"Well, if everyone is going to heaven, then why did Christ have to die? Aren't you nullifying the death of Jesus? And if God is going to save everyone, why bother telling anyone about Jesus?"
Saved By His Life!
By Jan Antonsson
The Glory Road
"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." (Rom. 5:10).
March 30, 1998
I began my last journal, "Primrose Path to Gehenna," with the words, "Hell is a four letter word." Thankfully, not all four letter words are bad ones. LIFE and LOVE are four letter words, and as this season of Easter and Passover rolls around again, our thoughts turn to Jesus, the Passover Lamb, His sacrifice on the cross, (Is. 53:4-5); and His glorious resurrection, without which His death would be meaningless. (I Cor. 15;19-20). The cross means many things to many people. To me the cross symbolizes LIFE, LOVE, and FREEDOM! "If the son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (Jn. 8:36). Paul sums up my thoughts today in few words: "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (I Cor. 15:22-23). For this gift of God's unsearchable riches, we give thanks to the Lord daily, sometimes hourly, not just once a year in a religious exercise.
Among the comments I received from readers about Primrose Path, the ones that struck a chord in me were, "Well, if everyone is going to heaven, then why did Christ have to die? Aren't you nullifying the death of Jesus? And if God is going to save everyone, why bother telling anyone about Jesus?" Those are excellent questions, actually, and ones that have been around for a long time. It seems to me that people who make these points are honestly seeking God. They highly value the reputation of Jesus, and as a result, they protest vigorously when they feel His name or His cross is being besmirched in some way. My purpose in responding to these questions here, is NOT to defend myself or to change anyone else's theology, for that clearly is the job of the Holy Spirit, but to offer these comments as my way of giving an answer to any one who asks me the reason for the hope that is in me. (I Pet. 3:15).
It is clear from scripture, that the exact death Jesus died was preordained. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter said of Him, "This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." (Acts. 2:23). We know that the cross of Christ was always in the heart of God, for John the Revelator referred to the Son of God as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Rev. 13:8). That could only have been true if God always foreknew that man would disobey; that sin would enter the world; and that He would have to save His creation sovereignly because they were absolutely incapable of achieving salvation on their own merit, by their obedience to law. (Gal. 3:21). To say that our Father did not know in advance that His children would sin, and was thus, cruelly tricked by Satan into having to quickly devise a backup plan to try to regain control of His creation, is to say that He is neither omniscient, nor omnipotent. Probably no Christian would admit that he believes this about our God, but neither does he seem to realize that when he laments about the awfulness of sin and death; when he glorifies the potency of Satan, and relegates 99% of the world's population to the certainty of hell fire and damnation, he is in fact, questioning the authority and power of almighty God. Talk about disrespect and unbelief! To such a one, God's arm is not only shortened, it is cut off at the shoulder! (Is. 50:2). However, I don't believe these thoughts come from a desire to malign God's character so much as from illogical thinking and a failure to see things with the eyes of the Spirit. Man cannot delve into the deep things of God without the Spirit's help. "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." (I Cor. 2:10-11). From before the foundation of the world, Jesus was the Passover Lamb, (I Cor. 5:7) offered for the sins of His people, and for the sins of the whole world. (I Jn. 2:2).
The Passover Lamb, which saved the first born of Israel when the angel of death passed over the land of Egypt, is a type and shadow of the Messiah, the Christ of the Holy One of Israel. God told Moses what to expect on that first occasion: "For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: AND WHEN I SEE THE BLOOD, I WILL PASS OVER YOU, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt." (Ex. 12:12-13). This is powerful symbolism about the efficacy of the blood of the Lamb.
Blood was required as a sin offering under the law. Leviticus 16 records God's instructions to Moses for his brother, in regards to the blood which Aaron, the high priest was to take into the holy place within the veil on behalf of himself and the people. Aaron was to offer a bullock as a sin offering for himself to make atonement for himself and for his house, (Vs. -6) and then he was to kill one of two goats for a sin offering whose blood was to be sprinkled by the high priest upon the mercy seat eastward. (Vs. 15). This blood was to be "an atonement for the holy place, BECAUSE OF THE UNCLEANNESS OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, AND BECAUSE OF THEIR TRANSGRESSIONS IN ALL THEIR SINS: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness." (Vs. 16). The other goat, chosen by casting lots, (Vs.8) was to be the scapegoat, upon which was placed the sins of the people. "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall release the goat in the wilderness." (Vs. 21-22). Then, the bullock which had been sacrificed for Aaron and his house as well as the goat slaughtered for the sin offering, were to be carried forth without the camp and burned in the fire, "their skins, their flesh, and their dung." (Vs. 27).
