Redemption, Resurrection, and Radiance!

Resurrection – I

I Corinthians 15:20-22

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Let’s concerntrate on the second ‘R’ of the above three – Resurrection! The featured Scripture is I Corinthians 15:2- through 22:

     But now Christ is risen from the dead, and become the first-
     fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came 
     death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as 
     in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

But what does the resurrection of Jesus Christ mean for us? In I Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul starts the chapter with eleven verses declaring the proof of the resurrection:

  • Verses 1 and 2 – It is an integral part of the gospel that has been preached to the Corinthians, and received by them! (see also verse 11).
  • Verses 3 and 4 – Paul preached the gospel to them exactly as he had received it! …Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” Some scholars say this was either part of an early creed or hymn used in the ancient church.
  • Verses 5 through 10 – Jesus’ post-resurrection sightings – strong evidence for the resurrection:
     ...He was seen by Cephas [Peter], then by the 
         twelve [apostles, now including Mattathias – see 
         Acts 1:26].” (verse 5).

     After that Christ appeared to more than 500 
         other believers at the same time. Most of them 
         are still living today, but some have died.” 
         (verse 6 – English Standard Version).

     After that He was seen by James [the Lord’s half-
         brother], then by all the apostles.” (verse 7).

     ...last of all He was seen by me [Paul] also as 
         one born out of due time.” (verse 8).

     In verses 9 and 10, Paul goes on to explain how unworthy 
     he is to be an apostle. But called he was! And he labored 
     exhaustively to spread the gospel of his Master!

     Therefore...so we preached and so you [Corin-
         thians] believed.” (verse 11)

In I Corinthians 15:12 through 19, Paul uses a negative approach: What if the resurrection did not happen?

  • Verse 12 – Some who claimed to be followers of Christ were saying “…there is no resurrection of the dead….
  • Verse 13 – “…if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.
  • Verses 14 and 17 (Contemporary English Version) – “And if Christ wasn’t raised to life, our message is worthless, and so is your faith…you are still living in your sins.”
  • Verses 15 and 16 (Contemporary English Version) – “If the dead won’t be raised to life, we have told lies about God by saying that He raised Christ to life, when He really did not. So if the dead won’t be raised to life, Christ wasn’t raised to life.
  • Verse 18 (Easy-to-Read Version) – “And those in Christ who have already died are lost.
  • Verse 19 – “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable.

But in I Corinthians 15:20, the apostle makes a statement that should give us joy and rejoicing! But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

  • We have to understand what is meant by “…Christ…has become the firstfruits….
     ✡   I think the concept of firstfruits is most clearly 
          shown in Proverbs 3:8 and 9: “Honor the LORD with 
          your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all 
          your increase; so your barns will be filled with 
          plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” 
          The firstfruts, an offering to God of the first 
          crops of the harvest, were given in expectation of 
          His blessing for an abundant harvest to follow!

     Likewise, Christ, the firstfruits being the first 
         to be raised from the dead means all true believers 
         will also be raised from death to eternal life with 
         God! Revelation 7:9 and 10 gives us a glimpse of the 
         harvest to follow:

            After these things I looked, and behold, a 
            great multitude which no one could number, 
            of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, 
            standing before the throne and before the 
            Lamb [Jesus Christ], clothed with white robes, 
            with palm branches in their hands, and crying 
            out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation be-
            longs to our God who sits on the throne, and 
            to the Lamb!”

Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ so important to our faith?

  • If Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, there would be no conquering of death for us!
  • If Jesus wasn’t raised with a glorified body, there would be no hope of us bearing …the image of the heavenly Man.” (I Corinthians 15:49).
  • Satan orchestrated the cross to get rid of the Lord – or at least he thought he did (see I Corinthians 2:6-8). If Jesus had not conquered death, the devil would have had a great victory over mankind – keeping them separated from God!
  • The evil one is called “…the god of this world…” (II Corinthians 4:4) because he is temporarily in control of “…the kingdoms of this world…and their glory…” (Luke 4:5 and 6). If Christ had remained dead, the angel, in Revelation 11:15, could never announce, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.
  • Satan, “…had the power of death…”, and “…kept [humanity] in…bondage…all their lifetime…through fear of death…” (Hebrews 2:14 and 15). But mankind has now been delivered by faith in the risen Jesus Christ! (see Romans 10:9).
  • Only the Son of God is “…able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for [us]” (Hebrews 7:25).
        Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has 
        passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let 
        us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High 
        Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but 
        was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 
        Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, 
        that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in 
        time of need.

A dead Savior cannot save us!

…if the [living] Son makes you free,
you shall be free indeed…
”!
(John 8:36)

Redemption, Resurrection, and Radiance!

Redemption

John 3:16, 17

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

This is the second of two Gems entitled with three words each, all beginning with ‘R’!

  • The first Gem has the title, Rule, Ruin, and Redemption.
     ✡   Genesis 1:26 – Adam was given Rule under God and over 
          all the earth!

     ✡   Genesis 3:1 through 7 – That Rule was transferred to 
          the devil when Adam obeyed him rather than God! This 
          brought Ruin to the world!

     ✡   Genesis 3:15 promised a Redeemer, fulfilled in Jesus 
          Christ!
  • This second Gem overlaps the third ‘R’ word of the first Gem, the title being Redemption, Resurrection, and Radiance! So let us further explore Redemption!

Before we can fully understand the extent of what needed Redemption, we need to understand the extent of Ruin that Satan’s Rule brought on creation!

The fall ruined humanity!

  • We are now plagued by death! God had warned Adam in Genesis 2:16 and 17, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.Adam and Eve ate, and they both died!
They died physically, but not right away! According 
          to Genesis 5:3 through 5, “...Adam lived one hundred 
          and thirty years, and begot a son...Seth. After he 
          begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years
          ...and he died. ” 

         ➔   There is no biblical record as to how long Eve 
              lived.

         ➔   Man was designed to physically live eternally, 
              but Adam lost that immortality. Jesus came to 
              restore what Adam lost (see I Corinthians 15:
              49-54). And so, we shall be in the Lord’s image 
              (see I John 3:2), and so we shall also be im-
              mortal! (see John 10:28).

Note: We are already immortal in that we will exist forever! However, in heaven we will have eternal and abundant life! In hell we will experience eternal death (unending pain and suffering)!

Their spiritual death was immediate! Spiritual death means being separated from the 
              Lord! As Saint Paul wrote in I Corinthians 16:
              21 (Easy-to-Read Version), “If anyone does not 
              love the Lord, let that person be separated from 
              God — lost forever!”

         ➔   Spiritual death is eternal! In II Thessalonians 
              1:8 and 9, Paul is writing about “...those who 
              do not know God, and...do not obey...our Lord 
              Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with ever-
              lasting destruction from the presence of the 
              Lord....”

         ➔   Adam and Eve separated themselves from God by 
              hiding...themselves from the presence of the 
              LORD God among the trees of the garden.” This 
              is an indication of the deeper problem of sin 
              – trying to distance oneself from the presence 
              of the LORD God!
  • All of humanity is infected with sin and death, according to Romans 5:12 (Good News Bible) – “Sin came into the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned.
The human spirit, which God designed to be joined to-
          gether with Him, is now dead in sin – unable to es-
          tablish divine connection!The spirit within a person being dead in sin, that is, 
          not being able to connect with the Lord, leaves only 
          the soul to direct the life of that one! In Hebrew 
          thinking, the soul is often equated with the heart (or 
          the mind as we think of it today). Jeremiah 17:9 tells 
          us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and des-
          perately wicked, who can know it?
  • The only lifestyle that such a person separated from God can manifest is called in Galatians 5:19 through 21 the works of the flesh:
        Now the works of the flesh are evident; which are: adultery, 
        fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, 
        hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish 
        ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, 
        revelries, and the like. 

