Saturday, October 15, 2022

The Epic of Gog of Magog

What circumstance is Ezekiel 38 & 39 referring to and when will it happen? This article takes a bite out of that question.

Let's identify the players involved before getting into anything else. Scholars debate the identity of Gog and the location of Magog, but the description provided in the text says enough--"the far north”-- to leave little doubt, at least in my mind. The word far, as in "far north," is translated from a word meaning extremity (Hebrew: yerekah). If the longitude of Jerusalem is taken northwards towards its farthest extent, ultimately, it leads to Russia, falling just a short distance to the west of Moscow. That line does pass through Turkey, which is interesting of itself, and Ukraine, but the farthest extent is in Russia, so Gog is the ruler of Russia, which is Magog.

The rest of the cast are easily identifiable, for the most part. Persia is modern Iran and Put is modern Libya, little debate there. Cush is often misidentified as Ethiopia but it really refers to modern Sudan, the area of ancient Nubia. Gomer is best identified, it seems to me, by ancient references from Assyria as the Cimmerians, which places them around or just beyond the Caucasus, most likely in southern Russia. Beth Togarmah is hard to place today with any definiteness. Beth means “house,” so this is a tribal or clannish designation, often it's placed in Anatolia, but it's probably refers to the Caucasus as well, so Georgia, Azerbaijan, or perhaps Armenia.

In modern terms then: Russia, Sudan, Libya, Iran, and some representation from Georgia, Azerbaijan, and perhaps Armenia make up the alliance of Ezekiel 38 & 39.

When will all this happen? The text says after many days, in the latter years, when the land (Israel) has been restored from war and the people of that land (Jews) have been gathered from many peoples upon the mountains of Israel, which had been a waste, but upon which they now dwell securely. That would be... now! In the aftermath of WW2, Jews began returning to the historic land of Israel (aliyah) in numbers, became an independent nation in 1948, and after several wars with her neighbors now dwells securely in this location. The land is restored and productive, so all that remains in this readied space is for the sudden surge, storm-like, of the Gog alliance attacking and invading Israel.

Why will they do such a thing?  Ezekiel says to loot. Israel is wealthy in our day, especially in comparison to its closest neighbors. It is productive agriculturally, has a strong economy and it is well-stocked with armaments-- certainly a trove worth plundering. Israel's wealth is a recent phenomenon, however, the nation has been considered wealthy by western standards only recently-- like in the last twenty years or so. From the perspective of the alliance I am sure looting is what they think their motivation is, but from God's perspective this is an action he's instigating and it occurs for his purposes.

God will put a hook in Gog's jaw and pull him back and into Israel for judgment, to express his fiery wrath, and to demonstrate his sovereignty over the whole world. In our day, Russia has had troops in Syria since 2015, some within 25 miles of Israeli-occupied Golan. Russians have supposedly been withdrawing from the neighborhood since 2016, but conditions in Ukraine have given added impetus to moving Russian troops and materiel out of Syria since May of 2022. As bad as Russia may need to get out of Syria to deal with issues elsewhere, Ezekiel 38 leads me to believe that God is likely to pull them back in, not stopping in Syria on the rebound but progressing all the way into Israel.

How will God judge the invaders? In several ways, but generally, it seems to me, some sort of volcanic cataclysm is the heart of the matter. Will it synchronize with the sixth seal, which I also see chiefly in volcanic terms? Perhaps, but not necessarily. There is that cryptic half-hour to deal with in the Seventh Seal which seems to imply a short break between the Sixth Seal/Rapture and the start of the 70th Week/First Trumpet. Regardless, I do think Ezekiel 39 ends with the beginning of the 70th week of Daniel, as we shall see.

As far as the identifying the judgment as a volcanic cataclysm, all we have to do is consider the description to arrive at that conclusion. There is a great earthquake, landslides, rain, hail, fire and sulfur-- all marks of a volcanic eruption. There is, fortuitously, a volcanic system near enough to propound the possibility: the Levant Volcanic Province. It covers the Hula Valley in northern Israel, sweeps over the Golan Heights with its many cinder cones, and extends down into Jordan. Although considered extinct (e.g. Mts. Avital and Bental are said by geologists to have last erupted 10 kya.) I entertain the notion that what has happened there before could happen again.

