When Darkness Falls

Written by krkeyser on August 21st, 2017

Today the United States is seized by eclipse-mania, as millions of people across the nation don odd-looking spectacles to observe a rarely glimpsed solar eclipse. Many are traveling large distances to get the best vantage point for the complete – or in some cases near complete – obscuration of the sun. Yet the most dramatic historical darkening of the skies was global, and concealed the central event of human history: Christ’s vicarious, sacrificial death. As the Gospel records it:

Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, “into Your hands I commit My spirit.”’  Having said this, He breathed His last.” Luke 23:44-46 [Boldface mine.]

Degrees Of Torment

When thinking of the Lord’s historical death, modern people tend to concentrate on His physical sufferings. The awful scourging, psychological torment, and beatings that He endured prior to the cross, as well as the nails through His extremities and the physical pain that accompanied crucifixion. This attention to His physiological sufferings likely stems from our own human understanding of sorrow. We can identify with bodily pain; sooner or later, we all endure sickness and corporeal affliction. Accordingly, we can picture Jesus’ physical sufferings.

Without minimizing the physical pain that Christ endured, His spiritual sufferings were the worst part of the cross. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 describes it: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” During the three dark hours the Lamb of God sacrificially took away the sin of the world by becoming a propitiation where the righteous judge condemned and punished sin but spared and justified believers in Jesus (John 1:29; 1 John 2:1-2; Rom. 3:23-26.) During that supernatural darkness on the cross, “the Lord . . . laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6.) It was a sight too terrible and too holy for fallen human eyes to behold. As George West Frazer poetically expresses it:

“‘Twas on that night of deepest woe, when darkness round did thicken,
When through deep waters Thou didst go, and for our sins wast stricken;
Thou, Lord, didst seek that we should be with grateful hearts remembering Thee.

How deep the sorrow, who can tell, which was for us endured?
O love divine, that broke the spell which had our hearts allured!
With heart and conscience now set free, it is our joy to think of Thee
.”[i]

The great hymnist and preacher, John Newton adds:

How bitter that cup no heart can conceive,
Which Jesus drank up, that sinners might live!
His way was much rougher and darker than mine:
Did Jesus thus suffer, and shall I repine
?”[ii]

From Darkness To Light

Thankfully, the Lord’s redemptive sufferings are over. He never needs to repeat His perfect sacrifice (Heb. 10:10-18.) The One who endured the deepest darkness, now inhabits unimaginably brilliant light – in keeping with His identity as “the Light” (John 1:4-5; 1 John 1:6-7; 1 Tim. 6:16; Acts 26:13.) After the darkness of the cross and the tomb, He arose from the dead and later ascended back to heaven’s glory (Rom.1:4; Acts 1:2-11.) For those who repent and believe on Christ for salvation, trusting in Him to save them through His finished sacrifice and resurrection, He promises eternal life in His kingdom which knows no darkness (Rom. 10:9; Rev. 21:23.) To ignore or disbelieve His offer of gracious salvation by faith is to remain spiritually lost, under God’s righteous sentence of condemnation (John 3:16-21, 36.) If one leaves this world in that state, they will endure eternal punishment in “outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30.)

Solar eclipses are temporary, lasting only a matter of hours across a continent like North America. By contrast, suffering God’s wrath in the lake of fire lasts forever for those who have not trusted the Lord Jesus. Since Christ died for guilty sinners like you and me, there is absolutely no need to eternally perish in this way. As He says: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24.)

A Future So Bright

The believer’s bright destiny is well-expressed in a classic hymn:

The glory shines before me, I cannot linger here;
Though clouds may darken o’er me, my Father’s house is near:
If through this barren desert a little while I roam,
The glory shines before me, I am not far from home.

Beyond the storms I’m going, beyond this vale of tears,
Beyond the floods o’erflowing, beyond the changing years:
I’m going to the better land, by faith long since possessed:
The glory shines before me, for this is not my rest.

The Lamb is there the glory! The Lamb is there the light!
Affliction’s grasp but tore me from phantoms of the night:
The voice of Jesus calls me, my race will soon be run;
The glory shines before me, the prize will soon be won.

The glory shines before me, I know that all is well;
My Father’s care is o’er me, his praises I would tell:
The love of Christ constrains me, his blood hath washed me white;
Where Jesus is in glory, ‘Tis home, and love, and light.
[iii]

___________________________________________________________________

[i] G.W. Frazer, “‘Twas on that night of deepest woe,” electronic ed. accessed on 8/21/17 here: http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/188

[ii] John Newton, “I will trust and not be afraid,” electronic ed. accessed on 8/21/17 here: http://ehymnbook.org/CMMS/hymnSong.php?folder=p01&id=pd01601

[iii] Hannah K. Burlingham, “The glory shines before me, I cannot linger here” electronic ed. accessed on 8/21/17 here: http://ehymnbook.org/CMMS/hymnSong.php?id=pd16544

 

The Believer’s Position In Christ (A retro-post by Edward Dennett)

Written by krkeyser on August 17th, 2017

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 1:17-2:6

“We are here taught that the mighty power of God was displayed in the resurrection of Christ, that God came in and took Him out of the grave wherein He lay, raised Him up, and set Him down at His own right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named; and then, more wonderful still — more wonderful because of those who were the objects of this perfection of His grace — that His power to us-ward was ‘according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ.’ And if Ephesians 1 gives us the effect of this mighty power in relation to Christ, Ephesians 2 shows us the effect on His people. The chapter thus commences: ‘And you, who were dead in trespasses and sins.’ And the apostle then points out that the exceeding greatness of God’s power met us in the place where we lay dead in sins (for Christ indeed in grace had come down to us — down to the very depths of our condition of death); and that God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us quickened us together with Christ, and raised us (both Jew and Gentile) up together, and made us (Jew and Gentile) sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Christ, for the glory of God, in the accomplishment of His purposes, having identified Himself with His people, God, in response to the One who thus endured all for His glory, came in and wrought, and the effect is seen in a twofold way — in the place Christ occupies, and in the place we occupy in Him — seated in Him in the heavenlies.

