Saturday, August 20, 2016

Fierce Pursuit: A Deeper Look at 1 Peter 3:8-4:19

EXPLORE IT! - 1 Peter 3:8-22

The author of 1st Peter continually speaks of having respect for everyone throughout the third chapter of his letter. He talks about slaves and masters and husbands and wives, and how to live as Christ in spite of the broken relationships and systems of out world.

He says, “Love everybody.”

He says, “Don’t get revenge.”

He says, “Repay evil with blessing.”

He then goes on to talk about suffering for doing good.

He says that only crazy people will hurt you if you do good things to them.

But even if that happens, don’t be afraid.

Honor Christ in your hearts.

And Always be prepared to give an answer to those who ask you about this hope that you have

But then he also adds that when you tell people about Jesus, do it with respect. Don’t give them a reason to hate you.

He then goes on to speak of the vindication of Christ in his suffering.

He says that Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer – he died for your sins after all!

But he was also made alive by the Spirit.

Often, 1st Peter has been described as a baptismal sermon, and indeed, the author structures his work to outline both the privileges and the dangers involved in adopting the Christian way of life – you will die in order to live.

1st Peter specifically uses the story of Noah’s Flood as a symbol of baptism, as well as lesser known Christian narratives about Christ’s descent into Hades to bring people from death to life.

He says of Jesus:

“After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

“In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.

“It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”

The writer is saying that the Noah story is connected to the Jesus story, and to our story. Just as Noah was held up in a giant coffin-shaped boat while the world around him descended into death and chaos, so too did Christ descend into the realm of death and chaos when he was crucified and buried, and so too, when we are baptized we are symbolically dying with Christ when we descend into the waters of death and chaos.

But the connection continues. Just as Noah emerged from the deathly floodwaters to a new life after God breathed His Spirit into his new creation, so too was Christ made alive by the Spirit and brought life to those long dead, and he brought us life, too, which is symbolized when we emerge from the water.

HOPE! - How do you Love God?

In Matthew’s Gospel

The Pharisees and Sadducees go back and forth to Jesus with leading questions about taxes and marriage in order to trap him in his words, but Jesus doesn’t fall for any of their traps.

Finally, the Pharisees come back with a question: Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In Mark’s Gospel

While Jesus was debating with the Sadducees a scribe was impressed and asked Jesus a question: What is the most important commandment?

Jesus recites the Shema in response, saying, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

He then adds that the second is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The scribe strongly agrees with Jesus on this, and Jesus tells him that he is not far from the Kingdom of God.

In Deuteronomy

The “Shema” contains one of the daily prayers of the Jews.

"Sh'ma Yisra'el. YHWH Eloheinu. YHWH Ehad."

“Shema” means “Hear!” or “Listen!”

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

Or “Hear, O Israel! The LORD [is] our God, the LORD alone.

Or “Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God [is] the LORD alone.”

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”

In the New Testament, Jesus said that this commandment was the greatest commandment of them all.

If you keep this one law, you are keeping all of God’s laws.

If you break this one law, you are breaking all of God’s laws.

Even if you keep all the other laws perfectly, but you don’t love God and you don’t love your neighbor, then it doesn’t matter what other laws you keep.

The Pharisees were more concerned with not working on the Sabbath and not having poor hygiene than they were about loving their neighbor. If they saw someone in need on the Sabbath, they would ignore them because that might require effort of some kind. If they saw someone who was sick or injured, they would ignore them, because what if that person’s sickness or blood might make them “ceremonially unclean”? They thought, “I can’t worship God if I get my hands dirty by helping others.”

But they were dead wrong.

The two greatest commands are intertwined. You can’t have one without the other. How do you show your love to God? By loving your neighbor!

EXPLORE IT! - 1 Peter 4:1-6

“In Jesus’ culture, as in our own, it was assumed that those who suffer were forsaken by God or even being punished by him. Christ and his apostles, however, turn this assumption on its head. Those who suffer are experiencing the blessing of an opportunity to encounter the power of God in a way those who are comfortable never can.”

