah 14:8-11, 16-20; Romans 8:18-25.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 14, 2018.

We are taking time to see what the Bible has to say about the period of time that we call the Millennium.  This is the promise throughout the Old Testament that God would deliver Israel and rule over the nations of the world through His righteous, anointed King, who will sit upon the throne of David.  We are given a taste of this righteous King and his righteous kingdom in the Church.  Jesus is our King and we obey his commands.  However, the fulfillment of these Old Testament passages is about more than a metaphor for our current experience in Christ.  It truly is about an earthly kingdom that will occur when Christ returns to earth.  Thus, our current experience simply prepares us for that reality.

Now the Church has preached that Jesus is the coming King of kings for the last 2,000 years.  It is clear that, though many people within the nations of the world have embraced Him, the governments of the world have no interest in Jesus being King over them.  Not even the “Christian” nations in the West show any true desire for Christ to return and rule over them.  Instead we keep doubling down on our own human wisdom and looking for anyone, someone, who will come along with better answers.  In short the governments do not like the Savior that God has given and seek another savior, or an antichrist.  Eventually God will allow them to have their wish.  However, such a hope will be short lived.  Jesus is destined to reign over the earth and His divine wisdom will usher in a new time of peace that the world has never known.  Let’s continue our look at this 1,000 year kingdom and what it will be like.

The nations of the earth will worship the Lord Jesus

Our first passage today will be in Zechariah 14.  You will notice that the millennial passages in the Old Testament have a distinctive, Jewish flavor to them because the Israeli people will be re-gathered, and Christ will reign from Jerusalem over them and the world.  You may remember Jesus speaking to His disciples in Matthew 19:28.  He promised the Twelve, “In the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (NKJV)   

However, the Millennium is not just about Israel.  It is also about the nations of the world.  Thus Zechariah speaks about the whole earth worshipping the Lord Jesus.  Now, we should not expect that we will have church services exactly as we do now.  However, neither should we expect that all cultures will have to adopt a Jewish-style service.  This passage is not saying that we will have to follow the Old Testament laws on worship.  Rather, it makes clear that there will be universal aspects of worship that all nations will do.  In this case, all nations will gather once a year to celebrate the Feast of Booths (The last feast of the 7 feasts of the Lord, which is in the Fall).  This is a super-corporate event.  It leaves the question of what worship will be the other days of the year.  I believe this passage leaves room for cultural differences, but also makes clear that Jesus will give some specific directions, much like Moses directed Israel in how God wanted them to worship Him.

We are told that there will be some big topographical changes to the area surrounding Jerusalem.  Most of the area will be flattened like a plain.  However, Jerusalem will be raised up above the plain.  This topography actually will occur, but it also symbolizes God’s decree.  All who approach the City of Jesus do so from a humble position and should have an attitude of worship.  In verse 4 we are told that the Mount of Olives will be split in half as the Lord stands upon it.  We are also told that water will flow out of the city of Jerusalem, some towards the Mediterranean Sea and some towards the Dead Sea.  This actual water flow is also intended to symbolize what God is doing spiritually.  His truth will flow towards the East and towards the West and fill the world.  He will lift up Jerusalem and dispense the Life of God to the nations.  Ezekiel 47 actually states that the waters that flow from Jerusalem will heal the Dead Sea so that fish swim in it and vegetation grows around it.  It also states that the water will flow all year long.  In the Pacific Northwest this may not sound like an important statement.  In the Middle East this is a powerful statement.  It will not just be a powerful spring river that is completely dry by the end of summer.  Rather, it will flow continuously, making the land a land of milk and honey once again.  Water shortage has been a big problem in the Near East for centuries.  The fact that this land lacks water and would be barren without modern technology, despite clearly being bountiful during the times of Moses, points to the judgments of God.  During the Millennium the land will be blessed and have plentiful water.

In verse 16 we see the worship of the Millennial Kingdom.  The passage uses the term “survivors” for those who remain after the devastations of the Tribulation, and the Second Coming.  Under the Beast and the False Prophet, the kings of the earth had gathered their armies against Jerusalem in order to destroy it, but now the nations will come up to worship rather than to attack.  The Feast of Booths is also called the Feast of Tabernacles.  In Ezekiel 45 we also see that the Feast of Passover will be observed.  However, it does not say that the people of the earth will gather for it. 

