How Might Jesus Destroy Death?

TODAY’S READING: JAMES

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1.14-15)

Jesus became a man so that through his own death he could destroy the devil. Hebrews 2.14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Jesus’ death and resurrection launched his reign, and he will reign until all his enemies, even death, have been defeated. First Corinthians 15.25-26 says, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

So, Jesus is going to destroy the one who has the power of death. And, Jesus is going to destroy death itself.

Therefore, how might Jesus destroy death?

Here is one way Jesus could destroy death.

Those that do not believe in Jesus are those that are under control of the devil, who has the power of death. Because these people are under the control of the devil, they bring death to others. If Jesus brought all these unbelievers together in one place with the devil, say in a great end time battle, then he could destroy, kill, all these unbelievers and the devil. This would destroy death.

Although, Jesus would have had to bring death to many, many people in order to destroy death.

To me, it seems like this scenario would have Jesus multiplying death and not destroying death.

But, there is another way Jesus might destroy death.

Where does death come from?

James 1.14-15 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

Death is the fruit, the maturation, of sin.

Sin is the child, the offspring, conceived by evil desires in our minds and our flesh.

James 4.1-3 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire [ same Greek word used in 1.14-15] and do not have, so you murder, You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

Desires that are for our own pleasure are covetous and lead to murder, death.

But, love “does not insist on its own way.” (1 Corinthians 13.5) Or, love “does not seek its own.” (NASB) Or, love “is not self-seeking.” (NIV) Or, love “does not demand its own way.” (NLT) Or, love “is not selfish.” (HCSB) Or, love “is not self-serving.” (NET Bible)

Therefore, if Jesus wanted to destroy death without actually killing anyone, then he would need to destroy evil desires. Evil desires being those desires that seek something to spend it on ourselves instead of loving desires that seek to give something to others at the expense of ourselves.

Indeed, this is what we see Jesus doing in his own life.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus went into the wilderness was “being tempted by Satan,” (Mark 1.13) “the tempter.” (Matthew 4.3) In three different ways, Satan tempted Jesus, trying to lure and entice him by his own desire. Satan was tempting Jesus to act for his own selfish interest. But, Jesus resisted each of these temptations, not permitting these evil desires conceive sin in him. Because there was no sin in Jesus, sin could not mature and bring forth the fruit of death in Jesus.

At the end of his life, the night before he died, Jesus was in a garden praying. His prayer was so intense that his sweat was like blood. Jesus prayed that his Father remove the cup from him.”

What was Jesus praying?

Was Jesus praying that he would not have to go to the cross, forget this whole kingdom of God business, and go about a normal life like everyone else?

Or, was Jesus praying to fight the temptation to not go to cross but bring about the kingdom about through the death and destruction of Israel’s enemies that everyone thought the Messiah would bring?

I think it is more likely the latter. Jesus was praying that he would not be “lured and enticed by his own desire.” Jesus was praying that he would not give into temptation.

Indeed, in the garden that night, he told the disciples, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22.40) Instead of praying, the disciples kept falling asleep. And, the disciples ended up being “lured and enticed by [their] own desire.” “And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, ‘Lord shall we strike with the sword?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.” (Luke 22.49-50)

So, Jesus died to all selfish desires. Therefore, as Hebrews 2.14-15 says, through his own death, Jesus defeated Satan, who had the power of death.

Therefore, to destroy the last of his enemies, death, without causing death himself, Jesus simply needs to destroy evil, selfish desires within us. If he does this, sin cannot conceive and sin cannot mature into death.

Cut off evil desires and you destroy death.

Therefore, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10.3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Therefore, Paul says in Ephesians 6.11-13, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Therefore, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3.-12-15, “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

The judgment of Christ is not a condemnation of death upon anyone. Jesus came to destroy death and the devil, who had the power of death.

Rather, the judgment of Christ is a purifying fire burns up all evil desires within us. Then, death is defeated and all will have life. In this way, Jesus will fulfill the single commandment his Father gave.

“For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12.49-50)

Therefore, Paul can say to Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 6.13-15)

Jesus does not need, and will not, to kill anyone to destroy death.

To do so would be to create more death.

Instead, Jesus will destroy every evil desire so that no one can any longer be lured and enticed by them. Then, sin will no longer be able to conceive in anyone. Therefore, sin will not be able to mature into death.

How will Jesus destroy those evil desires in you?

Love.

Jesus will love you as much as it takes and as long as it takes for you to give up every selfish desire.

Death will be destroyed.

How Does God Discipline Us for Our Good?

TODAY’S READING: HEBREWS 11-13

“It is for discipline that you have to endure…he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12.7, 10-11)

A father discipline his son. The discipline is done to make the son like the father. Those qualities and characteristics that do not produce the life of the father in the son need to be removed.

How does God discipline us for our good?

In Hebrews 12.1-4, our endurance is compared to Jesus’ endurance. We are to look to him as an example of how to endure. Hebrews 5.8 says, “Although he was son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”

What did Jesus suffer?

Hebrews 12.3 says he “endured from sinners such hostility against himself.” Hostility is antilogia, a word against, in Greek. A more literal reading might translate this as he “endured from sinners speaking against in himself. Jesus endured from sinners a denial of who he was in himself. In a sense, we, as sinners, demanded that Jesus be something he was not.

What did this look like?

Matthew 27.39-44 says, “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ So also the chief priests, with scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, “I am the Son of God.”‘ And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.”

How difficult is it for us not to defend ourselves, to prove ourselves, in even the most minor of confrontations?

Yet, here is Jesus, the son of God, being crucified on a cross. And he is surrounded by sinners demanding that he prove he is the son of God.

Just come down from the cross.

Just save yourself.

