Tag Archives: eternity

Alien Immigrants

Studies in First Peter

To those who are elect exiles (immigrants) of the Dispersion (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Our true home is not in this world but in eternity with God. Those who are citizens of His kingdom think differently about God, about themselves and about the world in which they live, than those who are citizens of the world. Peter uses the word exiles, people who are foreigners or aliens (parepidemos), to show the focus of the Christian remaining on God the Father.

In the first section of his letter, 1:1-12, Peter affirms it is God the Father who determines to provide and assure salvation for each citizen of His kingdom. He guarantees their place with Him in eternity and gives protection while they His live in a corrupt world.

When most people think of the word exilesthey imagine persons displaced by war or natural disaster, whose home or country is so violently attacked or destroyed they can no longer safely live there. Or, they think of someone who, for political or criminal reasons, has been forcibly removed from their home country as a punishment. For those displaced by war the exile flees for their own safety. Those punished are forcibly removed from their country. But this is not what the Greek word (parepidemos) means. A better translation is either alien or immigrantor both. An immigrant may have had to flee their country because of persecution or war. But immigrants usually want to come to a new country to live and to become a citizen of that country. They purposefully move from one country and culture, which was theirs, to another country and culture they make theirs.

According to Thayer’s exile (immigrant) (parapedimos) means one who comes from a foreign country to live side by side with those who are natives of the host country. They are foreigners who live in a strange place. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles(read immigrants) of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1Peter 1:1 ESV). In the context of 1 Peter 1:1, Christians are those who hold citizenship in heaven while living their lives on earth. Peter is writing to all Christians, but especially the Jews, who are part of the dispersion, the Diaspora. They are Jews scattered throughout the nations of the known world. Currently, the term Disapoa may also refer to Christians scattered throughout the world. Christians have dual citizenship. While living on earth the Christian lives according to the customs and culture of the nation in which they reside while remaining constantly aware of their citizenship in heaven.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews couples the word alien immigrant with the word xenos. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers (xenos) and exiles (parapidemos) on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13 ESV). Xenosmeans foreigner or stranger, or someone who is not familiar with the country in which they find themselves. They are not immigrants, though they are alien. Thus, the writer of Hebrews describes those who wait patiently and faithfully for God to act and consider themselves strangers even while they are living in the culture of a host country.

Jesus describes the citizen of the kingdom of heaven as both salt and light.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 ESV)

God does not physically separate out those who are His from the world though He does separate them out as His. He disperses them throughout the world as witnesses of the Gospel. Christians live in the world as full citizens of the kingdom of God, temporarily removed from their true home, which is in eternity with God.

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Relentless Joy

Meditations on the Psalms

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.(Psalm 4:7 ESV)

Our expectations, because of the image of God in us, are to naturally do that for which we were created. God created us for relationship with Him. Sin brought rebellion, making the world a dangerous place. Our expectations of God are He must bless us, and when He doesn’t according to our arbitrary standard, we curse Him. We cease to rely upon God, not realizing all we have, our very lives, are given us by His grace and sustained by His decision.

Jesus tells us God gave Him more delight and contentment, because of Their relationship, than any person could have, even when all their perceived needs and wants are met. God put joy in His heart.

Joy means mirth, gladness, gaiety and pleasure, and can mean happiness. Spiritual joy is more than happiness. Spiritual joy is the relentless pleasure of intimately knowing God. Abound means to increase or become many, great, or long. We measure our riches with physical belongings, pleasurable and sensual activity, or manipulative control like power, grasp that which will last only a short time. If our measure does not last for eternity then we settle for failure.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from death, demonstrated her joy in intimately knowing Jesus. John tells us she was the one who anointed Jesus. “It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill” (John 11:2 ESV). John tells us this fact before it happened in the sequence of the story because her devotion is important to Jesus, bringing Him great pleasure and joy. What she did for Jesus is given prominence in the declaration of the gospel. “Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (Matthew 26:13 ESV; see Mark 14:9). God is not selfish in accepting the worship of those He created for relationship with Him.

Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with an expensive perfume, pure nard, or spike nard. “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3 ESV). Spike nard perfume was expensive because the plant from which it is derived, Nardostachys jatamansi, also called Indian spike, grows only in the Himalayas. Nard also means having the power of persuasion, skillful in producing belief, trustful, relied upon. Mary used a perfume to anoint Jesus which symbolically described His character and personality. Mary showed her devotion to Jesus by cleaning His feet with the perfume and drying His feet with her hair. She would, if necessary, die for Him.

