The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation #5: The Words of the Covenant are Literal

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Introduction to Pillar Two

You’ve heard it said, “Don’t miss the forest for the trees.” It is helpful to frequently remind ourselves of this principle. In this in-depth series we are trying to see the whole forest of Scripture, or the big picture, as explained in many Scriptures and through the diagram above. But, in order to understand what that forest comprises (which species of trees we are seeing, the color of the soil in which they are growing, the size of their trunks) you could say that we are walking a direct path on the ground of truth from one end of the biblical forest to the other. On this journey we are stopping to look at the trees of Scripture. At the end of the path we can ascend  Mt. Zion and behold the whole Gospel as the woodlands we have just traversed.

This is now our fifth installment in this Gospel series. Having discussed how the Creational and Covenantal identities of God relate to each other in Scripture we can now walk through the passages relevant to pillar two in the diagram linked above. We are steadily building on what we’ve learned and using it as the foundation for what we are establishing. We are slowly creating our biblical theology which is just a fancy way of saying what we understand or know about God from the Bible. 

Let’s briefly review the past four posts for the sake of those perhaps just joining in with the series.

The Gospel is Creational

God created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1 and therefore possesses them as His own––they belong to Him. Likewise, God also created man and breathed life into his nostrils making man a living being, so humans also belong to Him. The sum total of reality as we know it – the heavens and the earth- is the place God has created to interact with His creation. He himself dwells inside this creation, in the heights of the heavens, not outside of time or in another “realm”. This is really good news and what makes our Gospel Creational.

The Gospel is Covenantal

God established a covenantal framework in Scripture to testify to the surety of His words. In the sun, moon, and stars we behold signs, testimonies that God’s covenant holds firm and is trustworthy. The sun still rises today because of God’s covenant with creation and the silver moon will fill the night sky while you sleep tonight because of the same. In short, He has put things in the sky to tell mankind that He is trustworthy, while all-powerful. He is showing that His words spoken in the beginning still do what they did then — enforce that what He says about the future will certainly have the same outcome. This is really good news and shows how the creation is tied to the biblical good news also being Covenantal.

The Edenic Account and Beginning of Sin

After God created the earth and man He planted a garden in the east of Eden and gave man a command of obedience. Man listened to Satan and disobeyed this command. Being expelled from the garden, he was subjected to the discipline God chose: he would now have to contend with sin, no longer be immortal, and would be reminded of the effects of this disobedience through the curse which was placed upon him and the earth. But, this disciplinary time would come to an end! There would come forth a Seed from Eve that would crush the head of the serpent and remove the effects that sin had caused to fall upon the earth and man.

The Messianic Seed of Promise

As God had established a covenant with the earth in creation through speaking words, God now made a covenant with man in Genesis 3:15 that will certainly take him back to that original sinless state he experienced in the garden. This covenant points not only to forgiveness of sins, but to the final end-time deliverance when God accomplishes the fullness of His original plan, ending this age of wickedness ruled by Satan and beginning the age of righteousness ruled by Jesus, when man and God are finally completely reconciled and able to live together again on this very earth as in the garden. This promised resurrection and regeneration of life stands as the hope of our future!

This promise to Adam and Eve was confirmed through God’s covenant with Noah and his lineage and proven by the miraculous preservation of the lives of him and his family in the global flood. Attached to this event, God gave the miracle of the rainbow which still fills the sky after downpours of rain, screaming that God is faithful and true to what He said. This is such good news and furthers the point that the biblical Gospel is Covenantal.

The Hope of the End Seen From the Beginning

To the apostles there was an anchor of hope in the future contained in promises of the past.

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope,” (Rom. 15:4).

“…that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets…” (2 Pt. 3:2).

The good news written in earlier times (Torah) instructs us as we perceive the origins of existence, the explanation of how things have become the way they are, and the way God’s plan of salvation will unfold. The first five books of the Bible inform us of the anchor of our hope––the very quintessential idea of salvation––the Seed who will crush the head of the serpent! If we persevere in the encouragement of these Scriptures our hope holds firm, fixed to this day in the future that is certain according to God’s word. If we choose to believe this we are truly able to “keep sober in spirit, fix our hope completely on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (c.f. 1 Peter 1:13) knowing that He will indeed appear soon as the fulfillment of hope and that The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet… (Rom. 16:20).

Recapping Our Approach

We should lodge in our minds again the simple principle by which we are approaching Scripture. The Biblical story is linear traveling from point A to point B. Point A is creation and point B is culmination when the original plan of God is eventually fulfilled. The space in-between point A and point B is the story of Scripture encapsulating history past, present, and future. What God says in Genesis 3:15 plays out linearly in Genesis 4 through Revelation 22. It is truly this simple.

As we now begin to look at the Scriptures regarding Abraham, the same principle applies. What God says to Abraham in Genesis 12-22 will play out in a linear format from Genesis 23 through Revelation 22, slowly bringing about the divine fulfillment of what God promised to Adam, Noah, and Abraham.

The Anchor of Literal Interpretation of Scripture

As we approach the Abrahamic covenant there are some things we must first work through. Again, the clouds of theology hang over the words here and their literal interpretation. What I will be presenting is a very literal interpretation of the words God spoke to Abraham, while showing from the Scriptures how they actually have a very literal future fulfillment. I have been accused of being crassly literal. I am ok with people thinking that. This is simply my conviction of how we ought to understand the things God says with His own mouth. I am filled with joy at the prospect of standing before the judgment seat of Christ and hopefully hearing Him say “You trusted and believed My words,” rather than, “You unbelieving fool!”

The question I believe we should try and answer by the end of our Bible is: Of all the things God has promised with His own divine mouth, what has not yet been fulfilled, or accomplished? I believe this to be a very biblical question to ask because Jesus very plainly said, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished,” (Matt. 5:18). A good student of the Bible recognizes that there are many things not yet accomplished. A good student with an equally good hermeneutic does not relegate what’s unfulfilled to “spiritual interpretation,” but trusts that it has simply not happened yet. 

Many today seek to justify their unanswered questions through a method of spiritual interpretation. In my opinion it is the oddest cop-out. Spiritual interpretation is basically defined as follows: God did not mean for us to understand His words literally––that they must have a literal fulfillment––but rather He wanted us to understand them spiritually––that they are open to having different interpretations other than direct literal fulfillment. I firmly disagree with this approach. If we take Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 literally, then every single word of the Law will be accomplished. This produces a simple firm anchor of hope and trust we can have in His words.

Inevitably, whenever we give the answer that a literal promise God made in the Old Testament has been “spiritualized” in the New, we are actually saying, “God did not intend the words of His mouth to be understood literally. After many years of theological study we men have finally figured out what God actually meant by what He said.” I need not stress the absurdity of such presumption in modern theology, but for the sake of clarity let’s use an example.

Let’s take one of the hardest examples that is commonly interpreted in different ways. In Genesis 12:3, God says to Abram “…in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.” What does God mean here…? Let me break this down from the original Hebrew for you. It translates literally as: in you (Abram) all the families of the earth will be blessed. Yes, it means exactly what it says. Is this complicated? No, this isn’t rocket science friends. Remember what we’ve discussed at length thus far: God’s words are covenantal in nature. The sun is rising today because God simply told it to literally rise in Genesis 1; in the same way, God said Abram’s descendants will be a blessing to the nations of the earth, and this will happen––the sun is confirming the surety of His words at this very moment. Many of us would respond to this truth with an emphatic “yes”! 

If the promise is made to Abram and his lineage as described in detail in the chapters that follow, then we take it at face value, playing it out to its logical end which is Abraham’s descendants possessing this irrevocable calling to bless the nations of the earth. This can only logically happen in the future when Messiah returns and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth (Is. 62:7) since, “You are My Servant, Israel, in Whom I will show My glory.” Furthermore,

“Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes round about and see; they all gather together, they come to you,” (Is. 60:1-3).

In the context of Isaiah 60 it is clear we are discussing ethnic Israel and the land of Israel after Jesus’ second coming. In that time this also happens:

“Many nations will come and say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem,” (Mic. 4:2).

The prophets are replete with passages like these that communicate a restored Jerusalem with restored Jews within it and gentiles flooding to the city to learn. In performing such a critical role Abram’s lineage will clearly be a blessing to the whole earth. We will go much further into this in the future sessions.

The deeper question to ask might come from Genesis 17:7-8. It is a simple question which divides theological camps today. God says to Abraham,

“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

When we read this passage there is one immediate question at hand. Does God intend for Abraham and His lineage and all others who read this after the promise was made to believe that He meant everlasting when He says everlasting? Clearly I am begging the question here because the question itself is fallacy.

I tell my friend that I am coming to his house on Wednesday at 5pm to eat dinner. I then go hiking on Wednesday at 5pm. He calls me on the phone at 5:15pm Wednesday and says “Where are you?” to which I respond, “You fool! I can’t believe you took what I said literally! You should’ve understood that I meant Sunday when I said Wednesday, and by 5pm I meant 11am!” The absurdity of this analogy embodies the theological games men play today. If I cannot take God at His word, then how can I know anything about Him or His Scriptures? Everything becomes subjective and ambiguous––open to interpretation. However, if God simply means everlasting because He is truth, and His word is truth, and He is not a man that He should lie, then I would rather trust His words and simply receive them humbly.

However, there are many who question such a literal future fulfillment. “Well, isn’t Jesus the true lineage of Abraham?” they say. “And hasn’t Jesus become a blessing to the nations?… Isn’t Jesus the light of the world? Hasn’t Jesus inherited the land as a possession?” The answer is yes, Jesus is all these things, and He has technically inherited these things (although they by right belong to Him, He has not yet claimed them). But, that does not mean that the ethnic descendants of Abraham will not also be the things God promised. So often people seem to conclude that since Jesus is the light of the world, Israel cannot be a light to the nations. But, that is nonsense! Jesus is the light of the world, but there also remains a promise God made to Abram, which He expands upon through the prophets, that Abram’s descendants would become a light to the nations. It is both.

In fact, let me make plain the inescapability of a literal future interpretation of these promises. Even those who insist that God’s words to Abram are fulfilled only in Jesus must acknowledge that there still remain aspects of these promises for Jesus in His own fleshly frame to inherit at a future time (see Daniel 7)! Let us take one example: Jesus possesses the land of Israel as His inheritance currently, but clearly He has not claimed this right yet, because, as the news channels constantly and solemnly testify,  there is presently a severe problem in the land of Israel––it is perilously divided.  Equally, Israel currently “possesses” the land on paper, but they also cannot drive out their foe. Plainly, there must be something yet future in these promises. Jesus, the faithful Jew, will certainly make His own kinsmen inherit at a future date the promises that He in His own flesh must also wait to inherit.

Call me crazy, but if everlasting means everlasting God is going to make good on His promise to Abraham’s ethnic lineage. We must not conclude that Jesus spiritually became Israel or that all of the promises God made to Abram have been subsumed within Him.

I understand that many think they are doing a noble thing by regarding all of God’s promises as fulfilled in Jesus at His first coming. However, we must not do what Scripture does not. Scripture does not testify that the promises made to Abraham were fulfilled in Jesus at His first coming. In fact, it says the opposite! Paul and the apostles state that Jesus became a servant to the circumcision to confirm the promises given to the Fathers (Rom. 15:4). Very simply, Jesus’ first coming confirmed that the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David stood firm and would have a literal fulfillment in the future at His second coming. The apostles do not say that Jesus became a servant to Himself to confirm that the promises were actually for Him to inherit, not the lineage of Abraham. But, many people ignore such cornerstones of truth like this one. The promises made to the Fathers and their surety was furthered in the life and death of Jesus in the first coming.

Although many people will try to play interpretive games with Galatians 3 and say the promises are ALL fulfilled in Jesus (the true Seed of Abraham) at His first coming, we only need to meditate on the Old Testament Scriptures with even a small measure of deliberateness to see that Paul could not possibly be making that case in Galatians 3. The idea that Jesus somehow became the sole inheritor of what God promised Abraham is overstepping the Scriptural bounds. By all means He deserves to be the sole inheritor, but in His humility He has held faithful to His plan being achieved through broken men. Therefore, these are not “spiritual promises” but literal ones that are reemphasized a thousand times in the Old Testament, and confirmed by the testimony of the apostles over and over.

I often say, “You show me your Galatians chapter 3, and I will show you my Old Testament.” That is to say that the scale is very unequally weighted in favor of the interpretation I am presenting, with hundreds of sections of Scripture prophesying a literal fulfillment of the promises made to the Fathers. We cannot stumble over the language of Galatians 3 and believe we have a firm argument, for we are then pitting one chapter against the whole of the biblical testimony!

For the sake of those wanting a little more from Galatians 3, let’s look at it simply. The major argument that Christ has fulfilled the promises made to ethnic Israel in Himself and there no longer remains an ethnic calling for Israel comes from verse 16:

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.”

Paul is saying that Jesus was the inheritor of the promise made to Abraham. I agree with this. I agree with this because Jesus is a Jew. He is the quintessential Jew in fact, the firstborn, and possesses the first rights to the promise made to Abraham. But Christ has a people, who just so happen to be His very own ethnicity, who will also receive the promise.

The issue we are getting to the bottom of is this: today many relegate the promises made to the Fathers to being entirely fulfilled in Jesus at His first coming. In doing this, they then have no expectation for a literal future fulfillment of those promises–– their position is that those promises have already been completed in their entirety. They often feel they are honoring Jesus by doing this. I want to say this clearly––this dishonors Jesus immensely. Don’t get me wrong here, but this needs to be said a second time: if you adhere to this doctrine you are not in accord with what the apostles taught and you are attributing to Jesus something that He is not asking for. You are dishonoring Him, His Gospel, and His entire plan of salvation, redemption, and restoration. You are distorting the Scriptural hope. To worship Jesus in Spirit and truth is to give Him what He wants, not what you want to give Him, and what He wants is for His plan, and choice of Israel, to be honored. He has chosen Abraham’s descendants to be a blessing to the nations of the earth, and by God, He will see His plan through. When His plan is accomplished and His glory is revealed in Abraham’s ethnic descendantsThen the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken,” (Is. 40:5). 

