The Foreknowledge of God

Not long ago we wrote a blog post titled “The Most Precious Golden Chain?, the Golden Chain of Redemption, also called the ‘Ordo Salutis’, or ‘Order of salvation’, from Romans 8:29-30. Here are those passages with the links in that unbreakable Golden chain underlined:

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)

The ‘links’ in this chain are foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification, to use the noun forms of what we are told that ‘he’ (GOD) ‘did’ for each and every one of his remnant people (the ‘whom’ in the passages). Once you understand God’s foreknowledge the remaining links are easier to understand.

The topic of this post is the first link in the chain, God’s foreknowledge, perhaps one of the most contentious issues in Christendom, right up there with ‘election’ and ‘predestination’. The intent of this post is a bit like the Fox News motto, ‘We Report, You Decide. This is not about convincing anyone of a personal opinion – that’s God business. J

Having said that, let’s tackle the first link in our chain, ‘Foreknowledge’.

The Definition of Foreknowledge

The meaning of the term is simple – it literally means ‘before’, or ‘earlier’ knowledge’ (Gr. ‘prognōsis’). In our passage of scripture we are told that God, based on knowledge He had beforehand, God took actions on behalf of those whom he would save from their sins. (see Matt 1:21).

The two definitions of foreknowledge in view here is that 1) God simply knows everything, which for most of us is true, and/or 2) God knows ‘His people’ in a much more intimate way. The question for us is “What does the Bible tell us about God and His knowledge? We’ll report and you can decide.

By far, the most prevalent definition among Christians in our day is the first definition, meaning that God looked down the corridors of time, saw those who would freely choose Him, then chose them to be the recipients of the other actions in our Golden Chain (predestination, calling, justification, & glorification). Let’s look at foreknowledge in Scripture.

First of all, the term foreknowledge/foreknow does not appear in the Old Testament, but it does appear in the New Testament:

In reference to Christ:

“this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge (prognōsis) of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” (Acts 2:23)

In reference to believers:

“ Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.  (1 Pet 1:1-2)

In reference to Christ again:

“He was foreknown (progonisko) before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.” (1 Pet 1:20)

Note that the same term is used in 1 Peter, verses 2 & 20, in reference to both Jesus Christ and believers. That might be rather significant.

But our question remains, “What does “for those whom he foreknew” mean in Romans 8:29? Which definition of foreknowledge is at play? Is it definition1, definition 2, or BOTH? Since we know what ‘fore’ means’ let’s now take a look at the term know and how it is used in Scripture. Here are just a few examples from both the OT and the NT, Hebrew (yada) & Greek (ginosko):

  • “Now Adam knew (yada) Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” (Gen 4:1)
  • “Before I formed you in the womb I knew (yada) you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:5)
  • “You only have I known (yada) of all the families of the earth;” (Amos 3:2)
  • ”And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew (ginosko) you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt 7:23)
  • “But if anyone loves God, he is known (ginosko) by God” (1 Cor 8:3)

There are more examples, but these verses clearly tell us that God’s ‘knowing’ of His people is much more intimate than just knowing about them or what they will or will not do.

So again, does the ‘foreknowledge’ of God simply mean ‘know beforehand’, that God knows beforehand the actions of men and acts in light of that knowledge (by far, the prevailing view these days), or does it mean more?

How we answer that question has implications concerning evangelism:

If we believe God saves based on the foreseen faith/free will decision of men, we can be prone to appeal to that ‘free will’ and share Christ in such a manner that that is appealing to the lost man, who is by nature at enmity with God, who dwells in darkness, hates the light and loves sin. What that means is making the gospel that is offensive to those whose hearts have not been opened by God, actually appealing. So we leave out the bits that talk about sin (they love theirs) and the need for confession and repentance because of it, and instead talk about how much Jesus loves, loves, loves and wants to make their lives better. Everything we do, from personal discussions about Jesus to our church services needs to become attractive in order to elicit a free will decision to follow Christ.

If we believe that God saves based on His intimate foreknowledge and predetermined will we need only lovingly share the gospel that Christ died for the sins of his people.

Regardless of what we believe, it is our great privilege to share the gospel far and wide!___________________________

There is much more  that can be said about the foreknowledge of God, and I hope this short summary will stimulate your spiritual thinking.

