"Where was thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" Job 38: 4-7
The Word of God stands sure. From its pages alone may we find the true story of man- fresh from the hands of the Creator; his present status, and his ultimate existence. No more satisfactory account of the formation of man is to be found than that which the Bible presents with a definiteness which command the attention of men. Many people reject the Bible account of "The Beginning," saying it does not agree with are termed "scientific facts". Creation stories have been submitted, amended, and rescinded in the field of controversy; whilst the simple, yet definite, Bible record continues unaltered and unalterable.
Without hesitation, or apology, the Bible gives its opening statement- fully expecting it to be received at its true value throughout the ages. There is a sublimity and majestic dignity in the opening words of the inspired record.
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." Genesis 1:1-3
Blind "chance" fades away before the rising sun of creation's morning, and we rest secure in the acceptance of the Word of the Infinite, whilst we endeavor to grasp the finite.
Moses wrote, "Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord God's, the earth also, with all that therein is."- Deuteronomy 10:14. Of the "Lord thy God," the Psalmist wrote, "Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed forever."- Psalms 104:1-5. "The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's; but the earth hath he given to the children of men."- Psalms 115:3, 15, 16. "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon, and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands."- Psalms 8:3-6.
Of God, the Creator and Sustainer, the prophet exclaims, "To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? said the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these, that bringeth out their host by number; he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth, not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding."- Isaiah 40:25-28.
Of this "Holy One" of Israel we read, "Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord; for there is one God; and there is none other but he."- Mark 12:29-32. This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:4. Both the Old and New Testament testify to the Truth that God is one. The prophet again emphasizes this, "I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I form light and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these. I have made the earth, and created man upon it.
For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited. I declare things that are right."- Isaiah 45:7-19.
The Bible message has to do with the world as we now have it- what we term The Adamic Era. Its testimony does not go before this period. It shows there was a "before," and speaks of a "beyond"; but its revelation is confined to the period between. In simple, unmistakable language the record reveals that God said, "Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."- Genesis 1:26-27 This brief statement is supplemented in the next chapter by a more detailed account. "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."- Genesis 2:7. The "man" was a dust-formation, energized by "the breath of life," under the influence of which he became "a living soul"; this latter phrase Dr. Young translates a "living creature". Not a hint do we find in this record (or elsewhere) of a never dying soul, everlasting soul, or immortal soul! Four thousand years later Paul wrote, "There is a natural body." "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made living soul." "The first man is of the earth, earthy."- I Corinthians 15:44,48.
Man, having been thus created, was not left to roam the wide world over. We are informed that "the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed."
THE GARDEN OF EDEN
Our pictorial demonstration commences with a garden, in a land of rivers; "A river went out of Eden to water the garden." Having planted a garden in Eden, the Lord God "made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food." As "paradise" signifies a garden of delight, there is reason for some to look upon that term as synonymous with the Garden of Eden.
In the midst of the garden were two trees of outstanding significance- "the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil." Having placed the man in the garden "to dress it, and to keep it," the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it."- Genesis 2:15-17. Man "alone" could not effectuate the plan of God, who "created the earth, not in vain." Therefore, the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept. God then took from the man "one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh"; and of the rib "made he a woman." Thus was a "help-meet" provided.
THE SCENE CHANGES
The shadows fall upon the former brightness and felicity of Paradise. The tempter has gained the day. Man, pronounced by His Maker to be "very good" when created, is not the same. He has fallen from his high estate of fellowship with God- for he has partaken of the tree of which God had said, "in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Death was to be the outcome of disobedience to the Eden Law. And if death was to be the result of violating God's Law in Eden, we cannot look upon Adam and Eve, in their Edenic purity, as being "dying" or "death stricken." Whilst maintaining her integrity in face of the temptation, the woman declared "God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die." Obversely stated, "touch it not, and ye shall not die."
Disobedience brought judgment, and judgment was followed by condemnation. The three participants in the transgression were accordingly dealt with; and, that the sentence might more effectively be executed, the ground also was placed under a curse. The recital given is in language plain and direct (Genesis 3:9-19), that all who will may read, and all who desire may understand. Disastrous were the results of the condemnation passed upon the sinners. "The Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken."
