Experiencing Jesus Opens the Bible: Part 4 – Seeing Jesus

(This post is Part 4 of the series Experiencing Jesus Opens the Bible. The other posts in the series are Introduction,  Part 1 – Drawn by the Holy Spirit, Part 2 – The Word of the Lord AppearedPart 3 – A Low Whisper, and Part 5 – Knowing His Resurrection.)

We come to the Bible with presuppositions about God. Typically, as we study the Bible, those presuppositions about God – no matter if they are right or wrong – are confirmed. However, when we truly experience the life of Jesus Christ, our presuppositions about God are challenged, overturned, changed. Then, when we go the Bible, we see this new perspective of God confirmed.

In Part 1, I shared how Dawn, my first wife, miraculously came into my life. I challenged God to prove his existence by causing me to meet my wife for my birthday. He answered the challenge. I experienced the life of Jesus for the first time and the Bible was, quite literally, opened to me.

Today, I am going to share how Dawn departed from my life in an even more miraculous fashion. The days leading up to her death were filled with many miracles (at least I consider the events as such). I experienced the life of Jesus like never before. And, from that moment on, I have seen Jesus in the Bible in ways that I would not have fathomed prior to this experience.

Dawn died March 17, 2012.

For six years she had battled cancer. She was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2006.

During her battle, Dawn had a double mastectomy and brain surgery to remove a golf ball sized brain tumor. By the way, she was out of bed less than 24 hours after the brain surgery, and we went home straight from the ICU less than 36 hours after the brain surgery. The nurses said they had never seen anything like it. If Dawn was anything, she was tough and able to endure suffering.

Dawn had years of weekly chemotherapy treatments. It became a part of our life so much that I would lose track of her appointments. One weekend, we took our son to the local bike trail to ride. We rode about 10 miles. At one point I asked Dawn why her and Trey were lagging behind. She reminded me that she had chemotherapy the day before.

Dawn also had lots of radiation. The first round was on her lung for the quarter-sized spot of cancer that never seemed to get any smaller. The second round was on her brain after the tumor was removed. Cancer patients will often joke about “chemo brain” – how chemotherapy causes you to forget things. Imagine what happens after years of chemotherapy and radiation on your brain. Dawn was a very intelligent woman, but despite what the chemotherapy and radiation did to her mind, she never stopped smiling. She never stopped thanking and praising God.

In January 2012, I noticed that Dawn was leaning to the left a lot. It reminded me of the first time she had a brain tumor because she lost the peripheral vision in her left eye. As a result, she would push the food off the left side of her plate without even knowing it. I asked Dawn if she should get a brain scan. But, she was pretty adamant that she didn’t need one.

It didn’t take me long to realize why Dawn didn’t want a brain scan. She knew she had another brain tumor. And, she knew that there wasn’t really anything the doctors could do. Dawn knew her time was drawing to a close. I knew it too.

Eventually, Dawn’s symptoms got to the point where she had to go to the doctor. They did a brain scan, and, as we expected, she had a brain tumor. The radiologist said he would not recommend radiation. Because it would be the second time Dawn had radiation on her brain, the radiologist said her quality of life would drop significantly if she had brain radiation again. It might even result in her living in a vegetative state. But, the radiologist said he would do the radiation if we demanded he do it.

Just a short while later, we met with Dawn’s oncologist. We knew what the conversation was going to be. The doctor said that it was perhaps time to stop all treatments. Prior to the meeting, Dawn and I had already decided this was the route to go.

That meeting with the oncologist was just nine days before Dawn died. On the way home from the meeting, I knew I would have to tell Trey, our son, that night what was happening. The hardest thing I have ever done in my life was telling my 11-year-old son that his mom was going to die.

What do you say?

I sat Trey down on his bed. I told him what was happening. I could hardly get the words out. I cried a lot. Trey told me he had learned a scripture at school that week that he thought was appropriate. He quoted to me 2 Peter 3.9, which says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

It may not seem like much, but for me that was a miracle. My son was consoling me, reminding me that God fulfills his promises.

Six days before Dawn died we went to church together for the last time. Dawn’s sister, Lisa, and her family came up from Nashville to Cincinnati to go with us. And, so did a few of Dawn’s best friends of more than 25 years. None of them came because we knew Dawn was going to die in the next week. In fact, they had planned on coming weeks, if not months, prior.

Dawn, her sister Lisa, and two friends from church (Alisa and her daughter DeLisa) sang my favorite song that Sunday – Thank You by Walter Hawkins. Thankfully, John, the associate pastor of the church, managed to capture the moment on his cell phone. Click here to see the video. 