        While not everyone manifests these eighteen listed 
         works of the flesh, humanity as a whole certainly 
         does!

     And notice, this is not even a complete list of what 
         the flesh of unregenerate man can manifest! For Paul 
         ends his list with the phrase “...and the like...,” 
         meaning there are a lot more ungodly manifestations 
         the flesh can produce!

A Christian hymn called The Light of the World is Jesus begins the first stanza with the words, “The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin….…a true statement! Is it any wonder that humanity for the most part is a mess! The world of humankind is lost in sin! Hence our featured Scripture:

     But God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten 
     Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have 
     everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world 
     to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be 
     saved. (John 3:16 and 17).

This is Redemption:

  • Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God the Son, came into this world and lived a sinless, perfect life we, as sinful human beings, could never live!
     As it is written in I Peter 2:22, Jesus ...committed 
         no sin nor was guile found in His mouth.Hebrews 7:26 (Good News Bible) tells us, “Jesus, then, 
         is the High Priest that meets our needs. He is holy; He 
         has no fault or sin in him; He has been set apart from 
         sinners and raised above the heavens.
  • He then freely offered His life as a sacrifice before the Father for sinners! He died on the cross bearing our sins – the sins of the whole world! (see John 10:18; I John 2:2).
  • Then He rose from the dead three days later! Jesus’ resurrection was proof that the Father accepted the sacrifice of His Son to pay for all sin of all mankind for all time! (see Hebrews 10:12).
  • Now He lives forever…
     ✞   ...to receive all who come to Him in faith believing! 
         (see Hebrews 11:6; John 6:37).     

     ...to save to the uttermost who come to God through 
         Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them.” 
         (Hebrews 7:25).

But redemption goes beyond saving human beings! For when Adam sinned all creation suffered under the curse of God!

  • Genesis 3:14 – The serpent was radically changed! For the LORD said, “…you are cursed…more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.
     ✡   Apparently, before the curse, the serpent was an intel-
          ligent upright being, perhaps the most beautiful of 
          God’s sub-human creations.

     ✡   Eve did not at all seem surprised that the serpent could 
          talk (see Genesis 3:1).

         ➔   Was he that intelligent?    

         ➔   Had the woman carried on previous conversations 
              with this creature? 
  • Genesis 3:15 is called the proto evangelium or the first announcement of the gospel: God said, “…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.
     The ultimate Seed of the woman is Jesus Christ! He will 
         bruise the head of the serpent, delivering Satan a deadly 
         blow when He rose from the grave!

     What about the serpent bruising His heel?

         ➔   A bruised heel is not deadly. Satan could not 
              ultimately deal death to the Lord Jesus!

         ➔   I find it interesting that crucifixion is the 
              only known lethal punishment that will bruise 
              the heel of a person! It happens when a nail 
              is driven through the heel into the wood of 
              the cross! 
  • Genesis 3:16 – The Lord spoke to the woman: I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children….
     ✡   If death was not part of God’s original plan, then any 
          children that would have been born before the fall 
          would live forever! 

     ✡   Hence, when death was introduced because of the curse, 
          many more offspring would be needed to populate the 
          earth!
  • But what of the last half of Genesis 3:16? “…your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.
     ✡   it seems the woman was originally designed to have 
          more independence. But God’s present order is evi-
          dent in these Scriptures:

         ➔   I Corinthians 11:3 – Paul writes, “But I 
              want you to know that the head of every 
              man is Christ, and the head of every woman 
              is man, and the head of Christ is God.”

         ➔   Ephesians 5:23 – “...the husband is head of 
              the wife, as Christ is head of the church....So as not to ruffle too many feathers, I point to 
         Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as 
         Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.” 

         ➔   How did Christ give Himself for the church? 
              He died for the church, to bring it into 
              existence, and to bring it eventually to 
              perfection!The head of the woman is the man But he is 
              to be the man who is willing to lay down his 
              life for his wife!
  • Genesis 3:17 through 19 – God told Adam:
Cursed is the ground for your sake, in toil you shall eat 
        of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles 
        it shall bring forth for you...in the sweat of your face 
        you shall eat bread till you return to the ground....”

     ✡   And ever since the whole of creation has been under 
          the curse of God!

But there is hope!

        One day all creation will be once again returned to 
         its Edenic perfection! (See Isaiah 11:1-16; 65:17-25). 
         For in Romans 8:19 through 21 (Good News Bible) it says:

            All of creation waits with eager longing for 
            God to reveal his children. For creation was 
            condemned to lose its purpose, not of its own 
            will, but because God willed it to be so. Yet 
            there was the hope that creation itself would 
            one day be set free from its slavery to decay 
            and would share the glorious freedom of the 
            children of God.

And Redemption will be complete!

We have only covered the first word of the second three, Redemption, Resurrection, Radiance! We will try to tackle the last two in the next Gem.

Rule, Ruin, and Redemption! Genesis 2:8, 9, 15-17; 3:15

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

It all happened in a garden! Not a single garden, mind you, but what affected the history of mankind happened in different gardens! We will start with the first garden mentioned in the Bible, the Garden of Eden! As to what happened there, I begin with five verses from Genesis chapter two, verses 8 and 9, and verses 15 through 17:

     The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He 
     put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD 
     God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good 
     for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, 
     and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil....Then the LORD 
     God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and 
     keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every 
     tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the 
     knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day 
     that you eat of it you shall surely die. 

The Garden of Edan was the perfect place that supplied abundantly all the needs of man:

  • Food – “…the LORD God made every tree grow that is…good for food.God provided a perfect vegetarian diet for our first parents! It wasn’t until after the flood of Noah’s time that the LORD added meat to the human diet (see Genesis 9:2, 3).
  • Environment
     ✡   It says of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:25, “And they were 
         both naked...and were not ashamed...,” implying that the 
         temperature was constant and comfortable. 

         ➔   This was perhaps achieved by a layer of water 
              vapor covering the earth. Genesis 1:7 tells 
              us, “Thus God made the firmament, and divided 
              the waters which were under the firmament from 
              the waters which were above the firmament.” 

         ➔   The waters which were above would have consis-
              ted of invisible water vapor such as make up 
              the visible ice crystals of clouds.

     ✡   There was no rain yet, “...but a mist went up from the 
         earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” 
         (Genesis 2:5).

     ✡   The animals of Eden were herbivores, as were Adam and 
         Eve. 

         ➔   Genesis 1:29 and 30:

                And God said, “See, I have given you every 
                herb that yields seed...and every tree whose 
                fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for 
                food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to 
                every bird of the air, and to everything 
                that creeps on the earth, in which there is 
                life, I have given every green herb for 
                food”....

         ➔   It was when sin entered the world that carnivor-
              ous activity was introduced into the animal king-
              dom. Meat-eating meant the killing of animals!

         ➔   Isaiah 11:7 says that in the coming Kingdom where 
              Edenic conditions once more reign, “The cow and 
              the bear shall graze...the lion shall eat straw 
              like the ox...,a return to herbivorous living!

         ➔   But human consumption of meat didn’t happen until 
              after the flood. In Genesis 9:3 and 4, God said 
              to Noah, “Every moving thing that lives shall be 
              food for you. I have given all things, even as the 
              green herb. But you shall not eat the flesh with 
              its...blood.”