But there was one present who thought more like the world than like one abandoned to God. Judas, who would betray Jesus, who was charged as the Disciple’s treasurer, who stole money from the moneybag for himself, was displeased with Mary’s devotion.“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5 ESV; see Matthew 26:9, Mark 14:5). His focus was upon what God should do for him, not what he was obligated to do for God. He who walked with Jesus, saw His miracles, heard His words and teachings, spent enough time with the Son of Man to intimately know Him, hated Him. Judas betrayed Jesus to the authorities that wanted to kill Him, for a handful of money. Perhaps his hatred grew over time as he saw missed opportunities to increase his own wealth and standing in the world. He wanted an abundance of grain and wine, measuring his riches with a temporary, transient standard, refusing to see those riches would be destroyed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 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. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52 ESV)

Jesus tells us to find our joy in Him, in eternity and in knowing God, which is the natural product of having the image of God. Our eternal joy cannot be found in the world or in anything of the world. Our worship of Him brings God great joy. He looks to eternity, where those who are His will no longer rebel against Him. They will have a righteous and healthy relationship with their Creator and will enjoy Him as He enjoys them. There is no sin in eternity in God’s presence.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. (Isaiah 65:17-19 ESV)

Jesus looked toward His death with anxiety and anticipation. “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44 ESV). Before His crucifixion He raised Lazarus from the dead knowing He, though He would soon die on a cross, would not stay dead. We who believe His resurrection, who find ourselves in Him for eternity, give God the greatest joy. In turn, He fills us with His Spirit who gives an abundance of joy, with peace and rest, to we who are God’s.

Refuge

Meditations on the Psalms

Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:12 ESV)

God begins the Psalms by singling out One Man who is blessed, happy in His relationship with God because He is just and righteous and does not rebel against Him in any way. This last verse of Psalm 2, echoes the beginning declaration of blessedness. But instead of speaking about One Man, God is speaking about all people who identify with that One Man.

Refuge means to trust, to confide in or hope for, to flee to for protection. Trust is an emotional response to the promises of the object of faith. God is the object of true faith. Only He is completely and justly capable of fulfilling the promises made. What are God’s promises? His promises are both comforting and terrifying.

God promises to give His Son the earth and all it contains. God promises to bring to an end all who rebel against Him. God promises to bless those who He brings into eternity with Him.

Jesus Christ is God the Son, born a man the way Man was originally intended. He was a Servant of God, who came to serve those who rebel against God. He was God in the flesh, who came to die for the sins of the world. He is the King of kings and His kingdom is eternal. His subjects are those who, created in the image of God yet rebelling against Him, repent of their mutiny and identify with Him, rejecting the wickedness of the world.

He is a refuge, a sanctuary for those who are His, who are persecuted by the world. He is a refuge for those who trust Him, relinquishing control of their lives to Him, becoming His servants, the citizens of His kingdom. It is not that He removes any from the world once they are aligned with Him but that He leaves them in the world to witness to the world about Him, but also to prepare them for eternity with Him. Those who are His are identified with Him.

Jesus, in His prayer just before His death, tells us His intent for all who are His.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 16:20-26 ESV)

He wants us with Him in eternity. He wants us to know Him intimately. He wants us to know we are known by God. He wants the world to know we belong to God, that God has chosen us, that He will bring us into eternity with Him. Eternity is ours in Christ.

Nothing can separate us from God. Instead, we are separated from the world for God. We believe, with Paul, “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 ESV). Being in Christ, hidden in Him, protected by Him, enjoying His presence, growing in our knowledge of Him, means we receive all that is His purposed for us. All who are hidden in Christ receive the blessings of Christ.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:2-4 ESV)

Heritage and Possession

Meditations on the Psalms

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:8 ESV)

God has set His Son on the throne, decreeing He is sovereign of all creation. He brought His Son into His creation as one made in the image of God yet without the sin which corrupts the nature of all other people. His name is Jesus Christ and God promises Him all creation is His. Jesus, the man, exercises dominion over creation the way Adam and Eve were assigned dominion over the earth. Yet, His dominion extends beyond the physical control of the world to governing and giving purpose to those in the world. To rebel against the Son is to rebel against God.

Ask means to inquire, to beg, to seek. Jesus uses a Greek word, which means the same as the Hebrew ask, when He tells His disciples to ask God to give them what they need to live in this world. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:8 ESV).  Make means bestow and is translated give. God will give these things to His Son, the King of kings, because Jesus seeks God with every ounce of His being.