Dawn is the one seated on the stool. She is smiling throughout the video , but she smiled like that all the time. And, I mean all the time. And, to think she could smile and praise God like that after six years of suffering and just six days before she died.

The lyrics of the song were very appropriate.

Tragedies are common place
All kinds of diseases, people are slipping away
Economies down, people can’t get enough pay
But as for me, all I can say is
Thank you Lord for all You’ve done for me, yeah

Folks without homes, living out in the streets
And the drug habits some say, they just can’t beat
Muggers and robbers, no place seems to be safe
But You’ll be my protection every step of the way
And I want to say
Thank you Lord for all You’ve done for me, yeah

It could have been me (thank you)
Outdoors (thank you)
No food (thank you)
No clothes (thank you)
Or left alone (thank you)
Without a friend (thank you)
Or just another number (thank you)
With a tragic end (thank you)
But you didn’t see fit to let none of these things be (thank you)
‘Cause everyday

In addition to battling cancer, Dawn grew up in the projects and on welfare. She had experienced or seen everything in the lyrics of this song.

At the end of the video, Dawn says thank you to the church for everything they had done for our family. It was like she was saying goodbye to everyone. It is so surreal for me to watch it.

For me, it was a miracle to spend that last Sunday together at church in that way with Dawn.

Four days before Dawn died, she was in bed taking a nap. I went to check on her, and it was obvious something was wrong. She was talking incoherently. She was asking me to put her in the middle of the bed even though she already was. Dawn was asking me to put her left arm next to her even though it already was.

Because I couldn’t calm Dawn down, I called 911. They said there really wasn’t anything they could do, but they could come and take her to the hospital. Even though Dawn told me she didn’t want to go to the hospital anymore (we had just spent 12 of the last 30 days in the hospital), I felt like I had no other choice.

So, the ambulance came to take Dawn to the hospital. Dale, the pastor of our church, met me in the emergency room. As soon as he saw Dawn, he asked me to step outside the room to talk with him for a minute. Dale told me that he had seen this many times before – Dawn was transitioning out of this life. He told me that there was no way to know how long it would be, but I needed to prepare myself that this was it. Also, Dale told me that Dawn was a godly woman and because of that I was going to see things other people don’t get to see. Boy, was he right.

We went back in the room. A little bit later, John, the associate pastor, met us in the room. As we stood there talking, Dawn started smiling like never before. She always had a big smile, but this was different. It looked like the corners of her mouth were back to her ears, almost like someone had put hooks in the corners of her mouth to pull them back. And, Dawn’s eyes were wide open. Her face was radiant.

With that smile and eyes wide open, Dawn turned to the three of us and said, “I see heaven. I see God. And, he is right here with me.”

Dale, John, and I just looked at each other. Another miracle.

The hospital couldn’t really do anything for Dawn, so they sent us home the next day. I had called Dawn’s family and friends and told them to come back up to Cincinnati because this was it.

That night, three days before Dawn died, Shaterial, Dawn’s best friend, said she would stay up that night with Dawn to watch her since I had been up all night the night before at the hospital.

When I came down the next morning, Shaterial said I wouldn’t believe what happened last night. She told me that Dawn saw and talked with her mom, who had died three years prior. Shaterial said that Dawn asked her who all the people were in the room. But, only Shaterial and Dawn were up in the middle of the night. Shaterial told Dawn that there was no one else in room, but Dawn insisted there was.

You might say that Dawn was hallucinating, but Shaterial and I were convinced that Dawn saw her mom and that angels were in the room with them. Shaterial told me what a blessing it was for her to experience that with Dawn. Another miracle.

The next night, two days before Dawn died, I stayed up all night with her. When we came home from the hospital, we had a hospital bed put in the study off the living room. Dawn was sleeping there while I laid on the couch to keep an eye on her.

It was late at night when I noticed Dawn put her leg out of the bed. I went and put her leg back in the bed. This happened several times until I realized Dawn needed to use the bathroom. So, I helped her out of the bed. The bathroom was only about 15 feet away. But, halfway there Dawn said she was too tired to go any further. We were right next to the couch I was sleeping on, and she asked if she could just lay down there.

With Dawn on the couch where I was sleeping, I just knelt on the floor next to her. I held Dawn’s hand and silently prayed for her. Dawn fell back asleep. Then, out of nowhere, Dawn asked me a question.

“Do you want to see Jesus with me?”

Without missing a beat, I said yes.

And, for what seemed like 30 minutes or so, I saw Jesus.

Now, I did not see his physical form, the shape of a man. But, I saw his presence. There was this glow in the room right next to Dawn. There was no doubt that Jesus was in the room with us.

I saw Jesus.

Dawn did everything for Trey as a mother. And, I traveled a lot. I had been dealing with lots of fear about being a single parent. I had no idea how I could do that.