Cast our of Paradise- out from the favor and communion with God! And to prevent their return "at the East of the garden of Eden, cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."
"Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them." The fig-leaf covering, which the sinners made for themselves, being rejected by God was an early demonstration that "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."- Proverbs 14:12.
In reviewing the circumstances appertaining to the foregoing presentation, and the inference of the "coats of skins," one might ask, Why was a sacrifice necessary, and what could be the import of such? By breaking the Edenic Law, the man and woman sinned against God, and as a result- by the terms of the law- they came under condemnation. Apart from the law they know nothing of sin or death, hence the law of God in Eden, was a "law of sin and death," being later styled by Paul in Romans 8:2. The condemnation passed upon the sinners was two-fold. The sentence passed was to affect them in life; and to bring their life to an end. Being cast out of Eden they could not return without permission, and only God could open up a way for such return. Alienation from God was the first "effect" of the condemnation "passed", there and then, "upon all men"; for this is the application given to the sentence by Paul, when he wrote, "As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned"- not actually, but by reason of being "in him" when he transgressed the Edenic Law. Man would continue "alienated from God" as long as he lived, unless God provided a covering for sin, under which he could return to favor if he complied with whatever requirements were stipulated; but, however long he might live, the sentence passed went beyond "alienation," for it was unto "death."
Both phases must be kept in mind. The sentence passed, "dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" upon the sinner, became a physical law of his being- corruption was set in operation, a slow process to end in death; and this physical "effect" was to be transmitted to all his posterity. The thought of sin, too, having conceived in his mind and brought forth fruit; became a part of his nature, to be passed through all of Adam's race, so that each one would be "born in sin and shapen in iniquity." This is in harmony with the question, given and answered: "Who can bring a clean thing our of an unclean? Not one!"- Job 14:4. "Death," with all that the sentence involved, "passed upon all men."
The "very good" condition ceased to be: and in place thereof we have a creature, in kind and condition, which must be described as bad- very bad. The whole tree of humanity was condemned when the trunk thereof fell. We must recognize the fact that "the potter has power over the clay," and whilst it is true that we had no actual part in that "one offence," yet every child born, being and extension of Adam, is a standing monument before God, significant of that "great transgression"; for each one born under this constitution of sin, with all the evils that flesh is heir to, grows up into the world to manifest the "Carnal mind which is enmity against God."- Romans 8:7.
What, then, is the natural condition of every child born under this constitution of sin, and dominion of death? Can it be any other than that which is stated by Paul? Hear his words: "Remember that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh- that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the Covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. Ye who sometimes were far off."- Ephesians 2:11-13. Even though these Ephesians had been "made nigh," their natural condition was emphasized by their being called upon not to forget what they had been. "You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" (verses 1,3). "By nature children of wrath" cannot refer to the condition of Adam when formed from the ground, and designated "very good." Such was "the fall" of man by which "Paradise was lost" to him. Restoration could be accomplished only by God, who would in His own time provide a Way, by reason of Truth, which would lead to life.
THE NATURE OF MAN AND REALITY OF DEATH
"Adam lived nine hundred and thirty years, and he died."- Genesis 5:5. Did Adam live 930 years, and then continue to live? "What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?"- Psalms 89:48. Man ceased to breathe in the day of death. With the cessation of the life energy, imparted by the breath of life, the body (which under its influence is alive) becomes inanimate. And this is death.
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out it was thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."- Genesis 3:19.
Many scriptures support this. "Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust."- Psalms 104:29. "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest."- Ecclesiastes 9:5-10. "In Adam all die."- I Corinthians 15:22.
The Bible clearly sets forth that Man is Mortal. Man lives by the breath of life; by the constant process of inhalation and exhalation, which continues until "the day of death," when "no man hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit."- Ecclesiastes 8:8. Therefore when "his breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth," and ceases to be. There "in the land of forgetfulness" (Psalms 88:12) will man remain, never to see again the light of day, unless God provides- and man comes under- a means of escape.
