The Fullness of Redemption
AFBC 2000 03 19
Scripture Reading 1 Thess 4: 15- 18
15 According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
I The fall and the promise
Long ago, the first man and the first woman disobeyed the command of God in the garden where he had placed them. By doing so they sinned, condemning themselves and all their descendents to
- bondage in this life to sin and Satan and
- separation from God for all eternity.
But God in his mercy promised that one of those descendents would eventually destroy the power of Satan over us.
Ge 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
The promise of the redeemer to come was the major themes in God's dealing with people. As time went on, he made the promise more specific, first when he chose Abraham and told him to go to a new land:
Ge 22:17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."
Ge 15:6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
The Psalmist informs us in Ps 106:31 that this "crediting as righteousness" was for endless generations to come, telling us that faith in God's promises was the way to please Him.
And as observed later by the apostle Paul concerning the promise of offspring, or "seed":
Ga 3:16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds", meaning many people, but "and to your seed", meaning one person, who is Christ.
--an interesting commentary on the need to take scripture seriously, right down to individual letters and punctuations or grammatical constructions such as singular and plural>
Later still, this promise was narrowed to the house and family of David
1Ch 17:11 When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne for ever. 13 I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. 14 I will set him over my house and my kingdom for ever; his throne will be established for ever.'"
and then it was given to the descendents of his son Solomon
1Ki 6:12 "As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, carry out my regulations and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfil through you the promise I gave to David your father.
II The redeemer to come
The Hebrew scriptures are full of references to and promises about the one who was to come:
1) Isa 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
2) Isa 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
3) Mic 5:2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,(ef-rat'-hah) though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
4) Isa 42:6 "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
5) Isa 53:1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 ¦ Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
6) Isa 53:9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
7) Ps49:10 you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
III A covenant to come
Likewise, the scriptures spoke eloquently of a new people and a new covenant:
Jer 31:31 "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. 33 "This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
IV The promise fulfilled
All these things Jesus both fulfilled and did:
1) (born of a virgin) Mt 1:20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"-- which means, "God with us."
2) (born in Bethlehem) Mt 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem
3) (lived a sinless life) Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.
4) (ministered as was prophesied) Luke 4:17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written 18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
and likewise, when John the Baptist sent to ask about Jesus' ministry, Christ pointed him to what he was doing:
Luke 7:22 "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
5) (died as Isaiah forecast) Mt 20:18 "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!"
Joh 19:17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 Here they crucified him, and with him two others--one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
6) (was indeed raised as he prophesied and as Peter declared: Ac 10: 39 "We are witnesses of everything ... God raised him from the dead on the third day
and there were many more such prophesies fulfilled, including his betrayal by a friend, the exact amount of money Judas would be paid, and some of the words and actions in the details of the crucifixion.
V What was the purpose of all this?
(1) The first purpose was to fulfil the scriptures
Mr 14:49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled."
(even in the details of his death)
Joh 19:24 (of his garments) "Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it." This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did.
Joh 19:36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," 37 and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."
(2) The second purpose was--also according to the scriptures--that his death might pay for our sin, allowing us to be purchased back from Satan's spiritual pawnshop where we had sold ourselves to slavery--redeemed--and so be able to enter into the kind of relationship Adam and Eve had before they sinned. Again, hear the word of God on the subject:
(a) Heb 9:15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
(b) 1Co 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
(c) Ro 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(d) Ro 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God--2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David,4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
(3) The third reason is the consequence--Christ's actions make us the inheritors of the promised new covenant when we believe:
Heb 9:15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
In this new covenant we come not under the Law of Moses, which was temporary, and designed to teach us that all attempts to obey God's laws as such (i.e. in a legalistic manner) were doomed to failure, but rather under the covenant of grace by faith extended to Abraham:
Rom 4: 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about--but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
Amazing thought, that we weak and sinful human beings can not only have our sins forgiven, but have the righteousness life of Christ applied to us, even have the power of the Holy Spirit to live in that righteousness, and ultimately to share both in the resurrection and in the glory of Christ.
(a) Ro 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
(b) Ro 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
(c) Php 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
(d) 2Co 4:14 we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.
(e) 2Ti 2:11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him.
*(f) Ro 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
*(g) Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--
Note those last two statements. Our righteousness is (Eph 2:9) not by works, so that no-one can boast. But it is by faith through grace--and this applies both to first coming to know Christ and to our subsequent life in him. Heb 3:7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts but Acts 16:31 Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved because
Rom 10:9 if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Have you ever apprehended this? Have you ever believed in the Gospel that Jesus came to die for your sins as well as for mine? Has faith ever been counted as righteousness for you? Why not right now take everything that is self and works in the sinking ship of life, throw it overboard, then call on Christ to apply his salvation to you? In the very moment of doing it you will be born again, your sins washed away, the Holy Spirit will begin to empower you to live for Christ, and you will inherit all the promises of a share in the resurrection and glory of Christ.
VI But redemption has not yet been fully applied
Now tell me Christians, you who are the saved and the saints of God. Is the world around us perfect? Is Canada perfect? (ask Jean Cretien) Is British Columbia perfect (ask Glen Clark) Well, you say, "of course not, they have not been redeemed. So I ask: Is the Church perfect?
To answer the latter, note that it is made up of people. We need to ask: Am I perfect (you don't have to answer that) or are you perfect? (you do need to answer that, but not aloud, just to yourself and God).