And, then Jesus spoke to me.

The first thing Jesus said was, “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4.18) Instantly, all my fear of being a single parent was gone. I never thought about the difficulties of being a single parent again.

Then, Jesus told me about how he “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” (Ephesians 3.20) He said that I think about that scripture in earthly, physical terms.

I could imagine Dawn being perfectly, physically healed. What’s more than that?

I could imagine being the richest person in the world. What’s more than that?

All of us can imagine quite a few grandiose things. What’s more than all the things we can imagine?

But, Jesus told me that scripture isn’t about any earthly or material thing. He said the one thing that I could not imagine more of was his love. No matter how great and how awesome I imagined his love to be, Jesus’ love for me would always be far more, exceedingly, abundantly more than all I could ever ask or think.

Finally, Jesus told me that I had been praying for a miracle in Dawn’s healing. But, Jesus said the real miracle I was, or should be, praying for was his love. His love was what mattered more than anything else. Another miracle.

“Do you want to see Jesus with me?” were the last words Dawn ever spoke to me. But, they weren’t the last words she ever spoke. She saved those for our son, Trey. One day before she died, Trey came to give his mom a kiss good night. Dawn hadn’t spoke in almost 24 hours. But, after Trey kissed her good night, she said “I love you” to her son. Those were the last words Dawn ever spoke.  Another miracle.

Trey was an excellent piano player. Dawn believed he had talent and really pushed him. He played in a piano competition the morning of the day his mom died. That evening my dad gathered everyone, all of Dawn’s family and friends, around the piano to hear Trey play. He played a piece from the competition and a song he was learning for the mission trip we would go on in about a month.

The piano was in the room next to Dawn. Dale and I were in the room with Dawn, listening to Trey play. Just a few minutes after Trey finished playing those two songs, Dawn died. The last thing Dawn ever heard was her son playing the piano. Another miracle.

The last week of Dawn’s life was filled with so many experiences with the life of Jesus, so many things that I can’t explain, so many things that Jesus seemingly orchestrated so that I would know his love for me. And, at the center of them all was seeing Jesus.

How did this experience with the life of Jesus open the Bible for me?

What presuppositions had I been bringing to the Bible that were changed by this experience?

Prior to this experience I believed God to be 100 percent completely sovereign over everything that happened. I read the events ascribed to God in the Old Testament and took what the Bible said at face value. God must have done all those horrible and wicked things. So, I believed that God would allow sickness, even cancer, despite the damage it did to our family and the difficulties my son would face because of his mom’s untimely death.

Basically, my view of God was undifferentiated. God might do good some times, but he allowed evil at other times. God might love some times, but he hated with a vengeance at other times. God might give life to some, but he would bring death to others.

This was how everyone around me read the Bible. And, I went right along with it. I didn’t know any other way.

Until I saw Jesus.

Until Jesus spoke to me about his love. Nothing else.

This experience with Jesus more than anything else has changed the way I read the Bible.

I had been in the presence of Jesus’ exceedingly abundant love.

There is no way that love would give someone cancer.

There is no way that love would take a mom from her son.

There is no way that love would leave a man a widower before he was 40.

Sure those things happened, but God was not the cause of them.

As I continued to read the Bible, read theology books, and listen to sermons, everything began to shift in my mind. Everything was now being filtered through the lens of Jesus and his love. Now, everything I read and heard was filtered through the following statements.

  • God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.
  • God is love and in him there is no fear at all.
  • God is life and in him there is no death at all.

Further, I began to realize that I needed to focus not on what God can do but on what God will do.

I want God to do all sorts of things for me. And, he can do them. The possibilities of what God can do for me are limitless. But, when I focus on what God can do, then I lose sight of God and being transformed and conformed to his image. I found that focusing on what God can do and, consequently, what he has not done for me would make me bitter and angry. For example, why did God heal someone else and not my wife?

Instead, I just needed to focus on what God will do. In other words, I need only focus on who God is in my life – light, love, and life. Jesus said it as he is the way and the truth and the life. He also said it as he is the resurrection and the life.

Seeing Jesus has completely transformed the way I read the Bible.

What Are the 1,260 Days, 42 Months, and Time, Times, and Half a Time of Revelation?

TODAY’S READING: REVELATION 12-14

“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelation 11.3)

“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.” (Revelation 12.6)

“But do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.” (Revelation 11.2)

“And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.” (Revelation 11.5)

“But the woman was given two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.” (Revelation 12.14)

In Revelation, there are three symbolic time periods – 1,260 days, 42 months, and time, and times, and half a time.

What are these times?

First, we need to understand that each of these time periods is three-and-a-half years.