Death is a foe, not a friend. It is "the last enemy" destined to be destroyed- I Corinthians 15:26. Death is "an effect" which came by reason of "a cause." The Apostle says, "By man came death." If death came "by man," obviously it was not a part of the man when created "very good." It "came" to him after he was created and placed in the garden. From that day, until now, it has remained in man; both young and old. Therefore, "In Adam all die." Every child born into the world is "in Adam" by birth, and heir to all that Adam could bestow upon them. Upon what principle? Paul answers, "The sting of death is sin."- I Corinthians 15:56. "Sin hath reigned unto death." And this "supreme power" of sin has continued for 6,000 years.
God has, however, provided a way of escape; and since the Plan of God involves salvation from sin and death, let me say here that "the Way" only provides an escape for those who come under the redeeming influence thereof. Paul's argument is very appealing, and unanswerable. "For if through the offence of one many be dead"- as we have seen- "much more the grace of God, and the gift of grace, by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." "For as one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."- Romans 5:12-21.
Early in the Bible record we find the Adamic family divided into two sections. "Sons of God" and "daughters of men." The latter following the natural way; the former professing another and higher way. These diverse ways were manifested in Cain and Abel. In the days of Enos we read, "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord" involves the "name of Salvation." The need of salvation was evident when "sin entered, and death by sin." Was it them made known? Later we read: "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once (for all) delivered to the saints."- Jude 3. The same thought is to be found in John 1:1. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." After four thousand years "the Word became flesh," when Jesus was born, and of whom it is written: "neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."- Acts 4:12.
THE PROMISES OF GOD
To bring about the salvation spoken of it pleased God to make certain promises. These are many and varied, yet all appertain to the same purpose and development. The method, "Here a little and there a little." A promise of the Saviour was made to the woman, "who was in the transgression." "The seed of the woman"- who was to bruise the serpent. "The seed of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob"- to whom was promised the Land of Canaan for an everlasting possession. "The Son of David"- of whom the angel said, "He shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."- Luke 1:32-33.
Now He to whom all these promises refer is one and the self same seed, of whom it is written: "All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen."- II Corinthians 1:20.
Promises were also made concerning the natural descendants of Abraham. His seed were to be "a stranger in a land not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterwards shall they come out with great substance."- Genesis 15:13-14. That the things promised to Abraham, "and to his seed," were not fulfilled at the time when the patriarch received the promises, is evident from verse 15: "Thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age."
The reader is urged to consider these promises as narrated in the 12th, 13th, 15th, 17th, 22nd, 26th, 28th and 49th chapters of Genesis. Stephen's address in Acts 7, is an interesting commentary on The Promises. "Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac Jacob; and Jacob the twelve patriarchs."
Words written by the Psalmist concerning the Davidic Covenant are applicable to the Abrahamic promises. "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me." Nevertheless, the pen picture changes, and we see things as they are today. "Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant; thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground."- Psalms 89:34-45. Well might the sweet Psalmist of Israel ask, "Lord, where are thy former loving kindness, which thou swarest unto David (and so to Abraham) in thy truth?" The answer is, In promise still! Neither Abraham nor David expected the promises to be fulfilled in their day. Even though the things which were spoken concerning the natural seed of Abraham, and the kingdom of David, were in a measure fulfilled, they were but a stepping stone to the end. Seven hundred years before Christ a prophet anticipated the end when he exclaimed, "Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old."- Micah 7:20.
When Paul made his noble defense before Agrippa he, too, thought of Abraham and David. "Now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our father: Unto which our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews."- Acts 26:6-7. This faith in the promises was based upon the fact that Christ was raised from the dead, "That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles."- verse 23. To the Jews in Rome, Paul declared, "For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain." And to the Hebrews, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed hat they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect."- Hebrews 11:13,39,40.
One more scripture, and we must pass to another phase of our subject. The Apostle wrote, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Here belief in God, and right doing before God, are emphasized. The same are essential today. "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ. The scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."- Galatians 3.