But it is objected that we are only in Christ Jesus in the heavenlies in the sense of being seen in Him as the head of the new race. In the first place, Christ is never spoken of as the Head of a race in this epistle: as the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all, He is; and we are also told that all things, whether in heaven or in earth, will be ‘headed up’ in the Christ; but this is a very different thing. Secondly, this would imply that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings through, rather than in, Christ. Of course, He is the only medium through which blessings flow to us, as indeed He is God’s only vessel of blessing for us; but, as united to Him, members of His body — and this is the teaching of Ephesians — we are blessed as in Him. This statement, however, its met by the allegation that the members of the body of Christ are on earth, not in heaven. This is not true in the teaching of Ephesians 2. There everything, being on God’s side, or, as we often say, on the side of purpose, is complete. The counsels of God are accomplished, and He has before Him, in Christ, His whole Church, Jew and Gentile alike, all distinctions abolished, seated in Christ. He reveals this to us to show us our true place, the character of our blessings, and the scene in which in spirit He would have us live and move. It may be furthermore objected that Christ is seated at God’s right hand, and that, as this place belongs only to Him, we could not be said to be seated in Him where He is. True, most blessedly true, is it that the right hand of God is the pre-eminent place of our blessed Lord, the place which God delighted to give Him, and the place which the saints rejoice to recognize as His alone. But this in nowise militates against the fact that believers are in Christ where He is. His place at the right of God is positional — the token of His supreme exaltation; and it would indeed be unholy presumption to intrude a claim to this. But while asserting this, is not Christ before God? And is He not there as the head of His body? And are not saints actually united to Him? And is it not true, therefore, that God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, has quickened us together with Christ, raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus? There is the whole Church now before the eye of God, and He has it there, ‘that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness towards us through (in) Christ Jesus.’ Edward Dennett, “Expository Jottings: What is it to be seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus?” in Christian Friend, Vol. 11, (1884), p. 204; Electronic ed. accessed on 8/17/17 here: http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/dennett/seathvnl.html

 

The testimony of Mitch Zajac

Written by krkeyser on August 17th, 2017

Our friend & brother in Christ, Mitch Zajac’s story may be viewed here; it’s well worth your time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qf528enUQz8

 

Scenes Of God’s Glory From The Cancer Ward

Written by krkeyser on July 27th, 2017

Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, For I am desolate and afflicted.” Psalm 25:16

*

Authentic Christianity – a living relationship with Christ by faith – is built for real life with all its trials and difficulties. I was practically reminded of this during a recent visit to a believing friend who is currently fighting cancer. Although she is in the hospital in a state far from our home, we were in her area for the preaching of God’s Word, and so decided to visit and encourage her. Even as I type that last phrase, I’m smiling, for what occurred was that my wife, Naomi & I, were the ones who were encouraged. Seeing the reality of the faith of this suffering sister and her devoted husband demonstrated afresh the reality of the Lord’s mercies in the crucible of pain.

From Anger To Praise

Our friend’s cancer was diagnosed shortly after her husband lost his job. Like many of us, this brother was initially dismayed and angry: Why would God allow this to happen now? As he recounted his past bitterness, I thought to myself: “Brother, I’m certain I would’ve harbored hard thoughts too.” Yet our Father “knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14.) It turned out, that the severance package was generous and in God’s good providence, the family insurance continues for a year. What seemed at first to be a major blow, turned out to be the Almighty’s gracious supply for His children’s needs. In addition, the husband was set free from normal working responsibilities in order to care for his wife. Truly, “a man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9.)

Praising From The Sickbed

From her sickbed, this sister repeatedly spoke of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Her husband agreed and could only lament his former doubt. He spoke with the quietness of conviction, affirming that the Lord is to be trusted and is doing all things well. How can people going through such a severe trial praise the Lord? The answer is that it is nothing short of supernatural!

In times of stress and difficulty, Christ’s people have a decided advantage:

  • The Lord promises to never leave or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5.)
  • He died to remove their sins and rose again to give them eternal and abundant life (1 Cor. 15:3-4; John 10:10.)
  • His Spirit lives within them and empowers them to glorify God from the fiery furnaces of this world (John 14:16-18.)
  • They also have the settled assurance that the Lord providentially works all things for good (Rom. 8:28-30.)
  • God works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11) and that will is directing history toward the inexorable enthronement of His glorified Son, Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16.)
  • Part of that will also dictates that His people will be eternally with Him, sharing in His glory and serving in His heavenly administration (John 17:24-26; 2 Tim. 2:11-13.)

As Isaac Watts put it:

Plunged in a gulf of dark despair
We wretched sinners lay,
Without one cheerful beam of hope,
Or spark of glimm’ring day.

With pitying eyes the Prince of grace
Beheld our helpless grief;
He saw, and, O amazing love!
He ran to our relief.
[i]

Glory, Glory, Glory

Present sufferings cannot compare with believers’ future glory (Rom. 8:18.) The Holy Spirit used Paul to write these words. By his own experience, he was an authority on human suffering. Sorrow may endure for the night time, but for the believer, joy cometh in the morning. The great eternal morning when the Lord will come to receive His saints to Himself (John 14:3.) Bodies that are now afflicted with diseases like cancer, will then be clothed with immortality (1 Cor. 15:42-55; 2 Cor. 4:17-5:8.) Spirits that are plagued by the inward struggle against sin will enter into the glorious liberty of the sons of God (Rom. 8:11, 15-23.) As Robert Murray M’Cheyne poetically envisioned it:

When I stand before the throne

Dressed in beauty not my own,

When I see thee as thou art,

Love thee with unsinning heart,

Then, Lord, shall I fully know—

Not till then—how much I owe.[ii]

______________________________________________________________________

[i] Isaac Watts, The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1998).

[ii] Robert Murray McCheyne, The Works of the Late Robert Murray McCheyne, Vol. 1. (New York: Robert Carter, 1848), 360–361.

* J. Hodgson Lobley, “The Special Surgical Auxiliary Hospital At The Star & Garter Hotel,  Richmond (UK)” (1918): Accessed here.

