ISAIAH 45 CYRUS – TYPE OF CHRIST

Cyrus – “king of kings”

Thus says Yahweh to His anointed one, to Cyrus whom He says I have grasped by his right hand to make the nations bow before him and to disarm kings  (Is45:1a)

The Neo-Babylonian empire, who under king Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the first Jewish Temple and brought God’s people into exile as slaves in Babylon was to be defeated by Cyrus the Great – “king of kings”, being one of his grand titles. God used this enlightened Gentile to liberate His people from Babylon and through his sovereign edict, their temple was rebuilt. He was described by the Prophet Isaiah as “God’s anointed one” or messiah. This self-styled “king of the four corners of the world” destroyed the Babylonian hold over God’s people and cleared the path for them to worship Yahweh in the city of the great king.

 This I believe prefigures the end-time destruction of “Babylon” (Rev17-19) representative of the intangible kingdom of satanic evil, currently functioning in the world in diametric opposition to the Church, the Kingdom of God in mystery. The One (for all her flaws) has ever been seeking to bring light, truth, peace and healing, the other moral degradation, greed, deception and destruction. That is the nature of the struggle; it is not the Church versus everyone outside it as depicted in Augustine’s “City of God”; it is a two-way battle within the World, not against her. The Church and “Babylon” are both seeking to gain people for themselves but for opposing ends, resulting of course in three outcomes: the saints, “children of the devil” (cf. Jn8:44, Acts13:10, 1Jn3:10 cf. Mt13:38, 15:13,16:26, 2Cor11:14,15; 1Tim4:1,2; Jude12b; Rev11:18b)* and the rest of creation whom we noted in the previous post are to be “delivered from the bondage of corruption (nota bene), into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom8:21).

  *Not intended to be an exhaustive listing – I have set out the scriptural definitions in my book* (chapter  6) – that is not to say such people can always be determined by their fellow man (au contraire 2Cor11:14-15; 1Sam16:7)

*A free PFD is available HERE

ISAIAH 45 – SUFFERING A PART OF GOD’S PLAN

Comedian/Writer Woody Allen 1960s photo

“I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create calamity. I the Lord do all these things” (cf. Is45:7)

Reflecting on the divisions, injustices and suffering in the world, some might be inclined to share comic writer Woody Allen’s view that if there is a god, then he, she or it “is at best an under-achiever”. Such a case could be made if evil and suffering existed to the degree that it does and God had no real use for it. But He does, for I now perceive from Scripture that it is an essential ingredient within His plans for creation. There is a purpose to suffering. It is not a result of divine impotence or accident as Isaiah makes quite clear (above). As well as being the backdrop to highlight the beauty and loveliness of the good and therefore of God Himself, the existence of evil and the suffering that results from it is a means of preparing humanity for the next phase in her development.

And that provides a clue to “the Fall” and why God permitted it as Paul hints at in Rom8:17-21.  Initially the passage is referring to the privileges of the elect but typically for Paul (as well as Old Testament Scripture) the perspective broadens to incorporate God’s plan to restore the Earth:

If we are God’s children then we are heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, providing that we share His sufferings so as also to share His glory.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility; not willingly but because of Him who subjected it in the hope that THE CREATION ITSELF will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

So according to Paul it is necessary that the elect suffer with Christ, and according to the writer to the Hebrews it was fitting even for Christ Himself to be perfected through suffering in the process of bringing His chosen ones to their glorious inheritance (Heb2:10 cf. Heb2:18). So God Himself participates in our suffering as I endeavoured to explain in my book from which I will quote directly in this instance:

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Suffering indeed for all parties: our God was no deistic, impassionate chess master overseeing this wondrous plan. He had been perfectly entitled to enjoy unbroken felicity but for mankind’s sake He was prepared to endure the agony of observing His only begotten Son’s humiliation and death. If Satan (the snake) had been barred from planet Earth or Adam and Eve had been erased for their disobedience, Christ need not have died. But He permitted His arch-enemy what appeared to be an extraordinary victory for the sake of what He knew would be the ideal preparation for the beings created in His image to be raised from dust and prepared for a glorious destiny. This is why things have always been as they have been in the world and in the Church. Suffering partnered with essential spiritual healing and progressive enlightenment are the means by which God is drawing man toward his ultimate destiny as exemplified by His own Son’s experience. The suffering He had endured was principally (and most would have thought exclusively) to provide for man’s redemption; yet it also fulfilled another unexpected function as we have shown from scripture relating to preparation for Office (cp. Heb2:10,11,17,18) and as an example to those who would come to share in His inheritance. [Excerpt from chapter 7-  Fellowship of the Secret]*