And as always I like feedback:

1. Did I accomplish my goal of just presenting the facts? I’d love to hear your opinion.

2. What’s your belief concerning God’s foreknowledge and why? No answer necessary, just think about it.

In a future post, I’ll share some thoughts about what I believe and why. I believe it.

Thanks for stopping by!

Romans 8:6-10 & 1 Corinthians 2:14: A Tale of Two Minds

Romans 8:6-10 (ESV)

6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

In these few verses addressed to believers in Rome and Corinth, the Apostle Paul describes and contrasts two types of human thinking, two mindsets or worldviews, if you will.

In our Romans passage, Paul speaks of ‘the mind set on the flesh’ and ‘the mind set on the Spirit’. He contrasts the old ‘natural’ mental state of the unregenerate (unbelievers) with the ‘new ’natural’ state of born-again believers in Christ. I use the term ‘new’ natural in reference to believers because while we are still capable of carnal/fleshly thoughts, our new nature in Christ changes our thought lives. You might say that believers are capable of being ‘double’ minded, while unbelievers, without the Spirit of God, are very ‘single’ minded and completely incapable of understanding spiritual truths (1 Cor 2:14). In fact, a carnal mind (the only one available to the unregenerate) cannot please God (Rom 8:8)!

Some Logical Implications:

1. It takes a supernatural act of God to raise a spiritually dead (carnally minded) person to spiritual life capable of spiritual understanding.

2. Spiritual understanding is necessary to comprehending the gospel message that Christ died for the sins of his people.

3. Free will decisions of unregenerate people don’t please God because unregenerate people cannot please him.

4. Regeneration necessarily precedes genuine saving faith, which pleases God.

So how is anyone saved?

Romans 8:29-30 (ESV)

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Those whom are foreknown by God WILL be brought to glorification by the same God.

Does this mean that there are those who are not foreknown in the same way who will die in their sins? That is an inescapable conclusion, dear friend. And while we don’t know who they are, we are called to share Jesus with all whom we meet. Not only did God decree and bring to pass the salvation of his remnant people, he also decreed the means by which he would save his elect – the preaching of the gospel, That is our great privilege.

God gives life to cold dead sinners, and like Lydia in Acts 16, opens their hearts to heed the message of the gospel that we bring!

The Most Precious Golden Chain?

Do you like gold chains? Most, if not all of us, certainly do. Go to a jewelry store and you’ll find a wide variety of them, different styles designed for various uses, for both men and women. Am I right? That’s a rhetorical question. Personally, I don’t have any because I’m just not into jewelry. Some men are; just ask Mr. T (remember him?)! Our oldest son, when he was about 4 years old, just about had a fit when he say what I called a ‘Mr. T Starter Kit’ and Mom didn’t want to buy it for him.

Nevertheless,. There is one Golden Chain that many believers (if not most of us), aren’t all that fond of. It’s the Golden Chain of Redemption and it’s found in Romans 8, Verse 29-30:

“For those who he (God) foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brother. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified”

Essentially, what we have are five links in an unbreakable chain, about a group of people who were ‘foreknown’ by God and also ‘predestined’, ‘called’, ‘justified’, and ‘glorified’.

Of these 5 links, the first two are outside of time, as we know it. God both foreknew and predestined this particular group of people outside of time as we know it. We have a clue concerning ‘how far’ outside of time as we know it in Ephesians 1 and 2 Thessalonians:

The next two links are inside of time as we know it. Each person in this group of ‘foreknown’ and ‘predestined’ ones is ‘called’ and ‘justified’ during his/her  lifetime, in preparation for the final link, ‘glorification’, when they are all raised in newness of life to be with Jesus forever. Is that beautiful, or what!?

The chain is unbreakable in at least two ways. First, it is God who is performs all of the actions represented in these 5 golden links. If that isn’t enough to prove the indestructible nature of our chain,  each of these Divine actions is presented to us in the past tense, meaning that from God’s perspective, it’s a done deal! Each and every person of whom this text speaks, everyone ‘foreknown’ of God WILL be ‘glorified’!

Sadly, whatever ‘foreknown’ means in our text, there are those who will not be saved but will die in their sins. The Bible speaks of those who will suffer eternal punishment rather than eternal life. That means that there are those who are NOT ‘foreknown’ in the sense of our text. But that’s another post.

The question for you today, my friend, is this:

“Are you to be found somewhere in this Golden Chain?”