     ✡   All creation lived in perfect and peaceful harmony in Eden. 
         Isaiah 11:6 through 9 describes some creature characteristics 
         of the coming Messianic Kingdom, a return to the original 
         conditions:

            The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leop-
            ard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf 
            and the young lion and the fatling together; and a 
            little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear 
            shall graze; their young ones shall lie down to-
            gether; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 
            The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, 
            and the weaned child shall put his hand in the vi-
            per’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all 
            My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of 
            the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the 
            sea.
  • Manual labor
     ✡   Genesis 2:15 – “Then the LORD God took the man and put 
         him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” This 
         implies meaningful and enjoyable labor! It was after their fall into sin that hard labor began! 
         God told Adam in Genesis 3:17 through 19: 

            Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you 
            shall eat of it all the das of your life. Both 
            thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you, 
            and you shall eat the herb of the field, in the 
            sweat of your face you shall eat bread....
  • Fellowship
     ✡   ...with another human being: 

         ➔   Genesis 2:18 – “...the LORD God said, ‘It is not 
              good that the man should be alone; I will make him 
              a helper comparable to him.’” 

         ➔   Genesis 2:22 – “Then...the LORD God...made...a 
              woman, and He brought her to the man.”

         ➔   Genesis 2:23 – “And Adam said, ‘ This is now bone 
              of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be 
              called Woman, because she was taken out of man.”

     ✡   ...with God: We are told in Genesis 3:8, Adam and Eve ...
         heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the 
         cool of the day....”

         ➔   Many commentators with whom I checked suggest that 
              this coming of the LORD God walking in the garden 
              in the cool of the day was a common occurrence, 
              even every evening!Our first parents had regular fellowship with their 
              Creator!

All this, and so much more…

  • …was lost through sin! Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:23, 24) and lost all the Edenic good God had provided for them!
  • …has been lost to all mankind because of the universal infection of sin! (see Romans 5:12).
  • …is now REDEEMED (and will be fully restored) through the obedience of the second Adam, Jesus Christ! (see I Corinthians 15:45-49).
The first promise of redemption was given in the Garden 
         of Eden in Genesis chapter three, verse 15: To the ser-
         pent God said,...I will put enmity between you and 
         the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall 
         bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.	 Redemption is described more fully in Revelation 21:3, 
         4, and 5:
             And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 
             “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, 
             and He will dwell with them, and they shall 
             be His people. God Himself will be with them 
             and be their God. And God will wipe away ev-
             ery tear from their eyes; there shall be no 
             more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There 
             shall be no more pain, for the former things 
             have passed away.” Then He who sat on the 
             throne said, “Behold, I make all things new." 
             And He said to me, "Write, for these words 
             are true and faithful.”

Notice that the title of this Gem is Rule, Ruin, and Redemption! Obviously, all three words start with the letter R.

  • And the first word is RUIN! Considering that which has been discussed above – what has it got to do with RULE? In Genesis 1:26 (1898 Young’s Literal Translation) we read:
       And God saith, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to 
       Our likeness, and let them rule over fish of the sea, and 
       over fowl of the heavens, and over cattle, and over all the 
       earth, and over every creeping thing that is creeping on the 
       earth.” 
  • Man was to RULE over the earth as an ‘under-regent’ to the LORD God! But RUIN came when Adam lost that position by obeying Satan rather than God (see Genesis 2:16, 17; 3:6).
     ✞	 In that one sinful decision, the RULE was transferred 
         to Satan! That’s why the devil is called in II Corin-
         thians 4:4, “...the god of this world...(see also 
         Luke 4:5-7; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).

      Since, in John 8:44 and 10:10, we learn that the devil 
         is a murderer from the beginning, as well as a liar, 
         and he only comes to steal, kill, and destroy – Satan’s 
         RULE results in the RUIN of all the good things the LORD 
         originally gave to man!
However, in Revelation 20:6 (International Standard Version), we have this promise: “How blessed and holy are those who participate in the first resurrection! The second death has no power over them. They will be priests of God and the Messiah, and will rule with him for a thousand years.” (see also Revelation 2:26, 27; 22:5).” 
              
     ✞	 This is the result of REDEMPTION!

      This is the work of Jesus! So...

Now…Let God RULE in your heart!
He will overcome the RUIN caused by Satan!

Then…You shall RULE and reign with Him!
For God has purchased REDEMTION through Jesus Christ!

We will delve more deeply into REDEMPTION in the next Gem called Redemption, Resurrection, and Radiance!

Prepare To Meet Your God!

Amos 4:2, 12, 13

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

I once delivered a funeral message with the same title as this Gem. The man who had passed was a church member, but he was not active, and his reputation was not the best. I thought and prayed concerning what I would say to the grieving family and friends gathered for the funeral. I wanted to leave them with something appropriate for the occasion, yet challenging to their spiritual condition, for I knew that many of those listening had never accepted Jesus as Savior. As I prayed, the Lord gave me this idea and title for an appropriate message: Prepare To Meet Your God! At first I thought it was not applicable for a funeral, for this passage from Amos chapter 4 concerns God’s judgment on Israel because of unbelief! But as I thought and prayed about it, I came to the conclusion that these three verses, 2, 12 and 13 from Amos chapter 4, were exactly what needed to be said, but with a positive emphasis!

     The LORD God has sworn by His holiness:...“Therefore thus 
     will I do to you, O Israel; and because I will do this to 
     you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” For behold, He 
     who forms mountains, and creates the wind, who declares to 
     man what his thought is, and makes the morning darkness, 
     who treads upon the high places of the earth — the LORD 
     God of hosts is His name. 

Amos was not your typical prophet in ancient Israel. He was from the southern kingdom of Judah, but was sent to the northern kingdom of Israel with a message of either repentance or doom! The northern kingdom and the southern kingdom had split in 930 BC, and the northern kingdom (Israel) followed a path of idolatry and rebellion against God for the next two plus centuries! In 722 BC, Assyria conquered Israel, and deported the Jews to other lands within the Assyrian empire! Amos prophesied in the city of Bethel around 755 BC, 33 years before the Assyrian invasion. Jeroboam II was then king of Israel. This is how II Kings 14:23 and 24 summarizes his reign:

     In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of 
     Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, became 
     king in Samaria, and reigned forty-one years. And he did 
     evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not depart from all 
     the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat [the first king of 
     the northern kingdom], who had made Israel to sin.

Bethel, where Amos was sent to prophesy, was one of the centers of idolatrous worship of a golden calf made by Jeroboam I about two hundred years before. The city was located about ten miles north of Jerusalem. The other center of golden calf idolatry was the town of Dan, twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee.

How else was Amos untypical as a prophet?

  • He was not trained in a school for prophets.
  • He was a farmer, herding sheep or goats.
  • He tended sycamore fig trees.
     ✡   These were not the figs so many people enjoy today. 
         It was probably the Egyptian fig, the tree that can 
         produce up to seven crops per year. The round fruit, 
         when ripe, is sweet and seedless, but small (perhaps 
         an inch in diameter). But the figs will not ripen 
         unless an incision is made by an iron hook. Once in-
         cised, ripeness occurs within three days.

     ✡   Amos was a fig slicer! It was a lowly class of 
         laborer, and always needed!

But God called Amos to preach to the northern tribes of the kingdom of Israel. And he obeyed!