 

Danse Macabre

Written by krkeyser on July 19th, 2017

The timeworn, cynically homespun adage has it that there is nothing certain except for “death and taxes.” Nevertheless, modern science continues its relentlessly optimistic quest to abolish death, with tech entrepreneurs funding ever more ambitious schemes to live forever.[1] End-of-life medical care and the funeral industry – multibillion dollar businesses in North America alone – seek to dull the pain and obscure the ubiquity of death, veiling its grotesqueness under a cosmetically constructed façade of simulated sleep. A more recent concept in mitigating the horror of death came to my attention earlier in the week, appropriately enough in an obituary.

Sunbury, GA Cemetary (Photo by KRK)

The English Approach: Let’s Talk About Death

The late Mr. Jon Underwood of London was a pioneering proponent of the “Death Café” movement. The idea is to gather over tea and cake and discuss one’s own mortality. On the one hand, this is a commendable effort to face reality: death comes to all human beings and it behooves them to face that fact.[2] The only problem is that it does not go far enough in thinking about the matter. This is shown by Mr. Underwood’s comment when asked about his own demise: “It’s not ‘that I’m not scared of dying — I am! . . . But doing this work has given me confidence that whatever happens I will respond with openness and resilience. I know I will cope. That’s really useful!’”[3] Sadly, his Buddhism[4] offers no certainty for what comes after death; of course, that is the momentous issue. What comes after this life determines whether or not one can “cope” with death and its aftermath.

After Death, Eternal Existence, But Where?

The best place to learn about death is to the words of the Creator of life, who vanquished death through resurrection – The Lord Jesus Christ. He has been to the afterlife and returned to tell the tale (1 Cor. 15:3-8.) Death exists in our world because of mankind’s historical and ongoing sin (Romans 5:12; 6:23.) The Lord Jesus came to earth to destroy sin and the Devil who exploits it to human beings’ cost (1 John 3:8.) Not only did Christ physically die, He also suffered and died under the wrath of God for our sin (1 Pet. 3:18.) Thus, He knows what lies beyond this world and has dealt with sin which separates us from our Maker. Those who are trusting Christ for salvation need not fear death, for it is a vanquished foe.[5]

Christ’s words to Martha are revelatory: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25-26.) He can promise life after death because He has defeated death, as Hebrews 2 explains: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15; boldface mine.)

Elsewhere the Lord Jesus described the fruitfulness of His death and resurrection, saying: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24.) Commenting on His future harvest, one preacher remarked:

“The extent of this fruit-bearing we do not yet see. It is only one here, and another there, whom we see quickened from the death of sin by the all-vivifying power of him who, as the last Adam, is made a quickening spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). But, in the day of his glorious re-appearing; when he comes with the ten thousand of his saints, those who have slept in him, and those who shall be alive at his return; when he comes to smite Antichrist, to bind Satan, to deliver creation from its groans, to bless Israel, to be a light to the Gentiles, to set up his righteous kingdom, and to make all things new; it shall be seen what he has done by dying. In that day, when he presents to himself the Church of the first-born, the redeemed from among men, without spot or wrinkle, a great multitude that no man can number, we shall learn the extent and excellency of that fruitfulness which he acquired by dying. Heaven and earth, men and angels, shall then see why it was that this corn of wheat fell into the ground and died.”[6]

Christ For Us, With Us, And in Us

To those who receive Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are promised His presence through His indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:16-23; Col. 1:27.) He lives in them and empowers them for service (John 15:5); even if they should die physically, they are not separated from Him for an instant (2 Cor. 5:1-8.) Their soul and spirit – the incorporeal part of humans – are instantly in glory with Christ (Luke 23:43.) At His coming, their bodies will be raised, transformed into glorified form, and caught up to be with the Lord (Phil. 3:20-21; Psa. 17:15; 1 John 3:1-2.)

If one rejects Christ’s offer to save and transform one into His glorious image, there is nothing left but to suffer a lost eternity of conscious punishment in the Lake of Fire – what people commonly call “hell” (Mark 9:42-48; Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 20:11-15.) The only way to “cope” with life, dying, death and what comes after is to have a living relationship with the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:3.)

Ford Maddox Brown, Convalescent, (Portrait of Emma Maddox Brown); https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/Ford_Madox_Brown_-_Convalescent_-_Portrait_of_Emma_Madox_Brown.jpg, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/Ford_Madox_Brown_-_Convalescent_-_Portrait_of_Emma_Madox_Brown.jpg

Here are afflictions and trials severe,
Here is no rest—is no rest;
Here I must part
with the friends I hold dear,
Yet I am blest—I am blest.
Sweet is the promise
I read in Thy Word:
Blessed are they
who have died in the Lord;
They have been called
to receive their reward;
‘There, there is rest—there is rest.’

This world of care is
a wilderness state,
Here is no rest—is no rest;
But I must bear from
the world all its hate,
Yet I am blest—I am blest.
Soon shall I be
from the wicked released;
Soon shall the weary forever be blest;
Soon shall I lean upon Jesus’ breast;
‘There, there is rest—there is rest.’
[7]

♰        ♰         ♰        ♰         ♰         ♰

Death and the curse were in our cup:
O Christ, ’twas full for Thee;
But Thou hast drained the last dark drop,
’Tis empty now for me.
That bitter cup, love drank it up;
Now blessing’s draught for me.

Jehovah lifted up His rod;
O Christ, it fell on Thee!
Thou wast sore stricken of Thy God;
There’s not one stroke for me.
Thy tears, Thy blood, beneath it flowed;
Thy bruising healeth me.

The tempest’s awful voice was heard,
O Christ, it broke on Thee!
Thy open bosom was my ward,
It braved the storm for me.
Thy form was scarred, Thy visage marred;
Now cloudless peace for me.
 

Jehovah bade His sword awake;
O Christ, it woke ’gainst Thee!
Thy blood the flaming blade must slake;
Thine heart its sheath must be;
All for my sake, my peace to make;
Now sleeps that sword for me.

