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Weekly Word

Entries in Jesus (124)

Monday
Oct082018

Your Personal End Times- The Millennium Part I

We will have the audio posted some time tomorrow.

Various Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 7, 2018.

Last week we established from Revelation 20 that Christ will rule with the resurrected saints over the earth for 1,000 years.  However, that passage gave us practically no description of what the millennium would look like.  This is most likely because the rest of the Bible is full of descriptions of what the millennium will entail.  Today we are going to go back into the Old Testament and fill in some of the picture of what we will experience as resurrected saints during this 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ upon this earth.

Of course, the real question is this.  Where do you start?  It is like swimming in the ocean.  There is no way we can do justice to the multitude of passages that speak of the coming kingdom of God.  So let me briefly summarize a few passages in this light.  We could go back to Genesis 3 and see God’s promise to Eve that one of her seed would crush the serpent’s head.  The idea is that the one who deceived them and tricked them out of paradise would eventually get his from a particular human.  We could also look at Genesis 11 and 15, where God makes a covenant with Abraham.  Basically God tells Abraham that all the nations of the earth will be blessed by what God does through Abraham’s offspring.  There is also 2 Samuel 7 where God makes a covenant with David, promising that one of his offspring would sit on the throne of David forever.  There is also Psalm 2 where God states that He has anointed a king who is to rule over the whole earth.  Also, it is stated that the world will rebel against this choice and challenges people to put their trust in God’s king.  Thus we see that God has a vested interest in helping mankind against Satan, our spiritual enemy.  He has promised to bless the whole world by anointing a particular individual to be a righteous king over all the earth and crush the serpents head.  This will be a king and a kingdom that lasts forever.

However, today we are going to start in the book of Isaiah, while keeping in mind this backdrop of promises that God has made to mankind.  Here we will see that the Millennial rule of Christ is the promised hope that has been given to the saints of every century and will be established at His Second Coming.

The reign of the Messiah- Jesus

Let’s start in Isaiah 2:1-4.  Though the Old Testament does not explicitly state the name of the Messiah, we now know that it is Jesus.  Of course Jesus is an anglicized transliteration of a Latin/Greek transliteration of a name that is either Hebrew or Aramaic in form.  It would be something like Yeshua or Yoshua, but let’s not get sidetracked.  All these prophecies are pointing towards Him.  He is the one whom God has anointed King of all kings, Lord of all lords. 

In our passage Isaiah describes this coming kingdom and states that it will be a global kingdom.  The language is very clear with phrases like: “established on top of the mountains,” “exalted above the hills,” and “all nations shall flow to it.”  Mountains and hills were often used as symbolic descriptions of kingdoms and empires.  Powerful kingdoms were like mountains towering over the surrounding area, dominating it on every level.  Later in Daniel 2, God gives Nebuchadnezzar a dream in which all the kingdoms of the world are crushed and smashed to pieces by a kingdom that is sent from God.  This kingdom is described as a stone that is cut by God (without human hands) and grows to become a mountain that fills the whole earth.

Now, we are going to see throughout this study that a person can give everything in these passages a spiritual meaning and say that it is already fulfilled or still being fulfilled.  Thus a person can say that Isaiah 2 and Daniel 2 are just talking about a spiritual kingdom, which is the Church today.  Clearly the Church has spread to fill the whole earth, hasn’t it?  I would say that there is a clear spiritual fulfillment of these passages, but that does not mean they will not be physically true as well.  The same God who made humans composite beings of spirit and body, also works among us both spiritually and physically.  When Jesus says in Luke 13:28, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out,” he clearly envisions a day when this will happen.  The plain sense of the passage is that Abraham and the others will be just as physical as those listening to Jesus (that is, a resurrection will have occurred).  Also in Acts 1:6, the disciples ask Jesus if he will restore the kingdom to Israel at this time.  Jesus does not tell them that the kingdom is only spiritual and will never be physical again.  Rather, he tells them it is not for them “to know times and seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”  Thus, there is going to be a day when Israel and Jerusalem will be the hub of the world and all the nations will flow to this place on earth where Jesus will be physically reigning.

Verse 4 makes it clear that it will involve a judgment of the nations.  Of course, we saw this in Revelation 19 and chapter 20.  However, Jesus does not just judge the nations.  He also judges between them.  Think of all the disputes that have built up through the years between many different ethnic groups.  Those who miraculously survive the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ will come before Christ.  There he will separate the sheep from the goats.  Those who are allowed to come into the millennial kingdom will also have long standing disputes with other settled by Jesus.  In fact, it is said that he will rebuke many nations.  Often our bloody feuds with others are nothing but pride masquerading as piety.  Jesus will put an end to these disputes.