-- Skye Jethani

During the time that 1 Peter was being written, the believers in Asia Minor (to whom the letter is written) were being punished for simply bearing the name of Christ. This type of situation does not seem to have characterized the time of Peter’s ministry under the Emperor Nero’s era but it does line up quite well with the policies of his successors. Nero’s persecution was limited to Rome, but his successors were brutal to the Christians of Asia Minor.

1 Peter originated in the capital, Rome, which is the traditional site of Peter’s martyrdom. So while the letter itself may have not been written down by Peter himself, (since the persecution in Asia Minor occurred at a later time) it did originate in the church that Peter led in Rome, who preserved his legacy in writing after Nero murdered him. The letter points to the example of Peter and the other apostles who were killed and suffered for Christ, and it calls the second generation of believers in Asia Minor who are now also being persecuted to live as they did.

In the beginning of chapter 4 of the letter, the author speaks of living for the Promise of God through Christ.

First, he says to just look at the example of Christ.

Christ suffered in his body.

And so he concludes that we should be like Christ in our attitude toward suffering.

He points out that if you can endure suffering for Christ then surely you can endure temptation as well.

And he proclaims that Christians who suffer for Christ don’t sin anymore.

He then recalls the former lifestyle that we used to live in before we met Christ, saying that we used to live as pagans – sinning all the time in every way.

He then speaks of the Future Judgment of the Creation, but first he points out to the persecuted believers of Asia Minor that those who are still pagans are surprised by their holy lives and feel threatened by their holiness – that’s why they abuse them.

But one day they will answer to the One who judges the living and the dead.

And he concludes by pointing to both the intentionality and the graciousness of Christ by proclaiming that the Gospel was even preached to those who have already died so that a just judgment would be given to all – so that all might live by the Spirit and not by flesh alone.

HOPE! - Intentional Grace

In the life of Jesus, you can see acts of intentionality and grace put into practice. Jesus was God, so naturally when his followers spent time with him they were in a very real sense spending time with God. However, Jesus was not only God. He was also a human living with the Holy Spirit inside of him, the very Spirit of God. Jesus also intentionally and graciously imparted the Spirit to his disciples in a human way as well, not just as God. Jesus was also a man who was filled with the Holy Spirit of God. At Jesus’ baptism, it is recorded that the Spirit of God came down from heaven in the form of a dove and landed upon Jesus. This was a sign that the Spirit of God was present with Jesus and it showed that he had God’s approval and authority.

Evidence of the Spirit in Christ is also seen when Jesus is at the synagogue in Nazareth and he reads from the scroll, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This idea portrays the intentional and gracious impartation of the Spirit as a sort of anointing. Jesus had been anointed by God’s Spirit to proclaim good news and to intentionally extend God’s grace to the world.

Later in the gospels, Jesus anoints his disciples to proclaim this good news as well. This is seen especially in the great commission. Jesus also intentionally and graciously gave them of his own Spirit so that they would not be afraid and would be able to complete the task he had given them. This is seen in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples in the second chapter of Acts, but it is also seen before Christ’s ascension when he breathes his Spirit onto them. It is also recorded that after his resurrection Jesus appeared to the disciples and intentionally breathed on them and told them to receive his Spirit. He graciously said this even to those who doubted.

EXPLORE IT! - 1 Peter 4:7-11

In this week’s Scripture passage, the writer speaks about “mutual love,” which he proclaims to be the key to Christian community in the End Times.

His question basically is: Why should you live holy lives of sobriety and prayer

Answer: Because the end of all things is near.

Jesus could come back at any time. He could return today. But even if he doesn’t come back right away, our lives are only so long. We all come to our end.

And standing at the end of all things is Jesus.

The Alpha and Omega.

The Beginning and the End.

God in the flesh.

Love divine.

Final conclusion: Love is greater than sin – so love each other!

