Thursday, September 27, 2012

In Living Communion with God - Part 2

"15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”" ~ Genesis 2:15-16

Our first parents' living communion with God has entailed a divine call (v.15). But that living communion has also involved a sovereign command (vv.16-17). And that's what we're going to talk about here.

A Sovereign Command (vv. 16-17)

In verse 15 we are told of the divine purpose for man. In verse 16-17 we can see that this relationship also involves a sovereign command. It reads, “And the LORD commanded man….” Adam’s relationship with God does not only state a comprehensive purpose of work and worship that he has to seek to fulfill. It also specifies a definite command to first, enjoy God’s provisions from the garden (v.16), and second, to keep His prohibition to refrain from eating the forbidden tree (v.17).

The text tells us that man was given the freedom to eat from every tree in the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It does not explicitly tell us the reason why God puts this one restriction. However, it does tell us the result of eating from the forbidden tree. It says that the day Adam eats from this tree he will surely die. This is a very solemn command that Adam has to obey. His life depends on his obedience to this command. Not only that, his continued presence in the garden of God in Eden depends upon his obedience to the command not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

I will not dwell on the fine points of this prohibited tree. What I would like to point out here are two observations about the command. First, let’s talk a bit about the content of the command. Second, let’s focus on the giver of the command.

The thing that strikes me about the content of the command is the fact that both in the provision of every tree (v.16) and the prohibition from the forbidden tree (v. 17) the theme of food or the idea of eating stand out. Food is one of the most prominent themes throughout the Bible, even in this passage. This picture of abundant food and delight in eating lead us to look forward to the Messianic banquet at the end of the age (Matt. 22). Furthermore, the image of trees in the garden, especially the tree of life, brings us to the tree of life in Revelation 22 wherein we are told that this tree bears twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month (v.2).

However, in between these trees of life in Genesis and Revelation is the cursed tree in Calvary where the God-man Jesus Christ died. He was crucified and condemned to die in this tree not because He disobeyed God but because Adam and his descendants did. We are descendants of Adam. We were condemned both on account of Adam's failure to obey God regarding the forbidden tree, and our actual sins against God.

But Christ, the last Adam, took upon himself the burdens of our sin and misery, including death, including the most severe punishment of sin which is separation from the blissful presence of God. He bore them all in that tree so that in His death, that cursed tree became a tree of life for us who believe in Jesus Christ.

Now as believers of Jesus Christ in the new covenant by His blood, God allows us to partake of a new food, a new banquet, wherein our souls will be nourished and our faith in Him will be strengthened by His Word that confirms that food. The Lord's Supper and the green pasture of preaching the Word, when they are received by faith, enable us to enjoy and obey God by the Holy Spirit.

Another thing that draws our attention concerning this command is the Giver of the command Himself. God, in this passage, is portrayed as the Sovereign LORD over man. So the command is sovereign because it proceeds from the Sovereign LORD, the God and creator of the heavens and the earth.

It is interesting to note that the name LORD used two times in our text is the same name God gave to Moses when he asked about God’s name (Exo. 3). The name LORD is also the name God used to call Himself when He gave the Ten Commandments to His chosen people in Sinai. The LORD is the Sovereign God. He is the God who establishes covenant with His people. LORD is His covenant name.

In the New Testament, the title LORD is likewise designated to Jesus Christ. Time will come that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. He was with God the Father from the very beginning and He Himself is God. Through Him all things were made and without Him nothing was made that has been made. His disciples call Him Lord. The apostle Paul says that because of Christ Jesus’ perfect obedience, even in his death upon that shameful cross, God has highly exalted Him and has given Him the name that is above every name.

Thus the inspired author of the book of Revelation calls Him ‘the King of kings and the Lord of lords.’ Jesus Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Since He is the Lord of lords who gives His command to us new covenant believers to keep and obey we must humbly and gratefully submit to His lordship by faithfully keeping everything He commands to us. He is the Lord worthy of our trust and obedience. His word is our life. His law is our delight.