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I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create calamity. I the Lord do all these things” declares Yahweh through Isaiah. “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how inscrutable is His decision-making and His ways are quite beyond our discovery!” exclaimed Paul (previous post). One suspects the apostle knew more than most (2Cor12:3,4). Likewise, when the fuller picture is revealed to us we shall also be lost in wonder, love and praise.

Illustration: Woody Allen in the 1960s courtesy of Wikipedia

  • A free PDF of the e-book is available HERE

ISAIAH’S INTIMATIONS THAT ALL WOULD SOON BE WELL FOR ISRAEL

George Friedrich Handel

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.  Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for SHE HATH RECEIVED OF THE LORD’S HAND DOUBLE FOR ALL HER SINS.  The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God”.  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it”  (Is40:1-5KJV)

 Georg Friedrich Handel (pictured) was on the whole creditably faithful to the  (KJV) scriptural narrative within his much-loved Christmas musical offering; such subtle changes as he did make would  have been for metrical scanning purposes; but not, I suspect, the omission of the phrase I have capitalized within the prophecy he was quoting (above).

That had asserted that God’s chosen nation’s many iniquities were now  pardoned, for she had already received double (punishment) for her sins; a statement which should make it clear enough that “Jerusalem” could not in this context have been an allegory for the future universal Church. “Jerusalem” was Jerusalem, city of the great king (David), the heart of the Jewish nation.  That nation had been punished severely but now she was to be forgiven; and that was the context of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness”, the “Elijah” (JB) who was promised to restore everything (Mt17:11) was on his way to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the good sense of the upright, preparing for the Lord a people fit for Him (Lk1:17NJB); the Arch-Angel Gabriel (no less) had promised as much in John’s annunciation.  According to such prophecy all would soon be well for Israel (God’s servant cf. Is49:3, Acts13:47), and the whole world would witness it –  “all flesh would see it together.

  As with other OT prophecy, it simply has not panned out that way – in terms of timing, sequence and personnel that is. But the mouth of the Lord has spoken it and He will not go back on His promises. As Paul addressed the matter, though many of his fellow Jews were hostile to the gospel of Christ they were still elect for the sake of their fathers: “there is no change of mind on God’s part concerning the gifts He has made or of His choice” (Rom11:28-29 NJB). No change of Mind,  but there has been a change to the published Plan, and Saul of Tarsus was chosen by God’s grace and commissioned by the glorified Christ to proclaim it (Acts26:17-18). That was along with the other twelve apostles once they had grasped what was going on (Acts11:5-9;17-18), namely that many Gentiles were also to gain a glorious inheritance with God’s holy people (26:18b) through the establishment of “the  fellowship pertaining to a secret (plan) hidden in God who had created all things through Jesus Christ, such that through the Church should NOW be revealed to the sovereignties and authorities of Heaven, the multi-faceted nature of God’s wisdom according to (His) purposes for the ages” (cf. Eph3:8-11). 

The apostle to the Gentiles would not wish us to be ignorant of this mystery so as to become wise in our own conceits – that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the complement of the Gentiles has come in. Once the Church fully recognizes and acknowledges her error regarding “replacement theology”, indeed her understanding of the very nature and purpose of the current epoch within the overall framework of salvation history, then also might her fathers in the faith acknowledge their reprehensible rejection of the Son of Man – once, that is, they grasp along with the Church why the terrestrial promises of the Law and Prophets were not fulfilled through Him and by Him at the expected time.