He also says that we shouldn’t whine about having to give to others – we ought to give because we truly love them!

He also points out that God has given different gifts to everybody – and so his conclusion is: Use what God gave you!

He says that speakers should speak with the voice of God, and that servants should serve with the strength of God.

In this way, all things that we do will bring praise to God through Christ at work in us.

Christ calls us to focus our attention on him and to live in the fullness of his purity. By his grace we may then see what he sees as we allow him to burn away all things within us that are anti-Christ. And as he purifies us, we become aware of more than ourselves and we come alongside others and help them in their suffering.

All glory and power go to him forever! Amen!

HOPE! - Pure Focus

Christ calls us to focus our attention on him and to live in the fullness of his purity. By his grace we may then see what he sees as we allow him to burn away all things within us that are anti-Christ. And as he purifies us, we become aware of more than ourselves and we come alongside others and help them in their suffering.

We can see the call to be focused and to be pure in heart demonstrated in the life of Jesus in that he called his disciples to absolute loyalty to him. His disciples were committed to following Jesus wherever he went, even to the grave, though they often fell short of their desire to follow him into all things.

Jesus showed in his own life that he was consecrated to the will of the Father. He often says in the gospels that he has come to do his Father’s will. He even calls Peter “Satan” at one point because Peter is trying to convince him that God’s will for his life is something other than what God has made clear to him. Christ sets an example of a life that is both a focused upon God and pure in heart to his own followers. Just as he submits to the Father, so they must submit to him as he does the will of the Father.

The call of Jesus to entire consecration is an extraordinary one. He says, “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” He also says that “whoever wants to save his life must lose it.” Jesus goes on to say that those who have a divided will cannot serve him. They must be completely devoted. He says “A man cannot serve two masters. Either he will love the one and hate the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.”

Jesus even says that those who would follow him must give up everything for the sake of the kingdom. There were many followers who came to Jesus to ask what they must do to be his disciple, and Jesus always called them to surrender their lives completely.

The rich young man had to surrender all of his wealth. Another disciple was told that he must leave his father’s funeral planning to someone else. Another was told that he would have to be homeless with no place to rest his head if he truly wanted to be a disciple of Jesus, which meant to be like Jesus. Christ even said that being consecrated to him as his disciple would cause the members of one’s own household to become his enemies. All of this shows the weight of consecration – living a sin-free life through the power of the Holy Spirit can lead to pain and to suffering… but it’s worth it.

Jesus shows that consecration to God is more important than wealth, than having a home, and even more important than your own family. These were “hard words” for most of Jesus’ followers.

EXPLORE IT! - 1 Peter 4:12-13

In the Scripture passage for this week, the writer begins to discuss in further detail the responsibilities of a church and its leader in the midst of trials. During the time that 1 Peter was composed, the believers in Asia Minor (to whom the letter is written) were being punished for simply bearing the name of Christ. The letter points to the example of Peter and the other apostles who were killed and suffered for Christ, and it calls the second generation of believers in Asia Minor who are now also being persecuted to live as they did.

The persecution was so intense that the writer refers to it as a “fiery trial” of suffering. But his message doesn’t end with suffering, it ends with hope and glory. The writer says to them, “Don’t be surprised by the fiery trial surrounding you.”

He even goes so far as to tell them to praise God for their persecutions.

He says, “Rejoice that you can suffer as Christ suffered and experience his glory more fully when he is revealed.”

He later goes on to say that if you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

This message is so opposite of what we would like to hear. We don’t want to suffer. And when we do suffer, we don’t want to think about what good can come out of it.

Now, we should be clear that we don’t praise God for bad things. That is not the writer’s point here. His point is that we need to see the bigger picture – that even though the suffering we have right now is evil and of the devil, God is using Satan’s schemes against him. As anti-Christ as this persecution is, God is using it to bring about the salvation of the entire world.