  • Amaziah the priest of Bethel became incensed at Amos’ prophetic proclamations of judgment.
     ✡   He told King Jeroboam II, “For thus Amos has said: 
         ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall 
         surely be led away captive from their own land.” 
         (Amos 7:11).

     ✡   Then, most likely with the king’s blessing, Amaziah 
         came back and told Amos: “Go, you seer! Flee to the 
         land of Judah. There eat bread, and there prophesy. 
         But never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the 
         king’s sanctuary, and it is the royal residence.” 
         (Amos 7:12 and 13).
  • Amos’ answer? – Amos 7:14 through 17:
     I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I 
     was a herdsman and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the 
     LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said 
     to me, “Go, prophesy to My people Israel.” Now therefore, 
     hear the word of the LORD: You say, “Do not prophesy 
     against Israel, and do not spout against the house of 
     Isaac.” Therefore thus says the LORD: “Your wife shall 
     be a harlot in the city; your sons and daughters shall 
     fall by the sword; your land shall be divided by survey 
     line; you shall die in a defiled land; and Israel shall 
     surely be led away captive from his own land.”

But let’s get back to our featured Scripture from Amos 4:12 (the second half of the verse): “…because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God.” In its context, this is a negative announcement, because we are naturally all sinners! And we don’t have to do anything to receive a negative reception when we meet our God! We have broken God’s commands one way or another. So all sinners are under His condemnation! Here are some Scriptures that speak of this natural sinful condition before the Lord:

  • We are all counted as sinners before God:
     ✡   Psalm 51:5 (Good News Bible) – “I have been evil 
         from the day I was born; from the time I was con-
         ceived, I have been sinful.”

     ✡   Isaiah 53:6 – “All we like sheep have gone astray; 
         we have turned, every one to his own way....”

     ✡   Proverbs 14:12 (Bible in Basic English) – “There 
         is a way which seems straight before a man, but 
         its end is the ways of death.”

     ✡   Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all 
         things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?Romans 3:10 and 23 – “There is none righteous, no 
         not one....for all have sinned and fall short of 
         the glory of God.Romans 8:7 and 8 (Good News Bible) – “...people 
         become enemies of God when they are controlled 
         by their human nature; for they do not obey God's 
         law, and in fact they cannot obey it.  Those who 
         obey their human nature cannot please God.
  • What is the result of a negative reception before God?
     ✡   Isaiah 13:11 – “I will punish the world for its 
         evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will 
         halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay 
         low the haughtiness of the terrible.”

     ✡   Isaiah 57:20 and 21 –“But the wicked are like the 
         troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast 
         up mire and dirt. ‘There is no peace’ says my God, 
         ‘for the wicked.’

     ✡   Isaiah 64:6 – “But we are all like an unclean thing, 
         and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; 
         we all fade as a leaf, and out iniquities, like the 
         wind, have taken us away.   Matthew 25:41 – “Depart from Me, you cursed, into 
         the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his 
         angels....Revelation 21:8 – “But the cowardly, unbelieving, 
         abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, 
         idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in 
         the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which 
         is the second death.

Now let’s look at Amos 4:12 as a positive announcement! I have made it a positive announcement by changing one word, ‘by’ to ‘for’: “…because I will do this…[FOR] you, prepare to meet your God.What has the LORD done FOR us so we can prepare to meet…our God? Everything that was needed!

  • If you want a positive reception when you meet your God, then prepare! Meet and receive the Son of God now!
        John 5:24 (Contemporary English Version) – Jesus 
         said, “I tell you for certain that everyone who 
         hears My message and has faith in the One who sent 
         Me has eternal life and will never be condemned. 
         They have already gone from death to life.Ephesians 1:6 and 7 – “...He [the Father] has made 
         us accepted in the Beloved [His Son Jesus]. In Him 
         we have redemption through His blood, the forgive-
         ness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
         ....I John 5:11 and 12 – 

              ...God has given us eternal life, and this 
              life is in His Son [Jesus]. He who has the 
              Son has life; he who does not have the Son 
              of God does not have life. These things I 
              have written to you who believe in the name 
              of the Son of God, that you may know that 
              you have eternal life. 
  • I think that the one best descriptive verse of what the Lord has done for us is II Corinthians 5:21: “For He [the Father] has made Him [Jesus, the Son] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
     He took our sins upon Himself, paying for them com-
         pletely before God (see I Peter 2:24; I John 2:2). 
     He offers us His own perfect righteousness to wear 
         as a robe forever before the Father (see Isaiah 
         61:10; Zechariah 3:1-5).
  • We, before God, are forever…accepted in the Beloved [Son Jesus]” (Ephesians 1:6) as much as He is accepted by the Father!

So the good news is: We indeed can…

Prepare to meet our God!
And be welcomed into His eternal presence!

Who Can Forgive Our Sins? – II Mark 2:5-11

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Here is a slightly shortened Scripture for this GemMark 2:5 through 11:

     When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, 
     “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” And some of the 
     scribes were...reasoning in their hearts, “Why does 
     this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive 
     sins but God alone?” But immediately...Jesus perceived
     ...that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said 
     to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your 
     hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your 
     sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your 
     bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of 
     Man has power on earth to forgive sins” – He said to 
     the paralytic...arise, take up your bed, and go to your 
     house.”

Yes, God still heals! But no healing is complete without the forgiveness of sins!

  • Unforgiven sins will take us to an eternal hell! Even if one is endowed with perfect health, but does not repent of their sins and turn in faith to Jesus Christ, that one will be judged as a sinner and condemned to hell! As it is written in John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
  • To die as an unforgiven person, is to experience what the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 10:31: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Human beings are designed to be in contstant union and fellowship with their Creator!But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2).

  • Paul, in writing to the church in Ephesus, reminded the Gentile believers that before they became Christians, …you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)
  • Peter echos the same thing when he quotes Psalm 34:15 in I Peter 3:12: “For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.

Jesus, in Mark 8:34 through 38, challenged those who crowded around, to follow Him at all costs, even to putting to death their own will and way in exchange for His! And in verses 36 and 37, He tells them, “For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” What will it profit a man if he gains perfect health, and loses his own soul?

So Jesus first addressed the issue of the man’s sin! I suppose I John 1:9 would normally come into play: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But what if the man could not confess his sins? What if his paralysis had taken away his ability to speak? That’s what happened to Ezekiel. God told him in Ezekiel 3:25 and 26 that he was soon going to experience such a condition.

  • John 2:24 and 25 reveals, “…Jesus…knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” (see also Hebrews 4:13)
  • Even if the paralytic man could not speak, the Lord knew what was in his heart!
  • It is not so much the words we speak (yes, they are important according to Matthew 12:34 through 37), it is the heart, the attitude, behind the words that move the Lord! (see Romans 8:26, 27).

It is true that when this incident in Capernaum took place, the full payment for sins had not yet been completed.

  • Jesus had not yet been crucified!
  • He had not yet been made…the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2 – English Standard Version).

Yet in in Revelation 13:8 Jesus is called,…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” From God’s point of view, the suffering and death of Jesus was so certain, it was as if it had already happened, “…from the foundation of the world…!

  • For when He died He bore “…our sins…but also…the sins of the whole world…! All the sins of humanity were paid for – past, present, and future!
  • By the way, this is what makes it such a terrible tragedy when someone rejects Christ and dies in his or her sins. The debt for their sins has been completely paid! And yet that one must pay it again – eternally, because they refused to accept Christ’s full satisfaction of their debt!