What does God give His Son? He gives the nations and the ends of the earth. Nations is translated heathen and includes all people, not just the chosen of God. Everyone belongs to Him. Ends of the earth is everything on the earth. Jesus is given dominion over the earth and government over the people of the earth.

John, in the opening statements of his gospel, describes who Jesus is and that He came for a specific reason.

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-13 ESV)

All people includes the Gentiles, disdained by the Jews at that time as unworthy of receiving the salvation of God. Simply being a descendant of Abraham does not guarantee a place in eternity with God, the Giver of Life.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. (Romans 9:6-8 ESV)

All people have the image of God and are worth His Son’s sacrifice. During His ministry, Jesus did not specifically try to draw attention to Himself but to God the Father, whom He served. He actively tried to discourage people from holding Him up as the answer to all their worldly problems. Instead, He focused His attention on their relationship with God, that the relationship could be reestablished and wholesome. He is confrontational but also compassionate. He is the benevolent King whose purpose is to bring those who are His into a righteous relationship with God.

This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (Matthew 12:17-21 ESV; see Isaiah 42:1-4)

Jesus created all things for Himself. By His word, all things are sustained. God established His authority over all things. This is not some future event but that which is done and completed in eternity, though we still await its completion in space-time history. To rebel against Jesus ultimately brings failure to those who rebel, for He cannot fail and will not abdicate His authority to another.

Tree of Life

Meditations on the Psalms

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:3 ESV)

The Psalmist continues to describe the blessed Man who does not follow the ungodly into their sin but actively seeks to intimately know God through Scripture. We are given an illustration, a metaphor, of who Jesus Christ is in this world and throughout eternity. He is like a tree planted in the one place where that tree will always bear fruit and will always be healthy. The tree is planted next to streams of water for abundant nourishment. It is hard to not think of the trees planted next to the nourishing river coming from the Garden of Eden.

Scripture begins and ends describing the tree of life (see Genesis 2:9) planted in the Garden of Eden. Before the fall, Adam was given permission to eat from the tree of life. After the fall, Adam and all men are excluded from the Garden so they could not eat from the tree of life and live for eternity in their fallen state. “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—’” (Genesis 3:22 ESV). People were created in the image of God for relationship with Him. When sin corrupted that relationship God’s justice required they be excluded from His presence. Yet, God provided a means for people to be righteous before Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God the Son and who is also the perfect Man.

Scripture ends with the tree of life. “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2 ESV). From this tree those who dwell in eternity may eat and be healed.

We have already seen, in Jesus’ response to the temptation of the Deceiver, that “‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus then tells us that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:53-54 ESV; see John 6:55-58). Jesus Christ is the source of life for those who belong to God. This suggests that Jesus was present in the Garden of Eden as the tree of life. People are now commanded to accept Jesus and in doing so will receive life.

One sin excluded Man from the presence of God. That sin was committed by one man, Adam, when he ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of his action all men are condemned. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12 ESV; see Romans 5:12-21). So, because of the sacrifice of one Man, Jesus Christ, redemption is offered to all men.

Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many (Romans 5:14-15 ESV).

Adam was a type of Christ. Now, the command is to eat from the tree of life, which is also a type of Christ. One act of disobedience excludes those who disobey from the presence of God. That act of rebellion is to not obey God’s command to eat His flesh and drink His blood. God’s command to all is to eat from the tree of life, which is the body and blood of Christ, and live spiritually with Him in eternity.

Introduction to Psalm One

Meditations on the Psalms

[This is the beginning of a series of my thoughts on the Psalms.]

Introduction to Psalm 1

In the Psalms, we see two spiritual entities, one struggling with the other, with their respective followers. One, the Deceiver, is at war with the other, God the Creator, having begun the conflict and obsessively refusing to end or concede defeat. God fights an unsought war with every necessary tool, eternally knowing His victory is assured. His opponent also fights with every deceptive trick and contrivance available, knowing it has no chance of victory. It is a war which should not have happened but is raging and cannot be stopped until the time is right. It is the Deceiver, a created being, rebelling against God, the Creator of His foe.

War should bring fear and trembling to every sane and reasonable person. In war is destruction and death. There is no safety and security in a war zone. There is constant terror and unsought courage, debilitating fear and selfless bravery, premeditated loss from destruction and deliberate self-sacrifice. War brings out the worst in people. War brings out the best in people.

Why would any created being wage war against the Creator, knowing there was no hope of victory, knowing at the end of the conflict it would face utter destruction? Would this knowledge not change the face of war? Would not tactics and strategies change? There is no hope of victory for the Deceiver, and no chance of surrender because judgment is irrevocably and eternally decreed. Still, the war rages.