For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,
And I have died in Thee!
Thou’rt ris’n—my hands are all untied,
And now Thou liv’st in me.
When purified, made white and tried,
Thy glory then for me![8]

______________________________________________________________________

[1] Time, 9/30/13, Cover story: http://time.com/574/google-vs-death/

[2] Heb. 9:27. Of course, Christ promised the notable exception of those believers who are alive when He returns “in the air” to collect His church, 1 Thes. 4:13-18. Even if a believer dies before this event, he will: 1. Not taste of death in the sense that he will never be separated from God’s love in Christ, John 11:25-26; Rom. 8:37-39; Heb. 2:9-13. 2. Be raised to meet the Lord in the sky, 1 Thes. 4:14-16; 1 Cor. 15:20-23.

[3] Quoted in his obituary: Iliana Magra, “Jon Underwood, Founder of Death Café Movement, Dies At 44,” New York Times, 7/11/17, electronic ed. accessed here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/international-home/jon-underwood-dead-death-cafe-movement.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fobituaries&action=click&contentCollection=obituaries&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0 [Boldface mine.]

[4] “As a Buddhist, Mr. Underwood had already contemplated the philosophical questions of dying.” Ibid.; His website also indicates that he was a student at “Jamyang Buddhist Centre,” Accessed here: http://deathcafe.com/profile/2/

[5] As a Puritan writer explained it: “Death to a holy man is nothing but the changing of his grace into glory, his faith into vision, his hope into fruition, and his love into perfect comprehension.” Thomas Brooks, “The Crown & Glory of Christianity,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, Vol. 4. (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1867), 179.

[6] Horatius Bonar, “Sermon XXIII: Life & Fruitfulness Through Death,” in Family Sermons. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1863), 180. In another sermon, he said: “The first Adam died; so also died the second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven. But there is a difference. The first Adam died, and, therefore, we die. The second Adam died, and therefore, we live; for the last Adam was made a quickening spirit; and this is the pledge of final victory over death and the tomb. Thus, the grave is the cradle of life; night is the womb of day; and sunset has become sunrise to our shaded and sorrowful earth. Yet, this is not yet realized. We are still under the reign of death, and this is the hour and the power of darkness. The day of the destruction of death, and the unlocking of sepulchers is not yet. It will come in due time. Meanwhile we have to look on death; for our dwelling is in a world of death,—a land of graves. If, then, we would get beyond death’s circle and shadow, we must look above. Death is here, but life is yonder! Corruption is here, incorruption is yonder. The fading is here, the blooming is yonder. We must take the wings of the morning and fly away to the region of the unsorrowing and the undying; where ‘that which is sown in weakness shall be raised in power, and death be swallowed up in victory.’” H. Bonar, “Sermon XLIII: The Mortal & The Immortal,” in Family Sermons, 418-419.

[7] Anon., Believer’s Hymnbook, #72.

[8] Anne Ross Cousin, “O Christ What Burdens Bowed Thy Head,”; electronic ed. accessed on 7/19/17 here: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/c/ocwbubth.htm

 

The Present Delay In Christ’s Earthly Enthronement (Horatius Bonar)

Written by krkeyser on July 13th, 2017

“Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.” Hebrews 2:8.

“Seeing Jesus now crowned with glory and honour, yet not seeing all things put under Him, but the world lying in wickedness,—the lawless one giving law to the nations, and Satan inspiring the false religions of earth,—we should feel like disappointed men, and be tempted to ask, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’ did we not remember that the Church’s posture in the Bridegroom’s absence is that of patient waiting; and that it is God Himself who has taught us this song of hope: ‘Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the field be joyful, and all that is therein; let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh, for He cometh to judge the earth.’

This interval or break the apostle designates by the word ‘Now,’—‘Now we see not yet all things put under Him, but we see Jesus crowned with glory and honour.’ In reference to this interval, he elsewhere uses the same word, in various aspects: ‘Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us’ (Heb. 9:24). ‘Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Cor. 6:2). ‘The whole creation greaneth and travaileth in pain together until now’ (Rom. 8:22). ‘The spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience’ (Eph. 2:2). ‘Even now are there many antichrists’ (1 John 2:18). Of the length of this ‘now,’ little is said; but of its bearings on us, and of its momentous character as the womb of infinite events and eternal issues, much has been written by the Spirit of God. Again and again, for warning, persuasion, instruction, consolation, has He held up to us this interval, so unique in its character, and so marvellous in its results; and made that word ‘now’ to ring in our ears.

An interval so long and gloomy, filled up during so many centuries with revolt, and defiance, and blasphemy, is not what we should have expected. Seeing that all power, on earth as well as in heaven, was given Him as the risen Christ; seeing that He fought the fight, and won the victory upon the cross; we wonder that He should not at once reap the harvest; that He should still be the rejected of men, His Church a minority, His cause upon the losing side, Himself defied by that world which He overcame, that Satan whom He led captive, that death over which He triumphed, that curse, for the enduring of which He took flesh and died.

Under this sore perplexity and disappointment we take refuge where He did, when men turned away from His words: ‘Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.’ The purpose of God, as we read it in the light of ages, assumes the necessity for the development of evil, and error, and unbelief, and rebellion; so as to bring out, not merely what the fall did, the frailty of creaturehood, but the depths of Satan and the depths of sin,—the abysses of evil that are to be found in every corner of a human heart. In the sight of God, this development of creature fallibility and evil is a thing of vast moment, and has a far larger space assigned to it in the history of men and devils than our philosophy would deem safe, or our theology account for. The revelation of evil upon earth before Messiah came was fearful; but it was explicable on the fact that the Destroyer of evil had not yet descended. But its far wider range and more malignant type since He came; nay, since He finished His sin-bearing work; nay, since He sat down upon the throne, is more perplexing, and no less appalling. Terrible are these words of His, ‘I came not to send peace upon earth, but a sword.’

O sin, sin, what an infinite evil art thou! How exceeding sinful, and how prolific in thy sinfulness; how tenacious of life; how expansive in thy potency; how remorseless in thy cruelty; how all-pervading in thy dominion over creaturehood; one seed of thine, dropt in Paradise, covering earth for six thousand years with its hellish harvest! O heart of man, what a pit, what a sea of wickedness, and lawlessness, and atheism art thou! O Satan, Satan, god of this world, and ruler of its darkness, how vast thy resources of strength, and skill, and cunning; defeated, yet gathering power from defeat; wounded with a deadly wound eighteen hundred years ago, yet still surviving, and mustering thy hosts for battle; still multiplying thy subtle wiles, and seducing sophistries, and strong delusions, and dazzling falsehoods, to deceive if possible the very elect; still forging thy fiery darts and wounding men to death, or leading them captive at will; still warring against truth, hiding the gospel, raging against the Lamb, assailing His cross, His throne, and His saints; still vitalizing the old and sapless idolatries of earth, inventing new infidelities, sending forth new blasphemies, making, not heathendom, nor Moslemdom, but Christendom, thy chief seat and chosen citadel; and exercising a power everywhere that both alarms and perplexes us, as if the Christ of God had not been really crowned, or as if the reins of the universe had snapped asunder in His hands!