Who can forgive sins? Who can forgive our sins? Who can forgive MY sins! Jesus can! He has already paid the price! And He gladly will forgive us…..if only we come to Him in faith!

The Lord proved this point by the paralytic’s dramatic healing! ‘…that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’ – He said to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you…arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’ ” (Mark 2:10 and 11).

You may be in the finest health now! You may have many friends! But…

If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior…
You have nothing!

Come to Him now!

Who Can Forgive Our Sins? – I Mark 2:5-11

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

In the last Gem we were introduced to The Man Who Used Eight Legs! But at the end of the Gem I confessed, “I left out a very important part of the account of this healing of the paralytic man.That partis highlighted in Mark 2:5 through 11 (shortened a bit to save space):

     When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, 
     your sins are forgiven you.” And some of the scribes were...
     reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blas-
     phemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 
     But immediately...Jesus perceived...that they reasoned thus 
     within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about 
     these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the 
     paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, 
     take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the 
     Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” – He said to 
     the paralytic...arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

Let’s study this Scripture phrase by phrase, to get a better idea of Who Can Forgive Our Sins?

Verse 5 – “When Jesus saw their faith….” Whose faith did Jesus see? As I said in the last Gem, it was the faith of five people!

  • Four friends of the paralytic had faith and determination to bring their bedfast friend to Jesus to be healed! Apparently they had heard of the Lord’s miraculous ministry (highlighted in Mark chapter 1):
     Mark 1:21 through 28 – In the Capernaum synagogue, 
         He cast out from a man, what could be interpreted 
         as, a multitude of unclean spirits! Three times in 
         Mark 1:24, the unclean spirit spoke of the man’s 
         demon possession in the plural:

         ➔    “Let us alone!”

         ➔   “What have we to do with You?”

         ➔   “Did You come to destroy us?Mark 1:29 through 31 – Jesus healed Peter’s mother-
         in-law of a debilitating fever!

     Mark 1:32 through 39 – He preached, healed, and cast 
         out demonsthroughout all Galilee....” (Verse 39).

     Mark 1:40 through 45 – Lepers were untouchable! Yet 
         Jesus touched and healed this stricken man!
  • Assuming the paralytic was conscious and could communicate to some extent, he also had faith! For he agreed to be transported to Jesus, the Healer! So he is the fifth person of faith!

Verse 5 – “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.

  • Does sin always produce illness? Consider the following:
There was no disease, sickness, pain, or death be-
         fore Adam sinned! God completed creation, and in 
         Genesis 1:31 it says, “Then God saw everything that 
         He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

     ✡   In Romans 5:12 we are told, “...through one man 
         [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through 
         sin, and thus death spread to all men, because 
         all sinned....”

     ✡   James 1:14 and 15 tells us, “...each one is tempted 
         when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 
         Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to 
         sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth 
         death.”

     ✡   When God restores perfection throughout creation, we 
         are told in Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away 
         every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more 
         death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no 
         more pain, for the former things are passed away.
  • Did the man’s paralysis come about because he had sinned? His individual sins are not listed. But…
     ...it is written in Romans 3:10 and 23, “There is 
         none righteous, no not one....for all have sinned 
         and fall short of the glory of God.” 

     ✡   ...consider what David wrote in Psalm 32:3 and 4: 
         “When I kept silent [not confessing his sins to God] 
         my bones grew old through my groaning all the day 
         long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; 
         my vitality was turned into the drought of summer....Jesus said in John 8:34 and 36, “...whoever commits 
         sin is a slave of sin.... Therefore if the Son makes you 
         free, you shall be free indeed.” 

         ➔   Slavery does not lend itself to bodily health! 
              It wears a person down instead!

         ➔   But Jesus, when a person approaches Him with 
              faith, frees that one from sin!
  • The Savior does not always take away the general or specific results of sin, but apparently He did in this man’s case, healing his paralysis!

Verses 6 and 7 – “And some of the scribes were…reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’

  • The scribes were those who carefully copied the Scriptures. But their duties went far beyond that of copying.
     ✡   They were the founders of the synagogue after the 
         destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 BC.

     ✡   Scribes (also called lawyers in the New Testament) 
         were teachers of the written law and its oral inter-
         pretations. Such interpretations became of greater 
         authority than the written law of the Scriptures! 
         (see Matthew 23:16-26). 

     ✡   In Matthew chapter 23, scribes and Pharisees were 
         roundly condemned by Jesus for their strict external 
         legalism! 
  • Their thinking concerning Jesus’ first words to the paralytic man was both right and wrong! For they “…were…reasoning in their hearts…‘Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (Mark 2:6 and 7).
     ✞   They were right! Only Jehovah God can forgive sins!For all sin is primarily against Him! It is as 
              David admitted in Psalm 51:4 after he committed 
              adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband 
              Uriah to cover his adulterous affair: “Against 
              You [God], You only, have I sinned, and done 
              this evil in Your sight.”

         ➔   Only He has made the way for sinners to be cleansed 
              and absolved of their guilt before Him! That way is 
              faith in Jesus......who lived the perfect life that God demands, 
                 but that no human could accomplish! (see Leviti-
                 cus 19:2; Matthew 5:48).

             ■   ...who laid down that perfect life as an offer-
                 ing to pay for sin – all sin, for all mankind, 
                 for all time! (see Hebrews 10:12; I Peter 2:24; 
                 I John 2:2).

             ■   ...rose from the grave, conquering death, sin, 
                 the devil, and hell! (see I Corinthians 15:57).

             ■   ...who offers to us His own perfect righteous-
                 ness in place of our sinfulness! (see II Corin-
                 thians 5:21).

             ■   ...who is alive forevermore to bestow that sal-
                 vation on everyone who comes to Him in faith 
                 believing! (see Hebrews 7:25).

     ✞   The scribes were wrong! For they did not recognize that 
         Jesus was God!

         ➔   Their first thought was, “Why does this man 
              speak blasphemies like this?”

         ➔   As the Jews later accused Jesus in John 10:33 
              when they were about to stone Him: “...we...
              stone You...for blasphemy...because You, being 
              a man, make Yourself God.

But Jesus proved to them…that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins…,by healing the paralytic man!

And we will continue this study in the next Gem!

The Man Who Used Eight Legs! Mark 2:3-5, 10-12

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

It is an amazing incident that happened early in Jesus’ ministry! Here are some highlights from Mark 2:3 through 5, and 10 through 12:

     Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried 
     by four men. And when they could not come near Him because 
     of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when 
     they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the 
     paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to 
     the paralytic,...I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and 
     go to your house.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, 
     and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were 
     amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything 
     like this!”

This man was totally paralyzed! He was bed-ridden – or should we say, “cot-ridden” or “blanket-ridden” considering the time and society in which this man existed.

  • There were no social services to help the handicapped in Jesus’ day.
  • If a common person could not earn a living by regular work, he or she would have to beg!
  • If that one had a compassionate family, he or she might have a place to dwell out of the sun, rain, heat, and cold! Otherwise, those who could not be pro-ductive in society were outcasts. Job describes such men in Job 30:2 through 7:
       Their vigor has perished. They are gaunt from want 
       and famine, fleeing late to the wilderness, desolate 
       and waste, who pluck mallow by the bushes, and broom 
       tree roots for their food. They were driven out from 
       among men, they shouted at them as at a thief. They 
       had to live in the clefts of the valleys, in caves 
       of the earth and the rocks. Among the bushes they 
       brayed, under the nettles they nestled.

