Tag Archives: theology

Theology: The Trinity Doctrine Glorifies our Lord Jesus Christ

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

The doctrine of the Trinity has parallel truths that are complementary, not contradictory. Three unique identities co-exist in one tri-unified Godhead in an equal relationship working distinctly as purposeful personal extensions in the co-creation of the universe, with earth and humankind and all creatures, sustaining potentiation of divine connections to humanity in a communicable (prayer-linked), pedagogical mindset (Spirit-linked): with prescribed laws (prophetically scripture-linked) in all realms psychologically, spiritually, familial in relation with our minds existentially in a created biologic, physic, atomic, and cosmic reality sustained by the highest laws in each energy field. 1

The Christian faith affirms that there is one and only one God, eternally existing while fully and simultaneously expressed in three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each member of the Godhead is equally God, each is eternally God, and each is fully God—not three gods but three Persons of the one Godhead. Each Person is equal in essence as each possesses eternally, simultaneously, and fully the identically same and undivided divine nature. Yet each is also an eternal and distinct personal expression of that one undivided divine nature. Because of this, what distinguishes each Person of the Godhead from each other Person is not and cannot be the divine nature, since the identically same one and undivided divine nature is the full and eternal possession of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. So, what distinguishes each Person of the Godhead from each other Person are the relationships that each has with each of the other Persons and his particular roles in relation to the others. In light of both the equality of essence yet differentiation of relationships and roles that exist among the Persons of the Godhead, we consider just how the church came to affirm these truths about the Trinity and how those Trinitarian relationships and roles are expressed within the Trinity of Persons. 2

The bible teaches that the Father is God. Yet it was evident that while on earth as our saviour and representative man, Jesus honoured prayed to and obeyed his Father.

The Doctrine of the Trinity Glorifies Jesus Christ

In 1 Corinthians 8:6 we can see that Jesus was active in creation: yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. 

The triadic relationship of God can be seen into whom Christians are baptized. Matthew 28:19-20 states: Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

Further, we are called to know the true God in the context of Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent. John 17: 3: And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

In 2 Corinthians 13:14: the Hoy Spirit is noted in the triad: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

The Supremacy of Jesus in the creation of all life is noted in Colossians 1:15-20 NLT: Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him, God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

1 Glen Jackman’s philosophic meditations

2 Dr Bruce Ware, Southern Seminary

Christ: Our High Priest of a New Covenant

Updated Theological Paper: Christ: High Priest of a New Covenant

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (Hebrews 4:14 NASB)

This study will bring to light the importance of understanding that the new covenant is not simply an addendum to or a continuum of, the old covenant. We will look at the priesthood of Christ to help us determine the differences, as Yahweh was moving Israel out of a works-based law-keeping, view of life. The previous covenant was strongly bent towards the personal disciplined use of willpower alone. God used the old covenant system, with its sacrificial typology, led by the Mosaic written law, outwardly policed by the managing Levites, as a teaching tool to constrain his people as time progressed towards the first advent of the Messiah. My aim is to help nurture the paradigm shift based on scripture. There are many Christians who do not understand the huge shift in the covenantal progression that occurred at the cross when the law was written on the hearts of believers in Jesus Christ, encouraging Spirit-led motivation unto obedience now based on love for Him; concomitant to having love for others in His church.

Without an awareness of the distinctions of the two uniquely different covenants, many of the important doctrines of the church can be terribly misunderstood, namely: Christ’s Ascension, Christ’s Atonement, Responsible Sanctification, The Call of the Elect, and the Leading of the Teaching Spirit.

The Importance of the Truth of Christ’s High Priesthood

Our enemy, Satan attacks especially the doctrine of the High Priestly ministry of Christ because it is central to Christ’s atoning work on the cross to save mankind by faith, warping it into man-made myths. The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, emphasized the importance of adhering to Biblical Truth, doctrines in accord with scripture alone:

We need to bind the girdle of truth more and more tightly around our loins. It is a golden girdle, and so will be our richest ornament, and we greatly need it, for a heart that is not well braced up with the truth as it is in Jesus, and with the fidelity which is wrought of the Spirit, will be easily entangled with the things of this life, and tripped up by the snares of temptation. It is in vain that we possess the Scriptures unless we bind them around us like a girdle, surrounding our entire nature, keeping each part of our character in order, and giving compactness to our whole man. If in heaven Jesus unbinds not the girdle, much less may we upon the earth. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth. (also see Ephesians 6:14, Isaiah 11:5, Revelation 1:13-14)

The Holy Spirit of Christ must give us Spiritual Eyesight to See

Hebrews 8:1–13 defines Christ’s High Priesthood on an entirely different spiritual plane, a new dimension never understood before the Messiah came to Israel. This occurred in the context of a wholly new, altogether different covenant: “in speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13; 10:1).

As we study this with regard to Christ’s sacrifice which opened up a new and living way, we must seek to allow the Spirit to free our perception if it is bound to mirror the old covenant antitype of the initial priesthood of the earthly tabernacle in continuum right into heaven, moreover if it disallows the contradistinction of a new heavenly reality of the new covenant paradigm (Luke 22:20; Matt 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:25).

If we place Christ as carrying on a similar old covenant priesthood in heaven, bear in mind that he could not be a priest according to the old law’s metaphorical methodology as Jesus was not of the Levitical tribe. The divine strategy to move out of the old covenant symbology into the realized actual spiritual sphere of the Holy Spirit working within the hearts of men and women encompassing the church on earth must operate in a non-symbolic new way.

Now, after the sacrifice on Calvary — a singular and final sacrifice once and for all, Jesus must be recognized as the giver of the Holy Spirit whom he breathed on, imparting the gift of the Spirit to the disciples before his ascension (John 20:22); and the church was blessed with the same receipt of the Holy Spirit after Jesus was glorified at the ascension when He sat down with His Father in heaven (John 7:39). Now we view Jesus as our “God, the Judge of all” and as we pray to him we are to know that, we are coming “to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant” (see Hebrews 12:23-24). And the Holy Spirit became the actualizing agent of the church of all the believers. (Galatians 3:2, 14; Acts 1:8; 2:38; 9:17; 19:2;10:47; John 14:17)

Hebrews, chapter 8, addresses the relationship between the sanctuary (or sphere of high priestly ministry) and the sacrifice. Since Christ now exercises His superior High Priesthood in the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 8:1–2) which the Lord set up.  His sacrifice differs from and surpasses Old Testament sacrifices which previously dealt with sin, and which priests offered routinely  in the earthly sanctuary (Hebrews 8:3–6).

Hebrews 8:1 introduces this detailed argument of Hebrews 8:1–10:18. The author’s main point is that we do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven. Psalm 110:1 and Hebrews 4:14-16 support this assertion. Psalm 110:4 assures us that our High Priest replaces the Aaronic high priest. Psalm 110:1 assures us that this superior High Priest has sat down at the right hand of the Father. The rest of Hebrews 8:1 through to Hebrews 10:18 shows the significance of His being at the right hand and the adequacy of the sacrifice which enables Him to be there.1

These chapters demonstrate that, because of His sacrifice and heavenly position, He administers a covenant far superior to the old covenant priesthood which was entirely symbolic. Jesus was not a Levite so he could not enter history classified as one of the Aaronic priesthood who’d carry on the system established by Moses (Hebrews 8:4) installed as a system of law to lead Yahweh’s people through the use of symbols and recurring constraints, to lead them to Christ (Gal 3:24-25).

Carefully note the words, “Since then we do have” an active Lord Jesus Christ as our High Priest in the Presence of the Father in heaven, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (see Hebrews 4:14–16). The epistle describes the greatness of the High Priest that Christians have so that we understand that we are free to enter into the privileges of the kingdom. From Hebrews 8:1 running through Hebrews 10:18, we sharply focus on Christ’s sacrifice. Why dial in on Christ’s sacrifice? Because through it Christ has become the effective High Priest because His past sacrifice enables Him to help us via His advocacy with the Father today.

Hebrews 8:1–2 emphasizes the “location” or magisterial sphere and the authoritative governance that Christ’s High Priestly ministry holds. Predetermined according to Psalm 110:1, God invited Him to sit at His right hand first alluded to in Hebrews 1:3 describing God’s right hand as “the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

The description in Hebrews 8:1 is even stronger: the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven. With these additional words, the author of Hebrews emphasizes even more strongly the significance of this place of Christ’s ministry. He underlines the sovereign authority and glory of God the Father in whose presence Christ ministers! Can there be any doubt that this is the sanctuary, and the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, absolutely not by man?