What a perfect type of Christ this sacrifice is, even to the fact that Jesus was crucified outside the city, in a place where common criminals were executed. (Matt. 27:33, 38; Mk 15:22, 27; Lk 23:33; Jn. 19:17-18). Read Hebrews, Chapter 9, for a valuable comparison of how Christ fulfilled the symbolic rituals performed by the children of Israel as they offered sacrifices for their sins over the centuries. The Hebrew writer explains that the symbology of the high priest going once a year alone, with blood to offer for himself and the sins of the people points to "the holiest of all," not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was yet standing. (9:8). He goes on to contrast the new and living tabernacle fashioned by the Spirit, with the old one made with hands, "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once FOR ALL into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption." (9:11). When Christ died, the veil in the temple was rent. (Lk. 23: 45). This veil had kept the people away from the presence of God, and from the Shekinah glory of God which would have been lethal to anyone except the high priest who was the only one who could go into the holy of holies, and then only once a year, with blood to sprinkle on the mercy seat. (See Ex. 28:35, 43; Lev. 16:2). Here's how we benefit from the holy of holies established by the New Covenant: "For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. THEREFORE, HE IS THE MEDIATOR OF A NEW COVENANT, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred, which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant." (Vs. 13-15).
Because the veil was rent when Jesus died, we can now enter into the holy of holies to commune with our Father and our God. This verse in Hebrews has thrilled me for years: "for we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:15-26).
This then is the majesty and the mystery of the incarnation. Jesus, who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, humbled himself and took upon himself the form of a servant. (Phil. 2: 7-8). From out of the ivory palaces of glory, He came to earth, now a little lower than the angels; (Heb. 2:9) clothed himself in flesh and was born of a human woman, and in that lowly state, He suffered and died like all of Adam's kin. When he came forth from Mary's womb, his sacrifice on our behalf began. Through the Spirit, I can see that His death lasted, not the few hours He suffered on a Roman cross, horrible as that was, but in fact, his death lasted for the 33 or so years that He walked among men. Through it, He was crowned "with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God, should taste death for every man." (Heb. 2:9).
I went to bed the night I wrote this, pondering where the Spirit was leading me with this journal. I woke up several times during the night with the phrase, "He tasted death for every man," ringing in my ears. "What do you mean by that, Lord?" I kept asking as I would drift back to sleep. The next morning, it came to me that the death spoken of here in Heb. 2:9, must be something other than physical death. How do I know? Look around you. Men have been dying since Adam. They still are dying all over the planet, and will continue to die physically until the Lord manifests Himself. As Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 15:26, "death is the last enemy to be destroyed." Yet, Paul shares with us the vision that not all will physically die: "Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." (Vs. 51). Most believers have their own interpretation of what that verse means, but no matter, the fact still is that all will die physically and their bodies will sleep in the earth or the sea, or perhaps even on the moon, until whatever that verse means is manifested on earth, either individually or corporately. Yet, the scriptures affirm that Christ ALREADY has tasted death for every man. Whatever He tasted, it was for my benefit and yours as well. This, like many concepts in the Bible has double or triple meanings, depending on the spiritual maturity of the reader.
Several thoughts occur to me about this verse. Most Christians believe that our life consists of being born, living as best we can, dying, and being buried to await the resurrection at some far off day in the future. Remember when Adam ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? God said to him, "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof THOU SHALT SURELY DIE." (Gen. 2:16-17). When I was a little kid, I read the Bible through every year, and every time I came to this verse, it troubled me deeply, because clearly, Adam didn't die when he ate the fruit of the tree. He may have wished he had, but he kept right on living to a ripe old age - 930 years to be exact, (Gen. 5:5) or at least his body continued to function during that time. He was breathing in and out, but was he alive? What happened to Adam and consequently to all the rest of us, according to Paul, is that when Adam sinned, death entered the world - spiritual death, physical death, sin and all it's horrible consequences came right along with it - a package deal, you might say. Paul tells us the truth in all its stark reality, its unfairness, and its grim repercussions:
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:...death reigned from Adam to Moses, EVEN OVER THEM THAT HAD NOT SINNED AFTER THE SIMILITUDE OF ADAM'S TRANSGRESSION, who is the figure of him that was to come." (Rom. 5:12, 14). There you have original sin in black and white! Because of Adam's sin, he died spiritually, and everyone who has been born since that black day has been born into spiritual death. We're all in the soup together here on this third rock from the sun. When Adam died spiritually, he left the eternal life realm where he had been walking and talking with God. Jesus left it as well, when He came to earth, which is why Paul says He is the last Adam. (I Cor. 15:45). In obedience to the Father's eternal plan, He entered into the death realm with us to end the destruction begun by the first Adam's disobedience. As A.P. Adams put it in one of his writings, "Man is born into the death realm and there he stays from cradle to grave, unless he partakes of the resurrection life of Christ."