How would the Kingdom of Heaven fill the earth if God evacuated his people every time things got hard? We are a part of God’s Creation, and in our suffering we bear the image of Christ himself more clearly within this earthly realm, and we proclaim that Christ is King over Creation.

HOPE! - Patient Wisdom

When we allow Christ to live in our hearts, we begin to think like Christ – we begin to understand the very thoughts of God himself. God imparts his wisdom to us, allowing us to become not only vibrant and passionate about Jesus, but we begin to take on the characteristics of Christ as well. We are patient like he is patient. We rejoice with those who rejoice. We mourn with those who mourn.

This was modeled in the life of Jesus and seen in his own ministry with his disciples. Jesus spent all kinds of time with his disciples when they were in ministry together. He supervised them with a wisdom that was both patent and passionate. However, Jesus was not physically with them every moment of every day, even though he was very close to being with them at all times. He patiently looked out for his disciples and wisely made sure they did not get themselves into trouble.

This is seen on various occasions. When the disciples had been arguing amongst themselves about which one of them was the greatest, Jesus stepped in later and asked them what they had been arguing about on the road. The disciples were then ashamed of themselves as Jesus pointed out to them in patient wisdom that their priorities were in the wrong place. Working in the kingdom was not about being the greatest; it was about being a servant.

Peter also got himself into trouble on a number of occasions. When he was asked by the religious leaders whether or not Jesus paid the temple tax, he spoke for Jesus and said that of course he did. Later, Jesus went to Peter and patiently brought his impulsive answer to his attention, pointing out the ridiculousness of God giving money to God. However, Jesus does not seem as though he wanted to embarrass Peter or to offend the religious leaders on this matter so he sent Peter out to go catch a fish which had a coin in its mouth in order to pay for Peter’s tax and his. Jesus was showing Peter that God is all-resourceful, but also that God had humbled himself and became a man for the sake of others.

When Jesus’ disciples had returned to him after having gone throughout the countryside preaching the good news to all who would listen, Jesus was eager to hear their report. He did not send them out on their own, but sent them out in pairs to keep each other accountable among other reasons. Also, once he had sent them out he did not worry or fret about their mission. He wanted to hear how things had gone. When they returned to him they passionately gave him a glorious report which he seems to have been very pleased to hear.

However, in his patient wisdom, he even used this as a means for teaching them. They had been amazed that the demons themselves had submitted to them. Jesus passionately told them that rather than rejoicing that the devils had submitted to them, they should receive greater joy that their names were written in the book of life. Jesus said that he had seen Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Satan was already being defeated, so they should not have been too surprised that the demons were powerless against them.

Jesus was almost always available to answer his disciples’ questions. In his patient wisdom, he was not always peering over their shoulders, but he did keep close enough distance to them so that he could intervene in case anything went wrong. And in his patient wisdom, he was there for them in order to passionately encourage them and let them know when they got it exactly right.

EXPLORE IT! - 1 Peter 4:14-16

In the Scripture passage for this week, the writer continues to discuss in even more detail the responsibilities of a church and its leader in the midst of trials.

This passage also specifically refers to the believers as “Christians.” That may not seem like a big deal at first, but the believers were not always known as Christians. The term Christian was meant to be a derogatory term given to them by others.

The Book of Acts records that the believers used to be known as the people of The Way, but that once the church began to spread and grow among both Jews and non-Jews in the city of Antioch, people began to call them “Christians.” They got this name because they refused to hold prejudices against people of different cultures and backgrounds – this was a big deal!

Let’s also not forget that during the time that 1 Peter was composed, the believers in Asia Minor (to whom the letter is written) were being punished for simply bearing the name of Christ. The letter points to the example of Peter and the other apostles who were killed and suffered for Christ, and it calls the second generation of believers in Asia Minor who are now also being persecuted to live as they did.

The persecution was so intense that the writer refers to it as a “fiery trial” of suffering. But his message doesn’t end with suffering, it ends with hope and glory. The writer says to them, “Don’t be surprised by the fiery trial surrounding you.”

