Sunday, April 24, 2011

THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST THE SON OF GOD

Introduction
As we’ve looked at the ministry of Jesus Christ we’ve seen that Jesus ministered on earth with the authority of God. Jesus had God’s authority as a teacher. And He had authority over sickness, nature, and evil spirits. Jesus also had the authority of God to forgive sins, as well as having authority over people, even you and me.

One of the things we’ll be elaborating on a bit more in the following is Jesus’ authority over death. We already considered what happened in the case Jesus Christ’s own death. We thought about what was taking place during the three hours of darkness that descended and ended when Jesus was on the cross.

We saw that the darkness was supernatural, and that it lifted at the same time the veil or curtain in the Temple was supernaturally torn from top to bottom. Both the darkness and the veil were torn in two the very moment the last breath left Jesus.

We noted that God had transferred our sin (i.e., that which separates us from Him) to Jesus. And when God had done this Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” We saw in these words that Jesus was receiving the punishment that our sins deserve.

When Jesus died the veil that represented our separation from God was torn in two. At that point Jesus, by the Spirit, entered into the very presence of God with His own shed blood. And because of His perfect substitutionary life and death we too may enter into the very presence of God through Him.

So, keep in mind then from before when we looked at Christ’s authority, that Jesus has authority over death. And why should it surprise us that Jesus has authority over death. He raised others from the dead. We shouldn’t be surprised then that He raised Himself from the dead. That’s what we’re looking at in particular in the following.

The Resurrection Anticipated
For the moment I would like us to consider some Old Testament verses that speak of resurrection in general. And by resurrection we mean the actual physical raising of a physically dead person. We’re talking about the resurrection of the body from the grave.

In the Old Testament the grave is usually referred to by the Hebrew word Sheol – the place of the dead. In the New Testament it is called Hades. Both Sheol and Hades therefore refer to the place of the dead. Now, the place of the dead may be under the ground or under the sea. And I suppose in today’s terms we need to include the moon, Mars, anywhere in outer space!

But take note that when we speak of the resurrection we are speaking of dead bodies being reconstituted and brought back to physical life – wherever that body happens to be. Whether you’re in a tomb, whether you’ve been torn apart and devoured by wild animals; or eaten by little worms in the ground; or whether you’ve been eaten by little fishes in the sea; or cremated to powder and scattered to the four winds; or whether you’ve been sprinkled on the ocean or blowing around in outer space – Sheol or Hades is simply the abode or the place of the dead bodies, wherever that place happens to be.

So, with all of this in mind, when the Bible speaks of resurrection it is speaking of what is going to happen on the Last Day; which is the Day of Judgment. We shall see a little later that there is going to be a Day of Judgment because Jesus Christ has been resurrected from the dead. But before we go there we need to consider a few verses in the Old Testament that anticipate the resurrection

The first verse I would like to bring to your attention is Genesis 3:15 – the Gospel Promise. The LORD God in this verse is addressing the Serpent, and the Lord says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

We’ve already seen the Serpent’s head take a bruising at Christ’s crucifixion, haven’t we? Jesus crushed Satan’s head when He redeemed from God’s justice that which Satan had stolen! The Devil had taken the whole world captive, but Jesus on the cross tied up Satan-the-strongman and is now in the process of plundering the tied-up strongman’s house! But we also witnessed that Jesus, the Seed of the Woman, took also a bit of a bruising Himself. Whereas the Serpent’s head was bruised, which is a mortal and everlasting blow, the Seed of the Woman’s heel got it, which was fatal only for a moment. The crushing defeat for Satan was in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that God’s justice has been satisfied. Which means that no matter how much the Devil tried to get Jesus to sin, he failed miserably. Had Jesus sinned in deed, word, or even thought, Satan would have been victorious over Christ! And if Satan had been victorious over Christ we all would perish: meaning that we’d all stew in the juices of our own sins in the fiery kitchen of Hell for all eternity!

So, here’s the picture: as a snake or serpent bites the heel of a man, so Satan bit the heel of our Saviour. And as the venom of a serpent can be deadly, so the Viper’s vitriol was aimed at Jesus. But when a serpent strikes at a man’s heel, it leaves its head prone to being crushed by that same heel!

