Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 4/6/08.
"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you" (I Pet. 5:10).
The hope of all human beings past and present, is that God really will be God and restore to His children all that was taken away from us, even as Joel prophesied: "The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will restore to you the years which the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. "You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame" (Joel 2:23-26). You'll notice that Joel is clear that God sent the locust, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, even as He, the Lord, is the one who will destroy the destroyers, insuring that His people will never be put to shame. Since I doubt there are locusts, hoppers, destroyers and cutters allowed in heaven, to me, this is clearly a promise for this earth!
It's an awesome prophecy that Jesus repeated and updated. When Peter complained that he and the other disciples had left everything to follow the Lord, Jesus answered, "No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields, and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mk. 10:29-30). What a powerful promise, but lest you think that Jesus was referring only to well known evangelists like the disciples and Billy Graham, He added this: "But many who are first will be last, and the last first" (Mk. 10:31).
The problem for many Christians is that they have been so beaten down by the doctrines of men and the guilt and shame they feel over their failures, that they cannot believe that God will GIVE them anything they haven't earned. This "works mentality," righteousness based on self effort, leads to poor self esteem, and no confidence at all that God will do what He said He will do. Up the rung from these unfortunate souls are the ones who have bitten, hook, line, and sinker on the doctrine that says we can heal the sick, raise the dead, and save the lost IF WE HAVE THE FAITH to do it. If we can't do any of these things, we may conclude that we don't have the faith, which becomes another mark against us.
This series of writings on healing has sparked a lot of commentary from our dear readers and friends. At the basis of all doubt in God keeping His promises is a confusion over the difference between the Old and New Covenants. Here's an example sent in an e-mail this week. This brother wrote,
"You refer to God's "unconditional love" quite often. John 14:21, would suggest that in fact, it may not be unconditional. It is true that God is love, yet God is angry with the wicked every day (Ps. 7:11) and God hated Esau (Rom. 9:13). Wouldn't the term infinite or everlasting be a more accurate adjective to describe God's love? As you know, the word unconditional does not appear in Scripture." End Quote.
It would seem that this brother has confused unconditional love with the mushy, gushy feelings which keep popular music alive. And as one of the Saints present this morning said, "God hates the sin, but loves the sinner," as proven by His commitment to bring all His children home to Himself eventually. Moreover, our friend has failed to realize that the verses he mentioned in Psalms, Romans (about Esau and Jacob), and even Jesus' teaching when He was on earth, were addressed to people who lived BEFORE the cross, when the Law of Moses was in effect, and when there were severe consequences ON THIS EARTH for those who disobeyed the Law: "When your judgments come UPON THE EARTH, the people of the world learn righteousness" (Isa. 26:9). There is NO reference in the Old Testament to any punishment lasting beyond the grave.
New Testament proof texts about eternal punishment rest upon the Greek word "aionios," which has been mistranslated as "eternal, everlasting, and forever," when in fact, it means "AGE-LASTING." A good example of Isaiah's premise, is Moses, who was not allowed to cross Jordan because he disobeyed God by striking the rock at Meribah, rather than speaking to it as he had been commanded (Num. 27:12-14; Ps. 126:32). Yet, in spite of the fact that this great prophet of God failed to reach the reward he had given his life for, nevertheless, he appeared with Elijah and Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, proving that his punishment did not last past this life.
We all remember Sodom's great sin against God, and her punishment on this earth: destruction by fire and sulfur rained down from heaven (Gen. 19:24). Yet, Ezekiel tells us that this is not the end of the story for this city which has become an icon of evil. Here's the glorious promise of restitution made to her: "However, I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them, so that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all you have done in giving them comfort. And your sisters, Sodom with her daughters and Samaria with her daughters, will return to what they were before; and you and your daughters will return to what you were before" (Ezek. 16:53-55). This is restitution and restoration of very wicked people indeed. They will not be restored to their wickedness which came from their fallen nature, but eventually, they will be filled with Christ, who paid the price for their sins and the sins of the whole world (Titus 2:11; I John 2:2). Paul asserted that God was "in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation" (I Cor. 5:19). "The World" includes everyone!