He even goes so far as to tell them to praise God for their persecutions. He says, “Rejoice that you can suffer as Christ suffered and experience his glory more fully when he is revealed.”

He later goes on to say that if you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

He also says that if you do suffer, it better not be because you are a criminal, or even an obnoxious person.

And if you suffer as a Christian (a derogatory term back then), don’t be ashamed, because you are wearing the name of Christ.

HOPE! - Doing Life Together

Jesus modeled both empathy and reflective insight in his ministry with the disciples. In Jesus’ ministry he selected the twelve disciples to be his close companions and followers. Jesus became associated and empathized with this group of people and they became associated and began to empathize with him. Jesus did life with these twelve young men. He took them with him to different places, such as the area around the Sea of Galilee, to Jerusalem, and even as far north as Caesarea Philippi at one point. In his deep insight, Jesus took his disciples with him to participate in his ministry.

Jesus also ate meals with his disciples as well as others. Jesus empathized with people who were considered the least and the unclean and even gave himself a sort of a bad reputation for doing so. He spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes and he came to be associated with them.

The incarnation itself is an example of Jesus’ choice to associate himself with humankind. The Scriptures record that “he took up our diseases and carried our sorrows.” If that isn’t empathy, I don’t know what is!

He identified with humans and became associated with humans. In Jesus’ friendship with his disciples, he is seen reflecting with and confiding in them. In the Garden of Gethsemane he asks them to stay up and pray with him during his night of sorrow, and he is deeply hurt when they cannot stay awake with him and pray.

In John, Jesus insight-fully calls his disciples “friends.” Jesus is also seen associating with the disciples by visiting them in their own homes. The Gospels record Jesus staying at Peter’s house and healing his mother-in-law while there.

Jesus not only teaches and gives lessons to those under his ministry, but he practices empathy and even becomes close friends with those he teaches as well. He chooses to become associated with them. They do life together. They go places together, share meals with each other, and talk about life.

May we do the same.

EXPLORE IT! - 1 Peter 4:17-19

In the Scripture passage for this week, the writer of 1 Peter continues in his discussion on suffering as a Christian (4:15-19). The Emperor Nero began persecuting Christians in AD 64 when he blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome. He was the one who crucified the Apostle Peter upside down and who beheaded the Apostle Paul.

The Emperors Domitian and Trajan also persecuted Christians from AD 81-117. Their reigns were especially difficult for the Christians living in Asia Minor at the time. These Christians are the ones to whom the letter of 1 Peter is addressed. The Revelation of John was also written during this time and is also addressed to the seven different churches of Asia Minor, some of which experienced extreme persecution.

It is in this context that the writer of 1 Peter declares that if you suffer as a Christian (a derogatory term back then), don’t be ashamed, because you are wearing the name of Christ

He proclaims that God is bringing judgment on his house, this world, and that judgment starts with us.

And he adds: If it’s hard for the righteous to be saved, then do you think it’s easy for sinners?

And his final conclusion is: God hasn’t given up, so don’t you give up.

According to Church tradition, before Peter left the church in Antioch for Rome where he was executed, he left directions that a man named Ignatius be appointed to the Church at Antioch. Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John and was believed to be one of the children that sat on Jesus’ knee. But later Ignatius was also arrested and taken by ship to Rome to die in the Coliseum.

On the way to Rome, Ignatius wrote seven different letters to the churches. In these letters is seen his perspective on martyrdom and his own impending execution. In his letters he says that he sees his upcoming martyrdom as a way to “imitate the Passion of my God.” In his Letter to the Magnesians he writes, “Yes, everything is coming to an end, and we stand before this choice – death or life […] And if we do not willingly die in union with his Passion, we do not have his life in us.” Ignatius had a high view of martyrdom, and he saw this as his way of being able to meet with God.