Cinder Cones in the Golan

In the chaos and confusion of the described events, presumably, the soldiers of Gog's alliance kill one another. Those not killed by another soldier die from sickness (pestilence), which I assume will be the effect of air fouled by volcanic gases and ash rather than some sort of contagion. This volcanism will occur on a scale large enough to affect the coastlands, likely in Lebanon, which would make this a larger phreatomagmatic eruption than what is witnessed in the geologic evidence in the area.

The end result of all this for the alliance is death. Their weapons end up providing Israel with fuel to burn for seven years (there's a span that rings a bell). Their bodies, exposed to the elements, carrion fowl and critters become the focus of a major effort to bury the bones over the next seven months. A burial site for the dead troops is made east of the sea-- whether that means the Mediterranean or Dead is hard to tell, but it makes sense to me that it would be east of the Dead Sea. The odd skeletal remain will be found occasionally long after the slaughter ends. 

What is the end of all this for Israel, which is, after all, the focus of all end-times prophecy? A spiritual awakening is the obvious answer, but not just a period of revival. To catch the whole impact of this renewal we have to touch base with Daniel 9 and Romans 11.

In the present age after the cutting off of the Messiah at the end of the 69th week of Daniel, Israel was dispersed among the nations. A partial hardening had come upon the Jews from God because of (the implication is) their rejection of Christ and their unwillingness to depend on faith in God's mercy in Christ rather than their status as Jews and their religious works. The history of this age might give the observer the idea that God was done with the Jews, having cast them asunder, but this age of partial hardening will only last until God is done with the Gentiles. Once his redemptive objectives have been accomplished with them, God will turn his redemptive attentions back to the Jews and all Israel will be saved.

The word translated “until” in Romans 11:25 always means “up to that time” in the NT. Therefore, this hardening in part that has come upon the Jews will only remain in place up to the time that the fullness (completion, Koine: pleroma) of Gentiles has come in. The partial hardening which has let the Jews stew in their unbelief, allowing only a trickle of Jews to come to Christ, will no longer be in effect. What can that something be that turns the tide and turns hardening into openness? There’s only one thing that convicts people of sin, righteousness and judgment and woos them to faith in Christ, and that’s the Holy Spirit!

If you, like me, have wondered how anyone could be saved during the Great Tribulation if the Holy Spirit (if understood as "he who now restrains") is taken out of the way. The scriptural record is clear that people will reject the Antichrist, his mark and put faith in Christ during the Tribulation, how can they if the Holy Spirit is gone? Now, in my view, it is not the Holy Spirit who is taken out of the way, but the Holy Spirit in and with the Church that is (Rapture), but that doesn't make the situation less impossible.  Who can be saved if the Holy Spirit isn't poured out on the flesh getting saved? 

No one can, but Ezekiel tells us that after the Battle of the Gog Alliance the Holy Spirit IS poured out on Israel. When Daniel was told of the 70 weeks of work that God had left to do with the Jews and Jerusalem before everything was complete, Gentiles were not included, they weren't mentioned, they weren't in view. The 70 weeks are about Jews and God's work with them, not about God's work with Gentiles. 69 of those weeks passed until the cutting off of Messiah, at which point, God cut off (at least partially) the Jews. That means one week remains, one seven year period in which God will finish his work with the Jews and then all Israel will be saved.

So Ezekiel 38 and 39, The Epic of Gog of Magog, is the story about what touches off Daniel's 70th week.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Interpreting the Story of the Nephilim

Since the Nephilim could not possibly be angel hybrids, we have to ask ourselves what is this story about. We know it's about God's wrath, but is there something in the broader context that explains God’s striving with mankind, the limiting of time for that to conclude, the declaration that man is flesh, and that this whole affair seems like it was touched off by a separation between the godly and the merely human being no longer maintained? 

YES! resoundingly so, YES! Let's jump in and see how it all comes together.

It does need to be pointed out at this point that it wasn’t the separation itself that was important in causing God's judgment. That the whole race of humankind was becoming violent as a result of it no longer being maintained is what mattered. The story, after all, is about violence, and specifically, about God's wrath in response to it. In that regard, the story doesn't really begin in Genesis 6, but back in Genesis 4 with the violent death Cain visited upon Abel.