Second, we need to understand that Jesus’ ministry lasted three-and-a-half years.

Instead of looking to these times as specific times in history, I believe we are simply to see the times in Revelation as a mirror image of Jesus’ ministry.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3.1)

Jesus is the son of God. But, God has loved us in such a way that we should be called children of God.

Therefore, when Jesus was resurrected, he said to Mary Magdalene, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to m Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

Jesus call the disciples his brothers. And, Jesus says that his Father is their Father.

Therefore, 1 John 4.16-17 says, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.”

If we know and believe that God loves us, then we are sons of God. Just as Jesus is, so are we in this world.

So, what is the correlation between these times in Revelation and the ministry of Jesus?

 

Speaking of Jesus, John 1.18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

John 3.31-34 says, “He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no on receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.”

In John 8.18, Jesus said, “I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

Jesus said, “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)

Jesus came as a prophet. He came to witness to the Father. He came to reveal who the Father is and what he is saying. And, he remained faithful to his prophetic ministry for three-and-a-half years until he was crucified.

“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelation 11.3)

In yesterday’s post, I wrote that the two witnesses were the faithful, suffering churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia. These two churches represent the saints who have hear the call for endurance and faith (Revelation 13.10 and 14.12). Of these saints, it could be said that “they have conquered him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”

This then is the prophetic ministry of the two witnesses. They prophesy about the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. These saints held to the testimony of Jesus. “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19.10)

Just as Jesus prophesied of and witnessed to the Father for three-and-a-half years, so the faithful, suffering saints prophesy of and witness to Jesus for 1,260 days, a symbolic three-and-a-half years.

Jesus’ ministry started in the wilderness. This is clearly stated in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But, if we understand what John is doing in his gospel, then it is evident that Jesus started his ministry in the wilderness there too.

For John’s gospel starts, “In the beginning…” John is saying that his gospel is one of the new creation. Creation takes places from something that is “without form and void.” (Genesis 1.2)

But, this was exactly the state of Israel that Jesus was born into. Speaking of Judah, Jeremiah prophesied, “I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void.” (Jeremiah 4.23)

Revelation 12.6 says, “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.”

The woman that gave birth to a male child fled to the wilderness for 1,260 days, which is the same time period that the two witnesses prophesy. This woman can be thought of as the true people of God that brought forth Jesus. If understood this way, then the woman would be equivalent to the two witnesses. Therefore, the prophetic ministry of the two witnesses would take place in the metaphorical wilderness, the place that is without form and void.

So, for three-and-a-half years “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.” (2 Corinthians 5.19)

But, “all this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5.18) for 1,260 days, a symbolic three-and-a-half years.

This ministry of reconciliation was the prophetic witness of both Jesus and his two witnesses, the woman.

The whole point of Jesus coming to the wilderness of this earth and his ministry of reconciliation was to create a new heavens and a new earth. And, his disciples, his witnesses, the woman, have been called to participate in that. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5.17)

Jesus was persecuted for the entire three-and-a-half years of his ministry. A casual read through the gospels makes this very clear.

“But do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.” (Revelation 11.2)

“And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that, those who dwell in heaven.” (Revelation 13.5-6)

The suffering saints, the two witnesses, the woman, Jesus’ disciples, dwell in the holy city. They are the dwelling place of God. So, in the two passages above, we see that they are trampled upon, spoken against, and have authority exercised over them by the nations and the beast for forty-two months, a symbolic three-and-a-half years.

In other words, they are persecuted in the same way that Jesus was. In John 15.20-21, Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”

Revelations 12.14 says, “But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.” (Revelation 12.14)

Here we have another time associated with the woman, the true people of God. This time is against three-and-a-half – one time, two times, and a half time. But, we are given no unit of time. It’s simply three-and-a-half.

I believe that we should understand this that prophetic ministry of reconciliation for new creation of the two witnesses, the woman, is for an indefinite period of time, but it is meant to mirror the three-and-a-half year ministry of Jesus. Therefore, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:35-36)

So, the 1,260 days, 42 months, and time, and times, and half a time are all the same period of time. They are all happening simultaneously. They all started at the crucifixion and have continued until today. They will continue until Jesus returns. And, they are all meant to mirror the life of Jesus. For as he was in the world so are we.

But, there’s just one more question for consideration.

Why is the time for the two witnesses and the woman given in days while in regards to the nations and the beast the exact same time period is given in months?

The time is in days for the two witnesses and the woman because the day is a time of light.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1.5-7)

John 8.12 says, “I am the light of the world, Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 11.9 says, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.”

John 12.35 says, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light.”

The Jews had a lunar calendar. This meant that the months were determined by the movement of the moon. The moon was the lesser light that governed the night, darkness. So, the time is given in months for the nations and the beast because they are walking in darkness.