Most good English translations follow the Greek text conjoining the word sanctuary and the true tabernacle, for example, “a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent”. I particularly like the NASB’s correct use of “and” (Hebrews 8:2 NIV; Hebrews 8:2 RSV; Hebrews 8:2 NASB; Hebrews 8:2 ESV).

Where some interpreters get lost

An old school of interpreters believed the writer of Hebrews thought that heaven, where Christ entered, has two parts of which the two parts of the earthly Tabernacle are a copy. The analogical use of language proper to the earthly sanctuary might give the impression that the heavenly sanctuary itself is envisaged as a locality, but we need not suppose that our author thought of it absolutely in local terms.

 1, 2

The outer section of the earthly Tabernacle which Moses constructed was the Holy Place where the priests customarily ministered daily. A second or inner section of this Tabernacle was the Most Holy Place where in some sense God’s Presence dwelt (see Hebrews 9:1–10).

If the writer of Hebrews believed in a two-part heavenly tabernacle, then the sanctuary of this verse must designate the inner of those two parts, the heavenly most holy place where Yahweh God dwells. And if two-part, then it might be reasonable to hold the view that the true tabernacle could be the outer of those two parts — the heavenly holy place through which one must pass to enter the holiest place to be in the presence of Yahweh. Or perhaps consider that the true tabernacle could be a reference to the entire heavenly tabernacle, encompassing both holy place and most holy place. 3  Regardless of how the various schools of thought had viewed the sanctuary: When Christ sat down at the Father’s right hand He entered “heaven itself” to appear in the presence of God (Hebrews 9:24). Therefore it is only logical, that we must see the sanctuary, the true tabernacle as one single reality because Christ immediately ascended into the presence of His Father! Heaven in this view does not have two compartments.

The earthly tabernacle had two compartments indicating symbolically that access to God was not open under the old covenant (see Hebrews 9:6–10). None but the high priest could ever go beyond the first compartment. But now, Christ has opened the way for all to unify with the Father as one (John 17:20-21) through Christ (John 14:6).

The Most Holy Place in relation to The Holy Place

When we look back to the writing of Moses in (Exodus 25:10-22; 26:33–35;37:1-9) we see that only the Most Holy Place contained the ark of the testimony and the mercy seat. The Most Holy Place was separated by a veil from the Holy Place which included the altar of incense (see Exodus 30:1–10) in addition to the lampstand and table (see Exodus 25:23–40). Exodus 26:33 depicts the curtain separated access to all, except the specially qualified high priest (see Leviticus 16: 29-34;14-15), prefiguring that only Christ can open the way to the Presence of God (Hebrews 9:7–14; 10:20).

The Ark of the Testimony/Covenant and the Mercy Seat which is the traditional term for the gold lid on the Ark of the Covenant. Shutterstock sample.

The Most Holy place along with the ark included the mercy seat which symbolized the redemption of Christ. Exodus 25:18–21 revealed that the high priest sprinkled the blood of a sacrificial bull onto the mercy seat as an atonement for the sins of the people of Israel. Today every Christian knows that Jesus Christ is the antitype of the High Priest typified in the old testament’s sacrifices for sin, that His death on the cross was the fulfilment of the most solemn of typified sacrifices on the annual Day of Atonement, for all Israel, extending to all the faithful believers who see this clearly in the Word or God, clearly incontestable when scripture frames this doctrine. Thus when he ascended to heaven Christ Jesus rightly went immediately into the presence of Yahweh, Father God, in the antitypical Most Holy Place as our anchor within the veil.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:19-20)

Jesus while praying for the unity of his disciples to be one with Him, as He was one with the Father, it was evident that this would soon occur because He stated: “I am coming to you now” (John 17:13) Jesus taught that He ascended to His Father’s presence, “to my Father”… My God…Your God”! (John 20: 17) I cannot imagine Jesus being relegated to an antechamber awaiting entrance to the presence of Yahweh God! Lenski, a theologian with a brilliant mind, excelling in the Greek language, destroys this viewpoint referencing scripture: By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). (Hebrews 9:8)

We decline to follow them. In Hebrews 9: 8 the very fact that in the earthly Tabernacle the Holy Place still has its position before the Holy of Holies is pointed out as evidence that the way into the heavenly Holy of Holies has not yet been made manifest. Are we now to believe that such an anteroom still has its position, an eternal position, in front of the Holy of Holies of heaven, and that despite this fact realized post-Calvary, that this anteroom is now not the evidence that it is in v. 8 of Hebrews 9, but rather the opposite, it is the evidence that the way into the heavenly Sanctuary has been made manifest? This anteroom logic surely cannot be the case. If there is an anteroom in heaven as there was in Moses’ Tabernacle, the two antechambers cannot have an opposite significance, to say nothing of this division of heaven apart from any significance regarding the way to the heavenly Holy of Holies. 3 (for cited context)

Who goes to His Father at Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or a long-awaited home visit, and doesn’t aim directly to see him face to face in His presence? Similarly, doesn’t every “good father” long to see His son and embrace him? Even David disconnected from his rebellious son Absalom desperately asked “how is it with young Absolom” and soon wept over the decease of his son: O Absalom my son, my son! (2 Samuel 18:33) And did Yahweh-Father not work united as One with Christ, as the Father, with the Son, via His Spirit, evident in the prayer of Christ for his disciples that the same unity would be allowed for them — to abide in the presence of both the Father and Son together via the Holy Spirit as the portrayal of a church family.

There would be no point in an “outer compartment” in heaven before, at or after Christ’s Ascension after-which He is glorified with the Father for his Atonement work on  the cross. This heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 8:2) is the place where God dwells, the reality pictured by the Most Holy Place of the earthly Tabernacle. The earthly Tabernacle was only a copy which is why the writer never calls it the true tabernacle. Any antechamber concept destroys the beauty of the anti-type realized now, as it was known doctrinally in Paul’s day and confirmed by the apostles reasoning, especially in the High Priestly prayer of Christ in John 17.

Again, the heavenly sanctuary is the place where God indeed dwells. Its reality clarifies the fact that it was set up by the Lord himself without the agency of man. It is, indeed, equivalent to the God-established permanent city (see Hebrews 11:9–10) or heavenly homeland (Hebrews 11:13–16; 12:22–24). There, God’s people finally find an eternal “rest” in His presence (Hebrews 4:1–11). Christ’s sacrifice belongs to a different dimension, to the realm of the eternal not the temporal. 4

The Corruption of the Anteroom Thesis: In Exodus 27:21 in the old testament period, we see the Lamp inside the veil signifying the presence of Yahweh’s Spirit. When Jesus died the rent curtain signified new access in the New Covenant period from a typical, symbolic presence, obtainable via a corrupt High Priesthood, now directly accessible via the living waters aka living Spirit soon to be reckoned at Pentecost.  Moreover, the Sovereign Father, in union with Christ ascended, would not allow the continuation of the corrupt High Priesthood that crucified Jesus, work out the continuance of the Atonement for him on earth, once ascended. Thus any idea of an anteroom preceding the Most Holy Place continues the corruption that crucified him, doing despite unto the Spirit of Grace.

Christ and His unique Sacrifice (Hebrews 8:3–6)

Hebrews 8:3–5 begins to establish the fact of Christ’s High Priestly ministry in this heavenly sanctuary, especially defining His sacrifice.
If a person is a high priest at all, he has been appointed by God to offer both gifts and sacrifices. The phrase gifts and sacrifices is a comprehensive term that includes the various kinds of Old Testament sacrifices. Offering sacrifice describes, by definition, what it means to be a high priest (see Hebrews 5:1). Christ ministers in the heavenly sanctuary or sphere. If He is a High Priest, and He is, then it is logically necessary for Him, too, to offer something (Hebrews 8:3; 9:12–15; 10:5–10).