Christ’s resurrection proves that Satan has failed in his war against Christ. Therefore Christ’s resurrection was the Serpent’s crushing defeat! And, as Paul says to the Romans, “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” Rom. 16:20. We crush Satan under our feet because he no longer has any power over us. We no longer fear death because Jesus Christ has been raised. Satan used to have power or control over us because we used to fear death. As Paul, referring to the Old Testament, says to the Corinthians, “‘Death is swallowed up in victory. ’‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’” 1Corinthians 15:54b&55. We believe Paul here has in mind Isaiah 25:8, and Hosea 13:14. Isaiah 25:8a says, “He will swallow up death forever, and the LORD God will wipe away tears from all faces…”

So we see then that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was God dealing death an everlastingly fatal blow. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection was the beginning of God’s swallowing up death forever. Therefore when God began destroying death, He was at the same time extracting the teeth or fangs from the Serpent. The Devil, therefore, has no real weapon to use against Christians.

Speaking of His people, the LORD God in Hosea 13:14 says, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes.” Death is the wages of sin. Jesus received our wages for us. Jesus was our ransom. Thus He redeemed us from death. The just wrath of God upon our sins is death. Thus death is the wages of sin. But the LORD God is gracious to His people. For He has cursed death and has (in principle) destroyed the abode or the place of the dead, Sheol or Hades, which is the grave.

Therefore the dead do not rest in their graves forever. No, as Daniel says in Daniel 12:2, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” The prophet Isaiah sounds out the good news to all believers where he says, “Your dead body shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” Isaiah 26:19.

And I don’t think we should overlook the general principle of resurrection taught in Ezekiel 37 regarding the Valley of Dry Bones. The LORD God asked Ezekiel the question: “Can these dry bones live?’ Ezekiel 37:12&13, “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened up your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves.”’”

And who can forget the words of Job? Job 19:25-27, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me.” We see that Job believed that he was going to be redeemed from death, even ransomed from the power of the grave.

So, we see from these few verses that the resurrection was not some new teaching that Jesus brought with Him. But rather that it is the teaching throughout the Scriptures.

And just before we move on, here’s an Old Testament verse that applies to Christ’s resurrection. David, the psalmist says in Psalm 16:9&10, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” Jesus Christ is, of course, the “Holy One” whose body will not undergo any decay in the abode of the dead. Peter, in Acts 2:27 shows that this refers to Jesus, and not king David.

So, we’ve seen that ours’ and Christ’s resurrection is not something that is foreign to the Old Testament. The fact of the resurrection therefore is anticipated in the Old Testament. So let’s now consider how the resurrection applies to us in the New Testament.

The Resurrection Applied
Jesus in Mark 10:32-34 told His twelve Disciples about His anticipated death and resurrection. He told them that He was going up to Jerusalem. That He was going to be betrayed to the chief priest and scribes of the Jews. And that He was going to be condemned to death by them and delivered by them to the Gentiles. The Gentiles are of course the Romans who were occupying Jerusalem at that time. These Gentiles were going to mock Him, whip Him, spit on Him, and kill Him. And then Jesus says of Himself in Mark 10:34b, “And the third day He will rise again.”

So we see then in these verses that Jesus is applying the resurrection to Himself. He is anticipating that He will rise again from the abode of the dead after the Jews and Gentiles are through killing Him. Therefore, at least the Twelve Disciples should have been anticipating Christ’s resurrection.

Now then, we see according to Mark 16:7 that three women were told by an angel at the empty tomb to tell the Disciples and Peter that they would see Jesus in Galilee “as He said to you.” Yet we learn that the Twelve Disciples were taken completely by surprise by Christ’s resurrection. We all know about “Doubting Thomas”, don’t we? He said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand in His side, I will not believe.” John 20:25.

Why is it so hard for people to believe in the resurrection? To put the same question another way, why do people believe that death is so final? Do you think it’s because we sense inherently that death is the judgment of God? Well, that’s what Paul means when he says in Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” In other words, we know instinctively that the wages of sin is death. We know that death is the wrath of God against our ungodliness and our unrighteousness. Therefore we see death as God’s judgment upon our sin.