Distinguishing Between the First and Second Coming

As good Bible students we must always make a very clear delineation between Jesus’ first and second coming. Hebrews 9:28 helps us learn this distinction, “…so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many (first coming), will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him (second coming). The writer of Hebrews shows the same dichotomy in Hebrews 10:12 “but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time (first coming), SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET (second coming). Paul emphatically declares that it is during the reign of Christ on the earth at His second coming that His enemies are made His footstool,

22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet26The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

This incredibly important section of Scripture speaks of Jesus’ second coming when He resurrects His own from the dead, begins reigning on the earth as the true King from Jerusalem (as promised to David in 2 Sam. 7), and slowly subjects the earth to His authority and rule until all the earth is placed back under His Lordship. We know from Revelation 20 that this takes one thousand years, yet the greater wealth of information concerning the millennial reign (and from where we truly derive the idea of a millennial reign) is found in the prophets (see Is. 4; 60-66; Ez. 39). Through deduction we see that the events foretold simply take a long time to play out in real time and space; hence the one-thousand-year time frame. Then a significant number of people from the nations rebel against Him one last time after Satan is released from prison and they come to make war against Him before the fire of God comes down out of heaven and consumes them. Then the devil and his angels are thrown into the lake of fire forever delivering the final blow to his serpent head. Then will come the saying, “Death is swallowed up in victory,” and He will deliver the Kingdom to the Father that God may be all in all.

Moreover, it is those years of Christ’s physical reign on the earth that allow Abraham’s descendants to fulfill what God promised to Abraham way back in Genesis. Christ, the first Jewish inheritor of the promises, will then allow His kinsmen according to the flesh to participate in those very promises––even enact them under His authority! Lest we forget the glorious way in which the gentiles have been grafted into these promises also, let me articulate clearly that this reign will by all means include resurrected Jews and gentiles, brothers dwelling together in harmony in the Kingdom of God. The role of gentiles is still a bit unclear to me in Scripture since we are normally not mentioned in a positive light in the Prophets, but it is clear that we participate in the promises through our “grafting in.” A particular verse that is encouraging regarding gentiles is in the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, which says, “Rejoice O nations with His people!” The context of the passage concerns the second coming, and reminds me that no matter what our role is in the millennial reign, it will include rejoicing!

Practicing Good Interpretation

I apply the good practice of literal interpretation to everything I see God say in Scripture. The nucleus of the Abrahamic covenant is the words God spoke to Abram. If they are currently unfulfilled, there must remain a future fulfillment. If God said everlasting, unless He is a deranged, sarcastic God mocking us for believing or thinking that His words should be understood literally, He means everlasting! It’s as simple as that lest God be made a liar. The context for the future fulfillment of the words God spoke to Abram is a literal kingdom over which Jesus shall reign and in which we will dwell forever, and this just so happens to be the whole and consuming hope that all of our faith is set within, as we see it continually referenced in our New Testament. Romans 15:4 emphasizes again,

“…whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope,”

And as Peter exhorted us to fix our hope on this future day completely (1:13), in looking at the promises God made to Abram, we are actually examining the substance of that hope which was written in earlier times. We are truly looking at the foundational material of hope in its original state, identifying its earliest components. In Romans 15 above therefore, along with the other promises “written in earlier times”, Paul is very much talking about the promises God made to Abram. And since,

“in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it,” (Rom. 8:24-25),

then we, like Paul, have not yet seen this hope come to pass, but we are eagerly waiting for its future fulfillment.

So, we recognize that Paul confesses he has not yet seen the hope, but is eagerly waiting for it to come, putting to death the idea that the Abrahamic covenant was “subsumed” or realized in the life and death of Christ. What Paul is hoping for is the grand fulfillment in the millennium of what was promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David! The Millennium is nothing more and nothing less than God doing what He told men He would do in Scripture. At the end of the day the counter position does not acknowledge that its conjecture supports the belief that God made pseudo-promises, that do not have a literal fulfillment, and that He is incapable of completing what He started. This inevitably makes the story fall apart. It erases Israel’s ethnic calling and suggests hope should be put in a spiritual ideal now enacted upon the earth through the church who are the new “people of God.”

We firmly disagree with such nonsense, keeping sober in spirit, affirming that Abraham’s ethnic lineage will inherit what was promised to Abram and we fix our hope completely on this future day when the Messiah descends on the clouds of heaven to fulfill what He formerly promised (cf. 1 Pt. 1:13).

Conclusion

We have fought from the first post for the solidity of the apocalyptic anchor in order to show how Scripture is purposely driving forward towards the final cumulative fulfillment of everything that God has said. It is my strong conviction that if we let go of this anchor we become theological flounders letting the seas of theology carry us more towards the ideas of men than of God. As believers we are simply trying to BELIEVE that what God said will happen, will actually happen in the exact way He said it. So, if you might be one who doesn’t believe these things, then Paul strongly recommends that you “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves…” (2 Cor. 13:5). It is unnecessary to argue over who is right, when at the fundamental level of the argument is the premise of belief and unbelief in the things God has said having a very literal fulfillment in real time and space. Friends, do not perish unto death because you have convinced yourself the Bible says something different than it plainly says. I will show you a better way––believe what it plainly says! I find it comforting to simplify the argument with one scripture. In Proverbs 2 God gives us a very important clue to “finding the knowledge of God” which just means, understanding what God already understands. He says,

“My son, if you will receive My words…then you will find the knowledge of God and discern the fear of the Lord.”

Those of us adhering to a literal interpretation of Scripture are simply trying to receive His words. At the most fundamental level we are very practically accepting what God said at face value, which is receiving what He said literally. While many cannot receive His words because they change them to mean something different later in the story, we are of those  who are at rest receiving Him at His word and longing for the day that every jot and tittle from the law is fulfilled, like He said it would be.

“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen,” (Romans 16:25-27).

The Gospel From Genesis to Revelation #4: The Covenantal Framework of Scripture

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Introduction to the Covenantal Framework of Scripture

We have now dealt properly with the red diamond of SIN on the diagram and we turn our attention to the large blue SEED just to its right atop pillar two.

The Bible articulates the promised Messiah we’ve previously mentioned as coming forth through the Seed of Eve. This Seed is the topic of study in this pillar and we will observe the passages which relate to how God seeks to bring this Seed into being.

A very physical process ensues to bring this promised Seed forth (we are using Seed synonymously with Promised Messiah, who will be known as Jesus Christ the Son of God when we get there). In order to bring this Seed forth a very long sequence of lineage takes place. Very simply, many men and women will have sexual intercourse, the woman will conceive, and a bloodline is formed in this way until the miraculous conception of Jesus in Mary. Here is another diagram showing the progression of the Messianic Seed through time as we know it.

Messianic Lineage Timeline

(This diagram was made in order to track the biblical Seed and His lineage leading from Adam to Jesus. The purple sections underneath the timeline show this progression of lineage. At a latter time we will discuss the doctrine of chiliasm as it relates to our concept of time as we know it. Again, with a simple grasp on time as we know it and being able to see that the Bible does in fact explain it perfectly causes faith to grow in the hearts of believers. It also blindsides the scientists who say otherwise with a judo chop of truth to the throat. May their unrelenting voices be forever silenced by the word of God!)

The Gospel is Covenantal 

This pillar of good news is called covenantal because of the covenantal framework God uses in Scripture to be the mechanism by which His promises are fulfilled. God’s covenants serve as documented treaties containing words He spoke and will thus cause to happen. When we read the promise in Genesis 3:15 we actually behold God making a covenant. Since God is not a man that He would lie (Num. 23:19), everything He says is covenantal in nature. Meaning, it is impossible for what God has said to not be fulfilled. 

This is the inherent nature of His identity as Creator. What He speaks––is. What He has spoken He has brought forth, as seen in creation of the earth, man, and Israel. When God speaks, what He says is irrevocable. Thus, when God says to the serpent in Gen. 3:15, “the Seed will crush your head,” this promise is unable to be altered, changed, or affected by the freewill of men. It is critical to understand and grab ahold of this principle as we continue in our study.

For the sake of clarity let us first consider God’s covenant with creation in Genesis 1. Although in the first pillar we could have defined this, it was better to wait until it could be explained within the framework of covenantal. We will be as brief as possible, but we must consider several sections of Scripture to make this point.

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth'”; and it was so. 16God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.17God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day,” (Gen. 1:14-19).

Here we see that God told the sun and moon and stars in the heavens to govern the day and the night. God spoke this and the sun and moon are still doing what He told them to do almost 6000 years later. This confirms our simple point. God spoke the sun into being and gave it its orders––rise and be a light. By nature of who God is, and that what He says always happens, a covenant of sorts was made with the sun. It can’t stop rising because God commanded it to rise daily. The sun is actually unable to stop its rising until God has fixed a day for the sun to be darkened…(cf. Mt. 24, Mk. 13, Lk. 21, Rev. 6, Zech. 14). However, there is more.

The second thing God says about these celestials is that they be for signs. This is described in more detail in Psalm 19:1-6.

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; it rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”

Here the Psalmist is declaring that the objects in the heavens are actually testifying to something by just being there – i.e. being a sign. The primary definition of sign is:

an object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else.

As the very epitome of this definition the presence of the sun, moon, and stars are indicating the presence of their Creator. They are the celestial witnesses of the Creator. They circle the entire earth daily indicating to every person that there is One who made them and ordered them to do what they are doing. They’re basically saying, “Someone greater than us made us do this!”

Here we again see that God has attached the revelation of His identity to His creation and His creation is simply testifying about Him. We also behold the power of God’s covenant and that it cannot be broken since the sun rises every day declaring that God’s covenant with creation stands. It is contextually odd to consider the magnitude of what the sun is heralding and simply relegate it to a piece of science of the solar system.

The point is simple, but we needed to set it in its context to establish this point: God made creation within the framework of a covenant. We have become desensitized to the fact that these heavenly objects serve as covenantal signs to humans telling them that their Creator is still faithful to His covenant made with man in the garden. The sun rises everyday to validate the veracity of Genesis 1 and to testify that God is not done with mankind––His covenant stands as strong as the beams of the sun––and He will finish what He intended in the beginning. Can you hear the sun saying that today?

Covenantal Lineage

God sets forth to fulfill the covenantal promise He makes in Genesis 3:15 within the confines of the reality He has created––the heavens, the earth and men. Thus, He brings forth a lineage on the earth through man. I’m hoping that the dead horse I’m kicking is beginning to rear up in your spirit like a wild stallion kicking the air.

In Genesis 6:17-18 we see God confirm that He is in fact acting upon what He has previously promised through choosing to preserve Noah and His family through judgment.

“Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. 18“But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.”

What is this covenant God is speaking of? It is simply the continuance of the promise of Genesis 3:15. He is simply saying to Noah ,”I am continuing the promise of the Seed that will be born through you and your family by saving your lives from the judgment of the flood.” Thus, Noah and His family (a lineage) are preserved in the midst of the cataclysmic waters.

Interestingly, in keeping with His covenantal nature, God preserves the animals that He had made to fill the earth as well. He did this because He had limited His own options according His words in Genesis 1–– He had made them and called them good and thus they also will serve a purpose on the earth forever.

19“And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20“Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive.

And indeed after the messiah comes we still animals,

“And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them.”

What a spectacular God we serve! He will by all means fix everything that occurred because of mans choice to sin.

Israel, The Sun and The Moon

Now, let us not forget a very important passage as we hasten through these Scriptures. We will certainly go much further in depth regarding the promises to Israel in future sessions, but God mentions Israel here––in relation to the signs in the heavens. Therefore, we must be faithful to mention her also.

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever.” Jeremiah 31:35-36

And here, we behold yet again God’s wisdom in ball-and-chaining Himself to these promises. The limitless God of all power who made the heavenly objects and their circuits reminds, and even warns, that those of us who behold them better not forget that as long as they stay in the sky above our small heads HE WILL FULFILL HIS PROMISE TO ABRAHAM. The next session will delve the details of those promises and yet this foreshadow is intriguingly necessary for us all. We should tremble at such words.

The Sign of the Rainbow

God emphasizes his covenant with Noah dramatically in Genesis 9:8-17. We can summarize here by simply acknowledging the sign God gives Noah––the rainbow. Again, our minds might immediately try to rationalize why rainbows exist, but this is unnecessary when the bible explicitly tells us why in verse 17- 

“This (rainbow) is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” 

Hence, today, the sign of the rainbow that still cuts the dark sky in its majestic brilliance proves that God’s covenant to bring the restoration spoken of in Genesis 3:15 still stands firm! It has been unaltered, un-swayed, and incontestable with the rainbow still making its public speeches daily (assuming here that with all the rainfall on earth at least one rainbow becomes visible every single day since Noah).

The sign of the rainbow actually serves to also confirm our previous point regarding God’s covenant with creation. As Gen. 9 says, God put the rainbow in the sky to testify of His covenant, “…this is the sign of the covenant between you and Me…”. Uniquely, the rainbow is the only other thing in the heavens, aside from the sun, moon, and stars that has been created and put there to tell us something. 

The exact same Hebrew word that is used to describe the function of the sun, moon, and stars in Genesis 1, is also used to describe the purpose of the rainbow.

אוֹת: sign, pledge of covenant, הַבְּרִית ׳א (see ברית) e.g.rainbow, of Noachian covenant. (http://biblehub.com/hebrew/226.htm)

I wonder if you find this as stunning as I do. We should be inserting the mind=blown emoticon here. The Bible actually confirms that the simple sun, moon, stars, and rainbow – all things that we take for granted daily, are serving humankind with the sign of God’s covenant! They are testifying that Genesis is real and the God who wrote it is trustworthy. How extraordinary! When the sun rises every morning, it is simply declaring the good news of God’s covenant with the earth and man. When the moon shines through the darkness of the night it is testifying that His light will eventually triumph over darkness through the covenants He’s made. When the rainbow appears after a storm, how significant that is––that no matter how hard the rain falls and how fierce the lightning and thunder may strike, His covenant with Noah’s lineage and covenant to restore the earth cannot be refuted! We stand in awe of His sheer genius and His ways!

Double rainbow in a meadow, Silt, Colorado, U.S.

Mind=Blown (Just because you needed to see this picture a second time)

Pondering the Genesis of the Rainbow

Rainbows are fascinating to say the least. Usually eclipsing torrential rains, they appear out of nowhere. One moment there is wind and chaos, and the next there is peace and glory.

Have you considered that the outer-ring is red and the inner-ring blue? If the rainbow is a sign then maybe it means something…? What about the appearance of the light within the rainbow being brighter than the darkness outside, separated only by the arch of brilliant colors? Is this also serving as a sign? Could it be that within the promise God made to Noah is the pure light of good news canopied by the vivid shades of the bow and dividing it from the darkness of the flood-judgment just witnessed? Do you know that Isaiah 4 mentions a canopy of this sort?