But this man had something priceless going for him! He had four caring friends, who cared enough to get him to Jesus at all costs! That’s where the eight legs come in. His legs had no function! But the legs of the four friends who carried him worked just fine!

Why was he paralyzed? We don’t know. I searched the internet for ‘the causes of paralysis’ and found on one site 63 different causes of the affliction! And the author said he did not cover the subject in its entirety.

Even early in His ministry, Jesus was popular with the common folk especially! For miracles were already being manifest through Him, and His reputation was expanding rapidly!

  • In Mark 1:21 through 28, as He taught in the Capernaum synagogue, a demon possessed man confronted Him…
     Verse 24 – “...saying, ‘Let us alone! What have we 
         to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did you come to 
         destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy One of 
         God!’Verse 25 – “But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be quiet, 
         and come out of him!’Verse 26 – “And when the unclean spirit had convulsed 
         him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of 
         him.
  • In Mark 1:29 through 31, Jesus completely healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a debilitating fever. “So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.” (Mark 1:31).
  • Mark 1:32 through 34 records more miracles: “And the whole city…brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed….Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons….
  • The last six verses of Mark 1 record the healing of a leper. Jesus touched this untouchable man, and the leprosy vanished! And though the Lord had told him to tell no one, “…he went out and began…to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city…and they came to Him from every quarter.” (Mark 1:45).

It is no wonder, then, upon hearing Jesus was in Capernaum, probably staying in Peter’s in-laws’ house, that, “…many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door.” (Mark 2:2).

The four men, carrying their paralytic friend on a makeshift stretcher, or even on a blanket, could not even get through the door!

  • Many commoner’s houses were one floor with an outside stair leading up to a flat roof. In a wonderful Reader’s Digest book, Jesus and His Times, on page 93 this description of how the roof was constructed is of interest to our story:
       The roof of the house was generally flat. To make 
       it, brushwood branches were woven together and laid 
       on rafters and then covered with a thick layer of 
       clay that filled the spaces between the branches 
       and formed a smooth, hardened layer of plaster. To 
       keep the roof from washing away, the owner performed 
       a number of maintenance chores that included rolling 
       over the roof after a heavy rainstorm with a device 
       very like the modern lawn roller, applying a fresh 
       coat of clay plaster each fall before the start of 
       the rainy season, and replacing the entire roof or 
       sections of it, when needed. Fortunately, it was a 
       fairly easy chore to cut away and replace sections 
       of the roof.
  • So up the stairs the four went, carefully carrying their friend to the level rooftop. Once there, they set about …the fairly easy chore…of cutting away a section of the roof!

Jesus was teaching in the house, just below where the four were opening a large hole in the ceiling!

  • Falling debris must have attracted the attention of those inside!
  • But it wasn’t just twigs and clay plaster that was coming down. A man on some form of a stretcher was being lowered………and landed right in front of Jesus!
  • If the owner of the house was in attendance, he must have been highly irritated that some idiotswere destroying his roof!
  • But Jesus saw the faith of five men…
     ✞   ...the four who carried their friend to the Lord, 
         even daring to wreak havoc on someone else's house!

     ✞   ...the one now laying before Him, who had to have 
         agreed to this crazy mission!

Jesus healed the paralytic man!
He can do miracles
when faith is in evidence before Him!

For it says in Mark 9:23, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.

Notice I left out a very important part of the account of this healing of the paralytic man. I did not quote all of Mark 2:5 through 11, the part where Jesus, before He performed the actual healing, said to the one lying before Him, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” (Mark 2:5). That is the main subject of the next Gem!

Alliterated Promises Of God — XII His Paradise!

I Corinthians 2:9;

Revelation 21:3-5

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

I had a difficult time finding what I thought was an appropriate picture of God’s Paradise! Too many depicted some of the qualities of heaven, but certainly not all! So I settled on one that was more symbolic – a brilliant light shining above dark clouds, and the light displacing the darkness!

Heaven is beyond our understanding, because we have never experienced anything similar to what it will be like! I believe that is why Saint Paul chose to quote Isaiah 64:4 when he wrote in I Corinthians 2:9, “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.

  • For the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, concerning what is coming in the next phase of life…
     ✞   ...we have never seen anything like it!

     ✞   ...we have never heard about anything as wonderful as what 
         heaven will be!

     ✞   ...we have never even imagined anything so glorious as that 
         which Jesus has prepared for us in heaven!
  • Heaven is beyond our comprehension!
        Paul “...was caught up into Paradise...,” according to II 
         Corinthians 12:4. So amazing was the experience, he uses 
         the third person as he tries to describe it, as if it wasn’t 
         him:

            I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago — 
            whether in the body I do not know, or whether out 
            of the body I do not know, God knows — such a one 
            was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such 
            a man — whether in the body or out of the body I 
            do not know, God knows — how he was caught up into 
            Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it 
            is not lawful for a man to utter.
        

We don’t get much understandable information about Paradise from Paul, do we? It is so ‘other’ that he can’t even find words to describe it!

  • This makes me think of the apostle’s attempt in Ephesians 3:17 through 19 to describe the love of Christ:
         ...that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be 
         able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width 
         and length and depth and height – to know the love of 
         Christ which passes knowledge....

It reminds me of when years ago my three-year-old daughter tried to describe a commercial passenger jet she saw for the first time at the airport: “It’s big! It’s long! It’s wide! It’s high! It’s…it’s…it’s…! There was nothing in her limited vocabulary to adequately describe such a huge object! And there is nothing in ours that can adequately describe heaven!

Paradise passes human knowledge and understanding! Why is that? In I Timothy 6:15 and 16, Paul gives us a hint: “…He…is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see….

  • In Exodus 33, after the idolatrous golden calf incident; and after Moses interceded before God that the children of Israel should not be destroyed, Moses needed to be strengthened by the LORD!
     ✡   “And he said, ‘Please, show me Your glory.” (Exodus 33:18). 

     ✡   But God said:

             “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and 
             I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. 
             I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and 
             I will have compassion on whom I will have compas-
             sion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no 
             man shall see Me and live.” (Exodus 33:19 and 20).
  • We, who as mortals are enwrapped in sinful human flesh, cannot look upon the glory of God! So mighty, so intense is that glory, it would immediately consume our mortal being!
  • But someday, we will see Jesus in all His glory! And, as it says in I John 3:2, “…when He is revealed [at His return], we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
     Philippians 3:20 and 21 – “...the Lord Jesus Christ...
         will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed 
         to His glorious body, according to the working by which 
         He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.✞   This will be the culmination of the Father’s plan for 
         us:For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be 
         conformed the image of His Son....” (Romans 8:29).

         ➔   It is an ongoing process now! (see II Corin-
              thians 3:18).

         ➔   It will be completed then, when we see Him as 
              He is!

When Paul was caught up into Paradise…

  • …he was given a special glimpse of heaven – an unspeakable glimpse!
  • …he was, it seems, also given a special dispensation because he was not destroyed by this heavenly glimpse!

John the apostle was also given a glimpse of heaven, recorded in the book of Revelation! And while there is some description about heaven in Revelation (most of the book deals with God’s judgments on sinful mankind upon the earth), there is, in chapters 21 and 22 some tantalizing bits of information about Paradise! One of the ‘bits’ that encourages me the most is Revelation 21:3, 4 and 5:

     And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the 
     tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, 
     and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be their 
     God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there 
     shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there 
     shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed 
     away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make 
     all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words 
     are true and faithful.”