This, then, is the fact to which we ask your attention, ‘Now we see not yet all things put under Him.’

The word translated ‘put under’ does not merely intimate abstract right, but actual surrender and obedience. That Christ is Prince of the kings of the earth, and Head over all things, as well as Head of His body the Church, is part of every Christian creed; but to how few,—individuals, Churches, nations,—is it aught beyond a mere abstraction! The recognition of the dogma is accompanied with no acknowledgment of the laws in which it declares itself, and with no subjection, personal, political, or ecclesiastical, to Him for whom the Father claims absolute obedience: ‘Kiss ye the Son.’

The abstract right or prerogative is that which the apostle demonstrates from the eighth psalm: ‘Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak; but one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the work of Thy hands.’ Thus this psalm, which carries us back to the first chapter of Genesis, and embodies God’s original grant of authority over creation to the first Adam, is accepted by the apostle as a proof of God’s purpose to confer on Christ, as the last Adam, the lapsed sovereignty and forfeited sceptre of the first; to perpetuate in the line and dynasty of that race which Adam represented the lordship of His handiwork; not to alienate the inheritance because of the transgression of the first proprietor, but to continue it in the same stock and family; to place, not upon an angelic, but a human brow, creation’s diadem; to confide, not to angelic, but to human hands, the sceptre of the universe.

This grant of dominion to the last Adam the apostle shows to be as wide as God’s creation. For thus he interprets and expands the psalmist’s words, ‘in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him.’ So that as in person the last Adam is more glorious than the first, so is His throne more exalted, and His empire as much larger in compass as is His worthiness of honour and fitness to reign. In Him, as very God and very man, the crowns of heaven and earth are united; and the slain Lamb is He who alone is worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and honour, and glory, and blessing, from every creature in heaven, and earth, and sea.

What then? Has God’s purpose failed or changed? Has the rebellion of this present evil world proved stronger than was reckoned on? For the right of dominion and the actual subjection have not been co-extensive. Christ is King of kings, yet Satan is still god of this world, and prince of the power of the air. It is to this point of divergency between the earthly and the heavenly, of conflict between the rightful and the actual, that the apostle brings us when he says, ‘But now we see not yet all things put under Him;’ just as our Lord Himself did in the parable of the nobleman who went into the far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return; but who, in the interval of absence, was but poorly served by some of his servants, and hated by his citizens. The divine meaning of this strange divergency between the upper and lower regions of Messiah’s domain is too large and too profound a subject for present discussion. The reasons for this delay in assimilating the terrestrial to the celestial; in transmuting the universal right into the universal fact; in following up the conferred sovereignty with the accomplished submission, would lead us into the mystery of sin’s first entrance and present sufferance, as well as into the question why a sinner at his conversion is not at once made perfect, and not at once translated into the heavenly glory. Our object is simply to call attention to the state of non-submission to Christ in which we find our world, and which is declared to he specially the characteristic of the interval, or ‘now,’ spoken of by Paul. Man and his world have not yet bent the knee to Him; and the Father has not yet interposed to bring about the submission. ‘Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power,’ is still a futurity both for Israel and for the world.”

Horatius Bonar, The Christ of God. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1874), 193–201. [Italics original.]

“As King, Christ is Judge; but the world accepts not His judgment; it believes not in His acquittals and His condemnations, either now or hereafter. His sentences, as moral verdicts of approval or disapproval, they may receive; but as judicial decisions of the highest court of appeal, inferring irreversibly the recompense of a glorious heaven or an unquenchable hell, they repudiate them. In this sense Christ is not Judge, and there is no judgment-day, and no great white throne. All things are not yet put under Him as Judge!

As King, He is Avenger, but the day of recompense has not yet come, and ‘sentence against an evil work’ has not yet been executed. Therefore not only does the world reject Him as the Avenger, but a large section of modern Christianity disowns the very idea of vengeance, as incompatible with love, and the effeminate theologies of the age refuse to believe that the wrath of the Lamb is a reality, that the day of vengeance is in His heart, or the rod of iron in His hand. They have yet to learn the divine antipathy to sin, and the divine determination either to pardon or to punish eternally every sin, and every fragment of a sin, on whomsoever it shall be found. They have yet to understand the meaning of these awful words, ‘I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury.’

As King, He is the Conqueror; but though His great victory is won, His conquest is not yet complete. The routed host still rallies, disputes the field, nay, recovers ground so widely, that men ask, Where is the Conqueror, and where is His victory? Heathendom is as populous and as idolatrous as ever, and Christendom is yet more hostile to Christ and to Christianity than paganism of old. The sway of antichrist is vast; and Satan is not yet bound, but goes to and fro throughout the earth, the inspirer of its false religions, the instigator of its rebellions, the forger of its errors, the soul of antichrist, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.

As King, He is Deliverer, the opener of all prisons, and the looser of all chains. But the gates of brass are not yet broken, nor the bars of iron cut asunder. The curse still poisons the soil and troubles its tillers,—the curse of barrenness, disease, pain, weariness, vanity, the sweating toil of man, and the travail-pangs of woman. The wilderness has not yet been glad, nor the desert blossomed as the rose.