Did you ever think about what Jesus meant when he said, "Let the dead bury the dead?" On this occasion, He had been teaching the multitudes, when He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. (Matt 8:18). Perhaps not wanting to leave right then, one of the disciples said to him, 'Lord let me first go and bury my father'." Now, that seems like a reasonable request, to me, "But Jesus said to him, 'Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead'." (Vs. 21-22). Since He had taught them that in Him was life; "and the life was the light of men," (Jn. 1:4) and since He said of himself that He was the way, the truth, and THE LIFE; the only way for men to get to the Father; (Jn. 14:6), no wonder He reproved the man for wanting to attend a funeral when he had a chance to be with the one who is eternal life! (Jn. 17:3). He was telling this man that, even though they were physically alive, and certainly not yet in the grave, nonetheless, everyone was in actual fact, dead! Paul said that before we were quickened, or made alive, we were dead in trespasses and sin! (Eph. 2:1). Moreover, Jesus knew that all men were walking in darkness. On another occasion, He admonished them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." (Jn. 12:35, RSV).
Paul affirmed in Rom. 5:17, that death, the great evidence of the power of darkness, reigned supreme on planet earth because of Adam's offense, but that's not the end of the story. So, when Jesus told the disciple to let the dead bury their dead, He was showing him that life comes only by following Christ who is life! He alone has the words of life; He alone has the key to overcome death and hell and the powers of Satan. Paul puts it this way: "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men." (Rom. 5:18). This is indeed the good news, the glad tidings of great joy to all the people. This is the message which the angel of the Lord delivered to the shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock that glorious night when Jesus the Christ was born in a manger in Bethlehem of Judea. These are the words of hope that the sin burdened world longed to hear. This promise that "a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel," (Is. 7:14) was what had kept the pitiful sons of Jacob hanging on to hope by a thread. They had hidden the promise deep in their hearts for centuries, knowing that one wondrous day, the light of God would appear upon the earth, and "his name would be called wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." (Is. 9:6). What glory! What anticipation! What wonder lay in the words, "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." (Is. 9:7). As the sin weary creation lay slumbering, the light of the world was born to walk among men, to enter the death realm as a man, to be as one of us, to take upon himself our transgressions and our iniquities, to take upon himself the stripes that belonged on our backs. "Because he hath poured out his soul unto death:..he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Is. 53: 12).
When Jesus was eight days old, his parents took him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord, for according to the Law of Moses, "Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord." (Lk. 2:23; Ex. 13:2). While they were there, offering the sacrifice as required by Law, (Lev. 12:2) they encountered an old man named Simeon, to whom it had been revealed by the Holy Ghost, "that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ." The Spirit led him into the temple at the time Joseph and Mary were there with the infant Jesus, and this devout old man took the babe into his arms, blessed God, and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou has prepared before the face OF ALL PEOPLE; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." (Lk. 2:29-32).
The text goes on to say that Joseph and the child's mother marveled at those things which were spoken by him. (Lk. 2:33). In that sweet encounter, Simeon also blessed the parents and said to Mary, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." (Lk. 2:33-34). Mary held these sayings in her heart. That she did not know how events would unfold was God's grace for her, even as it is for us when we do not know in advance what perils and pain await us as we journey homeward. I have been thinking about Mary these days before the Easter season. For her, the time between the ascension of Christ and the coming of the Spirit must have seemed like an eternity. As a young woman, she had heard Gabriel, that mighty messenger of the Most High tell her why she was blessed among women. Of this holy one she would conceive, whose name was to be Jesus, the angel said that "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Lk. 1:28-33).