And if death is God’s judgment upon our sin, then we wouldn’t expect to see anyone resurrected, because this would seem to mean that they’ve somehow escaped God’s wrath. But we’ve seen already that Jesus suffered the wrath of God on the cross. And we discovered that Jesus on the cross was receiving God’s judgment upon sin. However, we saw that God had given to Jesus the sin of the world. As we know, Jesus had no sin of His own, for that’s the point of the resurrection.

God, being just, could not let Jesus undergo any corruption or decay in the grave, because Jesus was without any sin of His own. It would be scandalous for God to leave Jesus in the tomb! Therefore God’s Divine justice being satisfied with the life and death of Jesus Christ, He raised Him. God had nothing to pin on sinless and perfect Jesus. Jesus owed God nothing. He had no debt. Therefore God had to let Him out of the abode of the dead – the grave.

So, we see even more clearly how Christ’s resurrection applies to us by looking at Acts 10:39-43. Look at Acts 10:42&43 in particular, “And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”

We see in these verses that all people, i.e., everyone will be raised whether living now or dead. We see this in the words “the living and the dead” mentioned at the end of v. 42. Therefore no one living or dead is going to miss out on the general resurrection. And we also see in v. 42 that all people will be judged, because the Judge is judge of the living and the dead. And we see that the resurrected Jesus is the Judge, because God has ordained or appointed Him Judge. And we also see that there will be two groups of people – those who believe in Him will receive remission or forgiveness of their sins. Therefore those who do not believe will not have remission of their sins.

But, let’s consider the fact of the resurrection of all people who have ever lived. You might think that it’s a great thing to be resurrected, until you consider more deeply what’s going on here. John in Revelation 20:11-15 gives us a picture of what happens on Judgment Day. He says in Rev. 20:13, “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged each one according to their works.”

So we see then that there is no escape from the resurrection. And if there is no escape from the resurrection, then there is no escape from Judgment Day. We’ll all be there – every last one of us! But there is good news for those who believe in Jesus Christ. They receive remission of sins. Therefore if your works have been done in Jesus Christ you can look forward to Judgment Day. Which is to say that if you are presently believing in the Gospel for salvation you will be saved on Judgment Day. But we should know that all people will be judged. Therefore we shall all give account to God on Judgment Day for what we have done while alive. And since God has ordained or appointed the resurrected Jesus as our Judge, we need to make sure that we are right with Him now, don’t we?

We should also note that Christ’s resurrection means our resurrection. In other words, because Jesus has been raised from the dead, we will be resurrected. And by the same token, because Jesus has been resurrected, our Judgment by Him is definite. Jesus therefore has been resurrected as our Judge. So, this is where it gets really personal. How is Jesus going to Judge you? As believer, or unbeliever? Remember, the believer is the one who receives remission or forgiveness for their sins now, i.e., before they die, and is acquitted on Judgment Day.

How does the believer receive the forgiveness of his sins? Well, he receives forgiveness for his sins through believing in Jesus and what He has done. Jesus went to the cross as the Saviour of sinners. Therefore the believer believes himself to be a sinner and desires Jesus to be his Saviour.

But what about those who don’t have, or don’t want, Jesus to be their personal Saviour? Well, Jesus says in Mark 8:38, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Do you see what Jesus is saying here? He’s saying that those who reject Him now, will be rejected by Him when He comes as Judge. Receive Him now and He will receive you then. It’s all sheep and goats, isn’t it? Wheat and weeds! Heaven and Hell!

Conclusion
As the question is sometimes put: Where will you spend eternity? If you’ve been paying attention you should be anticipating the resurrection. And you should now know how the resurrection applies to you personally. We’ve seen that Christ’s resurrection means our resurrection. And we’ve seen that Christ’s resurrection means our judgment.

In the words of Paul the Apostle in Acts 17:31, “He [i.e., God] has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Therefore, to have Jesus now, is to have Jesus the Judge acquit you on Judgment Day. But to die rejecting Jesus is to have Him condemn you on Judgment Day.

Therefore if you haven’t already, by the grace of God, choose life and follow Jesus.