As King, He is the Resurrection and the Life; but the dead have not yet risen, the grave has not refunded its ill-gotten treasure. The dust of saints, though precious in His sight, is undistinguishable from the mould of earth; and forms beloved of Him and beloved of us are still the prey of corruption. He has the keys of Hades and death, but He has not unlocked their two-leaved gates, nor said to the prisoners, Go forth. The churchyards of earth have not yet been emptied, nor has the sea delivered up its dead. The worm still feeds on bodies which are parts of Christ’s body, and the Head has not yet interposed. The shroud still wraps forms which are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and He who has the residue of the Spirit has not yet rescued one particle of that holy dust. Death still reigns, and ‘he who has the power of death’ still continues to slay. The tomb still holds the countless atoms of redeemed mortality, and this corruptible has not yet put on incorruption. Death, the last enemy, has not yet been destroyed, and the grave can still boast of its victory.

Now we see not yet all things put under Him; but we see Jesus on the Father’s throne, crowned with glory above, in anticipation of the like crown below. For earth’s long rebellion shall come to a ‘perpetual end.’ Each spoiler shall be spoiled, each conqueror conquered, each prison opened, each boaster silenced, each blasphemer confounded, each antichrist smitten, each rival throne overturned, when ‘the Christ’ shall take to Himself His great power and reign.”

Horatius Bonar, The Christ of God. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1874), 213–216. [Italics original.]

 

The Focus Of The Church (A Retro-post by Horatius Bonar)

Written by krkeyser on July 9th, 2017

“And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” 1 Corinthians 15:28

“That God may be all in all’ is the basis of all apostolic doctrine, from which it sets out, and into which it returns, and round which it revolves. ‘Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things,’ is the refrain of the apostle’s songs; a refrain which the whole early Church took up and sung with so loud a harmony, that the sound went over earth, and pagan nations awoke, startled at the name of the one living and true God, King eternal, immortal, and invisible, the only wise God, so different from their Jupiter, their Mercury, and other such false and unclean gods. The burden of these doxologies is: Glory to that eternal Jehovah who worketh all in all, who filleth all in all.

God is the doer as well as the purposer of everything connected with the Christ, and of everything relating to the redeemed and their connection with the Christ, who is the centre of all His purposes and desires. The Church is His creation. Each saint is His creation. There is no religion in a man save that which originates with Him, and is consummated by Him. Religion that is self-made, consisting of doctrines, feelings, rites, self-taught and self-wrought, is no better than ancient paganism. ‘We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’ (Eph. 2:10): that is, we are His workmanship, not our own (ver. 8); nay, we are His ‘creation,’1 nay, His creation in and by Christ Jesus; and all this for ‘good works,’ for which God had made all this vast preparation, ‘that we should walk in them.’

Thus God is in Christ purposing concerning us; for Christ and the redeemed are inseparable in the eternal purpose of the Father. That purpose embraces both, and embodies the mutual relationship of the one to the other. It contemplates also, and makes preparation for, the holiness of each redeemed one, as well as for the perfection of the whole Church of God; as it is written, ‘Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Tim. 1:9, 10).

Thus God is in Christ working concerning us; for all His operations for us and in us are in connection with the Christ. From the first touch of His hand, when He arrests us in our folly, to the last, when He finishes the glorious work in the resurrection of our bodies, all His doings concerning us are ‘in Christ.’ ‘He created all things by Jesus Christ,’ is as true of the new creation as of the old. He is the former of all things, the Lord of Hosts is His name. Each hour bears witness to the unceasing and unwearied touches of His hand in moulding us anew after His own image. And all this is the working and the purposing of ‘love,’—the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. And all this to the praise of the glory of His grace, that God may be all in all.

Thus God is in Christ reconciling us to Himself; for the reconciliation comes through this living channel, and this only. God approaches us in Christ, lays hold on us in Christ, looks at us in Christ, makes proposals to us in Christ, links us to Himself in Christ. ‘You hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death’ (Col. 1:22). The reconciliation of the covenant is Christ Jesus our Lord. Save in Him, there is no nearness, no favour, no friendship, no fellowship. The one Mediator is the one reconciler, through whom God says to us, ‘Come unto me;’ and as there is but one mediation, so there is but one atonement, one propitiation, one reconciliation; one cross, one blood, one death, one burial, one resurrection. For in each of these Christ is all. ‘He of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.’”

1 The words ‘creation’ and ‘workmanship’ remind us of the expressions used in reference to the first creation, ‘His work which God created and made’ (Gen. 2:3).

Horatius Bonar, The Christ of God. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1874), 144–147. [Italics original.]

 

The Moral Bankruptcy of Secularism & Naturalism (A quote from Ravi Zacharias)

Written by krkeyser on July 8th, 2017

“Not only has secularization brought us a silent universe with no voice from without, it has also brought us a silence from within as it has redefined the whole role of con–science. It has removed any possibility of an objective supernatural revelation and supplanted it with the so-called inner voice of reason. It was only a matter of time before there would be no way to differentiate between the inner voice of reason and the inner promptings of unreason. Let me sustain this argument, because now we will see not merely the theoretical incoherence of secularism and its primary carriers; we will see that it leads to a pragmatism that is unworkable and an evil that is devastating.

  As I have previously stated, implicit to the secularized world-view is not just the marginalization of any religious idea but its complete eviction from public credence in informing social policy. If an idea or a belief is ‘religiously based,’ be it in a matter of sexuality or marriage or education or whatever, then by that very virtue it is deemed unsuitable for public usage . . . How irrational. How repressive. How irrelevant to the secularized consciousness is the invocation of a religious belief when establishing social moral boundaries and imposing them upon the ever-shifting soil of ‘community standards.’ But we may well ask from which side the imposition and irrationality really comes . . . one cannot defend the particulars of a moral choice without first defending the theory in general upon which that choice is made. Secularism, on the other hand, can defend any choice because it is never compelled to defend its first principles, which are basically reduced to an antireligious bias. But secularists do not take into account that on their own terms no position needs to be defended if a commitment to it is sufficient reason in itself. If it is believed that all moralizing is purely one’s private view then ought not that view itself be kept private? The secularist never answers how he or she determines whether anything is wrong with anything except by sheer choice. Secular belief grants itself privileges that it does not equally distribute.”

Ravi Zacharias, Deliver Us from Evil. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 58-59. [Italics original.]

“In a purely naturalistic universe there is nothing to transcend matter there is no soul or spirit because that would imply the supernatural. This dehumanizing ‘net worth’ is all that secularism has left when life is seen through the eyes of the Spirit of the Age . . .”