Genesis 4:8-24 lays out God's reaction to Cain's crime: he and his family were driven from the presence of the Lord; Cain was marked in case someone stumbled into him and wanted to take vengeance; he was enjoined from farming and sentenced to be a restless wanderer (hunter/gatherer is the implication) instead. His wife went with him into exile and so a race of people followed, separated from the rest of mankind and alienated from their created purpose of tilling. The lineage derived was more tightly constrained genetically than the Sethites, which had many offspring of Adam and Eve with which to reproduce.

In chapter 5, the story of mankind is retold but without any reference to Cain and Abel (Cain’s line is treated separately in 4:17-24). Humankind without Cain is recast as God’s children, the creation of God through Adam and Seth as can be seen in the repetition of "likeness." Adam was made in the likeness of God, Seth in the likeness of Adam. With the appointment of Seth (which means put, set) to take the place of Abel, and Cain segregated, a human line of God's children was reestablished.

Many sons and daughters were born to Adam after Seth, but Seth was the named successor and so the head of the line that were sons to God (remember Luke 3). At that time, the Sethite, human, sons of God began to call on the name of the LORD. So the situation leading up to the Nephilim account was that, near the beginning of human history, God's judgment had separated the line of Cain from the rest of humanity because of violence. The line of Cain was human, certainly, but it was the line of Seth, though human as well, that carried the name of God, called on that name and had the distinction of being called "sons of God."

At some point in time, when Cain's line had multiplied sufficiently, the males of Seth's line began running into and noticing the daughters of Cain's line. They were beautiful. The Sethite sons of God took (in a replication of Eve’s sin in garden) as many as they wished as wives and cross-bred. Since the cross-breeding was only one way (Seth’s line took Cain’s women, but Cain's line did not take Seth’s women) the inference is that unequal strength was brought to bear, perhaps even... violence.

The interbreeding within Cain’s line up to the time of this cross-breeding produced a much more constrained gene pool in Cain's line as compared to Seth's. When the lines cross-bred, gigantism manifested, probably not dissimilarly to the production of ligers when lions breed with tigers. The giants thus produced were called “Nephilim.” These folks of great stature physically also gained stature socially, and I think the inference that they did so through violence is reasonable.

It seems that the gene signal for gigantism remained a recessive trait in some of those descended from cross-breeding but not expressing it. This may have been the case for Noah's daughters-in-law, or Noah's wife, or maybe even in Noah himself, maybe even some combination of all those possibilities. Whatever the source, in the post-diluvian Sethite race derived from Noah's sons and their wives, gigantism manifested itself again. When it did, it seems the same proclivity toward violence and notoriety was manifested in Nephilim whether prediluvian or post.

The problem that led to The Flood, with all it's death and destruction, was that the human, but godly line of Adam and Seth had become violent, like the human but ungodly line of Cain. In the mixture of those populations, violence filled the earth and giants roamed the land. God regretted having made any of them and so judgment came in a deluge. So there it is, simple and straightforward—no angels, no angelic hybrids—just human sinners doing as sinners do, all the time.

Thankfully, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and so can we. 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

What Are Angels?

As we go on with the story of the Nephilim, getting a grasp on what angels actually are is essential, so let us look at a few of the biblical descriptions of angels to gain an understanding of what they are and what they are not:

  • Hebrews 1:14 tells us angels are "ministering spirits" (pneumata)-- creatures of breath, spirit-beings rather than flesh, that do what God tells them to benefit those about to inherit salvation (Christians);
  • Luke 24:39 tells us spirits have not flesh and bone, they’re not corporeal, even if they take the form of man;
  • Luke 20:35-36 tells us the resurrected are equivalent to angels in that they do not die-- so angels do not die;
  • Luke 20:35-36 also tells us the resurrected are equivalent to angels in that they neither marry nor are given in marriage-- so angels do not reproduce sexually.

The Bible doesn't give us all that much information about angels, not near as much as humans have an appetite for anyhow. Problems arise when we try to fill the knowledge gap by turning to uninspired works of the ancient past, even if those sources are presumably Jewish. Even if those sources are cited or alluded to in the inspired scriptures we do have. Even if those sources were found among copies of writings which are inspired. One who takes sola scriptura as the rule of faith and conduct doesn't give credence to myths and endless genealogies, which can only promote unhelpful speculations.