(Excerpted from my book "Demystifying the Gospel" @ US Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/DEMYSTIFYING-THE-GOSPEL-ebook/dp/B006X51ZGY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364518054&sr=8-1&keywords=demystifying+the+gospel

UK Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/DEMYSTIFYING-THE-GOSPEL-ebook/dp/B006X51ZGY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364518248&sr=8-1

For  list of all my books see Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/list/5464221.Neil_Cullan_McKinlay

Saturday, April 23, 2011

THE CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS CHRIST THE SON OF GOD

Introduction
Jesus Christ has all of God’s authority because He is God and Man in the same Person. God is three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Son of God. God the Son has entered into His creation bringing the Kingdom of God with Him. Therefore the authority Jesus exercised while on earth was kingdom-authority.

Not only was Jesus revealing His divinity through His miracles, He was also revealing His Kingdom. Jesus had authority as a Teacher. He has authority over sickness. He healed the paralytic. He has authority over nature. He calmed the storm. He has authority over evil spirits. He commanded two-thousand trembling demons to leave a man and they obeyed. Jesus has authority over death. He raised the ruler of the synagogue’s twelve-year old daughter back to life. And Jesus has authority to forgive sins. He forgave the paralytic his sins. And finally, Jesus has authority over people, even you and me. He called the fishermen Simon, Andrew, James and John to follow Him – and they went immediately.

We are now going to be looking at Christ on the cross. Coupled with the resurrection the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is at the centre of Christianity. The cross has become the symbol of Christianity. If you look in a street directory churches are symbolized by a little cross. All nations recognize the cross as the symbol of Christianity.

Jesus hung on that cross for six hours. We’re going to look at what happened during those six hours.

The Barrier Between God and Us.
In Mark 15:33-39 we see Jesus Christ cry out with a loud voice, and breathe His last breath. He was hanging on the cross for six hours, from nine in the morning till three in the afternoon. At high noon we see something very strange happen: it got very dark. Mark 15:33, “Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” So, for three hours – beginning at the sixth hour, (i.e., mid-day) – Jesus hung there in the dark. Darkness was over the face of the whole land. So, by our way of reckoning time, the darkness lifted at three in the afternoon.

Now, we need to see how this darkness is connected to the words Jesus cried out, and the significance of the tearing of the curtain or veil in the Temple. So the picture is this: Jesus had been hanging on the cross for three hours – since nine in the morning. Then at twelve-noon darkness fell upon Jesus and the whole land for three hours. Just before the end of the three hours of darkness Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Then He died. And we should take note that the darkness lifted or ended when He died. For the darkness was until the ninth hour, i.e., 3PM. But notice what it says in Mark 15:38, “Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

So, what’s the connection then between the darkness, the cry, and the curtain?

Well, in a word, the darkness and the veil are both barriers. They are barriers separating us from God. Let me explain: The darkness here is a supernatural darkness. How do we know this darkness was a supernatural darkness? Well, we know because Jesus died at the time of Passover. Therefore, this darkness could not have been caused by an eclipse of the sun – as suggested by some – because Passover was held when there was a full moon. And if there is a full moon in the sky then there is no way that it can block out the sun’s rays. And anyway, who’s ever heard of a solar eclipse that lasted for three hours? It doesn’t happen. And to have the darkness lift the moment Christ dies on the cross shows us that is supernatural.

So then, if the darkness is a supernatural darkness, this tells us that God is doing something supernatural, doesn’t it? What was God doing? Well, this is where the Temple curtain comes in. The veil that hung in the Temple was what separated God from the people. In the Temple there was a big room called the Holies. And attached to the Holies was a smaller room called the Holy of Holies.

Have you got that? The priests and the representatives of the people were in the larger room called the Holies. And God was to be met only in the smaller room called the Holy of Holies or the Holiest of All. And that which separated the larger from the smaller room was a huge thick curtain. In other words the priests and the people in the Temple were separated from God by a thick veil.

Now, you might think it strange that God dwelt in a small room in the Temple. But that’s where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s presence. In the Old Testament God is said to dwell between the cherubim of glory (Exodus 25:22; Hebrews 9:5).

So, in the small room, the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant. Now, the Ark of the Covenant was essentially a wooden box. The box contained the Ten Commandments written on tablets of stone – the ones Moses had. The lid of the box was what was called the Mercy Seat or Seat of Atonement. Looking down on the Mercy Seat were two carved cherubs with their wings touching each other’s. The Ten Commandments were the reminder that mankind has broken God’s Law, even God’s Covenant. The Mercy Seat was where blood was to be poured or sprinkled to symbolize the covering up our law or covenant-breaking, which is our sins.

