The Story of Scripture, Part 14 – Now We Work and Wait

Before Jesus was lifted up to heaven, He gave his disciples the following commission;

Mat 28:18-20;

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. 

They were to announce to all the world that God had fulfilled His promise. A promise first given to Adam, and then later expanded upon to Abraham. Now, finally, all the nations would be blessed. There was good news to be proclaimed to every tribe and tongue; and the promise of salvation for all who would receive it. 

Before they were to set out on this task, Jesus gave instructions for them to wait in Jerusalem. Once he was ascended to the Father, he would baptize them in the Holy Spirit. The power received from this baptism, would enable them to set upon their mission. 

Fifty days later, just as was promised, they were indeed filled with the Spirit and given a great boldness in their witness. They went forth proclaiming that;

Act 2:21;

…everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 

Upon this Spirit-empowered proclamation, the church quickly spread outwards from Jerusalem to Judea, then to Samaria, and then throughout the whole Roman empire (just as Jesus said it would). As we know from history, this became point from which Christianity would then spread to the whole world, over the two thousand years that followed. 

It is at this very point then, two thousand years later, that we find ourselves in the story. Now we, along with those who have gone before us, are given the very same commission as we wait for Jesus to return in glory. And although times of great difficulty are promised in the interim, we are to press on in our task, trusting in Christ and waiting in sure hope. Jesus promised that, as surely as he came the first time, one day he would once again return. The first time he entered this world as a lowly servant, the second time would be as a mighty warrior and the very King of Kings. Then would be that final consummation of all that he had already achieved on the cross.

The last book in the Bible tells us what will take place in end. Here we read that everyone who ever lived will have their turn to stand before God. Every sin ever committed will be exposed by the light and condemned by the Law of God. When those books are opened, it is only the ones who have trusted in Christ that will be saved.

After judgement is the redemption of all things, and as the Bible opens with a garden, so it closes with one. With complete finality, the Great Priest of God will then have executed judgement upon the serpent, and never again will the garden-sanctuary be corrupted by evil. Moreover, the time of probation is completed, and the promise of eschatological Sabbath rest is finally fulfilled. Christ, who alone can stand as the champion of God’s people, will have succeeded in leading true Israel into the land. There, on the new earth, we will forever be God’s own people, and the tree of life will once again be opened to us.

Rev 22:20;

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. 

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The Story of Scripture, Part 13 – The Crucifixion and Resurection

As Jesus travelled throughout the greater Palestinian region, opposition to his ministry mounted. Eventually, the Jewish leaders crafted a deceitful plan to see him murdered. Once this was put into motion, it lead to the famous betrayal and arrest of Jesus. They proceeded to put him through a mock trial and then took him directly to the Roman governor for execution. After suffering extreme injustice, severe mockery and brutal torture, Jesus was handed over to suffer the most appalling of all deaths — a Roman crucifixion.

As Jesus hung on the cross, it soon became apparent to many that what they gave witness to was no ordinary death. Even some of the most hardened, who were present at the crucifixion, were lead to confess that Jesus was indeed the one he had claimed to be. The land was covered in an unexplainable darkness, the earth shook violently, and Jesus uttered his final cry. The shout, “It is finished”, rung out at the same time that the cries of slaughtered lambs filled the temple. True atonement had been made. The blood of the Lamb had been shed for the sins of his people. And as terrible as the suffering of crucifixion would have been, it stood as but an external symbol of the spiritual realities taking place at the same time. While every other one of God’s judgements in history (even the flood itself) are of a restrained nature, at this moment in time the full unrestrained wrath of God was vented upon Jesus Christ.  On the cross, God’s own Son was enduring the full wrath of hell in the place of his people.

After the crucifixion, Jesus’s body was buried in a tomb that was sealed and guarded with the highest level of Roman security. However, just as Jesus had predicted, this was not the end. In yet another great display of the supernatural, the tomb was powerfully opened. Moreover, it left the Jews, Romans and indeed all of Jerusalem with a great historical conundrum – Jesus no longer lay where they had left him.  Instead, as he himself had prophesied, he had risen from the dead.

While all of Jerusalem puzzled over this seemingly impossible event, Jesus met his disciples once again, and allowed them to examine him carefully so as to be sure that he was alive.  Indeed, over a period of the next forty days, he appeared to many witnesses–at one stage even to a crowd of five hundred people. During this time,  he explained to his disciples the great significance of all that they had witnessed, saying:

Luk 24:44-47;

…everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…

Through Jesus’ own exposition of the Scriptures, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they finally came to understand. This is the very revelation now recorded for us in the books of the New Testament;

1Co 5:7b;

For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

2Co 5:21;

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Heb 9:12-15;

…he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

The Story of Scripture, Part 12 – The Lion and the Lamb

John the Baptist was the one prophesied to come just before the Messiah, and to carry out a forerunning ministry in order to prepare the people. This he did, calling the people to turn from their sins, and then pointing them to their long awaited Messiah.

John 1:29;

[John]… saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 

In reading through the Gospel accounts, it is revealed that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the types and shadows in the Old Testament. Indeed he was the very hope of Israel; the hope of Adam and Eve themselves; and the very fulfillment of the promise given to all who looked forward to it from that time of the garden onward. 

This fulfillment motif carries right through the New Testament. He came as none other than the second Adam and the true Israel. Indeed, many moments in the life and ministry of Jesus are recorded precisely so as to make this parallel clear. Like Adam, Christ was tempted by Satan directly. Like Israel, Christ was called to faithfulness during a wilderness trial period. Of course, where Adam had failed (along with Israel after him), it is shown through these events that only Christ was able to succeed in being perfectly obedient to God’s covenant requirements. Thus it is Christ, and Christ alone, who is deserving of the great eschatological Sabbath blessing. Yet, as the spotless sacrificial Lamb he had also come to receive the covenant sanction of death on behalf of his people.  