If not, God, whom you say is your father, doesn’t desire you.

Not only did Jesus endure this hostility, this demand to prove who he was, he “endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12.2) He endured to the point of having his own blood shed.

And, Jesus learned obedience from this.

Obedience to what?

The one commandment his Father gave him.

John 12.49-50 says, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

Under this withering attack from sinners to prove himself and having his blood shed by these same sinners, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23.34) Through all that he endured, Jesus obeyed the command of his Father to speak eternal life. For, to speak eternal life, God’s life, is to say “I forgive you even though you are killing me with your words and your actions.”

As I thought about what this must have been like for Jesus, the Holy Spirit brought to me the image of the burning bush in the desert that Moses saw. “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.” (Exodus 3.2) Earlier this year I wrote this in “Jesus: I Am the Burning Bush.”

Jesus is this bush that was continually aflame but never consumed. I felt the Spirit showing me that the continual burning of the bush symbolized the continual purification of Jesus to never say or do anything that his Father did not say or do. Jesus was continually aflame so that he always exhibited the life of his Father.

Hence, when Jesus appeared to Moses as this burning bush, he could to say to Moses his name is “I Am Who I Am.” (Exodus 3.14) Jesus is “I Am.” In other words, “I am life.” As the bush that was continually aflame but never consumed, death was perpetually burned out Jesus. Death never had a place in Jesus. Jesus was perpetually purified from death.

So, how does God discipline us for our good?

Through fire.

This fire purifies us, removing those qualities and characteristics that do not produce the life of the father in the son need to be removed. Every thought and desire that produces death in us needs to be burned out.

Those thoughts are burned out of us as we endure words spoken against us that demand we prove who we are.

Have you ever been in situation where others are demanding you to prove yourself, yet you resisted their demands?

Is there not a burning going on inside of you as you resist the temptation to strike back with words that will contradict what others are saying about you?

When you are being persecuted unjustly and you only speak forgiveness, life, is there not a burning inside of you?

How difficult is this to endure?

How painful?

James 3.5-6 says, “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”

When we let loose with our tongues, we can burn down everything around us. But, when we bite our tongues, not speaking to prove ourselves but only to forgive, then the fire remains in us, burning away all impurities so that only the life of our Father remains.

Proverbs 18.21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

How will you choose to use your tongue?

We endure through this discipline.

We learn obedience to speak life, to speak forgiveness, from what we suffer.

This discipline is for our good. The Greek word for good here is symphero. It literally means bear together.

This discipline we endure is so that we may learn obedience to commandment to speak life. Being disciplined to speak life, to forgive, we are able to bear together with each other.

Bearing with each other is hard in the moment, but it brings life in the end.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

What More Can Be Said of the True Tent?

TODAY’S READING: HEBREWS 9-10

“Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.” (Hebrews 9.1-5)

The earthly place of holiness that was a tent made by man is obviously a reference to the tabernacle that Moses built. The writer mentions some features of the tabernacle – the curtains, the furniture, the cherubim, etc. – but says he “cannot now speak in detail” about these things.

So, what more can be said about the tent?

In Hebrews, the first mention of the tent is in Hebrews 8.1-2, which says, “We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.” The Greek word translated tent is skene. Skene means tabernacle. So, there is a true tent that the Lord, not man, set up.

Therefore, the true tent is something other than the tabernacle Moses built. But, the tabernacle that Moses built was patterned after something. “For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that shown you on the mountain.'” (Hebrews 8.5)

What was the pattern Moses was to use for the tabernacle?

Hebrews 9.11 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation).”

And, Hebrews 9.24 says, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”

So, the true tent is “heaven itself.” Heaven was not made by men’s hands.

What is “heaven itself?”

Hebrews 10.5 says, “When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifice and offering you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me.’” God prepared a body for Jesus. Therefore, Jesus’ body was the work of God, not man’s hands. We could say that Jesus’ body, his flesh, was the work of God’s hands.

What else was the work of God’s hands?

Psalm 19.1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Now we have a link between the true tabernacle, “heaven itself,” and Jesus’ body – all three were the work of God’s hands.

The words “sky above” are the Hebrew word raqiya. Raqiya is the word translated firmament in Genesis 1. Now we have a link between Jesus’ body, his flesh, and the firmament, the heavens, heaven itself, that separated the waters above from the waters below.

But, remember that Moses built the earthly tabernacle after the pattern of the heavenly tabernacle. Therefore, Jesus’ body, his flesh, “heaven itself,” the firmament that separates the waters above from the waters below, heaven from the earth, is symbolized by the curtain before the most holy place.

What happened to the veil in front of the most holy place when Christ was crucified?

Matthew 27.50-51 says, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” When Jesus died, his flesh was pierced, torn if you well. The tearing of Jesus’ flesh was symbolized in the tearing of the curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place in the temple.

All of this was a picture of the tearing of the firmament that separated heaven and earth in creation. Therefore, now heaven was invading earth through the crucifixion of Jesus. God was coming to dwell with all mankind.

But, notice Hebrews 9.8-9, which says, “By this the Holy Spirit indicates the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age).”

The true tent, the true tabernacle, also represents that ages in addition to Christ’s flesh, the firmament, and heaven itself. The holy place is the present age and the most holy place is new age, the age of new creation.

Therefore, the piercing of Jesus’ flesh, tearing of the veil, the ripping open of the firmament, opened the doorway from this age to the next. Remember, Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10.9) We can enter the new age, the new creation, right now but only through the door, Jesus’ crucifixion.

But, at this time only the curtain before the most holy place has been torn away. The earthly tabernacle had a covering over the most holy place. The covering is still in place. Therefore, while there is access to the most holy place through the cross, the most holy place has not been fully revealed. So, we have an overlapping of the present age and the new age to come. We have the now and the not yet of the new creation, the kingdom of God.