5then the LORD will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. 6There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain…” Is. 4:5-6

Isaiah 4 is the Millennial Jerusalem after Messiah’s second coming. It is the time as we read above of lions and lambs befriending one another.  There are two other places that directly mention the rainbow: Revelation 4 and Ezekiel 1.

Revelation 4 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 3And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.

Ezekiel 1 28As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.

Now, this is purely conjecture, but I’m just trying to put two and two together here. What if the canopy mentioned in Isaiah 4 is that same rainbow around the throne in Revelation 4 and the same glory identified in Ezekiel 1? What if the rainbow is directly related to God’s own personal glory revealed and He openly shares it with man?

Does it not have that same intense draw of beauty? What I am saying is this: The rainbow could potentially be far more than we perceive.

What was going through the mind of the Godhead in those days and nights when the floodwaters covered the earth? If God has no delight in the death of the wicked, then we must presume He was experiencing grief. His prized creation had turned in complete rebellion against him and the thoughts and intents of their hearts had become only evil, all the time (cf. Gen. 6:5.) This would’ve grieved Him.

Imagine building an illustrious model train set that filled an entire room. Tunnels and hills fill the platform upon which all the trains you’ve put together run along the tracks doing what you made them to do. Imagine the beauty of the huge interlocked vessels of trains chugging along as one functioning organism. Now picture the trains suddenly going haywire––backwards, derailing, crashing into each other––they move out of control until they all lay on their sides smoking and ruined. All of your hard work lies bleeding before you, unable to fix itself.

However, in the pandemonium one train on the tracks is still doing what you made it to do. We will call this train Noah and his lineage. You put your hand upon that train and drive it through the chaotic wreckage carefully. You take the time to clean the tracks of debris so that the train can continue its journey. You still have a plan for what you made and it will fulfill its complete circuit from point a to point b.

I imagine the Godhead doing something like this. There they sit in grief over what they have just had to do upon the earth. Their hand was forced to manifest justice, and indeed it testifies to the future judgment. But, the hope of Their redemptive plan rises within Them. Just as the dove flies back through the window of Noah’s ark, Jesus turns to the Father and the Holy Spirit says what Jesus is already thinking. The thought comes through to the Father like a champion across the finish line:

“I’ve got it Father! The gigantic bow above our throne that reaches from one end of the heavens to the other creating a magnificent full-color spectrum as a canopy over us––let’s put it over Noah’s family’s heads! Then they will know that the promise is firm!” The Father nods as His eyes light up. “Son… I love it! And… We will cause it to appear after billions of rains from here forward so that it reminds our creation that We will be faithful to what we’ve said.” The Holy Spirit erupts in praise and all the angels fall down in glorification of their undefiled wisdom and unparalleled ingenuity. 

Really?! Who could have ever thought of a rainbow? It lives outside the boundaries of human ideas. Men make cars that we paint to try and make them shiny. God makes rainbows. Maybe after the event of judgment upon the earth He wanted to give something to man so personal that He took it from His own throne room. There it sits in the skies today, the very object that is only mentioned in the Bible as relating to God’s immediate presence.

Let us grow in appreciation when we see this grand sign in the heavens and acknowledge the long-suffering and faithfulness of God in tarrying with wicked men throughout this age! He will accomplish the final redemption foretold and the rainbow proves it.

23-rainbow-photography

Third times a charm.

 

The Gospel From Genesis to Revelation #3: The Account of Eden

5 Pillars of Biblical Theology Timeline- Theological Terms
5 Pillars of Biblical Theology Timeline-Laymans Terms

Eden Photo

Approaching Eden

Does the book of Genesis exhilarate you? Do you find within its chapters a mind-easing peace that silences the buzzing voices of men? Genesis is exactly as it stands––our planet and our kind’s genesis––our beginning. At this very moment men sit in laboratories across the earth spending millions of dollars trying to understand these very origins. Is it not unique that you can open up the Bible and find the very answer they are searching for? The implications of such knowledge leading to such incredible groundbreaking conclusions should exhilarate us, catching our hearts aflame in such wonderful truth! But… it’s not that simple is it? Although Genesis should surprise us with revitalized hope in the Creator, it often has the opposite effect. Is it a lack of faith in the words found there? Do we find it to be incomprehensible? Or do we find it to be too simple of an explanation? The mystery of existence, as simple as it might be, plagues the human frame – tricking many into thinking that they must find a much more complicated formula to solve its problem- while many others can bask in the rays of a simple sun that was formed by the hands of a Being much more capable than the men in white lab coats.

In the first pillar we tackled a good section of Scripture defining the creational nature of the good news in the Bible. Everything we will discuss hereafter is built upon the immoveable foundation of Genesis 1-3 as not only being literal but also God-breathed. Despite skepticism, we must lay this foundation and stand upon it confidently so that our interpretation of Scripture doesn’t waver after Genesis. If we do not establish a plumb line of interpreting Scripture here, would not everything thereafter be ambiguous and open to interpretation instead of being consistently understood at face value? We therefore hold to the literal interpretation of Genesis so that the Bible can make its own sense thereafter. It can be trusted to mean what it says, so to speak.

When approaching Genesis I often find that many Christians have become desensitized and apathetic about the unique Edenic beginning. An accumulation of thousands of pieces of science and literature heralded from the strength and wisdom of men in our modern era has forced the creation account in our Bible to become stigmatized and held in question. In many circles today, it is culturally cool and relevant to be skeptical about the reality of Genesis 1-3. Many modern teachers treat it as creative poetry and beautiful allegory, but not as a true and literal account of the origins of existence. As believers we reject this nonsense and firmly adhere to the story of The Garden of Eden no matter how far fetched it sounds to our so called “modern” minds. The perfect mind of Adam was not created modern––It was created pure. Let that sink in.

Writing off the words of Genesis as creative allegory is a travesty to the God who has gone to such great lengths to tell us how and why we exist. What great betrayal to take His words and make them friendly fantasy! We should consider it the mercy of God that He would explain the very existence we reside within and make it accessible in a book that we can read at any time we desire. If need be, take the time now to stop and repent of self-entitlement and of the idea that we deserve more than this. To have a heart aligned with thankfulness for His precious words and an explanation of existence in Genesis is to give Him deserving honor, and a praiseworthy person will do so.

Faith in the words of the Bible is what separates believers from unbelievers. One believes the words found there, and others distrust them. Our trust and belief in the Bible’s words and the degree we put those words into faith through works, is the foundation of our evaluation on the Day of the Lord. It is by no means a nonchalant matter. Though it is sometimes difficult and darn near foolish to believe this account, considering the endless formulas of information championed by the world today, if we choose to believe God, like Abraham it will be accredited to us as righteousness (cf. Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3). Let us take up the shield of faith then and extinguish the flaming arrows of man’s arrogant presentations and evaluations of reality. Let us cast down the lofty arguments of what man believes he knows about time as we know it and rather trust God’s account in the Bible with confidence and boldness while maintaining a spirit of love and gentleness.

Friends, it is pertinent that we see the dire need to re-sensitize ourselves to the veracity of the Edenic account. Alas, I can already hear the gasps of my precious liberal brothers, and the hissing of brilliant modern lips. The Facebook engines are gearing up to incite everything they know against the words I’ve just said. Make no mistake friends! It doesn’t take much discernment to evaluate that it is those of us who hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible who are slowly becoming criminalized and made the shortsighted, unsympathetic thinkers with small Neanderthal-like minds, unable to adapt our outdated ways of thinking to the “brilliance” and reasoning of modern science. In this we rejoice, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before us.

The Edenic Account and the Beginning of Sin

If we believe this account to be literal we can turn our attention to the bad news that qualifies God’s reciprocation of good news. As you see in the diagram, the bad news is the red diamond entitled SIN. God’s interaction with man from the garden, to expulsion from Eden, unto final restoration in the second Eden (the New Jerusalem) is the grand story of Scripture and the truly elementary, linear storyline of our Bible. We perceive the Bible as we would any other story. It is linear and it progresses from point A to point B, from beginning to end; it is not cyclical, but rather set upon a distinct course to achieve a certain purpose. This purpose is God’s original intention for Himself, man, and the earth. His purpose will be fulfilled.

In Genesis 2:8 we behold this truth. After God created everything good He “planted a garden towards the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” This beautiful truth resounds in our hearts! God’s creation was so personal to Him that He planted a special garden in the midst of the entire earth and put His prized possession in this garden for the divine purpose of interaction with him.

Then God made the first woman as a suitable partner for Adam, and Eve lived there in blissful paradise together with Adam– naked, unashamed, and without any knowledge of sin. Perfection. Naivety was young and knowledge was pure. Man’s unceasing veracious hunger to know everything and “figure it out” lay lifeless, buried in the confines of a simple confidence and security in their divine Maker. What they needed to know was there… within Him. He was the literal and physical embodiment of everything they knew, experienced, and were fulfilled in. What they didn’t need to know hung from the tree in the center of the garden.

This original interaction was man relating to God as the Sovereign Creator whom he should obey. His obedience was an act of love in relationship to His maker. The interaction also had the unique dynamic of operating in authority over what God had created while being submitted to God’s authority. Man was under the authority of God and in authority over the earth. We read that this was God’s initial command:

God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth,” (Gen. 1:28).

The earth had been entrusted to Adam and Eve to rule over and this was God’s original desire. This authority was given to them as long as they obeyed His original statute.

“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die,” (Gen. 2:9-17). 

This was the epic fullness of man’s reality in the beginning of time as we know it. This was pure original innocence. Adam and Eve lived within the boundaries of a lush green space that the God who had created them planted as the place of encounter. The simplicity of such a scene serves well to inform our biblical theology. What God desires actually never becomes more complicated than this original serene reality.

The solution to re-enter this garden again also never becomes more complicated than this either. We humans must become submitted to His authority in absolute surrender, and at the time of consummation, the end of time as we know it, He will again restore us to this place of authority. The beatitudes are Jesus commentary on this future event and the litmus test for who will reign with Him again. We see this identified specifically in Him saying “Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth,” (Mt. 5:5).

Also, Daniel 7 makes plain what happens when Jesus returns,

‘Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’

Admitting that this is our glorious destiny when Jesus returns sets our hope upon His distinct original purpose. The end-goal is simply God obtaining what He intended in the beginning. We can see that the earth and man are not functioning in the innocent roles of perfection they did in the beginning. Therefore, we are processing the what and why of our current situation that is so gravely different than the picture of Genesis. The removal of our authoritarian role is the subject at hand as we consider the bad news of SIN and its detrimental effects upon God’s original plan.

The garden is where our reality begins and ends. We do not understand what made Adam and Eve partake of that fruit when tempted by the serpent, but we do know if we admit what is in our own hearts daily. It was us taking that fruit there with Adam that fateful day and heartily approving I must add! For any one of us to think we would have chosen differently is simply self-righteousness. We must cordially admit that we are sinners, of the seed of Adam, in desperate need of the second Adam to redeem us from these sinful bodies of death that desire as much fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as we can get.

The Bad and Good News

There is no need here to delve into the details surrounding Eden. When seeking to find answers from God, the reply often comes back “What I’ve given you in the Bible is what I wanted you to know.” In humble faith we must accept this. I’ve often shaken my fist at God in frustration that the Edenic account is only those three chapters instead of fifteen! Again the answer returns the same from the Lord and I realize that the desire in me is most likely based upon the very same desire that drove the first primogenitures (firstborn children) to the fruit of that tree.

The simple point in Eden is that there was a simple display of obedience required by God from humans, “Do not eat of the tree.” A grave disobedience occurred however, and man ate of that tree. What happened next explains the current state of the world. Man was expelled from the garden of perfection. The serpent that tempted Eve was cursed and the earth itself was cursed. Eve and Adam were both disciplined by God in their expulsion from the garden, and the state of the earth from then on would also be a resounding discipline of their disobedience. We behold this truth today in the current grievous state of our world.

The church is often oddly spiritually naïve and hopeful about the world today. It sometimes seems that we feel we are betraying the hope of the Cross and salvation through Jesus blood if we admit things are not getting better. We know our own sinful state, and see the incredibly slow process of sanctification in our wicked hearts, but we somehow perceive that things out there in the world are improving because Jesus died on the Cross two thousand years ago. Friends, the case is actually the opposite. With sober minds we clearly see that everything on this planet is in rebellion against God’s authority, opposed to Him almost completely. The Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus across the earth are the sole representation of a faithful witness of submission to God’s authority. But, even the church at large is near land-sliding into worldly values before our eyes! Yes, Jesus died on the Cross and things will get better when He comes again to make things right! But, right now, things are bad and only getting worse. It doesn’t do Jesus injustice to say this––it’s actually His biblical plan. Think: earthquakes, hurricanes, wicked kings, human-trafficking, poor people, orphans, molestation, family violence, animals eating animals, people murdering people. Good things do not off-set the bad as some seem to think. Let’s keep it simple – things are messed up. Things are not improving. In this current time we are plainly witnessing the result of God’s discipline upon Adam and Eve and the earth for eating the fruit. We are beholding the bad news in its near climax.

Yet, in the wake of such intensely bad news came the dazzling promise of good news. Speaking to the serpent God says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” The literal rendering of the Hebrew is that One will crush the serpent’s head, while the serpent merely bruises this One’s heel.

This is often called the Messianic Promise, or Messianic Expectation––the promise that a Messiah will deliver man from the serpent and from the effects the first event of sin had caused to fall upon them and the earth. This radiant promise came as very good news. In the eye of the hurricane there is peace, and we can live in the peace of this promise while the storm swirls about us. Our ship should remain anchored there within this simple hope.

Most of us remember the first “big sin” we committed. I remember the day, the sunlight in the room, and the feeling in my stomach as it turned over. Imagine you were Adam or Eve, the first man and woman––the first sinners. You eat the fruit and suddenly the nudity that has always been normal and pure turns into shameful nakedness. The realization would be as the sun darkening in a moment. For the first time in your perfect life you feel troubled. In that instant you are lucidly aware that everything is completely different than just a few minutes before. The shades have been drawn, whereas moments before the sunlight illumined everything. Your surroundings are suddenly horribly wrong. You panic as the first experience of fear in the unfamiliarity settles in. You don’t know what you are feeling, but it is terror. Then you hear Him coming… there is a sudden impulse to hide yourself. You crouch down behind a bush to hide for the first time from the Divine One you have confidently stood face to face with, worshipped, loved, and obeyed from your first day until now. Your teeth still dripping with guilt from the blood of the fruit, you pull your lips tight and experience your first wince as emotional pain engulfs the decision you cannot take back. Your vision blurs as something warm and wet comes pouring out of your eyes. You try to make them stop but your first tears keep coming. The Divine One you have confidently stood face to face with, worshiped, loved, and obeyed, is now a person you are afraid of. You want to run out from behind the bush and embrace Him as usual, but you know that you can’t. He is calling your name, “Adam! Where are you?” What was once a sweet melody to your ears now hurts them. His tone is gentle, yet firm, and in it the accusation is clear. You answer Him… you know that He knows. “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree of which I told you not to eat?” On all fours your tears begin soaking the ground in the dirt you were formed from and you can’t look up at Him. You know for the first time that you are guilty and there is nothing you can do to change that.