We are told in Job 1:6 and 2:1 that Satan reported to God amidst the angels presenting themselves to God. Satan is referred to under the term "also,” (Hebrew: gam), which, it seems to me, is meant to distinguish him in some way from all the sons of God. Even though he was the same type of being (a presumption in Job rather than being explicitly stated), his distinction from the sons of God is pointed out unmistakably. He's definitely not treated as the same, as if he's just another angel.

Which bring us to the lack of distinction in Genesis 6 that would be necessary if "sons of God" were fallen angels in that account. Presumably from Revelation 12, fallen angels, like Satan himself, fell in Genesis 3. Satan was cursed there, which is certainly not what happens to an unfallen angel. The curse kind of makes it impossible to not see Satan from that point on in a light that would preclude him from the company of the sons of God. It would make him an "other" from that point on.

To have disobedient angels mating with humans after Satan had been cursed would have required those fallen angels to be distinguished from sons of God in some way as well. Perhaps they would have been called "demons" or "unclean," or by some other distinction, but they definitely would not have been called "sons of God." If this circumstance is envisioned as the instance of their falling, that too is fraught with problems, because taking wives (plural) and having children doesn't happen in a moment. It takes time. At what point would it have been sinful, stopped by God and judged by imprisonment? 

The only thing judged in Genesis 6 is flesh (human and animal) for violence by death.

In a nutshell, then, angels are incorporeal beings incapable of breeding among themselves, let alone humans. They do not die. Fallen angels are no longer called "sons of God" but evil or unclean spirits, demons, devils and Satan and his angels. The notion of them producing hybrid offspring which God had to judge by the flood is, well, ridiculous.

Interpreting the Story of the Nephilim

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Who Are the Sons of God?

The story found in the first few verses of Genesis 6, really the introduction to The Flood account, has been the subject of speculation, fantastically wild interpretation, and the bridge through which ancient, uninspired writings have walked their way into theology and doctrine within orthodox, evangelical churches. So what's all the fuss about anyway? Come, take a dive with me into the heart of the story and we'll see if we can see.

Let's start with those 120 years. Some take this as a pronouncement of the maximum life expectancy for human beings--that fails immediately in the following narratives in the Bible which routinely report lifespans much longer than that. It also runs afoul of Psalm 90:10 which says that a human's lifespan is 70 years, 80 if by reason of strength. So what are those 120 years then? The most reasonable explanation, in my mind, is that God's "contending" with humankind will go on for 120 years before that contention ends and the outpouring of wrath begins. So, they are 120 years until The Flood.

Having gotten that out of the way, the next thing we need to glean from this part of the story is why there’s story at all (including The Flood account of which this forms the introduction). Simply put, this is a story about the wrath and judgment that God sent upon man and beast throughout the world for a very specific reason. Understanding God's reason for unleashing his wrath leads, ultimately, to understanding the broader context of this story (reaching back to Genesis 4) and brings into clarity that strange detail that is the particular focus of this post.

To establish that premise (i.e., it's all about wrath and nothing but wrath) let me point out the glaring succession of statements in the text related to and about the wrath of God. With each statement through the account of the Nephilim and just beyond into the Flood Account, a growing clarity develops about the subject:

 v. 6:3  God limits the days of striving in judgment (contention) with mankind; humans are but flesh (NIV says mortal, but mortality has nothing to do with the issue, the word used means meat, basically, and the reason to note that will become clear as we proceed)

v. 6:5 - Humankind (note: no other kind referenced) had become saturated in wickedness 

v. 6:11 - The whole earth was corrupt (ruined) and filled with violence

v. 6:12 - All flesh had corrupted their way (and so were responsible for its ruination before God)

v. 6:13 - The end of all flesh was determined by God because through them the earth was filled with violence

The reason that God's wrath spilled out in the flood is clear enough--violence. What ticked God off to the point that he regretted creating life and moved him to destroy all the living was violence, pure and simple, and not just amongst humankind, but with the animals as well (v. 7). That reason had nothing to do with angels--fallen, hybridized or otherwise. His wrath was directed toward all flesh that walked upon the ground save for that small sample that found grace, with Noah, in the eyes of the LORD.

