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Bride and groom kissing.

With this perpetual subject so well covered by the many books and seminars available today, we may feel that any further analysis would be overkill and just another version of the ‘same old, same old’. One aspect however I feel, that has been neglected or completely missed and which deserves much closer examination, is the original purpose and blueprint for marriage. This aspect has been somewhat blurred by the fall of mankind into sin and most Biblical marriage instruction tends to deal with a mechanism to cope with the aftermath of this fall.

Let’s take a careful look at our origin

Paul in his letter to the Romans, interprets the material Universe and the whole of creation for us by telling us that, “… since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” (Ro 1:20) The material creation is therefore a message to give us some understanding of God’s invisible, but very evident power and His creative genius, amongst other attributes of God.

Turning our focus to the creation of man we find a whole new dimension to this aspect of creation. God intends man to bear His image and to be a representation of something of God that is deeper and more profound than what the majesty of creation can exhibit.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Ge 1:26–27)

This creation of man and woman was clearly intended to provide God with a supervisory team, who would rule with dominance over every living creature and in fact they would manage the whole earth. The question that we need to ask and for which we need an answer is; in what unique way does mankind bear the image of God? Part of the answer to this can be found in the statement that God makes, once He had formed the woman out of the man’s rib: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Ge 2:24) Jesus elaborates on this verse by telling us: “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mt 19:6) They are two people but in a mysterious way are in fact one person, having become joined in marriage. This insight must light a spark in our hearts when comparing marriage with the Godhead, who are three distinct persons, but one God. Although there does seem to be a slight discrepancy with this comparison in that God is three persons in one, whereas the husband and wife are only two people united as one.

This discrepancy  however begins to fade as we see God coming into the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day for a personal visit with Adam and Eve and when suddenly the intended ‘Trinity’ is brought into focus. God forms the ‘third person’ in the union between husband and wife, so that it is not just two that become one; but God Himself, the man and the woman become a holy unit, or a representation of the Trinity on earth. The supervision of the creation (assuming the fall had not taken place) would have been executed by Adam, with the help of Eve, under God’s very close and intimate direction. The perfect vehicle to exhibit the love, cooperation, mutual care and unity of man with God ruling over the earth, doing God’s will and enjoying deep and intimate fellowship in union with their Creator.

The Principle of Eternal Judgment

“… of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”(Heb. 6:2)

God’s Response to Man’s Sin

Throughout the Bible we find many occasions where God has responded to man’s wickedness with a judgment and punishment. The most serious of these occasions was the Flood in Noah’s day, where God was so angry with the whole human race that He wiped them out with a flood, saving only Noah and his family, to preserve His original purpose for mankind (Gen. 6). Shortly after the flood God intervened again at the Tower of Babel, there confusing their languages, so that they could not complete their rebellious task of building a tower to reach the heavens (Gen 11).

In Moses’ Day God gave a standard of righteousness, in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:3–17), that he expected mankind to aspire to, failing which the punishment was very severe. While reading through the Old Testament it is easy to gain the impression that God is a very strict and almost cruel Task Master, putting people to death who picked up sticks on the Sabbath day (Num. 15:32–35) and opening the ground to swallow those who rebelled against Moses (Num. 16:31–32). The truth however is that God is love and He is very merciful and filled with tender compassion.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;” (Ps. 103:11)

The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.” (Ps 145:9)

The Old Testament message is therefore not that God is a cruel Task Master but about the seriousness of sin and the consequences of sin. No sin will go unpunished. (Gen. 2:17 and Rom. 6:26)

The Severest Judgment of All

Our loving, merciful God created man to have fellowship with Him, but this was made impossible by man’s sin because God cannot have fellowship with sin or with sinners.

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Co 6:14)

All sin, whether committed in the Old or New Testament dispensation has to be punished, for ‘the wages of sin is death.’ Here is where God’s great love stepped in, he sent Jesus in the form of a man to bear the punishment of all the sin of mankind. For Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice for mankind, He had to be without sin. This was emphasised throughout the Old Testament, where all the lambs sacrificed for sin had to be ‘without blemish’ (Ex. 12:5).

