Lord, Give Us Teachers

One church I pastored years back (it seems another lifetime ago)—well—the ruling boards sought my removal on doctrinal grounds. When I left, one trustee, in an honest and friendship sort-of way, asked me to consider teaching in a seminary or religious school because he recognized my passion for teaching God’s Word.

I left, however, to pastor another church where one elder was disturbed because I appeared too intellectual, quoting various authors in my sermons and, seemingly, minimizing theology to an “overemphasis” on “living the Word.” A denominational leader—and I must say, caringly—asked me to consider pastoring in a denomination more in line with my beliefs.

It was time for a career change. It seemed a serious education in what is written in God’s Word and an open inquiry into its value threatened denominational autonomy. It seemed that doctrines explained, beyond what was necessary to keep parishioners faithfully coming, posed a quintessential challenge to the church’s very existence. Don’t mention glossolalia in a Baptist church or explain Martin Luther’s fears that led him to a “faith without works” belief. Don’t give a serious rationale to the “confessional” to a non-catholic.

But now, in retirement, I am rethinking all this. Have we not “dumbed downed” a passion for God’s Word among His people in the interest of denominational distinctives, doctrines that support the “mother” church at the detriment of an honest and open understanding of the Word of God?

What bothers me most is a congregant that cannot explain their faith well enough to be convinced of its importance in their own life. I fear some of the laity within Christianity are ill prepared to defend the very message they have been priding themselves on over the years. We have naively been memorizing scriptures not substantiated in real-life. We have depended on raw ritual to sustain us while, I fear, we are entering a time when we must depend on the strength of our faith to steady the helm in a raging sea of opposition to biblical truth—a faith we have neglected. We have organized our religious experiences around doctrines little equipped to keep us faithful in a time of persecution, which just might be afoot.

The church—any church, every church—needs teachers to educate God’s people in the clear, simple, and emphatic message of scripture: in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, in the witness of an Ezekiel and the outcry of the rich man from the beyond to send someone to tell his brothers how wrong he was. We need teachers that are not afraid to step on a few theological toes for the sake of a genuine faith, a living faith, stirred to life within each listener. We need teachers that are not puppets of pet ideas or visionaries of personal achievements, but who will humbly let the Spirit of God do His thing among His people. We need teachers that are less scholars of finance and more scholars of Divine truth, that are willing to sacrifice their own reputations and lives for the same message Jesus sacrificed His!

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The Promises of God

When I write, I sense, that often my reader’s theological sensitivities are rattled if not offended. But in my defense, it’s not my fault but the language of Scripture that often nuances a word differently from how we are prone to interpret it. Preachers often translate Scriptural thoughts in a way slanted to make more sense to the occidental mind, to the way we think or understand things, even though most Scripture was written to the oriental or (semitic) thinker.

Case in point: There is no Hebrew, Old Testament, word for “promise.” The word “promise” is used five times to translate the Hebrew word into Greek in the Bible but  these leave room for doubt as to the accuracy of the translation. Nowhere does the Old Testament Scripture use the phrase “the promises of God.”

Twice in Esther 4:7 the Hebrew states simply the Haman said to the king. The Greek translation interpreted this as his promise to the king which the English translations kept.

In Psalms 56:8, the New King James Version seems closest, “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” The Greek is a rather free interpretation of the Hebrew which adds the words, “even according to Thy promise.”

Proverbs 13:12 in the Hebrew, according to the NIV, reads “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” But the Greek reads, “Better is he that begins to help heartily, than he that promises and leads another to hope; for a good desire is a tree of life.”

Amos 9:6 in the Hebrew says, “He [God] builds his lofty palace[unsure of word] in the heavens and sets its foundation[unsure of word] on the earth; he calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land— the LORD is his name.” The Greek says, “He …establishes His promise on the earth [words not found in the Hebrew]”.