John 11.10 says, “But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

John 12.35 says, “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.”

Let us walk in the light.

Let us be witnesses to the light.

Let us be “not fear what we are about to suffer.” (Revelation 2.10)

Let us “be faithful unto death.” (Revelation 2.10)

Let Jesus say of us, “You have kept my word and have not denied my name.” (Revelation 3.8)

Let Jesus say of us, “You have kept my word about patient endurance.” (Revelation 3.10)

Let is be said of us, “They have conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12.11)

Jesus Proclaimed God Is Light, Love, and Life

TODAY’S READING: 1 JOHN

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1.1-3)

John is writing this letter to testify and to proclaim the eternal life. Eternal as in of God. The life of God.

John says that the eternal life was with God and made manifest to him and the other disciples. They heard and saw him. They looked at and touched him.

The one they saw and heard John calls the word of life. The logos of life. This is none other than the word, the logos, of God.

The word of life is the word of God.

John is clearly speaking of Jesus.

The word of life is Jesus.

The word of God is Jesus.

After this introduction to his letter, John goes on to testify and to proclaim three things of Jesus. In order (and that is important), John testifies and proclaims light, love, and life.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1.5)

God is light.

There is no darkness at all in God.

Therefore, if there is no darkness in God, then he cannot create darkness. Darkness is not of or from God.

Jesus proclaimed this revelation of God. Therefore, he contradicts Isaiah 45.7, which says, “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.”

Isaiah had a partial and obscured view of God. He saw through a veil. Therefore, he said God both formed light and created darkness.

Jesus alone has seen God. Jesus gives the clear view of God. Jesus gives the perfect revelation of God.

God is light. And, there is no darkness at all in him.

John then ties light with truth.

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1.6-10)

Light is truth.

Darkness is lies and deception.

“God is not man, that he should lie.” (Numbers 23.19)

“There was no deceit in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53.9)

“I am…the truth.” (John 14.6)

John says that God is light was declared from the beginning.

“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2.7-8)

We may not understand it as a commandment, but indeed from the beginning the darkness was passing away and the true light was shining.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1.3-4)

God is light.

God is truth.

It was so from the beginning.

But, darkness, lies, and deception are of the devil.

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He…does not stand in the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8.44)

Having testified and proclaimed God is light, then John speaks of love.

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3.4)

Sin is lawlessness. Lawlessness is simply being without law.

Jesus summed up the law as love for God and love for your neighbor.

To be without law is to be without love for God and without love for your neighbor.

This is sin – not loving God and not loving your neighbor.

“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps in sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3.5-6)

Jesus came to take away every word and deed that is not rooted and grounded in love. He never sinned, which means never said or did anything that was not from love.

“He committed no sin.” (1 Peter 2.22)

“He committed no lawlessness.” (Isaiah 53.9, Lexham English Septuagint)

“Although he had done no violence.” (Isaiah 53.9)

Jesus committed no sin, no lawlessness, no violence.

“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (1 John 3.8)

“You are of your father the devil, and our will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning.” (John 8.44)

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (1 John 3.11)

Did we hear this message from the beginning, in the creation?

“And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ And God mad the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so.” (Genesis 1.6-7)

The separation of waters is a picture of baptism.

Baptism is a picture of dying. More than dying, baptism is a picture of choosing to lay down your life.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3.16)

The separation of waters on day of creation is a picture of love – Jesus laying his life down for us.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4.7-10)

“God is love.”

“I am the way.” (John 14.6)

Having testified and proclaimed God is light and God is love, John speaks of life.

“If we receive the testimony of mean, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5.9-11)

John does not explicitly say it hear, but this testimony of God has been heard from the beginning too.

“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.” (Genesis 1.9)

The land coming out of the waters is a picture of life rising out of death – resurrection. It was from this risen land that all life flowed in the rest of the creation story.

God is life.

“I am…the life.” (John 14.6)

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands.” (1 John 1.1)

“From the beginning.”

Jesus.

He declared:

  • God is light and there is no darkness at all in him
  • God is love and there is no sin, lawlessness (without love), and violence (killing) at all in him
  • God is life and there is no death in him

Therefore, Jesus declared “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14.6)

He said, “I am love, light, and life.”

The first three days of creation.

When the light of God shines on the love of God you have the life of God.

This is you becoming a new creation in Christ.

Creation: A Witness to Jesus

In addition to the written teaching below, here’s the audio to tonight’s CUMO Mid-Week Bible Study.

Creation-A Witness to Jesus

To go along with this week’s study, I prepared a chart to make it easier to follow along with the teaching. You may want to print it out for easier viewing as you read or listen to the teaching.