How those words of the angel must have rankled in her mind and caused her heart to ache as she stood transfixed in horror at the foot of the cross and witnessed the suffering of the son of God and her son as well. What could it mean? How could things have gone so wrong? Where did He miss the boat? What horrible mistake had they all made? How could it turn out this way? For her, it must have seemed that time stood still as she watched in grief and anguish. The darkness first gripped her heart before it covered the land. (Lk. 23:44-45). When the veil in the temple was rent, her heart followed suit, and Jesus, her beloved son, gave up the ghost and died.
Mary did not have long to wait for the light of God's glorious Spirit to burst upon her spirit and mend her broken heart. On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women came to the sepulcher, bringing spices which they had prepared to anoint the Lord's body. It doesn't clearly say that Mary the mother of Jesus was among them, but there are enough Marys mentioned, that my heart hopes that surely one of them was she. How could she have stayed away? Impossible, I think, but wherever she was, she soon got the news. He lives! The stone is rolled away. The angel said, "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" (Lk. 24:5). How her heart must have nearly burst with joy. This was the confirmation that her whole life had not been a bad joke, that the words spoken to her by Gabriel some 33 years earlier had indeed been from God. I hope that she was among those with whom He walked for 40 days, after the resurrection, and she also heard Him speaking of the kingdom of God. (Acts. 1:3-4). Along with the others, she no doubt tarried in Jerusalem, waiting for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (Vs. 5). She may have heard Him say, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." (Acts. 1:7-8). More than any of those present that day, surely she have had the most intimate knowledge of what it meant to be overshadowed by the power of the Most High. (Lk. 1:35). Perhaps she was pondering these things in her heart when Jesus, her first born son was "lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight." (Acts. 1:9). "And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." (Acts. 1:10-11).
They did not have long to wait before this promise was fulfilled. Many Christians believe that this promise will not be fulfilled until Jesus comes again in the clouds and the end of the world is upon us. Perhaps they are right in some aspects, but it seems to me that the second coming clearly began on that Day of Pentecost some 50 days after Jesus, the Passover Lamb was sacrificed. The second coming of Christ continues to occur each time a believer experiences power from on high. To my mind, the second coming has been a continuous event following the Day of Pentecost, from that day to this. The account of that first outpouring reads, "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts. 2:1-4). Now, for some who protest that this was the Holy Spirit who came, not the Lord, let me point out that Paul says, "Now THE LORD IS THAT SPIRIT: and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (II Cor. 3:17).
Think of it this way, when Jesus came to earth manifested in flesh, He took upon Himself this death realm, and like us, He was limited by time and space. He was tired; He was hungry; He suffered from being tempted like we all do, (Heb. 2:18), which meant that He had taken upon himself every burden which is common to man. He was indeed "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." (Is. 53:3). When He died and rose from the dead, He was now limitless in every dimension. Paul exalted, "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority." (Col. 2:9-10). He was set free from death which rules every man in the natural, and now He is eternal Spirit, and eternal Life manifested in His believers. He is everywhere, in every heart at the same time. He had said to the Samaritan woman, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH, for such the father seeks to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (Jn. 4:23-24). On another occasion, he said, "My kingdom is not of this world," (Jn. 18:36), and neither are we, my brothers and sisters. Neither are we! We have been delivered from "the power of darkness, into the kingdom of His dear son." (Col. 1:13). We are no longer subject to the rules and regulations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, (Col. 2:20-23) but rather we are subject to our heavenly king, whom Peter said God has made "both Lord and Christ." (Acts. 2:36). Paul says that we once were the servants of sin, but we obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered us (the gospel), and being then made free from sin, we are become the servants of righteousness. (Rom. 6:18).
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, John the Baptizer, declared, "Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mat. 3:2). When Jesus began His ministry, He likewise preached, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 4:17). The kingdom of heaven was established when Jesus triumphed over hell and the grave. It was then, I believe, that Isaiah's great prophecy began to be fulfilled on earth, and is fulfilled still to this day wherever the light of the glorious gospel shines. Isaiah declared, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." (Is. 9:2). Clearly, this light has not yet shined in every heart, though the promise is that "all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Is. 52:10; Lk. 3:6). And even in the churches of this land, the light is often rather dim, I fear. I think that at least one reason why people think that Jesus died merely to save us from death and hell when we die, is that they have not seen that the kingdom of heaven is now! And while it is undoubtedly glorious that we have been saved from eternal separation from God, I feel it equally compelling that He came that we should have life and it more abundantly. (Jn. 10:10). When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, the Lord said to him, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'." (Jn. 3:3). Two verses later, He added that "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot ENTER into the kingdom of God." (Jn. 3:5). It is only by the life giving Spirit that we can see the kingdom which is within us. (Lk. 17:20-21).