Imagine the insurmountable grief Adam experienced in those first moments of guilt. I wonder at the look in Adam’s puffy red eyes as the all-knowing Lord of glory peers into them. I also wonder at the look in the Lord of Glory’s eyes. I imagine they were just as red and puffy. He’s the Alpha and the Omega, declaring the end from the beginning, so He knew this would happen––but that does not mean it has no effect on Him. His beloved first creation has rebelled against Him! If He delighted in Adam’s original state, calling it good, He was grieved at his fallen state, knowing it was now bad, in need of redemption that would come at the cost of His own life. We can’t be deluded into thinking that God didn’t possess the foreknowledge of Adam’s sin. We must believe that in order to accomplish the fullness of what God desired in the beginning, this was the wisest way to achieve His ultimate plan. We behold this proclamation of truth in Revelation after all is said and done,

“Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!,” (Rev. 15:3).

He will be praised for His plan, and every person will admit with glorious revelation that what He did was flawless, brilliant, and without error.

In the midst of the atrocious event, God explains that His love must now be manifest in discipline. He addresses the serpent in a very different manner, asking him no questions, nor calling his name, but by simply cursing him to his belly. Then God being rich in mercy gives the promise that He’ll crush the head of the serpent who deceived them. Ultimately, this is the promise of eternal life,

“…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,” (Titus 1:2).

When my son has committed a disobedience to my authority, he often runs away from me also. He is ashamed of what he’s done, knowing it was wrong. I take him in my arms and explain to him that I must spank him. After this spanking we pray together and ask His Holy Spirit for help to choose obedience. I then tell him there is good news! God has promised that one day he will be delivered from disobedience and enabled to never sin again! I remind him that there is a day when the serpent who originally deceived us will be crushed and this sinful life will be swallowed whole into life eternal! If I were to simply take him out for a pizza and not address his sin, this would only produce in him the hope of having a pizza after his next act of disobedience. This would accomplish nothing. If however I fix his hope upon that grand promise of deliverance, he has an anchor that cannot be moved, a salvation reserved for him in heaven, imperishable and undefiled (cf. 1 Peter 1). This teaches my son in the endgame of the good news just as Adam was taught that very day in the garden.

Understanding the Good News

The good news at this stage is God’s commitment to crush the head of the serpent, and in doing so deliver the earth and man from the disciplinary curses that came upon them because of their sin.

If you or I were God, we would have most likely thrown out the whole idea of relating to men in that moment. As God, He had every right to do this––except that He had already connected His very own identity and image to the earth and these humans! He was committed to bring forth what He foresaw in the beginning. This is what Paul is articulating in the Titus introduction above.

The wonderful thing about this promise is that it is not just about forgiveness of sins––this promise embodies complete and total deliverance from sin and its effects upon the whole of man and the earth! Here we see that the very genesis of good news is fixed upon its final revelation! The beginning is highlighting the end! It is because of this that we must also remain apocalyptic (restoration focused) in our theology, since the very promise directly after man’s fall from the garden is end-focused in nature. We can therefore join that song of faith in Revelation even now, laying down our questioning of God regarding the Edenic account, and agree, singing, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!” 

In summary, there is only one end game in Scripture concerning men. Men believe the good news and then meet its requirements in order to inherit eternal life, or men do not inherit eternal life, and the bad news of Scripture overtakes them. There is only one narrative in the Bible and it possesses these two outcomes. The first is hope filled and delivered by God in hope that men would repent of their wickedness; the latter, God takes no delight in,

“Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'” (Ez. 33:11).

And although He does not delight in their death, He has fixed this eternal death as the discipline for those who reject the conditions of His good news. He will endure the displeasure of their death for the sake of rewarding the righteous.

This brief introduction was necessary to set the context so that we are envisioning the same biblical picture. Everything that takes place after this is merely the outplay of the story resulting from this one event. It is imperative that we connect an understanding of the good news given in the beginning as relating to the final restoration of all things and the inheritance of eternal life. Without this anchor resting on the seafloor of Scripture we at best flounder around the biblical seas wondering where it is all going.

On that dreadful day the wave of sin crashed down upon the age old shore of innocence. In its wake the tide of hope rises still, soon to consume that beach of treachery! The sun before long will rise over that ancient ocean line and the deluge of redemption and salvation will wash us into the kingdom of grace. Even so, Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

The Gospel From Genesis to Revelation #2: Introduction and Pillar One

5 Pillars of Biblical Theology Timeline

The Gospel in the Bible is deliberated over in its definition. What is this Gospel that we as Christians hold to and preach? The word Gospel in greek is simply a direct translation of “good news.” Therefore, whenever the word Gospel is heard, it should immediately register the phrase good news in ones mind. So, when approaching the question of “What is the Biblical Gospel?”, we are actually approaching the question of “What is the good news in the Bible?”. Many emphasize different things in their explanation, however we emphasize the approach of taking the entire Bible as our context for definition, not only particular events within it.

The most common answer is probably: Jesus died on the Cross for sinners to be forgiven of their sins and live with Him forever. Although this statement is true, and glorious, it does not embody the fullness of the actual good news found in the Bible––it is actually quite lacking. That may come as a surprise to you as it did to me several years ago. Sometimes people think it’s degrading to the Cross to even say it this way, but it is quite the contrary and actually adds the most glory to the event of the Cross. Let’s explain why.

Yes, the good news in the Bible is the simple fact that men can inherit eternal life through the death of Jesus on the Cross. This is true. Nevertheless, the means and foundation by which men do so is the entire narrative of Scripture, beginning long before the Cross and terminating long after. It is this entire story that explains and encapsulates the good news explaining why Jesus died. Without the previous information that defines the context of the Cross, the Cross would be a stand alone event lacking its rich heritage. Many people died on crosses during the early first century, but only one was the promised Jewish Messiah who was the son of David, son of Abraham (Mt. 1:1). The good news of the cross is not tied to another story, but we must attach it to the story from which it has come or we do not give it the glory it deserves–– the glory Jesus deserves.

If we simply say that the good news is forgiveness of sins, we are not presenting the Gospel that the apostles preached. If the news of the Bible is indeed good, shouldn’t we know, understand, and be able to properly articulate it to others so that they can share in its good? The hope in this series of posts is to spur one another on in the truth of the Bible so that all together we could  “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints,” (Jude 1:3) as Jude exhorts.

Paul also confirms,

“Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior,” (Titus 1:1-3).

These two verses summarize the point in the importance of our task. Jude exhorts us to contend earnestly for the faith that was actually handed down. Paul explains that He also was chosen for the purpose of “the faith… and knowledge of the truth…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, and that these things are given in the proclamation of the very good news we are discussing. There was a faith that was handed down– from whom? There is a proclamation that has been entrusted–What is it?

Paul candidly tells us in Romans 1:

“1Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake.” 

Paul has been set apart as an apostle (representative) of the Gospel (good news) which God promised beforehand in His prophets and Holy Scriptures concerning His Son who is the promised Son of David (2 Samuel 7). In other words, this good news regarding the inheritance of eternal life began a long time ago and has a very detailed progression regarding its relation to human beings and our salvation which is its final realization. No one would argue that the gospel doesn’t result in salvation, as Paul even explicitly emphasizes that the gospel is the “power of God to salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek,” (Rom. 1:16). If this good news results in men inheriting eternal life, and it began long ago as revealed in God’s Holy Scriptures and through His prophets, we should desire to comprehend the fullness of His Gospel for ourselves and for the sake of others.

Rom. 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

How the Diagram Works

In looking at the diagram in the above link, you can see that we are using a simple linear timeline beginning with the Biblical creation and ending with the Biblical consummation. It is important to understand that this linear timeline is the Biblical representation of time as we know it. Before time as we know it, there was God, and we don’t know anything about that time––except that there was God. When God created the heavens and the earth, our time, and you could say history as we know it, began. This is often theologically called redemptive history. Our Bible follows a simple linear progression throughout the Scriptures from it’s stated beginning until now, and also predicts the future events which culminate in the end of time as we know it.

This delineation in Scripture is usually distinguished by separating this age from the age to come. We are currently in this age, the age which began after the fall of Adam from the garden. The age to come begins when God as divine author of time ends this age Himself and begins the next age (Mt. 12:32, 13:39; Lk. 18:30; Mk. 10:30). This diagram uses this method because Jesus Himself taught this appropriate distinction between the ages in a very distinct fashion.

36Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40“So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43“Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

In this way we should understand time. This age will have a decisive end, not transitionally through the “church age,” but suddenly through the Messiah’s return.

Holding up this linear understanding of time as we know it, are five pillars. These five pillars are five Biblical points upon which the good news of our Bible incontestably sits. We know this because of what the apostles preached consistently through the book of acts. They appear in chronological order on the diagram just as they have been revealed in the Scriptures. Within each pillar is a small segment of wealth from the Scriptures showing how the Bible truly emphasizes each of the five Biblical pillars. The diagram is meant to function as a whole with all five pillars being emphasized equally. Many theological camps focus on one or two pillars, and sometimes three as the drive of their personal theological stance. However, desiring to be a faithful witness, it cannot be our agenda to choose certain “pillars” to emphasize. We must adhere to the entire account of Scripture and each pillar God emphasizes therein! Therefore, in this diagram we seek to emphasize what God has emphasized in the entirety of the Bible, rather than what man emphasizes in his opinions. To be a faithful witness we must say what God said, and add nothing else to it. In this light we have made this diagram to speak for itself from the Scriptures therein. The words provided as commentary in this post will hopefully not stray into theological opinion but stay centered on the text itself. We are not seeking to form some new theological camp in this feat, but rather trying to be as biblically consistent as possibly regarding what is revealed in Scripture.

The goal of this diagram is that with your Bible and a chunk of time devoted to prayer and study of these Scriptures, you can actually fluently understand the point of the Bible, it’s framework, and gain a solid theological foundation of its good news. We have seen and experienced that a simple understanding of the linear story-line of the Bible sets the human heart free to press on towards the goal of the upward calling of eternal life in Christ Jesus. This is personally the case for us, those we personally know and others we’ve mentored. When a man truly puts His life in context to the good news of God’s story, conversion happens deep within the heart convincing the man to lose his only life and be found in the only living Savior. Hopefully you also will believe in this good news and be able to live the Christian life in freedom to stand before Jesus in confidence giving Him account to that which He revealed in His Bible.

The Gospel is Creational

The first pillar of the good news emphasized in the Bible is that it is creational, because “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” (Gen. 1:1). God made everything we can see in the earth and above the earth. Possessing a biblical worldview hinges entirely upon this literal creation being true. We cannot emphasize enough the pertinence of this biblical principle. If we remove Genesis 1:1 from a literal interpretation, then Genesis 1:2 through Revelation 22:21 can also be in question of its divine authority. Therefore we dramatically call attention to the fact that the entire existence of experiential physical reality in which humans live and breathe was thought of and brought into being by the God of the Bible in Genesis 1.

The way that the Bible proves this creational identity which God possesses to be true is through showing His sovereign authority over the things which He has created. God exercises dominion over the things He has made. In Genesis 7-9 we behold the account of the flood. In this account, God decides that He is going to send rain upon the earth, and cause the fountains of the great deep within the earth to burst open resulting in cataclysmic waters that cover the entire planet. God decides this, and then God does it. We see in this true account the simple principle: God is proven to have created the heavens and the earth, because He can do with them as He pleases. He has authority to act in any and every instance in the way He pleases and there is nothing that can interrupt, sway, or change His plan.

Lets say I possess a toy car that I have hand-carved out of wood. If I decide to take that toy car and polish it, I will. If I also decide to drive the toy car off a cliff, I will. I have sovereign authority over this car because I made it and I will do with it as I please. The same concept applies to God’s sovereignty over creation. Albeit, in a much larger and unequivocal scale, it is ALL of existence, not a toy car, that we are equating in relation to God’s ownership of the heavens, the earth, and man.

Now we move on to the next Scripture on the diagram.

In Genesis 14:19; 22, Melchidezek and Abraham announce their understanding of the identity of the one called God by naming Him “the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth.” The word for possessor equally means creator, but each meaning emphasizes the same point. They believed that there was a most high God who created and possessed everything they knew to exist.

In Exodus chapters 7-11 we see God again exercise sovereignty over His creation by doing miraculous things. He proves He is creator by changing water into blood. He created both, He can turn either into either. He follows this sign with 9 others. He brings frogs into the land by His command and turns dust into gnats. He brings swarms of flies upon Egypt. He shows his reigning authority over life in killing the Egyptian cattle. He makes sores break out on the skin of people and makes fire and ice fall together from the sky to the ground. He calls locusts to plague the land and He causes three days of darkness to envelop all of Egypt. He even distinguishes Himself with power by causing the last 5 plagues to not affect the land of Goshen where the Israelites lived. Finally God shows his ultimate authority and sovereignty over human life by killing the firstborn in the houses of those without lambs blood on their door. Again, God decided to act and there was nothing to stop, interrupt, or sway Him from accomplishing what He desired. He perfectly proves again His sovereign power over His creation and His divine possession of everything within it.

When we arrive to verses such as Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lords and all it contains, the world and those who dwell therein,” the exclamation mark is made again. God created and therefore owns and exercises authority over all existence. Psalm 104 (which should be meditated upon for many hours) stands alone as a truly remarkable Psalm in relating to God’s sovereignty. The Psalm says in the second verse that God covers Himself with light as with a cloak, and has stretched out heaven like a tent curtain. As we would pitch a tent when camping, God has pitched the heavens into place. This is remarkable. The Psalmist goes as far to say that God “causes the grass to grow on the mountains,” relating God’s productive (productive in the sense of being the sole producer) activity even in the simplest things such as grass growing. God is causing every blade of grass that you’ve ever seen to grow. This should amaze us. He is paying scrutinizing attention to the details of His creation, even each blade of grass. Psalm 104 could be seen as a type of commentary on Psalm 24:1, with verse after verse of God’s sovereign involvement with His possession.