It would seem the Lord has concluded both fathers and children in ignorance in this matter so that he might enlighten and show mercy to both (cf. Rom11:32). No wonder Paul went on in the next verse to exclaim “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how inscrutable is His decision-making and  His ways are quite beyond our discovery!” Even two millennia of erudite ecclesiological scholarship has scarcely perceived these matters whereas the Spirit holds no such bounds but works as He so chooses.

isaiah 9 – the son of god has come; his earthly reign is awaited

Gospel annunciation to the shepherds

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called wonderful, counsellor, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice, from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. [Isaiah9:5-6NKJV]

A favourite Christmas reading for sure, for most would agree the child referred to is Jesus the Christ. In that sense it might be considered the archetypal Old Testament prophecy – yet it has been quite subverted. It is not that the promised events (Christ’s earthly reign and the defeat of evil) will not occur, they surely will, for “the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” – but not in the order or sequence stipulated, nor with the expected supporting cast.

This is the mystery of God, His not-so-little secret (cf. Rev10). This is how Paul explains it, which virtually no one has grasped, including myself for the first 40 years of my Christian life:

“Unto me (Paul), who is the most inferior of all the saints, was this grace granted that I should preach among the (Gentile) nations, the unsearchable riches of Christ to enlighten all regarding the fellowship of the secret* (plan) hidden in God (the Father) through the ages, who created all things through Jesus Christ – that on account of the Church should now be made known to the sovereignties and authorities in the heavens, the multi-faceted nature of God’s wisdom according to the purpose of the ages made in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph3:8-11 from Greek).

Once Paul’s meaning is grasped everything can fall into place, providing one goes on rightly to interpret the rest of the apostle’s teaching regarding the role of the Law, the economy of grace, the context of justification and the psychological dualism between flesh and spirit that results from the disparate immediate origins of the physical and spiritual components of the human species (separated at death) as a result of the Fall (cf. Rom7:17-25).

I know how some of this is likely to sound to conservative Christians (I was a staunch Calvinist for 25 years), but such a reading resolves many tensions and mysteries within Scripture, the three primary ones being the disparity between OT prophecy and NT reality, and the correspondence between God’s compassionate and equitable nature as the Bible presents it and traditionally perceived eschatology. Thirdly it offers an explanation for evil and suffering as grist to prepare mankind for the glorious destiny and future offices God has in store for those created in His own image, more especially and immediately to faithful disciples of His Son. Having been predestined to be conformed to His image (Rom8:29), it is fitting that His joint-heirs should be perfected through suffering (Heb2:10; cf. 2Tim2:12). Such people long for Christ’s appearing, when He shall in a more substantive sense execute His reign – “to order it and establish it with judgment and justice” within a new heaven and a renewed Earth.

*The phrase from which the title of my book is taken: a free PDF is available HERE

ISAIAH CH.9 GOD’S SON HAS COME; HIS EARTHLY REIGN IS AWAITED

Gospel annunciation to the shepherds

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called wonderful, counsellor, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice, from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. [Isaiah9:5-6NKJV]

A favourite Christmas reading for sure, for most would agree the child referred to is Jesus the Christ. In that sense it might be considered the archetypal Old Testament prophecy – yet it has been quite subverted. It is not that the promised events (Christ’s earthly reign and the defeat of evil) will not occur, they surely will, for “the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” – but not in the order or sequence stipulated, nor with the expected supporting cast.

This is the mystery of God, His not-so-little secret (cf. Rev10). This is how Paul explains it, which virtually no one has grasped, including myself for the first 40 years of my Christian life:

“Unto me (Paul), who is the most inferior of all the saints, was this grace granted that I should preach among the (Gentile) nations, the unsearchable riches of Christ to enlighten all regarding the fellowship of the secret* (plan) hidden in God (the Father) through the ages, who created all things through Jesus Christ – that on account of the Church should now be made known to the sovereignties and authorities in the heavens, the multi-faceted nature of God’s wisdom according to the purpose of the ages made in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph3:8-11 from Greek).

Once Paul’s meaning is grasped everything can fall into place, providing one goes on rightly to interpret the rest of the apostle’s teaching regarding the role of the Law, the economy of grace, the context of justification and the psychological dualism between flesh and spirit that results from the disparate immediate origins of the physical and spiritual components of the human species (separated at death) as a result of the Fall (cf. Rom7:17-25).