WHAT IS THE POINT OF GENESIS 1?

Genesis 1. The account of creation.

Why is it in the Bible?

What was the point of Moses writing, “In the beginning, God created…”? Why did Moses write about creation the way he did?

Was it written so that we would all be creationists, taking the account literally and matching it up with science, proving that God did in fact create everything? If so, then how many creationists believe in and espouse a flat earth supported by pillars with a dome on top of it? For, that is what the account of creation (as seen elsewhere besides Genesis 1) and the science of the Bible say.

Was it written to tell us, to help us know and understand, the scientific processes by which God created the universe? “See, first God created light, which is energy. He did this because you need energy before anything else. Then…”

Was it written to tell us the age of the universe and, therefore, the earth? Was it written so that we would have ammunition to defend a belief in a young earth because God created in seven literal days or an old earth because we found a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 that would for billions of years to have taken place?

Job 38:1-4 says, “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: Who is it that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you…”

And, for two chapters, God mocks the debate between Job and his friends with question after question regarding Job’s knowledge about how God created the heavens and the earth and how he maintains different aspects of his creation.

Therefore, to understand the story of creation in Genesis 1, we need to remember what the Bible is and is not. First, the Bible is not a science book. Treating it, and in particular Genesis 1, as if it is about science creates an argument that is a distraction to the real purpose of the account of creation and the Bible. Instead of being a book of geology, biology, ecology, exogeology, etc., the Bible is a book of theology. It is a book by which we study God. Therefore, the Bible is a revelation of who God is. And, in Jesus’ own words, it is a book that bears witness of him (John 5:39-40).

So, the point of Genesis 1, the reason it was written, is that we would know God and have a witness to Jesus.

GOD CREATED

The first thing the Bible tells us about God is that he is a creator. This tells us something very special about God as he is the only one that ever creates in the Bible (a study of the Hebrew and Greek words for “create” will show this, but that is another teaching).

So, what did God create?

Let’s look at just the first three days of creation in Genesis 1. You will understand why I want to focus on the first three days below.

On day one, God said, “Let there be light.” God separated light from darkness.

On day two, God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters.” God created an expanse, or a firmament, that separated the waters above from the waters below.

On day three, God said, “Let the waters under the havens be gathered together into one place and let the dry land appear.” God separated the seas and the dry land appeared.

So, on the first three days, God brought forth light, a firmament, and dry land. All were brought forth through a process of separation. God creates by separating.

GOD’S INVISIBLE ATTRIBUTES

Romans 1:19-20 says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

So, God has invisible attributes. Paul says these attributes are God’s eternal power and divine nature. Further, these invisible attributes have been known since the creation of the world. “The creation of the world.” That’s Genesis 1. So, somewhere in the six days of creation (I would argue the first three) we should be able to know, or clearly perceive, God’s invisible attributes.

Do you clearly perceive them? I didn’t think so.

To do so, we need to get more specific about exactly what are God’s invisible attributes. I propose there are three.

  1. God is light. According to 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
  2. God is love. According to 1 John 4:8, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
  3. God is life. According to 1 John 5:20, “He is the true God and eternal life.”

As you read, remember the order that 1 John lists God’s invisible attributes – light, love, life.

Now that you know God’s invisible attributes, do you clearly perceive them in Genesis 1? I will give you light, but I doubt you see the other two.

JOHN: THE NEW GENESIS

To see God’s invisible attributes in creation, we need to understand that the gospel of John is the new Genesis. How so?

Genesis 1 starts “in the beginning” which is followed by a series of days. Just like Genesis 1, John 1 starts “in the beginning”. But, did you know that “in the beginning” in the the gospel of John is also followed by a series of days? Maybe you haven’t noticed because the days are spread out over several chapters instead of clustered together like Genesis 1. This is John’s clue that he is writing a new Genesis about a new creation.

Further, when we understand that John is writing the new Genesis and we read the Bible in the language of Son, with the understanding that the entire Bible is a witness to Jesus, then we understand why Genesis 1 was written. It’s real purpose is to bear witness to Jesus.

So, let’s compare the account of creation in Genesis with the account in the gospel of John.

Day 1

In Genesis, on day one God calls forth light and separates it from darkness.

On day one, John 1:4-5, 7-9 says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not over come it…He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not that light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.”

On the first day of John’s gospel there was light. And, when the light shined in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it, light and darkness were separated. John tells us that this light is Jesus, equating Jesus with the light called forth on the first day of creation.

Therefore, the first day established light as one of God’s invisible attributes that could be known through creation.

Day 2

In Genesis, on day two, God made the firmament and separated the waters above from the waters below.