There's no scriptural record that Sodom repented or was baptized, so how could God restore her to her former estate? According to most Christians, it is impossible, but Ezekiel gives the great hope of the New Covenant in this passage: "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes" (Eze. 36:22-23). This passage affirms what the Spirit has put on my heart to say for years now, that nothing is up to us alone; God will do it through us! If Sodom's fate depended upon man, it could never happen, but since it depends upon the awesome power and unconditional LOVE of Almighty God, we can ALL take it to the bank!
This promise of the restitution of all things is repeated in the New Testament by Peter at the Beautiful Gate, near the place called Solomon's Colonnade. He and John had healed a beggar crippled from birth. When the crowds realized what had been done, they gathered round the two Apostles. Peter took no credit for this awesome miracle, but rather pointed the witnesses of it to Jesus, "By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and THE FAITH THAT COMES THROUGH HIM that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see" (Acts 3:16). Notice Peter bears witness that it is the FAITH which comes through Jesus, not his or John's faith, which healed this man. He spoke to them of the Christ, who, he explained, "must remain in heaven until the time comes for GOD TO RESTORE EVERYTHING, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets" (Acts 3:21). Here is another example of God's unconditional love for all men!
As you might expect, the commentators hasten to tell us that this verse does not mean God will save everyone. Not surprising really, because when commentators stop following the orthodox mandate, "Don't rock the theological boat," they no longer sell books or get quoted in Bible footnotes. After showing that Israel was cut off that God might bring the Gentiles in, Paul declared that this is not the end of the story: "and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob"; "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins" (Rom. 11:26-27). The footnote in my NIV study Bible insists that, of course, this means only the Jews who accept Christ. When your eyes are open to see it, it is plain that "churchianity," or "orthodoxy" has taken every glorious indicative (statement of what is) in scripture and made it an imperative (command). In this case, where Paul said that it is the Deliverer from Zion (Christ) who will banish ungodliness of Jacob, the church insists that it is Israel's responsibility to accept Christ.
One of the most glorious Old Testament symbols of God's restoration of all things is the Year of Jubilee (Lev., Chapter 25). At the end of the 49th year, all land reverted to its original owners and all debts were canceled. In his book Finally Comes the Poet, Walter Brueggemann addresses this provision in a discussion of the Bible's remedy for greed. He believes that the 10th commandment, "You shall not covet" (Ex. 20:17), is not referring to an inner disposition or attitude of envy and jealousy, but rather to "land tenure systems and land management policies. To covet means to arrange loan credit, tax, and inheritance so that some may have land that others should rightfully possess. That is, it is the systemic economic practice of greed (covetousness). This destructive form of land use begins in disproportion and ends in monopoly. There is an important line of scholarship that argues that early Israel (which gives us the seed of all biblical faith) is essentially a social revolution concerning land tenure systems."
He further suggests that the commandment against coveting is "a charter for 'egalitarianism'" (relating to or believing in the principal that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities). He concludes, "The Bible has understood, long before Karl Marx (founder of modern communism), that the basic human issues concern land, power, and the means of production."
Brueggemann confirms that "The God of the Bible is foundationally concerned with social power and its proportionate distribution. There is a moral coherence to social relations that must be heeded...... Israel's theological conviction about the land is asserted positively in the great social vision of Leviticus 25, the text of the Jubilee year."
According to that provision of the Law, each tribe was given its allotment in the land of Canaan by lottery, with the specific instruction that when they crossed Jordan, they were to drive out all the inhabitants of the land, destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. God told them, "Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes" (Num. 33:50-54). There were specific provisions as to how the land would be passed down from generation to generation. To protect the original boundaries, a daughter who inherited land could only marry someone within the tribal clan of her father. "No inheritance in Israel is to pass from tribe to tribe, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal land inherited from his forefathers...each Israelite tribe is to keep the land it inherits" (Num. 36:7, 9). This was so because God declared, "The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants" (Lev. 25:23).
No proof exists that Israel ever kept the year of Jubilee, showing yet again, that man on his own is incapable of keeping any part of the Law. How different the Middle East would be today, IF they had kept the Law, all of it. As it is, they "tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith" (Matt. 23:23). The irony of it is that while Jews and Palestinians are fighting over the physical land of Israel, like chickens over a worm, thinking IT is the "holy" land, their eyes are blinded to see that in Christ, they ALL ARE God's glory land. Ultimately, He will have "mercy upon ALL" (Rom. 11:32).