Some believers are bothered by the idea that at least some of the Jewish feasts will be reinstated and that sacrifices are described.  Let’s remember that they are not Israel’s feasts.  They were originally described as the Feasts of the Lord.  Clearly, we will not be under the Old Covenant of the Law of Moses.  However, there will be some symbolic rituals and memorial offerings that will function much like Christian Communion does today.  We do not look to the juice and the bread as our salvation, but rather a celebration of what Christ did.  Thus these feasts and their sacrifices will function the same way during the Millennial Kingdom.  They will point to the work of Christ.  We also should remember that there will be mortals as well as immortals on the earth in those days.  Thus the sacrifices will also testify and remind the mortals of where their salvation lies.  It lies in Jesus and His ability to atone for sins and to forgive them.   This snapshot of global worship doesn’t imply that we will worship only once a year, but that there will be an annual global, worshipful, celebration.

The last part of our section brings up a hypothetical situation where the nation of Egypt might choose not to come to the feast.  It describes the “blow” or punishment that Christ will give to any nation that refuses to come.  They will lack rain in their country until they comply.  This strikes me in two ways.  On one hand it is clear that Christ means business and Egypt will have to comply, if they want their country to survive.  However, on the other hand, there is no executing of rebels and military occupations either.  There will be no tactics of the Antichrist, or the empires of this world, in play here.  His response is both extremely powerful and yet extremely gracious.  It reminds us of the punishment of a Father who does not wish to destroy a child, but rather to help them learn righteousness.  This gives a picture of what the Bible means by the phrase ruling with a rod of iron.  His commands will be unyielding and yet they will still be gracious, as is his character.

It is the hope of all creation

This concludes the passages that we are going to look at, which describe the Millennial period.  However, I want to end today’s lesson by making this one last point from Romans 8:18-25.  In this New Testament passage it refers to the time when Jesus returns to earth as the “hope” of all creation.  Paul seems to personalize all of creation, as he describes its eager awaiting of this time.  It is referred to as the revealing of the Sons of God.  This is what the Apostle John spoke of in 1 John 3:2-3.  “Beloved, now we are the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”  You and I presently do not look like “Sons of God,” which was a phrase used in the Old Testament for the angels.  However, when we are resurrected and come with Christ from the clouds at His Second Coming, it will be made clear, or revealed, just who we really are.  We need this personal revelation from time to time.  Don’t forget what your destiny is and trade it for a bowl of beans in this life.  The whole creation is groaning for deliverance and crying for you and I to be revealed for who we really are, the Sons of God.

We can look at this groaning and travailing of creation in a couple of ways.  First the sentient parts of creation, angels and humans, literally groan and travail.  The righteous angels and righteous men long for the Lord to come back and deliver the earth from the bondage of The Rebellion.  However, there is also a symbolic groaning and travailing that we see in the earth itself, which is racked with quakes, tsunamis, and volcanic activity.  As we approach this blessed event, all of creation will groan more and more, louder and louder.

In verse 20 and following, it refers to the fact that the creation was subjected to futility.  This word has the sense of something that has been perverted and lacks truth, or is devoid of the ability for good.  This is the same word in Ecclesiastes used to translate the Hebrew, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.”  Some versions also translate it “meaningless.”  I believe that Paul has the curse from the Garden of Eden in mind.  There Adam’s sin causes changes to the ability of the earth to produce.  However, this curse was not intended to be forever.  God’s punishment was given in the “hope” that it would one day be removed.  Thus, we should not let the difficulties that we face today cause us to lose hope in the God who will one day lift this curse and celebrate the creation as it was meant to be with us.  This is His promise to those who trust Him.

The freedom of the Sons of God will bring freedom to creation, just as the bondage of Adam, the son of God, brought bondage to creation.  The Millennium is about Jesus, but it is also about His ability to bring forth the Sons of God.  The righteous of every generation are those who put their faith in God.  These will enjoy the glorious freedom of Christ as they are set free from death and this freedom will release freedom upon all of creation.  Thus the Second Adam brings life where the First Adam brought death.  May the Lord fill our hearts with faith even though we may not see these things now.  It is the same Lord, who rose up from the dead and ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father, who will set creation free from the bondage that it is currently under.  Amen!  Don’t squander another minute without turning towards Jesus in faith and trust.  Give your life to Him and become a disciple of the greatest Master who ever lived, God Himself.

The Millennium Part II

Friday
May112018

The Identity of Jesus

Colossians 1:15-20.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 6, 2018.