The crucifixion of Jesus upon the cross was God’s ultimate or severest judgment upon sin. It was so serious that God the Father even separated Himself from Jesus. We know this because Jesus cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) This one sacrifice of a sinless man, who became sin for us, was sufficient to appease the Righteousness of God for all eternity.

But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Heb. 10:12–14)

This was God’s eternal judgment on sin and it offers us eternal forgiveness and eternal righteousness.

Believers should Judge Themselves

Once we have responded in faith to God’s offer of forgiveness and salvation through the judgment of His Son on the cross, we need to constantly be reminded of this. In a similar way when God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, they were told to keep the Passover as a remembrance of God’s great act of deliverance. (Ex. 12:11-14). This is a type and shadow of what we are told to do in the New Testament. We are instructed by Jesus and confirmed by Paul that we should break bread and drink of the cup often in remembrance of the Lord Jesus and what He did for us upon the cross.

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” (Lk 22:19–20)

Paul gives us further insight into this by telling us that: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (1 Co 11:26–29)

From this passage we understand that the ‘bread’ symbolises the body of Jesus and the ‘wine’ symbolises His blood that was shed. We therefore need to be fully appropriating and trusting in the work of the Cross for our salvation and carefully discern and understand what we are declaring as we partake of these emblems. This is where Paul tells us to ‘judge or examine ourselves’ (verse 28).

To understand this ‘judgment’ a little better, we need to read through John chapter six, where Jesus explains that if we eat of Him and drink of Him, He will raise us up in the last day. (John 6:54). If we are not living by Jesus Christ, fully trusting in Him to save and keep us, then we may be eating and drinking in an unworthy fashion. By eating the bread and drinking the wine we are declaring that we are living by Him and this may be a false declaration. This therefore is what I should constantly examine.

If I don’t judge myself, the Lord may judge or chastise me, to get my attention and to draw me back into relying fully upon Him. This is an act of mercy from the Lord, as Paul explains, to prevent us from being judged with the world.

For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” (1 Co 11:30–32)

This is also very reassuring because it tells us that we (Believers) are not going to be judged with the world. The world or unsaved people will have to face a judgment.

The Bema Seat of Christ’s Judgment

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Co 5:10)

In 2 Corinthians chapter five, Paul is addressing Christian believers and he makes the above statement that we will all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ. The word ‘judgment’ in this case in the Greek is ‘Bema’ and is often then referred to as the Bema Seat of Christ because it is not the same as the final judgment that the (unsaved) world will have to face.

We know that our sins have already been judged in Jesus upon the cross; the full penalty for our sin has been paid. We can therefore no longer be judged for our sin, which is a wonderful blessing.

We do however have to give an account to the Lord for our works, or what we have done in our service for Him. Paul also gives us further insight on this where he tells us: “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Co 3:12–15)

It is clear from this passage that believers will have their works judged, but even if they suffer loss because their works were not acceptable, they themselves will still be saved.

Jesus said:  “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”” (Mt 10:42)

We can conclude then that believers will not be judged to see if they are worthy of salvation, but rather to see if their works are worthy of rewards. We are also told by John: “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Re 20:5–6)

From this passage we can conclude that the believers who are part of the ‘first resurrection’ will not face judgment at the Great White Throne.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Co 15:58)

Judgement of the Nations

During the Millennium (the thousand year) reign of Christ on earth, He will judge the Nations. He will be particularly hard on those nations that have ill-treated Israel. Jesus tells us:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” (Mt 25:31–34)

We are given further insight into this aspect of judging the nations in Zechariah chapter fourteen where we are told that Jesus will be King over all the earth and the nations will have to come to Jerusalem to pay Him homage.

A careful study of the life of Joseph as the Governor of Egypt is a wonderful picture of Jesus on His Throne, with all the nations coming to Him. (Gen. 41)

The Great White Throne Judgment

God the Father has committed the responsibility of the Judgment of the world to a man, the man Christ Jesus.