"Faith" in things hoped for, even promised but not fulfilled, and without which we cannot please God. So stupendous was the promise to Abraham and his seed "that he should be the heir of the world,"- Romans 4:13- that he could not refrain from asking, "Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?"- Genesis 15:8. In the demonstration given as an answer various matters were revealed. Affliction in a strange land for the seed, i.e. natural descendants; a deep sleep- the sleep of death- for Abraham: a burning lamp passing through the pieces of the slain animals, and light after darkness, i.e. life after death by resurrection arising out of a covenant-relationship, guaranteed by a sacrificial death. Truly a revelation for one to contemplate! Especially for one who had been told, on the highest authority, that he and his seed should inherit that land for ever, "when as yet he had no child."
EVEN SO IN CHRIST
Let us now go "beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing," and there hear the Baptist, when he seeth Jesus, exclaim, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."- John 1:29. "Sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin." - John 3:4-6. The scripture saith that Jesus was "a partaker of flesh and blood, that through death he might destroy that having the power of death, that is the devil."- Hebrews 2:14. Listen to Paul again: "In Adam all die." Jesus must die! Was He "in Adam?" Did he have to die because of His relationship to the Adamic family? For such Jesus was by birth, being "born of a woman." Or must He die simply because He was mortal, without being in any sense associated with the sin which brought death? Did the association of Jesus with Adam commence before Adam sinned, or after?
If we believe that Jesus was God, we cannot answer these questions. But if we recognize that "He was made in all points like unto His brethren", we must find an answer consistent in all its parts. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."- John 3:16. If we look upon Jesus only as Son of God we have a difficulty in understanding why He must die- or even could die! But Jesus was also Son of Man. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up."- John 3:14. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto me."- John 12:32-33. This He said, signifying what death He should die. Could Jesus take away sin while He still lived, as He then was, and had been from His birth? Throughout His life His record was "holy, harmless, undefiled separate from sinners."- Hebrews 7:26. Could Jesus, by these attributes alone, take away sin? If He could, what meaneth then the Scripture which saith of some, "Whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world"- Revelation 13:8? "A Lamb as it had been slain. For thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood."- Revelation 5:6,9,12. Why must the Lamb of God be slain? Could not God save the people without the death of Christ? And, could Jesus obtain "the glory set before Him" without being slain? Why was it "that thus it must be"- Matthew 26:54?
We have already seen that Jesus was "seed of woman," "seed of Abraham," "Son of David," and "Son of man." Truly He was "a man approved of God"; this designating His mental attainments and spiritual characteristics, by which Jesus "in all things pleased the Father"; but the statement does not specify His physical nature. Paul says, "There is one flesh of men"- I Corinthians 15:39. "First the natural." "The first man of the earth." "As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy." The Apostle says, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for (or by) the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor."- Hebrews 2:9.
By whom did death come? Paul answers, "By man came death." What brought death? Paul again answers, "As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin." Was Jesus, as the seed of the woman, under this constitution of sin, or in Himself free from the claims and effect of sin? Again, the Apostle definitely answers, "He that is dead is freed from sin." (He who hath dies hath been set free from sin....Dr. Young) "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him."- Romans 6:7-9. Then, Paul, death once had dominion over Jesus? Yes, indeed, for when He cried, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me," the Father did not let it pass. Consequently Jesus must needs drink the bitter cup! Of which Paul wrote, "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death (not from dying, but out of death), and was heard in that he feared." By reason of obedience, even to the death of the cross, Jesus was "made perfect." Obviously, He was not in all things perfect before He was "made perfect."- Hebrews 5:7-9. Will you, Paul, now tell us why Jesus must die? "For in that he died, he died unto sin once."- Romans 6:10 is my answer, "and I think I have the Spirit of God."
CHRIST DIED, BUT ROSE AGAIN
Even though Jesus was taken, and by wicked hands crucified and slain, it was all according "to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God."- Acts 2:23. The sacrificial death of Christ was for the purpose of "restoring that which He did not take away."- Psalms 69:4. It was to bring about the at-one-ment, which was lost when man was driven from Paradise. This required "reconciliation," that it might lead to "salvation."
