The Heavenly Places #5

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).

Why does Ephesians conclude with this description of the war between good and evil?

It is not until we come to Paul’s ministry do we learn how God will cleanse the heavenly places. Ephesians highlights our eternal destiny as members of the Church the Body of Christ. Just as Father God will use Israel to accomplish His will in the Earth, so He will use us to achieve His will in the Heavens. He will exalt His Son, Jesus Christ, in both realms. Ephesians chapter 1: “[9] [Father God] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: [10] That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: [11] In whom also we have obtained an inheritance….”

One day, brethren, we will be displayed for all of the universe to see. All creatures will witness God’s wisdom fully manifested in outer space. We will participate in Jesus Christ’s exaltation in the heavenly places throughout eternity future. Ephesians chapter 2 declares: “[6] And [God] hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: [7] That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”

As good as this all is, however, we are not there yet. The heavenly places are still so far away! Howbeit, one day, Jesus Christ will return to Earth—at the Rapture—to take His Body (us) beyond the sky. Until we get there, though, we are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. Knowing full well that we will replace him and his minions in the heavenly places, he fights us every chance he gets. We had better don all the armor of God, beloved, that “we stand against the wiles [schemes] of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-20)! 🙂

 

The Comforter and Teacher

Sunday, May 28, 2017

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26 KJV).

The Holy Bible is a progressive revelation: God gradually made known His Word to mankind throughout history. He knew the end from the beginning, but He chose not to tell the end at the beginning. As the end came closer, it became clearer. Here, we see the “New Testament” Scriptures predicted—God the Holy Spirit’s method of comforting, coming alongside to aid and strengthen, God’s people.

When God the Father sent the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2, the Spirit caused Israel’s believing remnant—especially the 12 Apostles—to remember everything that Jesus taught them during the previous three years (His earthly ministry). See today’s Scripture. They did not have to rely on fallible human memory; they had the omniscient, omnipotent Holy Ghost guiding their minds and hearts, giving them the final pieces of information needed to understand their prophetic program.

The early Acts period (chapters 1-7) and the Bible Books of Hebrews through Revelation provide details not found in Genesis through Malachi and Matthew through John. The Lord Jesus predicted in today’s Scripture that Israel’s Little Flock would receive the capstone of knowledge as touching the prophetic program. They would see how everything fit together so beautifully, and they would be able to appreciate what God had planned in eternity past. Despite everything that Satan and evil men would do to sabotage God’s plan for the Earth, they would be unable to overcome Him.

Compare today’s Scripture to what Jesus spoke later, John 16:12-14: “[12] I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. [13] Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. [14] He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” In our Bible, inspired and preserved by the Holy Spirit, we see the result of the prophetic program too!

Two Sons and Two Fathers

Thursday, April 20, 2017

“And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:” (Luke 23:18 KJV).

One son will be liberated to live, and the other Son will be sentenced to die!

At the time of Christ’s trial, Barabbas is a prisoner (Matthew 27:16). Barabbas is a murderer, a robber, and guilty of “insurrection,” or rebelling against the government (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:18,19; John 18:40).

It is Passover. Roman governor Pontius Pilate has a custom that, at the feast, he releases a prisoner, whomever the people desire (Matthew 27:15; Mark 15:6). “But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified” (Matthew 27:20-22).

Israel’s chief priests, rulers, and common people all demand Christ’s crucifixion and Barabbas’ release, so Pilate gives the sentence (Luke 23:23-25). Guilty Barabbas is set free to live, and innocent Jesus Christ is condemned to be crucified. While Barabbas’ involvement in the matter seems insignificant upon first glance, God included it in His written Word because to provide us with an amazing illustration!

“Barabbas” means “son of the father.” Barabbas is a criminal, and he represents sinful, rebellious mankind who is worthy of death. He is bound by sin, and faces eternal death. Spiritually, sinful mankind is the son of Satan—man is of his father the devil (John 8:44). Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, God, “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21), but took upon Himself our sins and was punished in our place.

Innocent Jesus Christ took the place of guilty Barabbas, which actually represented Christ taking the place of the whole world, suffering God’s wrath on our behalf! “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust…” (1 Peter 3:18). Thus, through Christ’s finished crosswork, we sinful sons of Adam (and Satan) can be freed from sin, and we can become the righteous sons of God.

The Bible’s Season of New Life

Monday, April 17, 2017

“God that made the world and all things therein… he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;” (Acts 17:24,25 KJV).

May we never forget the true meaning of Eastertime!

Satan is the master counterfeiter: from Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures reveal how the devil schemes to “be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14). Whatever God does, Satan defiles that work by introducing false doctrine, distracts mankind from God’s truth by mimicking His actions, discourages God’s people from His ministry by using incorrect thinking patterns, and so on. Why? Satan wants the worship that God alone deserves (Matthew 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-8).

Consider Christmastime. Centuries before Christ, Satan had pagans worshipping the birth of the sun god in early winter—near the date that Jesus Christ (God the Son) took upon human flesh in the virgin Mary’s womb! Now, consider Eastertime. Centuries before Christ, Satan had pagans worshipping fertility deities and new life in early spring, near the date that Jesus Christ (God the Son) died for our sins and resurrected victoriously over sin, death, hell, and Satan to give us new life! (To Satan’s delight, today’s average church member is not mindful of relevant sound Bible doctrine during Christmastime and Eastertime—the devil’s distractions have never lost their efficacy!)