In seven different verses the King James uses our word “promise” in the translation. Numbers 14:34 “breach of promise” speaks of God’s opposition. [interesting that the Hebrew word is spelled “NO” In 1 Kings 8:56 the Hebrew talks about God’s “good words.” I can begin to see way the translators might like the word “promises” I will leave you to look up the rest. In each case the English word “promise” interprets the Hebrew word “Word” which in the Greek is the well known theological term “logos.” We know the “Logos” of God is Jesus Himself (John 1:1)! Think about it.

A recognition of God’s Word as His promises to us is best explained in 2 Peter 1:4 “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises [the actual Greek word], so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” Jesus was sent as the incarnate or the embodiment of “The Word of God” to bring about our “participation” in His holiness freeing us from a world of “evil.”

What else did He promise? What else should He have promised?

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The Christmas Grinch

I understand the Grinch is poised
To steal away our Christmas joys—
All the gifts we bought and more
Anchored off the Western shore.

I’m told there’s nothing we can say
To get them here by Christmas day;
There’s nothing any one can do!
We need a few more truckers, too!

The worst thing still of what could be
No presents and no Christmas tree!
It can’t be true, but this I fear,
That Christmas may not come this year!

What of the doll for Cindy Lou,
The youngest of the family Who?
“She’ll simply have to be content!”
So says our honored President.

As I recall in ’56
Through Christian love, not politics,
The gifts beneath our lighted tree
Were thoughts of others’ charity.

Then welfare checks did not exist
But neighbors kept a Christmas list.
Our presents came from here and there
From those who had the heart to share.

There is a grinch, we may surmise,
Whose heart is of the smaller size,
And some might wait for it to grow,
Though all this time, it hasn’t; so,

We must rethink what Christmas means
What can’t be stole by devilish schemes,
What economic ups and downs
Imposed or not by crowns or clowns
Can never take away from us
And there’s no ifs, or ands, or buts.

Christmas is a manger scene
The heavens in a deep serene
The brightness of one evening star
That lite the night both near and far,

That heralded our coming King
Of which, back when, we used to sing;
The day our Savior came to earth;
The day young Mary gave Him birth.

I guess the thing I want to say
God’s gifts cannot be stole away.

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Redemption

Family was everything in ancient Judean society. Cultural norms as well as laws or policies were inaugurated by God through Moses to safeguard a family’s inheritance from abject and austere poverty where a family had to sell the homestead and their land or even, become another’s servant to pay off debt.

A most noteworthy example of this arrangement is the story of Ruth (Ruth 2:20) in which Boaz, a kinsman of Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, fulfilled the law in marrying Ruth (Ruth 4:4-5, 9-10). The idea behind this legal provision was to restore a family’s wealth, rescue a family member from poverty or slavery, or to repurchase their possessions to maintain the inheritance and preserve the legacy of another family member. An interesting example is Jeremiah purchasing his uncle’s field, knowing that in 70 years, they will be able to re-own it (Jeremiah 32:6-8).

The language of the Bible had a special word for this arrangement not found in other cultures of the time. The word is redeemer. Clearly, this right of a kinsman [a blood relative], who had the resources, the money, to repurchase the homestead of a family member who has fallen on hard times is peculiarly Scriptural. One could argue that God had another redemption in mind in giving us such a culturally outspoken and unique Old Testament covenantal idea. “I, the LORD, am your Savior and Redeemer” (Isaiah 60:16).

Every Sunday morning, in the church I attended as a lad, we closed the AM service with Psalm 19:14 (it was KJV back then): “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” At the time, I had no idea how sacred, how special, how very biblical, were these words, ”Lord, my kinsman redeemer.” It is not enough to say, as we have been, Jesus’ death and resurrection redeemed, freed, us from the slavery of sin. He did this as our elder brother (Romans 8:29). He did this as family (Matthew 12:50).