In Jesus Christ man experiences the ultimate union and communion with God. In Him and through Him, man’s living relationship with God is perfected. No one comes to the Father except through Him. Union with Jesus Christ is the essence of man’s relationship with God. Through Him God fully dwells with man in perfect communion.

Thus let us turn to Christ today and always for God calls us to worship Him in Christ. God desires from us a kind of service that springs from our faith-relationship with Him through Christ. God commands us to look unto Christ. He is our life and our salvation. God has established His gracious covenant relationship with us through Jesus Christ. It started in the Garden of God in Eden and it will consummate in the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, when it will come down out from God in heaven above. Blessed is he who hears this Word and believe, for he will be satisfied by the water of life who is Jesus Christ!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Ultimate Triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ over His Enemies

In my study of the final battle in Revelation 19:11-21, I was led to its Old Testament background of Ezekiel's prophecy in chapters 38-39, on the judgment of the wicked nation, Gog, for her role in attacking God's people. The parallel is that, just as God has judged Gog for her wickedness in going against His old covenant people, Israel, so also Christ will judge the wicked beast and the false prophet together with the kings and rulers and peoples of the nations whom they've gathered to battle against Him and His new covenant people.

Then I came across this beautiful concluding comment on Ezekiel 38 by Dr. Peter C. Craigie,

Thus Ezekiel's portrayal of a final and great battle is a projection onto an apocalyptic screen of the battle that has always existed in our world between good and evil. His picture is extracted, as it were, from the framework of all human history and painted now on this single canvas. And the prophet's portrayal of events in these gloomy chapters is, at bottom, an extraordinary statement of faith; ultimately, the world's evil will be conquered by the direct intervention of God in the world's affairs.

Indeed, the outcome of the final battle has been revealed in Revelation 19:20-21 and Revelation 20:10. By the power of the sharp sword that comes from the mouth of Christ, the one who rides on the white horse (Rev. 19:11), who is called 'The Word of God' (Rev. 19:13), and whose name written on His robe and on His thigh is 'the King of kings and Lord of lords' (Rev. 19:16), the enemies of God - the beast, the false prophet, and the dragon, together with their followers - will be thrown forever into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.

One pastor has rightly concluded that the battle portrayed in Revelation 19:19-21 will end in the ultimate downfall and defeat of all of God's enemies as His just punishment for their wickedness, thus vindicating the cause of His people and relieving them from all their troubles and fears. He says,

In the end, all those who were portrayed as enemies of God, the harlot in Revelation 17-18, the beast, the kings of the earth who stood with the beast, the false prophet who deceived and performed miraculous signs in the name of the beast, as well as any and all who worshiped the beast, they are all defeated and destroyed in the scene that is before us. The beast and his prophet are said to be thrown alive into the lake of fire (sulfur). This emphasizes the severity of God’s judgment and punishment upon those who deliberately conspired against Him and persecuted His church.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Useful Directions For Reading and Searching the Scriptures

by Thomas Boston (1676-1732)

(These directions are also available at

1. Follow a regular plan in reading of them, that you may be acquainted with the whole; and make this reading a part of your private devotions. Not that you should confine yourselves only to a set plan, so as never to read by choice, but ordinarily this tends most to edification. Some parts of the Bible are more difficult, some may seem very barren for an ordinary reader; but if you would look on it all as God's word, not to be scorned, and read it with faith and reverence, no doubt you would find advantage.

2. Set a special mark, however you find convenient, on those passages you read, which you find most suitable to your case, condition, or temptations; or such as you have found to move your hearts more than other passages. And it will be profitable often to review these.

3. Compare one Scripture with another, the more obscure with that which is more plain, 2 Pet. 1:20. This is an excellent means to find out the sense of the Scriptures; and to this good use serve the marginal notes on Bibles. And keep Christ in your eye, for to him the scriptures of the Old Testament look (in its genealogies, types, and sacrifices), as well as those of the New.