When a group of the early Christians tried to figure out a way to get his sentence revoked or lightened, he asked them to please leave him alone for he wanted to die in imitation of Christ. He saw his martyrdom as a witness to the Passion of Christ and himself as Christ’s servant even unto death.

HOPE! - The Creative Creation

The New Creation was inaugurated in the life of Jesus. He called his disciples to go out and make other disciples. This is seen when Jesus sends out the twelve into the surrounding countryside, it is seen when Jesus sends out the seventy into Judea, and it is further seen in the Great Commission given at the end of the synoptic Gospels and the beginning of the book of Acts. Jesus said to his disciples just before he ascended into heaven, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” These are the last recorded words of Christ before he ascended back to the Father, and the Christian community is to take his instructions very seriously.

Jesus did not just tell his disciples to reproduce. He told them that he would go with them and would go before them. Matthew records that after Jesus spoke these words to them, he said, “And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Jesus will go with us in our disciple-making journey, and he is already ahead of us as well, even at the end of the age.

Matthew also records that right before Jesus gave his disciples these instructions he said to them that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He then turns to them and gives them this authority and instructs them to make disciples of all the nations, etc. The authority of Jesus has been given to the church to make disciples. Jesus even said that the church would do greater things than the miracles he himself had performed on earth. I believe that what Jesus said was true for his first disciples and I believe that it remains true for the church today – we who are the product of those first disciples.

As Christians, we are to be creative just as God is creative. We are to follow the command of God and multiply, filling the whole earth. We are called to make Christ-like disciples among the nations, teaching them to walk as Jesus walked. We are to bring other people into the Kingdom.

We are New Creation.

EXPLORE IT! - The Death Psalm

The Scriptures were very important to the Jewish people. When Jewish boys went to school they were required to memorize the Torah, the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The girls also went to school and they were taught the Psalms and the Proverbs, as well as parts of the Torah.

Being a Rabbi, Jesus would have had the entire Bible memorized, including the Psalms. When Jesus was dying on the cross, he quoted from what was known as the Death Psalm, Psalm 22. It is the wish of a Jew to be reciting Psalm 22 when they die. It is difficult for someone who is being crucified to speak. They have to push up with their legs in order to get a breath of air. Jesus begins reciting the Death Psalm by shouting, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” and as time goes by, you can see that the Psalm is still on his mind. He is repeating it in his head, and every time he gets to a place where it reminds him of something, he speaks.

When the Psalm says, “From birth I was cast on you; from my mother's womb you have been my God,” Jesus says to his mother, "’Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’" When the Psalm says, “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death,” Jesus speaks, “I am thirsty.”

As Jesus remembers what the Psalm says, “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment,” He watches as the soldiers gamble for His own clothing.

But the real good news comes at the end of this Psalm. It says:

“All the ends of the earth 
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has finished it!”

And with that, Jesus cries out, “It is finished!” and He dies there.

“It is finished.” This is a truly remarkable sentence. The ramifications of such a statement are great. It’s over. It’s done. Jesus has paid the price. Sin and death have come to an end. But there is more to the death of Jesus than the forgiveness of sins. There is also redemption. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross made a way not only for us to escape from an eternity in hell, but it also provided a way for us to be brought back to God. We are now able to come to God without there being a dividing wall between us.

But the making of the way to bring people back to God is not something that is only for people as individuals. Our salvation and redemption is not something that for us only and only us to see. No. Christ’s sacrifice has made a way for the whole world to be brought back to God. The Psalm says:

“All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him.”

It goes on to say that the LORD’s righteousness will be proclaimed to future generations, and that they will say, “He has finished it.”

“He has finished it.” The death of Jesus is directly connected with the salvation and the redemption of the nations. Through the death of Christ, God will turn the hearts of the nations back to Him. The significance of Jesus saying “It is finished” can be found at the end of this death psalm, for the proclamation of the nations who have put their hope in God is that He has finished it. In Jesus, we see the fulfillment of this prophecy. Through His death, Jesus has finished it – meaning that he has made a way for the healing of the nations through the forgiveness of sins.