He will be so effective that we are told that there will be no more war.  The nations of the world will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”  It is clear that the United Nations will not stop war in its present condition.  It also beggars belief that it could be reformed in any way that would get rid of war.  However, God promises that Messiah will be able to cause war to cease, and not just for a few years.  The only hope for a world that rejects the One Anointed by God is to put a “superman” in power who will represent the greatest wisdom of man.    Whether this is some kind of artificial intelligence or a combined link with “ascended masters,” we cannot know.  Yet, that really is the only path forward for a world in rebellion that refuses to repent.  This man who will supposedly have all the answers will pretend to want peace, but in the end the God of heaven describes him as a beast.  Mankind cannot force peace upon the world.  Only the Spirit of God can bring it.  I find it interesting that the United Nations has a sculpture given to it by Russia in which a naked man is hammering a sword into a plowshare.  It seems to give tribute to the Bible, but in truth it represents a humanistic rebellion.  Yes, mankind has no problem with the goal of no war.  However, they will attempt to accomplish it through humanist means, not divine.  Thus the naked man represents the Greek ideal of mankind doing in the flesh the wisdom of its mind.

It is also easy to get stuck on the terminology used.  Yes, we do not typically use swords anymore (or not nearly as much).  However, the point is clear.  During the millennium mankind will recycle all the weapons of war (tanks, missiles, guns, etc.) and use them to make farming equipment.

The wisdom of Jesus the Messiah

Next let’s go to Isaiah 11:1-2, 6-9.  Here we see the wisdom of the Messiah on display.  In verses 1-2 the image of a menorah (the seven-branched candlestick in the temple) is brought to mind.  The seven lights were a picture of God’s complete wisdom giving complete light to the world.  Each of these seven lights is given a name which makes even clearer that the source of the light (knowledge/truth) is the Spirit of God Himself.  No matter how wise mankind becomes or how great an artificial intelligence we create, when we cast off God’s word and forge a path of our own, we have become fools and our path is folly.  Jesus was and will be successful because He operates from a wisdom that has its source in God.  Notice that verses 3-4 highlight his judgment.  He will not judge by the sight of his eyes or the hearing of his ears.  No one will be able to manipulate him, and he does not have an ulterior motive.  Rather, He judges with righteousness and equity, which is bad news for the wicked and great news for the righteous.

In verses 6-9 we are told that the animal kingdom will no longer be deadly either.  Just as humans were not created to kill one another, so animals were not originally made to destroy one another.  When sin entered the world, it brought a curse and drastic changes to the world itself.  Scripture tells us that the whole of creation groans in expectation for the manifestation of the Sons of God.  The wisdom of Christ will turn back the effects of sin and the curse.  Isaiah gives a list of things that we would not leave alone together in this world because one of them would kill the other: a wolf with a lamb, a leopard with a young goat, a calf with a young lion, a child near a cobra’s hole, or sticking its hand in a viper’s den.  All of these things would strike fear into the owner or parent’s heart.  Yet, they will lie down in peace together.  Their nature will have been changed.  How Jesus will accomplish this is not described, but it seems that, if these things were a judgment of God upon wicked mankind, such judgments are simply being lifted by God Himself.  We are also told that the lion will eat hay like an ox.  Whether such is possible in today’s conditions is irrelevant.  The whole point is that the nature of things is going to change.  The statement may be just as much about the hay itself as it is about the lion.

Now let’s go to Isaiah 35:1-7.  Here we see descriptions of the desert places blooming with life.  Again, we could spiritualize this whole passage to be a blooming of a spiritual desert.  When Jesus came to Israel, it was spiritually a desert, but he caused it to bloom with spiritual life.  The gospel has the ability to bring life into the most spiritually dead of lives.  Again, this would be true, but there is also a natural aspect to this as well.  Through his knowledge and divine power we will see the curse upon Adam turned back.  There will be an increase in the fertility of the earth and an increase in places where water will “burst forth in the wilderness.”  Amos 9:13 says it this way, “’Behold the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”  Many skeptics have scoffed over the years at the idea of Israel being a “land flowing with milk and honey.”  However, it looks like it does because the land is under a curse, much like the whole earth is under a curse.  In that day, the curse on the land and on the earth will be lifted and we will know fruitfulness as we have never known.