I know how some of this is likely to sound to conservative Christians (I was a staunch Calvinist for 25 years), but such a reading resolves many tensions and mysteries within Scripture, the three primary ones being the disparity between OT prophecy and NT reality, and the correspondence between God’s compassionate and equitable nature as the Bible presents it and traditionally perceived eschatology. Thirdly it offers an explanation for evil and suffering as grist to prepare mankind for the glorious destiny and future offices God has in store for those created in His own image, more especially and immediately to faithful disciples of His Son. Having been predestined to be conformed to His image (Rom8:29), it is fitting that His joint-heirs should be perfected through suffering (Heb2:10; cf. 2Tim2:12). Such people long for Christ’s appearing, when He shall in a more substantive sense execute His reign – “to order it and establish it with judgment and justice” within a new heaven and a renewed Earth.

*The phrase from which the title of my book is taken: a free PDF is available HERE

ISRAEL’S INTENDED ROLE AS LIGHT OF THE WORLD AFFIRMED BY THE PROPHETS

This series of posts is intended to complement what I have set out in my book* “The Fellowship of the Secret” the title being an abbreviated form of “the fellowship pertaining to the secret (plan) or mystery hidden in God through the ages” (cf. Eph3:9). That secret plan was somewhat inscrutably revealed by the apostle Paul, appropriately so for it concerned the reason for his calling as thirteenth apostle (Matthias having replaced Judas as #12 by Peter who had no real understanding of God’s  purposes for the Gentiles until he received a personal revelation – Acts11:5-9;17-18). It was a secret or mystery (Greek: musterion) that pertained to the reconstitution of God’s “Holy Nation” by the establishment of a world-wide Church; something that was a revelation even to the authorities of Heaven (Eph3:10).

The enactment of this hidden strategy effectively subverted Old Testament prophecy, impacting also upon the interpretation of Jesus’ prophetic statements within the “Olivet discourse” (cf. Mt24). It not only explains why the gospel/church age has taken the intricate and protracted course that it has but also why Old Testament prophecy has  usually been interpreted in an allegorized and spiritualized rather than literal sense. Paul’s intimations are more explicitly affirmed in Romans chapter11, verses11, 12, 15 and 30, but these have typically been taken to be another example of “Paul being Paul” rather than the possibility that he might mean exactly what he wrote concerning gospel salvation being made available to the Gentiles as a result of the Jewish rejection of their Christ. He had warned his fellow Jews in Antioch:

We had to proclaim the Word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, here and now we turn to the Gentiles (Acts13:46NJB)

The key word being “it” – i.e. Paul was not about to entrust this glorious invitation to the Gentiles because the Jews had crucified Christ but because they were rejecting the apostles’ message concerning it. The crucifixion had been foretold in scriptural prophecy and it led to the Jewish nation forfeiting its promised political peace and security as Jesus had told them (Lk19:42-44NKJV). However, their negative response to the message concerning the risen, ascended Christ had not been foretold and resulted in their forfeiting their status as sole inheritors of the Kingdom.  This is just one of a number of areas in which the great apostle has historically been misunderstood by the Church, which I now understand to be in accordance with the path of discovery set for her. It does not directly affect the ability of the true Apostolic Church to have fulfilled her gospel mission throughout her history; it has however impacted negatively upon her understanding (and therefore teaching) concerning broader providence, i.e. how God regards and will ultimately deal with the vast majority of people who are not a part of that “holy nation and royal priesthood” which is Israel and the Church (Ex19:5, 6 cf. 1Pet2:9).

And here is such an example: typical of Old Testament prophecy concerning the restoration of the world through Israel had been set out in Isaiah:

It will happen in the final days that the mountain of Yahweh’s house will rise higher than the mountains and tower above the heights. Then all the nations will stream to it, many peoples will come to it and say, Come let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the  house of the God of Jacob that He may teach us his ways so that we might walk in his paths. For the Law will issue from Zion and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem. THEN He will judge between the nations and arbitrate between many peoples. They will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, no longer will they learn how to make war. (Is2:1-4NJB)

Such was God’s Israel project: to establish a holy nation of kings and priests amongst whom He would personally reside, initially through His spiritual presence in the Ark, later through the physical presence of His Son Emmanuel (God with us). The nations who had oppressed His people were to be judged, but as outlined in Joel, the Spirit would be poured out and the good news of the kingdom proclaimed as a witness to all nations before the final judgement came (Mt24:14). Many Gentiles would come to Israel’s light and kings to the brightness of her rising (Is60:3NKJV). That Israel Project was effectively aborted or more strictly deferred as a result of “the fellowship of the secret”. In Paul’s language, Gentiles were to be grafted into the good olive tree that is Israel against their nature so as to put the natural branches to shame and make them jealous (Rom11:11). Yet, Paul affirms, this is to be a temporary state of affairs, albeit one lasting a couple of thousand years to date. It will continue a little longer until the full complement of Gentiles fitted for the Kingdom has been recruited (Rom11:15, 25).