“In Israel, family members were redeemed from a variety of social situations such as debt, captivity, slavery, exile and liability to execution. In the New Covenant, the new arrangement that was validated in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus is not called our redeemer but our redemption because reference is being made to the method by which He purchased our salvation. “He (Jesus) entered the most holy place once for all time, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12) He purchased us with Himself for God! Again, we are family, which explains why through the writings of the apostles we are repeatedly called His brethren, brothers and sisters. [Evangelicals have carried this theme to the present day.]

He is our redemption. He has freed us from a spiritual bondage to sin. “that we may no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6). Paul called us, God’s family (Romans 8:15). Peter called us, collectively, a special race of people, a special nation of saints, the kids of the King of kings. We are His possession, His family! “But you are a chosen race [of people], a royal priesthood [saints all, members of the Royal family of heaven], a holy nation, [citizen’s of heaven], [God’s] people, belonging to Him, so that you may spread far and wide how glorious a redemption He gave, [of Him] who called you out of [spiritual] darkness into the incomprehensible light of His glory” (1 Peter 2:9).

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Resurrected Bodies

This question occupied my bath today because in the rewrite of my book “Jesus: God’s Gift of Himself” I am reviewing the chapter on “Perspectives on the Cross” the section on God’s provision of justification. The verse before me is Romans 4:25:

He was betrayed because of our sins and resurrected because we were justified.

Aside from Paul’s obvious chiastic parallelism (because of …because of) the second part of this verse stimulates curiosity. The simple interpretation?  “His resurrection,” says John Stott, “was God’s decisive demonstration that he had not died in vain.” Our trespasses slew Him, then, His resurrection to life again vindicated His mission to justify us. Paul explained  it this way:  “If Christ be not raised, we are yet in our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).

What kind of “bodies” will our heavenly, incorruptible, immortal bodies be?

“So it is with the resurrection of the dead: Sown in corruption, raised in incorruption … we shall also bear the image of the heavenly … flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption … this corruptible must put on incorruption [not subject to decay], and this mortal must put on immortality [will never die].” – 1 Corinthians 15:42, 49-50, 53

Elsewhere Jesus, after His resurrection, appeared to His disciples with the scars in His hands, side and feet and asked for a piece of fish to eat as proof He was not a ghost (Luke 24:40-43). And we must assume that our glorified bodies will be just as human looking as Jesus’ body was [“the image of the heavenly”].

This we know or think we know.

But now I begin to over think it.  Will we have two arms and legs, eyes, nostrils, and ears? The body we have now was designed to function in this life.  How will our glorified bodies differ because they will be designed to function in ways, this body didn’t …couldn’t?  Ever wonder!

Have you heard about the “golden ratio”?  Of course: 1.61803398875. So, if your waist is given a value of 1, your shoulders should be 1.618. This would be considered the “ideal” Adonis Index for a guy. Now, let’s say you’re skinny looking to gain some muscle. If your waist measures 28 inches, then your goal for your shoulders should be just about 45.3 inches. If the length of the hand has the value of 1, then the combined length of hand and forearm has the approximate value of 1.618. Similarly, the proportion of upper arm to hand + forearm is in the same ratio of 1:1.618. Measure your lower body and you’ll find the same: If the foot is 1, then the length of the foot + the shin is 1.618. Our bodies are symmetrical. A person’s arm span is about equal to their height. Artists are avid users of human body ratios, because it helps them draw realistic-looking figures.

Will God maintain these measurements in our glorified bodies?  At last I will have the physique my vanity always wanted!

Was Adam perfect?  If so, does that mean our glorified bodies will be similarly well dimensioned … and, of course, functional.  Two arms to hug you with..  And, of course one beautiful smile that shouts how glorious is our God!!

Something to think about…..