I can assuredly proclaim that if you have been convicted of your condition in sin, have repented of it, and believed in Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are not only ‘found in’ this Chain, but you are eternally secure in its warm embrace! If you are a believer in Christ you were indeed ‘foreknown’ by God, ‘called’ by God into a Holy life, ‘justified’ by the blood of Christ and will one day be ‘glorified’!

This is cause to rejoice and be exceedingly glad!

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If Christ died for the sins of everyone who ever lived, why isn’t everyone saved?

Interesting question, yes? It should be, since that seems to be the prevailing opinion of the vast majority of Christendom. Just Google “For whom did Christ die?” and start reading. But how many of us seriously address the question? Consider this post an old man’s attempt to think it through, Writing things down helps me organize my thoughts.

First of all, some will answer the question by telling me that since Christ died for everyone, everyone WILL eventually be saved. That’s called ‘universalism’. The reasoning behind that opinion is that God is too loving to condemn anyone, that since he wants all men to be saved, they eventually will. After all, God is God and always gets what he wants. Seems logical.

Others will confidently tell me that while Christ died for everyone, It’s up to the one for whom Christ died to exercise his/her ‘free will’ and accept the ‘gift’, similar to accepting a present for your birthday or Christmas. When a person accepts the gift, he/she will be saved, unless down the road somewhere down the road another conscious free will decision is made to return the gift for whatever reason. This also seems logical.

Then there those who will tell me that  a person is saved  because of a free will decision to accept Christ, and once he/she has made that decision has been made, heaven awaits their sure arrival. If that’s true, somewhere on the highway to heaven human free will disappeared.  And that also seems like a logical conclusion.

So here have three seemingly logical, yet differing  opinions. It might also be very logical to conclude that either only one of them is correct, or all three are incorrect.  Let’s assume that one is correct.  If you had to pick one, which would you choose, and why?

Most, if not all Bible reading Christians would immediately exclude ‘universalism’ as an option right off the bat. The Bible is clear that there are those whose eternal destiny is a place of everlasting torment and punishment. That leaves us with two other options, both of which include the concept of completely autonomous  ‘free will’. Assuming once again that there is a correct answer among our three options, which one is it?

Well, one option defends ‘free will’ to the death. You can either accept the ‘free gift’ or reject it. Human free will is so powerful that it can thwart God’s desire to save everyone. If that’s the case, we have to seriously ask “Who saves whom?” Did Christ die only to make salvation ‘possible’?

The other surviving option tells us that human free will, once exercised for salvation, can somehow disappear in one’s life, or be partially lost, at least in the matter of salvation.

Questions, questions, and MORE questions! They never seem to end, do they?

One last question for this post – a hypothetical one. IF all three of the above answers to the ‘question in the title of this post (If Christ died for the sins of everyone who ever lived, why isn’t everyone saved?) are incorrect, what’s the alternative – for whom did Christ die?

So call this post a ‘thinking’ challenge.  And since it is merely a thinking challenge, share your thoughts. Recommend this post to a friend or two and ask them to share their thoughts.

Smile

“What Color is Truth? Biblical Truths that No Blog Post can Change” by George Lawson

Sadly, it seems like no matter what you say about the current debate over social justice and racial reconciliation, you’re already wrong.  Somehow it’s believed that unless you share the same perspective and a similar experience as the one you are speaking with, that’s proof enough of your ignorance, insensitivity or insanity. In so many words: “If you don’t agree, it’s only because you don’t understand.” Oddly, many of the same people who speak the loudest about prejudice have already sized you up, labeled you, and dismissed what you have to say before you’ve even had a chance to finish speaking (or writing)!

I understand why this is true in an unbelieving context, because unbelievers begin their discussions from so many diverse and contradictory points of origin.  I have to confess that I struggle at times to understand why this confusion is true in the church.  Aren’t we all reading from the same book?

Unfortunately, much of the debate around race and justice and reconciliation completely ignores biblical truth (which is objective) and rather centers its arguments around: experiences, feelings, assumptions, suspicions, perceptions, hurts and conjectures (which are all subjective).  People are being encouraged to “share their story” rather than “proclaim God’s truth.”   Instead of “understanding the biblical context,” they are celebrated for connecting with their “cultural context.”

Personally, I praise God that The Master’s Seminary and its president trained me to focus my attention on the central and eternal realities of Scripture and its theology, rather than attempting to offer some particular approach for reaching a certain ethnic group. I never expected my seminary training to focus on social reform, political activism or the civil rights movement. Why would I?