The writer of Hebrews clarified that this “something” Christ offers is not the same kind of sacrifice that the Aaronic priests offered! This truth is implied by Hebrews 8:4: If he were on earth, instead of in heaven, he would not be a priest of the Aaronic order at all, much less a high priest, for there are already those who offer the gifts prescribed by the Mosaic law. Christ’s kind of High Priesthood has a sacrifice, but it is a very different kind of sacrifice from that of the Aaronic high priest in the earthly sanctuary.

The necessary difference between their sacrifice and His becomes clearer when we look at the place where the earthly priests serve and its relationship to the heavenly sanctuary of Christ’s service. (Hebrews 8:5) teaches: They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. The New International Version has added the word sanctuary for clarity, but the Greek text is more accurately rendered by the New American Standard Bible: “who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.” 5

Note carefully this distinction: The writer did not even call their location a “sanctuary” at all but only a “copy and shadow.” The scriptures do not imply that every piece of furniture and every detail of the earthly Tabernacle was a copy of something in heaven. He is not affirming exact correspondence between the two, but the inferiority of the earthly. The earthly Tabernacle Moses established mirrored the true approach to God in heaven but only in a shadowy way. It was only a symbolic copy.

We must be hearers of the gospel, to have eyes to see that Christ’s sacrifice must be something of a vastly different quality than the sacrifices appropriate for this “copy and shadow.” 6

We are called to the sanctity of our conscience

In the earthly sanctuary, sacrifices were indeed offered, but their efficacy was sadly restricted; they could not bring “perfection” to the worshiper because they did not affect his conscience. Now we see what our author wishes to teach his readers. The really effective barrier to a man or woman’s free access to God is an inward and not a material one; it exists in the conscience. It is only when the conscience is purified by Christ’s love and offering of His life for us that one is set free to approach God without reservation and offer him acceptable service and worship (Hebrews 10:19–25). We transit from the useless sacrificial blood of bulls and goats — useless in this regard. Animal sacrifice and other material ordinances which accompanied it could affect at best a ceremonial and symbolical removal of pollution. 7

For our author, as for Paul, these things were but “a shadow of the things to come” (Colossians 2:17). As regards the “various ablutions,” not only had the high priest to “bathe his body in water” after performing the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:24), similar purifications were prescribed for a great variety of actual or ceremonial defilements. Now, however, we are created anew within our hearts to serve the living God in holiness and righteousness, this righteousness imputed to us when we confess our sins, and accept Jesus as Lord (1 John 1:9; Ephesians 4:24; Romans 4:8,24; 2 Corinthians 5:21) We now have confidence that we have salvation, motivating us to come to the Lord (1 John 5:14; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 10:19). The good news of Christ activates our consciences (Acts 2:37, 23:1, 24:16; Rom 9:1, 14:22). Our conscience is led by the Spirit (Rom 8: 14) and the understanding of what His atoning blood has done on our behalf gives us the confidence to live for Christ with a clear, purified conscience as testified to us via the Holy Spirit (Gal 4:6; Hebrews 9:14; 10:9-10, 22; 13:18; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Tim 1:9, 3:9; 1 Peter 3:16, 21; 2 Pet 2:19; 1 John 3:21). This is our ministry to live in a clear conscience before the world (2 Corinthians 4:2, 5:11).

In 2 Corinthians 5:21, we learn about Christ’s propitiation on our behalf, and imputation of righteousness, when we are accounted as righteous because God the Father looks to Christ who covers us with His atoning work, having died in our stead:

“He [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Here we have a double imputation. God imputed our sins to Christ who knew no sin. And God imputed his righteousness to us who had no righteousness of our own. The key phrases for us are “the righteousness of God” and “in Him.” It’s not our righteousness that we get here. It is God’s righteousness. And we get it not because our faith is righteous, but because we are “in Christ.” Faith unites us to Christ. And in Christ, we have an alien righteousness. It is God’s righteousness in Christ. Or you can say it is Christ’s righteousness. He takes our sin. We take his righteousness. 8

We must see that the Old Covenant as symbols for the times past

These purifications undoubtedly had great hygienic value, but when they were given religious value there was always the danger that those who practised them might be tempted to think of religious duty exclusively, or at least excessively, regarding externalities. But all these things were “outward ordinances” (NEB), “regulations for the body” (RSV), not for the conscience, with a temporary and limited validity until the “time of reformation.” By the rendering “reformation” we might understand “reformation” in the sense of “reconstruction”; the coming of Christ involved a complete reshaping of the structure of Israel’s religion. The old covenant was now to give way to the new, the shadow to the substance, the outward and earthly copy to the inward and heavenly reality. 9

The New Covenant Reality: the Living Way in Christ, our High Priest

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:19-22 NASB). Dr. Keil of the renowned Hebrew Commentary Keil–Delitzsch sees the new Holy of Holies of Daniel 9 in the new covenant period after the ascension, to mean the Most Holy Place as the church where Christ is ministering to sanctify His people and make them holy by the indwelling Holy Spirit empowering them to have a clear conscience — to have “hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience”. :

We must refer this sixth statement (to anoint the Most Holy) also to that time of the consummation, and understand it of the establishment of the new Holy of Holies which was shown to the holy seer on Patmos as “the tabernacle of God with men,” in which God will dwell with them, and they shall become His people, and He shall be their God with them (Rev 21:1-3). In this holy city, there is its temple, and the glory of God will lighten it (Rev 21: 22-23). Into it nothing shall enter that defileth or worketh abomination (Rev 21:27), for sin shall then be closed and sealed up; there shall righteousness dwell (2 Pet. 3:13). 10

Our High Priest and our Royal Priesthood

By cooperating responsibly, motivated by grace (2 Peter 3:31), with the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in the church which begins when we first believe (John 15:3; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30, 6:11; 1 John 3:3), we are purified from the sins of the world by the indwelling Spirit (John 17:19; Ephesians 5:26; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Timothy 2:19; James 4:8; 1 Peter 1:15). Our unity with Christ our High Priest, working within our hearts both individually, and collectively together in the church will be our hope until the Lord returns in glory (John 15:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

As Paul noted, our sanctification will be the work of a lifetime of obedience, as we currently engage in spiritual warfare in our life now and progressively onward in our life- journey, as the Lord leads via His Spirit until we meet Him face to face. (1 John 3: 1-3; Philippians 3:13-15). In this way we also as a church can effectively minister to others the sanctifying Word of our Lord in the new covenant order of Melchizedek 11 (Hebrews 5:9-19, 6:19-20; 1 Peter 2:9).

Corroborating study 1: Melchizedek: Divine Priest of Abraham

Corroborating study 2: The Old and New Covenant Distinctions 

1 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (New International Commentary on the New Testament)

2 Christ’ High Priesthood at His ascension noted in Hebrews 9:11, arks the symbolism of the curtain which was rent in two upon Christ’s decease (Matt 27.51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45), the curtain symbolizing being his rent body, a way confirmed by the Spirit (Rom 7:6; Hebrews 10:20)!

Lenski, R. C. H. (1938). The interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of the Epistle of James (pp. 290–291). Columbus, OH: Lutheran Book Concern, notes: They suppose that Christ went into the Holy of Holies in heaven (εἰς τὰ ἅγια, v. 12) by first going through something that corresponds to the Holy of the earthly Tabernacle of Moses. This anteroom they find in “the greater and more complete σκηνή or Tabernacle, not handmade, that is, not of this creation.”

But what can this anteroom be? The idea that it is the body or the human nature of Christ is now commonly rejected and certainly has no support in 10:20. Since this σκηνή is “not of this creation” as the writer himself says, the created heavens cannot be referred to as they are referred to in 4:14: “having passed through the (created) heavens” in his ascension. So these commentators think that heaven itself, the uncreated place where God dwells, is divided into two parts that correspond to the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle of the wilderness. They think that the writer is exalting this heavenly anteroom “through” which Jesus passed in order to reach the heavenly Holy of Holies that was above the anteroom of Moses’ Tabernacle.

We decline to follow them. In Hebrews 9: 8 the very fact that in the earthly Tabernacle the Holy Place still has its position before the Holy of Holies is pointed out as evidence that the way into the heavenly Holy of Holies has not yet been made manifest. Are we now to believe that such an anteroom still has its position, an eternal position, in front of the Holy of Holies of heaven, and that despite this fact this anteroom is now not the evidence that it is in v. 8 but rather the opposite, evidence that the way into the heavenly Sanctuary has been made manifest? This surely cannot be the case. If there is an anteroom in heaven as there is in Moses’ Tabernacle, the two antechambers cannot have an opposite significance, to say nothing of this division of heaven apart from any significance regarding the way to the heavenly Holy of Holies.