But, the most critical issue in understanding the role the Nephilim account plays within its greater context is what, exactly, is meant by the phrase, “sons of God.” 

In the OT, this phrase occurs in our text, at Deuteronomy 32:8, a few times in Job (1:6; 2:1; 38:7), a few in Psalms (29:1; 82:6; 89:6), and in Daniel 3:25. Though, at first blush, the phrase may seem to refer to angels in these texts, we know that is not necessarily so because of the testimony of Jesus. Speaking of Psalm 82:6, Jesus says that the “sons of God” are those humans (as context reveals) to whom the word came. So, people God reveals things to are his sons. Furthermore, Exodus 4:23 and Hosea 11:1 have God referring to Israel as his son. Not the same exact phrase, but the usage is clear nonetheless—God refers to humans, as well as angels, as his sons. 

In the NT, believers in God and those who are obedient to God are called "sons of God," as in: John 1:12; Romans 8:14-19 (children as well); Philippians 2:15; and 1 John 3:1-2. The same are called children of God in several more passages: Matthew 5:9; Luke 20:36; John 11:52; Romans 8:21, 9:8; Galatians 3:26; and 1 John 3:10 (children of God vs. of Satan), 5:2. The most telling reference of all is found in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus, where, finishing a long line of citing whose son was whose son, the passage concludes with “Seth of Adam, Adam of God.” 

The Lucan genealogy relates directly to that in Genesis 5, which is part of the greater context for the text we're examining in chapter 6. In reverse order from Luke, Moses starts with God's creative act of making humans in his image. Adam was created so and then Seth was from Adam. No mention of Cain, no mention of Abel is made. To understand the line of God's image (or as I contend, God's sons) the line of descent proceeds from Adam to Seth, and thereafter from Seth until time of The Flood. 

Therefore, the force of “sons of God” cannot be seen as referring solely to "spiritual beings" or "elohim." Those beings created by God who hear his word and do his bidding are sons of God whether they're flesh and bone or merely spiritual. Those beings that do not are sons of the Devil. This is true for spiritual beings, such as angels and demons, or flesh beings, such as humans. In the case at hand, it is clear, I think, the phrase refers to humans, as I will finish demonstrating in the next posts.

Monday, November 1, 2021

What We Never Were But Always Will Be

Inevitability. That which unavoidably comes to pass. Not only predictable but certain. 

In the mind of God, I am quite sure, that is what the fall of a creature like man, made in God's image with its consequent independence and freedom, would have been considered.

Line up a thousand people and test the premise and all one thousand would prove it true, as would a million, or billions, or whatever number might be selected. You see, it is impossible for that which is not God to replicate the free choice and will of him who is. If God could be replicated by that which isn't him, then God wouldn't be God. The very thing that grants the freedom to choose determines that choice will, without fail, deviate from God's and become sin.

Is there anything that God doesn't know about a course of action he intends to take? If he is omniscient, certainly there isn't. Since he is, God would need no more than one generic sample of a thing made along the line of a human in order to demonstrate by test the nature of this glitch to any and all observers (including that human in the test). One would be more than sufficient-- as that one went, so any others would go. The prototype is all that is necessary to make the proof that then would apply to all others.

Adam was that sample, the prototypical man. Eve was as well since "male and female he created them." Adam/Eve was not God, merely the image of God, and ignorant (innocent) rather than aware and knowing. They were created to do as they pleased, like God, but with one exception: they were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One pair of both models, one rule impinging upon their freedom was more than adequate to demonstrate that inevitable glitch that would manifest in all others of the type given the chance.

The prototype test in Eden proved to all creation that a human made in the image of God would rely on his or her own judgment rather than trust in the judgment of God. That is the particular choice from which deviation, any and all deviation, from God's will comes from. Had they trusted God there was nothing to hinder them from eating of the tree of life and living eternally. They didn't, demonstrated the inevitable glitch of which we speak and brought all of creation down with them into sin and death.

They trusted themselves, trusted the Serpent, but they did not trust God. Thereby, they became disqualified and unsuitable for an eternal life walking in the freedom intrinsic to the image of God.