Isaiah 40 is the grand rhetorical question and answering chapter from God regarding the oceans of the earth which sit within the palm of His hand, the heavens which were measured out by His hand’s span, and the dust and mountains which He weighed upon scales so that the earth is balanced (v.12). These verses are not metaphorical, and His careful calculations have held the earth in balance and in place from the day He spoke until today. When verse 23 finally arrives we see His sovereignty over the people on the earth that rise into and fall out of power. Daniel later confirms this when speaking to Nebuchadnezzar, saying, “He removes Kings and establishes Kings,” (Dan. 2:21). Nebuchadnezzar then himself confirms the point we have sought to make in this section by saying “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but “He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?‘” (Daniel 4:35). 

Isaiah 42:5 affirms God’s sovereignty over the earth and life yet again. “Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it…”. This is one of only a few passages that give a clear understanding that God is not only providing air within the earth to breathe, but actually giving it into the lungs of people making their spirit to be alive. God is making life happen in you and I at this very moment––we are not merely living because we breathe.

As a final word on the creational identity which God alone holds we turn to the words of His Son. “For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will,” (Mk. 13:19). I love this verse because it pitches creational and eschatological together in one. Jesus confirms that God created the heavens and the earth directly, and then confirms the time of tribulation which will occur at the end of all things when God finally sets out to complete His final acts of sovereignty over His creation. What a beautiful paradox Jesus!

Here we behold the good news of the Gospel being creational: God created all things and exercises His authority over them. Creation wasn’t chance. It wasn’t a big bang. The earth and it’s inhabitants haven’t changed through evolution, because, “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done,” (Gen. 2:2). This very blatantly suggests that God’s work in created reality as we know it, was entirely finished, not to be altered or changed by anyone other than Him, after the sixth day. God rested because He was unshakably confident in what He had done and how things would turn out–He was not tired!

The earth is not millions of years old. All of those perspectives displace good news and cause the traffic of questionable news to arise in our fleshly hearts. God does not present His news in this way. However, if we come with a simple faith to Genesis 1 and allow it to be interpreted literally, we behold the beauty of a wise, all-knowing, all powerful, and completely sovereign God who interacts within His creation in the most dynamic way. Truly, He is causing everything to happen right now within the confines of the sum-total of reality as we know it. His interest in humans should cause us to stand in awe as David does in Psalm 8 “What is man that you are mindful of Him?” and we should tremble with fear that, as men, we will give account to Him for our faith in what His word says concerning this.

God’s Creational Sovereignty Over Man

While peering into the wonder of God’s creational power and authority over the earth, we also see this same supremacy exercised over men. Genesis 1:26-27 tells us the history of how man came to exist.

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

And,

Genesis 2:7 “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” 

Maybe this hasn’t struck you like this in a while? Because of the indoctrination of evolution and the age of science where mans knowledge has become authority, we become slowly desensitized to the electric veracity of these passages. God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into His nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. This is the complete and unadulterated truth of our existence.

Again we turn to the flood account in Genesis chapters 6-9. If God breathed life into His creation, He is the only one who possesses the right to that breath. He has a divine reservation to take the breath away when He chooses whether the breath is or is not being used to glorify Him. Although the flood is very apologetically hard to deal with (concerning many deaths), and difficult for our human hearts to bear due to lack of understanding, God removes the breath from the nostrils of every human being alive on the earth save the 8 of Noah and his family. It is done out of grief and sorrow (c.f Gen. 6:6) and it is done without asking anyone’s permission. God decides by His own will and authority that it is time to take their lives as a judgment upon wickedness, and then He caused the rains to fall above them and the great deep to burst open under their feet drowning them in the aquatic deluge. Although our hearts might rise up in offense at this, those of us currently reading remain alive in this very moment only because He wills. Let us praise Him for this gift of life and be thankful that all of His ways are just and true. Let us fear rather than accuse!

Job 33:4 and 6 articulate the way that Job perceived his life in relation to God’s creative identity. “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life… Behold, I belong to God like you; I too have been formed out of the clay.” Here the point is confirmed from the mouth of the man weighed down by the freedom of God to disrupt his life and do as He liked. He recognized that He had been made by God and that God’s spirit was his direct and only source of life after being formed out of the clay. Here though we also see a descriptive word that furthers our understanding of our existence. Job says that he belongs to God… like other men. In other words, job sees himself as God’s possession. This is powerful.

Although it is a little more heartbreaking to employ the wooden car toy analogy again here, we must see its value. If the car belongs to me, I can do with it as I like because it is mine. Although our motives are selfish and sinful, God’s never are. We are of far greater value to him than inanimate objects. We are of even more value to him than animate objects like sparrows and the flowers of the field! All these things belong to him, but He has given His own breath of life into man. Our belonging is very personal to God and only He has reserve upon the lives of men.

In Job chapters 1 and 2 we see that even satan, usually equated by many to be the “other great power at work in the world,” has a sort of policy he has to follow when entering God’s presence. I find it almost laughable and wonder that God may have even set it in place simply to annoy satan. It appears God always asks satan the same question: “From where do you come?” and then satan always answers the same way “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” Maybe my opinion is of no value, but let me explain. Regardless of how satan has been put in the place where he is, God is emphatically in complete control over him. Since He is God, maybe He set in place an annoying dialogue exchange that satan has to follow every time He enters God’s presence? Regardless, when satan speaks to God, God gives direct commands regarding what satan is allowed to do. Because God says “spare his life,” satan is forbidden and furthermore unable to challenge this command from God. There is no satanic trump card that somehow overpowers God’s will. Often times we give satan the credit for someones death and or some mass tragedy. While satan may have been the tool God used to bring calamity, we must have firm security and faith that God alone makes these decisions Himself because only He exercises sovereign authority over human life––not satan.

Elihu then capitalizes on Job’s statement about life and spirit in 34:14-15. “If He should determine to do so, if He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.” If in one moment God decided to inhale into His own lungs all of the breath of life serving the earth with life itself, in that moment it would perish altogether and cease to exist. Selah.

By the time that God responds to Job in the end of the book and makes His tornadic entry we can gather that He is about to make a very serious point regarding Job’s questioning Him of “Why?” From the whirlwind we hear nearly 130 verses of God’s ideas about Himself. God always tells the truth. We could cite any number of these verses but the very first thing God says to Job basically sums it up, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Right there we have a full-stop that no man can trespass. Like a cartoon character suddenly plowing into the concrete wall and falling down a pancake, Job is immediately flattened to silence. After God’s firm reprimand we hear Job blubber out the same thing as Nebuchadnezzar, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” The resounding gong of our point is crystallized––God created everything and exercises sovereignty over it to do as He pleases, when He pleases, and nothing and no one can affect or change what He purposes.

Psalm 8 distinguishes itself from many other Psalms because of its creational focus of the heavens and the earth and how man is so small in comparison. The announcement given in verse 5 “You have made him a little lower than God” stresses the situation humans are in––lower than God. This is our created God-given identity and the reason why we are to honor our Creator by attributing to Him the recognition and praise He deserves for what He has made!

We emphasized Isaiah 42:5 earlier so let us take this opportunity to mention another relevant Scripture regarding life. “The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil,” (Prov. 16:4). We cannot perceive this as sadistic in relation to God’s identity, but rather worship Him that He has so graciously revealed truth to as many as will listen and humble themselves before His word.

The Creational Identity of Israel

God specifically says that He has created three things in Scripture and we have only discussed two of them. Now we come to peer into the mystery! Usually when I discuss this it doesn’t seem to quite connect with people. I pray that it can connect with you. The same creational title that God uses for the heavens and the earth and man, he also uses regarding the nation of Israel in the Bible. This point alone stands violently in the face of supercessionism, shaking its fist and demanding an explanation to which there is no response. I pray that we have come to understand by this point the supreme power of God regarding creation. Whether the earth, the heavens, or men, He relates the identity of Creator as being His alone. This identity He is proud of, and it is an equally beneficial identity. God created the earth and he plans on keeping it, which is why restoration is si important in our gospel. God created man, and He plans on keeping them (the ones who choose Him within their life) which is why there is a future resurrection. Since God specifically relates creational identity to Israel, we must come to the same conclusion, He plans on keeping them (the ones who choose Him within their life) and an apocalyptic restoration is planned for them as well.

“(I am the Lord) (your God).” Although I have heard many cite this verse, I have rarely heard anyone expound upon its deep yet simplistic implications. I think we should consider that God is actually applying His identity of God as specific to His relation to Israel. In other words, God is not making a passive statement about being their God as a simple matter-of-fact declaration. God is suggesting Israel’s personal possession of Him as their God and He is emphasizing His ownership of Israel––that they equally possess each other. This is certainly a marriage type analogy. If I say to my wife “I am your husband” there is a relational identity I am seeking to emphasize. It means, “I am not the husband of another woman. I belong to you, and you belong to me.” This is simple to understand, but rarely applied to the many times God says this to Israel in Scripture. How much more is this true when God says it? I believe what God is saying should be understood as, “I am the LORD, your God––I have attached Myself to you personally, and attached you also to Me.” Because God does this, He then takes the liberty in Scripture to use creational language regarding Israel.

Let’s take a short parenthesis here. It is necessary to understand how personal Israel is to God so that after the Cross we don’t confuse the theology concerning Israel in the New Testament. It is of the utmost importance to actually ask God to reveal to you the emotions of His heart concerning Israel in the Scriptures we are looking at. Israel is not just a theological matter, it is the chosen of God’s own heart! We must pray for and seek to understand this in order to be theologically sound in our understanding of the Bible. End parenthesis.

Now let me show you in Scripture what I’m commenting about. Please read this whole passage:)

Deut 4:10-40 10“Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when the LORD said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’ 11“You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud and thick gloom.12Then the LORD spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice. 13“So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone… 32“Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and inquire from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything been done like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it? 33Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived? 34“Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD, He is God; there is no other besides Him. 36Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. 37“Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power, 38driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in and to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is today. 39“Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other. 40“So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”

I have underlined the verses that utilize very personal language of God regarding Israel. However, I want to specifically highlight verses 35 and 37 which I’ve made bold above. Verse 37 says, “To you it was shown that you might know the Lord.” God showed himself to one people that this one people might know him. You could say, God revealed Himself from heaven to this people, so that this people would know they were His. We’ve discussed regarding the earth and man that God possess them because He created them. Here, God zooms in within the great landscape of mankind and picks a certain people to be His own special possession.

Deut. 7:6 “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Hopefully this is ringing the bell of understanding within your heart and mind. We are trying to evaluate the creational nature of the nation of Israel in comparison to the earth and man. I’m hoping the Scriptural implications are becoming clear. If God employs the same creational language of possession of the earth and man, to Israel, then the result is paramount! Indeed, let us look to a few pertinent Scriptures that confirm this.

Is. 43:1 “But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!”

Is. 43:15 “I am the LORD, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King.”

Is. 43:21 “The people whom I formed for Myself Will declare My praise.”

Is. 44:1-2 “But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, And Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you, ‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen.”

Is. 45:11 “Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: ‘Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons, And you shall commit to Me the work of My hands.'”

We should full-stop here and note a very important principle. God speaks of three things in the Bible that are creational in their identity. The earth, man, and Israel. These share equal importance in Scripture because they each hold the unique quality of being God’s possession. God has created for Himself eternal possessions in the earth, man, and Israel––things He has no plan of giving away. What is the point for God to create something that expires or is replaced? The very nature of His creational identity is that what He creates stands firm without any outside influences affecting them. Since God created man and the earth, they exist right now, they cannot cease to exist. God also created Israel, and they exist right now. An emphatic section of Scripture that relates this principle perfectly is Jer. 31:35-37

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: ‘If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,” declares the LORD.

Did God just do what we think He did? Yes! God Himself confirms the creational dynamic and its divine interplay by relating creation itself to His created Israel! This is noteworthy and should crystallize in our minds the creational nature of Israel.

Here we have the finale of good news and the foundation upon which Biblical theology is built. God created the earth and He possesses it as His own creation. God created man, and He possesses them as His own creation. God created Israel and He possesses them as His own creation. If the earth is under a curse because of the fall of sin, the Lord’s promise is sure to redeem the earth from this curse, because He created it. If man is under a curse as a result of the fall of sin, God’s promise is sure to redeem him from this curse, because He created them. If Israel is under a curse because she has been unfaithful to her covenant with God, then God’s promise to redeem her is sure, because God created her. We must be certain that God has purposely employed the creational identity of each of these three in order to give a simple understanding of consistency to His Biblical story. His ingenuity is so simple it is brilliant! Let us praise Him for His magnificence, and fear His wondrous ways!

The Gospel From Genesis to Revelation #1: What is the Gospel?

This is a diagram that I’ve made in order to give a simple understanding of the framework of Scripture. This post is a broad-stroke article of what I plan to cover in detailed multiple-blog-posts at a later time–– though the Scriptures under the pillars will not be referenced much in this post, they will be discussed in detail in the posts that follow. Don’t be deterred by the length of this, but do feel the freedom to read at will over a period of time if necessary.

(For a brief summary of what is described within this post scroll down to the conclusion of five short paragraphs.)

What is the Biblical Gospel?

It is critical to understand what is meant in our Bible by the word Gospel. Clearly, it is what John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul preached, and it embodies the very substance of the faith we as Christians profess. But… what is it? Gospel is a greek word that means “good news.” Therefore, whenever the word Gospel is heard, it should immediately register the phrase good news in one’s mind. Thus, when approaching the question of “What is the Biblical Gospel?” we are actually approaching the question of “What is the good news in the Bible?”. With the diagram linked above I hope to articulate a simple version of what this good news actually is through the “five pillars of theology” the Bible emphasizes. I hope to show the gospel which the apostles held firmly to and which we must also preach in order to disciple people in the true apostolic gospel.

Note: From here on we will often interchange gospel with good news in order to produce the simple understanding we are trying to achieve.

Approaching the Good News

First it is necessary to state a few points regarding the nature of the Bible. We must perceive the Bible to be God’s story. It has a beginning, a body, and an end. It has characters, a plot, a climax, and a conclusion. It is always so odd to me to find believers that approach the Bible in an entirely different manner than they do any other story. When we pick up a book, we begin reading and develop a simple understanding of the details which lead to our conclusion of what happens. We do not doubt whether the author existed, nor do we ever separate the book into an old account and new account tricking ourselves into believing that what the author meant in the first part of the book, he doesn’t mean anymore. Yet, consistently this is the case with the Bible. We divide it into old and new testaments creating division between the two as if they don’t relate. Many even believe the Old Testament is no longer relevant. This is detrimental to the story! What is promised in the beginning must be fulfilled in the end or God lied. This is the simple truth we must face and it honestly is a simple truth if we take a deep breath, exhale, and let it be as such.