4 Cockerill, G. L. (1998). Hebrews: a Bible commentary in the Wesleyan tradition (p. 167). Indianapolis, IN Wesleyan Publishing House.

5 Ibid

6 Ibid

7 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (New International Commentary on the New Testament)

8 John Piper, Desiring God

9 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (New International Commentary on the New Testament

10 Commentaries on the Book of Daniel, Vol II, trans. by Thomas Myers (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1948 [reprint]), p 349

11 The order of Melchizedek was symbolic of the new covenant order that Jesus would institute. The mystery of the gospel relates so well to the life of Abraham, a man of faith who trusted God’s Word to lead him (and view Melchizedek as a High Priest who entered into his life in his time of duress).

 

 

 

 

The Relationship of the Father with the Son

 Theology Series on the  Trinity

Our first study will look at the relationship of the Father and the Son, to see both a distinction and equality. We will also see both the difference and the identity. (John 1:1) Further studies will bring in the relationship of the Spirit in co-unity with the Father and the Son.

The definition of the Trinity: God’s whole and undivided essence belong equally, eternally, simultaneously, and fully to each of the three Persons of the Godhead, so that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each is fully God – not three gods — while each is his own personal expression, in the relationship, role and activity, of the one eternal and undivided divine essence.

Each Person of the Godhead is equal in essence as each possesses the identically same undivided divine nature, both of whom distinctly express a personal expression of that one undivided divine nature.  The distinguishing character of each Person of the Godhead from each other Person is not the divine nature, being identically the same, possessing oneness with an undivided divine nature, expressing the full and eternal possession of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Possessing equality of essence, the distinguishing characteristic from each other’s personage is the particular roles and authority in relation to each other.

In light of both the equality of essence yet differentiation of relationships in authority and roles that exist among the Persons of the Godhead, we consider now just how those relationships and roles are expressed within the Trinity of Persons.

The Father as Supreme in Position and Authority among the Persons of the God-head

  • Psalm 2:7-9: “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:  He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.  ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”
  • Matthew 6:9-10: “Pray, then, in this way:  ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come.  Your will be done,  On earth as it is in heaven.’”
  • 1 Corinthians 15:28:  When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
  • Ephesians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him…
  • Philippians 2:9-11: For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The Father is the Architect, the Designer of Creation, and of Redemption

  • Ephesians 1:9-12-9: He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

The Father is the Giver of Every Good and Perfect Gift 

Scripture emphasizes the wisdom, the goodness, the care, and the thoroughness with which the Father exercises his authority using His absolute authority always to bring about what is best.

  • James 1:17: Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
  • Romans 8:31-32-31: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

The Father often Provides and Works Through the Son and Spirit

  • Ephesians 1:3-14: The Father is to be praised, but his gifts to us come – every one of them – through the Son and Spirit.
  • Col 1:16: For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
  • John 1:1-4:  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.

The Father in Relation to the Son 

The Father’s plan and purpose is to place his Son in the lime-light directing attention and honour to The Son, as the Son seeks, in all he does, to glorify his Father.

The Son is under the headship or authority of the Father

  • 1 Corinthians 11:3: But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
  • Hebrews 1:1-2: God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son [incarnation], whom He appointed heir of all things [eternity future], through whom also He made the world [eternity past].

The Son’s submission to the Father during His incarnation and earthly mission 

The Son’s perfect, loving, and joyous obedience to the Father is always evidenced by his life when incarnated here on earth as a man. He never sinned!  In all that he did, his submission to the Father was in absolute obedience without compromise.

  • John 8:28-29: So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”

This is typical of how Jesus spoke over and over. In John 4, when the disciples asked Jesus why he was not interested in eating, Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34).

The Son’s Submission to the Father in eternity past

Forty times in John’s gospel, Jesus mentions the fact that the Father has sent him to accomplish the mission he is here to do.  Some might be understood as a “sending” that occurred during the incarnation itself, but most refer to his being sent (or coming forth) from heaven.

  • John 3:16-17-16: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
  • John 6:38: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
  • John 8:42: “. . . I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.”
  • John 10:36: “…do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
  • John 1:3; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16, Heb 1:1-3 the Father creates “by” or “through” the Son (the “Word”)
  • Eph 1:9-11: indicates that the Father ordained that everything in creation be placed in subjection to his Son, both as some are elected and redeemed in Christ (Eph 1:4-6), and as all others are brought to final judgment through Christ (John 5:22-29). See Rev 5:9 for stunning display of both (see below for elaboration)

The Son obeyed the Father in heaven, as the Father’s instrument of creation, and as sent from heaven do the will of his Father.  The Son submitted to the Father, then, in eternity past.

The Son’s submission to the Father in eternity future

  • 1 Cor 15:25-28: For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
  • Rev 1: The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.

The Love Relationship between the Son and the Father

  • John 14:3: I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father [italics added].
  • John 15:9-10:As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love [italics added].
  • Jesus works in unity with the Father. It is the Father’s Gospel for mankind – the Good News must be seen through the lens of a united act of both the Father and Son, and Spirit.

1 Indebted Professor Bruce Ware’s teaching, who helped me to understand the unity of the Trinitarian Godhead. I attempted to edit his finest ideas.

Jude: Beware of false teachers

I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude 1:3 ESV

The focus of Jude’s letter to the Christian believers is to give direction: certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4 ESV)

Jude is the brother of Jesus as is James. He reminds his readers (especially those of Jewish descent) that they once fully knew about God’s judgment. He refers them to the Exodus account as a reminder of the Deity of our Lord: Jesus … saved a people out of the land of Egypt (cf. Exodus 1–15). This may seem puzzling because the name “Jesus” is not applied to the Son of God in the OT. Jude reveals a deep understanding of Jesus as one of the Trinity who created the heavens and the earth, mankind and beast just as Paul noted in Colossians 1:16: For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 

The apostolic understanding of the Old Testament, according to which the Son of God, in His eternal divine nature, was active in the world from the beginning of creation, long before his incarnation (cf. Luke 24:27; John 1:3; 8:56–58; 12:41; 1 Cor. 10:4, 9; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:8–12; 11:26). Jesus, in the Old Testament, revealed Himself to Moses as I AM, and later as YAHWEH. In the New Testament, Paul referred to Jesus as God who freed the Jews from Egyptian slavery: the Rock that followed Moses and the Jews in the wilderness. Jesus referred to Himself as the great I AM of the Old Testament period. (John 8:58), who then, judged and destroyed those in Israel who escaped from Egypt but failed to keep trusting in God, and therefore they did not reach the Promised Land (cf. 1 Cor. 10:5; Heb. 3:16–19). When they arrived at the entrance to the Promised Land, many rebelled against God, refusing to believe that he could or would protect them. Their unbelief resulted in their destruction. 1

Couple the above paragraph depicting the period of Jesus dealt with old Israel with how Jesus is central to the entire Word of God – both the Old and New testaments. Thus, the importance of knowledge in the continuum of the scriptural writings by the inspired prophets moving forward by the Spirit to the future, and now our history of the gospels of our Lord Jesus. Instead of the name “Jesus,” some NT Greek manuscripts have ho Kyrios, “the Lord,” and some English translations follow that reading. Most of the oldest and most reliable manuscripts have Iēsous (“Jesus”).

And a good knowledge of the Word of God will help you discern false teachers when they seek to lead you or other believers astray. Jude presents the primary characteristics of false teachers.

He refers to previously written condemnation of anyone who is a false teacher or false prophet. God’s true prophets had warned against false prophets (see, for example, Isaiah 44:25; Jeremiah 50:36). Jesus had warned his disciples that false teachers would come (Matthew 7:15; 24:11, 24; Luke 6:26). The apostles often denounced false teachers in their letters (see 2 Corinthians 11:5; Galatians 1:6–9; Philippians 3:2; Colossians 2:8, 16–19; 1 Timothy 1:3; 6:3; 2 Timothy 3:6; 2 Peter 2:1-22; 1 John 4:1). These false teachers would eventually receive their just reward. There could be no other fate except condemnation, for these teachers had turned against the only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude was emphasizing that the false teachers were immoral, insubordinate, and irreverent.