John 1:29-34 details the second day in John’s gospel. Verses 29 and 31-33 say, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!…I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John bore witness: ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”‘”

So, Jesus, the Lamb of God, gets baptized on day two of John’s gospel. Jesus’ body went down into the water and separated the water. Jesus’ baptism, in which the body of the Lamb of God separated the waters, links day two of John’s gospel with the waters being separated on day two of Genesis.

Throughout the Bible, waters being separated represents baptism.

Exodus 14:22 says, “And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right and on their left.”

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 that this was Israel’s baptism. “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”

Therefore, when we read that the waters were separated on day two in Genesis we should immediately think of baptism. But, what separated the waters in Genesis? The firmament, which is key to linking Jesus’ baptism on the second day in John’s gospel with the “baptism” that took place on the second day in Genesis 1.

To see the connection, recall that baptism is symbolic of death. On the second day of John’s gospel, John the Baptist declares Jesus to be the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. Jesus, the lamb of God, that was baptized and symbolically died on day of two of John’s gospel, fulfilled this symbolism when he died on the cross.

On the cross, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, breathed his last, and yielded up his spirit. Right then, according to Matthew 27:51, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Now we have a connection between Jesus’ baptism, his death on the cross as the lamb of God, and the veil being torn in the temple.

What was the veil? The veil was what separated (there’s that creative word again) the holy place from the most holy place, the place of God’s presence. The priests were allowed into the holy place, but only the high priest, and that once a year with an offering of blood, was allowed beyond the veil into God’s presence. Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ is the high priest that took an offering of his own blood beyond the veil into the presence of God. Here is another connection between Jesus’ body and the veil.

What does this have to do with the waters being separated by the firmament in Genesis?

Psalm 78:69 says, “He built his sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which he has founded forever.” The psalmist is saying that God built his earthly tabernacle, the one Moses built, which was patterned exactly after the heavenly one, think Jesus, just like he built creation. In the tabernacle, there was a veil that separated the holy place from the most holy place, the place of God’s presence. This veil is just like firmament in that separated the earth from the heavens, the place of God’s presence. So, now we have a connection between the veil and the firmament to go with our connection between Christ’s body and the veil.

But, to drive the point home even further, Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above [the same word as firmament or expanse in Genesis 1] proclaims his handiwork.” The firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. What is God’s handiwork? Hebrews 10:5 says, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you not desire, but a body have you prepared for me.'” The firmament proclaims the work of God’s hand, which is Jesus, the lamb of God to be offered up for the sins of the world. Like Jesus’ death tore the veil giving us access to the most holy place, so to did Jesus’ death tear the firmament, reconnecting the heavens and the earth.

So, the second day in Genesis is linked with the second day of John’s gospel through baptism and the crucifixion of the Lamb of the God.

(As an aside, have you ever noticed that God did not call anything that happened on day two good in Genesis? I believe that is because this day spoke prophetically of the death of God’s son.)

So, how does this reveal one of God’s invisible attributes on the second day of creation?

1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” And, 1 John 4:9-10, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

The death of Jesus, the event of day two of John’s gospel and Genesis, is how we know love.

Therefore, the second day established love as one of God’s invisible attribute that could be known through creation.

Day 3

In Genesis, on day three, God gathered the waters below and the dry land appeared.

Finding the equivalent of day three in John’s gospel gets a little tricky.

John 1:35 says, “Again, the next day…”

John 1:43 says, “The following day…”

John 2:1 says, “On the third day…”

We need to know two things about John. First, he uses a lot of symbolism in his writings. Second, John is not writing an historical account of Jesus like we would today. In John 20:31, he tells us exactly why he wrote the gospel, “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John is writing more a theological treatise than an historical account.

Given those two points, it is important to note that John 2:1 is the only place that any of the days in John’s gospel is numbered. This is important because when you read through the Bible you will notice that an incredibly large number of events happen on the third day.

Given the great theological significance of the third day, it is not by chance that John marked out this day in John 2 with a number. By specifically identifying this as the third day, John is telling you to pay very careful attention to what happens on it.

John 2:1 says, “On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.” This is familiar story. Jesus, his mother, and his disciples attended a wedding where they ran out of wine. One thing led to another, and Jesus tells the servants to fill six water pots with water, which he turned into wine. John 2:9-10 says, “When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine…the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept good wine until now.'”

Jesus turned water, which is ordinary but necessary for life, into wine, which is much sweeter and richer than wine, or better life. Wine, because it is sweeter and richer than water, is often a symbol of spiritual revival. While we are alive right now, Jesus gives us eternal life through the resurrection. Day three of John’s gospel is speaking to the resurrection of Jesus and the new life he gives. This is why John 2:11 says, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory [eternal life]. And his disciples believed in him.” This first miracle, turning water into wine, was such a big deal to the disciples precisely because it spoke to Jesus’ resurrection and the eternal life he would give.