Jesus was the prototypical eternal man. Not only was he flesh and bone and soulish in a human sense, he was also God in the flesh. Tested though he was, he stayed true to the Heavenly Father. He trusted his Father's judgment and stayed dedicated to his will. He never deviated, not even once from his Heavenly Father's will though he had at every turn the freedom to do so. He demonstrated that God dwelling within the soul and frame of a human made in his image was a sufficient synthesization to achieve perfection in being and eternal life.

We were in Adam and did as Adam did. We were flawed and not capable of being truly righteous. By faith in Jesus and rebirth in the Spirit of God we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us. What he did, as he did, we also will do. As he is righteous so are we. He lives forever and so will we. 

We were Adam, now we are Christ and we always will be.

Monday, October 25, 2021

How Can the Imperfect Become Perfect?

Jesus said we must be perfect because our heavenly Father is perfect. It seems an onerous demand to make upon intrinsically imperfect creatures, so is that what it intended to convey? God is undoubtedly perfect and so are his standards, so if humans are ever to peacefully coexist with him we'll have to align with his standard rather than him to ours. That much is certainly true, but I doubt that Jesus' statement was a demand so much as it was a statement of fact.

If God allowed imperfection to remain in his universe he wouldn't fit the definition of being perfect, and by extension, that of being God. If he did that, the best that could be said was that perhaps he understood what was perfect, maybe even that he wanted what was perfect, but he, himself, would not be perfect because he didn't "make it so." "Woulda, coulda, shoulda" is not the mantra of perfection. Jesus spoke truth on that mount, really a necessity: if it wasn't so, God wouldn't be God.

We, however, are not perfect, nor can we be. There is one, alone, who is good and it ain't us! But we must be, if we're ever to get along with him who is. We are made by a perfect creator and it is a necessity that we be perfect in all that we are. If not, we'll have to be made perfect not as we are.

Right now, we are free to think, desire, choose, act, create, etc. In order to continue to do so, we'll have to come into accord with, be perfectly aligned to, and be absolutely congruent with him who is perfect. If we yield the degrees of freedom we have through faith, because we trust God in his perfections, and are infused with the Holy Spirit throughout our being, we can thereby be enabled to walk in agreement with the perfect God. We can be like Jesus was as he walked among us.

Or...

We can be confined in hell, and by that I mean the Lake of Fire. As terrible, even barbaric, as that might seem, it is not the petty, vindictive, hissy fit of someone really big and strong. It is a logical necessity. In view of an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, perfect God it is the only outcome possible. If those made in his image, and eternal as a result, will not choose perfectly, then they must be perfectly incapacitated from making any choice whatsoever.

We are not perfect, nor can we ever be. Not of ourselves, not by our own resources. Yet, we must be perfect nonetheless! The solution to our dilemma is simple-- don't be dependent on our own resources. God is willing, even desirous, to share his perfect Spirit with those who put their trust in Christ. When he who is perfect is abiding in those who can't be perfect on their own, perfection becomes remarkably possible. When those folks are recreated at the Rapture, then their perfection will be complete.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

If We Would Just Catch Our Breath

It has been broadly accepted that mankind is nothing more than a highly evolved animal, not really any different from any other living thing out there. No other animal is even remotely like us in the ability to reason, or to will, or to communicate, or to abstract, but according to the modern conception that is only a matter of degree rather than substance. I don't believe that, but then, what makes man so special in my view? In the early chapters of Genesis, we are told exactly what that is and especially with regard to all other life.

The creation account in the beginning of Genesis is really an elucidation of God’s determination to make mankind in his image. The creation of the universe itself and all other lifeforms is treated as the backdrop to that ultimate aim. No more explanation than “and God said…and God saw that it was good” is offered for all of those creations, but for mankind a bit more needed to be said. The thrust is that mankind is unique, special among God's creations with something nothing else in all the physical world has.

Mankind was made in the image of God, which means they are a likeness resembling God. God is non-corporeal and outside of the created order (John 4:241 Timothy 1:17), which means that man’s resemblance to God is not physical but something else. Physically, mankind is much like anything else that is alive and is separated by mere degree from all else. However, nothing else is like mankind in those areas of divergence noted above and that is where the image of God shines forth. God is the only thing other than man (and angels) that shares those qualities.