Jude uses strong language when dealing with false teachers. Using an example of God’s judgment of disobedience, Jude pointed out that Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbouring towns were destroyed by fire. The inhabitants were so full of sin that God wiped the cities off the face of the earth. The people were following their own sinful natures, indulging in sexual immorality and pursuing sexual perversion. God “rained down fire and burning sulfur” (Genesis 19:24) as punishment. So complete was God’s judgment and destruction that the cities no longer exist today. Archaeologists believe they may be under the waters of the Dead Sea. The destruction of these cities served as a warning of the eternal fire that will punish all who are evil. The fire that rained on the evil cities pictures the fire that awaits unrepentant sinners. Many people don’t want to believe that God will punish people with “eternal fire” for rejecting him. But this is clearly taught in Scripture. Sinners who don’t seek forgiveness from God will face eternal darkness. Jude warned all who rebel against, ignore, or reject God (Jude 1:7) 4

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the everlasting I AM, is the great creator, protector, deliverer, and rearranger YAHWEH. Our Mediating High Priest who is empowered in His glorious status as our redeemer Jesus Christ, the first and the last of Omni-Potent and Omni-Powerful lawmaker, judicial yet extending mercy. Our Lord now calls men to repentance from self-abandon, into His glorious light and stand reckoned as a child of God. I want to be sure that you see Jesus in His love for you, He who has expressed so much love when he died in our stead.

False teachers abound and they do great harm in misleading men and women today. Pray that in the context of His love, you understand that Jesus is our final Judge on the last day. He will make his majesty known to all the world in due time at His Second Advent.

You may also enjoy a devotional Jude: God will keep us from stumbling

1 Barton, Bruce, Philip Comfort, Grant Osborne, Linda K. Taylor, and Dave Veerman. 2001. Life Application New Testament Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale. 

2 Crossway Bibles. 2008. The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

3 Life Application New Testament Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale.

4 Barton, Bruce, Philip Comfort, Grant Osborne, Linda K. Taylor, and Dave Veerman. 2001.

The Faculty of the Conscience

Here we will go into a deeper look at the faculty of the mind referred to as the conscience.

Your conscience is a gift from God, allowing you communion with the Holy Spirit to guide you in your redeemed life as you refer to the Word of God. It is the connective communicative path of union between God and man, whereby we hear the commands of God relative to obedience unto life versus disobedience unto death. It gives us an instinct that God has placed in our consciousness the echo of His Word, via this faculty – conscience — to know the difference between right and wrong. 

For example, Joseph’s brothers felt remorse of conscience after placing him in a pit before selling him to traders that took him off to Egypt and then sold him into slavery. (Genesis 42:21) The scriptures make it clear that the communication of God is via his Spirit to our spirit. The Holy Spirit speaks to our heart to guide us into holy conduct, wisdom, safety, prosperity and health. Your ears will hear him. Right behind you, a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:21 NLT) 

The clear conscience Paul could write to the Corinthian church stating that his conscience was clear regarding his faithful ministry to them: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. (2 Cor 1:12 NIV)

Maintaining a clear conscience will ensure that we do not deviate from how the Lord leads us daily. Cling to your faith in Christ and keep your conscience clear.  Some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. (1 Timothy 1:19 NIV) 

We want to keep our conscience clear – free of doubt that we have compromised obedience — as we are under a probationary period before the 2nd Advent of Christ when he comes to judge the worldThe apostle Paul stated: My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Corinthians 4:4)

The violated conscience  A progressively violated conscience can lead to habits of disobedience that lead to a dangerous point of waywardness when one can no longer hear the Holy Spirit, or further when one can become devoid of the Spirit of Grace. In the last time, there will be scoffers following their ungodly passions. It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 1:18-19) In fact, one can become entirely cut off from the Spirit’s leading: Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared…  (1 Timothy 4:2)

 Man very frequently opposes what he or she knows to be the will of God by a distinct perception of judgement communicated by the Spirit applying the Word of God to the conscience. One of the great Puritan theologians wrote of the conscience: “This is sin; God sees it; God will punish it,” causing a man to feel restless and anxious, often with a physical sensation of disturbance. Man frequently wishes that such an impression was not so lively; however, despite all opposition, such judgment frequently makes its presence felt relating to mans’ will. The will is presented with a judicial communication that he is standing against the Spirit. 1

Karl Barth of the conscience writes: We must constantly decide between the secularity and the sanctification of our existence, between sin and grace, between a human being who forgets God, which is absolutely neutral concerning Him and therefore absolutely hostile, and one which in His revelation is awakened by faith as one called into the church, to the appropriation of His promise.

Yet Barth goes on to warn that our conscience may not be biblically grounded if not well-exercised in its use daily: It is obviously erroneous to state that the intellect of man, being in the state of sin, cannot err. This is directly contrary to Scripture, where we read that man is “blind” (Revelation 3:17), “having the understanding darkened” (Ephesians 4:18), and that “spiritual matters are hidden from the wise and the prudent” (Matthew 11:25). It also states that one can have a zeal, “but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2), that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him” (1 Corinthians 2:14), and that there are “men of corrupt minds” (1 Timothy 6:5). 3

“Conscience” translated into the Dutch language (mede-wetenschap) means “knowledge of concurrence.” The conscience is man’s judgment concerning himself and his deeds, to the extent that he is subject to God’s judgment. The conscience consists of three elements: knowledge, witness, and acknowledgement. Willhelm Braekel expands on this: 4

  1. First, there is knowledge of the will of God at work. He commands or forbids every man with promises and threats. The conscience prescribes what must either be refrained from or be done. The more clearly and powerfully it does this, the better the conscience functions. Note the attribute of knowledge: Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right (Romans 2:14–15). 
  2. Secondly, there is the element of witness. After man’s obligation is held before him, it determines whether or not he has acted according to light and knowledge. The more painstakingly the conscience takes note of man’s deeds and his conformity to the commandment held before him, the more it keeps a precise record thereof, and the more clearly and powerfully it witnesses to man, the better it performs its duty. Note, they have a conscience that bears witness to their conduct—the witness to their conformity or lack of accordance to a commandment within God’s Word—is described by the apostle when he states: “their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right” (Romans 2:15)
  3. Thirdly, there follows an acknowledgement. The righteous God is also aware of this and will reward or judge him accordingly. The more clearly the conscience acknowledges the knowledge of God and is sensitive to it, and the more it either reassures itself concerning this or is powerfully affected as a result, the more faithfully the conscience performs its task. We acknowledge that God is aware and will either reward or punish. These activities of the conscience can also be observed in the following texts: “With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it.” (Rom. 9:1 KJV); “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;” (1 John 3:19–21 KJV).

The conscience is either good or evil. It is good when it performs its duty well.  The conscience is good when:

  •  When our conscience immediately reveals and represents the will of God, obligating and stirring us up to do the will of God. “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).
  • When our conscience is sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, it may agitate or trouble us. “David got up and cut off the edge of Saul’s robe secretly. But it came about afterwards that David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe.” (1 Samuel 24:4-5)
  • Similarly, the conscience reassures us: “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 9:1); “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:19–21); “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity” (2 Corinthians 1:12).
  • Someone is said to have an evil conscience whenever evil thoughts or deeds fills one with anxiety, fear, and remorse. This realization isn’t that the conscience is corrupt, but instead that it is performing its duty well, but it is referred to as evil because it convicts a person of evil thoughts or deeds.

If the conscience does not perform the above tasks well, it is corrupt in and of itself, being remiss in its duty either in all or two of these activities. The Spirit of truth enlightens a good conscience, and therefore always makes its decisions according to the standards of God’s holy Word. The conscience also may be distinguished as pure (1 Timothy 3:9; 2 Timothy 1:3); evil (Hebrews 10:22); defiled (Titus 1:15); weak (1 Corinthians 8:7); and seared (1 Timothy 4:2). 