We have been looking at the book of Colossians.  Paul in the verses before this section has focused on how thankful Christians should be.  The apex of this is to be thankful that we are in “the Kingdom of the Son of His love.”  Though the world of darkness is still around us, believers are part of the Kingdom of Jesus and need not fear the darkness.

In verses 15-20, Paul expands on just who this Jesus is for whom he says we should be thankful.  What Jesus did for us ultimately hinges upon who He is.  Both are important.  So who is this Jesus who has redeemed us to God by His blood at the cross (see verse 14)? 

We are in the Kingdom of the Son of His Love

All kingdoms have a king and Jesus is the King of all believers.  However, he is far more than this.  The Colossians had been influenced by several different views about Jesus.  Some who had a Jewish background saw Jesus as something to be added to the law.  Thus they promoted circumcision and the prohibition of certain foods etc.  Some, who had a Greek background-especially Gnostic ideologies- had difficulty mentally accepting that Jesus could be both fully God and fully human.   Thus you would run various ideas that made Jesus less than the Apostles had taught.  Paul here reminds the Colossians just who Jesus is.

The first point we run into is that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  This is an important concept because in Genesis we are told that mankind was created in God’s image.  We have the ability to reflect attributes of the God who created us.    This is different than being God, but is important nonetheless.  The fall in the Garden of Eden impacted the ability of people to reflect God’s attributes.  The interference of that ancient serpent, the devil, led mankind to experience sin and its death.  Since the Garden no human has perfectly reflected God’s image nor even come close.  This is compounded by the fact that sin separates us from God.  Jesus in his totality is the image of the invisible God in its totality.  He is the only way we have to truly understand what the invisible God is like.  To see One of them is to have seen the other.  Hebrews 1:3 makes this even clearer by saying that Jesus is the “express image” or “the exact imprint” of the Father.

For everyone who has ever wanted God to come down out of the heavens and show Himself, God sends Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t just look like the Father, but He is the manifestation that the Father has given to us so that we may know exactly what He looks like, how He thinks, and just exactly what His plan is.  This is why it is important for us to take the time to find out what God’s Word says about Jesus, not just what people in their wisdom are saying about Him.  Sure we need the help of those who are mature in the faith to get insight into the Word.  But we can never abdicate our responsibility to find out just who Jesus is for ourselves.  Do you want to know what God is like?  Take time to read the Bible, but also spiritually ask God to open your eyes to what the Word is saying about just who Jesus is.  Thus there is a natural part and a spiritual part that go hand in hand.

Next we are told that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation.  Some have tried to make this mean that Jesus is part of the creation and is merely the first created thing.  To them Jesus is not divine in the sense that He is the same essence of the Father.  Rather they would call him divine in the same way that we call angels divine (i.e. that which comes from God).  The problem with this is that this is not what the phrase is emphasizing.  To call Jesus the firstborn is not a way of removing distinctions between Him and creation, but rather inserting one.  If we are talking literally, the firstborn is just as human as his brothers.  But this is clearly a metaphorical use.  The firstborn is not just another brother.  He not only receives a double-portion of the inheritance, but He will be the patriarch when the Father dies.  Thus the firstborn is distinct from his younger brothers.  To say that Jesus is the firstborn of creation emphasizes His authority and place over all of creation.  He is heir to all that belongs to the Father, that is, all of creation.

Now the following words go on to make the last point obvious.  Notice that the creation, both heavenly and earthly, was created by Jesus.  This is made even more explicit in John 1:3.  “All things were made through Him [The Word who is Jesus], and without Him nothing was made that was made.”  Thus Jesus stands outside of the created order, or all things that were made, as The One through who all created things were made.  The logic of these verses makes it impossible to see Jesus as a part of the creation, except for the human form that He took upon Himself at a particular point in time.

Thus the firstborn is used to present the man Jesus in a category that is different than all of creation.  He is the heir and the one who is Lord over all of creation, even though he looked like a man.  In fact in verse 16 three prepositional phrases are used to expound the relationship between Jesus and creation.  Creation was created “by Him.”  This means He is the active agent of its existence.  Next we are told that creation was created “through Him.”  This is not to contradict the prior statement, but instead to add to the meaning.  Jesus is the means by which God the Father brought all things into existence.  Lastly, creation was created “for Him.”  The purpose of creation is found in Jesus.  All things exist because He has a purpose in bringing them all into existence.  It is important for all humans to look to Jesus as their Lord, source of being, and source of purpose.  Without Jesus we will continually bump up against the reality of this as we try all manner of our own purposes for living.

