Given for the Saints of the World, 10/25/09.
"First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation" (II Peter 1:20).
We always appreciate feedback and a number of you wrote about last week's essay, "We shall All Be Changed." What I write is firstly for me, and if anyone else gets anything out of them, as some apparently do, then God be praised. We're all on the path home to God from whence we came and to whom we all go, but we've each come through different "filters," which influenced us and shaped our thinking, be it our cultural heritage or denominational background. That matters not to God, who called us from the foundation of the world, out of our own Ur of the Chaldees to the Land He has Promised, the Land flowing with milk and honey. He has promised victory over the giants in the land which stand in our way home to Him.
A friend we met when we first got on the Internet commented about this recent writing, indicating that he differs somewhat from what I wrote and he wanted my opinion, saying that "iron sharpens iron." Others may be interested in what he said. We'll call him Bob (not his real name). Here's a portion of what he wrote:
"I don't believe these manifested sons of God will include everyone on earth, as your friend suggested. Maybe in the next age, but not at the "twinkling." I believe Scripture is clear that only those who are His at His coming are included in that manifestation. The "all" means all who are His.
"So unless you expect to see 5 or 6 billion people suddenly come to Christ, I can't see how all mankind will be changed at this time. Only those who have the Holy Spirit get the new body. "But if anyone does not have the spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him" (Rom. 8:9).
"Think about it. If all people are changed, how can there be a "remnant?" Or a "chosen people." Or an "elect?" For "it is the remnant that will be saved" (Rom 9:27). So it seems clear that only those who are His are changed. After that He/we will put down all opposing authority to God's rule on earth, including death, then will He/we turn the kingdom over to the Father. And then comes the judgment." End Quote.
This brother has seen God's reconciliation of all, but like many others, he puts conditions on how it will happen, and gives the manifested sons a little credit for the triumph of the Gospel on earth. It reminds me of the foot note in the NIV Study Bible which dilutes Paul's emphatic, inclusive, and unconditional salvation for all Israel:
"Now I don't want you, my brothers, to be totally ignorant of God's secret plan. And I should not wish you to have ideas of your own which may be false. No, the partial insensibility which has come to Israel is only to last until the full number of the gentiles has been called in. Once this has happened, all Israel will be saved, as the scripture says: There shall come out of Zion the deliver, He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (Rom. 11:25-26).
The foot note: "The salvation of the Jews will, of course, be on the same basis as anyone's salvation: personal faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead."
The "good news" is so good that many cannot believe it. They have to trim it down, cut it short, make it conditional upon man's obedience, something that has characterized church doctrine throughout the ages. Yet, by the Spirit, more and more Christians are seeing the all sufficiency of the blood sacrifice that God made in Christ on the cross to reconcile THE WORLD to Himself (II Cor. 5:18-19), that we might "become the righteousness of God" (Vs. 21). If ANYTHING about that process depends upon man's action or response, the whole outcome is damned from the beginning, because man has NEVER been able to obey the Law.
When Abraham walked through the blood with God, the text indicates that he was sore afraid, as well he might have been (Gen. 15:12), because the one who broke that blood covenant agreed to have his own blood shed like the animals whose blood was spilled in the ditch. Abraham knew that he would not be able to keep the covenant, and he was correct. The sacrificial blood of the lambs, goats, and bulls slain through the centuries, from the Law of Moses to Christ, were a reminder to the people of Israel of that blood covenant God made with Abraham. When they saw the blood spill down the side of the altar, they thanked God that they could offer an animal instead of their own blood as a sacrifice for their sins (Link to The Blood Covenant is at end).
What a God we serve, what a loving Father we have, who on the cross said, in effect, "You have broken the covenant thoroughly, completely, and totally, but instead of demanding your blood as payment, I give you My blood. You demand blood; you require a sacrifice. Take my blood. I will be Your sacrifice."
Would such a God then, turn around and say, "And oh, by the way, you'll have to be good enough and faithful enough and obedient enough to deserve the reward." I think not, but the extant church still teaches that, and thus falls short of the mark of the high calling of Christ.