  • A free PDF of my e-book is available HERE

THE WISDOM LITERATURE – MORE PROVIDENTIAL CLUES

 Much is written about broader providence and Israel’s role as a light to the Gentile nations within the Psalms and Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible. However at this point I should acknowledge the limitations, indeed the positive dangers of “proof-texting” to highlight particular passages that appear to support a particular emphasis or personal standpoint.

The background to this series of posts is that I have come to a quite new understanding of certain scriptural passages (especially within the writings of St Paul) following an extraordinary ten-day encounter with the Holy Spirit a few summers ago, the results of which I have set out in my book. These posts are intended to supplement that work by drawing out sequentially from Scripture the passages to which my attention was directed within that process. That is a form of a “proof-texting” nevertheless but the text pertaining to the subject of each post is I trust considered within the context of each particular narrative.  The reason I am confident in my assertions (apart from the nature of the experience itself) is that the new interpretations resolve all the key scriptural “tensions”, at least to my own satisfaction; and that is in spite of my adopting a quite literal approach to the Hebrew/Greek text throughout.

Augustine’s influence

Such a strategy is in marked contrast to the hyper-allegorical approach especially to the Old Testament practiced by the supremely influential Augustine (Hippo), whose particular understanding of Paul acted as the prism through which he believed the remainder of Scripture must be wrested. That might not be so much of a problem if he had understood the great apostle aright in the first place, which as a result of what I have  been shown by the Spirit I am convinced with all my mind, heart and soul that the Roman-African bishop was in error in his interpretation of Paul’s teaching on Israel’s relationship to the Law, the economy of grace, anthropology and effectual free will.

So who is one to believe – the most influential Christian thinker of the first millennium or this retired London bus-driver? I suggest neither in and of themselves whatever either may claim for himself or is contended on their behalf within the churches. What I shall say is this: we will know we have arrived at the fullness of truth when its final arbiter, Holy Scripture is seen to cohere at last; i.e. a reading is provided in which Paul no longer appears to contradict himself (e.g. Romans 2:6-11 and 7:14-25 versus the rest of Romans and Galatians); each apostle is demonstrated to agree with each other and their Master before them, especially regarding the individual’s role in his salvation and the criteria to be applied at final judgement; the seeming disparity between OT prophecy and the outworking of the gospel/church  age can be explained from within Scripture itself; and last but not least, God‘s compassion, the equitable nature of His justice and His depiction as “Love personified” is seen to be consistent with the perceived cosmic outcomes. I believe this has now been achieved and that such is itself a fulfilment of prophecy.

Insights from the Wisdom literature

 These matters are re-affirmed in my own mind the more I read through Scripture, not least the genre we have reached in these posts being the so-called Wisdom literature. Solomon for example, assumed to be the author, wrote of those who effectively go in the way of Cain by “leaving the paths of uprightness to walk in the way of darkness (Prov2:13 Masoretic) as opposed to those who continue to “walk in the way of good men and who keep the paths of the righteous” (v20). Also that the day shall come when “ the upright shall dwell on the earth and those who are perfected will remain (or have pre-eminence) in it whereas the wicked shall be cut off from the earth and the treacherous ones rooted out of it”  (vv21,22). Of course if the physical and spiritual aspects of the human person were an inseparable union and rotten to the core none would be in a position to “leave the paths of righteousness” for they could never have been on them in the first place.