The High Priest went into the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement and sprinkled blood on the Mercy Seat. The faces of the cherubim looked down upon the Mercy Seat. And so too did God who, so to speak, dwelt between the cherubim. Ultimately there needed to be a covering of blood – even Christ’s blood – between the broken Commandments and God, if our sins were to be covered or atoned for forever.

So, what needed to happen then, was for Jesus Christ as our High Priest to enter into the Holy of Holies with His own shed blood. That’s what the tearing of the veil from top to bottom was all about. It signified that Christ, our High Priest, was entering into the Holiest of All with His own blood to pour it on the Mercy Seat or Seat of Atonement.

But, the tearing of the veil also signifies something else. It was the removal of that which was separating us from God. Just as the darkness as it were was separating Jesus on the cross from God, so the veil in the Temple symbolized our separation from God.

Do you remember what God did when He ejected our first parents Adam and Eve from the Garden? After Adam and Eve had sinned by breaking God’s covenant-laws, i.e., the Ten Commandments, by eating the forbidden fruit, God placed cherubim at the east of the Garden, and a flaming sword which turned every way. So, angelic beings – cherubim as they’re called – blocked the way to the tree of life and God. Would it surprise you to hear that the embroidering on the Temple veil depicted these cherubim? E.g., 2 Chronicles 3:14, “And he made the veil of blue, purple, crimson, and fine linen; and wove cherubim into it.”

So, that curtain was also a reminder of man’s expulsion from Paradise. It was the reminder that man was separated from God on account of his sins. If we were ever going to be reconciled to God our sins would need to be removed. As a dark cloud blocks out the sun, our sins block out God from us. That’s what Jesus was doing on the cross. He was removing the darkness of our sins.

But not only was He removing our sins, He was also paying the price for our sins. (We’ll look at the price He paid for our sins just shortly), but, for the moment I want you to think about the supernatural darkness. God was doing something supernatural when Christ was hanging on the cross in darkness.

Here’s what God was doing: He was transferring the sin of the world on to Christ. Ever since the Fall man has always had a barrier between himself and God. That barrier is sin. But Jesus Christ had no sins. Therefore He had no barrier between Himself and God. So, what God did in the darkness, then, was impute or give to Jesus our sins. Here are a couple of Bible verses that state this: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us…” 2 Corinthians 5:21. And “[He] bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” 1 Peter 2:24. “[Righteousness] shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offences, and was raised because of justification.” Romans 4:24b-25.

As God accounted our sins to Jesus as He hung there on the cross, Jesus could feel in His humanity that there was now, for the first time, a barrier between Him and God! That’s why He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” This was total torment and absolute agony of soul for Jesus Christ – an excruciating feeling of forsakenness, abandonment. Hell is to be forsaken by God for eternity. And because Jesus is God and Man in one Divine Person, His suffering went out into all eternity.

Now, we need to be careful here, God the Father never for an instant stopped loving God the Son. God cannot deny Himself. Therefore what Jesus was experiencing was a feeling of forsakenness only in His human nature as God, as it were, turned His face away from Him. Jesus was experiencing agony of soul. Thus He experienced Hell on the cross. And isn’t Hell utter darkness? Forsakenness?

So, the darkness was what was separating Jesus from God. The darkness was representative of our sin, and representative of God’s judgment upon our sin. As God has said in His Word, even in Amos 8:9, “‘And it shall come to pass in that day’, says the LORD God, ‘that I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight.’”

So, with the sin of the world now upon His shoulders Jesus cried out with a loud voice, not a feeble voice – a loud voice – “and breathed His last.” Mark 15:37. Then we read in v. 38, “Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Like the darkness, this tearing of the veil was a supernatural event. It was Jesus entering into the Holy of Holies by the Spirit to sprinkle the Mercy Seat with His own blood. As it says in Heb. 6:19, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever…” So, when Jesus died on the cross the darkness between Himself and God lifted and the veil that separated us from God was torn in two.