Brother Bob spoke of the "elect," the "remnant," and he was correct in assuming that God has always served the many through the few. Abraham was the first "elect" of God, chosen that in his seed would all nations be blessed (Gen. 22:16-18; Gal. 3:8). That it all depends upon God is everywhere in scripture when He opens our eyes to see it. In Gen. 22:16, God said, "I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore." Before you jump to the conclusion that God could only bless Abraham because he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, as many have down through the centuries, remember the Hebrew writer's assertion "For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself" (Heb. 6:13). Abraham could only have been willing to sacrifice Isaac by the faith God implanted in him. God depended upon Himself, not upon Abraham, to fulfill His promise.
Israel was the "remnant" through whom God displayed Himself to the surrounding nations, and Paul said that God is still using the elect in that way: "So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer BY WORKS, if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Rom. 11:5-6). Hosea saw God's grace at work in the heathen, and Paul quoted him: "I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one. It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God'" (Hos. 1:10; 2:23; Rom. 10:25-26).
Paul also quoted Isaiah's bold statement: "I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me" (Isa. 65:1; Rom. 10: 20). While this certainly answers the question of how could 5 or 6 billion people could come to Christ in a "twinkling," it also asks the question, why do so many Christians have such trouble with this concept?
Paul had seen it all. He wrote about Israel's rejection of the Gospel, "What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith, but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the 'stumbling stone'" (Rom. 9:30-32). It certainly appears to me that most Christians are still stumbling over the 'stumbling stone' which is Christ in us, the hope of glory. That, of course, is by God's design as well. Isaiah saw it and Paul quoted him: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame" (Isa. 8:14; Rom. 9:33). God is the active force in these verses; man is only the passive recipient.
Paul concluded, "For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved'" (Rom. 10:12-13). Moreover, anyone who sees Him as He is shall be like Him (I John 3:2). That's enough for me to rest in God's ability to change us all into His likeness whenever He wants.
Brother Bob based his conclusions on the manifestation of the sons of God and the thousand year reign of Christ on earth. I no longer resonate to, nor have faith in, the thousand year reign of Christ on earth. I believe it is symbolic, as is most everything else in the book of Revelation. Some have created an elaborate end time scenario, pieced together like a patch work quilt from Old Testament prophecies found also in Revelation. As many have noted, John's Revelation is the unveiling of Christ. It was written to comfort Christians who were being tortured and killed by Roman Emperors, often for the entertainment of the blood thirsty masses. For John to have written something that wouldn't come true for 2,000 years or more, certainly wouldn't have been much comfort to a man about to be thrown to the lions. The man about to die needed to know Christ NOW as the One on the White Horse who rode forth conquering and to conquer (Rev. 6:2).
The martyrs drew strength, even as we do today, from knowing "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 11:15). Any who are being tested and tried, tribulated and tempted to doubt, are raptured to the Throne of God by the words "NOW have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ" (Rev. 12:10). We don't have to wait for some future date to experience victory in Christ, for these things are true right NOW! The truth that "no scripture is for private interpretation" saves us from the hyperbole of the doomsday prophets.
Another brother wrote in response to last week's essay. "In recent years I have become less and less enchanted with the standard UR take on "manifested sons." It seemed to segregate the "haves" from "the have-nots" just as surely as the Fundamentalists do between the saved and unsaved. Harry's assertion that "the sons will include everyone" is a kind of bomb. He seems to be saying, with Karl Barth, that we are all on the same step before God." End Quote.
Since Jesus said that "no man knows the hour" when this world will pass away (Matt. 24:36), it is futile to speculate how it will happen or when. We trust in Him who will keep us from falling and present us without fault before the Throne, with great joy, knowing that even trust is not from us, but a gift of God.
Father, we fall on our faces in worship to You, who brought us out of the pigpens of this world into fellowship with You. Make us be light bearers and peace bringers to a dark and fearful world. In the Name above all names, amen. Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)
We Shall All Be Changed, Part I
The Blood Covenant
The Glory Road
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This site was created on 10/23/09
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister