Visions Of The Kingdom

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I have trouble thinking of eternity in terms of how it will affect me. Every time I read Revelation, I’m riveted by John’s descriptions of multitudes (both angelic and human) surrounding the throne of the Lord to praise and worship Him!

The beloved hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” puts those scenes before us as a preview of that magnificent eternal worship. As we sing it, we anticipate the tremendous joy of praising God with every saint who ever lived as well as with the angels. How can that fail to fill you with abundant joy?

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According To Scripture: Study #17 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Okay ladies, we’ve reached the final installment of our Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15. It’s been a thrilling study, but today’s section might well be the most exciting part of all! So let’s look at this closing passage of our chapter and see what gems we can excavate from the Holy Spirit’s words through Paul.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. ~~1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV)

Last Monday we learned that the Christians who haven’t died when Christ returns will receive transformed bodies when the dead receive their resurrection bodies. Now, in verse 54, Paul turns to the topic of the new heavens and the new earth. When the perishable body puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality, we will at last witness the full accompaniment of God’s plan.

He paraphrases Isaiah 25:8, which promises that the Lord will swallow up death forever. Hebrews 2:14-15 illustrates this triumph over death. And Revelation 21:4 proclaims that when Christ finally establishes the new heavens and new earth, death will be permanently abolished.

Moving to verse 55, we see that Paul quotes Hosea 13:14 as evidence of Christ’s victory over death. (So much for Andy Stanley unhitching the resurrection from the Old Testament!) Death had been victorious over mankind since Adam’s sin, as we’ve seen earlier in this chapter, but Christ’s resurrection and its consequent assurance of our resurrection supplanted death’s victory with an infinitely greater victory!

Paul elaborates on this point in verse 56. Death stings because it is the full consequence of sin. It brings us all before God’s judgment throne. Those who die apart from Christ suffer the eternal pain brought about by sin.

Sin has such tremendous power because it violates God’s law. Romans 2:14-16 demonstrates that all people, whether they’ve read the Bible or not, instinctively know His law. Furthermore, as Paul testifies in Romans 7:8-10, knowing the law has a funny way of increasing our desire to sin.

God alone deserves thanks for this victory over death. With verse 57, Paul makes sure his readers never lose sight of the Lord’s centrality in salvation.

God doesn’t give this victory to just anyone; He reserves it for Christians. He gives us the victory, as Barnes makes clear. Notice that he never bothers to address the eternal bodies of unbelievers in this section, preferring to concentrate on the wonderful hope we have as believers.

Regarding this wonderful hope, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown point out the present tense of the word here translated as “gives,” calling the victory “a present certainty.” More than the cherished hope of believers, this victory is an accomplished fact.

Most importantly, God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Going back to verses 3 and 4, we remember Christ’s atoning death that paid the penalty for our sin and His triumphant resurrection. Our resurrection happens only because of what He did.

In conclusion, Paul urges them to stand fast in the doctrine of resurrection, not allowing skeptics to sway them from their faith. Verse 58, in fact, provides the practical application of everything he’s said in this chapter. He wants them to be firm in their faith so that false teachers (such as those who deny bodily resurrection) can’t sway them from the Gospel.

Further, he encourages them to abound in their work for the Lord. Since Colossians 3:23 tells servants to work as if they’re serving the Lord, I believe we can infer that all our work is for Him. Yet there’s a special sense of work in furthering the Gospel. The promise of resurrection assures us that such work isn’t wasted.

Whew! We’ve made it through 1 Corinthians 15! I don’t know about you, but I have a much richer understanding of both Christ’s resurrection and ours as a result of this Bible Study. We’re going to take an indefinite break from Monday Bible Studies while I rest and reevaluate whether or not to keep writing these studies (very few people read them). If we do another study, however, I have my eye on Colossians. Tell me what you think.

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Looking At The Cross Costs Something

When you first heard that Jesus died for your sins, how did you respond? Did you shrug it off as a somewhat perplexing idea? Maybe you felt a measure of relief, but didn’t really think the knowledge of His sacrifice required more than a thank you and a smile from you. Perhaps you thought you needed to augment His work on the cross, making yourself worthy of salvation.