And just before we move on, let me ask you, when God transferred all our sins to Jesus on the cross, what barrier is there remaining between you and God? The barrier represented by the veil and the supernatural-darkness is removed, isn’t it? The cherubim have stepped aside to let us through, so to speak. They turned the fiery sword upon Jesus on the cross, instead of you and me. And now because of Jesus Christ we can enter into the presence of God.

The Bargain Between God and Jesus Christ.
We need to consider something else that took place while Jesus was on the cross. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23a. Therefore Jesus was on the cross receiving our wages for us. Jesus on the cross took away our sin as God transferred our sin from us to His Son while imputing His Son’s righteousness to us. But not only did Jesus receive our sins on the cross, He also received the punishment our sins deserve.

So the cross then is the place where Jesus collected our wages for us – which is death. The transaction was completed when Jesus cried out in a loud voice, and breathed His last. The words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” are proof that not only was Jesus receiving our sin, but that He was also receiving the wages of our sin, which is death. Put another way, we can say that sin has a price tag attached to it. If you were to read that price tag it would say “death”.

Now then, Jesus is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Therefore, if He were going to take away our sin, He would need to pay an awfully great price. Think about it, would you or I be able to pay for the sin of the world? No, we are disqualified from the start because we are part of the sin of the world. The only thing that you and I can pay for are our own personal sins which we would pay for by going to and remaining in the debtor’s prison of Hell forever!

But Jesus is different to you and me, isn’t He? Unlike us, He has no sin of His own. It’s because He is without any sin of His own that His death is worth something. And because Jesus Christ is a Divine Person, i.e., the God-man His death is of infinite worth.

So, it’s here that we see the true bargain. It’s here that we see that God and Jesus have a bargain. The bargain we’re talking about is the covenant between the Father and the Son. The Apostle Peter speaks of the heart of the bargain thus: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust…” 1 Peter 3:18a.

Are you getting the picture? There is an exchange of sorts – a bargain if you will – taking place on the cross. One perfect Man of infinite worth for an innumerable amount of sinners! Mark back in chapter 10:45 calls this transaction or exchange or bargain a ‘ransom.’ He says there, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and TO GIVE HIS LIFE A RANSOM FOR MANY.”

So we see then that Jesus on the cross was handing over a ransom. And the ransom He was delivering was His own perfect life. That was the bargain between the Father and the Son, that the righteous One would die for the unrighteous, the Just for the unjust.

Those who play chess, what’s a pawn worth? Not much? How about a knight or a bishop? A bit more? How about a queen? She’s worth a fair bit. But what about a king? If you lose your king you’ve lost everything, right? The king is worth every other man on the board – right?

On the cross, above Jesus Christ’s head, was the inscription, as recorded in Mark 15:26, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Therefore Jesus is worth a king’s ransom because He is a king. But not only was Jesus the King of the Jews, He’s the King of kings and Lord of lords, isn’t He? Therefore, He has infinite bargaining power. God accepted Jesus’ perfect life as the ransom for setting us free from His righteous wrath on sinners.

The Bible tells us that God is love, but the Bible also tells us that God is just. Therefore God had a problem, how was He going to set us free without punishing us for our sins? God solved that problem by sending His only begotten Son to redeem us, i.e., to buy us back – to receive the punishment for us. Therefore you should take note that, even though we were taken captive by the Devil, it’s not the Devil who received the ransom. Rather, it’s God righteous justice – which is His wrath upon sin. That’s what we have been redeemed from – God’s justice. Therefore God’s justice has been satisfied by the death of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is proof of this satisfaction.

So we see then that Jesus Christ has paid the price that God demanded for our sins. God would not accept all the rivers of blood from sacrificed animals over the centuries. Nor would He accept the well-intentioned, yet always imperfect lives of millions of sinners. God would accept nothing but the perfect covenant-keeping life of His own Son. Thus Jesus Christ took our punishment for us on the cross.

Conclusion.
We have seen something of why the cross is so crucial to Christianity. By the way, the word “crucial” has to do with the crucifixion, i.e., the cross. The word “excruciating” also has to do with the cross. Christ’s excruciating crucifixion is crucial to Christianity. Without the cross of Christ we have no bargain with God and the barrier between God and us remains. The cross was the place where the great exchange took place.

