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So, God originally made his creation good, spiritually perfect, with eternal life.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.

Solomon to Josiah: Faith, Hope, Love

TODAY’S READING: 1 CHRONICLES 3-4

“The son of Solomon was Rehoboam, Abijah his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, Jotham his son, Ahaz his son, Hezekiah his son, Manasseh his son, Amon his son, Josiah his son.” – 1 Chronicles 10:14

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13

“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. 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 8:22-24

As I read through today’s reading, the Holy Spirit was connecting these scriptures for me.

STARTING IN PEACE

David had fought to build the kingdom of Israel. But, because he was a man of war, David was not able to build the temple. God promised David that he would have a son who would sit on the throne forever who would build the temple.

In 1 Chronicles 3:1-9, we read of David’s sons. There are 19 sons from David’s wives that are listed. And, David had other sons from his concubines.

But, in verses 10 to 14 we are given a lineage of kings who sat on the throne. That lineage starts with David’s son Solomon. It is likely that name Solomon derives from the Hebrew word shalom. Therefore, a likely meaning of the name Solomon is peace or peaceable. So, this lineage of kings starts with peace.

However, Solomon was not the son that God promised David. Solomon was just a shadow, a picture, of the true son, Jesus.

.Filled with the Holy Spirit, Zechariah prophesied over his son, John the baptist. In Luke 1:76-79, he said, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of your God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

John guided “our feet into the way of peace” because he led people to Jesus. Jesus is the way of peace.

In Luke 2:14, when Jesus was born, a multitude of the heavenly host praise God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Jesus, the promised son of David, the king, our peace, had arrived.

Therefore, in Luke 2:29, Simeon was entered the temple, picked up Jesus, and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word.” Simeon was able to in peace because Jesus had arrived.

ENDING IN DESPAIR

In the lineage of kings given in 1 Chronicles 3:10-14, Josiah is the last one. Basically, Josiah was the last independent king of Judah before the nation went into exile in Babylon. Every king after Judah was subject either to a king of Egypt or a king of Babylon.

Josiah was one of the best kings of Judah. He rid the nation of false gods and idolatry of all of kinds. Not only that, but Josiah reinstituted the passover.

2 Kings 23:21-23 says, “And the king commanded all the people, ‘Keep the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.’ For no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah. But, in the eighteenth year of King Josiah his Passover was kept to the Lord in Jerusalem.” Since the passover had not been kept since the days of Judah, Josiah was the only king to keep the passover in Jerusalem.

One possible meaning of the name Josiah is the despair of Yahweh. The lineage that had started with a king who built the temple, whose name was peace, ended in despair. One of the best kings of Judah, the only one to celebrate the passover, brought despair.

However, Josiah was a shadow or picture of Jesus too. The night before Jesus died his celebrated the passover with his disciples and instituted a new covenant.

Three days after Jesus was crucified, he appeared as a stranger to two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. Jesus asked them what they were talking about. In Luke 24:19-21, they said, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.”

These disciples had hope that Jesus would be the king who would restore the kingdom of Israel and bring peace, the peace spoken of at his birth, to the land. But, Jesus was crucified. Now three days later Jesus had not been seen as he promised. These disciples had lost hope, they despaired.

When the disciples had explained all this, Jesus said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken.” In other words, not only had the disciples lost hope, despaired, but they without faith.

Faith in what?

GOD IS LOVE

In 1 Chronicles 3:1-14, the lineage of kings from Solomon to Josiah is made of 16 kings.

Sixteen is the number of love.

Almost everyone, given how often it is used in weddings, knows that 1 Corinthians 13 is about love.

Do you know many characteristics Paul lists about love in 1 Corinthians 13? 16!

  1. Love is patient.
  2. Love is kind.
  3. Love does not envy.
  4. Love does not boast.
  5. Love is not arrogant.
  6. Love is not rude.
  7. Love does not insist on its own way.
  8. Love is not irritable.
  9. Love is not resentful.
  10. Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing.
  11. Love rejoices with the truth.
  12. Love bears all things.
  13. Love believes all things.
  14. Love hopes all things.
  15. Love endures all things.
  16. Love never ends.