I recently came across a slanderous and unsubstantiated charge that somehow Dr. MacArthur is guilty of being “partial, inconsiderate and unbiblical” because he rejects the idea that social justice is an essential part of the gospel (https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B180813). Surely this is evidence that he doesn’t consider the circumstances of anyone other than upper middle class, republican-leaning white men, isn’t it?  But to impute those motives to him would be a violation of 1 Corinthians 4:5, which warns us against judging the motives of men’s hearts.  It is also demonstrably false.  MacArthur’s posts never mentioned anything about being white, upper middle class or Republican.

If I have gained nothing else from my time at The Master’s Seminary and from our President, I have gained an appreciation for the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God, which sits above ethnic, political and class distinctions.  Frankly, that’s the reason I applied to Seminary in the first place.  If my goal for attending seminary was to learn more about my cultural heritage, I had many other options for that.  That’s not why I applied to seminary.  My goal was to accurately handle “the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and the seminary training I received was committed to that.  For some, that is perceived as a reason to criticize the training or even become sorrowful, frustrated, or angry about it.

I have personally experienced the pain of racial discrimination.  I get it, and I am sincerely sorry for whatever your experience might have been.  But I am saddened to learn that some of my brothers, who received the blessing of a curriculum that was designed to produce faithful expositors, would judge their books “by the color of their contributors, rather than the content of their pages.”  There is the notion that unless you can find your ethnic group represented in the books you’ve been assigned to read, it is part of a conspiracy to convince people that your ethnic group made no significant contributions.  Really?

Truth doesn’t have a color, or does it?  Would I receive the truth of Scripture differently if it was written by Gentiles instead of Jews? Should my wife reject the writings of the New Testament because they were all written by male authors?  Furthermore, can Paul or Peter or James really have anything relevant to share with me, if they didn’t share my personal experience as an African-American? Would I breathe a sigh of relief if my Greek-Grammar textbook was written by an Asian? Is the truth of Scripture universal for the entire church or does it have to be “shaded in” first to match my skin tone before I can receive it?

I have the privilege today of shepherding a multi-ethnic congregation in the city of Baltimore. Often people will ask me, “What did you do to a create such a diverse church?”  I always tell them the same thing:  “I didn’t do anything.  God did the work, I simply preached the Word.”  I didn’t come to the city of Baltimore with some kind of multi-ethnic strategy. My mandate as a pastor is clear, “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2).  I don’t have a “plan B.”

With that in mind, I would like to briefly remind all of us of “Biblical Truths that no Blog Post can Change”.

1) Believers in Jesus Christ are part of a spiritual family.

Once a person is adopted into the family of God they have been accepted into a new family. How many times does the Scripture refer to believers simply as, “Brothers”?  That is not to say that the Bible does not recognize that we come from a physical family or a particular heritage.  Even Paul acknowledged his personal desire to see his “kinsmen according to the flesh” brought into the family of God (Romans 9:3).  I share a similar desire for my family and my particular heritage.  However, I also understand that as a believer I have been born of the Spirit (John 3:8), I have a Father who is in Heaven (Matthew 6:9) and my bond with believers is more permanent than the one I enjoy with my physical family members who are not believers. 

Jesus highlighted the priority of our spiritual family with these words in Matthew 12:50, after His physical family attempted to interrupt Him in the middle of ministry.

Matthew 12:50: “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

It would have been assumed that Jesus would immediately drop what He was doing at the beck and call of His natural family.  After all, “blood is thicker than water” but Jesus surprised those around Him by making the point that “spirit is thicker than blood.” My truest “soul brothers” are those who do the will of God and obey Him.

2) Believers in Jesus Christ are citizens of a heavenly country.

National heritage is not ignored in Scripture.  After the flood (Genesis 10:5) and particularly after Babel (Genesis 11:9), mankind began to be divided into nations.  As we continue to follow the biblical narrative, we discover that God has a plan for these nations and that men would be “purchased for God…from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”  That is a monumental statement! According to one site there are over 1,652 languages spoken in India alone and over 6,000 ethnicities in India. What will unite the nations of the world together will not be their language or culture or their allegiance to their flag but rather their allegiance to Christ. Believers are “fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19) and our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). 

Again, I’m not arguing that national or cultural heritage is unimportant but it certainly does not have the power to unite men from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” If I spend my time and energy intently looking for people of my particular heritage and their contributions, rather than intently looking for Christ and His accomplishment, I won’t be moving closer towards unity but away from it.