 

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Atonement

[Taken from “Calvary: The Story Behind God’s Gift of Himself”]

Atonement: A Covering for Sin

One more word is used among the Ancients, which doesn’t translate readily into English [That’s why theologians invent new words]. The Scripture in some places speaks of a covering for sins. The word used in most translations is atonement—a word I am not using because it tends to be overused in translations. To me, atonement is a catch-all word. To atone, says the dictionary, is to make reparations for wrongs done, to reconcile (2 Chronicles 29:24). We have euphemistically interpreted atonement as at-one-ment emphasizing our reconciliation with God (Romans 5:11).

Reconciled or made friends again with God is were Paul, the Apostle, went finally in His understanding of the term. Very often in Ancient Israel, and especially during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, (Leviticus 23:27), sacrifices were made as well ((Leviticus 23:36)). In fact it is hard to think of atonement in ancient Israel without sacrifices. Since Jesus came, He became our sacrifice, so we now just use the word primarily to talk about reconciliation.

Atonement: Cleansing, Purification, from sin

Atonement also speaks of forgiveness but with a condition attached—the person doing the forgiving must be appeased, pacified, conciliated, or in some way made satisfied first (Leviticus 4:26). The result of all this is reconciliation. This word, which I am simply referring to as a covering, but you translated it atonement, speaks of ritual purification (another way of saying, forgiven). When Moses prophesied that God “would cleanse the land for his people” (Deuteronomy 32:43), the basic idea was that God would cover them. This is a euphemism for showing mercy—forgiving them. Some interpret this to mean that God giving Israel a victory over their enemies was a clear sign that He forgave them for all their rebellion, that is, He and they were reconciled.

So, we have one word that seems to mean all kinds of things: a covering, an appeasement or (have you ever heard this word) a propitiation, a cleansing or purification, and a reconciliation. Are you thinking about the Indian proverb again of the elephant and the blind men? I am. Only, it’s not an elephant; it’s an atonement. [Want another big word? Expiation, a word that means God repaired our relationship with Him through the Cross. Much more later, but the dictionary calls it—you guessed it—an atonement.]

Atonement: Need for Forgiveness

Now one more step and we’re there: forgiveness was not thought gratuitous [forgiveness cost God His Son’s life]. Forgiveness was based on some sacrifice that satisfied God on some level (some say appeased God). On a special day each year (usually in our September) offerings of purification were made. This was a ceremonial cleansing to represent God’s forgiveness, “purified in the LORD’s presence from all their sins.” (Leviticus 16:30). Animals were sacrificed for sin on that occasion and the High Priest would go into the inner chamber in the Temple known as the Holiest Place where he would burn incense above what is called “The Mercy Seat” (we’ll look at this shortly.)

This was an elaborate ritual with specified garments for the priests; in fact, every detail was specified. The Mercy Seat ws the lid of the box that contained a copy of the 10 Commandments which itself represented a covenant made between God and Israel. Why mention this? That “lid” was, in reality, a covering (this is our word) that “covered” that covenant from view.; so, instead of calling it a cover or lid, it became known as “The Place of Atonement.”

And why must God put them through their paces with such an elaborate tradition? Could not God have said “You need to repent and be forgiven if you want to become friends again with me” and let it go at that? Words are easily forgotten. But not even you will forget this now, if you understood it. As all Jews understood at the time, “without blood being shed, there can be no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). And since this would someday be God’s Son dying for our sins, God’s love for Israel made it of crucial importance, and to do that, He made it elaborate and ornate. [Read Leviticus chapter 16.] Are there not here hints, at least, that God has His Son on His mind. The price of our salvation was the sacrifice of God’s Son.

Keep in mind that ancient cultures were into sacrificing all kinds of things; so, this wouldn’t have seemed out of the ordinary for Israel at the time. It played right into God’s plan. Almost makes you think that God was behind the evolution of sacrificial systems from the beginning.