However, we have the following prophecy in Isaiah 25.6-9.

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will walk take away from all earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.'”

While Jesus’ body was pierced, opening up the way into the new creation, you can only enter it by the cross. However, one day the entire covering over the tabernacle will be removed. That is, one day everything that is blocking heaven from earth will be completely removed.

So, Revelation 21.1-4 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Christ is “heaven itself.” He is the new heaven and the new earth. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5.17) Even now, for those that believe, the old heaven and earth has passed away and the new heaven and earth has come.

Consider then these words of Jesus, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5.18)

The law is accomplished. It is done. For those that believe, the heaven and earth have passed away. For those that believe, you are no longer under the law, but you have God, through the Holy Spirit, dwelling with you.

But, one day the covering will be completely removed and the new heaven and earth will be fully revealed. The dwelling place of God will be with man. The new Jerusalem will come down from heaven.

“The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height equal.” (Revelation 21.16) The new Jerusalem, God’s dwelling place with men, that comes down from heaven when the covering over mankind is fully removed was a cube. And, so was the most holy place, the dwelling place of God with man, of the earthly tabernacle Moses built.

This then is more that could be said about the true tent.

But, even so, of these things I cannot now speak in detail.

What Is the Better Promise of Jesus’ Covenant?

TODAY’S READING: HEBREWS 5-8

“But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” (Hebrews 8.6)

A covenant is an agreement between two parties. The Greek word for covenant is diatheke. It properly means a disposition of property by a will.

Sometimes diatheke is translated will, as in the legal document that gets executed at someone’s death. So, Hebrews 9.16-17 says, “For where a will [diatheke] is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will [diatheke] takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.”

A covenant or a will involves an inheritance or a promise from the one who establishes the covenant to the inheritor. Both Moses and Jesus enacted covenants. And, both covenants had promises.

But, what made the promise of Jesus’ covenant better than the promise of Moses’ covenant?

Do you know what the promise of Moses’ covenant was?

“God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel:…I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3.15, 17)

The promise of Moses’ covenant was land – Canaan. This is why it is called the Promised Land. The land was said to be Israel’s inheritance for inheritance is what you receive from a covenant or a will. God could give the land to Israel because “the earth is the Lord’s,” according to Psalm 24.1 and many other scriptures.

Do you know what the promise of Jesus’ covenant is?

Not land.

Jesus did not die to enact his covenant so that God’s people could inherit a plot of land.

The promise of Jesus’ covenant is eternal life, God’s life.

“In him was life.” (John 1.4)

Eternal life was the “property” of Jesus that he dispose through his covenant, his will, at his death.

While inheritance in the Old Testament is almost always associated with land, inheritance in the New Testament is almost always associated with life.

Jesus is asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10.17)

Jesus says that those who have forsaken everything “will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19.29)

Paul writes about who will “inherit the kingdom of God.” But, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17.20-21)

Paul says he is a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.” Titus 1.2) Also, Paul says he is “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1.1)

Upon his death, Jesus’ covenant promises an inheritance of eternal life. Eternal life is a much better promise than land.

Quoting from Jeremiah 31, the author of Hebrews says, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8.10-12)

“For they shall all know me.” This is the promise of the covenant. But, to know God is eternal life, which is the promise of the covenant. In John 17.3, Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

How Does a Hard Heart Become Soft?

TODAY’S READING: HEBREWS 1-4

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4.12)

In Hebrews 3 and 4, the writer quotes from Psalm 95.7-11 in some way on five separate occasions. There is one particular portion that gets quoted three times. It says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Two of the three quotes include the additional phrase “as in the rebellion.” And, one of the three quotes adds “on the day of testing in the wilderness.”

What was the rebellion and the day of testing in the wilderness?

While the Septuagint, which is where the quotation of Psalm 94.7-11 (psalms are numbered differently in the Septuagint) comes from, does not clearly tell us, the Hebrew version of Psalm 95.7-11 does. In the Hebrew version, we learn that the rebellion was at Meribah and Massah in the wilderness. I wrote about this in Jesus: The Rock that Was Struck.

Israel had been led to a place in the desert where there was no water. They quarreled with Moses and demanded water to drink. Moses asked why they were testing God. But, the people thirsted and grumbled against Moses saying that he had brought them out of Egypt to kill them with thirst.

This is a picture of Israel hardening their hearts even though they had heard God’s voice. The Greek word for harden often refers to hard heartedness but more literally means dry, stiff, inflexible, or rigid. Israel was in a dry place in the desert and this symbolized the conditions of their hearts – dry, hard, inflexible.

So, God told Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike that rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” (Exodus 17.6) Therefore, in the rebellion in the desert, where Israel’s hearts had become dry, hard, and inflexible, God provided water from a rock. But, Israel still did not listen. God said of them, “They always go astray in their heart,” and “They shall not enter my rest.”

The writer of Hebrews is warning us not to be like Israel, making our hearts hard – dry and inflexible – by refusing to listen to God’s voice.

So, how does a hard heart become soft?

The rock God was standing on was called Horeb. Horeb means to dry up, be dried, to be in ruins, to lay waste.

When Jesus was struck by Satan on the cross, what did he say?

John 19.28 says, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.”

Jesus is the rock at Horeb that was dried up when he was struck on the cross. Further, in John 19.34, we are told that when Jesus was struck on the cross that water came out of his side.

In John 4.10, 13-14, Jesus said to the woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water…Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

What is the one thing that soften hard ground, even rock hard ground?

Water.

Water can penetrate even the smallest of cracks to soften the hardest of ground.