Presumptively, God fashioned man, physically, from the same material he had used to make other creatures. Whereas they were brought forth from the earth by a mere word, mankind was formed [Hebrew: yatsar] by God in the manner of a potter and then directly breathed into by God which granted man soulish life. Although later in the creation account, that word (formed) was applied generally to all the creatures God had made, I find it interesting that in dealing with the detail of creation, a clear difference in how that played out is specified.

Whereas a general, creative word was sufficient for every other creature, with man God got his hands dirty and infused his own breath into Adam. Every creature had living being [Hebrew: nephesh chayyah, the animation of living being] granted by God, but had so without any reference to breath breathed into it by God himself. For creatures, God merely said, "Let the earth bring forth..." For man, God took dust in his hand and formed the creature, then breathed out of himself into man's nostrils the breath of life.

What is important about this distinction, it seems to me, is that the quality that makes mankind living souls uniquely from God is also the means by which God’s image was uniquely communicated to man. We are in God's image, not just because we are like God descriptively, but because we came directly from God substantively. We are, in essence, breath from God. Human beings truly are the offspring of God.

As wonderful as that is, it has a drawback--it means we last forever, just like God. God is eternal and the breath that came out of God and was put into man (and made him a living soul) lasts forever too. Therefore, people never cease to exist, their soul is eternal. Ultimately, body and soul will brought together, as at first, and permanently assigned to their place of eternal abiding. So the only question about our future existence is not if we will, but where we will and under what conditions.

We certainly can't be destroyed, anymore than God can!

Most of us are only all too aware of our need for the redemption our broken, dying bodies: physical death, and what leads up to it, is enough to get that message across. Thankfully, we have the necessary vicarious sacrifice in the death of Christ and his victorious resurrection from the dead for that, provided we place our trust in him. But what is the more essential need included in the mix is the redemption of our eternal souls, those whisps of the very breath of God which last forever. Everlasting life is in our hands from the scarred hands of Christ, if we would just pause in faith and catch our breath.

Monday, March 9, 2020

A Christian Worldview: What Should We Do?

Solomon was an interesting figure. Blessed with incredible wisdom, intelligence, wealth and power, he decided to test drive life by his own wits. He set out to figure it all out and experience everything he could. He studied everything he could, sought out every kind of pleasure he could find, built great projects, amassed fantastic wealth, and at every turn felt nothing but emptiness. Famously, he decried, "All is vanity and a striving after the wind," in despair at the discovery.

He looked at the people around him and saw they experienced the same thing—emptiness. The Hebrew word translated emptiness or vanity throughout Ecclesiastes (hebel) literally refers to breath or vapor. Quite accurately it conveys the fleeting quality of thing that seemed to be there but then wasn't. For Solomon, after all of his efforts, achievements and experiences, life boiled down to a merciless sentence with emptiness at every comma and a period ending it all in the suddenness of death.

A very dour perspective, to be sure, but all that matters is whether or not it’s true. 

Despite the endless despair over the emptiness of human existence cited throughout Ecclesiastes, a positive conclusion came at the end. “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man,” Solomon averred. Now that is a perspective we can live with! In very practical terms it makes living through so much meaninglessness meaningful with the added benefit that it's easy to remember.

"Recognize God, respect him as your creator, live life in regard to him" is how I would state it. That may seem very “Old Testamenty” from a New Testament vantage, but it translates readily into a Christian worldview. For Christians, life revolves around recognizing Christ as God in the flesh, respecting him as Savior, and living in regard to him. What Solomon learned the hard way Christians can adopt by faith, and without all the bumps and bruises along the way that come when one of trusts in oneself.

Honestly, there is only thing in life that isn’t wasting away, that crosses the threshold of death and remains in eternity--our relationship with Christ. This is the only thing of worth we will ever have in this life and the only thing we can improve upon and have stand the test of time. It certainly is the only thing we can take with us. All the things that humans treasure and labor for and try to preserve and protect from the savages of time (and savages themselves) matters not a whit in the end.

Only what we have with Christ matters!

The only thing of any real value in life is knowing God on friendly terms. So why are people, supposedly with a Christian worldview, working at anything else? By not developing this kind of Christian worldview and living by it, believers end up living in a tug of war between the flesh and faith, between the world and the Spirit. They live defeated, worldly, empty lives and feel uncertainty about their place in the end. It doesn't have to be this way, vanity is not unavoidable.