So, stressing this point is not redundant for me, and I pray it isn’t for you either. Genesis to Revelation is a progressional revelation of God’s story. What He says in the beginning, He does not later contradict, nor change. This is GOD we’re talking about! Rather, He confidently states the same truths over and over, confirming the things He has previously said and slowly revealing more of the story until the final climax––when man is redeemed to live with God on the earth again forever. I beg you friends to read the Bible in this format rather than as a large conglomeration of spiritual sayings that ambiguously apply to you at various points in your life. The story has a context – we must find it, accept it, find ourselves in it, and thank God that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. We can trust His story from beginning to end to do what He said it would do from the beginning.

The Good News is Creational

The good news in our Bible is Creational because the God in our Bible literally created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1. He also created man and then breathed His own breath into his nostrils. This is the first major point we must emphasize in understanding the foundation of the good news in the Bible. Its importance cannot be overemphasized. Because God created everything in existence, He exercises sovereign authority over this existence to do as He wishes. In turn, this absolute control over creation proves Him to be the sole and only Creator.

His proof of this creational identity is represented in events in Scripture such as the global flood, the divine acts of the Exodus, and many others including the future events that unfold at His second coming. In these events we see God exercising sovereign control over the heavens, the earth, and humanity. We also witness His perfect plan and will being played out and achieved within the field of sinful men (mind blown). These things inevitably prove Him to be the one and only Creator.

The sum-total of reality as we know it was created by God and is therefore the place in which God interacts with His creation. The flood account is a primary example of this when God causes the earth to break open and causes the heavens to release rain, resulting in the cataclysmic event we recognize as the global flood. God caused this event, and I emphasize caused. In this account we behold the sovereignty of God over the heavens, the earth, and the life of man. Although we might find it hard to accept, the Bible is firm that there is no other place happening out there somewhere, and this planet we live on is the only place God has chosen to interact with His creation.

Because the totality of what God creates in Scripture is physical in nature, we must understand that there is only one dimension propagated in the Bible. In other words, there is not a separate spiritual dimension. There are indeed angels, demons, and heavens, but because these things exist as invisible to the human eye does not make them another dimension, or “realm.” To think this way, which is typical of modern thinking, lends itself to a worldview that is not formed by the bible. We do not ever have a place in Scripture that says God is in a different realm. Rather, we have a creation account that puts everything in one existence and that existence has differing characteristics. It might be an odd idea to consider that even God dwells within His creation, yet this is exactly what the bible says.

Psalm 11:4 The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’S throne is in heaven.”

Now immediately, what we normally picture with a passage like this is a golden cloud fantasy land that we perceive to be another realm. Yet, we want to challenge this perspective with the Bible. The word heaven in the bible simply means expanseIt is actually never used in Scripture to mean anything other than expanse. Expanse is most commonly used to define the space between the earth and where God is seated, even though God is always Himself said to be sitting within this same expanse. We do well to pay attention to this. God is not living outside of what He has created – He is actually within His creation in an active and personal way. If you could walk through the air, you could literally walk from where you are now directly to the throne of God. The heavens in the Bible are always continuous – meaning, from the space just above the earth that is no longer dirt, to the outer space area where God is (the heights of the heavens Job 22:12) there is traversable space––it is possible to go there. Hence we see Jesus rise into the air in Acts 1 and continue upwards until He actually reached His Father’s throne. He did not simply disappear into another reality. We also see Elijah get taken up in a fiery chariot, and he also must have gone up until he arrived at God’s temple. If the horses and chariot that picked up Elijah weren’t real, then what was the point of him getting into such a contraption? Now this brings us to our next point – the physical nature of heavenly things.

Isaiah 6 is one of the best passages to help us. As in the verse above, we see in this chapter God sitting in a temple on top of a throne, wearing a robe. These are three clear physical components. Isaiah could have seen a spirit-like figure hovering amidst the clouds enshrouded in wispiness. But, this is not what Isaiah sees. Moreover, the angel goes to the altar before the throne and picks up pair of tongs and then takes a coal from the fire… again here we find descriptions we are all very familiar with––we relate to them well. The angel’s hand does not pass through the tongs, and the fire was not a sub-reality of a different existence. He goes to a real altar in the physical temple before the tangible throne of God who is wearing a robe made of material and takes a coal from a burning fire with a pair of tongs made from something that can be dipped into a fire, probably bronze or something similar. The point is this: God is living within and surrounded by physical reality. It is not disembodied, it is not the normal propagated idea of “spiritual” and it is not another realm. It is currently invisible to the human eye simply because this is how God created it.

So, God’s creation is physical and the heavens are tangible and physical. Heaven as normally perceived is not another realm but a physical place where God’s temple and throne are, and you could in theory travel there by moving through the space we call the sky. The knowledge of God dwelling within His creation instead of outside of it or in another realm should produce in us a great joy that He is closer than we might have perceived. To borrow my good friend’s analogy: If I’m a father and I live in a different house than my kids’, it’d be entirely different to if I were to live in the same house with them. Their perception of me as their father can only be warped with the former condition.

All of this is really good news!

The Good News is Covenant

After God created the heavens, the earth, and man, He planted a garden in the east of Eden and gave man a command of obedience. Man listened to satan and disobeyed this command being expelled from the garden and subjected to the discipline God chose: Man would now be sinful, he would no longer be immortal, and the effects of this disobedience would be reminded to him in the curse which was placed upon him and the earth. Yet in the wake of such tragedy, hope was given––this disciplinary time would come to an end! As God established a covenant with the earth, God established a covenant with man in Genesis 3:15: There would come forth a Seed that would crush the head of the serpent thus removing the effects of sin from the earth and man. This future deliverance from the divine discipline became the very GOSPEL (good news) which man put hope in from then onward. The covenant in Gen. 3:15 points to the final eschatological (end-time) deliverance when God accomplishes the fullness of His original plan, ending this age of wickedness ruled by satan and beginning the age of righteousness ruled by Him, when man and God are finally reconciled and able to live together on the earth again as it was in the garden – the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). As we are coming to find, gospel is usually what God does and says, as opposed to the infamy of what man does and says. This ironic interplay truly shows God’s humility time and time again. Man brings forth bad news, God encourages him with good news! This is our Gospel!

The good news in our Bible is Covenantal because of the nature of Who God is as Creator. God has created existence as we know it within a covenantal framework to testify to the surety of everything God said after He created. To say it simply, what God says cannot be broken––it stands firm untouched and as plain as the day He first said it. We could see this covenantal dynamic as a magnificent limitation that God has placed upon Himself in order that humans may have something to hope in knowing it cannot change. It is an incredible thing that God has divinely entrapped Himself with His covenantal words keeping His word to His own hurt (Ps. 15).

We see this in the heavenly dignitaries. In the sun, moon, and stars we behold a sign––a testimony that God’s covenants hold firm and are trustworthy. Why? Because from the day He told them to do what they are doing right now––they have not stopped! Creation and covenant are inherently tied together in this grand scheme of good news serving as a living, shining witness to humans living within God’s created reality. Thus, in Genesis 15, when God calls Abraham out of the nations in order to consecrate to Himself a people for His own possession (Deut. 7:6), He makes a covenant that stands as firm as the sunrise we beheld this very morning.

With Abraham, the covenantal dynamic takes on a personalized dimension as God is bringing the promise of Genesis 3:15 to fruition. His covenant with Abraham is for a land and a people. He makes good on this covenant by delivering Abraham’s descendants from Egyptian captivity and furthering the covenant with them at Mt. Sinai with the giving of a law and a temple. God delivers the people into the land He promised to Abraham and then establishes His covenant with David, promising him a throne of government. In these three covenants we behold the simple promise of the Kingdom. A kingdom as we would define it today simply consists of a piece of land with people in it operating under a law with a ruler (King) reigning on a throne over them. For many generations all kingdoms contained a temple where the God of that culture was worshipped. This is the Kingdom God promised in Scripture and the Kingdom we await Him to establish on the earth at His second coming. We will deal exclusively with this in detail in a latter post as well, but here it suffices to say that the Bible never presents an immaterial kingdom, that is spiritual in nature. The Kingdom is as described above continually in the Bible: A land with a law and a people, a temple with a King seated in it reigning over the land and the people.

We do good to pay attention to the details of the people God chose. Relaying back to our first principle of good news, Creational––Israel is the only other thing in Scripture that God directly gives a creational title to. He created Israel, and He did so on purpose. The Kingdom just mentioned was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob––the first Jews. It was confirmed by Moses who was a descendant of Jacob, who was Israel. David himself was of this Jewish lineage, and the promised One to reign upon David’s throne forever was to be David’s direct descendant, making Him inevitably Jewish. We boldly affirm that this is what God has chosen to bring about the redemption of man and it is really good news. Many compromise this point today although it sits as a crucial pillar in the biblical gospel. As a fellow Gentile I warn us––let us not be arrogant against the olive tree (cf. Rom 11), but fear God and humble ourselves before His ordained plan of redemption!

The Good News is the Cross/Atonement

The chosen Jewish descendant of David that would reign upon a throne in Jerusalem forever as promised in 2 Sam. 7 was born from the flesh of Jewish parents, yet from the Seed of the Holy Spirit. He grew up a Jewish man, a descendant of David and of the lineage of Abraham, fulfilling the very covenantal words of God. His life was lived within the covenantal context that His Father had set up right there in the midst of the land, people, law, and temple that had been promised. He was the One promised to fulfill the only promise left remaining––The King who was to reign on David’s throne––yet, oddly He did not take that throne in His first coming. He instead lived as a prophet to bear witness against the people that they had been unfaithful to the covenant His Father had made and that the curses prophesied as a result of covenantal unfaithfulness were still upon them (Deut. 28; Lev. 26).  The good news of the Kingdom that He preached was clearly an event in the future when He would come a second time, not as baby in a manger or as a rejected teacher and prophet, but as the Son of Man spoken of in Daniel 7 to finally set up the true Kingdom on earth He had always desired. His preaching neither inaugurated or began this kingdom during the first coming, but rather, it related only to man in that it created a window of repentance and mercy in which we currently live before He establishes this kingdom at His second coming at which point the time of mercy and repentance will end. This is commonly called The Day of the Lord in Scripture – the time when the Lord finally calls all men to give account of their lives lived on the earth. It is the great apocalyptic hope prophesied in Genesis 3:15 fulfilled! However, Jesus first had a baptism to undergo in order to become the atonement for the righteous God to be able to forgive sinful man and allow them into His kingdom.

It was then that we saw the all powerful Creator God do the most antithetical thing according to His grand previous revealed identity––He laid down His life and died upon the Cross. The promised Deliverer of Genesis 3:15 that would crush the head of the serpent hanging dead on the Cross could be the pinnacle mark of the biblical good news (indeed the arguable elusive center of theology) and in fact the only thing that truly makes the Bible’s good news entirely different than any other religion’s. His body hung there as the substitution for those who had sinned from Adam until the present, bearing their deserved punishment of death in Himself, so that their transgression might be forgiven in the spilling of His own blood. His resurrection testified that He was indeed the acceptable sacrifice to accomplish such a task! First and foremost this atonemental sacrifice, confirmed by the resurrection, was a confirmation of the covenant established with Abraham’s lineage, the Jews, the covenant people, as Peter says in Acts 3,

“It is you who are sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up His servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

Paul later confirms this principle of Israel’s ethnic priority regarding the promises concerning the good news in Romans 1:16, …“the gospel…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  

The families of the earth, the Greeks, the gentiles begin receiving their blessing in the Jewish Messiah in Acts 10 with the household of Cornelius––the first gentile converts to the distinctly jewish faith according to the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit comes upon them as a testimony that indeed God was now extending the blessing promised to Israel to Gentiles also – which was the inheritance of eternal life i.e. entrance into the Kingdom. This cross-centered theology must be seen in its context relating to the other two pillars we have established––The Cross happens because God is the Creator of the Heavens, the earth, and man. Man sinned and was banished from the garden and God promised to restore him and the earth through the Seed that would come through Eve. God did this by means of His covenants made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), Moses and David, and the Messiah came in this lineage passed down for millennia and died on the Cross to be the vindicated Savior of Jews and Gentiles––a true one new man reality.

Yet in all of this, we should not (and cannot biblically) have the idea that these promises were fulfilled in Jesus during His life on earth in the first coming! His death on the Cross is the means by which men will enter the kingdom that is coming. Paul confirms that this is how the apostles thought about Christ’s death, saying, “…I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the Fathers, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy,” (Rom. 15:8). Paul’s hope of the promises given to the Fathers remains here a future event––Christ has confirmed that they are valid, and exist in their covenantal stature pure and impossible to obstruct. Jesus’ life on the earth therefore served the covenants previously made to Israel – He did not replace or realize them within Himself. His life and death served as the final solution which is yet entirely future.

Also here we must acknowledge what Paul says Gentiles should do: glorify God for His mercy. Here is a blanket gentile calling as represented in Scripture, for it is true as Paul says in Eph. 2:

Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Eph. 2:11-13

I love this passage because Paul tells gentiles straightforwardly and undeniably what we were and why we should actually be glorifying God for His mercy! Our history is filled with pagan rituals that hated the God of Israel and persecuted His chosen people, and yet because of God’s mercy we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. It is best to emphasize this point in a simple sentence: Gentiles are not the focal point of Scripture – the Jews are, while we gentiles exist in the footnotes and praise God for this merciful inclusion through His blessed Son Christ Jesus! Now, although we are not the point, God has given us a grand calling of provoking His people to jealousy (Rom. 11) which we will discuss at a latter time.

Practically, the good news in our Bible is also cruciform because it was necessary “for the Messiah to suffer before entering into His glory,” (Lk. 24:26). In the same way, those who have been “called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” (1 Pt. 2:21) embrace the suffering of this age as necessary for proving our faith. Therefore, the nature of our lives as Christians is to embody this same principle of suffering before glory as we “always carry about in our bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus,” (2 Cor. 4:10). The forsaking of our lives and laying down of our own reputation and fleshly boasting, truly becoming the last and least of all, should be the apostolic model we follow based on 1 Corinthians 4 among many other passages. This is embodied in the apostles’ declaration in Acts 14, “Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.” It was very clear in their minds that suffering as Jesus did for the sake of the Gospel was necessary to enter the coming kingdom of God.