We see more support for the connection between the third day of John’s gospel and Genesis in Psalm 104. This psalm is a retelling of the days of creation.

  • Day 1 – verses 1-2
  • Day 2 – verses 3-4
  • Day 3 – verses 5-18
  • Day 4 – verses 19-23
  • Day 5 – verses 24-26
  • Day 6 – verses 27-30
  • Day 7 – verses 31-35

What happens on day three in this psalm? Verses 14-15 say, “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.” The psalmist writes that on day three of creation there was “wine to gladden the heart of man.” That’s exactly what Jesus did on day three of John’s gospel.

Further, in Isaiah 25, the Lord prepares a feast for those that have come out of the city of confusion. Isaiah 25:6 says, “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, of aged wine well refined.”

Aged wine is better tasting wine. This is what the master of the feast said about the wine Jesus served. And, this is the wine that the Lord serves to those that come out of the city of confusion, to those enter new life.

I should note also that in Genesis it said the waters were gathered and the dry land appeared. In a sense, the dry land came up out of the water, speaking to new life or resurrected life after death or baptism. But, it very specifically says that the dry land appeared. Jesus appeared on the third day to his disciples on the third day after his death.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” People have long struggled with what Paul meant as there is no one scripture that says Jesus would rise on the third day. But, could Paul be referring to Genesis 1?

Therefore, the third day established life as God’s attribute that could be known through creation.

Now we see how creation has made known the invisible attributes of God. And, when we put them all together:

When the light of God shines on the love of God it produces the life of God.

Also, we can read what Paul wrote in Colossians 1:15-20 in even greater wonder.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn form the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.”

As we have seen from all of the above, Jesus is the image of the invisible God and the firstborn of all creation.

JESUS IS LIGHT, LOVE, AND LIFE

In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Light and truth are closely related throughout scripture. As examples, see Psalm 43:3, John 3:21, 1 John 1:6.

Love is taking an action on behalf of another at the expense of oneself. Love is giving of oneself. God and Jesus are gratuitously self-giving. They do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine. Love is the way Jesus has lived from before the foundation of the world.

Jesus is eternal life.

Do you see what Jesus is saying in John 14:6?

I am the way, the truth, and the life is the same as saying I am love, light, and life.

When the truth of Christ shines on the love of Christ we get the life of Christ.

Jesus makes another similar statement in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

What is the resurrection? It is Christ raised life after defeating death by forgiving us for our murdering him. The resurrection is light shining on love, the truth shining on the way, which leads to life.

WHAT CREATION SAYS ABOUT YOU AND ME

In the first sermon preached, Peter told the Jews that they crucified Jesus, the one who is the Messiah, the one who was sent from God to be their king. But, death couldn’t hold him and he was raised to life. The people that heard Peter’s preaching were cut to the heart and asked what they should do.

In Acts 2:38-39, Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

What is repenting?

A change of mind. Understanding. Light.

What is being baptized?

Paul tells us fully in Romans 6:3-11, but the short answer is baptism is being baptized into Christ’s death, which is how we know God’s love.

What is forgiveness and receiving the Holy Spirit?

The life of God. The life of Jesus. God’s forgiveness knows no end. That Jesus forgave us for killing him is how he defeated death and was resurrected to life.

So, repenting, being baptized, and receiving the Holy Spirit are the same as light, love, and life.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, “Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But, it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”

Another way to think of ourselves and creation is being transformed and conformed.

Paul writes of the veil being removed and the light of the gospel shining out of the darkness into our hearts. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, he writes, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Then, in Romans 12:2, Paul writes, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” The Greek word for transformed is where we get our word for metamorphosis. That is to go from state of being to a completely different state of being.

To be transformed is to repent and be baptized!

What are being transformed into?

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18, “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

One turns to the Lord and the veil is removed – repentance, light. Being transformed – baptized. Into the same image. Being conformed to the same image as Jesus, the son of God, life.

In Romans 8:29, Paul writes that we are predestined to be conformed to image of God’s son so that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. We are to have the same attributes as Jesus – light, love, and life.

2 Corinthians 5:16-20 sums all that I have written above:

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them [forgiveness], and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

God’s creation made known his invisible attributes – light, love, and life. That creation bears witness that Jesus is the image of these attributes. He is the way, the truth, and the life or the resurrection and the life. If we repent, are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit, then we are in Christ and therefore a new creation of light, love, and life. As new creations, we have been given the same ministry of reconciliation as Christ. Therefore, we are his ambassadors.