Ravi Zacharias, Deliver Us from Evil. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 61.

“Granted, in some cases there is no difference between art and pornography, not because art is the same as pornography, but because some art is nothing more than pornography masquerading as aesthetics in the name of art. But here is the point. If an artist seeks to portray the unclothed human body as art while actually bringing to that rendering his or her own lustful and vile intentions, the unworthy motive of the artist cannot be denounced by the unthinking canvas. The canvas cannot come to the artist and say, ‘Stop.’ But by contrast, the undisguised purpose of pornography is erotic and seductive. One would like to hope that the unclad individual, used as such bait in the marketing of her flesh for the sensually insatiable, would raise her hands in embarrassment, saying, ‘Stop, please don’t do this to me.’ But that does not happen. Such objections are not forthcoming because when secularism has spawned its offspring, it produces a loss of a sense of shame. There is no voice within to say, ‘No, this is wrong. Don’t do this to yourself.’

  This pathetic, psychological, voiceless posture where shame is excised from our cultural intercourse, leaves behind a hell of possibilities and swings wide the door to evil in any and every form. This is the unworkable pragmatism of secular thinking. All attitudes and all behavior find avenues of unbridled expression, and no one reserves the right to say, ‘It is not enough to say you’re sorry–you ought to feel sorry and ashamed of what you have done.’ Ah! But this is too much to ask of the postmodern mind where self-congratulation is the mood engendered by irreligious social policies.

  Let us be certain: It is our philosophical commitment that ends up legitimizing shamelessness that puts an individual on the road to incorrigibility. The difference between criminals who try desperately to cover their faces when they are escorted into court and those who smile remorselessly as they strut into the courtroom is civilizations apart. The ones covering their faces or shedding a tear have at least a vestige of reachability. There is at least the hint of the possibility of change, because there is a point of reference for wrong, some shared meanings between the wrongdoer and society. For any corrective in behavior or for punitive measures to be effective there must be some point of hurt or undesired feeling within the one who has done wrong. Shame or remorse or society’s disapproval is powerless today to induce a desire to change, because the ideas that shape our culture make shame a hangover of an antiquated religious world-view . . . Shame is to the moral health of a society what pain is to the body. It is the sense of shame that provides an indicator to the mind. There is a powerful analogy even from the physical world of the materialist. It comes to us from the scanner theory of cancer causation.2 His theory propounds that an incurable cancer is not ultimately caused by the cancer itself as much as by a detection system that has broken down. According to this hypothesis, healthy cells in the body routinely be come cancerous. But built into the body is a system of detection and a mechanism that comes into play to identify the cancerous cells and destroy them before they take over. It is not the cancer but the breakdown of the detection system that proves fatal.

  How pitiful is the condition we have reached if we smother that sense of shame that was part of society’s scanner system to detect wrongdoing and deal with it. Is it any wonder that our news journals are filled with page after page of incidents that continually shock us and are steadily bleeding decency out of life’s mainstream?

  The loss of shame in a society is ultimately an attack upon all of civilization. Why is that so? Put succinctly, it is this. The man who molests a child and feels a sense of shame expresses that shame because he has denuded and defaced that one person. The person who commits this same act and feels no shame in effect denudes and defaces the whole world because he is thereby telling us that our self-respect and the sacredness of physical privacy are worthless. His loss of shame is an attack upon all of humanity, because shame was given to us as a guardian, not only of ourselves, but of our fellow human being . . . It can be carved into the national ethos that the loss of belief in the supernatural, which secularism implies, has led to an eradication of the sense of shame, which secularism cannot deal with. That may well have been the goal in the minds of some societal engineers, but let us be sure that it produces a completely different soil than the one that brought America to its greatness. The soil of shamelessness gives root to evil in its most violent forms. The unbearable reality of secularism’s consequential loss of shame is that the ones we victimize by evil can even be the ones we claim to love.

  To raise a child without shame is to raise one with no immune system against evil . . . This is the crime we end up witnessing when family members kill their own offspring or their parents. To remove shame is to perpetuate evil even toward the ones we love.

  The catalog of crimes within families and between friends is one of the most painful and incomprehensible. The evils we foist upon children at the hands of responsible adults are not crimes born of hate. They are passions unleashed and justified by a conscience bereft of shame or remorse. Any conversation with a police officer who investigates such criminality within families reveals horror stories that stun the mind. Almost every such officer I have met has said to me that if we were to know even a fraction of all that goes on in homes behind closed doors the knowledge would be heartbreaking. Shame is meant to protect the very ones we love. But our culture has killed it. With the name of God now unhallowed and His kingdom not welcome does it make any sense to cry, ‘Deliver us from evil’? . . . Through secularism, this mood of a society without shame now covers the land. We may analyze the carriers and progenitors that led to this state ad nauseum, but it all ultimately points back to the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis. The big question Adam and Eve were asked was, ‘Has God really said . . . ?’ When they questioned the reality of His voice and supplanted it with their own authority, they made themselves the measure of all things. No sooner had that choice been made and God’s voice overridden than the feelings of fear and shame overcame them, and they tried to cover themselves.

  Shortly thereafter, the Voice from Without came to them again: ‘Adam, where are you?’ God knew the answer to that, but it was an opportunity for them to recognize their transgression and to repent of it. God in His grace provided a covering for their sin.

  Just one generation later when Cain murdered his brother Abel, the Voice from Without came again: ‘Cain, where is your brother Abel?’

  Now there was no shame, no remorse. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ thundered forth the response, bereft of shame. There was no covering this time. The divine pronouncement was unequivocal. ‘You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.’4 The silence would now be one of apprehension, of ever looking over his shoulder . . . It was Luther of old who once cried out, ‘Bless us, oh Lord; yea, even curse us, but please be not silent.’ Secularization the silencing of the supernatural–brings about an eerie silence.”

Ftnt. #2: Scanner theory is described by M. Scott Peck in A World Waiting to Be Born. (New York: Bantam, 1993), IO.

Ftnt. #4: See Gen. 4:9-12.

Ravi Zacharias, Deliver Us from Evil. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 63-67. [Italics original.]