“He also presented Himself alive after His sufferings, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking to them of the things concerning the Kingdom of God,” (Acts 1:3). After Jesus’ resurrection He had a 40 day intensive seminar with His disciples teaching them about the Kingdom of God. Their question to Him after this was, “Lord, is it at this time that You are going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” This is not the wrong question as many say! This question is based distinctly upon the promises (covenants) made to the Fathers and what Jesus had taught them. Now that He was resurrected, their hope was that it was time for the promise of the Kingdom found in the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and David covenants to be fulfilled. Jesus’ declaration to them is not that they are wrong, or that they have asked the wrong question, but that, “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth.”

In these passages Jesus affirms our previous established “pillars.” In effect, He says, “God is the sovereign creator who has a fixed time for the restoration of the Kingdom spoken of in the covenants. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will make firm what I have taught you over the last forty days. Disciple people in this!” If the disciples had asked the wrong question, surely Jesus would have corrected them, but that’s not what we see. Rather, we see the apostles being endued with the Holy Spirit and their teaching that follows being in perfect accord with what Jesus taught them. It is here that we must make a simple point. If the kingdom had been changed in any sort of way from what the expectation of the kingdom was previously, it would be vibrantly clear in the apostles’ teaching in the book of Acts- meaning, if the Kingdom had become a spiritually inaugurated kingdomthe apostles would have made sure that everyone understood this MASSIVE change! However, in the book of Acts we do not see any mention of such things. Rather, what we continually see is the affirmation that nothing had changed concerning the promises, rather, they had only been further confirmed. In Peter’s second sermon we see this future hope emphasized with vibrant clarity:

“But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.”

Thus, Christ suffered, and this is the part God had fulfilled. The hope of the promises being fulfilled remained the future event when He sends Jesus Christ the appointed and the time of the restoration of all things begins. The death, resurrection and ascension of the Messiah into heaven were the events unforeseen regarding the establishment of the Kingdom. These events, however, confirmed the previous promises and now the expectation of the fulfillment of the covenants––the land, people, law, and temple, which the Messiah reigned over on the throne of David in Jerusalem, the Kingdom––was still understood in its proper context of truly being an apocalyptic event. Never is there any sort of reimagined kingdom, or reimagined Israel – only confirmation of what had been previously spoken by God. This is a superb reality to instill our faith in! God did not change anything in His story mid-way! If He did, His word was simply not true and He would be found a liar. Rather, everything God had spoken previously came to pass just as He said it would. He operates humbly underneath this covenantal confinement of His power. This is all incredibly good news!

The Good News is Confirmed by the Giving of the Holy Spirit

The good news in our bible was and is confirmed by the Holy Spirit being endowed by the God of Israel into the bodies of humans who believe His good news and repent of their sins in order to receive His forgiveness and inherit eternal life. Therefore, “Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” (Eph. 1:13-14) which summarizes the function of Holy Spirit inside a person. “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” The Holy Spirit enters the man who believes the Gospel and repents of his sins, serving as a seal upon the man and given to him as a pledge according to his faith in the gospel that he will inherit and enter the kingdom that has been promised in Israel’s covenants. The Holy Spirit testifies within the person that this man has become God’s own possession and will actually inherit eternal life.

The Holy Spirit also serves a person in conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8) as Jesus said. The man is convicted of sin because this is what prohibits him from entering eternal life and is the very reason the Messiah was crucified. The Holy Spirit convicts of righteousness, because this sin must be repented of, and the man must take on the righteousness of Christ rather than his own so that no man may boast. The man is convicted of judgment, because there is a fixed day when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds done in the body, according to what He has done, whether good or bad.”

Jesus also says that the Helper will “teach us all things, and bring to remembrance all that Jesus said,” (c.f. Jn. 14:26). He says this in lieu of His repeated saying, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” (Jn. 14:15). Thus, “walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh,” (Gal. 5:16) which are the evident deeds of any sort of self seeking and anything that does not serve your neighbor. Hence, Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is a good template of what we should be reminded of continually by the Holy Spirit.

Here is where the now is vitally important in Scripture because how we live according to the Spirit now determines whether or not we enter into the coming kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount exists as the instructions of Jesus for believers in Him who are seeking to become His disciples, striving to enter through the narrow gate and take up their cross and follow Him to their own deaths. This sermon is what those filled with the Spirit fulfill as their act of faith in His Cross and this future kingdom. If we do not do what is there in those three chapters, we simply do not have true faith in what is to come. James clearly tells us that faith without works is dead, meaning, faith without action is not faith that takes a man into eternal life. Do not misunderstand me here. I AM NOT SAYING WE INHERIT SALVATION THROUGH OUR OWN WORKS. I am saying that the works we do in the body prove the truth and substance of our faith in the Cross and the righteousness of Christ Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is clear on this point. For example, a good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit, the way is narrow and the gate is small that leads to life, and “he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” Jesus immediately follows these stories with “everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them…” will be like the wise man with a house on the rock, meaning, his inheritance is secure and the man will enter the kingdom. The warning in Matthew 7 of doing things but not actually doing the will of the Father is one of the sternest most terrifying warnings in all of Scripture. It tells us a man can cast out demons, perform miracles, and call Jesus Lord and still not enter the kingdom of God. In Jesus’ analogies and parables we see His ingenious ability to say the same thing a hundred times and not be repetitive––one man inherits the kingdom, the man who not only hears the words, but takes action and does them, proving his faith in the words to be true.

If the current inheritance of the Holy Spirit within us is defined by Paul as a seal, pledge, downpayment (deposit), and first-fruits, what are these qualifying words in relation to? The point in a downpayment is that it is unto something else. It is the same with a pledge and seal. Very clearly, it is not the fullness but merely a portion. In Scripture, God defines the first-fruits in an offering as a tenth of the whole. If I make a downpayment on a house, I have given a portion of the sum owed to the owner. I might live in the house at that point and receive the benefits of the home, but the fullness of the home is not mine in ownership until I pay the final dollar owed. It is the same with a pledge. A pledge is given unto something to be received at a later time. Likewise, Scripture presents that the Holy Spirit is within men now as God’s downpayment and pledge, teaching us to look towards the Day of the Lord when we receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit as promised by the prophets. That fullness will indeed be the resurrection from the dead.

It is critical that we as believers in Jesus understand that the Holy Spirit has a very clear purpose as represented in the covenants with Israel. If we do not understand what the Old Testament says about the Holy Spirit, we cannot understand why He is inside of us. The Holy Spirit was promised to Israel, and He does not come without context!

It is here that we must briefly talk about the New Covenant, as it is inherently related to the promised Spirit. This might be different to what you’ve previously believed, but we always turn to the Bible to challenge what we believe:

31“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34“They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more,” (Jer. 31:31-34).

And,

18“When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it. 19“And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God,” (Ez. 11:18-20). 

In these two passages, among many others, God sets before us a clear future expectation relating to a New Covenant He makes with the house of Israel. This New Covenant is synonymous with God putting His Spirit into them. We also read that this enables them to walk in God’s statutes and ordinances, meaning that they are enabled to fulfill God’s law perfectly.

This is an incredible promise! Jesus indeed presented the New Covenant of His blood, by which those who believe in Him are a part of. However, yet again we have the principle of the covenant Jesus made in His blood being an event fulfilled in the future, since what is mentioned above has not yet happened in full. Thus, the promise of God is that He will make a New Covenant with Israel, a covenant which will inevitably be unable for them to break, due to the enabling of the Holy Spirit inside of them to keep His law. Beloved, this is the covenantal promise of the entrance into the kingdom on the day of the resurrection from the dead when we are made “like Him,” meaning, like Him in His sinless obedience to the Father.

Just to be clear about the New Covenant, Hebrews chapters 8-10 makes clear that the New Covenant has been inaugurated by the blood of Jesus. Also, specifically Romans 2:15 clearly tells us that when gentiles do instinctively the things of the law in shows that the work of the law has been written on their hearts. These few passages express that through the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus blood the measure of the Holy Spirit currently inside of us gives us the conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment Jesus promises in John 16. In this we rejoice! However, because of many Old Testament passages we understand that the complete enablement of sinless nature, when the law is written on our hearts by the Spirit in the resurrection happens when the New Covenant is established with reconciled Israel after Jesus second coming. It is important to understand and distinguish the parallels and differences between the two. In doing so we are able to see the greater hope of deliverance in the future and that the full establishment of the New Covenant is what we are waiting and hoping for in the future!

What a firm hope and what truly good news this is.

The Good News is a final Consummation

The Gospel’s hope is centered on this final consummation, because in its simplest form there is foretold in Scripture a certain end to this current age when “the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ,” (cf. Rev. 11:15). This end is the driving force of the events in the Bible from the fall of Adam to Jesus’ descent from the sky. Even from Genesis 3:15, as we’ve seen, there is a general thrust towards this final hope being accomplished when the head of the serpent is crushed, and the earth and man are delivered form the effects of sin and the curse. It stands so vibrantly clear even from Genesis 3 that the orientation of the Bible is focused on this final event. This final event is the very subject of eschatology Do not be put off by the term eschatology – it is truly a helpful term when approaching the subject. We don’t have to overcomplicate the simplicity of this so let us be extremely pragmatic here. When we say the good news is consummation, we simply mean that the entirety of the Christian hope is set in the events of the future (soon to take place) that bring about the final deliverance which God has promised. It means that this current age in which we live is broken, sinful, wicked, and dark because man sinned but that there is a future day when God will end this age and transition us into the age of perfection, sinlessness, righteousness, and light-filled glory. It is the culmination and bringing to fruition of everything God has said. It is the fulfillment of the promises to Israel and their extension to the Gentiles. It is indeed everything we have described within this article finally coming to pass.

Now, let us briefly overview the chief dynamics that make our Gospel centered upon this consummation.

Since we have covered four pillars now, we should naturally understand that within the apocalyptic end we should see the point of each of the previous four pillars come to summation in the grand climax of our good news being achieved. It could almost suffice to say that everything we’ve summed up thus far in this article is simply played out in a consummational dynamic, and just leave it there. However, let us evaluate the details of this finality in order to see the end results. In doing this we can finally see why the pillars we’ve highlighted actually function as the catalysts to bring about God’s redemptive plan for man and the earth.

First off, it is important to understand that the bible presents a very clear dichotomy between this age in which we live, and the next age when this one ends. In essence, the age to comeand the events that lead to this grand transition are what we are studying in this pillar. So, just mark this in our minds as a finality- We are simply discussing the final events that transition this age into the next age. I am saying that many of the promises in Scripture actually find their fulfillment after Jesus returns, rather than before as is very often presented. Let’s look at the Scriptures to see if this is true.

Firstly, the Creational existence that we know, which God created good has been subjected to futility and is currently groaning for its own deliverance,

“…For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God…” (Rom. 8:20-21). 

When man was cursed after breaking God’s command in Eden, the earth received the repercussions of his actions–it was cursed with thorns and was no longer able to yield fruit (possibly in size and quantity) as it did before. We must learn from this passage that the earth was very different before Adam sinned. It is such a graphic description of Paul to say that creation is under the bondage of decay. But, isn’t that what we hear all the time? The earth is in trouble! Whether it’s the ozone, polar caps, population density, food, drought––the earth is decaying! We are running out of oil, we are running out of water, and popular belief is that within 100 years this earth could be decimated unless man finds a miraculous solution to the problems. So even scientists have an apocalyptic expectation albeit very liberal and godless. According to their ‘faith’, man will solve the problems of the earth. In our creational pillar, the apocalyptic expectation for the earth is a total deliverance from decay into a perpetual regeneration that continues for ages to come. This is orchestrated by Jesus sitting on the throne in Jerusalem. It is delivered from this curse by the one who subjected it to futility: The Sovereign Creator God. Logically, since God is the one who subjected it to decay, man can do nothing to stop this and only God the Father, and Jesus as the Messiah, in tandem with the Holy Spirit can bring this grand transition to the earth to stop the decay and begin the regeneration of creation.

As we’ve discussed, man was also subjected to this godly discipline and thus,

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved,” (Rom. 8:22-24). 

and,

“…we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come,” (2 Cor. 5:2-5).

This glorious redemption of the earth and man is seen as one grand event in the future and the Holy Spirit has been given to us as a guarantee that this redemption will take place! Let’s move on to the Covenantal pillar and its purpose in the apocalyptic end.

God promised Abraham a land and a lineage that would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth, and he, as well as the others mentioned in Hebrews 11,

“…were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them,” (v. 13-16).

Abraham and the other people of faith believing in God’s promise to Abraham died having not received the promise. And here is such a glorious truth for us all to adhere to–– that when we die, we die living by faith that God will in fact fulfill this promise to Abraham! This is the qualification of becoming a part of the great cloud of witnesses: looking towards the future. The people of faith and hope have set these in God achieving the final end of His promises. In effect, apocalypticism is faith that God will act upon His promises to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David and fulfill them in totality according to the words He spoke. As we saw previously, Jesus plainly tells us in Acts 1 that the Father has fixed a day for the promises to be fulfilled. Faith in God and His divine day to do what He said is the very substance of true apostolic faith and hope.

The good news of this land and lineage promised to Abraham that was to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth was further developed at Mt. Sinai with the giving of the law when God spoke to Abraham’s lineage. His choice of this lineage was then reconfirmed to David in 2 Samuel 7 when the promised deliverer spoken of in Genesis 3:15 would reign over the land and lineage promised to Abraham and govern them upon a throne of righteousness in Jerusalem. God promised that this would happen directly through David’s lineage, who was Abraham’s great (many times over) nephew. This promise found its divine agent in Christ Jesus (Yeshua the Messiah) who is the Son of God, truly God Himself in the flesh, who was crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected from the dead as a confirmation of the promises we are discussing. This is where things can get off-track for some people (by off-track I mean: reimagined, replaced, and changed at Christ’s first coming). We must maintain a covenantal hope that keeps the promise of the lineage itself (Israel) having apocalyptic destiny––not having everything fulfilled in Christ at His first coming (We will appropriately deal with Galatians 3 at a later time, but to put it simply, Galatians 3 is not about an erasing of Israel’s ethnic calling). The covenants to Abraham, Moses and David have not yet been fulfilled, and were not fulfilled when Jesus died on the Cross––and Jesus doesn’t feel degraded when we say this! He has established it this way!

Now, we will tie together the covenant and the cross pillar so that we can understand Jesus, His short life on earth, and His own expectation of consummation. Hebrews tells us expressly the meaning of Jesus’ first coming and the expectation of the second:

“…but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him,” (Hebrews 9:26-28).

Also,

“but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET,” (Hebrews 10:28).