So, let’s say a person wants to ignore the cross of Christ. Then that person is attempting to by-pass the only means provided by God for salvation and will therefore perish in his sins forever.

The benefits of Christ crucifixion are not automatic. Another transaction needs to take place. You need to receive Christ first before you will receive the benefits of His cross. No Christ, no forgiveness for your sins. Therefore I urge you to receive Him, if you haven’t done so. Don’t leave it too late or you’ll have to pay the price owed for your sins yourself.

We receive Jesus Christ by acknowledging our sinfulness and acknowledging that Jesus is King, and as King He has authority over us. We enter the King’s Kingdom through believing in our heart that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, and by confessing that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of Lords, even your Lord and King.

And if you’ve seen even a little of the pain and suffering that Christ went through, then you’ll know that an eternity in Hell is not something you would like. Those who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation have a renewed and everlasting friendship with God. Because of what Jesus did on the cross God is no longer angry with us. We have been reconciled to God, and God has been reconciled to us.

The only way to know for sure that God is your friend is to receive the Lord Jesus Christ and to keep on following Him till the day you breathe your last breath. Won’t you – if you haven’t already – cry out to God? Won’t you cry out to Him before you breathe your last?

(This is an exerpt of my book "Demystifying the Gospel" @ US Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/DEMYSTIFYING-THE-GOSPEL-ebook/dp/B006X51ZGY/ref=la_B006NTVAWY_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1364511267&sr=1-10
@ UK Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/DEMYSTIFYING-THE-GOSPEL-ebook/dp/B006X51ZGY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364511403&sr=8-1

For a list of all my books see Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/list/5464221.Neil_Cullan_McKinlay

Saturday, April 16, 2011

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

                                                    (Photo by Graham & Jacqui Black)

Karl Marx wrote: ‘A people without a heritage are easily persuaded.’ An example of the truth of this is that due to the Anglicization of Scotland many of her residents are now completely unaware of the linguistic richness of the original Gaelic place names. Thus the poetic names of her mountains, lakes, streams, rivers, flowers, fauna, towns and cities has become as sounding brass to those dispossessed of their mother tongue. People’s names become mere noises, when emptied of their original meaning. My home town Balloch kisses the mouth of Loch Lomond, deriving from Bealach, a pass, and no doubt beul which means ‘mouth.’

In Australia aboriginal languages are fast disappearing. As in Scotland, many place names survive, but in their Anglicized forms. It’s always beautiful to see the swag of names rolled out and their meanings unpacked. When I first arrived in Australia from Winnipeg (a Cree word meaning ‘muddy water’), Manitoba (‘great spirit’), I lived in Toowong (place of doves) near Mount Coot-tha (almost looks like Gaelic!), but is an Aboriginal word for ‘honey’ (ku-ta, even dark honey from the native Australian bee). A name frames a picture. It is a container into which meaning is poured. Adam was corralling every living creature by naming them.

The Bible is written in Hebrew and Greek with a little Aramaic (a language very similar to Hebrew). We are thankful that the original languages have been translated for us, and that there is a plethora of lexicons to assist us in our etymological study. No book more than the Bible reveals to us the great importance of understanding the meaning of words. For example, the Koine Greek words, dikaio (justify) and logizomai (impute) impact greatly on our understanding of the way of salvation.

In the Old Testament Hebrew all the names for God are revelation of who God is. Generally speaking, e.g., El is ‘God’; El elyon is ‘the Most High God’; Elohim is ‘the Triune God’, (i.e., God, the plurality of at least three Persons); Eloah is God (in the singular); YHWH or Jehovah, usually rendered LORD, is the personal or covenant name of the Eternal God, the ‘I AM’; and Jehovah Elohim (usually rendered LORD God) is ‘I AM the Triune God.’

These names have been designed by God to reveal to us something of who He is. In the New Testament Greek God reveals His name (singular) as ‘Father and Son and Holy Spirit.’ To be baptized into the Triune name of God is to have meaning and purpose affixed to you. By having His and your names locked together in the baptismal ceremony, you are sealed, for you have now entered into God’s frame of reference and He into yours. You now wear His holy name.