For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth— those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” (Jn 5:21–30)

This authority to judge every individual, Jesus will exercise at the Great White Throne judgment, spoken about in Revelation chapter twenty.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Re 20:11–15)

A Summary of the Various Judgments

  1. God judged sin by sacrificing His Son upon the cross.
  2. Believers are to judge themselves, as they partake of the emblems of bread and wine.
  3. Believers will give an account to the Lord at the Bema Seat of Christ, where they will receive rewards, if their works are found to be ‘gold, silver and precious stones’ (spiritually speaking).
  4. Jesus will reign on the Throne of David in Jerusalem for a thousand years where He will judge the nations as King.
  5. Every unsaved person will be judged at the Great White Throne judgment.

The Principle of Eternal Judgment

We have briefly looked at the various judgments that the Bible speaks about, but it is important for us to understand the principle behind these judgments. The details and timing of these judgments could vary, depending on one’s interpretation of prophecy and understanding of end-time events. The principle however, remains the same and it is this principle that we need to hide in our hearts as part of the Foundation of Jesus Christ, which Paul spoke about when he said: “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Co 3:10–11)

The basic thread that runs through all of these judgments is the fact that man is accountable to God for His actions and that there will be a final judgment with eternal consequences.

When it comes to those who are in Christ as believers, the principle of eternal judgment lies in the fact that Jesus took the accountability for our sin and paid the price on our behalf. We therefore are accountable to God to abide in Jesus by eating and drinking of Him spiritually and we are accountable to Jesus for the works that we do in our body because they have eternal rewards.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Co 4:16–18)

Keith Green’s Story

The story of Keith Green is sad but also inspiring because it becomes clear from his testimony that he is the real deal.

Watch and listen here. Keith Green’s Story

Time vs Eternity

The difficulty of comprehending eternity

It is very difficult to imagine eternity, especially if we try to quantify it from a time perspective. Or if we think of eternity in a linear format as having an infinite past and an infinite future, with the passing of an infinite amount of time. The metaphors that I have heard, such as “eternity is like a bird rubbing its beak on a diamond the size of the earth and when the diamond is worn away, eternity has just begun” gives a completely wrong perspective that will never explain eternity.

The Bible gives us insight on eternity

The Bible does however shed light on how we can conceive of eternity. When Moses was instructed by God to free Israel from Egypt, he asked God, who he should say had sent him and by what name God should be made known. God’s profound answer opens a brief curtain on eternity and gives us a perspective from which we can begin to understand the concept of eternity. “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” (Ex 3:14) ‘I AM’ is not really a name but rather indicates a state of existence. God was therefore indicating His eternal Being. There is no “I was” or “I shall be” with God, there is only “I AM”. He exists outside of time and does not have a beginning or an end.

We need to add to this the invaluable insight that Paul gives to us when he says “…  the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Co 4:18) To complete the picture we need to also consider what the writer of Hebrews says about creation. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Heb 11:3)

The picture of eternity forms as we put these facts together

With these facts before us we are able to conclude that there is an enormous or infinitely large, unseen, but eternal arena in which God dwells. Within this arena God placed a ‘time capsule’ by creating a visible material universe. “In the beginning ..” (Gen 1:1) indicates the start of time. Paul tells us that there is an end to time; “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.” (1 Co 15:24) The visible, material universe therefore has a time limit placed upon it.

God steps into time to offer us eternity

At God’s appointed time, which the Bible calls the ‘fullness of time’ God stepped out of the unseen eternal arena and into the material visible creation, in the form of a man; the man, Christ Jesus.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14)

He came to offer us an existence with God in His eternal arena, or quite simply; eternal life. Eternal life is therefore not an infinitely long life, but an eternal existence with God.

A man got a glimpse of eternity

Paul had a glimpse of this eternal arena when he was caught up to the 3rd Heaven (God’s eternal arena), it had such an impact upon him that he made the following statements:

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,” (Php 1:23–25)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Ro 8:18)

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Co 4:17–18)

If we have received the gift of eternal life from the Lord Jesus Christ, we will continue to pass our time in this visible universe, but we by grace, qualify to live in the eternal arena with God.

What happens when we die?