4. Read with a holy attention, arising from the consideration of the majesty of God, and the reverence due to him. This must be done with attention, first, to the words; second, to the sense; and, third, to the divine authority of the Scripture, and the obligation it lays on the conscience for obedience, 1 Thess. 2:13, "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe."

5. Let your main purpose in reading the Scriptures be practice, and not bare knowledge, James 1:22, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." Read that you may learn and do, and that without any limitation or distinction, but that whatever you see God requires, you may study to practice.

6. Beg of God and look to him for his Spirit. For it is the Spirit that inspired it, that it must be savingly understood by, 1 Cor 2:11, "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God." And therefore before you read, it is highly reasonable you beg a blessing on what you are to read.

7. Beware of a worldly, fleshly mind: for fleshly sins blind the mind from the things of God; and the worldly heart cannot favour them. In an eclipse of the moon, the earth comes between the sun and the moon, and so keeps the light of the sun from it. So the world, in the heart, coming between you and the light of the word, keeps its divine light from you.

8. Labour to be disciplined toward godliness, and to observe your spiritual circumstances. For a disciplined attitude helps mightily to understand the scriptures. Such a Christian will find his circumstances in the word, and the word will give light to his circumstances, and his circumstances light into the word.

9. Whatever you learn from the word, labour to put it into practice. For to him that has, shall be given. No wonder those people get little insight into the Bible, who make no effort to practice what they know. But while the stream runs into a holy life, the fountain will be the freer.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

How will Christ be seen by all in His second coming

I had the privilege of sharing a message of comfort to my wife's relatives on the occasion of her uncle's death. I shared from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 that talks about the future of those who have died in Christ and the comfort it gives to the grieving loved ones. Although some would focus on the 'rapture' in this passage, that is not the message of the text. The point of the passage is that God will not forget those who have died in their faith in Christ but He "will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him" (v.14).

In His return, Christ will bring with Him those believers who have gone ahead of us in glory. We who are alive at the time of His return, however, will be changed as the apostle Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52,
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

That’s the reason why Paul could conclude the 1 Thessalonians passage with an exhortation, "Therefore encourage one another with these words" (v.18). We should not think that our believing loved ones who died will be forgotten. Christ will bring them with Him when He returns again in glory.

In His coming (or presence, from Greek "parousia"), Christ will 'come down from heaven' with spectacular phenomena: "...with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God" (v.16). Definitely everyone alive at that time will see and hear these sounds.

But how will the second coming of Christ be visible and audible to all? Dr. Greg Beale has a beautiful description of this descent of Christ in His 'parousia.' In his commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians (p.138) he said,
Comparing other descriptions of Christ's coming, it is apparent that 'motion' from heaven down to earth may not be the precise way in which Christ manifests his end-time presence [parousia]. Revelation 6:14 refers to the end of the present cosmos in terms of 'a scroll that has been split and each of the two halves then rolled up'. If John were living today, he might use an analogy of a stage curtain with pictures on it, which is drawn from both sides to reveal the actors behind it. In short, the present physical reality will in some way disappear and the formerly hidden heavenly dimension, where Christ and God dwell, will be revealed (see further Rev. 11:19; 19:11; 21:1-3).

In other words, when our Lord Jesus Christ returns, "he will not descend from the sky over Boston or London or New York City or Hongkong [or Davao City] or any other localized area. When he appears, the present dimension will be ripped away, and Christ will be manifest to all eyes throughout the earth (see Mt 24:27). Just as one can lay flat a map of the whole world and see it all at one glance, so Christ will appear and be able to behold humanity at one glance and they him" (Beale, p.138-139).

How will this happen "in literal geographical terms is certainly unclear, but the answer lies in recalling that a new dimension will break into the old physical dimension, and the possibilities of new kinds of perception and of existence beyond present understanding will then be realized" (Beale, p.139).

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