Living with Jesus eyes is the only way to live at all. Anything else is a waste of time.

So put first things first. Above all, know God, not as a precept or a theory, but personally, as a constant companion that you want to be with. Then, simply go where he goes, do what he does, and say what he says. Live with life revolving around Jesus. If we don’t put the most important thing first, in the end, we’ll have nothing. That would be the vanity of all vanities.

What went before...

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

A Christian Worldview: Where Are We Going?

In the last post I mentioned that the antidote to the place we find ourselves in is Jesus Christ, but what is it that gets people to come to Christ the antidote? Certainly, God is the most fundamental answer, but if God's effort was all that was needed to get people to the antidote, God would bring everyone to Christ and everyone would be saved. But that is not what happens--it does not comport with reality scripturally or materially. Whatever God does in the hearts of people to draw them to Christ has to be coupled with something that is not up to God to accomplish, otherwise, everyone would come to Christ and be saved.

That something is faith.

It takes faith in the antidote to actually avail oneself of the antidote. Faith in Christ like this is impossible for the depraved mind we spoke of in the last post to express, but it is also impossible for faith like this to be imposed. It wouldn't be faith in that case, it would be something more akin to instinct. So two elements need to come together to produce the faith connection to Christ: God, the Spirit empowering; and a willful reaction to trust God from the human heart. Like epoxy, two elements mix together to make a bond that works.

The old adage says that one can lead a horse to water but he can't make him drink. The Holy Spirit convicts, draws, we might go so far as to say woos the sinful human, but the Holy Spirit cannot and does not believe for him. Enabled by the Spirit's action, we must believe for ourselves. If we won't, God will not do it for us, and we won't be saved. The snag in all this, it seems to me, is that big word, REPENTANCE.

Repentance means to change one's mind, to realize after determining a course, that it was not the right course, and so changing directions. We tend to fixate on the small population of our own misdeeds when thinking about repentance, but that doesn't really get to the root of things. To repent of the thing that really ails us we have to go back to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. True repentance lies in undoing what Adam and Eve did.

Adam and Eve thought their judgment was as good as God's, we have to unthink that. Adam and Eve saw themselves on par with God as to determination of the what and wheres of life, we must "unsee" ourselves as like that. The thing Adam and Eve despaired over with regard to God, we must repair by the application of the cross and the victory of the resurrection. Simply put, we must stop trusting ourselves and start trusting God.

Pop psychology pushes people to trust in themselves, and seems to assume that people don't do so enough. As far as I have seen, most people have “trust-in-self” in spades. They really aren’t interested in trusting God, but they'll trust in their self, independent of God, even if their lives are falling apart. Pride? Perhaps. Yet, so many of those same folks still want eternal paradise, they're just not so hot on the whole overbearing God thing.

But if one doesn't love and trust God, one wouldn't like heaven.

An all-expense-paid trip to Disney World would be totally unappealing to me. I’m not interested in Disney characters, I don’t like standing in line, I have no interest in animatronics and I’m much more interested in experiencing a thrill in movement than watching a cheesy production. To top it off, I hate Florida! The heat and humidity are as close to hell as I hope ever to be. Why would I ever want to go to Disney World, even if offered an all-expense paid trip?

A similar question could be posed rhetorically to some folks regarding heaven. Heaven is all about God. Everyone there trusts him implicitly, everything there serves him unquestioningly, everyone there is fascinated by him, everything there is perfectly aligned to his will (and the people and angels there, willingly so). You see, everyone there is conformed to the image of Christ. For some folks that holds no allure. They may not want to go to hell, but they really don’t want to have life revolve around Jesus either!

The point of this life is not to get an all-expense-paid trip out of hell, nor to have life cease working against us (as in reversing the curse here and now). The point is changing our mind about God and ourselves, about realizing our need for Jesus and embracing a framework for living that revolves around trusting God rather than ourselves. A Christian worldview arises out of repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ.

So where are we heading as Christians?

Toward Christ in trust. Toward knowing Christ as Lord. Toward becoming just like him. A Christian worldview sees life revolving around God. Anything less is a fallacy. So turn to him today. Follow him tomorrow. Be at it next week. Make it the principle that governs all your living. That's where a Christian needs to be going.

How then shall we live...