The witness of our spirit. Our spirit witnesses that we are aligning with the Spirit of God. Further, it consists of the consciousness that individually, we possess the character of the children of God. John Wesley held that the testimony of a good conscience within our heart: is the testimony of a good conscience toward God; and is the result of reason and reflection on what we feel in our souls. Strictly speaking, it is a conclusion drawn partly from the Word of God and partly from our own experience. The Word of God says everyone who has the fruit of the Spirit is a child of God. Experience or inward consciousness tells me that I have the fruit of the Spirit, and hence I rationally conclude; therefore, I am a child of God. Now, as this witness proceeds from the Spirit of God and is based on what He works in us, this is called the Spirit’s indirect witness to man’s soul. The direct testimony of the Spirit is fully confirmed. How am I assured, continues John Wesley, “that I do not mistake the voice of the Spirit? By the testimony of my own spirit; by the answer of a good conscience toward God: hereby I shall know that I am in no delusion, that I have not deceived my own soul. The immediate fruits of the Spirit, ruling in the heart, are love, joy, peace, mercy, humbleness of mind, meekness, gentleness, long-suffering. And the outward fruits are the doing of good to all men, and uniform obedience to all the commandments of God”. Then, we may say that these two witnesses, God’s Spirit to man’s conscience, taken together establish the assurance of salvation.  6

1 Willhelm Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Translated by Joel Beeke

2 Karl Barth, Dogmatics

3 ibid

4 Willhelm Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Translated by Joel Beeke

5 ibid

6 John Wesley, (Wesley, Works, I, p. 92)

The New Jerusalem is the Church

by Glen R. Jackman

It is very clearly presented by Jesus Christ in His guidance given for the church to the apostle John in Revelation, that sanctification is the predominant teaching for the church prior to the judgment and the Second Advent.

The Literal Viewpoint of the New Jerusalem

Many Christians are waiting for this world to be destroyed and a new world to be created, wherein they live with regenerated physical bodies. I will not refute this teaching, dear to many, but will reveal the most important teaching Christ is defining for His remnant church today.

This strongly postulated literal doctrine in Christendom, established by the texts in Revelation seems at the outset to also point to a literal architecture of the New Jerusalem within the new heaven and new earth with the sole function of establishing a fortress of protection from a final attack from all the forces of evil including Satan leading.  This operative centre is often interpreted as a physical literal city, called the “New Jerusalem”, a stone city that will literally come down out of the sky from heaven, to be where the old Jerusalem was and that God and Jesus will live in it, here on Earth with the redeemed that have escaped this earth at Christ’s Second Advent.

With great love for Christians holding only this view, I suggest that there may be a danger if we miss the wonderful spiritual teaching that the Church of Jesus Christ is presented in Revelation foremost as the New Jerusalem, as His Bride. However, let us look at this literal viewpoint as a starting point.

Old things have passed away (Rev 21:1-5)

The following text evidently is referring to a post-judgment period with reference to the New Jerusalem:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev 21:1-5)

The old earth and heavens have passed away in this text indicating a cosmological event prophesied by Peter, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives”.  (2 Pet 3:10-11) Peter echoes Isaiah who also foretold this event, “All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shrivelled figs from the fig tree”. (Is 34:4)

The word “new” is used to describe the heavens, the earth and Jerusalem—in fact everything in this scene (Rev 21:1-5) is made entirely new. It seems that this text is a prelude look at the New Jerusalem defined as the futuristic view as a period after the 2nd Advent of Jesus Christ, proven by the fact that this is a period when there is no more death.

Thus it seems that there is a “new” and changed Holy City, which is preceded by scriptural definitions of the same city with similar qualities, yet not referred to as new in the context of the cosmological transformation. This new city is not articulated in chronological order in Revelation but precedes an explanation of the Holy City clearly as the Church of Jesus Christ. One simply has to see the same church defined, in two time periods, after the atomic transformation of all things, and prior which is the period from the cross to today.

God, who sits on the throne, said “I am making everything new!” (Rev 21:5-8) This is a snapshot look at the new city after the cosmological renewing of the heavens and the earth after the 2nd Advent of Christ which is often viewed as a literal city coming down to earth. This may very well occur as a city inhabited by glorified saints (both the living and the resurrected righteous) who have ascended to meet the Lord in the rapture during his return; and now descend inside the city to earth with Him. However the main teaching of Revelation about the New Jerusalem is allegorically envisioning a sanctified church prepared as a Bride to meet her Lord.

I have no qualm with the physical view as a secondary possibility of a new physical, materially structured New Jerusalem but it is highly doubtful this is what is being expressed in Revelation in the allegories. All the symbols of His Church meant to define His people in the Gospel era since the cross, remain intact. If convicted that the city is indeed literal, and made of the materials used to symbolize God’s saints, at the point of being made new during the cosmological transformation, with full freedom of conscience, let the man or woman decide freely as he or she seems convicted. One thing is for sure: the first priority is to be prepared by having a relationship with the Lord, and by allowing Him to cleanse us from sin as He conforms us to His image in our current time-frame before His Second Advent: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son”. (Rom 8:29)

Two Periods of the Same City

The idea of two time periods relative to the Holy City makes sense when you apply the promise of the “new” final Jerusalem as being the culmination of earth’s history to a time when the redeemed inherit their reward only received by those true saints who have overcome sin in their life; and a contrasted great loss to the unrepentant wicked, and assurance of their destruction in the lake of fire.

He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”  (Rev 21: 7-8)

The Holy City’s Intentional Allegorical Viewpoint

The careful Bible student will need to begin to think in terms of allegoric imagery as we study. God uses the sanctified imagination to teach us many things. The Book of Revelation operates almost entirely on the basis of symbolic teaching. Jesus taught that all things would become new. As we examine the allegorical meanings please consider new to mean paradigm shifts of the mind—from the old ways to the new ways of seeing things from God’s perspective. He had emphasized to Nicodemus the need to be born again of the Holy Spirit. He told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, that the time is coming when all men will worship God in the Spirit.

“You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4: 22-24)

The Epistle to the Hebrews is devoted to a logical argument to show that the old sanctuary and services, operatives of the old Jerusalem, were entirely done away with at the cross. At Christ’s death, the curtain of the old sanctuary within the old Jerusalem was torn in two, indicating that all the old ways of seeking blood atonement with Yahweh, in this new reality, had ceased, once the true Lamb of God achieves the anti-typical sacrifice. Hebrews argues that the entire procedure of the old Levitical sanctuary system was a copied pattern or a symbol of the act of redemption.

“It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” (Heb 9: 23-24)

The principle text around which our study hinges is presented by Christ in the Book of Revelation as not a man-made city, but rather a symbol of God’s people in Spirit-centric unity with Him: “I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”(Rev 2:21)

Another verse ties in with this one and will shine some light on our study as scripture interprets scripture: “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him My new name.” (Rev 3: 12 italics mine)

Obviously, those that overcome are not physical “pillars” which is only meant to portray the idea of spiritual strength and unity. Jesus taught that the “the Kingdom of God is within us” (Luke 17:20-21), not outside of us; and that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Cor 15:50) as we live in the flesh here.

As you recall Jesus said “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? ‘It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough’.” Luke 13: 20 indicating the work of the Holy Spirit penetrating the hearts and minds of mankind and spreading to the whole world while unifying His worshipers as One (cf. John 17).

Conversely, Jesus foretold the physical old Jerusalem’s demise:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate”. (Luke 13: 34-35)

Further, Jesus talked about his second advent as a time that He would come in the name of the Lord, for those who bear His name. “I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13: 35)

The writing of God’s name and Christ’s new name on the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem are marked with a parallel occurrence of inscribing the name of the city “New Jerusalem” upon the residents. There is a spiritual message being presented by Christ through the apostle John for the last days in Revelation that is much larger than and goes beyond a literal futurist, materialistic understanding. It is current teaching for the church, that the Lord wants to mark us as His own, now gathered together via the Holy Spirit, now willingly His subjects as obedient to the King of kings, Lord of lords – now His subjects serving Him in Spirit and in truth in the Holy Spirit’s realm defined as the New Jerusalem. This is not the same desolate “house” of the disobedient and rebellious old Jerusalem that corporately denied Him as King.

“Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev 21: 27)

Jesus defines who will not be named as residents in His true church. He also depicts the unfaithful presented clearly as outside of the gates of the New Jerusalem. Nothing impure will enter the city of God. Transforming any old way of thinking bound to the old Jerusalem way of salvation, Christ defined as the new Jerusalem paradigm—a continuum moving away from the old Jerusalem, yet respectful of the history of His work on earth since Abraham to David’s day. The language of the New Jerusalem is meant to make a historic connection, yet enter a new way of serving God.