Or maybe you had comprehended the true weight of your sins against a holy God, and therefore received the message of the cross with an attitude of grateful amazement. You wondered why the Lord would bestow such grace on you. And, although you realized your total inability to pay Him back for His grace and mercy, you wanted to show your  gratitude by acknowledging His claim on your whole life.

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Reformation Day Is Like Christmas (At Least For Reformed Bloggers)

Reformation Day

Pastors must feel a sense of panic each December, knowing they’ll need to preach Christmas sermons the Sunday before Christmas as well as Christmas Eve. How can they find a fresh angle? What can they say that pastors haven’t said for centuries on end? How do they keep their congregations from becoming jaded to the wonder of Christ’s Incarnation?

As a blogger, I believe I empathize with their plight. Before starting The Outspoken TULIP, I maintained another blog for  nine years, giving me a total of twelve years and three months doing this ministry. Around Christmastime, I panic a little myself. What can I add to the conversation that’s different from my Christmas blog posts lying in my archives? And how can my articles complement, rather than parrot, those of my fellow Christian bloggers?

Today I feel the same sort of panic. It’s Reformation Day, and I am Continue reading

According To Scripture: Study #16 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

As I predicated last Monday, I’m a little bleery-eyed from watching the Red Sox win the World Series last night. But I won’t let that stop me from writing about something far more exciting and glorious!

So let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 as a whole, and then examine the first four verses of the passage.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (ESV)

At last, Paul moves from giving proofs for bodily resurrection to giving reasons for changed bodies as well as briefly explaining the wonderful process of that change. As Barnes writes, the Lord changes our bodies because it is indispensable that He do so.

Since our earthly bodies suffer from the corrupting influences of sin, he explains in verse 50, they lack the capacity to function in the incorruptible realm. Earlier verses have already made this point. In our present state of weakness and decay, it’s unthinkable that we should inherit an incorruptible kingdom.

When Paul says he will tell them a mystery in verse 51, he by all means does not mean secret knowledge for the spiritually elite! Rather, he’s turning the tables on the Gnostics, informing them that he knows something that their secret wisdom evidently hasn’t taught them. This knowledge was hidden from previous generations, but Christ has revealed it.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, he declares this same mystery, affirming that he received it “by the word of the Lord.” Their reason, which they prided themselves on, never would have reached the conclusion that we will be changed. Yet 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 teaches precisely that promise.

This promise, however, is not about the resurrection of the dead. It is about the rapture of living Christians. The comment that we shall not all sleep makes this point clear. Therefore, the implications of Christ’s resurrection take on an added dimension that the Corinthian Gnostics hadn’t considered.

Verse 52 offers further details on the transformation of our bodies. The last trumpet that Paul mentions signals the close of our earthly existence and the beginning of our eternal life in resurrected bodies. At that glorious moment, the dead will be raised in the imperishable bodies that Paul has been describing throughout this chapter. But in addition to their resurrection, the living will be changed.

Both miracles will occur instantaneously. The transformation of our bodies in the rapture will be as instantaneous as a wink, which the Greek word translated as “twinkling” denotes. Christ’s Second Corning will be sudden, surprising us like (to borrow Peter’s phrase in 2 Peter 3:10) a thief in the night. Paul describes this moment in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. We can look forward to this moment with joyful anticipation!

Perhaps we best understand the concept of a perishable body putting on the imperishable in verse 53 by looking at 2 Corinthians 5:2-4. As Christians, we know that there’s so much more than this present life offers.

As earlier verses have indicated, our earthly bodies, being corrupted by the effects of sin, simply aren’t suited for eternal life in the perfect new heavens and new earth. Consequently, we must be clothed in new, imperishable bodies.

What a wonderful thing to contemplate this week! And as we finish our study next Monday, we’ll see a victory that makes the World Series look downright boring.

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According To Scripture: Study #15 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Before we get going on the five (yes, I’m serious — five) verses we’ll study today, let me remind any gentlemen reading that these Bible Studies are intended exclusively for women. Unless you are my husband, an elder from First Baptist Church Weymouth Massachusetts or vetting me before recommending this blog to your wife, please don’t cause me to violate 1 Timothy 2:12. Thanks!