In this world of what seems like ‘increasing woe’…

  • …national and international: pandemics, war, famine, terrorism, corruption.
  • …personal challenges of life:
     ➔   aches and pains of aging. 

     ➔   trying to balance fixed income with inflation. 

     ➔   struggles of relationships within the families of 
          those dear to us.

     ➔   the toll of sickness and disease on self or loved 
          ones.

…verse four of Revelation 21 sounds very inviting:…there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain….

It puts me in a conundrum:

I can’t wait to get there!
I am not in a hurry to go there!

But because of what is planned for us as followers of Jesus Christ…

We will fully enjoy our eternal stay in God’s Paradise!

Alliterated Promises Of God — XI “All things are possible!”

Ezekiel 37:1-10; Mark 10:27

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

One of the most incredible visions in the Old Testament is recorded in Ezekiel 37:1 through 10 (I shortened this passage to save space without losing its meaning):

     The hand of the Lord...brought me out in the Spirit of the 
     Lord, and set me down in...the valley; and it was full of
     ...very dry...bones. And He said to me, “Son of man, can 
     these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” 
     Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones...‘O dry 
     bones, hear the word of the Lord!...Surely I will cause 
     breath to enter into you, and you shall live....Then you 
     shall know that I am the Lord.’” So...as I prophesied...
     the bones came together, bone to bone....sinews and the 
     flesh came upon them...skin covered them...but there was 
     no breath in them....He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath
     ...and say...‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come...O breath, and 
     breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’” So I prophe-
     sied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and 
     they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great 
     army.

The valley full of dry bones and their resurrection did not happen as an actual event. It was a vision. But the vision put forth a great lesson that the people of Israel needed to learn!

  • By this time, the Israelites had been carried away in three deportations to Babylon.
     ✡   God had warned them many times to turn from their 
         sins or He would punish them by reducing their na-
         tion of Israel to nothing! (see Leviticus 26:14-39).

     ✡   Many Jews had been killed and many had been taken 
         prisoner by the Babylonian king Nebachudnezzar.
  • Many of the cities and towns of Israel and Judah had been destroyed, including their capital city of Jerusalem!
  • The temple, where God was worshiped, was burned and torn down!

The LORD told Ezekiel, “…these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off.” (Ezekiel 37:11). They had no hope of God’s blessing, of being a nation again! But God had other plans!

  • As the dry bones were impossibly renewed and revived, so the Israelites would again be the LORD’s people in their own land! After seventy years God ended the Babylonian captivity, and the many of the Jews returned to their homeland! But this was just a preview…!
  • We might call it ‘the main event’ for about six hundred years after they returned from Babylon, …Israel was devastated by the Romans in 70 AD, and the Jews were dispersed world-wide!
     ✡   For almost nineteen centuries, many experienced a 
         precarious existence, suffering persecution, includ-
         ing six million Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust!

     ✡   But on May 14th, 1948, Israel once more became a 
         nation! So impossible was this event, that only God 
         could do it! Isaiah 66:8 and 9 records the prophesy:

            Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such 
            things? Shall the earth be made to give birth 
            in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? 
            For as soon as Zion was in labor,   She gave 
            birth to her children. Shall I bring to the time 
            of birth, and not cause delivery?" says the Lord. 
            "Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?" 
            says your God.
  • Actually, ‘the main eventis yet to come!
     ✡   Zechariah 14:2 and 3 gives a brief description of this 
         final (yet future) devastation of Israel: 

            For I will gather all the nations to battle 
            against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, 
            The houses rifled, And the women ravished. 
            Half of the city shall go into captivity, But 
            the remnant of the people shall not be cut 
            off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth 
            And fight against those nations, As He fights 
            in the day of battle.

     ✡   Many pre-millennialists (those who believe Jesus re-
         turns to initiate the Millennial Kingdom) hold that 
         this main event will take place in the Tribulation 
         (the last seven years before Christ returns).

What has all this to do with our second featured Scripture, Mark 10:27?…with God all things are possible….Only God can do the impossible…

  • …of making a nation out of one century-old man, Abraham; and his ninety-year-old wife, Sarah! But they are the progenitors of Israel.
  • …of flourishing a Bedouin family into a multi-million number of people!
  • …of rescuing an enslaved multitude from the most powerful nation at that time in the earth!
  • …of providing for two to three million people in the desert for forty years!
  • …of bringing them into the Promised Land already occupied by powerful kingdoms!
  • …of preserving that people through more than 3,000 years of challenges that would have wiped out forever other nations, kingdoms, and empires!
  • …of making Israel (and Jerusalem) the center of His eternal kingdom!

God is the LORD of the Possible!

But let’s look further at Mark 10:27: “Jesus said, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.

  • The context starts in Mark 10:17 when the rich young ruler (rich see Mark 10:22; young see Matthew 19:20; ruler see Luke 18:18) who sincerely asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
     Because this young man was already outwardly ob-
         servant of the Jewish rabbinical law, it seems he 
         was looking for the Good Teacher’s confirmation 
         and blessing that he was on the right path!

     But Jesus began to answer him by a question and a 
         statement:

         ➔   Mark 10:18 – “Why do you call Me good? 
              No one is good but One, that is, God.” 
              He was saying, “If you call Me good, 
              acknowledge that I am God!”

         ➔   Mark 10:19 – “You know the commandments: 
              ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ 
              Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not de-
              fraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” 

         ➔   Notice: The Lord left out some very impor-
              tant commandments – exactly half of the 
              Ten Commandments: 

             ❏   Exodus 20:3 – “You shall have no 
                  other gods before Me.” 

             ❏   Exodus 20:4 – “You shall not make 
                  for yourself any carved image....”

             ❏   Exodus 20:7 – “You shall not take 
                  the name of the LORD your God in 
                  vain....”

             ❏   Exodus 20:8 – “Remember the Sabbath 
                  day, to keep it holy.”

             ❏   Exodus 20:17 – “You shall not covet....The young man answered, “Teacher, all these things 
         I have observed from my youth.” (Mark 10:20).

         ➔   He had kept the commandments that Jesus 
              mentioned – at least outwardly!But the first and the last of the Ten 
              Commandments (in those listed that Jesus 
              left out), have to do with idolatry and 
              covetousness...

             ❏   ...Paul says in Colossians 3:5, 
                  “...covetousness...is idolatry
                  ...!

             ❏   Apparently, the young man was 
                  covetous because he was very 
                  wrapped up in his wealth, put-
                  ting material riches ahead of 
                  God! How do we know?...

        Jesus told him in Mark 10:21, “One thing you lack: 
         Go...sell whatever you have and give to the poor, 
         and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, 
         take up your cross, and follow Me.”

     ✞   And the rich young ruler couldn’t do it! It says in 
         Mark 10:22, ...he was sad at this word, and went 
         away grieved, for he had great possessions.
  • Jesus then turned to His disciples:
      ...how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter 
      the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through 
      the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the king-
      dom of God. (Mark 10:24 and 25).

     In Mark 10:26 it says, “...they were astonished 
         beyond measure, saying..., “Who then can be saved?” 
         The general teaching among the Jews was that if a 
         person was prosperous and rich, it meant he had God’s 
         blessing! (see for instance Psalm 112:1-3; Proverbs 
         13:21; 24:4).

     And this is when “...Jesus said, ‘With men it is im-
         possible, but not with God; for with God all things 
         are possible.’

Now, what are the impossibilities and possibilities in your life?