Develop this further and you will begin to see something Satan does not want anyone to see. Look for the allegories: of the Spirit as water amidst the church, Christ as the tree of life, the throne as the Sovereign Lord governing His people in the church, inscribed foreheads for avowed allegiance to a Holy God, and light as the Holy Spirit:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever. The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.’ (Rev 22: 1-6)

If the allegorical teaching is to guide us, the context of this next text flowing together presents a pertinent urgency to understand the symbols, because it declares that Jesus is coming and that we are to “keep” these words as an important prophecy. “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” (Rev 2: 7)

The prophecies of Joseph come to mind as using allegorical imagery:

Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.…I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me. (Gen 37: 6-9)

The prophetic dreams of Nebuchadnezzar interpreted by Daniel come to mind as God using allegorical imagery. Daniel had told the king, “the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen” and then re-articulated his mysterious symbolic dream:

You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze,  its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2: 31-35)

The principal teaching of the New Jerusalem also goes far beyond the literal viewpoint, presenting amazing imagery that relates to many other scriptural teachings. The great symbol of the “water of life” of which Jesus spoke to the woman at Jacob’s well, as springing up from within, was teaching about the need to be born again of and governed by His Spirit.

The Water of the River of Life Analogy

The Holy Spirit indwelling the church of Jesus Christ is depicted as running in her midst as a river from the throne of God in association with the Lamb of God.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Rev 22: 1-4)

The Light of the City Analogy (Rev 21:22-27)

The  allegory of the light of the city simply means that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is the light of the church: “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (Rev 21: 23-24)

Scripture tells us that Jesus came as a great Light into the world. The spiritual symbol of light is also a predominant teaching of Christ about the filling of the Spirit actualized in the New Jerusalem. Jesus declared: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) John further developed the teaching of light, to mean that we would have fellowship and unity with and reliance on Christ to purify us from sin. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

The light of the Holy Spirit also is to extend to the nations in the new earth as the Gospel goes out from the true church. “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it.” (Rev 21:24)

Light is the subject of Jesus parable of the ten virgins, and is dependent on oil in the lamps, oil being another symbol of the Spirit of God. Expanding on light, we read “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (Rev 21:22-23)

The Analogy of the Purity of the Bride of Christ

The New Jerusalem imagery is about the Holy Spirit bearing the light of Christ into the hearts of men who will abide as one with Christ and His Father in His spiritual kingdom, a city not built with hands, one that Abraham foresaw, whose architect and builder was God.

It is interesting that the angel showing John this symbolic vision is one of the seven angels pouring out the seven last plagues, the outpouring of which is evidently prior to the 2nd Advent of Christ. He says to John in his vision:

‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Rev 21: 9-11)

The marriage of Christ to His church, the bride, is a teaching that is common to all Christians. The angel says “I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb…and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem”. This symbolism was accomplished “in the Spirit” because it is meant to reveal the place where Christ rules as King in His authority, yet is united to His subjects in a matrimonial way as a loving husband is to his Bride. By showing us the symbolism of the bride, we in parallel see the New Jerusalem as the sanctified individuals making up the final church of Jesus Christ!

Paul made this clear in the epistle to the Ephesians: “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Saviour of the body.”  (Eph 5: 23) In the same chapter, Paul emphasized the idea of mystery and we learned from Daniel that God reveals mysteries regarding His own symbols. “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” (Eph 5: 32) Paul was specifically called by Jesus to articulate the meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The City Dimensions Analogy (Rev 21:12-21)

The perfection of the city is emphasized by the use of twelve tribes and twelve apostles, twelve gates, twelve angels; and further twelve times twelve indicated by the wall being “144 cubits thick” and the city being 12,000 stadia high; and the redeemed are indicated as being of a number of symbolic multiple of twelve being 144,000 yet of a group that no man can number. Symbols and reality intertwine in the book of Revelation as scripture unwinds scriptural truth.

It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. (Rev 21: 12-21)

More Symbols of Purification from Sin

In Revelation we further examine the symbolism of purity in the symbolic foundation of the city decorated with “every kind of precious stone” (Rev 21:19) and the element of pure gold:

The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. (Rev 21: 19-21)

Gold is also used in the Old Testament by the prophet Zechariah to depict a refining process that God’s remaining faithful people are to go through. “In the whole land,” declares the LORD, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’  (Zech 13:8-9)

In Revelation Jesus uses the gold as allegory and states “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”  (Rev 3:19)

Another allegory that is common in the book of Revelation is the symbolism of white clothing, as a covering of righteousness to cover our Adamic nature of sin, revealing the idea of total reliance on Christ’s righteousness to cover our sin.

Further, we find contrasted, people who cannot enter into the city in Revelation 21: 27:  “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life”. Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, prior to the Lord’s 2nd Advent. “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels”. (Rev 3:5) This is pre-2nd Advent language.

Sanctification is the Predominant Pre-2nd Advent Allegorical Message

We are told that to enjoy the presence of the Lord and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling we must overcome sin in our lives: “He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev 21: 7) Paul articulates the same thinking, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Rom 8:9) The first mention of the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation presents the need to overcome sin:

Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. (Rev 3: 12)

In the last chapter of Revelation, we find the same direct warning that is articulating a period prior to the Lord’s 2nd Advent. How do we know this? There is the close of probation warning of the pre-2nd Advent of Christ whereby we are warned not to close our minds off to this message:

Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy’. (Rev 22: 10-11)

Then we hear Jesus speaking directly to us:

Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. (Rev 22: 12-13)

Once again the blessing of those who overcome sin is pronounced by Jesus:

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Rev 22: 14-15)

Pay careful attention to this verse. Jesus is indicating the importance of sanctification by the Holy Spirit (see Rom 8:9), using the symbol of washing their robes, to depict those who enter the city, and have the rights to the benefits of the work of the indwelling Spirit; have a right to the tree of life, which is the source of all Life.  They are contrasted to the ones who are not entering into a relationship with Christ and remain outside, during the time others are entering the gates. In the next verses, Jesus says “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”  (Rev 22: 16) These church warnings are pre-2nd Advent because warnings make no sense after the divine verdicts are in.

Probation Closing: Pre-2nd Advent

There is an invitation to those who will hear these scriptures for this time period, being given to and by the true church of Jesus referred to as His Bride. This is the church in synch with His Spirit as they work in unison to proclaim the New Jerusalem truths together. Only certain people will hear that call: “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Rev 22:17)  The gift of the Holy Spirit who brings this teaching to the elect church — calls and opens honest minds — is being offered to those who will hear and continue to hear and teach this message  – “to him who hears” – to come into union with the Lord, as One.

We are admonished to listen up, and keep these words as very important to the church: “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” (Rev 22: 7) It is vitally important for church leaders to listen to this message and proclaim the need for sanctification via the Holy Spirit to the church now, prior to the final judgement. To not listen is to not lead according to scripture or obey this injunction to not seal up or stop its proclamation:

Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.’ (Rev 22: 10-11)

Jesus prayed that the church would enter into a sanctification process in order to become one with Him. ”They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them, I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified”. (John 17: 16-19) Further, we are admonished that time is short when the Spirit begins to make the New Jerusalem message of sanctification clear to the church: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to every one according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Rev 22: 12-13)

Glen R. Jackman is editor of Grace Proclaimed and can be reached via glenjackman@adviceon.com

Christ’s Atonement Death Teaches Obedience

He learned obedience” (Hebrews 5:8)

Let us look at our Lord’s life to see what true obedience can teach us. First, it is clear that he lived his life in a close personal relationship to God – his and our heavenly Father. Unless we have similar access to His abiding fellowship with God – with the three in one God via the Holy Spirit — all our attempts to live in full obedience will fail. It is God’s holy presence, consciously abiding with us, that guides us as He keeps us steadfastly obeying Him.

Flawed obedience is always the result of a defective abiding in the Lord’s presence. A life entirely under the power of God’s Spirit allows for obedience to flow to us as living water – and our thoughts and actions are its natural unified outcome. The defective life must be acknowledged, then admitted to God, with no delusional, self-justifying escape – it is confessedly a life of broken, irregular fellowship with God. It is a life that must be healed, must make way for a full and healthy spiritual life; then only can full obedience become possible. The secret of true obedience is the return to close and continual fellowship with God.