Verse 17 reminds us that Christ is “before all things.”  Before anything existed that has been created, Jesus existed in a relationship with the Father.  At this time He did not have a human body, but was as the Father is.  This is similar to the functioning of Genesis 1:1.  Here we find that before anything was brought into existence, God was already in a state of being.  John emphasizes this in his gospel (John 1:1) by referring to Jesus in His pre-creation state as “The Word.”  This preexistence of Jesus was hard for the religious leaders of His day to swallow (read John 8).  However, to the apostles and those who experienced the powerful words and wonderful acts of Jesus, it was proven in every way and was the only logical explanation (not to imply that they determined this through human reasoning).

Verse 17 also says that in Jesus “all things hold together.”  The idea is that in Jesus all things have been set in relation to each other.  Another way to see this is to look deeper at the word translated here.  The word is translated as “consist” in some translations.  We can compare the word “consist” with the word “exist.”  Existence emphasizes the individual thing has being.  It exists.  However, consistence or to say that something consists is to emphasize its being in relation to everything around it.  Thus even the phrase “all things holds together” falls short of the full spectrum of this word.  Our existence and we fit into all the systems of this creation, whether natural or spiritual, are His doing.

Verse 18 says that Jesus is the head of the body [or Church].  Body is a reference to the Church being the “body of Christ.”  Head refers to the authority, but even more importantly it points to a vital influence that it cannot be without.  Jesus isn’t just the head authority of the Church, but just as a body cannot live without connection to a brain, so the Church has no existence without Christ who is its head.  Thus the image of the headwaters of a river could be used.   The vitality of the Church depends upon its connection to Christ who is our head.  He is the source of our relationship to all of creation (including Father God), but also the source of our purpose and function within it.

The phrase that “He is the beginning” most likely goes with the next phrase that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead.  However it can just be another way of saying He created all things.  So let’s deal with this second firstborn phrase.  Again, the firstborn is intended to set Jesus apart from all that have died.  He alone of all who have died has firstborn status.  This is important because typically if the firstborn dies, someone else has to take his place.  However, Jesus is such a being that his firstborn status is not overcome by death.  Just as He is the firstborn of the living, so He is to those who have died.  This is proven in that He is the only one to enter into death and come back by His own power.  John 10:18 says, “No one takes it [his life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I have received from my Father.”  Thus, those who are dead have not “missed out” on Jesus.  They are included in His authority and as such will be given the right to one day take up their bodily life again, as He has.  In Jesus an emptying of the grave is begun. Throughout history all of humanity has come into being, lived, and then died.  This cycle is overcome and brought to an end in Jesus.  In fact 1 Corinthians 15:22 uses the phrase that Christ is “the firstfruits of those who have died.”  His resurrection is a signal that a greater resurrection is coming and for which we can hope.

Verse 18 ends with the statement that it is God’s purpose that Jesus should have first place in all things.  All spiritual beings, such as angels and cherubim, and all physical beings, such as mankind, are to look up to Christ as the One who has first place and authority over them.  John 5:22-23 says, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”  Also Philippians 2:9-11 says it this way, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Verse 19 states that, it is the Father’s pleasure that in Jesus all the fullness dwells.  “The Fullness” is a phrase that was used at the time to refer to the totality of divine powers and attributes.  This is important for those Greek thinking peoples who had the concept of hybrid beings that were only partially divine.  Jesus wasn’t just full of the Holy Spirit, although that is true.  He embodies the totality of the divine powers and attributes.  Thus He is the source of all that we need and could ever ask for.  When one is in right relationship with “The Fullness” then one never needs to worry.  The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.

As we end this section, Paul points out that it is through Jesus that all things are reconciled to God.  Jesus started the process of reconciling the creation back to The Father.  The chaos of individual choices and sin, whether in the heavenly beings or earthly, has put all of creation out of whack and proper order.  But the work of Jesus at the cross was the place where this reconciliation process was made possible and began.  How about you today?  Are you in right relationship with the Father and His Son, Jesus?  Has your life been reconciled to God by Christ?  Let Jesus become the Lord of your life and He will help you set all things in proper order before the Father as you walk with Him.  How can you say “No” to such an amazing savior?  Trust Jesus as Lord today!

Identity of Jesus Audio