When we die, we vacate this visible world which has an expiry date and we are immediately present with the Lord in His eternal arena. We wait in this arena, while time passes on earth, until the moment of the Resurrection.  “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Co 5:1)

Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Co 5:8)

At an appointed time God will give the signal, the Trumpet will blow, there will be the shout of the Archangel and everyone who has received the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus, will receive a body that is fit for our eternal existence with God.

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” (1 Co 15:50–53)

It is for this reason that Paul says:  “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Co 4:16–18)

 

HEDONISTS AND MARTYRS

I have been too busy recently to update my Blog with new material, but  received the article below from a friend and colleague, which resonated with my own thoughts on church history. For a long time I have been convinced that the church history we read is the history of the visible institutionalized (man-made) organizations rather than the story of the true church. It is also very sobering to see how much persecution of the true church still continues today! A ‘Hedonist’ is a person whose life is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification.

Article by Anton Bosch

While reviewing church history recently I was reminded of some of the things we should learn from history. But before I share those with you, I want to remind you that what normally passes for church history is the history of the apostate church (lower case “c”). The history of the true Church is not normally taught in Bible schools and seminaries except for a passing mention to the little groups of true believers that were a thorn in the side of the institutional churches.

The following are the central truths we learn from Church history:

  • Even in the darkest hours of the last 2,000 years there have always been true believers and true Churches in this world.
  • The real Church has always been small in numbers and poor in political power, finances and popularity.
  • True churches and believers have always been persecuted.

It is on this third point I want to dwell for a few minutes. Persecution has come from many different sources, even though the ultimate source remains Satan and his forces.

The Jews, initially under the leadership of Saul of Tarsus, persecuted and killed believers beginning with Stephen. Of course Jesus was the first “Christian” martyr, and before the New Testament many prophets were also brutally killed by Israel because of their message.

The Roman government persecuted and brutally martyred the believers for almost 300 years until Constantine in 312AD.

Immediately after 312 the Roman church took over from the Roman government and began to persecute believers who did not submit to their authority. Persecution under the Church of Rome continued for the next 1700 years right up to the present, reaching its peak during the inquisition (c. 1200 to c. 1600). It is very difficult to find an accurate estimate of the numbers of people killed by the Roman church but the best studies indicate a number of around 80 million Christians in addition to witches and others killed by Rome![1]

Even while Rome was killing Protestants, the Reformation leaders were torturing and killing Anabaptists and other believers who disagreed with them. Just one of many to die at the hand of the Reformers was Michael Sattler, a true believer. “He was shamefully mutilated in different parts of the town, then brought to the gate, and what remained of him thrown on the fire, His wife and some other Christian women were drowned, and a number of brethren who were with him in prison were beheaded.”[2] Most of the Protestant leaders, including Luther, engaged in the most severe and cruel torture and murder of anyone who disagreed with them but the most vicious of all was Calvin. In Geneva he institutionalized torture and death as a legitimate means to change people’s views and purge the “church” of dissenters.

In addition there are the massive persecutions of Christians, many still ongoing, by Muslims, Chinese Governments, Communists and all sorts of other unbelievers right across the world. Just recently I was shocked to hear that a friend, and former colleague, as well as two women, were brutally killed and mutilated by Satanists in South Africa, making them (as far as I know) the first martyrs to die for the faith in South Africa. It is estimated that today[3], more Christians in the world are being persecuted than are free to worship the true God. A comprehensive Pew Forum study last year found that Christians are persecuted in 131 countries containing 70 percent of the world’s population. Other studies indicate that between 100,000 and 200,000 Christians are being martyred for their faith every year[4] and that around 200 million Christians are denied fundamental human rights because of their faith.

All this should not come as a surprise since the New Testament is replete with statements that persecution would be the norm for Christians. In Jesus’ first mention about the Church he spoke of the war that would be brought against His Church. “…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). Paul said: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12). And Peter said “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

In spite of the evidence of history and the plain teaching of the Bible, the vast majority of Christians in the so-called “Free World”, still believe that it is the right of Christians to be popular, fairly treated and respected and that a “happy” life should be the norm for believers.