3) Believers in Jesus Christ have been given a new identity.

How do you identify yourself as a believer?  If people really want to know who you are and how you think and what makes you the person you are, what would you say?  What would summarize you as a person above everything else?  Would you identify yourself by your occupation, your hobbies, your family, your nationality, or your skin color or would you identify yourself by your relationship with Christ?

As believers, we have been given a new identity.  My primary identification is no longer my ethnicity, nationality or heritage.  My primary identification is with Christ.  Colossians 3:4 puts it this way “Christ…is our life.”

Paul makes a similar point in Galatians 2:20 where he says:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

My primary identification is with Jesus not with myself.  Even though we might have differences in our physical features, our primary identification is not a physical one.  Christians have been made new!

2 Corinthians 5:16-17:

Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

4) Believers in Jesus Christ are members of the same body.

Regardless of what evolutionary theory might try to teach us, we are all part of the same race.  Even without checking ancestry.com I could tell you who your first grandparents were.  We can all trace our family tree back to Adam and Eve, which means that we are all related.  The story of all people intersects, which means that learning about any group of people in history is learning about my history. Sadly, many African-Americans have been robbed of much of our immediate family history because of the horrific sins of the American slave trade but that doesn’t mean that we don’t know where we came from.

Far beyond our physical connection as mankind, we are also connected to each other spiritually as believers.  How close are we?  We are members of the same body! First Corinthians 12:13 says,For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

God places each member where He wants and the Spirit distributes to each member what He wills but we are all members of the same body. The church is considered a “new man” where distinctions between Jew and Gentile have been abolished and peace has been established (Ephesians 2:15). Can you even imagine Paul attempting to split the church into black and white congregations?  We are one body!  This means that the accomplishment of any member in Christ is the accomplishment of all of us!  I don’t have to search the pages of Church History to find “one of my own” because all believers belong to me!

Paul addresses the division in the Corinthian church by reminding them: “For all things belong to you,whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you” (1 Corinthians 3:21-22).

Every significant figure in church history is one of my people, because we are all connected, whether they share my physical traits or not. 

5) Believers in Jesus Christ are subjects of a heavenly kingdom.

There is one kingdom that will stand when all others have been crushed into powder.  Daniel 2 describes a vision where the kingdoms of the earth are depicted as different materials like iron, clay and bronze but the kingdom of God is pictured as the stone that crushes them all.  Listen to this awe-inspiring vision of the kingdom to come:

Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth (Daniel 2:35).

As believers we have become citizens of that kingdom.  Our nation and its monuments will one day be crushed into powder.  It won’t matter who the majority culture is or who the minority culture is.  All that will matter is whether or not you have been transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).  

That’s why the preaching of the gospel has to remain central.  The gospel may not change every issue in your life but for those who believe, it changes the most important issue.  It places you into the Kingdom of Christ.  These are the kinds of truths that I was taught during my time at The Master’s Seminary, for which I am extremely grateful. Those who advocate a different approach to ministry don’t represent me.

If you are faithful to preach the gospel, I rejoice!  Paul rejoiced even over those who sought to cause him distress in his imprisonment (Philippians 1:17-18).  I am grateful for the faithful proclamation of the gospel, even if we disagree.

Maybe I’ll be considered a “white sheep” because of this post but I’m most concerned that I’m considered one of “God’s sheep” and Christ tells us that there is only “one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16).

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George Lawson is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and is the Pastor-Teacher of Baltimore Bible Church, a new church plant in Baltimore, MD (www.baltimorebiblechurch.org)

What’s in YOUR Eternity?

In a recent Sunday School lesson in 1 Peter, the question was asked “When you hear someone say “The end of the world is near” how do you respond, and why?”

I could say, “Why do you ask?” Knowing why the comment was made just might help guide the conversation along it’s path, especially if your desire is to steer it toward the message of the gospel.

Given that the topic is the end of the world, I could get straight to the point and ask, “What’s in YOUR eternity?”

First, phrasing it more like a credit card commercial might elicit a more positive response than just asking “Where’s your soul going when you die?” like the sidewalk Christian evangelist downtown handing out tracts to young soldiers out for a good time in Junction City, Kansas, outside of Fort Riley Kansas  (deja vu). I could claim just about any religion and ask my question. Without being overly blunt, my question assumes that, like a credit card, everyone has an ‘eternity’. Every major religion believes we will eventually spend eternity somewhere. You can check it out. We have the technology.