This is not a war as physical, space-time history would define war. In war, there are sides of combatants fighting to control people, land or whatever is at stake. There is ultimately a winner and a loser. All sides will suffer loss but eventually one side will capitulate to the other and sue for terms of peace, or a cessation of conflict. Or, one side will so totally dominate the other the overshadowed side will face annihilation.

This war is not in heaven. It is not an eternal struggle but has an end. It is on Earth. Though it is two spiritual beings, one eternal and omnipotent and the other having a beginning and powerful but still not God, the war is fought in space-time.

Over what is the rebellion being raged? Ultimately, there is no prize. God, existing before the beginning and after the end of time, is the object of the Deceivers wrath. But God is not a prize which can be won or lost. Temporarily, the trophy is the souls of people made in the image of God, whom God loves. Those who belong to Him cannot be lost while those who rebel against Him cannot be saved.

But do not think anyone born is a passive participant or an innocent bystander. Nor think any person choses sides. Every person born is thrust into the war against God, for the sinful bent and corruption of Man propels all away from their Creator. Yet, God’s image drives each person toward God. It is a true war, with eternal consequences fought within the soul of each person given the image of God while inhabiting a vessel corrupted by sin.

Those who are known by God are the battlefield, continually threatened and assaulted by those who do not belong to God. Most in the world will not even recognize there is a war raging. It is not an awareness of position for or against God which defines the war. It is the justice and righteousness of God judging those who rebel against God, which sets the stage. The war we face moment by moment is a rebellion against God and all He represents.

There is only one champion. His name is Jesus Christ. He is God who was born in flesh as a righteous, sinless man. He took upon Himself the punishment for rebellion and sin for all so all might be reconciled to God. He, and He alone, has fought the war and claimed victory over the consequences of sin, not just the entities who rebelled against Him.

Still, the Deceiver, knowing its own end is annihilation, eternal separation from that which creates and sustains life, is bent on wreaking as much havoc and destruction as possible. There is no prize. It, the Deceiver, is called the prince, or ruler, of this world but it is not the king and supreme ruler of hell. God still rules hell, for it is a place He created for those who rebel against Him, beginning with the Deceiver.

Psalm 1 describes the conflict and ultimate resolution between the only Righteous One, and those who are His, and the Deceiver, and those who follow it.

God’s Calling

Studies in Genesis 3

But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9 ESV)

God “called” to the first man, Adam, who is the representative of Man, all humans. To call means to summon, to invite, appoint, endow, and also to cry out, proclaim, to call by name. God did not ask where he was. He knew Adam was hiding among the trees. He also knew Adam had rebelled against Him by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God called to Adam to present himself before his Authority.

God does not ask anyone to do anything. Nowhere in Scripture will you find God asking for our obedience. Even in our rebellion God demands obedience. God does ask questions of those who are His. His questions are designed to teach us about Him and about ourselves before Him. While Adam was hiding from God, He began asking a series of questions designed to elicit specific answers.

“Where are you?”  This question is full of meaning and points to many other questions. Why are you hiding? Why aren’t you coming to greet me? What are you feeling? Are you afraid? How did you come to know fear?

Some have suggested God went in search of Adam after the rebellion. This is certainly possible. However, God knows everything and does not act quickly as we judge necessary timeliness. He stands outside of time while knowing all which occurs constrained by time. Nor, is God going to allow sin and rebellion to change Him or His actions. He knew before they sinned not only that they would rebel but what He was planning to do because of their disobedience. All God does is for His purpose, not ours. We are created to serve Him, yet His eternal nature is to serve without losing or compromising His authority and place.

God’s call to man, whether Adam or anyone else who has, does or will live, is a summons into His presence. It is not a request to come but a command to present oneself before God. Since God created Man for relationship, yet still has authority over Man, His call is to come and be with Him in a loving, intimate way. It is the nature of sin to be repulsed by God. With the act of rebellion by Man and the summons of God the war raging within Man because of sin is defined.

God’s image in Man is an irresistible striving to know and be with Him. Man’s now bent and corrupted nature is an overwhelming revulsion toward God and a terrifying desire to flee from Him. God’s image in Man is not corrupted because God cannot be corrupted. Yet, the vessel holding the image is broken and compromised and no longer wants that image. God’s image cannot be expunged from Man. It will always, forever in eternity, be there, driving Man toward his Maker. Unless Man is recreated, not fixed or patched but made new, the war between the corrupted flesh and the incorruptible nature of God, will rage out of control, even in eternity.