But as I read again about how most true Christians have been mistreated and how they lived as vagabonds and fugitives throughout the last two centuries, I began to think about my own life and how easily I complain about the relatively minor inconveniences and rejection I experience because of the truth. I felt ashamed that I dare complain when thousands, right now, are experiencing the most extreme physical pain, emotional anguish and death for the sake of the Gospel. Who am I to grumble when I am free to come and go, live in relative comfort and enjoy the company of my wife while others are in prison, being tortured and killed?

But I also thought about how easily many stay away from the gathering of believers because it is too hot, too cold, or they are too tired because of watching TV or partying too late on Saturday night. I struggle to reconcile this picture with the one of men and women being torn apart by dogs, their limbs pulled from their bodies on the rack and the smell of burning human flesh on the fires of the persecutors. I struggle to understand how some are unwilling to give up their sinful pleasures when millions have to give up their very lives.

I struggle to understand how the pleasure-centered and self-centered “Christian” of the West can claim to share a common faith with the martyrs. I struggle to understand how preachers who preach a gospel of happiness, prosperity and popularity believe that their message is the same message that was preached by the faithful minority of the last 2,000 years, who like the prophets of old: “…had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:36-38).

Can the faith that results in persecution, torture, and death be the same faith that promises carnal happiness, a new Mercedes and popularity? Can the faith that pursues pleasure, comfort and earthly happiness be the same faith that counts it a privilege to suffer for His name?  Will the hedonist[5] and the martyr share the same heaven?


[1] David A Plaisted. Estimates of the Number Killed by the Papacy in the Middle Ages and Later. 2006.

[2] E. H. Broadbent. The Pilgrim Church. Gospel Folio Press. Grand Rapids, MI. 1999. p182.

[3] October 2012

[4] David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson, and Peter F. Crossing in their 2009 report in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (Vol. 33, No. 1: 32) say the figure is about 200,000 per year and rising.

[5] Hedonist = a person whose life is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification.

 

The Principle of Resurrection of the Dead

“… of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”[1]

The need for Resurrection

Ever since Adam’s sin introduced death into the human family, we have experienced spiritual death and eventually, physical death as well. For this reason, the prospect of rising from the dead is of great importance to us.

Death is First Spiritual then Physical

God’s instruction to Adam was; “… of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.[2]” We know from the Genesis account that when Adam ate of this fruit in disobedience to God’s command, he did not drop dead on the spot, but continued to live for nine hundred and thirty years. The fact that God drove them out of the Garden of Eden and barred the way to the Tree of Life is a clear indication, that they had become spiritually dead to God. This fact is confirmed by Paul who wrote: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.[3]” The wages of sin is death, which was instant in Adam’s case. He died spiritually, this ‘death’ continued to corrupt his physical body until it returned to the dust, from where it originally came.

The human spirit of an unsaved person is not dead in itself, in that humans can be aware of and possessed by demonic spirits. Being ‘dead in our trespasses and sins’, means that we have no spiritual awareness of God, nor can we have any spiritual relationship with God. We are dead to God.

Paul confirms this by telling us that; “… the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.[4]” He also tells us that; “…. the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.[5]

This spiritual death, resulting from sin, leads to physical death, because we are cut off from our source of life, Jesus Christ; and our bodies have been sentenced to death because of sin.

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—[6]

Redemption is First Spiritual then Physical

At conversion to Christ, our spirit which is dead to God because of sin, is resurrected or made alive to God.  “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,[7]” We could say that right from the outset of our walk with the Lord, the resurrection has begun in us. The next phase of this process is the renewing of our minds, so that we can begin to grasp the things of God that were previously hidden from us because of sin, which blinded our minds.

We are also told in Romans chapter eight, verse ten; “And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.[8]” In other words, the spirit is alive to God, but the physical body remains under the sentence of death because of sin.

We do however live in hope of the resurrection of our physical bodies, as we are told in Ephesians; “…. who (the Holy Spirit) is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.[9]” “The purchased possession” is a reference to our physical bodies, which Jesus has purchased with His shed blood and which He has promised to redeem at a future point.