And, what does water symbolize in the Bible?

The Holy Spirit.

Like water, the Holy Spirit can penetrate even the smallest of cracks in the hardest of hearts.

So, the writer of Hebrews is encouraging his readers to enter God’s rest by allowing his voice, living water, the Holy Spirit to keep their hearts from becoming hard.

“For the word of God is living and active.”

The word of God is Jesus.

How is Jesus living and active in us?

Through the Holy Spirit, the living water that wells up inside of us.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.”

Sometimes ground is so hard that the sharpest tool cannot break it. You have to wait until some water falls on it that ground before any tool will work.

Therefore, Jesus through the Holy Spirit in your heart is sharper than a two-edged sword. In other words, Jesus through the Holy Spirit can soften the hardest of hearts.

What does the softening of the heart look like?

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Jesus through the Holy Spirit pierces through quarreling and complaining against God that leads to disobedience and sin. Jesus through the Holy Spirit pierces through our dry, rigid, and inflexible views and attitudes toward God. Jesus through the Holy Spirit softens our hearts toward God so that we can see God for who he really is.

Therefore, in 2 Corinthians 3, Paul says we need to read scripture by the Spirit, moistened with water, instead of by the letter, dry, inflexible, and rigid.

Scripture moistened with the Spirit can soften our hearts and allow us to see God as good and only good, giving life to all things.

Scripture read by the letter remains dry, hard, rigid, inflexible, causing us to see God as good and evil, perhaps giving life on the one hand but also giving death on the other.

So, to keep our hearts soft we need to hear the voice of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, the word of God living and active, living water welling up like a spring inside of us.

Then, we can enter God’s rest, stopping our works just as he stopped his.

When Did God Promise Eternal Life?

TODAY’S READING: TITUS, PHILEMON

“In hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.” (Titus 1.2-3)

Paul, as usual, starts this his letter to Titus with a statement that he is a servant of God and apostle of Jesus.

Why is Paul a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus?

“In hope of eternal life.”

We to get very focused on the hope of eternal life for ourselves. But, Paul was not hoping for eternal life for a few select individuals. For Paul, the “hope of eternal life,” was a hope for the restoration of all creation.

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8.19-25)

The creation is waiting and groaning to be set free from its bondage to death. Therefore, for the creation to be set free from its bondage to death means that the creation would have eternal life, which is “the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” For, the Spirit is life where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.

The creation was originally created with eternal life, God’s life. This is why God said

  • “And God saw that the light was good.” (Genesis 1.4)
  • “And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1.10)
  • “And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1.12)
  • “And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1.18)
  • “And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1.21)
  • “And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1.25)
  • “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1.31)

Seven times God said that what he made was good. Seven symbolizes spiritual perfection.

So, God originally made his creation good, spiritually perfect, with eternal life. This is not eternal life in the sense of life that goes on forever, but eternal life in the sense of God’s very own life. The life of God was in creation.

But, the fall of man resulted in the loss of eternal life for the entire creation. Therefore, the whole creation is eagerly waiting and groaning inwardly for the sons of God to appear, for eternal life, God’s life, to come to mankind so that the whole creation can be restored to its original state.

Why is the creation, including you and me, eagerly waiting and groaning inwardly for this restoration?

Because “God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.” God promised eternal life, his very own life, for his entire creation before time even began. God’s plan has always been that everything he made would have his own life in it.

Can God keep this promise of eternal life for all creation, everything ever created?

Romans 4.21 says that Abraham “fully convinced that God was able to to what he had promised.”

Hebrews 10.23 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

When will God make good on this promise of eternal life for all creation, everything ever created?

He already has.

“And at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching.”

A more literal, and perhaps better, translation of this would be, “and in his own time manifested his word in preaching.”

What is Paul referring to here?

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1.1)

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1.14)

The word of God is a person, Jesus. The word of God was manifested, made visible, when he took on flesh.

Notice that John says, “In the beginning…” In wasn’t by accident that he started his gospel with the same words as Genesis. John is telling us about the new creation, the restoration of creation back to eternal life, God’s life, through the manifestation of “his word.”

When Paul says “his word,” he is not talking about the Bible. God did manifest eternal life in the Bible. In John 5.39-40, Jesus said, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

The eternal life, God’s life, was manifested in “his word,” Jesus Christ. Therefore, John 1.4 says, “In him was life.” Therefore, 1 John 5.11 says, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

The fulfillment of God’s promise of eternal life has begun. But, it is not complete. Hence, Paul is still a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus “in hope of eternal life.” But, we can be sure of the complete fulfillment of God’s promise.

How so?

According to 1 Corinthians 1.22, God “has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

Further, “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened – not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”

We are in our earthly tents of bodies. Therefore, we groan, just like all of creation is groaning, for eternal life, God’s life. We groan for what is mortal, our present bodies of that corrupt and die, to be swallowed up by life, God’s life. God has prepared and promised this very thing to us and creation. And, God has given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of that his promise, the fulfillment of which has begun, will be completely fulfilled.

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1.13-14)

We heard the word of truth and believed in him. See how the word of truth is called him. The word of truth is Jesus. When we heard the word of truth and believed in him, Jesus, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit. The Holy is a guarantee of our inheritance. And, our inheritance is eternal life.

Our inheritance was promised by God even before time began.

And, if eternal life was promised before time began, before creation was begun, then there is nothing that we can do to alter that promise. We can make this promise be fulfilled. Nor, can we stop this promise from being fulfilled.

We are simply to serve God in hope that he will restore all creation to eternal life.