My generous sister and brother-in-law took us with them on a tour of Israel in 2000, and again in 2005. The Israeli guide and the Pastor who hosted the tour spoke often about "the holy land" everywhere we went, but I had no sooner stepped out of the bus for our first stop, when the Spirit said to me, "YOU are the holy land." I heard this from Mount Carmel in the North to Masada in the south, and everywhere in between. This, of course, is what the New Covenant is all about: the fulfillment of God's unilateral covenant (one party agreement) with Abraham that in his seed, would ALL nations be blessed (Gen. 12:2-3; 26:4; 28:14; Gal. 3:8).
Paul identified Christ as the SEED of Abraham (Gal. 3:16), in whom are all men and women blessed: "The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise" (Gal. 3:17-18). This promise or covenant God made with Abraham is the basis of the New Covenant, and it shall never fail because it does not depend upon man's efforts, but upon God's grace! Paul tied the promise to Faith in Christ, which is also a gift (Eph. 2:8-9). So, as Harry Fox puts it, we can't lose for winning!
Everything we have, we received from God. That being the case, Paul asks, "If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?" (I Cor. 4:7).
Father, we lay down our trophies and our works at your feet, knowing that You will restore all things according to Your promise to Abraham, our father by faith in Christ. We await Your call to be Ambassadors to the world, speaking peace to the heathen and flowing out to all in Your Unconditional Love. We long for the day when Your glory covers the earth as the waters cover the sea, and all flesh shall see it together. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Healing The Glory Land
By Jan Antonsson, Feb., 1999
The land lies desolate beneath the burning sun (Joel 1:10). My eyes survey the damage the canker worm has done: (Joel 1:4; 2:25 the barren fields devoid of grain, the body racked with doubt and pain. Will milk and honey, I wonder, ever flow again? (Lev. 20:24). The sun has turned to darkness. The moon has turned to blood (Joel 2:31).
Who will come to guide me across the roaring flood of fear and pain and doubt that keep my soul in chains? (Isa. 61:1-3). Why does He withhold the solace for my pains? Who has caused Him to delay? Is He fighting other wars? (Dan. 10:13, 20). I need Him to bind me up, put salve upon my sores (Jer. 8:22), and heal the wounds deep within my soul. I need the one, the mighty Christ who alone can make me whole (Mt. 4:23).
Why do you delay so long, Lord? Why do you make me wait? (40:31). Often in soul's anguish, about the outcome of my fate? I long for you to restore the land, to return me to Mount Zion (Heb. 12:22), where I can see the face of God, the eagle, calf, and lion (Rev. 4:7), the 4 and 20 elders beside the Crystal Sea (Rev. 4:4), crying day and night, holy, holy, holy (Rev. 4:8).
Lift me to that higher place where is no pain or tears (Rev. 21:4), where light has swallowed darkness and with it all my fears (Rev. 21:23). Take this body poor and frail, so human to behold, and make me, O Lord, your promised man of gold (Isa. 13:12), where I will walk the high place far above the flood (Amos 4:13), clothed in garments pure and white (Is. 1:18; Rev. 6:11), cleansed by your own blood (Heb. 9:22).
There I'll see the land renewed with grain and oil and wine (Jer. 31:12), flowing in abundance, from the fount divine (Jn. 7:38). Yet when I reach this holy mount, you'll send me out again (Zech. 9:10), to share this place of peace and love prepared for every man (Rom. 11:32).
To Be Continued....
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Healing, or Stealing God's Glory
Risky Business, Healing, Part II
The Royal Priesthood, Part III
Restoring the Glory Land, Part IV
Organizing the Church, Part VI
Victory Through Helplessness, Healing, Part VII
What Does Faith Have to do With It? Healing, Part VIII
The Death of Death, Healing, Part IX
The Death He Died, Healing, Part X
Freed From Sin, Healing Part XI
Money, the Kingdom, and Bifocal Vision, Healing, Part XII
Flesh, Spirit, & the New Man, Healing, Part XIII
The Church, the Gospel, and God's Will, Healing, Part XIV
The End of the Law, Healing, Part XV
The Divine Possibility, Healing, Part XVI
What Shall We do? Healing, Part XVII
The Tyranny of the Vegetable Eaters, Healing, Part XVIII
The Epistle to the Romans by Karl Barth
The Glory Road
This writing was uploaded to the web 04/03/08,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 11/19/08.