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Divine Simplicity

[Taken from “Calvary: The Story Behind God’s Gift of Himself”]

The story goes that little Johnny wrote his ex girlfriend from camp: “Sussie, I hate you.” And then signed it: “love, Johnny.” Some see this as ambivalence [mixed feelings]. God hated Esau, so said the prophet Malachi and Paul, the Apostle (Malachi 1:3; Romans 9:13), while at the same time according to the Apostle John: God is love (1 John 4:8). How can this be? The bigger question is: How can there be punishment for sin with God if He is forgiving?

Is this the boulder an omnipotent God created too heavy to lift? The phrase “cognitive dissonance” [inconsistent attitudes as regard behavior] comes to mind. It characterizes anyone claiming to live by one principle but doing things outside their professed character. And this is not God!

Only deceivers are complicated. “Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive,” Sir Walter Scott wrote. Genuineness and spontaneous responses—established of love, gentleness, and mercy—are simple, and that is why we say God shows simplicity. There is a sense in which He judges mercifully, He administers justice for the sake of His creation whom He loves.

There is a well-known verse that profiles God, “God is not a liar like some men might be; He does not deceive; He is transparently honest; He is not a human being dealing with regret over mistakes and bad choices. What He promises, He does; do you think otherwise!? When does He speak and it doesn’t happen just as He said? ” (Numbers 23:19).

The doctrine of simplicity, teaches, then, that

  1. God is unlike any other being; “The Lord’s mercy and love exceed far beyond our expectations.” (Psalm 145:3) and that
  2. God is perfect, that is, God’s actions do not share in the limitations of human actions. God’s intentions, what He purposes to do, He does. “My word that comes from my mouth will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do” (Isaiah 55:11). There is no difference between what God intends to do and what He accomplishes. We , however, see these two ideas as distinct.

Understanding God, though, is another matter. Our knowledge of God is on a pre-heaven level. It will be important later to dive into some terms used to describe God because they explain His simplicity. Irenaeus [Haer 2.13.3] calls God an “uncompounded Being, without diverse members, and altogether like, and equal to himself, since he is wholly understanding, … spirit, …thought, ….intelligence, …reason, and wholly hearing, …seeing and light and the whole source of all that is good.” In simple language: “It is an utter impossibility for God not to be all He is: both merciful and just.”

Looking at God through a single lens (of divine love) , interpreting all His actions in terms of His love for us, not only inspires our understanding of God’s Word but it explains everything about our relationship with Him as believers. “I indeed know exactly what I will for you,” the Lord shares His thoughts, “plans for your peace and spiritual prosperity, not misfortune or ruin, but ultimately what you have longed for all along.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

It is our limited reasoning, limited by how we experience life and what we have learned about our own humanity that we endlessly compare our reasoning with God’s and ask so many questions about Calvary that may be above out current comprehension.

Simplicity shows how God could be merciful and at the same time exact a penalty for sin, how His justice could be both retributive and restorative. The doctrine of a divine simplicity for God attempts to show that when God is exercising one attribute of His nature, He is exercising all attributes of His nature. His justice is always merciful. When He displays His anger, He is fierce, but it is a feature of His jealous love for His people. “The LORD is jealous….” (Nahum 1:2; Joel 2:18)

Simplicity teaches that He does all things as an expression of His love. “He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the LORD’s unfailing love”(Ps. 33:5; 89:14). All this can be said in one sentence: A study of Calvary is really a study about the love of God, that is, a study of the nature of God.

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Jesus Took Our Punishment

[Taken from “Calvary: The Story Behind God’s Gift of Himself“]

Penal Substitution Theory

I want to quote, Henry Wace, the Dean of Canterbury from 1903 to 1924, in his work, The Sacrifice of Christ: Its Vital Reality and Efficacy, page 16. He argued, “A law which can be broken without an adequate penalty, is no law at all; and it is inconceivable that God’s moral law can be violated without entailing consequences of the most terrible kind. … And can it reasonably be supposed that the most flagrant and willful violation of the highest of all laws—those of truth and righteousness—should entail no such results?”Jesus being punished because of us is an idea we, therefore, should not avoid, if we are serious about the truth about Calvary.