My goal is to present the Christian view of eternity in a loving manner, using the Bible as my source document.

The Bible tells us that there is something about ‘eternity’ in each and every one of us:

He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) (Emphasis mine)

John MacArthur says of this passage:

“God. put eternity into man’s heart. God made men for his eternal purpose, and nothing in post-fall time can bring them complete satisfaction.”

Our innate sense of eternity comes from knowing something of God, the eternal creator. Concerning this knowledge of God, there is perhaps no clearer verse in all of scripture than Romans 1:19, in which the Apostle Paul tells us:

“For what can be known about God is plain to them (men), because God has shown it to them.”

We all know something about God and eternity, although what we know is limited. I believe this knowledge is part of the ‘imago dei’, the image of God, in which we were created. God IS eternal, and although our bodies will one day die, we have an innate interest in life after death.

Here’s where the conversation can get a bit more challenging. You see, along with being told that we all know that God IS, we are also told something about those who try and deny the existence of God. Immediately before Romans 1:19 we are told:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)

So what’s this about “The wrath of God”? We can turn to Matthew, Chapter 25 and Jesus’ teaching about His second coming and the final judgment of all men.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.

Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

. . . .

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’

Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

(Matthew 25:31-34 & 41-46)

In the above verses, there are two groups of people, the ones on Jesus’ right, and the ones on Jesus’ left. The ones on Jesus’ right represent those who knew and loved Him in this life and those on Jesus’ left represent those who denied Him in this life. Those on the right will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the world’s beginning. Those on the left will experience eternal fire reserved for the devil and his angels.

SO WHAT?

1. There are two groups of people inhabiting this world; those who have received the truth of God and the ones who suppress the truth of God; the ones who have repented of their sin and believed the gospel and the ones who have rejected Christ.

2. There is an eternal destiny for every human being who ever lived or is living today; eternal life or eternal death.

3. What’s in YOUR eternity, my friend?

“He will save his people from their sins.”

– This was first posted in December 2012

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21 ESV)

I love these few words that the angel of the lord spoke to Joseph:

“for he will save his people from their sins.”

The grand announcement concerning Jesus’ birth, at least to Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, was that the purpose of this miraculous birth was that the Christ child was born to ‘save His people from their sins’.

We don’t often hear modern evangelical sermons in which salvation from sin was the reason for the birth of Jesus – at least I can’t remember a specific Christmas sermon that addressed that as its main point. But then again I’m old enough to have more frequent memory lapses than say 20 or so years ago. However, I could also offer that the subject and problem of sin itself is not seriously mentioned, if at all, in many mega-churches these days, on any given Sunday (or any other time)

I am not saying that we should overly emphasize the issue of sin as we celebrate the birth of Christ, but I do suggest that the angel’s words to Joseph at least remain in our hearts and minds in the midst of celebrating the birth of our Savior in all of our usual ways, and especially when we gaze upon a Nativity scene.

Admit it, we love Nativity scenes and the sight of Jesus in the manger, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, wise men, and often angels in the background. Thoughts of ‘peace on earth’, feelings of warmth, love and good cheer fill our minds and hearts – and rightly so.

But how many of us dare to dwell, even for a few moments, on the angel’s words to Joseph:

“for he will save his people from their sins.”

This year, I for one am dwelling on those words, perhaps more than anything else; not in a morbid way, with graphic pictures of Calvary and the Cross, but with a sense of wonder and awe. Jesus came, first and foremost, to save his people from their sins.

And while all those who witnessed the birth of Jesus so long ago might not have realized the full significance of His birth, God, His Father, knew exactly the course that was being set in motion on that day. The Father knew that one day His Son would be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, buried, and be raised up again – that The Father sent his Son to die for the sins of men.

So in the midst of all of the usual activity this season brings, I spend some time reflecting on the words of the angel to Joseph and their enormous significance as the greatest gift ever given to men – salvation from our sins. Unlike Joseph, who had no way of knowing all that those words meant, I peer into the pages of my Bible and reflect on a few of seemingly simple questions:

  • Who really are ‘His people’?
  • What does it mean that He would save them from their sins?
  • How does discovering answers to those questions impact how I celebrate this wondrous season of the year?

Dear reader, if you are reading the musings of this old soldier, my encouragement to you is to do the same. You will be tremendously blessed!

May you indeed have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Dan

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