The Old Testament word for ‘word’ is debar and means ‘word, speech, matter, thing, history, promise, reason’ and other nuances. The New Testament Greek equivalent for this is logos, from whence we get the word ‘logic.’ Jesus Christ is the logic of God. He is the eternal Word who became also flesh. Thus Christ-ians are logic-ians. Therefore, of all people, Christians ought to be the most reasonable and logical!

Christ is also called ‘the Alpha and the Omega,’ and as the Word, includes the whole alphabet, A-Z. It is by Him that all words we speak are measured, ‘But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it on the day of judgment: For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned’ Matthew 12:36-37. The good news is that ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ Romans 10:13. ‘His name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed’ Psalm 72:17.

God is summed up in Jesus Christ. He is the frame, the container, the embodiment of the eternal truth of God. It’s as the Truth incarnate that Jesus says, ‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ John 8:32. Therefore to know Jesus as your Saviour is to be free indeed. He is the history of God. He is God’s final word to mankind. ‘Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ Acts 4:12.

The Gospel promise was given by God to man right after the Fall of man. In due time the serpent’s (ie, Satan’s) skull was to be crushed. This took place at Calvary when Christ was crucified and then resurrected. Calvary is Latin for skull. It is found in Luke 23:33, ‘And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him.’ The actual Greek word there is kranion, (a skull) from which we get ‘cranium’. Golgotha means the same thing, a skull. For His feat of skull-crushing God has given Jesus the name which is above every name, to which all must bow the knee.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

R.I.P.

Whatever happened to R.I.P.? I was listening to a dialogue on the radio about current funeral trends. It seems that some people are more concerned about their ‘carbon footprint’ when they die than Judgment Day, Heaven, Hell, or their future resurrection! I thought the idea was more about that when we die we were to rest in peace until our resurrection, and therefore less about the most ‘environmentally friendly’ way of disposing of our dead bodies. I for one don’t want my body ‘disposed of’ at death. When I die I just want to rest in peace!

Apparently good old Christian burial uses up a lot less energy than cremating. It seems to me that two men with two shovels win hands down! But apparently there are carbon footprints all over coffins and their manufacture. Then there’s the hearse ride to the cemetery, not to mention the fossil fuel that the visiting mourners’ cars use. Still, Christian burial produces far less carbon than cremation. Crematoriums are now trying to compete in the lucrative funeral market by alerting us to the idea that there will be a significant cut back on carbon if the deceased were to be cremated sans coffin! O, just let me rest in peace…

In some of the bigger cities burial plots are at such a premium that it is recommended (to save space!) that you be laid to rest vertically. One presumes that it would be head at top and feet at bottom, though the people on the radio show I was listening to didn’t stipulate which. I must admit to warming slightly to their suggestion of being buried beneath a tree. I once planted a tree to mark where I had buried a beloved pet. But then the radio people spoiled it by saying that it was so that the tree would suck nutrients from you! O, just let me rest in peace!

Both my parents were cremated and had their ashes sprinkled into the sea from the seashore as the tide was going out. Not quite my idea of a burial at sea! I must admit that I would much rather that they, like Abraham and Sarah, were buried in a ‘family plot’ where I could join them as we together await the resurrection at the Last Day!

At this point it is usual for Christians to start discussing the fact that the God who created us is able to recreate us even if our bodies have become dust and have been scattered to the four winds. This is all perfectly true, but what does this have to do with the mode and method of burial for believers as exampled throughout Scripture?

When I die I don’t want to rest in peace knowing that my funeral produced a low carbon footprint, or that I am the compost heap helping the growth of some tree! Rather I want to rest in peace knowing ‘that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.’ Job 19:25-27. Ah, the resurrection!

My future resurrection is assured and secured by Christ’s resurrection some 2,000 years ago. He wasn’t cremated in a box or outside a box. He wasn’t buried under a freshly planted tree. Before they funeralized Him they washed and cared for His dead body, wrapping Him in cloths with spices. He rested in peace until the third day and then He rose again. And when He returns ‘the dead in Christ will rise first’ 1 Thessalonians 4:16, ‘And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt’ Daniel 12:2. ‘Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth –those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation’ John 5:28-29.

In life and in death my body is my private property (actually, it belongs to Jesus). So, when I die, simply lay me in my grave as in my bed and let me rest in peace. Do not dispose of me thoughtfully! Let me rest in peace because my Master is not finished with my body…