Jesus, the Word of God, Is Not Bound

TODAY’S READING: 2 TIMOTHY

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ with eternal glory.” (2 Timothy 2.8-10)

John 1 boldly declares that Jesus is the word of God. And, he took on flesh and dwelt among us. Despite this shocking declaration by John, when we say “the word of God” our minds immediately think “the Bible.” In addition to directly saying the Bible is the word of God, we make the unconscious association that the Bible is the word of God so often that the Bible and the word of God have become one and the same thing. Even Christians who know that the word of God is Jesus and not the Bible casually slip into saying “the word of God” when they really mean the Bible.

Today’s scripture helps to see that the word of God and the Bible are not the same thing.

Paul says, “The word of God is not bound!”

Can we therefore say, “The Bible is not bound!”?

We only need to look at the context of the verse to know that we cannot equate the word of God and the Bible. These two things are not interchangeable.

The actual structure, or pattern, of what Paul is saying reveals this. In this passage of scripture there are five basic points with five subjects of those five points.

The five subjects are

  1. Jesus
  2. Paul
  3. Word of God
  4. Paul
  5. Jesus

The five points are

  1. Raised from the dead
  2. Suffering under chains (bound)
  3. Not bound
  4. Suffering everything
  5. Eternal glory

Listing the five subjects and five points without all the other wording, helps to see the essence of what is being said. There is a symmetry and flow to what Paul is saying that makes it clear Jesus is the word of God.

  1. Jesus is risen.
  2. Paul is suffering under chains (bound).
  3. Jesus is not bound!
  4. Paul suffers everything.
  5. Jesus is amid eternal glory.

The essence of what Paul is saying is, “Jesus is risen from the dead, no longer bound by death but living in eternal glory, and I will suffer everything, including being bound, for you so that you can obtain salvation.”

But, if we combine these subjects and points with the Bible as the word of God, then we lose the essence of Paul’s statement.

  1. Jesus is risen.
  2. Paul is suffering under chains (bound).
  3. The Bible is not bound!
  4. Paul suffers everything.
  5. Jesus is amid eternal glory.

Frankly, it is patently absurd to think that is the message Paul is trying to convey.

Further, Peter’s first sermon makes reference to Jesus being raised to life and not being bound to death.

“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2.24)

The Greek word translated loosing almost means untying or releasing. If something is untied or released, then it is no longer bound. God raised Jesus, and Jesus having been untied from the birth pains of death. The word of God was raised and is no longer bound.

Why is it so important to see Jesus as the word of God and not the Bible?

When say the Bible is the word of God, then we must believe that the every statement – every jot and tittle – in the Bible is perfectly true for God never lies. Therefore, those that believe the Bible is the word of God typically read the Bible very literally.

But, Jesus said the scriptures, which for us is basically the Bible, are merely are witness to him. (John 5.39-40). The scriptures witness to Jesus, the word of God.

Jesus said, “I am the truth.” The scriptures witness to the truth, Jesus. The scriptures, the Bible, themselves are not the truth.

“Do you best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2.15)

Is Paul talking about Jesus or the Bible there?

The Greek word translated “rightly handling” more literally means “guiding along a straight path.”

In addition to saying “I am the truth,” Jesus said, “I am the way.” Jesus is the path of life to follow. Hence, Christians were initially known as The Way. They followed the way, Jesus.

Therefore, the essence of what Paul is saying that we should strive to present ourselves to God as one approved by following along the straight path of Jesus. That straight path involves picking up our cross and suffering just as Jesus did.

When we make the word of God the Bible instead of Jesus, then

  • We worship the Bible instead of Jesus.
  • We imitate the Bible instead of Jesus.
  • We follow the way of the Bible instead of the way of Jesus.
  • We make the Bible our truth instead of Jesus.
  • We seek life from the Bible instead of Jesus.

But, all of this makes the Bible an idol. And, it is this idolatry, this bibliolatry, that ha caused Christians to do, endorse, sanction, and allow all sorts of things that Jesus would never have done.

With the Bible as our way, truth, and life instead of Jesus, then

  • We can go to war, justifying the killing and destruction of our enemies.
  • We can enslave, demean, beat, brutalize and treat like cattle our enemies enemies.
  • We can cast out of our very presence our enemies.
  • We can commit genocide against our enemies.
  • We can rape the women of our enemies.
  • We can destroy the children of our enemies.
  • We can take revenge on our enemies.

Because, in the Bible, Israel, God’s people, did all of these things because they believed God told them to do all of these things. And, if in the Bible God told them to do it, then God could tell us to do it too.

However, when Jesus is the word of God, when Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, then we only to listen to Jesus. We are guided on the straight that Jesus walked. We can’t do any of the things Israel, God’s people, did to their enemies in the Bible.

Instead, we love our enemies as Jesus loved us.

Do this and you will be raised from the dead, no longer bound, and amid eternal glory just like Jesus.

Why Should You Live Expecting God to Save All People?

TODAY’S READING: 1 TIMOTHY

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1.15)

Why did Jesus come into the world?

To save sinners.

Simple. Clear. Direct.

This is exactly what Jesus said about himself. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3.17) To condemn the world would be to put it to death. However, to save the world would be to give it life. Also, we should note that Jesus came to save the world not a small group of people.

Everyone in the world is a sinner “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3.23) But, read carefully the end of 1 Timothy 1.15, which says, “to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Paul is saying that he is chief of sinners, first in the line of sinners, the worst of sinners, the most prominent of sinners, the prototype of sinners. But, God saved Paul. Therefore, if God saved Paul, then he will save all other sinners, which again is everyone, too.

Because of hard hearts, many don’t desire all sinners to be saved. For the hard-hearted, only those that believe the right things, the things they believe, should be saved. But, this is not God’s desire.

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2.4)

God “desires all people to be saved.” Therefore, “Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” which is all people.