God only could lift the sentence "passed upon all men," and this must be done on the principle of righteousness. God therefore raised up One whose perfect obedience would be accepted of Him, and would form the basis upon which others could pass from the condemnation of sin unto death, and come under the sentence of life which is now in Christ, "the last Adam." And so Paul wrote, "There is no therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."- Romans 8:1-2.
Anticipating this glorious and wonderful accomplishment, we are told, "For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made now to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, a knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption."- Acts 2:25-31. Reverberating through the ages comes the exultant cry: "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."- Revelation 1:18. Again, "Upon this rock (Peter's confession of Truth) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."- Matthew 16:18. The power that came to Jesus from His "obedience in all things" was the lever by which redemption for man and the earth was to be effected. Jesus said, "I lay down my life, that I might take it again." Yet it was "God who raised up Jesus." This was not merely a demonstration of the power of God, for that power had been previously manifest. The resurrection of Jesus was upon a new and difference basis. God, we are told, "brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, through the blood of the everlasting covenant."- Hebrews 13:30. Thereby was established the doctrine of Jesus, when He said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead yet shall live."- John 11:25. Little wonder, then, that the Apostles "taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead."- Acts 4:2.
JESUS ASCENDED, BUT WILL COME AGAIN
Peter, quoting from the Psalm, continued his address as we have it in Acts 2. "For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand until I make thy foes thy footstool,"- verses 34,35. In Acts 3 the men of Israel are charged with having "denied the Holy One and the Just; and killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead," verses 14,15. Far from believing in the prophet of Galilee, and reflecting Him in their enlightenment, the Apostle- having condemned them for their cruel deed- says, "And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled." The prophet foretold, "Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Brought as a lamb to the slaughter. It pleased the Lord to bruise him."- Isaiah 53.
In every detail these things- the sufferings of Christ- had been fulfilled. But what of the glory to follow? Much remains to be fulfilled. And so "the end of the matter" was not overlooked by the prophet. "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many (as we have seen from Paul to the Romans): Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong: because he hath poured out his soul unto death."
THE GLORY TO FOLLOW
"Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you; whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."- Acts 3:19-21.
"The restitution of all things spoken" will lead to Paradise Restored. It involves the Restoration of the Kingdom of Israel, which was the subject-matter of the preaching of the gospel by Jesus and His Apostles. So stirred were the disciples by the events of the death and resurrection of Christ and His presence among them, "being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God," that they asked of Him, "Lord wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?"- Acts 1:6. Had they been mistaken in expecting such restoration doubtless the Master would have told them so; but He did not. He met their request with the statement, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father hath put in his own power." Having "spoken these things" Jesus was taken up, and passed out of their sight. Whilst gazing in wonder and amazement, the angelic testimony was given to them: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven," verse 11. The Apostles therefore in preaching the Gospel, as "the power of God unto Salvation," did not fail to speak of the kingdom of God, and the restoration of the kingdom to Israel; for only thereby could "the hope of the promises" be realized.
Of this glorious theme the voice of prophecy is heard, declaring: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. for, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy upon thee. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon wihdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. They people also shall be righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. I the Lord will hasten it in his time."- Isaiah 60. When Jesus, at Nazareth, went into the synagogue, He read "from the book of the prophet Esais." "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to peach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." Having read so far, Jesus applied the prophecy to Himself, saying, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."- Luke 4:16-21.
But the prophecy goes beyond that "day." Had Jesus read further, He could not have said, "This day is this fulfilled." A good example of "rightly dividing the Word"!
So let us now read on from the prophecy. "And the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations."- Isaiah 61.
"Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringer good tidings, that publisher peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice, with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, he wast places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. And all the end of the earth shall see the salvations of our God."- Isaiah 52.
"For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places: and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody. Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head; they shall obtain glandess and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away."- Isaiah 51.
"For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: Be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. The voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. They shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof. They shall not build and another inhabit: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands."- Isaiah 65.
All this, and more shall come to pass at the return of our Lord, who "shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him. There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon; and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. His name shall endure for ever; his name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed."- Psalms 72.
Again the prophet speaks, "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."- Isaiah 40:1-2.
