Know Your Bible
The Unfolding Of God's Plan
(Reprinted With Permission Of Bob Waldron)
"We have only one chance through life, so grab with all the gusto you have."
Is that all there is? Am I as a Christian missing something valuable? There are some pleasures on this earth that I do not have. If this is all I have to hope for, then, as Paul said, "I am of all men most miserable" (1 Cor. 15:19).
No. There is another way to took at life under the sun. This is not even real "life". This is merely a short trial period to see if I may have the privilege of living in heaven with God Himself throughout eternity. Jesus has gone ahead to prepare mansions for those who pass the trial (John 14:1ff). Even if I should live ninety years or longer here, it is still only a span compared to the over-all scheme of things. "For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:13-15).
Abraham had this view of life on earth. That is why he could leave his home and family and go to a land God would show him. He was looking for a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:8-10).
That is why Moses could give up the honor of being called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He could see that the riches God offers the faithful as a reward are far greater than any brief pleasures sin can offer here on this globe (Heb. 11:24-26).
That is why Paul could rejoice in a Roman prison, facing death for his faith in Christ. He was human. He did not enjoy the pain of suffering, but he saw a crown laid up for him, making any present suffering seem but for a moment (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
Even the happiest, most carefree person alive has some problems: pain, sickness, sorrow, fears, and such like. I, as a Christian, can share most earthly joys. There is a legitimate outlet for every physical desire I have. I, too, have problems because I am a human being. But instead of being the most miserable of all men, the Christian is the one to be envied.
The Christian can look for that real "life" where there will be no problems. Indeed, we have an anchor to our soul (Heb. 6:19). What Christian need worry about conditions here? What does it matter if things are dark here, if I have that hope that makes anything worth enduring for these short years in order to live for eternity with God?
But how can one have this hope? How did it all come about? The Bible tells us. The Bible is not a series of unconnected, "once-upon-a-time" stories. It is the unfolding of the beautiful, eternal plan God made for the redemption of mankind.
God made man. Man is a reasoning being, made in the image of God. He has the ability to choose what he will be. As the Creator of man, God understands and has met every need of man. He designed man to be his happiest as a companion of God.
God offered man the chance for such a companionship on earth in the Garden of Eden, where God walked with man in the cool of the evening. But man gave up this privilege of his own free will by choosing to listen to the devil's advice (Gen. 3).
God had prepared for man's choice. He already had a plan for the redemption of man (Eph. 3:11). No longer could man share a companionship with God here, because sin separates man from God. So, God offered man a far greater blessing - the chance to live forever with God Himself in heaven.
There are certain conditions man must meet, however. No man is forced to serve God, but the wonderful chance is offered to anyone, provided he will accept God's terms.
What terms could God make? How could God determine who could have this life? He could justly condemn all mankind because all men have sinned, and the wages of sin is death (Rom. 3:23). But God loves man and would prefer that none perish (2 Pet. 3:9). Perhaps He could save all mankind no matter how wicked; but that will not work because God can not tolerate wickedness (Isa. 59:1,2). Perhaps He could arbitrarily save some and condemn others - but God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).
Therefore, God determined to pay the price for sin Himself. In this way, God's love for man could be shown by offering man the opportunity for salvation. At the same time, God's justice could be satisfied by the price being paid for sin.
Man alone could not pay the price. Each person who has lived long enough to be responsible before God has sinned. Adam sinned in Eden. Noah was saved in the ark because he was righteous, but later he planted a vineyard and became drunk on the wine. Abraham is called the father of the faithful, but he lied on at least two occasions. David was a man after God's own heart, but he committed adultery and murder. Each man would have to die for h is own sins, thus ending continued companionship with God.
But how would God pay the price for man's sin? Death is the price God set (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23). But Deity as Deity cannot die. Therefore, God's plan was to send Deity, the eternal Word, to the earth in human form as His Son. His Son would show man how the perfect human should be. Then, that Son, as Deity in human form, would die to pay the price for man's sins.
Man did not realize the need for such a price when he was first driven from Eden. The entire Bible shows man how feeble his own efforts for self-salvation were. Mankind is left with only one conclusion: We are totally helpless without God.
We cannot answer the question of why God ever made man. Neither can we know why He loved man enough to offer him the chance to live in heaven. But we can look at the beautiful plan He unfolds in the Bible for us, and love Him and obey Him in return. What right do I have as puny man to object to His terms when He offers me such a reward?
The Story Of Redemption
"In the beginning..." Come with me back to that point. There is no world, no universe, no physical life, no physical substance, no time. Eternity has no beginning, no end. What did exist? How did all we know come into being? What does it all mean?
There were three Beings in existence who are as everlasting as eternity itself: Jehovah, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. These separate Beings are yet one in purpose, in righteousness, and in deity. They comprise all that is Godhood.
At some point, we have no idea when, lesser heavenly beings were created. We read of innumerable hosts of angels (Rev. 5:11), of seraphim (Isa. 6:2), of cherubim (Gen. 3:24), and of other heavenly creatures around the throne of God (Rev. 4). At some point some of these heavenly beings sinned (2 Pet. 2:4). Again, we do not know the reason. Some matters are the secret things that belong to God (Deut. 29:29). A place of punishment, terrible beyond our comprehension, was prepared for these wicked beings (Matt. 25:41). They were "delivered into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment" (2 Pet. 2:4). These heavenly beings are more powerful than man, but they, as the created, are far less than God the Creator.
"In the beginning" God spoke the physical universe into existence. Then He began placing life on the earth. First came plant life; then fish, fowls, and land animals. The creation process was not yet complete, because there was not yet life that could understand or share a companionship with God. Thus man was created. "Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1:26). Man is like God because man can reason, and he has a soul within that will never cease to exist, an essence that is spiritual.
God placed Adam and Eve in a garden of beauty far greater than we can find today. The earth was new and unpolluted. Every desirable plant was there. There were no thorns or thistles; there was no pain or sorrow; there was no anxiety or fear. Adam and Eve had access to the Tree of Life so they need never die. Best of all, they had companion-ship with God Himself (Gen. 3:8).
But God did not want a creature who was His companion simply because there was nothing else he could do. Then man would have been nothing more than a robot programmed to worship God, and incapable of anything else. So God gave man a commandment. Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
There was food in abundance, so hunger did not encourage the eating of the forbidden fruit. The Garden of Eden was so big four rivers ran through it, so there was no reason for the temptation to be constantly before their eyes. But mankind is weak. When the serpent tempted Eve, she was beguiled and ate of the forbidden fruit. She gave it to Adam and he ate also.
Now they knew shame, guilt, and fear. God gave each guilty party a curse. Pain, sorrow, problems, thorns, death, separation from the Tree of Life - most, worst of all, separation from the companionship of God.
Their sin was no surprise to God. He knew before creation that man would be weak and had prepared for man's fall. God had already planned how man might be saved (Eph. 3:10-11). Adam and Eve gave up the opportunity for complete happiness on this earth. God began the long process of unfolding His plan of how man could live forever with Him, provided man accepted His terms.
(Editor's Note: This article will continue in the October bulletin.)
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