Satan’s seed

The reason that a certain category (the seed of Satan Mt13:38-39) do leave is because they are no longer directed by what God provides to those who are made in His own image. In a sense these people cease to be fully human, reflecting instead the nature of their adopted father (Jn8:44); yet they have a role within God’s purposes for the current age (cf. Jn6:70; Rom9:22b; 1Jn3:12). Such people reject or become oblivious to the light of reason a.k.a. Logos, the Word, the seed (1Jn3:9), the light of Christ in the conscience (my preference) or simply “Christ” (e.g. Origen and Justin Martyr).

So those who are heading for perdition are not those who have failed to apprehend the grace and healing of Christ as it is offered through the gospel (i.e. historically the vast majority of humanity), for contrary to the teaching of Arminius, man has no innate ability to respond to the grace of Christ (Jn6:44). The “damned” are rather those who irrevocably reject the Word’s interior witness. In other words not those who have “failed to come” but those who have departed (a la Wisdom literature). Unlike agnostics and those of other faiths rejecting the gospel, they are without excuse for all have such an enlightening deposit in their nature (at least to start with) so those who turn their back on it, evidenced by the misery, despair and often destruction such people cause to their fellows, will be afflicted with appropriately severe punishment after their death. [They may in due course be restored and purified after a prolonged period of punishment a la Origen and other Universalists – I simply do not know, it is beyond current revelation, as are many other details pertaining to future ages]. Regardless, their judgement will be seen to be right and just to those who do possess sound reason, as it was to many of the other pre-Augustinian Fathers who commented on these matters.

A free PDF of my e-book is available HERE

DEUTERONOMY CH. 24 PERSONAL IMPUTATION OF GUILT OR RIGHTEOUSNESS – SIMPLY NOT GOD’S WAY

“Parents may not be put to death for their children nor children for their parents, but each must be put to death for his own crime” (Deut24:16)

The Torah is not man’s law but God’s and certain universal principles may be drawn from it. We have already considered the proportional and humanity-focussed nature of final judgement; here we see that neither guilt nor righteousness can in its essence be transferred (imputed) from one person to another. That is more clearly and contextually affirmed in Christ’s own teaching on final judgement in Matthew 25. Neither Adam’s guilt nor Christ’s righteousness is taken into consideration in that definitive passage on final judgement, merely the actions of the individuals being judged (vv31-46). Many will struggle to reconcile that with their particular understanding of the teaching of Paul, a matter I deal with in detail in chapter three of my book*.

But Scripture (including Paul’s writings) actually teaches that Jesus died as an offering for sin rather than substitute for particular individuals. He became sin for us all (2Cor5:21); He gave Himself for our sin (Gal1:4); He bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1Pet2:24); He suffered once for sins (1Pet3:18); the iniquity of us all was laid upon Him (Is53:6). Sin throughout the ages has been punished in Jesus; not just the sins of individuals who would come to be His disciples.

Why then the Gospel?

This is not to say that Adam’s guilt and Christ’s perfect righteousness do not impact upon humanity; nothing could be further from the truth. The former has resulted in an inherent deprivation of spiritual life and physical mortality whilst the Latter provides the ultimate remedy for the matter, not as a direct result of the Life itself but through its expenditure. Likewise Adam’s disobedience resulted in “original sin” by which each human invariably inherits what Paul refers to as “the body of this death” (Greek: somatos tou thanatou toutou) – this death being the current experience of the concupiscent “law within the bodily members” processed through the brain, rebelling against the law (and light) that God has implanted within the human psyche that we refer to as conscience (Rom2:15; 7:23). That in turn results in “dead works” of the flesh that defile the conscience and prevent the natural man from fulfilling the ultimate purpose of human life: to know and serve the living God in spirit and truth (Heb9.14). Likewise, the perfect life, selfless death and sacramental body and blood of the Righteous One provides pardon for all with “faith”, evinced by a genuine humanity, especially the exercise of compassion towards others (Mt25), being a response to the light of Christ provided to all (Jn1:9KJV). Yet it is only those who apprehend Christ as Lord and Saviour who can be spiritually cleansed, renewed and empowered to participate in the divine life whilst in mortal flesh (Jn8:36).

Such is the urgency of the Good News (Christian Gospel) – only those who respond positively to it may experience “eternal life” (i.e. a living relationship with Jesus Christ in the present – “For this is eternal life, that they might know You the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn17:3). And it is only His faithful disciples who shall be fitted to share His inheritance and partner the Lord of Glory through eternity.