Jesus said He came that we may have everlasting life. (Jn. 6:47). What is it? How can we get some? Let's eavesdrop on one of his conversations with His Father: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (Jn. 17:3). And clearly, from his conversation with Martha on the occasion when her brother Lazarus had died, He did not mean that we have to wait until we die to get this life eternal. When He told her that Lazarus would rise again, (Jn. 11:23) she gave the good theological answer, "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." (Vs. 24). Martha would be a member in good standing among most churches in the land. Yet, Jesus pressed her further in her belief by saying, "I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" (Vs. 25-26). He wanted her - and us to see beyond the belief that resurrection life only comes after the last trump has sounded. He wanted her - and us to know that He is the resurrection and the life - right now!
Jesus entered the death realm for us. He tasted death for every man, and because He did, we are free. If someone only sees Christ's death on the cross as the means to save us from our sin so we can go to heaven when we die, he or she has only touched the hem of the garment of what that death meant. Paul gave a graduate course in kingdom living and kingdom benefits to the Ephesians, which we all share in as well. He wrote:
"Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (An excellent definition of the lost). But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." (Eph. 2: 12-22).
We have already read in Heb. 9:11-15, that through His shed blood, Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. Is that covenant for now or later? What has the new covenant to do with the kingdom of heaven? In the Galatian letter, Paul explains that the there were two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai, which of course, is the law. It is the two party agreement between God and the children of Israel. It was the one where God said to the people, "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine." (Ex. 19:5). The children of Israel boldly said "All that the Lord hath spoken, we will do." (Ex. 19:8). This comes under the heading of "famous last words," because, of course, they couldn't do it, not even close! Thankfully, God had a better plan from before the foundation of the world: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah." (Heb. 8:8). He goes on to say that it will not be like the one He made with them when He took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they could not keep that one. No, "This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them on their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people." (Vs. 10).
Notice that this new covenant is NOT dependent on anything man does, but only on what the Lord does. Paul says that the new covenant is the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham. In fact, he reports that God "preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'In you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed'." (Gal. 3:8). Paul says that while the covenant from Mount Sinai corresponds to the present Jerusalem, "for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother." (Gal. 4:24-25). And what is the result of the new covenant? "Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are the children of promise....so, brethren, we are not children of the slave, but of the free woman." (Gal. 4:28,31). To repeat this liberating truth, the new covenant does not depend on man's works, as the law did, but upon God's promise to Abraham. (Gal. 3:18). That's good news indeed, for as far as I can find out, there is not one instance recorded in the Bible where man set out to keep God's commandments and was able to accomplish it successfully. The New Covenant is the spiritual law, if you will, of the kingdom of heaven. It is "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." God is the king and we are the citizens of that kingdom.
While John the Baptizer was in prison, he heard of the many miraculous works of Christ, and sent two of his disciples to ask Him, "Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" (Matt. 11:2-3). Isn't it amazing that he could doubt since he was the messenger of the covenant, sent to prepare the way of the Lord? (Mal. 3:1; Matt. 11:10; Lk. 1:76). Maybe his doubts were not so surprising after all. I suppose he was very much like some of us, who when times are tough in our lives, grumble and protest, "Well, this couldn't be from God. He wouldn't let this happen to me. I don't know God like this." Perhaps John forgot that he himself had prophesied that Jesus would baptize his followers with the Holy Ghost AND WITH FIRE! (Mat. 3:11). We would all prefer to forget that, I believe. Anyway, understanding the weakness of the human heart from the inside out, Jesus apparently didn't take offense at John's doubts. He sent the men back to his cell with this message, "Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me." (Matt. 11:4-6).