We can say therefore that redemption involves the resurrection of our spirit, the renewal of our mind to grasp spiritual things and finally the resurrection of our physical body.

The Credibility of Christianity Rests on the Resurrection

Paul deals with the resurrection in great detail in First Corinthians chapter fifteen.  He makes reference to the fact that Jesus died, was buried and rose again according to the Scriptures.[10] This is the Gospel that has saved us. He also makes reference to the many witnesses that can confirm that Jesus rose from the dead.[11] This declaration is of tremendous importance to us and has been summed up by various writers, such as the following:

“Harvard law professor Simon Greenleaf, a man who lectured for years on how to break down testimony and determine whether or not a witness is lying, concludes: “It was therefore impossible that they (the apostles) could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact.”[12]

“Dr. George Eldon Ladd, writing of the historical significance of the change in the Apostles, says: “The historian must also admit that historical criticism has not yet found an adequate historical explanation for these facts; that for the historian the transformation in the disciples is an unsolved problem. He must also admit that the view that Jesus actually arose from the dead would explain all the facts.”[13]

Paul then arrives at this very important conclusion regarding the resurrection of Jesus: “For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” [14]

We can therefore say that the credibility of Christianity rests on this one fact; that Jesus rose from the dead and He has promised that He will also raise us from the dead at a future time.

All of Paul’s Ministry Took Its Authenticity from the Resurrection

While Paul was in custody following his arrest in Jerusalem, he was called upon to defend his ministry a number of times before various Roman Rulers. He was seen by the Jews as a heretic because he believed that Jesus is the Christ and that He rose from the dead.

Paul, in his defense, based his whole ministry on the fact of the resurrection. Before the Roman Ruler, Felix this was Paul’s defense: “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” [15]

The report given to King Agrippa concerning Paul’s accusation was; “When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I supposed, but had some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.” [16]

Paul’s defense before King Agrippa is particularly important, if we are to understand the great motivation within Paul to preach contrary to all that he had ever been taught and to stand for things contrary to the understanding of the Jewish Rulers of his day. This also demonstrates the extreme importance of the resurrection to us today.

“To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.[17]

The Principle of Resurrection vs The Doctrine of Resurrection

So far we have established the need for a resurrection and the absolute importance of the resurrection, but in this article we are seeking to understand the ‘Principle’ of the doctrine of the Resurrection. It is important therefore to distinguish between the doctrine of the Resurrection and the underlying principle that governs our understanding of this all important doctrine.

The doctrine or teaching of the Resurrection would of necessity include every reference to the resurrection from the Old and New Testaments, covering every aspect of our understanding of the resurrection. For example the doctrine would cover the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous, every aspect of the resurrection of Jesus, the order of the Resurrection, what type of bodies we will have, when the Resurrection will take place, where the resurrected people will go. It will also cover the resurrection of sinners, when they will be resurrected, what their fate will be in the resurrection of the unjust and many other details concerning the Resurrection.

To understand the underlying principle of the resurrection we need to consider the following factors:

  • The Resurrection gives credibility and authenticity to our Christian Faith.
  • It was the motivation for Paul to say, “If by any means I might attain to the resurrection …. I press toward the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus”[18]
  • It was the driving force of all the Old Testament Saints, as recorded in Hebrews chapter eleven.
  • Like these Saints, we will live for ever; this drastically changes our whole perspective on life.
  • The Resurrection is the culmination and climax of all the promises of God to us.

To incorporate all of these important aspects into a sentence, we will be able to arrive at a definition of the Principle of the Resurrection.

The Principle of the doctrine of the Resurrection is the one single event that authenticates and motivates our certain hope in Jesus Christ, who has secured our future existence in the presence of God for ever.