Verses 3 through 6 speak to the condition of mankind that has struggled under the heavy load of disease and poverty.  These things will become a memory as Messiah heals.  Some think that this only points to the miracles that Jesus did when he walked on the earth in the past.  However, the miracles he did then were so that we could recognize that he really is the Messiah.  When he comes again, he will have just as much healing power as he did before. 

Just think that the saints of every age will be resurrected so that they can participate in this exciting period of humanity’s existence.  I will close our time today by giving a reminder.  This is just a small part of the plan and hope that God has put before us.  We will take some more time next week to keep looking at this amazing period called the millennial reign of Christ.  However, even then what can we say about the New Heavens and the New Earth that lay beyond it?  Christians are to be those who live today in the light of this coming kingdom because its king is already living in our hearts.  Is Christ living within you by the Holy Spirit of God?  Turn from any wickedness, turn towards Christ, and put your trust in Him.  Then you will be blessed by God with all these things.

Tuesday
Oct022018

Your Personal End Times: After the Resurrection

Revelation 20:1-10.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 30, 2018.

Last week we established that at Christ’s Second Coming believers will either be resurrected, or they will simply return with Him having been resurrected earlier (pre-trib, mid-trib, or pre-wrath).  For many reasons I lean towards the view that sees the resurrection happening prior to the tribulation.  However, it has been humorously pointed out by others that perhaps the best view is those who are “pan-trib,” that is who believe that it will all pan out in the end.  Our salvation has nothing to do with our ability to completely understand the timing of these events, and therefore, we should be very careful to avoid being overly dogmatic about our opinions in this matter.

Today we will pick up after the point that Christ has had the Beast and the False Prophet thrown into the Lake of Fire.  Also the kings of the earth and their armies have been destroyed by Christ and His armies.  Remember, they had been gathered together to try and thwart the coming of Christ.  We will continue to follow the Apostle John’s narrative in chapter 20 of the book of The Revelation.

However, before we do, let me say a word concerning how we interpret Revelation.  Even though Revelation has symbolism in it, I still believe it is intended to have a literal meaning.  What I mean by this is that we should take its words at face value.  If they point to symbolism then we take it symbolically, and if they don’t then we don’t.   Of course it is easy to want to take everything as symbolism.  I think Dr. Ron Rhodes of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries says it best.  He was a regular on the Christian Research Institute’s “Bible Answer Man” program while Dr. Walter Martin ran it.  He says, “My policy is that when the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense, lest you end up in nonsense.”  If we make everything a symbol (even allegory) and nothing is taken at face value, then there is no end to the imaginary interpretations that we can come up with and torture the text to agree with them.  Thus we look for clues and direction from the text whether something is symbolic or literal.

Satan is bound in the bottomless pit

As chapter 20 opens we find the familiar Satan being chained in the bottomless pit.  Some try to interpret this as something that happened in the past and that the events of chapter 20 only describe the Church Age.  However, it stretches the imagination to believe that the Second Coming of Jesus and the jailing of Satan is only a symbol for something that happened in the first century.  It has been stated that if Satan has been in prison over the last 2,000 years then “His chain is too long.”  Yet, this view does not make sense in light of Scripture.  Believers are cautioned against an unchained enemy.  1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Thus Revelation 20 gives us the assurance that once Jesus physically returns to earth, Satan will be imprisoned in what John calls the Bottomless Pit.  This is most likely synonymous with Tartarus of Peter’s letter (2 Peter 2:4-6).  Though we have not studied through Revelation in this series, Revelation 9 and 11 both state that the Beast rises up out of the Bottomless Pit.  Now whether that means the Beast is a manifesting, fallen angel, or that a spirit that comes out of the Bottomless Pit will inhabit a willing human, it seems to be the place in which God imprisons spirit beings.  It is also interesting to note the irony that Satan tried to hold Christ prisoner in the grave.  Now the tables are turned.

In Revelation 12:9 and here in verse 2 several things are tied together.  The serpent of old is a reference to the Garden of Eden.  It wasn’t just a snake that tricked Eve.  It really was an inter-dimensional being from among the Sons of God who was speaking to her that day.  Satan is also called the dragon, which connects with serpent and dragon passages of the prophetic books in the Old Testament.  The serpent-dragon-sea creature is an image of evil that goes back to the beginning of mankind and points to this being, Satan or the devil.