In this regard, when Jesus’ enemies asked Him to prove Himself, he simply said; 

John 2:19;

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

In this prediction, Jesus made reference to his own body as the true fulfillment of all that the temple had ever foreshadowed. Now it would be Jesus himself, and no longer a mere building, that would be the meeting place between God and men. The temple was always a vital reminder to the people of their need for a substitutionary sacrifice,  but now the ultimate sacrifice had come. He would be a substitute for his people in death, and so make a way to return to the fellowship that man had once enjoyed with God. To make this possible, Christ would have to die. However, in so doing he would defeat all of his enemies, and at the end be victorious over death itself.

Jesus was resurrected three days after the crucifixion, just as prophesied. Not only did this stand as a vital vindication of his ministry, but also a sign of his total triumph over evil. The Saviour had indeed come. All the promises had been fulfilled. Jesus of Nazareth had shown himself to be not only the sacrificial lamb promised to Israel, but also the very Lion of Judah; the mighty serpent-crushing Saviour first promised to Adam and Even in the garden. Added to this, Jesus had not merely made a way back to the garden, but rather to the final Sabbath glory first then offered to man.

The Story of Scripture, Part 11 – Broken Silence

When seventy years of Babylonian exile had passed, some of the Jews were miraculously allowed to return to their land in order to rebuild the temple and the city. However, it soon became apparent that even their best efforts under men like Ezra and Nehemiah could never bring about the restoration that God had promised through the prophets. In order for these prophecies to be truly fulfilled, they had to wait for the promised One whose arrival would be made clear by the sending of a forerunner; one who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah himself. In this regard, the prophet Malachi said this;

Mal 4:5-6;

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

This prophecy is found in the last book of the Old Testament. And once the canon of this testament was brought to a close, God did not speak for another 400 years. Moreover, this period of history would prove to be a time of great difficulty for Israel, being handed down from one super power to the next. By the time of the Gospels, Israel had not only been under the oppressive rule of the Babylonians; but also the Persians, the Greeks; and then finally, the Romans.

As is completely understandable, by this stage there was great anticipation among the Jews concerning the arrival of the promised Messiah. There was one thought on their minds: “When would the Messiah reveal himself; and how would God’s kingdom finally come?”

While various Jewish sub-groups (e.g., Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes) sought to answer these questions differently, they all basically agreed on one very important idea: their story was still waiting for an ending.

It is in this context then, that the gospel account is opened;

John 1:6-8;

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 

400 years of silence was shattered by John the Baptist – one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah. Indeed, he said of himself;

John 1:23;

…I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.

The Story of Scripture, Part 10 – A New Covenant for Sinners

Having conquered its enemies under King David, the nation of Israel flourished. It reached the peak of its glory during the reign of King David’s son, Solomon. Unfortunately, Solomon yielded to a life of sin and sent the nation into a fast downward spiral. Israel’s condition became more and more severe as they slid down the track of idolatry and all-round rebellion. Even after God had sent them message upon message (through the prophets), warning them to repent of their ways, the downward cycle of sin continued.

This eventually led to their severe chastisement. God brought the Babylonians upon them to destroy their temple and have them taken off into captivity. Exile was a devastating experience for the Israelites. They had broken their covenant with God, and were undergoing the severe consequences of their transgression: no temple, no city, no land. All was taken away, and never was their sin so clearly before them. Yet, very purposefully, it was during this time that God’s covenant grace was most clearly revealed as God sent his prophets to console the people with news of the coming Saviour and the New Covenant;

Jer 23:5-6;

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.” 

Jer 31:31-34;

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Isa 53:5-6;

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 

Zec 9:9;

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Mal 4:5-6;

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

The Story of Scripture, Part 9 – Saviour, Judge and King

Even after a period where Israel gave in to rebellion and unbelief, God kept his promise to give Israel the land. Under the leadership of Joshua, they entered into Canaan and took possession of their inheritance. Later, after even more rebellion and unbelief, God continued to show boundless grace to his people. Over and over again the people, through their sin, would allow themselves to be placed back into bondage. Each time, when they were at their lowest, God would send a judge to save them; each of these mighty men showing forth an important glimpse of the ultimate Judge and Saviour. 

Eventually, they were given a king named David, under whom they prospered. God made a covenant with David which was an important continuation of his first promise to Adam;

1Chr 17:11-12;

When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 

This was vital new revelation concerning the promised Messiah. The promise as it first came to Adam and Eve in the garden, revealed that the Saviour would be one born of a women (i.e., from mankind). This was then narrowed in focus so as to show that the one born of a women would be born in the lineage of Abraham and indeed part of the nation of Israel. Now, through the covenant made with David, it was shown that the Messiah would be a king, from David’s own royal lineage!

In this regard, much of David’s life served as a type and foreshadowing of the Christ. We are introduced to David as the humble shepherd who stands in the place of God’s people, doing battle on their behalf, and even gaining victory against the great foe (Goliath).  As David matures, he becomes the promised theocratic king of Israel, slaying God’s enemies and bringing his people into a settled prosperity.

While the nation of Israel flourished under David’s rule, it reached the peak of its glory during the reign of his son, Solomon. This too was purposed in showing forth the glories of the covenant promise. Once again:

. . . I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 

It was indeed through Solomon that the kingdom was established, and the temple built. Moreover, it was at this time that the kingdom of Israel (and the land of Canaan) found its most profound expression as a foreshadowing of the glories of the new heaven and the new earth itself.  In like manner to his father, much of Solomon’s life was also intended to serve as a display of the King still to come; the Great and Wise King.