If you are in His Word…
If you are seeking His will…
If you are obeying His leading…
If you are waiting on Him in prayer…

Then…

…with God all things are possible…!

Alliterated Promises Of God — X He Hears Our Prayers!

Jeremiah 33:3; I Peter 3:12

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

I did an internet search on “How many Scripture verses in the Bible are about prayer?

  • One site reported there are 367 verses about prayer in the Bible!
  • Another site claimed 508 verses!
  • A third site gave the answer at 650 verses!

One thing is sure: There are a lot of Scriptures concerning prayer in the Bible!

So it was not an easy task to pick out two featured Scriptures concerning prayer for this Gem! But here they are. The first is Jeremiah 33:3. If you remember telephone numbers before the advent of area codes and the standardization of the number of digits, then you are as ancient as I am!

  • The first telephone number I remember was when I was growing up on a Connecticut dairy farm in the Berkshire Mountains. There were no buttons to push, not even a rotary dial on the phone. And our phone number was 90J3!
  • Then came some standardization. We moved off the farm, and as a teenager I remember our first rotary dial phone, a wall model. Our number was ENdicott 4-5298 (or 364-5298).
  • Finally, when area codes began to be commonplace, our assigned Connecticut code was (203). This is still applied to southeastern Connecticut, along with 475. Covering the rest of the state, two more have been added, 860 and 959.

But back to ancient telephone numbers: JEremiah 333 (Jeremiah 33:3) could be one of them! And so it is called, God’s telephone number! For in that verse He says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

But this telephone numberis not available to just anyone! There are qualifications:

  • Consider the context ofGod’s telephone number” – From chapter 29 through chapter 33, the LORD is giving encouraging words to the Israelites who were exiled in Babylon!
     ✡   Jeremiah 29:1 through 23 describes a letter God had 
         Jeremiah write to the captive Jews.  

         ➔   They will be in Babylon 70 years (see Jeremiah 
              25:11) – the number of years that the Israelites 
              failed to let their homeland rest every seventh 
              year! (see Leviticus 25:4; II Chronicles 36:21). 
              We must be reconciled to God, follow His ways, 
              or we will find ourselves cast out from Him!God will rescue the Jews and bring them back to 
              the Promised Land! (see Jeremiah 29:10). The 
              Promised Land for us today is located in Jesus 
              Christ Himself! When we open our hearts and lives 
              to Him, “...we are in Him, and He in us....” 
              (I John 4:13). So the Jesus can say, “...you will 
              be where I am.” (John 14:3 – Good News Bible).

         ➔   In the meantime, the Jews were to “...build 
              houses...plant gardens....Take wives...beget 
              sons and daughters....And seek the peace of 
              [Babylon] ....” (Jeremiah 29:5-7). Turn to 
              Him where you find yourself right now! He 
              will receive you!

         ➔   Jeremiah 29:11 through 14 is perhaps the best 
              known Scripture in this prophetic book:

                For I know the thoughts that I think toward 
                you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and 
                not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 
                Then you will call upon Me and go and pray 
                to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will 
                seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me 
                with all your heart. I will be found by you, 
                says the Lord, and I will bring you back from 
                your captivity....God has a wonderful future for His 
                   obedient children!Call upon Him, and pray to Him, and 
                   He will listen!To find the LORD, search for Him with 
                   all your heart.If anything has you enslaved, He can 
                   free you! (see John 8:34, 36).

     ✡   In Jeremiah chapter 30 and 31, God promises to bless the 
         Jews and to return them to their homeland in Israel! (see 
         Jeremiah 30:3). In John 10:10 the Lord Jesus says this: 
         “I have come that they may have life, and that they may 
         have it more abundantly.”

         ➔   I believe life refers to the next phase of life 
              in heaven with Him! If life more abundantly re-
              fers to our future life in heaven, that would 
              be rather redundant because, of course, life 
              in heaven will be abundant! 

         ➔   I think abundant life refers to the abundance 
              that God has for us here and now. 

              ❏   He is not necessarily referring to ma-
                  terial riches, although He does promise 
                  to meet our physical and material needs 
                  (see Alliterated Promises of God – XIII; 
                  His Provision). 

              ❏   The abundance that we need in this life 
                  is the LORD Himself, and what He gives us 
                  through His Holy Spirit! The best gifts 
                  to those who are His saved children are 
                  listed in Galatians 5:22 and 23, called 
                  the fruit of the Spirit:...love, joy, 
                  peace, patience, kindness, goodness, 
                  faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” 
                  (Lexham English Bible). In any situation 
                  we encounter, possessing these spiritual 
                  qualities, what more could we want?

     ✡   Jerusalem had been demolished and burned by the Babylonian 
         army (see Jeremiah 39:8). But in chapter 32, God promised 
         to see that Jerusalem, and all of Israel, would be rebuilt! 
         (see Jeremiah 32:36-44). No matter the extent of the wreck 
         so many have made of their lives, the LORD can rebuild and 
         restore what has been broken and ruined!

     ✡   The Jews had broken God’s covenant by their many sins, es-
         pecially their blatant practice of idolatry! But in Jeremiah 
         chapter 33, He tells His people He will reconfirm His cove-
         nant with them:

              Thus says the LORD, “If My covenant is not with 
              day and night, and if I have not appointed the 
              ordinances of heaven and earth, then I will cast 
              away the descendants of Jacob and David My ser-
              vant, so that I will not take any of his descen-
              dants to be rulers over the [Israelites]....for 
              I will cause their captives [Jews in Babylon and 
              elsewhere] to return, and will have mercy upon 
              them.

         Starting at Pentecost, God, through Jesus Christ, has made 
         a new covenant with His children!I will put my laws into 
         their hearts, and in their minds will I will write them....
         Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 
         (Hebrews 10:16 and 17).

Consider again JEremiah 333 (Jeremiah 33:3) – God’s telephone number:Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” As you can see in the examples concerning the Israelites, the LORD demands certain things, certain conditions of us before He will answer our call!

  • The second featured Scripture is I Peter 3:12 (quoting Psalm 34:15, 16). It is the condensed answer to the questions concerning God responding to our prayers – “…the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.
     The righteous are those who have been made righteous by 
         Jesus, “...who knew no sin [and became] sin for us, that 
         we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” When 
         we put our trust in Him, He applies His forgiveness of 
         our sins, forgiveness that by dying on the cross He has 
         already purchased for everyone, and then He clothes us 
         with His own perfect righteousness!

     He “...is against those who do evil...” 

         ➔   “...those who are evil...”are people who have 
              rejected God’s offer of salvation – which is 
              the worst sin there is!...are also Christians who have not come under 
              the lordship of Christ, and live as if obedience 
              to God does not matter!
  • I Peter 3:7 – “…husbands, dwell with [your wives]…giving her honor…as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
Ephesians 5:25 through 29 gives more complete instructions 
         for how a married couple should treat each other.

     Extending the application of this Scripture: God answering 
         our prayers can be hindered by our treatment of one another! 
  • James 4:2 and 3 – “…you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
     ✞   Christians are told to ask! They “...ought always to pray 
         and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1). 

     ✞   And they are to keep on asking!...ask, and it will be 
         given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will 
         be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he 
         who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” 
         (Lule 11:9 and 10).

There are other specifics that the Bible mentions concerning God answering our prayers. But it comes down to this – Psalm 37:3 through 5:

     Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in [Him]...and feed on His 
     faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and he shall 
     give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, 
     trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.

Trust also in Him,
and He shall bring it to pass!