There are two words in the Greek for punishment in the Bible. One, means to defend the honor of the punisher who receives satisfaction in afflicting pain on an offender. Although akin to the idea of vengeance, punishment need not be vindictive, especially if it is required by law. The other word is corrective. The first is retribution for evil inflicted. The second, discipline.

Aristotle [sorry for not offering you an aspirin for your headache] tried to explain this difference: The question is hidden away in the mind of the punisher. Is he doing this to satisfy his rage and defend his honor? Aristotle called this retribution. Or is he punishing someone to deter recidivism [enough pain that makes them think twice about doing it again], as a correction?

From pagan inscriptions, we learn that only retributive justice is spoken of. Violation of cultic law brings retribution and only confession of the offender’s guilt can bring back the deity’s gracious favor. Sacrifices are intended to appease the deity’s wrath, to fulfill (Aristotle’s word for “to satisfy”) their outrage over being dishonored or disobeyed.

The word the theologian likes to use is “propitiation.” The use of this term says that Jesus pleased God by dying for our sins. The suggestion is a retributive justice. [I don’t like the word, propitiation, even though it has been in use at least since the 4th century. Nor am I interested in using it.]

Let’s speak of punishment as retribution, and “chastisement” as correction or a restoration of order, friendship, right from wrong. Now, let’s ask the Bible. The Bible does speak of a severe punishment, torment, but the words used never refer to the Cross. Scriptural silence, however, does not mean that this isn’t true; for, Isaiah’s 53rd chapter is the message of a vicarious [for us] affliction Jesus took on our behalf. This might be viewed as a punishment.

But Isaiah preferred to use the word “chastisement.” He prophesied that “the chastisement of our peace was upon Jesus” ( Isaiah 53:5). This term is primarily associated with the proverbs of Solomon where he addresses parental instruction and the need of children to be taught which sometimes means discipline—but never, hopefully, death.

Punishment in the Bible is eternal and has nothing to do with those who love Jesus (Matthew 25:46). The word punishment went from chastisement to retribution because it lost its use as a corrective force and became more a final solution; so, the New Testament only uses it in the context of final judgment. It might be said that Jesus’ crucifixion was a final judgment (“it is finished”) on our sins and the “old us” (Romans 6:6) but it would have been somewhat clearer had the word been used in that context—it was not.

Our faith was never dependent on our knowing exactly what this all means, anyway, only that it was Jesus who was that sacrifice for our sins. Nevertheless, let’s be cautious about comparing God’s reason for doing what He does with what sounds natural and reasonable to us. Getting back to what Henry Wace said, we need to proceed with an open mind and heart when talking about the “law of God.” Some form of punishment or correction was required because of who we were without Jesus, and Jesus took that punishment and correction for us. We are merely recipients of such a mercy. Later we will talk about this as the “Wondrous Exchange.” It’s awesome!

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The Power of Christ’s Forgiveness

[taken from my newest project: Calvary: The Story Behind God’s Gift of Himself]

It is not uncommon for God in the Bible to use examples from life to explain deeper truths. Hosea became such a lesson (Isaiah 20:3; Hosea 1:2; 3:1). The story behind Hosea’s marriage to his wife, Gomer, is actually God’s story with Israel. Gomer had been a prostitute, whom God asked Hosea to marry, knowing all along the similarities that would surface between their relationship and His with Israel.

[Keeping this in mind:]

Jesus’ death on Calvary for our sins in our place became a powerful proclamation of forgiveness—a message God wants every Christian everywhere to carry with them into their world. Forgiveness is not a word psychologists use or are comfortable with. The Church owns this idea. It is a Biblical concept. It is God’s creation even though it is basically a simple idea. When someone holds on to such negative feelings and thoughts as hate, grudges, revenge, and bitterness, they do themselves harm. To forgive means literally, in the language of Scripture, “ to let it go.” It completes a redemption because it supports the outward action with a corresponding inward one. When Hosea, who we spoke of already, bought back his wife to become her husband, he still needed to forgive her … and, no doubt, she, him.