Desires is the Greek word theleo. According to Strong’s, theleo is apparently strengthened from the alternate form of haireomai, which means to take for oneself, to prefer. But, theleo is stronger than God preferring all people to be saved. Therefore, theleo means to determine as an active option from a subjective impulse. God determines, he actively chooses, that all people be saved.

This is in contrast to the Greek word boulemai, which means to be willing, be disposed, intend. Boulemai denotes a passive acquiescence in objective considerations. In other words, I will open to the idea and will allow it to happen, but I’m not going to do anything to make it happen.  This is to prefer, to wish, something would happen.

God is not acquiescing, passively wishing, that all be people be saved. No, God is actively determining, purposing, desiring, that all people be saved. That’s why he sent Jesus into the world.

Many Christians love to quote Isaiah 55.11, which says, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

But, I don’t ever previous verse quoted, which tells us how the word that goes out of God’s mouth should be.

Isaiah 55.10 says, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater.”

The rain and snow are sent from heaven to bring life upon the earth and provide for all people. So, is the word that goes out from the mouth of God. It too is sent from heaven to bring life upon the earth and provide for all people.

Jesus is the word sent by God from heaven into the world to save sinners. First Timothy 1.15 says, “The saying,” which is ho logos. So, we could actually translate this verse as “The word is faithful and deserving of full acceptance because Christ Jesus [the word of God] came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

Yet, some will still say there are those that hate God so much that these haters of God can outlast God’s desire to save them.

But, in a roundabout way, later in the letter Paul reiterates that all people will be saved. “For to this end will toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”

God “desires all people to be saved.” Therefore, “Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” which is all people. Because Jesus is the “living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”

“Especially of those who believe” implies that believers are one class or type of person among others. Therefore, to say that Jesus is “the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” means that he will save people that don’t believe. It may happen in a different manner. The unbeliever may go through a different process. But, Jesus saves them nonetheless.

Of course, they will not always remain unbelievers. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2.9-11)

Why will God save all people?

Because he is a God “who gives life to all things.” (1 Timothy 6.13)

“Gives life” is the Greek word zoogoneo.

According to the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, zoogoneo has two meanings. One of these meanings is to leave alive as opposed to kill.

To give life to all things means that you give death to nothing.

According to Strong’s zoogoneo means to engender (beget, procreated, cause to exist) alive and by analogy means to rescue from death. Jesus was sent into the world to rescue all people from death not send them to an eternal death.

Hebrews 2.14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15.26)

If death is defeated, then can anything be dead?

If anything is still dead, then death has not been defeated.

But, until death is finally defeated we are to have faith and live in the expectation that:

God “desires all people to be saved.” Therefore, “Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” which is all people. Because Jesus is the “living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” For, God “gives life to all things.”

To live in the expectation that God will save all people is the only way we can truly fulfill Jesus’ command to love our neighbor, which includes our enemies, as he loved us.

How Does God Grant Vengeance in Flaming Fire?

TODAY’S READING: 2 THESSALONIANS

“Since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” (2 Thessalonians 1.6-9)

Here again we find a passage of scripture that is used as proof that God is going to punish unbelievers with eternal conscious torment in a burning lake of fire. However, when you examine the actual Greek in the light of the life of Jesus, you find that this translation has been influenced by a belief in hell and eternal conscious torment of unbelievers.

Ironically, this translation and this understanding of the passage reveal those that do not know God and do not obey the gospel.

Jesus revealed God as the one who suffers and dies for and forgives his enemies in the midst of his own suffering and dying. This is the gospel. And, you know God when you see him in Jesus on the cross.

Jesus, and therefore God, suffered the greatest affliction ever on the cross. Yet, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23.34)

This statement from Jesus shows that until our Father in heaven reveals himself to us, until we understand by the spirit instead of the carnal mind, we know nothing of how God repays anyone and God’s “vengeance.”

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.” (Matthew 5.38-39)

The Old Testament law was based on retributive justice. You were punished with the same thing you did to someone else. If you caused someone to lose their, then you lost their eye too. According to the law, justice was served.

If we believe that style of justice to be the truth about God, then 2 Thessalonians 1.6-9 would prove God to be far more evil and monstrous that even retributive justice.

Why?

Because he would be repaying an individual with eternal, as in forever, conscious torment in a burning lake of fire for an evil, an affliction, they caused to another that was merely temporal. A punishment that lasts forever does not equally pay back a crime that was momentary. This would be a punishment that grossly outweighs the crime. It would be like electrocuting someone for jaywalking on an empty street.

Further, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5.43-44)

Paul and Peter pick up on these two statements from Jesus in their letters. Romans 12.17 says, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” First Thessalonians 5.15 says, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” First Peter 3.9 says, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

We would not be called to respond this way if this was not how God himself responds to evil. For, if we are to follow Christ, then we are to pick up our own cross, suffering and dying to bring new life.

So, how would I read 1 Thessalonians 1.6-9?

Since with a just God to repay affliction to those afflicting you and rest to you, as well as us, being afflicted in the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his mighty angels, granting vengeance in flaming fire to those not knowing God and to those not obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus, who will pay justice, eternal destruction, from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might.

While I believe this is a better understanding of what Paul said, we still need to dig a little deeper.

Let’s start with eternal destruction.

The Greek word for eternal, aionios, does not mean lasting forever. It was said to be coined by Plato to mean that which only can be of or from God. The word has to do with the nature of a thing and nothing to do with time. Therefore, whatever this destruction is, it is something that only can be of and from God.

The Greek word for destruction is olethros. This is not the more common word for destruction in the New Testament, apollymi. Apollymi means to destroy fully, to destroy utterly, to kill, to demolish, to lay waste. So, whatever olethros means, it does mean exactly the same thing as apollymi.