We are told that the purpose of this imprisonment is so that he will no lo longer be able to deceive the nations while Christ is physically ruling over the nations of the earth.  Scripture does indict mankind for its rebellion and sin.  However, it also points out that man’s sin has been made worse through the spiritual interference of Satan and his angels.  We really are being played and spurred on by supernatural forces.  This is seen in the Garden of Eden where Satan himself tempts Eve to rebel against God.  In Genesis 6 we again see the spiritual interference as the Sons of God (a class of spirit beings) come down to mankind and lead them in wickedness.  After the flood we are once again confronted with spiritual interference as God judges the Tower of Babel project and rejects the nations.  Deuteronomy 32:8 and Psalm 82, make it clear that the spiritual powers who were supposed to help mankind, forsook their proper duty and encouraged mankind in wickedness.  The New Testament often refers to the powers of the air and the prince of this world as spiritual forces.  What a groan of relief will come from the collective mouth of mankind as Satan and his spiritual forces are removed from the earth.  It is hard to conceive of what that will be like since it is all we have ever known.

Next we are told that he is bound for 1,000 years and then he will be released for a little while.  We will come back to that later.  Now in the Old Testament many passages speak of the Messiah’s reign over all the earth and how it will be a time of peace.  Passages like Zechariah 14, Isaiah 11, and Isaiah 65 are just a few.  However, none of them give a length for it.  In fact, we could say that even in Revelation it doesn’t end after 1,000 years.  Rather, it goes into a new stage.  It is here that it is twice stated that there will be a period of 1,000 years in which Satan is bound and Christ rules.  This is where we get the term “Millennium” for the time of Christ’s earthly rule.  It means one thousand years.  Some try to make this a symbolic number by saying that it only means a long period of time.  But 1,000 years makes complete sense and there is nothing in the text that requires us to make it symbolic.  Most nations or empires last hundreds of years.  Thus the Messiah’s rule lasting a thousand is most likely literal and points to his wisdom and power.  It is even more insulting to the intelligence of the average person to say that we are in this period right now.  We are not in the Millennium and the earthly rule of Christ has not yet begun, regardless of those who say it is symbolically occurring right now.

Jesus reigns with his saints in the millennium

Starting in verse 4 we turn away from Satan and towards the governance.  It is interesting that we are not given much description of life during the 1,000 years.  We are only told about its setting up and its ending.  However, the Old Testament passages that point to Messiah’s reign do give us a flavor of what it will be like.

We are told that thrones are set up and “they sat upon them.”  The “they” does not have a clear antecedent, but I believe it points back to Christ and His holy ones, or saints.  We are told that we will be in charge of judging angels in 1 Corinthians 6:3.  Thus the beginning of this period will no doubt include the judgment of those angels who have worked with Satan to abuse mankind, and also would include the judgments of Matthew 25 where the nations are judged and separated into the sheep and the goats.

Verse 4 also directly references that the souls of those beheaded during the Beast’s horrible, but short, reign will live and reign with Christ.  Some people think that this must be when the resurrection happens.  However, it doesn’t actually say it happens at that time.  And, even if it does, it doesn’t preclude an earlier resurrection.  I think the point is the same as that in 1 Thessalonians 4.  It is easy to fear that those who are killed or die before Christ’s coming will somehow miss out.  Here our minds are set at ease that even those who were dying in those last years will be able to reign in the millennium.

In verse 5 we are told that this is the First Resurrection.  Now this must mean something more than just first in sequence because Jesus was the first to be resurrected and this happened many years before the events of Revelation 20 (John clearly knew this).  In Matthew 27:52-53 we are also told that some of the Old Testament saints were resurrected at the same time as Jesus and even went into the city and “appeared to many.”  In Revelation 11, we also have the resurrection of the two witnesses who even ascend into heaven.  We have also talked about the clear possibility that there is a wholesale gathering together of believers in immortal form in heaven.  Thus in relation to Revelation 20, this is the first resurrection (Note: that the second resurrection is in verses 12-13 and involves the wicked dead being brought before God for judgment).  However, in relation to the previous resurrection it is of the same kind.  Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).  The First Resurrection is the Resurrection of the righteous and there is an order and timing to it that involves at least two events (the firstfruits and the gathering) and perhaps more.  The First Resurrection is a class of resurrection in which those who belong to Christ are raised up in the order that God has decreed.