Are they gone, ladies? Okay. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s read our passage and then talk about verses 45-49.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. ~~1 Corinthians 15:42-49 (ESV)

In verse 45, we see a new turn in Paul’s defense of bodily resurrection. Having taught the differences between our earthly bodies and our resurrection bodies, Paul goes on to contrast the first Adam with Christ (the last Adam). He uses these terms to denote that Adam and Christ are the two representative heads of humanity. He already hinted at this concept in verse 22.

Referring to Genesis 2:7, he reminds them that the first Adam became a living being when God breathed life into him. This first Adam, however, also introduced death to all mankind (Romans 5:14) even while being the first human to receive God’s breath of life.

In contrast, Christ (the last Adam) gives eternal life. John 1:4 says, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” According to Matthew Henry,  John 5:21 shows us that both the Father and the Son give life. Paul’s comment about the second Adam being a life-giving spirit demonstrates this claim.

Paul deems it entirely reasonable, in verse 46, that our natural, decaying bodies should precede our spiritual, imperishable bodies, just as the seed precedes the fully developed plant. As Matthew Henry puts it, “If the first Adam could communicate to us natural and animal bodies, cannot the second Adam make our bodies spiritual ones?”

We might apply this principle in our walks with the Lord. Christians put away the natural inclination towards sin in favor of putting on Christlike characteristics. See Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22-24 and Colossians 3:9-10.

Paul tells us in verse 47 that Adam quite literally came from the earth, as Genesis 2:7 and Genesis 3:19 testify. As such, he had a corruptible nature that all of us inherited. In Adam, our present bodies are destined to return to the earth.

In contrast, Christ is of heavenly origin, as we learn in John 3:13 and John 3:31. Paul calls Him the second Man because of His reversal of Adam’s curse on humanity. Since Christ is heavenly, His physical body is suited for heaven. Therefore, those who are in Him will likewise be given bodies suited for heaven.

Paul elaborates on this point in verse 48 by saying that all of Adam’s descendants share his earthly nature. Interestingly, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown tie this statement in to our need to be born again (John 3:6-7). Apart from Christ, our bodies are prone to decay.

In contrast (again drawing from Jamieson, Fausset and Brown), regenerated people will have bodies like the resurrected Lord’s (Philippians 3:20-21). The second Adam assures us that He will fit us for eternity with Him!

Paul reaches the pinnacle of his argument in verse 49. Like our natural forefather Adam, we have bodies that are weakened (see Romans 5:17a). As Barnes puts it, our earthly bodies are “subject to sickness, frailty, sorrow, and death.”

But in Christ, our resurrection bodies will shed the limitations we inherited from Adam. Like our resurrected Lord, we will have incorruptible bodies that are free both from sin itself and from its consequences. 1 John 3:2 promises that, even though we don’t know specific details concerning our resurrection bodies, we have the assurance that they will be like His.

Join me next Monday as we begin the final section of 1 Corinthians 15. I may be a little bleery-eyed from watching the Red Sox win the World Series, but I look forward to studying a far greater event — our bodies being changed “in the twinkling of an eye.”

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Who Made An End To All My Sin

When I sin, I typically question whether or not I’m truly saved. I reason that a saved person, while not perfect, really ought to exhibit some evidence that the Holy Spirit has transformed her. Usually, I momentarily conclude that I must be a false convert.

(Those episodes must drive my husband crazy.)

But eventually I come to my senses and remember that Jesus took care of my sin by His death on the cross. Yes, I should walk by the Spirit more than I do. Yes, my sin dishonors Him. And yes, in those moments I’m failing to reflect His holy nature. But even so, I need to focus on Him rather than on myself.

Last Sunday the Lord encouraged me through the second verse of “Before The Throne Of God Above” by shifting my gaze from the despair of having sinned yet again to the joy that Jesus paid the final cost for my sin! He made an end to it! Although He still calls me to repentance, He has freed me from the death sentence that sin requires.

Join me in looking upward to Christ. If you belong to Him, He’s made an end to all your sin, too!

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