Olethros is means ruin, punishment, or death. It is found just four times in the New Testament.

First Timothy 6.9 says, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin [olethros] and destruction.” Here we see that is our own harmful desires that bring about our ruin.

First Corinthians 5.5 says, “You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction [olethros] of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” Here we see that destruction comes to the flesh, but for the purpose of saving the individual at Jesus’ return.

First Thessalonians 5.3 says, “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction [olethros] will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” I wrote about sudden destruction yesterday. Here we see that sudden destruction is compared with birth pains, which ultimately result in new life.

Therefore, in 2 Thessalonians 1.9, we know that eternal destruction is meant for the flesh for the purpose of saving the spirit to bring about new life. This eternal destruction is equated to justice.

Who pays it?

Those that are causing affliction pay eternal destruction, pay justice.

God merely repays. God grants, not inflicts as several translations say, vengeance. While it is subtle there is a difference. Note the actual definitions of inflict and grant.

To inflict means

  1. to give by or as if by striking
  2. to cause (something unpleasant) to be endured.

To grant means

  1. to consent to carry out for a person: allow fulfillment of (grant a request)
  2. to permit as right, privilege, or favor (luggage allowances granted to passengers)
  3. to bestow or transfer formally (grant a scholarship to a student)
  4. to be willing to concede
  5. to assume to be true (granting that you are correct)

When God grants vengeance he becomes willing to concede. But, he does not cause it. This is because sin contains within it its own punishment. As I wrote yesterday, our own snares and evil plans come back on our heads. We reap what we sow. God need not do anything but concede to this. So God’s granting vengeance is us paying eternal destruction, justice.

In 2 Thessalonians 1.9, it says “eternal destruction, away from [apo] the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

Other translations translate the Greek apo as “shut out from,” “separated from,” and “forever separated from.” Apo means none of those things. Apo is used 628 times in the New Testament. Of those uses, it is translated from 413 times, of 61 times, and by 20 times. Given that the destruction that is to be paid is eternal, of the nature of God and only God, it makes far more sense to say “eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord.” From is describing the origin of the eternal destruction not where it sends you.

Indeed, even to say “from the presence of the Lord” does not give us the best understanding of where eternal destruction comes from. The Greek word translated presence is prosopon. It used 75 times in the New Testament and is translated face 44 of those times. Interestingly, it is translated “before your eyes” one time.

Why is “before your eyes” interesting, and why should it be translated “face” in 2 Thessalonians 1.9?

Well, how is God granting vengeance?

“In flaming fire?”

Where do we see “flaming fire” in regards to Jesus?

Revelation 1.14 says, “His eyes were like a flame of fire.”

Revelation 2.18 says, “The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire.”

Revelation 19.12 says, “His eyes are like a flame of fire.”

God grants, concedes to, vengeance, eternal destruction, “in flaming fire.” This vengeance, this eternal destruction, comes from the face, from the eyes, of Jesus. When Jesus returns it will be the look in his eyes, the flaming fire, that destroys all of our false eyes ideas in him. That look, those eyes of flaming fire, will destroy our flesh but save our spirit. That look, those eyes of flaming fire, will destroy us suddenly but give us new life ultimately.

Do we see an example of this in scripture?

Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked to sift Peter like wheat. Peter told Jesus that he was ready to go prison and to death with him. But, Jesus told Peter that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed.

“But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about.’ And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22.60-62)

Peter said he would follow Jesus to death but instead denied he even knew Jesus three times, just as Jesus said he would. In those denials, Peter consented to afflicting Jesus.

What do you think Peter saw when the Lord turned and looked at him after the third denial?

I think Peter saw those eyes of flaming fire from which come eternal destruction, sudden destruction that brings new life, destruction of the flesh but saving of the spirit.

Do you think that was painful for Peter?

“He went out and wept bitterly.”

Just from that one look of Jesus.

Jesus’ eyes of flaming fire destroyed Peter. To say that you would follow the Lord to death and not even a day later deny even knowing him three times. How crushing that must have been to Peter.

But, the result wasn’t eternal conscious torment forever for Peter. No, his flesh was destroyed, but his spirit was saved. He received new life. He delivered the first sermon in church history that saved 3,000 people.

See, God doesn’t repay evil for evil.

God’s vengeance, God’s justice is not retributive. God is not trying to get even with anyone, even his enemies.

God’s vengeance, God’s justice, Jesus’ eyes of flaming fire, restore.

This eternal destruction does not send us away from God or forever separate us from God or shut us out from God’s presence.

God’s eternal destruction, Jesus’ eyes of flaming fire, destroys our flesh to draws us towards and into God’s presence.

“That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” (2 Corinthians 5.19)

Why Is the Sudden Destruction of the Wicked Like Birth Pains?

TODAY’S READING: 1 THESSALONIANS

“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5.2-3)

This is a cherished passage of scripture for those who believe that Jesus is coming back to destroy and condemn to hell, eternal burning fire, every person that did not believe in him. You’ve got the day of the Lord, Jesus’ return, and sudden destruction right there together.

So, why does Paul say sudden destruction is like the birth pains of a pregnant woman?

First, let’s see who causes the sudden destruction.

Let’s start with the word sudden. This is the Greek word aiphnidios. It literally means not lightened. This literal meaning becomes non-apparent, unexpected, unforeseen, and sudden.

The only other use of aiphnidios in the New Testament is in Luke 21.34. “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly [aiphnidios] like a trap.” Notice that the context of Luke 21.34 is very much the same as the context of 1 Thessalonians 5.3.