Some seem to get the idea that only saints who are killed in the tribulation get to participate in the millennium, but this is not what John is trying to say.  Rather, he is emphasizing that they will not miss out.  They too will be resurrected and participate in this millennial kingdom.  As it says, the saints will be priests who reign with Christ throughout this 1,000 years.

The final rebellion occurs

Verse 7 begins another transition in the text.  We now jump to the end of the 1,000 years and Satan is released from his prison in the Bottomless Pit.  Of course, as if on cue, he immediately begins to deceive the nations.  I would assume some time elapses here.  However, it seems that he is able to gather an army that surrounds the capital city of Jesus and the saints.  This is presumably Jerusalem, though it is not named in the passage.  There is not much fan fare.  Rather, John describes a fire coming down from God out of heaven to destroy the army (verse 9)  Because verse 11 has the earth and the heavens fleeing away from the presence of God and the emergence of a New Heaven and a New earth, some connect this fire from God with 2 Peter 3.  This seems to be a cosmic melt down in which the elements completely dissolve.  This creation is doomed to be consumed by a fiery conflagration.  Of course such a fire is not a problem for those who are immortal. 

Lastly in verse 10 we are told that the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire where he is to be tormented night and day forever.  Finally the arch-deceiver will come to an end as God separates him from all of creation and especially the creation which is to follow this event.

As we bring our time today to a close, it is good to ask ourselves why God would allow Satan another shot.  Why not throw him in the Lake of Fire to begin with?  There seems to be a point that God is making with the millennium and the final rebellion.  Even when God steps in forcefully, removes evil, and enforces good, many people will still choose evil.  Man is not basically good, and neither is his evil only from his environment.  No we are capable of choosing evil even when we have enjoyed the good life and perfect peace.  So check your heart today.  Where are you spiritually?  Don’t let the devil and his lies deceive you into thinking that God is something to be cast aside or attacked.  In the end God’s plan will happen.  The only question is where you will fit in that equation.  Choose life!

After the Resurrection Audio

Tuesday
Sep042018

Your Personal End Times: What is after death?

Various Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 2, 2018.

Today we continue to look at the end times from a personal perspective rather than from a global one.  Last week, we emphasized the biblical teaching that we are given one life to live on this earth and then we face judgment.  We also pointed out that God’s ultimate purpose is to resurrect all who have died and thus lift mankind out of this mortal condition in which we have found ourselves for ages.  However, there is a large amount of time between the death of most people who have lived and the time of the resurrection.  Note: In a later sermon, we will deal with the reality that there is a resurrection of the righteous and a resurrection of the wicked that do not happen at the same time, but are both at the end of the current age.  So what happens to people in between their physical death and their later resurrection?

Some passages use the terminology of sleeping and have led some people to believe that this is literal.  Thus they teach that the soul of an individual, after death, will go into an unconscious state and awake at the resurrection.  However, it is generally understood to be a euphemistic way of referring to death.  Too many passages exist in which we see the souls of those who have died as conscious and aware.  Yet, what does that look like?

Today we will look at the first of two possible experiences after death.  Scripture promises all who belong to Christ, both those who died before the cross and those after it, that they will be with Him in heaven when they die.

Those who belong to Jesus got to be with Him in Heaven

We cannot list all the passages that directly or indirectly make this point clear.  However, let’s look at several passages that give us a picture of what lies beyond death for those who belong to Jesus.

Luke 23:42-43 involves Jesus on the cross.  One of the thieves mocked Jesus, but the other one was clearly repentant.  He then says to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  The reply of Jesus is, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.”  Notice that Jesus emphasizes that it will happen today.  So is paradise a place in the grave (more on this later) or is it another term for Heaven, God’s dwelling place?  In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, the Apostle Paul speaks of a person who was “caught up to the third heaven,” and then describes it again as “caught up into Paradise.”  Clearly he is equating the third heaven and Paradise.  It was common to see the cosmos as having a first heaven, the atmosphere, a second heaven, what we call outer space, and the third heaven, a spiritual place where God dwells.  Another point to make is that the directional language used for Paradise is upwards, i.e. “caught up.”  The grave is never described in the Old Testament or the New Testament as being up.  It is always down, and in the dust of the earth.  So, Jesus is promising more than that the thief will join him in the grave.  The other thief would be in the grave as well (admittedly not with Jesus).  The promise is that he would be with Jesus in heaven.