 

  • A free PDF of the e-book version is available HERE

DEUTERONOMY CH. 4 THE JEWISH NATION – INTENDED LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES

As far as the Old Testament age was concerned, the race of Israel was intended to have been a light to the Gentile nations, living as a holy nation faithful to Yahweh, whose name and Law would become honoured amongst other nations:

“Look, as Yahweh my God commanded me (Moses), I have taught you laws and customs for you to observe in the country in which you are to take possession. Keep them and put them into practice and other peoples will admire your wisdom and prudence. Once they know what all these laws are, they will exclaim “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation (Israel)” (Deut4:5,6).

Some readers will be aghast at Moses’ statement: the Law (Torah) actually to be practiced so that the world would come to admire Israel and her Law. Yes indeed, that was the intention. The witness of Israel being faithful to the Law provided through Moses was meant to have been the rest of the world’s “preparation for the Gospel” i.e. their future submission to the Lordship of King Jesus when He eventually came to do exactly what John Baptist expected Him to do: destroy the enemies and oppressors of God’s people and judge the whole world, i.e. put it to rights. Then, supported by the Jewish Nation (the sons of the Kingdom – Mt8:12), He would establish God’s Kingdom on Earth, reconciling other nations to God and each other by inculcating a way of peace along the lines of Isaiah2:4.

But it didn’t pan out that way, did it – and St Paul explains why (if only he were understood). It’s not the Old Testament being hyper-allegorical, it’s the fellowship of the secret! (cf. Eph3:8-11) – free download of the PDF is available HERE

EXODUS CH. 22 – THE PRINCIPLE OF PROPORTIONAL PUNISHMENT IN GOD’S LAW

Wherever in scripture punishment for human sin is quantified, it is typically specified at double the offence; a principle applied quite literally in the Law of Moses for all manner of theft (e.g. Ex22:4,7,9). Likewise in the Prophets, God’s rebellious people are said to pay double for their sins (Is40:2, Jer16:18) as at the universal level in final judgement do the wicked (Jer17:18, Rev18:6). “Double” need not be taken literally in the latter cases but it is indicating that punishment in God’s eyes is proportional and finite, for nX≠∞ (where n is the multiple and X is the offence). Even so, thinking back through human history and applying such a principle it is no surprise that Jesus said of a few: “it had been better for them if they had never been born”, especially those who through megalomania or merciless psychopathy have brought untold misery to numerous lives, for they will pay a heavy price. They will not suffer because of any deficiency or “limit” to Christ’s atonement; nor, it should be noted, is final punishment presented in the gospels in terms of offences against God but against humanity (Mt25:41-46). Why? – because God makes full allowance for ignorance; man’s knowledge of the Divine Glory is at the very best incomplete, especially for the majority who have not received a faithful account of the Gospel. But there is less excuse with regard to dealings with our fellow man, for the requirement to be caring and compassionate is intuitive (Mt25 again), being discerned through the faculty of conscience, by which (to the astonishment of many) Paul asserts that many without the Law do, however feebly, the one thing required to fulfil its central purpose (Rom2:14,15; Rom13:8; Gal5:14).

One can take it from Christ Himself that human sin will be punished in accordance with the criteria stipulated by the Judge who is Himself a Man (Jn5:22), applying standards that will be seen by all to be fair and just (Mt6:14; 7:2). Of course with our God there is forgiveness a plenty, but retributive post-mortem punishment and exclusion from the blessings of God’s future Kingdom (i.e. Hell) for some is a biblically inescapable reality, albeit applying the principles established above [1]. Such punishment and exclusion will be seen to be right and just and indeed necessary, once a new heaven and earth is established under Christ with His saints, in which righteousness shall dwell (2Pet3:13).

Note 1: References in the New Testament to punishment being “eternal” are derived from English and Latin translations of the Greek word “aionos” (Strong’s G166) which means age-enduring. For example, according to Revelation the Beast and False Prophet shall be punished for longer “aionas ton aionon (literally “ages of ages” or multiple ages Rev20:10). All this is considered in more detail in my book (free PDF HERE)

Illustration – The Sistene Chapel painting: “The Final Judgement”


Exploring the mystery of divine providence