It is God’s desire that everyone be saved – this includes people from every tribe, language, people and nation. One of the reasons that Jesus has not come back yet is that there are people who still do not know him. There are tribes and people groups who do not yet know about Jesus and what He did for them. We know this is true from the Scriptures. It is not that Jesus does not want to come back. He does. But he is waiting for the full number of the Gentiles to be brought into the Kingdom before he returns to proclaim judgment on the world and establish His reign on earth forever.

This idea of God’s righteousness being extended to the very ends of the earth was not an idea that arose after the death of Jesus. The death of Jesus provided the foundation of this act to be carried out, but the idea that this would one day happen had been spoken of by the prophets long before Jesus made His home in an earthly tent – long before the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The prophets had seen this day and they looked forward to its fulfillment. Isaiah prophesied that the ends of the earth would turn to God. And this is what Jesus had in mind when He said on the cross, “It is finished.”

HOPE! - The Resurrection of the Body

The resurrection of the body is a very important part of the Christian belief system for several reasons. First of all, as Christians we believe that Jesus himself had a bodily resurrection. The Gospels record the resurrection of Jesus as a physical resurrection. Jesus is recorded as having a body with scars from his crucifixion. Thomas feels the wounds on Christ’s body after having doubted the resurrection and then truly believes that Jesus is alive after feeling that Jesus had a physical body.

The Gospels record that the disciples were a bit startled at Jesus’ appearance to them after his resurrection. They wondered if he might be a ghost or some kind of spirit. He was not a spirit, however. He is recorded as having flesh and bones. Luke’s Gospel records: “He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’” (Luke 24:38-9). Jesus reassured them that he was not a spirit and asked them to bring him a piece of fish, which he ate in front of them. A spirit would have no need for physical food. However, Jesus’ body, while it is physical, does appear to be different than it was before. He is able to do things in his body, such as walk through walls, that he is not recorded as having done before his resurrection.

According to Paul, Christ is the first born from among the dead (Colossians 1:18), indicating that the rest of us will follow him in his resurrection. Paul writes in Romans, “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection” (Romans 6:5). If we are to truly be resurrected as Jesus was then we must be resurrected in our bodies, for that is how Jesus was resurrected. He had a physical body after his resurrection and so will we.

However, Jesus’ resurrected body was not exactly the same as it had been before his death, so we may assume that our resurrected bodies will not be exactly the same as they were before our deaths. One of the differences is that Christ will not die again. His body cannot die. In the same way, our physical bodies will no longer be subject to death.

Paul also records that all of creation is waiting to be liberated from its bondage to decay. He writes, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-21).In this is seen the idea of a sort of resurrection of all creation, all of the physical realm.

Paul continues, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-3).

This again shows that in the future we will have physical bodies that have been redeemed; just as the whole of the physical creation will be redeemed. All of creation will be resurrected. This idea of resurrection points to something beyond the merely spiritual ideas we have inherited from Plato and others. This idea includes a physical resurrection of all people, as well as a resurrection of the entire physical domain.

When God created the physical world, he did not create it separate from the spiritual world. He created all and he said that all was good, including both the physical and the spiritual. He created the heavens as well as the earth. This indicates that the earth and the physical creation is not evil as the Gnostics believed. They believed that we needed to escape the physical world through death in order to enter the spiritual realm. This idea is not much different than the idea of salvation that many Christians have today. Many Christians are focused solely on getting into heaven, believing that the world is purely evil and that God will destroy it someday, so the only thing to look forward to is heaven, a place where we will be free from our evil fleshly bodies and this evil physical world.

However, this concept is flawed.

God will indeed create a new heavens and a new earth, but this does not mean that the physical realm will be done away with. The scriptures give us a picture of heaven being united with earth in a new creation. It is a picture of the physical and the spiritual being united as they were truly meant to be.

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