This promise is made in other passages as well.  In Philippians 1:21-24, Paul describes his potential death as “a desire to depart and be with Christ.”  Basically, his argument is that it is good to be alive on this earth because we can labor for Christ and help each other.  However, it is a better condition to depart this life, i.e. die, and be with Christ.  There is no suffering and difficulty for us in that condition.  This is a clear equation from Paul.  He knows that for him to die is to be with Jesus.  Let’s look at another passage.

2 Corinthians 5:4-9.  In this passage it becomes clear that there are three possible conditions for a believer in Christ.  The first is that we are on this earth with a mortal body.  In this condition we should make it our aim to please the Lord because He is the source of the other two conditions.  Upon our death, those who “please the Lord” enter into the second condition, which is a soul that is with Jesus and without a physical body.  The second state is seen as more desirable than the first state.  Yet, the first is necessary to reach the second.  Even better than being a soul that is with Jesus and without a body, is to be with Jesus and to have a glorified body.  This passage emphasizes the promise of God that we will have a glorified body (also called a heavenly body) that is incorruptible and immortal, at the resurrection of the righteous.

Believers in Jesus can be confident that when they leave this life behind, they will not cease to exist or go into an unconscious state.  Rather, we will be in the presence of Jesus in a spirit form, of which we have very little information to satisfy our curiosity.  Right now Jesus is at the right hand of the Father awaiting the command to come to earth and set up His earthly kingdom.  Also, there are countless believers who are with Him waiting for the day that they will receive their resurrection bodies and join Him in His triumphant return to Earth.

Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16

So what about this story that Jesus told?  For the sake of time I will assume you have read Luke 16:19-31.  In this story there is a very poor man who is full of sores and has to beg for his food.  His name is Lazarus.  There is also a very rich man who is apparently healthy, has costly clothing, and never wants for food.  It is clear that the rich man did not help Lazarus.  The only consolation Lazarus received was dogs licking his sores.  Both men die, but they have very different fates.  Lazarus is carried by angels to a place referred to as Abraham’s Bosom.  It is not clear if this is just a description or an actual name for the place.  We are told that the rich man is buried and then finds himself in torment in Hades.

Now Hades is a Greek term that is synonymous with the Hebrew word She’ol.  Both of them essentially refer to the grave.  Though it can be used to refer to a physical grave, it typically refers to a spiritual holding place for the spirits of those who die.  In the story the grave is depicted as having two compartments, a place of torment for people like the rich man and a place of comfort for those like Lazarus.  Clearly the main teaching is that we should be careful how we live our life because our life on earth directly impacts what we will experience after death.

In the days of Jesus it was believed that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing, and so the rich man may have felt that surely his condition after death would be just as fair.  Similarly, a person like Lazarus would be seen as cursed by God, and could not hope for a good condition after death.  Notice the reversal of fortunes.  Those who live selfishly, without thought for God and their fellow man, will be in torment when they go to the grave.  However, the souls of the righteous (whether destitute as Lazarus or else) will receive comforts and no longer suffer.  Both cases are depicted as spiritually alive and conscious. 

Why isn’t Lazarus in the presence of God?  It appears that until Jesus actually paid the price for the sins of the world, those who put their faith in God had to wait in the “nice side” of the grave to enter His presence.  Once Jesus paid the price on the cross, he then went into the grave.  There he proclaimed his victory over sin and death.  This would be good news to the righteous, but a shattering of any hope for the wicked (see 1 Peter 3:18-20).  Some believe that Ephesians 4:8 refers to Jesus leading the righteous captives out of the captivity of the grave and into heaven.  Whether this verse is intended to reference this or not, it seems stretched to think that only believers after the cross could go to heaven after death while those before the cross must stay captive in Abraham’s bosom.  In John 8:47 and John 16:15, Jesus taught that everyone who “belonged to the Father” would believe on Him.  Thus all that belonged to the Father (before Christ came) essentially belonged to Him.  Would not that which belongs to Christ be with Him?  The price has been paid.  At this moment all the righteous and faithful of every generation back to Adam are with Jesus at the right hand of the Father, and believers who die today immediately join that multitude in Heaven.

There are objections to taking Luke 16:19-31 literally.  They say that this is just a parable and thus is only emphasizing that our life on earth sets us up for a good or bad experience in the afterlife.  Thus they would ignore the descriptions as merely props used to get an idea across rather than specifics.  The problem with this is that if this is a parable, it is the only one where one of the characters is named.  An even bigger problem is that the parables of Jesus were always true-to-life.  Jesus did not tell Aesopian Fables involving turtles and hares.  His stories always represented real experiences that happened every day.  Why would this be the one parable where we would say the story does not represent real experiences that people who are dying have every day?  There is no strong reason.  Thus I believe that the story is intended to give us a real look into the grave and give us a rough picture of what it will be like.