Jesus says if we do not watch over our hearts but let them get weighed down by the cares of this world then that day, the appearing of the kingdom of God, will hit us suddenly like a trap. The Greek word for trap is used five times in the New Testament. Every other time it is translated snare. You will see why this is important shortly.

Interestingly, in the Septuagint, aiphnidios is used only twice, both times in reference to sudden and unexpected fear and the sudden and terrifying arrival of enemies. Therefore, we can understand Jesus as saying that for those who caught up in the cares of this world, the day of the Lord, the appearing of the kingdom of God, comes suddenly and unexpectedly like an enemy that we fear to trap or snare us.

This is why Paul says “that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

But, who knows this?

The Thessalonian believers.

Paul says that they themselves fully, completely, accurately, exactly, or precisely know “that the day of the Lord will comes like a thief in the night.”

Why do the Thessalonian believers know this?

“But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5.4-5)

Therefore, the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night, like the sudden and unexpected snare of an enemy, to those who are “of the night and of the darkness.” Children of the night and darkness are evil and wicked people.

Who sets the snare for them?

God?

Not at all.

They set a snare for themselves.

“Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant [interesting word choice there] with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull.” (Psalm 7.14-16)

“The wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.” (Psalm 9.16)

“They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, ‘Who can see them?’…They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them.” (Psalm 64.5, 8)

“If you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth.” (Proverbs 6.2)

“A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.” (Proverbs 18.7)

“Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooks; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.” (Proverbs 22.5) Sort of sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it?

“Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” (Proverbs 22.24-25)

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (Proverbs 29.25)

The evil and wicked man lays snares. He does this with his own mouth out of his own anger and wrath. Man fears there he lays snares for others. But, the snares the evil and wicked man lays actually end up trapping himself.

As Psalm 7.14-16 says, our own evil and wickedness come back upon us and descend upon our skull.

Where was Jesus crucified?

Golgotha.

The place of the skull.

Selah.

For those of the night and of the darkness, those that are evil and wicked, those caught up in the cares of this world, the day of the Lord, the coming of a kingdom of God, is like a sudden and unexpected snare, but it is a snare laid by themselves.

Therefore, sudden destruction is the result of our own evil and wicked desires and plans.

Sudden destruction is caused by man.

Sudden destruction is not caused by God.

The day of the Lord, the coming of the kingdom of God, will reveal the sudden destruction that we have created for ourselves. But, God does not cause it.

Now that we know who causes sudden destruction, what is sudden destruction like?

What can we compare sudden destruction to?

“While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman.” (1 Thessalonians 5.3)

Sudden destruction is like the birth pains of a pregnant woman?

The end result of the birth pains of a woman is new life.

Comparing sudden destruction to the birth pains of woman, which result in new life, would be really odd if you were trying to say that sudden destruction results in the eternal destruction, the eternal burning and torment in a lake of fire, of the unbeliever.

If you were trying to communicate that sudden destruction would result in eternal death and torment, then wouldn’t you compare to sudden destruction to army laying siege to a city or the destruction an army brings to its enemies?

This is precisely the point Paul is trying to make.

He uses this confounding metaphor of sudden destruction coming like the birth pains of woman in stark contrast with what we would expect.

The key to seeing this is Paul’s statement “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security.'”

Where did Paul get that?

“Let their own table before them became a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.” (Psalm 69.22)

When people are at peace, when they say peace and security, the table that they prepared for themselves becomes their own trap. The people that are saying this are enemies, the evil and wicked, those of the night and of the darkness.

See how Paul is weaving together everything I have written above?

Psalm 69 is clearly about Jesus. Several different verses are quoted in the New Testament in direct reference to Jesus.

In the psalm, David writes how he is sinking in the mire, being made a reproach, is dishonored, and is a stranger even to his brothers. This is all done by his enemies. So, David asks to be delivered from his enemies.

“Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me.” (Psalm 69.14-15)

So, David asks that everything his enemies have prepared for themselves becomes their own snare and trap even though they think they are at peace.

Listen to what David wishes for his enemies.

“Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually. Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them. May their camp be desolation; let no one dwell in their tents. For they persecute him whom you have struck down, and they recount the pain of those you have wounded. Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you. Let them be blotted out from the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.”

David is wishing that his enemies, who speak they are at peace, would have the snare they laid for David come back upon such that God would pour out his indignation and burning anger on them, such that God would bring punishment on top of punishment upon them, such that God would never acquit, never forgive, them, such that God would blot them out of the book of the book of the living, or totally and completely destroy them forever.

Are you getting what David wants?

He wants his enemy totally destroyed. Forever. Eternally.

But, Paul says that “sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman.”

Those that say peace and security, those that are evil and wicked, those that are of the night and of darkness, have set a snare for themselves. The snare will bring sudden destruction.

But, the sudden destruction is like birth pains of a pregnant woman. Birth pains a painful, even very painful, for a moment. But, the end result of those pains is new life.

David wished for his enemies to suffer a sudden destruction that “blotted [them] out of the book of living.”

Paul said that those of the night and of darkness, the enemies, would suffer a sudden destruction that would produce new life.

Jesus’ crucifixion, the beginning of the manifestation of the day of the Lord, the kingdom of God, took every evil and wicked plan that produced death and turned into new life, new creation.

Therefore, on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

So, when Jesus returns, when the kingdom is fully and completely manifested, then the new life, the new creation that Jesus started in his death and resurrection will be fully and completely manifested.

Death will be defeated. The birth pains will be over.

New life will be here.

The new creation will be here.

The new Jerusalem will come down from heaven.

Even for those that were of the night and of the darkness.

Even for the evil and wicked.

Even for the enemy.

Even for the whole creation.

Everything single thing ever created – in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. (Colossians 1.16)

Could you ever say this and leave one single person out?

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8.18-23)