For one thousand years, under Messiah's reign, the ransomed of the Lord will come with singing unto Zion; and in the sunshine of Millennial glory, when God's way is known upon earth, with His "saving health among all nations," the peoples will "praise thee, O God." Therefore
"Let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon the earth. Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him."- Psalms 67.
NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH
From the Bible story we have learned how "in the beginning" God made the heavens and the earth; and of the earth it is written, "He created it not in vain, but to be inhabited." And though it is now "inhabited" by many peoples, the inhabitants of the earth are far from manifesting those characteristics which are so desirable and which will be in evidence in all the earth when the people "learn righteousness." Is there need to recount the many ways of men and nations which are far removed from righteousness? And the many calamities which befall all peoples of the earth, under the present dispensation? Of wars and rumours of war which are ever present with us!
It is on record that "in the last 4,000 years of history there have been only 268 years entirely free of war." What a record for "Church and State." From whence comes war? The Bible answers the question- without apology. "Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not."- James 4:1,2.
God's Purpose was that the inhabitants of the earth should be exercised and controlled by His Will, and should reflect His glory. God's Plan is to develop such a people. In the process of development, amongst other things, God made choice of a people which, when organized became a kngdom- the kingdom of Israel, and yet the kingdom of God. This fact is not negatived by all "their backslidings." Against their doings the prophet says, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities."- Amos 3:2.
Another development came in the extension of the Gospel to the Gentiles,"to take our of them a people for his name."- Acts 15:14. "In the beginning" Eden was established by the creative power of the Elohim. They made man, and from the man (after he was put to sleep) they took a rib and formed therefrom a woman. Of the result of that creation week we read, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, which is as a brigegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race."- Psalms 19.
"First the natural, and afterward the spiritual." In the "new heavens and earth" we find a reflection of the early "creation." "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam a quickening spirit." For 6,000 years the earth has been peopled by, and controlled by, those who have entered into life since the combination into "one flesh" of Adam and the woman formed from him; the outcome of his sleep.
The new heavens will be established by "the last Adam"; but He will not be alone. He, too, was put to sleep- "and who shall declare his generation?" Out of, and by reason of, His sleep in death a great multitude is taken out of the Adamic body, and these finally are described as "the bride, the Lamb's wife." They are "born again," after being instructed in the knowledge of the will of God. They enter into the sleep of death when they are "buried with Christ by baptism into death." But when they come forth from the waters of baptism they are risen with Him, and as "new creatures" they are called upon to "walk in newness of life."- Romans 6:3-6. To be presented "as a chaste virgin to Christ."- II Corinthians 11:2. The day is fast approaching when Christ will "as a bridegroom come out of His chamber," strong in the immortality and incorruptibility bestowed upon Him by the Great Eternal God, after He had- as the man "made strong" by His Father- worked out in Himself, for Himself and others, salvation from sin and death. "He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever. His glory is great in thy salvation; honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him."- Psalms 21:4,5.
JESUS, THE LAST ADAM, was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead."- Romans 1:4. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me."- John 14:6. And to those who are His, "Because I live, ye shall live also," verse 19. Therefore "whether we wake or sleep" we, who are the Lord's "shall live together with him."-
I Thessalonians 5:10. "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh: go ye out to meet him."- Matthew 25:1-10. "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine lines, clean, and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. And he said unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb."- Rev. 19:7-9.
Into possession and control of the new heavens and earth Christ will enter, with His bride, the purified Church (Ecclesia)- the members of which will rejoice, and ascribe blessing unto the Lamb. "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory, and dominion for ever and ever."- Revelation 1:5,6. "For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth."- Revelation 5:9,10. These disciples had been taught to pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." Now the time for their prayer is past; for "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."- Revelation 11:15. So it will come to pass that "the New Heavens will declare the glory of God, and the firmament will show His handiwork." Throughout the Age of the Ages "day unto day will utter speech," and night unto night will demonstrate the knowledge of God.
In every highway and byway of that delightful land a voice will be heard, by the subject nations, saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it."- Isaiah 30:21. The language of Babel will cease, and there will be no place where the voice of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, will not be heard "To the glory of God the Father."