Today, I encourage you to think about your life.  We are not all as destitute and seemingly cursed as Lazarus, and most likely you are not as well off as the rich man in the story.  However, it is important how you live this life because it will impact what you will experience after your death.  If you want to be in the presence of God when you die, then I encourage you to put your faith in Jesus, rather than in yourself or the things of this world.  Admit to God that you are a sinner in need of saving.  Believe that God sent Jesus to pay the price for your sins and that His teachings are the way for you to live your life.  Then publically confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  Those who embrace Jesus in faith have a bright future ahead of them in which not even physical death and the grave are bad things.  They simply become our promotion from the teaching grounds of this life into the presence of God Himself.  Choose to follow Him today!

What is after Death audio

Monday
May282018

The Mystery of Christ in Us

Colossians 1:21-29.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 27, 2018.

Today we are going to pick up where we left off several weeks ago in Colossians chapter 1.  The Apostle Paul had written about how great Jesus was and just exactly who he was.  In our verses today we see that this amazing Jesus that Paul has described is within us.  The idea that Christ would dwell within us is wonderful and is the reason why we have any hope of glory.  Let’s look at the passage.

We are reconciled to God by Jesus

In verses 21-23 we are reminded that we have been reconciled to God by Jesus.  Now, reconciliation can be seen in two different ways, both of which are found in Scripture.  The first can be seen in a legal way.  God is the judge and our life is filled with breaking His law.  Jesus covers our sin so that it is not put on the moral ledger of our life.  Instead, His righteousness is credited to our ledger.  Thus we can stand before the judge and be blameless and above reproach.  Jesus is the one who makes us right with God our judge.

The second way to view reconciliation is to see it in a relational way.  God created us to be His children.  We have left Him like the prodigal son and have become destitute.  Yet, Jesus has brought us back to the Father and made peace between us and the Father.  We are brought into God’s family and are right with the Father because of Jesus, the faithful older brother.

Both of these pictures are biblical.  However, there is a tendency among some Christians today to only use the Fatherly image and to reject the Judge image.  We should be careful of over-emphasizing either one.  God in His wisdom has given us both, and we should not make ourselves wiser than Him.  There are times when one or the other is more appropriate for what we are facing.

We are told that before Christ reconciled us to God we were alienated and separated from God.  In fact he states that this was “in our minds.”  Our thoughts and understandings were so far removed from God’s that we were practically enemies, whether we were trying to be or not.  Thus our life was filled with “wicked works.”  These works, whether internally or externally, have been rejected by God as acceptable behavior and will be judged by His Anointed One, Jesus.

However, now we are reconciled to God (vs. 22).  We are no longer alienated and separated from God by our sins.  We are now close to God, both legally and relationally.  To be reconciled to God is to be “blameless and above reproach” in God’s sight.  This idea is found throughout the Old Testament.  Adam and Eve began in such a condition and fell.  Noah, Abraham, Job, etc. all were described as blameless before God.  This can only be done by living in faith towards God.  This is the goal of our reconciliation.

It is interesting that Paul emphasizes that this is through the death of “the body of his flesh.”  His point is that Jesus was a real man who died a real death, at a particular point in time.  This is important.  The apostles were not pointing back into the mists of pre-history towards a mythical being.  Rather, they pointed to a man that anyone in Israel would have been very familiar with, both his life and death.  It was the death of Christ's earthly body that brought about this grand reconciliation.  It would be impossible had he not died.

Yet, in verse 23 he raises a clear caveat.  We are reconciled to God if we continue in the faith.  No one should think that they can walk away from faith in Christ and still remain reconciled to God.  Reconciliation is not a magic wand that is waved over our life, but a position we have been put in by Jesus.  To walk away from Him is to walk away from reconciliation with God.  This is why Paul uses the phrase “grounded and steadfast” in the “hope of the Gospel.”  Are you convinced that Jesus is the answer for everyone in the world?  That is the crux of the Gospel.  Only in Christ can every man, woman, boy, and girl experience reconciliation with God.