 Application of the Principle of Resurrection in Our Lives Today

The principle of the resurrection focuses us on the future, in real certain hope that we will live for ever. As Paul put it, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” [19]

Peter also beautifully and graphically presented this great truth, when he wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” [20]

A careful study of Hebrews chapter eleven will reveal the effects that this living hope of the resurrection changed the lives of many of the Old Testament saints. We find that because they ‘sought a City, which has foundations, who’s Builder and Maker is God’, in other words they were fully convinced by God’s promise of the Resurrection that it affected their lives in the following ways:

  • They fully believed that God had promised them a heavenly City in the Resurrection.[21]
  • They saw these promises afar off by faith.
  • They embraced the promises of God.
  • They were fully persuaded by what God had promised.
  • They declared plainly by their conduct that they were strangers and pilgrims in this world, just passing through.[22]

The writer of Hebrews tells us that ‘the world is not worthy of such people and that God is not ashamed to be called their God.’[23]

Jesus said: “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” [24] The principle of this glorious truth, written upon our hearts will cause us to live in a certain hope like the men and women of Hebrews chapter eleven.

 

 

 

 

 


[1]  Heb. 6:2

[2]  Gen. 2:17

[3]  Eph. 2:1

[4]  1 Cor. 2:14

[5]  Rom. 8:7

[6]  Rom. 5:12

[7]  Eph. 2:1

[8]  Rom. 8:10

[9]  Eph. 1:14

[10] 1 Cor. 15:1 – 4

[11] 1 Cor. 15:5 – 8

[12] McDowell, J. (1981). The resurrection factor (111). San Bernardino, CA.: Here’s Life Publishers.

[13] George Eldon Ladd, The New Testament and Criticism, Grand Rapids, Mich., Wm. B. Eerdmans,      1967, p. 188.

[14]  1 Cor. 15:16–19

[15]  Acts 24:14–15

[16]  Acts 25:18–20

[17] Acts 26:7–23

[18] Philippians 3:11 – 14

[19]  Philippians 3:13–14

[20] 1 Peter 1:3–9

[21] Hebrews 11:10

[22] Hebrews 11:13 – 14

[23] Hebrews 11:16 & 38

[24] John 6:54

The Principle of the Doctrine of Laying on of Hands

“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. [1]

The Practice of Laying on of Hands in the Old Testament

The common practice in the Old Testament of passing on a blessing, particularly the all-important blessing of inheritance from father to son, was solemnized by the act of laying hands upon the recipient’s head and pronouncing the blessing. This is demonstrated very clearly when Joseph brought his two sons to Jacob his father to receive a blessing.[2] Joseph purposely steered his older son, Manasseh towards Jacob’s right hand because he believed that the greater blessing would be given to his first-born from Jacob’s right hand. This great blessing that Jacob passed on by the laying on of hands, he had received from his father Isaac.[3] Isaac in turn had received the blessing from his father Abraham[4] and Abraham had received the blessing from Melchizedek[5], in accordance with God’s promise.

It was also common practice in the Old Testament to bestow authority or the recognition of an office, by the symbolic act of laying on of hands. An example of this is found in Numbers chapter eight and verse ten, where the Levites were ordained as priests; “So you shall bring the Levites before the Lord, and the children of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites.[6]

Moses also ordained Joshua in a similar way. “And the Lord said to Moses: “Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and inaugurate him in their sight. [7]

The Practice of Laying on of Hands in the New Testament

The practice of the symbolic ‘laying on of hands’ continued in the New Testament time with Jesus laying hands on many people to heal them.[8]  Jesus also laid his hands on little children to bless them and pray for them.[9] In Mark’s version of the Great Commission he gives instructions to us, the followers of Jesus, to “lay hands upon the sick and they will recover[10] “. Examples of this practice can be seen in Ananias being sent to Paul to both heal him and to impart to him the baptism of the Holy Spirit. “And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” [11]

The baptism of the Holy Spirit was also imparted to other recipients as recorded in the Book of Acts, through prayer and the laying on of hands. “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. [12]

The Old Testament practice of ordination or formalized recognition of office by the ‘laying on of hands’ was continued in the New Testament as can be seen by the ordination of Deacons in Acts chapter six. “And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. [13]