At a later time, the Pharisees, those faithful followers of the law, those watchdogs of the faith, those gate keepers of Judaism accused Him of casting out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. (Matt. 12:24). To them, Jesus said, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? ....But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then, he will spoil his house." (Vs. 25-29). And this my friends, is exactly what Jesus did. He went into hell and bound the strong man. For this purpose "the Son of God wasmanifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." (I Jn. 3:8). (See also Rom. 16:20).
The Apostle Peter explained that "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls were saved by water." (I Pet.3:18-20). Obviously, since those disobedient spirits were from the days of Noah, Jesus preached to the dead. Here is a clear inference that death is NOT the end of the story! I can't leave this passage without commenting on the fact that Jesus went to hell to preach to those languishing there, showing us that there is nowhere too far removed for God to go after his wayward children. If we make our bed in hell, the Psalmist declares, we will find Him there. (Ps. 139:8). The word hell, in most instances in the New Testament should be translated "Hades," meaning only the resting place of the dead, not the everlasting flames of torment that the church says it means. (See Primrose Path to Gehenna on this Web Site for a full explanation of translation errors).
Along these lines, The Emphatic Diaglott translates Acts 2: 26-27 as follows: "On account of this My heart rejoiced, and my tongue exulted; and moreover, my flesh also shall repose in Hope; because thou wilt not abandon my soul in Hades (invisibility, in the interlinear Greek translation) nor give up thine Holy One to see corruption." Paul adds to the wonder of Christ's triumph by telling us that He cleaned out the dungeons of the dead and took those held captive by sin and Satan to heaven with him: "When He ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.' (In saying, 'He ascended,' what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is He who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)" (Eph. 4:8-10).
What about those gifts? "And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles." (Eph. 4:11-14). But, what if we hold none of those lofty positions in the body of Christ? What if we're just a regular old pew warmer? Did Christ's death do nothing for us? Here's the good news. Paul wrote the Romans, "There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS. (This means you and me, no matter what our position or station in the body.) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2). Rejoice, my brothers and sisters, we no longer have to suffer from the wages of sin and guilt, for there is NO CONDEMNATION for us in Christ Jesus!
If Paul meant what he said that there is no longer any condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, and if indeed we are set free from the law of sin and death, why do some Christians keep on in sin? And even if they don't habitually sin, why do they continue to wallow in guilt over past sins, when the scripture clearly tells us we have been forgiven? To answer that question, I want to include a little story here that was E-mailed to us by Gary Amirault recently. He said the narrative had been around for awhile and he gave me permission to use it. It is called "Freed From Sin," and I think it explains the point I'm making here far better than anything I have read recently.
From an E-mail sent by Gary Amirault:
"Freed From Sin"
"During the Civil War, George Wyatt was drafted into a unit, soon to be called into battle. This was a sad day for Wyatt, for he had a lovely young bride and baby that he might never see again. It would be impossible for her to care for their farm. It was a problem for which Wyatt could not find an easy answer. He would have to go to war or face prison. There seemed to be no satisfactory choice for him.
"Not long after the draft notice, an old friend of Wyatt's dropped by. His name was Walter Pratt. Pratt was a hunter and had been an outdoors man all of his life. He had cut out a small piece of land in Montana and came back home to find a bride and get married. He wanted to raise his family in that beautiful wilderness.
"When Pratt arrived at the Wyatt home, he found a family broken in spirit. After hours of intermittent shouting, pacing, talking, and crying, they finally became silent, having said it all. There seemed to be no answer to their dilemma. Pratt broke the utter stillness and said, 'I'll take your place! I'll go and you can stay.' Wyatt said, 'That's impossible! My name is on that draft notice. I have to go. There's no way to get off of that list.' So, Wyatt asked Pratt to forget about it and spend the night in their home and use the daylight hours to do his business.
"They finally went to bed, but alas, sleep failed them all. The night was short. In a few hours, Wyatt got up without a word and went out into the morning sunlight to cut stove wood for cooking and warming the house that morning. His young bride began tending to their restless infant while Pratt was alone, standing in the living room engrossed in thought.
"A knock came to the door. Startled, Pratt said, 'I'll get it!' When he opened the door, the men asked, 'George Wyatt?' Pratt knew right away who they were and answered, "Yes, What can I do for you?" The men spelled out their mission: they had come to take him to the court house to sign in and get suited up for the Confederacy. With his hand still on the door, Pratt looked back and called out, 'Bye, honey!' He closed the door before she could answer and left the farm house with the men.