Agape (the noun not the verb) is the Greek word for God’s love. It is used 18 times in 1 John. But, the 16th time the noun love is used John writes, “But perfect love casts out fear.”

The 16 kings from Solomon to Josiah show that even though God’s people moved from peace to despair God was working love throughout the entire time.

The west side of the tabernacle, the side that was closest to God’s presence, had 16 silver bases that held up the eight frames. There were two bases per frame. Eight is the number of new creation. In the new creation, Jesus gave two commandments of love. So, we have the 16 silver bases.

Silver symbolizes redemption. We were redeemed by the shedding of Christ’s blood. This occurred on the cross. And, it’s Christ’s death on the cross that reveals love to us.

1 John 4:8-11 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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 the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus had lost hope because they were slow of heart to believe. They lacked faith. Specifically, they lacked faith in God’s love. Even though they had just seen the ultimate display of love – God in Jesus on the cross willingly dying for our sins and at the same time forgiving us.

Therefore, Luke 24:25-27 says, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

What was Jesus telling them?

Everything about his love and where it could be found in scripture.

FAITH, HOPE, LOVE

Jesus showed these two disciples everywhere his love could be found in the scriptures to build their faith. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

The word of Christ is love. He came to reveal God’s love. This is why Jesus was sent. And, he gave us two commandments of love. Hearing his word and witness about the love of God is where faith comes from.

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus heard the word of love and had their faith built. They went back to the 11 and the other disciples and told them what they heard from Jesus.

Luke 24:36 says, “As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace to you!'” The disciples had heard the word of love from Jesus. Their faith had been built. And, Jesus spoke peace to them. The despair, the lost hope, was gone. Now they had peace.

Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:22, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Here Paul links faith, love, and peace.

But, in 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul said, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Hope and peace are synonymous. But, of the three – faith, hope, and love – love is the greatest because love is how faith comes and faith yields hope.

But, hope is not a wish. The Greek word for hope means an expectation. When we have the word of love from Christ and are faith is built, then we have a sure expectation of peace, regardless of the despair that is in the world. We have this because of the love Christ displayed on the cross by dying for our sins and forgiving us of our sins.

This hope, this expectation, is for the full reconciliation of all creation to God as we see in Romans 8. When the reconciliation is complete, our peace will be full. Then the hope, the expectation, of what is not seen will be seen and we will no longer need to hope.

What a message the Spirit inspired in the list of kings from Solomon to Josiah.

Last Words: “Let Him Go Up”

In the period of the judges, Israel asked for a king so that they could be like all the other nations around them. This was a rejection of God, because unlike all the other nations that had a man as their king, Israel had God as their king. When they asked God for a king, God told Israel what having a king would do to them and that it would not go well.

So, it’s interesting to know how the books of the Hebrew Bible are ordered, which is different than the ordering of our Old Testament. The last book of the Hebrew Bible is 2 Chronicles. Listen what it says about the last king and the people of Israel before they were exiled from the land:

“He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord, the God of Israel. All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. And they polluted the house of the Lord that he had made holy in Jerusalem.”

God brought Israel out of bondage in Egypt through miraculous works of his great power. God gave them a land with cities and vineyards, full of milk and honey, that they did not have to build. God even drove out the people that were occupying that land for Israel. But, Israel rejected God as their king. And, the Hebrew order of the Old Testament ends with the last king and the people completely rejecting God and in full rebellion against him. Israel became like the nations around them, full of all the abominations and evil and wickedness that those nations had done.

It wasn’t because God didn’t try to stop it. 2 Chronicles continues, “The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.”

Here we see the longsuffering, the patience, and the kindness of God. He did everything for his people that he could. But, God created us with the capability to reject him. And, if that is chosen, then there is no remedy for that. But…

God is a god of hope. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says that faith, hope and love abide. Elsewhere in the New Testament is says that our hope is in Christ. He lives forever and so does our hope. There is always hope with God.

So, even though Israel had completely rejected God and there appeared to be no remedy, the final words of 2 Chronicles and the Hebrew Bible say, “Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.” These words were spoken by a Gentile king that God was going to use to free his people from exile so that they could begin to rebuild the temple of God. The very last words – “let him go up” – ring out with the hope that there will be a people that meet with God, whose garden and dwelling place were often pictured on a mountain.