And the answer is, "no" to both, at least if we're honest. We're all still sinners, saved by the grace of God, but not always seeing his ways clearly, and sometimes even when we do, wilfully deciding to let the old man or woman--the ones supposed to be dead and buried when Christ raised us to a new way of life,--still to reign and rule over us, setting aside the Lordship of Christ for sin and the rule of Satan.
How come? W why haven't God's people been snatched up into heaven already? At least, why aren't we perfected yet, so that we can't sin? The answer is that though our place in heaven is guaranteed when we come to Christ, because as Christ said of the work of redemption Joh 19:30 "It is finished.", the last acts of redemption on the stage of human history have yet to be played out.
(a) Satan may have lost the war, but he still fights on and retains control over all who submit to him rather than to Christ.
1Jo 5:19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
(b) Not only that, but he whole world is still broken from the fall and flawed
Ro 8:19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
(c) God still has unfinished business with us. He wants his people to be the means by which his name is glorified--not just in heaven, but in the here and now.
Eph 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Tit 3:8 I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.
(d) What I will emphasize here is that God still has unfinished business with human history. There are prophesies that remain unfulfilled, and as Jesus and his disciples pointed out many times: "The scriptures must be fulfilled."
- Christ certainly rules in heaven, but what of the promise that he would rule on the throne of his father David? Mic 4:7 The LORD will rule over them in Mount Zion from that day and for ever. He was hailed as that king when the blind beggar named him "son of David" and the crowd took up the chant a few days later at Jerusalem and Joh 12:13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!" but he has not yet taken up that rule in the flesh, and the scripture must be fulfilled.
- What, too, of the promise that Israel will one day be revived? Ro 11:26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
- what, to be even more specific, of the promise that Christ is coming again? As the angels said after his ascension
Acts1:11 "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
and as other prophesies say:
Jo 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
1Cor 1:7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Cor 11:26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
VII The hope of the Church
What is the hope of the Church collectively and of the saints of God individually in this lost and broken world we have all around us?
Tit 2:13 we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ,14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
1Co 15:51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed--52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
Yes, according to the selfsame scriptures that have already proven themselves as reliable, faithful, and accurate in the matter, the manner, and the details of his first coming, tell us that Christ is coming back. In view of the way God has already fulfilled his promises in the past, why, in view of his being Lord of all creation and history, we can count on this--Christ shall return!!
VIII What will happen when Christ returns?
There are consequences to this, and we ought to ask what he will do when he does return. While it is true that the next item on the agenda of the Almighty God, whose promises are sure, is his return to take his Church to be with him forever, other events to come are important too, because he returns to complete unfinished business:
Ac 10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he [Christ] is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.
Heb 10:30 For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."
Ac 17:31 he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
1Pe 4:5 But they [the wicked] will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
Now, we must understand that the salvation God gives to his people is not only free but absolute. That is, once their sins have been laid on Christ at the cross, and Christ's righteousness has been wrapped around us so God sees his son when he looks at us, there will never again be judgement for our sins. That is finished with. But the judgement of the wicked ought to give us pause on two accounts:
I are you indeed saved? If not, when Christ comes it will not be to take you as part of his church to be with him, but to judge you for your sin. Unable to face the Holy God, you will find yourself condemned to spend eternity away from him, and in a place of torment. Is that worth it for a few years of self-indulgence here? Are the pleasures of sin today really top be compared with a lost eternity?
II and, what of those of us who do name the name of Christ. We do have to face him, not to account for sin, but to account for stewardship. All of us will face Christ when he says:
Lu 16:2 Give an account of your management
and leaders and teachers in the church will have to give account for the way they have carried out those duties in particular. After all,
Eph 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
so we should assume that God having given the gift of salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and spiritual gifts all for a purpose that we might
- be holy even as he is holy
- go and make disciples
- build up the church
Note that God will want will want an accounting for what he has given
What is this accounting for? It is for what we have done with the gospel. All must give it, but teachers and leaders the moreso.
Jas 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
What comes of this accounting as believers and servants? Not punishment when we fail, but reward for having succeeded doing God's work in God's name and with God's power.
Mr 9:41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
Re 20:6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
We have seen that the scriptures that reliably forecast the coming of the Christ to die for our sins also forecast his coming again to take his church from this world and then to execute judgement. What if Jesus Christ were to return today? Would you be ready?
1. OTOH, if you have never received the gift of God's salvation by grace and in faith, you are not ready. Before I was saved, if someone asked me my reason for living, my motto may as well be the Latin expression "Nemo dat quod habeo" or "I cannot give you what I do not have" sometimes loosely translated as "A Scotsman cannae gi ye his pants."
Moreover, one who is outside Christ not only has no present purpose in life, but also faces judgement for sin and an eternity without Christ.
2. OTOH, if you are a believer, will does the word say to you?
Note that God will want1Co 4:2 it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
Will Christ at his return find you faithful? The scriptures encourage us:
Note that God will wantHeb 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Ro 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Your motto in this case needs to be "Servabo fidem" or "I will keep faith,"--and not in my power, but in God's, for as we saw earlier "The righteous shall live by faith."
Are you eagerly and joyfully awaiting the return of Christ?
** Oh it ought to be the prayer of everyone here that when we stand before the Lord of Heaven, it will
- not be to hear judgement as an unbeliever
- but it will be to hear the words
Mt 25:21 "`Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
May it be so!