"At the Court House Walter Pratt signed the enlistment papers, using the name of George Wyatt, and took Wyatt's gun, clothes, and horse. He went into battle and was killed in action. His body was buried on the battlefield.
"After a few months, the conflict had grown more hopeless. The frantic Draftsmen were going to every house and demanding every man to prepare to go to war. They came to the farm house of George Wyatt. Wyatt met them at the door and asked what they wanted. They said they were drafting every man that was alive into the army. Wyatt smiled and told them he didn't have to go with them because he was dead. They asked what he meant. Remembering that on the day of his draft, Walter Pratt had gone to the Court House and signed in as George Wyatt, he repeated, 'I don't have to go. I'm dead. Check your records and you'll see I'm right.'
"Sure enough, when the confused officers went to the courthouse to check their records, they confirmed that a Judge had recorded the death of George Wyatt and confirmed that he was buried on the field of battle.
"They could no longer draft him because their own records said he was dead. Wyatt was dead to the Confederacy, like you are dead to sin, if indeed you have been crucified with Christ. The Confederacy had no authority over a dead man. And likewise sin has no authority over you. Why? Because the record says that you are dead. Christ went to the cross in your place. He signed your name and took your sins upon Himself and died in your stead. It went down on your record that you died on a cross, in the service of law and sin.
"Paul said in the seventh chapter of Romans (verse 1) that the law has domination over a man as long as he is alive. Then he said (verse 6) that we are delivered from the law by being dead.
"Just like George Wyatt was freed from the draft of his hometown court, the cross of Christ has freed us from the court of law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)
"Have you truly taken on the resurrection life and enjoy being seated in the heavenly places in Christ, or do you still have a foot in the court house door of sin and death?
'I through the law died to the law that I might live in God. I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.' (Gal. 2:19,20)
"There are far too many "half-dead" Christians still using the Law to condemn themselves and others and therefore still subjecting themselves to be drafted into the Confederacy of Satan.
"Oh foolish Christians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:1,2. - I substituted the word "Christians" for Galatians since the disease has spread far beyond Galatians since Paul wrote this over nineteen hundred years ago. G.A.)
"The trouble with Christianity is that there are just too many Christians with one foot in the grave and the other still marching to the drum beat of the Confederacy of sin. True Christians are dead to this world and all its ways. When we take on the nature and life of Him Who died for us, we gain life and never again have to succumb to the draft call of the powers and systems of this world. Have you seen your death certificate yet? Or are you still trying to dodge Satan's draft? Have you received the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead? If you have, rejoice, for "the law of the spirit of life" has set us free from the law of sin and death." (Rom. 8:2).
Downloaded and edited by Jan Antonsson
And this, dear ones, is the reason Christ died! This is the reason why we tirelessly preach and teach the life-giving gospel of Jesus, for it alone has the power to bring men and women out of the dungeons of darkness and fear into the glorious light of God's unconditional love. Or as the Apostle Paul would say, "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heart? and how shall they hear without a preacher?....How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom. 10:14-15). We have been redeemed by the cross of Christ from the power of sin now and in this time! For a truly inspired explanation of how Jesus is our kinsman redeemer so that we do not have to wait for the year of Jubilee to experience freedom, see J. Preston Eby's booklet "Jubilee," which is available right here on this Web Site. See below for the Web Site and Snail Mail Address. Preston does a masterful job of explaining the freedom available in Christ now, for the believer, while the rest of the world who doesn't know Him, must wait for the "restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." (Acts. 3:21). Blow the rams horns! Declare the glad tidings! Ring the bells throughout the land! We are free at last! Whom the son sets free shall be free indeed! We have been reconciled to God, and Paul says as a result of that, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. (II Cor. 5:18). I believe this means that we now have the glorious privilege of announcing first to the church and then to the world that the war between good and evil is over. Good has triumphed because "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." (II Cor.5:19). Evil is banished. God and man are one again because of the at-one-ment of Christ. (See Rom. 5:11; Heb. 2:17). Bearing these glad tidings, we will speak peace to the heathen! (Zech. 9:10). We will announce that, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever." (Rev. 11:15). May the blessings of this Easter season be available without limit to all of God's children every day and every hour because the sovereign Lord of all, Jesus Christ the righteous is at the right hand of God exalted, (Acts. 2:33) upon the throne, "and all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen." (Rev. 7:11-12).
Jan & Lenny Antonsson