So, Jesus was manifested (born in the flesh) to put away sins by the sacrifice of Himself, and He is currently seated at the right hand of the Father awaiting the time when His enemies are put under His feet. Jesus confirms His own expectation of the end in Matthew 25,

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” (v. 31-34).

We are using a few examples here just to make a simple point. Jesus’ first coming was atonemental in purpose, meaning He lived to die as a sacrifice to make reconciliation between God and Israel by His blood (we will discuss His prophetic calling in relation to Israel, which is of equal importance, at a later time). He became the atoning sacrifice that covered sins, expressly, Israel’s sins––extended to gentiles.

“For you (Israel) first, God raised up His servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways,” (Acts 3:26). 

As Peter is preaching directly to the Men of Israel as stated in the beginning of his sermon in vs. 12, we see that the apostles viewed Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as being related to Israel first. Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 is so profound I highly recommend you study it!

Since Jesus rose from the dead, we read that He is now awaiting the time that His enemies are made His footstool. 1 Corinthians 15 in plain language tells us that this takes place after His second coming and after the resurrection of the saints,

“For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet, (v. 21-25). 

So, even our Lord Jesus is not content with the way things are on the earth now! Have you ever considered that Jesus, our resurrected King of glory, is waiting for a day in the future? The day when He is finally hallowed among the nations of the earth, seated on the throne in Jerusalem, while His and His Father’s enemies are being made their footstool! All this while surrounded by resurrected Jews and Gentiles––one new man. The point is this- Jesus is also longing for the next age. 

So, we can now ascertain just how future-oriented the apostles and Jesus Himself were, and hopefully this gives us the freedom to clear away many of the clouds of confusion surrounding various interpretations of the reality we live in. We are simply living in this broken age, hoping for this future event!

Within this glorious plan there remains the context of how Jesus will achieve this final end: enter the people Israel. We as gentiles must fasten all of our hope to the redemption of Israel because without them, no one inherits the resurrection. Let us start with a verse everyone is familiar with in Romans 9 and work out what it means for our good news. 

“I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed,separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen,” (Rom. 9:1-5). 

Here Paul emphatically declares that six things belong to Israel: adoption, glory, covenants, law, temple service, and promises. He then emphasizes that the Messiah has come from them, making it the final point of his statement. Now, in Romans 8 Paul has already told us that the adoption is simply the resurrection from the dead (as defined in 1 Corinthians 15 also). But what about the remainder of these things?

Often, these things are perceived to be mere past things Israel had and did, but why would Paul make a point about what Israel did in the past, in the same sentence with the future resurrection? No, we should assume that Paul is consistent in his line of thought here and that he is thinking about the promises spoken of by God that remain yet unfulfilled. This is Paul’s grief: God has promised them so much, and they are currently blinded to their own Messiah crucified as the means by which they obtain these promises! He even goes as far to sum up his entire calling and soon to be martyrdom with an incredible statement in the last chapter of Acts:

“I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel,” (28:20).

Why does this matter for us? Simply, Israel’s hope has become the gentiles’ hope through our inclusion to the promises God made to Abraham, Moses and David. The Christian hope is not to die and go away to heaven in a disembodied state! Paul’s grief is twofold. Without Israel being saved, no person can be saved. If Israel does not inherit these things, neither do gentiles, as Paul states to us in Romans 2:9-10, “There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. In the chapter before he prefaced this by saying that, “I am not ashamed of the gospel (good news), for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Here is the reason we are defining the good news in such depth within this post and the very reason we must understand it. The good news of our Bible is for the Jew first. Meaning, they have priority to all of the promises of God because they are the chosen people. Therefore, God has ordained them to be the conduit by which He accomplishes ALL, and I emphasize ALL, of His purposes through. It is Jesus the Messiah, and it is the people of Israel. It is Jesus the Jewish man at the right hand of the Father, governing the Jewish remnant in righteousness on the earth, enabling them to walk in their irrevocable calling of the temple service, law, and glory. It is both Jesus and Jews together! The merciful part is that gentiles get to reap the glorious benefits of their relationship through the blood Jesus shed on the Cross (Eph. 2:13), so “the Gentiles (should) glorify God for His mercy!” (cf. Rom. 15:9, emphasis always mine).

Now, as we turn to look at the passages in the prophets that explain in detail what we are talking about, we will start with Peter’s exhortation:

“This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” (2 Pt. 3:1-5). 

We are exhorted by the beloved apostle Peter to pay attention to the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets, and this is in the context of Jesus’ return to the earth and the mockery it will receive in the last days. We go to the prophets because we are exhorted to, and we are exhorted to because within them lies an incredible amount of information regarding Israel’s hope––which has become gentile hope. Our brother Paul also commands us in this principle in Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” So, Peter and Paul both confirm the hope that they are holding to was defined early in the Bible. This is helpful to us as students of the Bible.

Thus, we begin this concluding part by highlighting Isaiah 40-66 because the hope they are referring to is so vividly articulated here. I frequently tell people to fall in fatal love with these chapters, reading them through and through, again and again. You want to know them, study them, understand them, and get lost in making them your hope. Within them is the right context for understanding what was in the apostles’ minds regarding the hope of Israel and why Paul was willing to wear a chain and have his head chopped off for it. The very defining substance of consummation is revealed in depth in Isaiah 40-66. You could also say that to obtain good end-time theology it cannot be done apart from this huge portion of Scripture.

The reason that almost all of the apostles were tragically, yet gloriously, martyred was because something was very real to them. We should assume that it could only be an incredible hope that can drive a man to give his only life for. The men who walked and talked with Jesus had been taught something and they understood His life to have confirmed something. We find this something in Romans 15:

“For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,” (v.8). 

This is an immaculate verse pointing to how the apostles interpreted Jesus’ life. As we’ve seen, they interpreted it as a sacrifice that made atonement for sins, and here we see that they also understood His life to serve as a confirmation of the words God had promised to the fathers (i.e. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David). Because of this confirmation within the life and death of Jesus, the apostles knew that Israel’s hope of this final salvation, deliverance and restoration was actually true––solid and anchored in the Man they had seen bleed and die on a Cross and then raise up into the sky. They had perfect assurance that the promises God made in the prophets would be fulfilled and that the resurrection of life would be given unto them in accord with those promises. This is truly an unshakable hope. In their minds, while being “stoned, sawn in two, tempted, and put to death with the sword,” (cf. Hb. 11:37) was the driving hope of the passages we now look to.

Isaiah 60:1-6 “”Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes round about and see; They all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come from afar, And your daughters will be carried in the arms. Then you will see and be radiant, And your heart will thrill and rejoice…The sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you, And all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet; And they will call you the city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. “Whereas you have been forsaken and hated With no one passing through, I will make you an everlasting pride, A joy from generation to generation. Then all your people will be righteous; They will possess the land forever, The branch of My planting, The work of My hands, That I may be glorified.”

This is one of my favorite passages, and I wish I could post the whole chapter here. Instead I beg you to read it on your own. What is clear in this passage is that, the glory of the Lord has not yet risen upon Israel. We also behold in the second verse that preceding this will be a time of darkness covering the land and the people. This also is the yet future event known as Jacob’s Trouble that we will deal extensively with in several other posts in the future. It is in this one two-word event that the whole of eschatology is played out. It is critical to understand, and although it may seem complex, understanding the why of it can be fairly simple. It suffices to say that Revelation, Zechariah, Daniel, and Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are all describing this one event called Jacob’s Trouble found in Jeremiah 30:7 and that it is the 3 and a half years directly preceding Jesus’ return.

As we focus on the great hope of consummation, it can sometimes seem somewhat dark and disheartening because things like judgement, trouble, and distress are mentioned. But we do well to consider God’s merciful tarrying with men for about 6000 years. He has stayed His judgment, and kept it from breaking out against men, and this is the final time when He will finally restrain no longer. Consider, how much hard work is sown into the garden before it bears fruit? Does the seed not die before it comes to life? Did not our own Lord Jesus have to suffer before entering into His glory (Lk. 24:26)? The crucifixion is always before the resurrection. This is our divine template for understanding the toil that produces everlasting fruit and the suffering that produces an eternal weight of glory. Though hard to stare at and accept at times, we “prepare our minds for action, keeping sober in spirit, and fixing our hope completely on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (cf. 1 Pt. 1:13).

For now we are focusing on the what of consummation, rather than the why. The what is this incredible hope that Jesus will return on the clouds of heaven and fulfill the promises to the Fathers by making Israel a blessing to all the nations of the earth. Let us look to the other passages.

Lev. 26:9-11 “‘I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you. You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”

Jer. 31:31-34 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

“In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel. 3It will come about that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded for life in Jerusalem. 4When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, 5then the LORD will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. 6There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain,” (Is. 4:2-6).

“And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem,” (Is. 2:3).

We should take heed that gentiles are the side note in these passages and that these promises were made directly to Israel. This is not favoritism by God, this is just Him being faithful to what He originally said. As Gentiles, we humbly accept that we are the nations in the above passage (Is. 60:2; 2:3) that are coming to see the Lord make Israel the light He has promised her to be, and to learn the law in Zion. Fellow gentiles––we hope in this great restoration of Israel! We join ourselves to her and God’s plan for her!

It is proper to highlight that this final achievement by God is actually accomplished through the fullness of His Spirit being put inside of Israel. As we have discussed, currently, it is biblically logical to presume that we have a tithe of firstfruits, or 1/10, of the Holy Spirit given to us as the guarantee, and pledge of what is to come. However, in the day of restoration God puts His Spirit into Israel (and this is extended to gentiles) in FULLNESS.

Ez. 36:27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 

Ez. 11:19-20 “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.”

Ez. 37:14 “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.’”

Jer. 31:31-34  31“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34“They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Here we see that the future hope of the Spirit being put within Israel in fullness is the final deliverance from sin and the entrance into the New Covenant. It is by enactment of this new covenant that God’s Spirit is put within them in full, and they are enabled to never again transgress His law. This applies to gentiles also who have attached themselves to this hope for Israel. We await that complete filling of the Spirit, when our hearts become tender and we are able to obey God flawlessly! Truly, we find the entire purpose of the resurrection here in Israel’s final apocalyptic deliverance and as gentiles we can become like Paul and be willing to wear a chain until He brings this to pass!

“You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth,” (Is. 62:7).

Conclusion

Although we honed in on many specific parts of the Gospel in our Bible let us now provide a brief summation of these five points. The hope is that the reader would now have a much firmer grasp in reading this summation than previously.

The good news in our Bible is creational because the God of our Bible created the heavens and the earth and therefore exercises sovereignty over them to do as He wills. In the beginning, it was clear that He willed man to live in relationship with Him in a garden but man disobeyed God’s command and was expelled from the garden. At that time the effects of sin and death came upon man and the earth in the form of a curse––a disciplinary measure God took to produce hope in the promise. In the midst of the tragedy, God made the promise of hope in Genesis 3:15 that He would bring about a person through the Seed of man which would end the curse and bring man back into relationship with God in the garden. This began the covenantal promise towards restoration which is the whole subject of everything thereafter in Scripture. Next, God confirmed this covenant with Abraham by bringing the promised Seed through his lineage and that this lineage would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. The covenant with this lineage was reconfirmed in the miraculous deliverance from Egypt, at Mt. Sinai, and then again with David in promising the One who would rule on the throne of David in Jerusalem forever.

Before that ruler came, we behold in Scripture the same pattern of covenantal discipline within the microcosm of the people Israel. God gives them the covenantal terms of His dwelling among them, and they are unfaithful to that covenant, resulting in a discipline aligned with the Edenic expulsion. The Messiah is then born as the ultimate reconfirmation that God has in fact deliberately established this Jewish lineage to be what He promised Abraham. However, we behold the nature of our Gospel being cruciform in that the Messiah suffered in His first coming to take away sin, but will appear a second time for salvation (Hb. 9:28). After His crucifixion we understand from Paul that the discipline spoken of in Deuteronomy 28-32 upon this people has resulted in their eyes becoming blinded and their hearts hardened so that gentiles can also inherit salvation at His second coming.

Jesus was confirmed to be the agent promised in Genesis 3:15 and to David in 2 Sam. 7 through His resurrection from the dead. In this resurrection, He gave His Spirit to the Jews first and then to the gentiles as a guarantee of this promised inheritance spoken of in the covenants made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David. This firstfruits (Rom 8:23) helps us groan for that great and final deliverance from this age of sin and unrighteousness and put to death the works of the flesh (Gal. 5) in order to walk in a manner worthy of His Gospel (Phil. 1:27) in order that we might inherit eternal life. This salvation, redemption, blessing, and life eternal is promised as the enactment of the new covenant to Israel in the second coming of the Messiah when God finally puts the fullness of His Holy Spirit in their hearts and gentiles’ hearts realizing the one new man reality (Jer. 31:31).

Before this happens there is a certain time of trouble prophesied in the Scriptures which is the ultimate climax of the covenantal discipline mentioned in Scripture upon the house of Israel (Jer. 30:7). However, she will be delivered out of it by the return of Jesus to the earth and will live in peace once again shining as a light to all the nations of the earth (Is. 60). In Jesus fulfilling this promise He is most glorified, and the earth will sing of His glory in fulfilling what He previously foretold. The day of His return is what transitions this age of wickedness into the age of righteousness which is prophesied to last for 1000 years, for Christ will reign from Jerusalem until all of His enemies are made His footstool(1 Cor. 15) and Satan will be bound in prison while Christ reestablishes His own rule on earth. During this time the nations will come to Zion to learn righteousness from Him and the law will go forth from Zion returning the earth back to the righteousness of God as formerly revealed. At the end of this millennial reign, Satan will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and each man will give account at the final judgment before the throne of the Father. Then comes the end when He delivers the kingdom to the Father that God may be all in all!

As for now, as Christians we are seeking to live in relation to these glorious promises in the very near future. Since God is relating to man in mercy during this age, allowing time to repent before this age ends and judgement against sin is performed, we also live as a witness to these 5 pillars of the Gospel, so that men can repent and turn from their sin to inherit the promises God has made because God has appointed for men to live once and then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). How we live now in regards to obedience to Jesus, which is more appropriately defined by Jesus as laying down our lives and Paul calls being baptized into His death (Rom. 6:3), affects the outcome of that day since salvation should not ever be assumed when we are “working out our salvation with fear and trembling, (Phil. 2:12). In the fear of the Lord we understand His mercy and justice and that both attributes will be revealed clearly on the Day of Christ Jesus. We long for this glorious appearing and rejoice with joy inexpressible until He comes and establishes His kingdom on this earth.

Even so, Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth so that we might partake in this eternal plan of salvation You have so brilliantly orchestrated! Amen!