“Sanctify them through thy truth; thy Word is truth.” John 17:17

 

“Our Savior, The Lord Jesus Christ” – A Classic Devotional From Horatius Bonar

Written by krkeyser on July 2nd, 2017

“Thou, O Jesus of Nazareth, hast come to seek and save that which was lost. Thy name is ‘Saviour, Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11); ‘God my Saviour’ (Luke 1:47); the ‘Saviour of the world’ (John 4:42); ‘God our Saviour’ (1 Tim. 1:1); ‘Our Saviour Jesus Christ’ (1 Tim. 1:10). Salvation is linked with Thy name, Thy person, Thy work, Thy life, Thy death, Thy resurrection. Saviour of the lost, we own Thee, O Christ of God.

‘Who hath saved us’ is the song we sing (2 Tim. 1:9); to Him who is ‘able to save to the uttermost’ (Heb. 7:25). He ‘came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Tim. 1:15). ‘The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost’ (Matt. 18:11); and ‘by grace we are saved, through faith’ (Eph. 2:5). We preach Christ the Saviour of sinners, and say: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’ (Acts 16:30); for there is no salvation in any other, nor any other name given under heaven, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). As the deliverer, He saves. As the looser of bonds, He saves. As the forgiver, He saves. As the justifier, He saves. As the shepherd, He saves. As the quickener, He saves. As the propitiation, He saves. The whole completeness of that which we call salvation is to be found in Him, without stint, or lack, or grudging. In His fulness is salvation, just such as a lost one needs;—deliverance from all evil, and the possession of all good.

His willingness to communicate what He possesses, is as boundless as His fulness. He loves to give; nay, He giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. He is clothed with the garments of salvation (Isa. 61:10), and He delights to impart that salvation to all who need it. Out of His lips goeth the word of salvation (Acts 13:26), that all who come within the sound of His voice may hear and live (Isa. 55:3). He is the author of eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9), and He presents Himself as such to the lost. His long-suffering is salvation (2 Pet. 3:15); for He waits upon the sinner, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. His Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Himself (2 Tim. 3:15). The Father hath ‘set Him to be a light of the Gentiles, that He should be for salvation unto the ends of the earth’ (Acts 13:47). Thus, then, He speaks to us, and says: ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth’ (Isa. 45:22). This is the salvation and this is the Saviour of whom we preach, in preaching ‘the Christ of God.’ ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,’ is our message;—and how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?

All that salvation is we do not, cannot know, now; but we shall know hereafter. There is so much to be saved from; there is such manifold fulness in the Saviour; and there is, over and above the mere salvation, such a glory, and honour, and blessedness in reserve for the saved, that we may truly say that we know not, and shall never fully comprehend, what salvation is. The ‘wells of salvation’ (Isa. 12:3) are very deep. The heights of salvation are very lofty. The circle of salvation is very large. The joy of salvation is satisfying and exuberant. And all this is so free and rich, that we can only say it is infinitely worth the having; all things which eye hath seen, or ear hath heard, are not to be compared with it. He who gains it, gains all that is worth the having; he who loses it, loses everything, and is left inconceivably and eternally poor.”

Horatius Bonar, The Christ of God. (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1874), 104–107. [Italics original.]

 

The Virgin Birth & Naturalism

Written by krkeyser on June 20th, 2017

“Christians believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. Materialists believe in the virgin birth of the cosmos. Choose your miracle.” Glen Scrivener, on his twitter feed, @glenscrivener, 5 January 2014.

*

“We find one virgin birth in the story of the Incarnation:

‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1:38).

Admittedly, this is out of the ordinary. But criticism without alternative is empty; a hypothesis is only plausible or implausible relative to what alternative hypotheses present themselves. So what exactly is the alternative?

My colleague Professor John Lennox debated another Princeton professor, Peter Singer, one of the world’s most influential atheists. Lennox challenged him to answer this question: ‘Why are we here?’ And this was Professor Singer’s response:

We can assume that somehow in the primeval soup we got collections of molecules that became self-replicating; and I don’t think we need any miraculous or mysterious [explanation].1

Self-replicating molecules somehow emerging out of a primeval soup strikes me as leaving substantial room for mystery. In fact, without further clarification, this theory sounds not dissimilar to a virgin birth. Or take Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking’s latest attempt to propose an atheistic explanation for our universe:

‘…the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.’2

But physical matter doesn’t normally materialize out of nothing, so this account also presents itself as outside the realm of the ordinary. Is this a less miraculous birth than the story of Jesus?

Or, finally, consider the position of the prominent atheist philosopher Quentin Smith:

The fact of the matter is that the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing and for nothing . . . We should . . . acknowledge our foundation in nothingness and feel awe at the marvelous fact that we have a chance to participate briefly in this incredible sunburst that interrupts without reason the reign of non-being.’3

That is a refreshingly honest characterization, but again it is not at all clear why a foundation in nothingness should be viewed as comparatively more reasonable than a foundation in God.

The fact is, we live in a miraculous world. Regardless of a person’s worldview, the extraordinariness of the universe is evident to theists, atheists, and agnostics alike. It is therefore not a matter of whether we believe in a virgin birth, but which virgin birth we choose to accept.

We can believe in the virgin birth of an atheistic universe that is indifferent to us—a universe where ‘there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.’4

Alternatively, we can believe in the virgin birth of a God who loves us so deeply that he ‘became flesh and made his dwelling among us’ (John 1:14). Emmanuel, God with us.”

Ftnt.#1:“Is There a God,” Melbourne, Australia, 20 July 2011.

Ftnt.#2: Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design (New York: Bantam, 2010), 180.

Ftnt.#3: Quentin Smith, “The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism,” Philo 4.2., 2000.

Ftnt.#4: Richard Dawkins, A River Out of Eden (New York: Perseus, 1995), 133.

Vince Vitale, “Everyone Believes In A Virgin Birth,” 6/16/17, on the blog, A Slice of Infinity; electronic ed. accessed on 6/20/17 here: http://rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/everyone-believes-in-a-virgin-birth/ [Italics original.]

*Art: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gabrielle_et_Jean,_by_Pierre-Auguste_Renoir,_from_C2RMF_cropped.jpg [Labelled for noncommercial reuse.]