Yet, in order to remain, we must resist those things that would “move us away” from it.  Whether people or societies and the philosophies and teachings that they promote, we must persevere in faith.  He does not say persevere in godly conduct, but in faith.  Our state of being reconciled to God is based upon our faith in Christ, not our godly conduct.  However, our conduct will grow in godliness as we keep our faith in Jesus.

We are sacrificially served by others

In verses 24-29 Paul explains what he was personally doing.  He was sacrificially serving them for Christ’s sake.  It is good to recognize that this is how God works.  He does this through having parents sacrificially serve children for the sake of their good.  He does this through instituting government for the good of nations.  He does this through church leaders for the good of all believers.

In serving them for Christ, Paul had suffered many afflictions.  He was able to keep faithful because it was Christ who had reconciled him to God.  He also did so in order to “fill up what is lacking in the afflictions [sometimes translated “tribulations”] of Christ.”  Paul does not mean that Jesus had failed to suffer enough to completely save us, and therefore we have to suffer to make up the difference.  There are some misguided individuals who think that they can become more special to God by inflicting suffering upon themselves.  However, Paul is speaking of suffering and afflictions that came from others as he did what Christ wanted him to do.  He suffered for the sake of others, not for his own sake.  Those who serve others bear the sufferings of such for the sake of those they serve.

What Paul means is something quite different, when he writes about what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ.  The afflictions that Christ faced, while he was in ministry and while he was being crucified, represent the hatred the world has for God.  Thus the man Jesus who was limited in time and space could only suffer a small part of humanity’s hatred towards God.  Thus the Church is called the body of Christ.  By their actions towards the body of Christ in every age, the world has demonstrated over and over again its hostility towards God.  Paul rejoiced to be a part of that glorious calling of standing with Jesus before a world that wants to crucify us both.  Why would he rejoice in this?  He would rejoice because he knows that it pleases God.  And, if God is pleased it doesn’t matter what the world may think.

Paul had been called to minister to them and us.  The word for minister here is the same word for “deacon.”  It was a very general word for someone who served on behalf of another.  It could be a very low position or a very high position (like an aid to the president).  The emphasis is on the service you do on behalf of another entity.  Thus Paul served people out of a duty to Christ.  All that he did, he did to serve God’s people for God’s purposes.

A major part of God’s purpose was to reveal something in Christ that had been a mystery in the times before his coming.  The Old Testament was God’s Word and yet much of God’s ultimate plan was somewhat hidden in it.  Little by little from Genesis to Malachi we see God giving glimpses of what He was going to do.  It has been said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.  The Old Testament prophets had made many prophecies promising God’s help.  Yet, even those prophets did not understand perfectly all that God would do.  Thus it was a mystery that was being revealed through Jesus and His apostles.  It is the preaching of the apostles that reveals the great mystery of the ages past.  It is a mystery that is no longer a mystery.  There is no hidden code in the New Testament for us to uncover.  What was concealed has already been revealed.  The distinction of Israel being the people of God and the gentiles being rejected was to be overcome in Christ.  He would make the two One, holy body of people who belong to God.  On top of this, God would dwell, not in a temple made by human hands, but within the heart and soul of every believer.

Paul calls these things glorious riches.  Many people look to many things for glory and riches.  Kids are taken to basketball or football camps at early ages, and they are put in educational programs much earlier than normal, all in the hopes of getting ahead of the competition, glorious riches.  But our hope of glory is Christ dwelling within us.  This is the foundation of our hope for glory. It does not lie in us, but in Jesus.

As we close we should note that in verses 28-29 Paul describes his motto in ministry: “Him we preach.”  He mentions this same concept several times throughout his letters.  In 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 it says, “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;  but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness…”  We preach Christ, and Him crucified!  Many teachers claim to know a great number of things, but Paul focused on only knowing Christ, and a crucified Christ at that.  This is a stumbling block to many people, because our flesh looks for a source of glory that is nobler than that. 

This is why Paul spent so much time writing letters, which warned, counseled, and taught believers what it means to belong to Christ and put your faith in Him.  Paul recognized that to follow Jesus was only possible if Jesus was the one working it in you (vs. 29).  Only He has the power to help us change.  So what is Christ working in you?  I pray that today you will embrace the Lord Jesus Christ in a fresh way.  I pray that you will rejoice in the glory that is ours because we are reconciled to God through our faith in Jesus Christ.  Let the Holy Spirit work through you as He worked through Paul in order to further God’s purposes in the lives of the people whom He has put in your life.  Amen!

Mystery of Christ audio