This same practice is seen in the recognition of Paul and Barnabas as apostles who were sent out from the church at Antioch. “Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. [14]” It is also demonstrated in the case of Timothy, where it appears that his ministry gift was confirmed by a word of prophesy and then formalised by the Elders laying hands on Timothy and sending him out to fulfil his ministry. “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. [15]

The Principle of the Laying on of Hands

Having taken a brief look at the practice of laying on of hands to bless, heal or ordain, it should be fairly clear that although this is an important aspect of Scripture it does not really form part of our Foundation in Christ. However, when we understand the ‘principle’ behind the laying on of hands we are then able to very clearly see how that this principle is part of the cornerstone of our relationship with Jesus Christ. The principle is the motivation behind laying on of hands and the governing rule behind this symbolic practice; the Principle of the laying on of hands is therefore:

Passing on to someone else, the blessing that we have received.

We could also put this in Biblical language; “… And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, who said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ [16]

In understanding this foundational principle we should not be distracted by the practice of laying on of hands and rather focus on understanding the principle of laying on of hands. The ‘Principle’ as expressed above, is that having received something from the Lord, we willingly and enthusiastically impart that blessing to our fellow brothers and sisters. Imparting this blessing may have nothing to do with actually laying hands on someone, but rather the impartation of the blessing.

The Practical Application of the Principle of Laying on of Hands

At first glance, this principle may seem to be of minor importance, but once we grasp the fuller understanding of the operation of the New Testament church, we will begin to appreciate how pivotal and important this principle is, for the healthy spiritual functioning of the Body of Christ.

Paul’s teaching from 1 Corinthians chapters 11 through 14 gives us a detailed insight into how all of the members of the church have a function of one kind or another, which involves imparting what they have received from the Lord to other members of the Body of Christ, so that all may be encouraged and built up. He teaches very clearly that “…Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. [17]” This is not just an isolated verse, but it follows the lengthy and detailed explanation in 1 Corinthians 12, of how the church is like a human body, with many different parts, but all have a vital function and all form part of the whole.

This same truth is again expressed by Paul in Ephesians 4:15 & 16 “..but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. [18]

The participation of every member of the Body of Christ in one way or another is also taught by Paul in Romans chapter 12.

You will note that in none of the passages quoted above is the ‘laying on of hands ‘ mentioned, but in all of the above examples of the operation of each member of the Body of Christ, the principle of giving what you have received is applicable. Or we could say that the principle of the laying of hands is applied even though we are not physically laying hands on anyone, but imparting a blessing through a Psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, or an interpretation, which is what the principle of the laying on of hands represents.

Ministry is given to Equip the Saints

There is a great danger in the ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, becoming an end in themselves, rather than using these gifts as a means to equip the saints, with the knowledge, maturity and ability to minister to one another. This Principle of Laying on of Hands, focusses on this very issue. We all should have received something from the Lord that we can impart to my fellow saints. This is the Principle.

Our Participation with Jesus the Head of the church

If we can grasp and by God’s grace apply the principle of laying on of hands, we will be participating directly with Jesus the Head of the church, in His ministry to each part of the Body of Christ. It is in this activity that we learn how to receive from others but also how to give. Relationships with brothers and sisters develop, sometimes with much difficulty, but it is all part of our growing and maturing process, as we grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

This principle is so important that John tells us, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? [19]

The principle of laying on of hands (imparting the blessing) is therefore a demonstration of the love of Christ in us, pouring from us, to the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Heb 6:1–2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Gen. 48:13

[3] Gen. 27:24-29

[4] Gen. 25:5

[5] Gen. 14:19

[6]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Nu 8:10). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Nu 27:18–19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[8] The New King James Version. 1982 (Mark 6:5;Mark 8:23-25;Luke 4:40). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

 

[9] The New King James Version. 1982 (Matt 19:13-15). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

 

[10] The New King James Version. 1982 (Mark 16:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson

[11]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 9:17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[12]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 8:14–17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[13]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 6:5–6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[14]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 13:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[15]  The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Ti 4:14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[16]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Ac 20:35). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[17]  The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Co 14:26). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[18]  The New King James Version. 1982 (Eph 4:15–16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[19]  The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Jn 4:20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.