God paid a huge price in the death of His Son to free us from all the evil that was systemic in our nature and create in us a new heart, as another prophet, Ezekiel, explained it (Ezekiel 11:19). This is redemption (Ephesians 1:4) and forgiveness is a necessary part of it. Paul echoed the message. “The price of our freedom, our redemption,” Paul taught, “was Jesus’ shed blood which includes our forgiveness; these are two provisions of a multifaceted grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

I have chosen in this work to use this upcoming chapter to talk about our forgiving others. Like Hosea’s experience, nothing exemplifies, nothing teaches the lesson of, divine forgiveness like God using us in our circumstances to demonstrate it. When we affirm Jesus’ death as an act of God forgiving us alone, we have found a dogma but not the inspiration of that dogma that brings it to life. Unforgiveness coming with lingering hurts robs us of a future. When we forgive those who are, otherwise, unforgivable for things we accuse them of having done to us—when we let it go, for real—we not only get our future back but we could not preach a louder more emphatic message of God’s love.

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The Parentheses to the Story

The Bible has a prologue as well as an epilogue, an introduction as well as a conclusion (the open and closing parentheses to time). And in between is the story of God and His creation.  This blog is a meditative look at, what I call, the parenthesis that separate out this main story from “the beginning and the end” of all things (Revelation 22:13).

Pondering the first verse of the Bible  (“In the beginning”) I wondered, “the beginning of …what?” Not God! He had no beginning. Theologians call this the Aseity of God (He is uncaused. 1 Timothy 1:17). Not the earth or the firmament, the heavens; they were yet to be created (Genesis 1:6-10). I concluded the only understanding possible here was “In the beginning of time.”

The opening parenthesis, the Beginning: God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” There was an evening, and there was a morning: one day. – Genesis 1:5

The closing parenthesis, the End: Night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever. – Rev. 22:5

In Genesis we begin with God creating a unit of time known as a “day” which, as we now know, involves sunlight as the earth spins on its axis. Time ends, logically, when God decides we no longer need the sun. Our Bible records God’s dealings with us “in time” even though everything about Him is outside time. Ultimately He would send His Son  “in time” to die for us (Galatians 4:4).

God, here, calls the coming age a sunless  “for ever and ever” (εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων). In the Old Testament the primitive idea in reference to God (We are grateful to Isaiah 40:28 for this) no longer meant some remote past or future but, now, “unending time.” Plato called αἰῶνας timeless “in which there are no days…” [Hernann Sasse for Kittel Vol I, page 198]. As our referenced scholar points out, “how else can human thought picture it?” [page 201-2] This word also does duty for our word “world” since this world is linked to the “age” in time in which it resides. The end of the age is the end of this world (Matthew 24:3 NIV compare KJV).

Sasse then adds, “The future αἰῶν, the future time of the world is the new [age] which follows. It is something inconceivable, to be represented only symbolically, e.g. as ‘the Kingdom of God’ … or ‘the new heaven and the new earth.’ .. [The] contradiction consists in trying to picture in …time that which stands in antithesis to it.” [page 205]

What excites me is in the epilogue when the sun will be no more:

Revelation 22:10-11 [MSG] “Don’t seal the words of the prophecy of this book; don’t put it away on the shelf. Time is just about up. Let evildoers do their worst… but let the righteous maintain a straight course … in holiness. …

Now I must say it! The Bible did not say “forever” but “into the ages of the ages,” (εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων). This, to me, is God’s way of describing to our kindergarten brain the indescribable that’s in store for us in His eternity.

I love Revelation 22:20 [in the MSG]

He who testifies to all these things says it again: “I’m on my way! I’ll be there soon!”

 

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