The God of the Bible instituted in Israel a festival, Passover (the killing of a spotless lamb and its bloodshed in early spring), while they were still in Egypt (Exodus chapter 12)—Passover’s annual observance reminded them of JEHOVAH delivering them from Egyptian slavery unto new life. Israel did not understand its meaning until 1,500 years later. The true Passover lamb, Jesus Christ, died and shed His sinless blood during that annual Passover feast (early spring), and He resurrected in new life to give them spiritual life and liberty.

Yes, the pagans may have “hijacked” this time of year for the devil’s glory, but we can disregard their ignorance: spring is God’s season for new life. We can still use this season to bring the God of the Bible glory by remembering that He has given us physical life (today’s Scripture), and He offers us new life (that is, spiritual life) through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection! 🙂

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Why was Paul eager to preach the Gospel to the Christians at Rome?

Christ Liveth in Me

Sunday, April 16, 2017

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 KJV).

“He is risen” is not a simple blasé cliché!

When Jesus’ disciples came to His tomb on that glorious Sunday morning nearly 2,000 years ago, they were startled to find it empty! Angels inform them that He has resurrected, but they are still in shock (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-8). Jesus Christ Himself must later explain the Scriptures to them regarding what happened those last few days (Luke 24:44-46).

However, until Paul’s ministry, Christ’s finished crosswork is not preached as good news for salvation. Peter and Israel’s other apostles simply preach that Jesus Christ is now resurrected to “sit on [David’s] throne” (Acts 2:30)—that is bad news for much of Israel, for they still reject Him, weeks and months after His resurrection and ascension. Throughout early Acts, Israel’s apostles warn her that Jesus Christ is coming back to judge them.

When we come to the Apostle Paul’s ministry, we learn that we Gentiles can benefit from Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork. Israel’s rejected Messiah is now our way to heaven! Yes, Israel hated Him, and demanded that He experience the most awful method of execution devised, but God allowed it in order to accomplish His will. Satan attempted to hinder God’s will by having Christ killed, but all that did was provide the method whereby God could save us pagan Gentiles. Calvary’s finished crosswork frees us from Satan’s evil system and gives us a chance to be God’s people (Acts 26:17,18)!

As people who have trusted Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for our sins, that crucifixion is our death to self and sin, and that resurrection is our raising to walk in newness of life—His life (today’s Scripture; cf. Romans 6:1-11)!

Indeed, Jesus Christ is alive, and He lives in and through those who walk by faith in God’s Word to them, Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon! 🙂

HAPPY EASTER!

*Adapted from a larger Bible study by the same name. That study can be read here or watched here.

Messiah’s Joy Amidst Calvary’s Grief #2

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2 KJV).

Do you ever wonder what our Lord Jesus Christ was thinking about while He hung there on Calvary’s cross?

Jesus knew Bible prophecy had to be fulfilled: He had to suffer in accordance with the Old Testament prophets. Even when He spoke seven times from the cross, He quoted various Old Testament verses. The Old Testament prophets also gave Him comfort: for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (today’s Scripture).

For instance, He remembered that Jonah’s prophecy had to be fulfilled: “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). On the third day, He would live again, and be reunited with His heavenly Father!

He knew that His Father would resurrect Him. His spiritual torment and physical death were only temporarily, as David quoted Jesus 1000 B.C., “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10; cf. Acts 2:24-31).

Our Lord thought of reigning over that glorious kingdom that His Heavenly Father would give Him after His resurrection. As the psalmist wrote centuries before Calvary’s crosswork, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm 2:6-8). “Begotten” refers to Jesus’ resurrection, not His nativity in Bethlehem (Acts 13:33,34).

Jesus Christ, during His torturous crucifixion, thought about and rejoiced in the promises in the Scriptures that applied to Him. Likewise, we, during difficult circumstances, can remember and joy in God’s promises to us—Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon.

We too can share Messiah’s joy amidst grief! 🙂

Messiah’s Joy Amidst Calvary’s Grief #1

Friday, April 14, 2017

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2 KJV).

Do you ever wonder what our Lord Jesus Christ was thinking about while He hung there on Calvary’s cross?

Psalm 22:1-21 provides us with a glimpse of Jesus’ thoughts as He endured that awful crucifixion: He is greatly tormented physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Various verses in Psalm 69 provide additional insight, especially as death begins to close in on His soul. Written about 1000 B.C., these and other “Messianic psalms” graphically describe assorted events in our Lord’s earthly life (in this case, His crucifixion)… centuries before they occurred!

What Jesus Christ thought about while suspended on Calvary’s cross was the Holy Scriptures. He had faith in the Old Testament passages that applied to Him. No matter what happened to Him, He knew it was His Father’s will, and His Father would be glorified. As He stated earlier, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup [of Thy wrath; Revelation 14:10] from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt (Mark 14:36). “…The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him (John 8:29bc).

Do you realize what today’s Scripture is saying? Jesus Christ felt immense physiological and spiritual pain, but He thought about the overall view: for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (cf. Psalm 16:8-11). Yes, the Old Testament spoke of His suffering, and those Scriptures must be fulfilled, but it also testified of His glorious kingdom that would follow, and those Scriptures also were to be fulfilled in due time! “…The sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11). While it did not diminish the extent of His distress and suffering, Jesus Christ kept in memory the glory His Father would give Him once He had endured the crucifixion (Philippians 2:8-11). It gave Him such joy. He felt grief unspeakable, but He also had joy unfathomable!

Our archived Bible Q&A: “Where was Jesus during the three days between His death and resurrection?