The author of Hebrews noted that Christ “learned obedience.” And why was it necessary for Christ to present his obedience as learned obedience? What do we learn from observing our Lord’s life as he neared his death on the cross? What is the blessing He brings us? Mark these words: Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:8-9 NLT)

Suffering is unnatural to us who live in this human flesh – it calls for the surrender of our will. To surrender our will entirely to God is a pivotal shifting of our mindset, psychological suffering as we deal with the temptation to disobey. This is because, all our life we have lived in inherited disobedience, as the first Adam’s progeny.

As our High Priest, who would soon become our advocate at the right hand of God, Christ needed a demonstrable rejection of earthy leadership – a highly evident public form of suffering that the people would understand as a contradistinction to His love – that in Gethsemane He might appear to us, to learn to obey, to give up His will to the Father at any cost – on our behalf in the final act of redemption of mankind. “Not my will, but thy will be done”. As we know Jesus suffered injustice when the leaders and the people cried out: crucify Him. Nothing touches man’s conscience to unite with God. Injustice by the evils of fallen mankind contrasted with the beauty of a life of love and kindness as displayed by our Lord whilst he walked on earth.

He needed to learn obedience, that, as our great High Priest, as the final proving, that He might be exemplified as our teacher, as our exemplar, as absolutely perfect. He learned obedience, He became obedient unto death, that He might become the author of our salvation. He became the author of salvation through obedience, that He might save those ‘who obey Him.’

Obedience, was with Him, absolutely necessary to demonstrate; it is with us absolutely necessary to inherit, salvation from sin. The very essence of salvation is—obedience to God. Christ as the obedient One saves us as His obedient ones. Whether in His suffering on earth or in His glory in heaven, whether in Himself or in and through us, obedience is what the heart of Christ is set upon.

On earth Christ was a learner in the school of obedience; in heaven, He teaches it to His disciples here on earth. In a world where disobedience reigns unto death, the restoration of obedience is in Christ’s hands.

As in His own life, so in us, He has undertaken to maintain it. He teaches and works it in us, unto true life anew.

Let Christ Teach Us “He learned obedience.” And that learning was during his greatest trial on our behalf. And now that He teaches it, He does so first and most by unfolding the secret of His own obedience to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane. Our power of true obedience is to be found in the clear personal relationship with God. It was so with our Lord Jesus.

Observe His teaching ahead of the cross. He said: For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12: 49-50; see also John 8:28, 5:30, 8:16)

Dependence upon a present fellowship and operation of God, a hearing and a seeing of what God speaks and does and shows, is what He taught prior to the cross; and this continued in Gethsemane and as Christ hung on the cross.

Our Lord spoke of His relation to the Father as the type and the promise of our relation to Him, and to the Father through Him. With us as with Him, the life of continual obedience is impossible without continual fellowship and continual teaching. It is only when God comes into our lives, in a degree and a power which many never consider possible — when His presence as the Eternal and Ever-present One is believed and received, even as the Son believed and received it, that there can be the hope of a life in which every thought is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

The church has a need for this continual teaching. The imperative need of the continual receiving our orders and instructions from God Himself is what is implied in the words: “This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus” (Revelation 14:12 NLT)

With the commander of an army, the teacher of a school, the father of a family, it is not the code of laws, however clear and good, with its rewards or threats, that secures true obedience. Rather it is the personal living influence, wakening love and enthusiasm; it is the joy of ever hearing the Father’s voice, that will give the joy and the strength of true obedience. It is the voice that gives the power to obey the word; the word without the living voice does not avail.

We must learn to listen to what the Word of God speaks to us in our devotions, and like Christ, we can hear, follow and obey our God. We must allow the Spirit of the Lord to speak to us intimately, as we abide in Him.

Modified edits by Glen Jackman: Andrew Murray, The School of Obedience, pp 41-47

Christian Trinity Study 1: The Father and Son

I hope to help you understand the scope of God’s entire omnipresent being, who in all three persons, co-belonging, though singularly named as personal beings, work to achieve unified goals on behalf of mankind. 1

Eternally, and fully united simultaneously, to each of the three Persons of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each are fully God while each actively serves in his own unique co-operative personal role, as one in relation to each, eternal and undividedly divine, in One Magisterial Mind. 2

To understand the Christian Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit it is important to unpack scripture and connect the distinctions such as in John 1:1, and yet see the equality of each.  Once we see the unifying roles of the three in one Godhead, we will have the eyes to see this beautiful reality of God’s divine strategy of overseeing his creation.  

The Father’s Unique Role: Supreme Authority  

  • Within the Trinity, it is evident from scripture that the Father is supreme in position and authority, among the God-head persons. The Psalmist wrote: I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall shatter them like earthenware.’ (Psalm 2:7-9)

  • In the gospels, Matthew noted the Word of Jesus: Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ (Matthew 6:9-10) 

  • Apostle Paul, chosen by Jesus to unpack the gospel, confirms the Father’s ultimate authority: When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:28) 

  • In Ephesians 1:3 Paul indicates that all our blessings originate with the Father: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him. 

  • Paul emphasized that the means and the end of the redemption of Christ, was to glorify the Father: For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

The Father Leads 

 Some believe that the use of family roles are depicted metaphorically to help our understanding. Others would point out that humankind was made in God’s image. (Genesis 1:26-27) As the wise designer of co-creation with the Trinity, the redemption of humankind, and the consummation of all things summed up in Christ the Son, the Father was the supreme authority in the lead. This is evident as Paul pointed out: He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:9-12) 

The Father is the Ultimate Provider 

James pointed out: Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James1:17)

Paul also defined the Father as the one from whom all blessings flow: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32) 

The Father Provides and Works Through the Son and Spirit  

The Father is to be praised, though all his gifts to us come through the Son and Spirit. Paul presents the flow of authorized achievement to act on behalf of mankind, as issuing from the Father: (see Ephesians 1:3-14)   

The Son is under the Headship of the Father’s authority. 

Paul makes it clear that the lineage of authority begins with the Father: But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.  (1 Corinthians 11:3) 

Further, the writer of Hebrews agrees that the Father historically defined powerful roles for the Son – at creation as co-creator, further redemption at the incarnation prophesied by Isaiah; all beginning in eternity past since the foundation of the world: God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things into eternity future, through whom also He made the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2–1; Colossians 1: 15-19; Isaiah 9:6-7; Revelation 13:8; Genesis 1:2) 

This respect of Father’s authority is seen in Christ’s submission to the Father during His incarnation and frequently in his earthly mission. John noted: Jesus said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. ‘And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.’ (John 8:28-29)  In John 4, when the disciples asked Jesus why he was not interested in eating, Jesus said: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). 

The Son’s submission to the Father began in eternity past. Forty times in John’s gospel, Jesus mentions the fact that the Father has sent him to accomplish the mission that arrived incarnated here to do from heaven. 

Jesus is recorded as saying:  

  • For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17) 

  • For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 6:38) 

  • …I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. (John 8:42) 

  • …do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? (John 10:36) 

The Father creates in a union by or through the Son, who is referred to as the Word: (see John 1:3, 1 Cor 8:6) 

The Father ordained that everything in creation, be placed in subjection to his Son, as well as the elected and redeemed in Christ (see Eph 1:4-6) All others who deny the Son will be brought to final judgment through Christ. (see John 5:22-29; Rev 5:9) The Son obeyed the Father in heaven, as the Father’s instrument of creation, and assent from heaven do the will of his Father. The Son submitted to the Father, then, in eternity past, and further he submits in eternity future: When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:25-28)

In Revelation 1:1, we see that the Father initiates the giving of the message to Jesus who delivers it to John via an angel messenger: The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.  

Some get hung up on patriarchal authority in the bible. Jesus viewed his obedience to the Father as an act of love. Scripture depicts a love relationship between the obedient Son and the governing Father. (see John 14:31; John 15:9-10)   

We can see that the Father exercises His absolute authority to bring about what is best for His creation among all of humanity in redemption. With purpose, He always placed his Son on centre-stage even during the exodus out of Egypt. (see 1 Corinthians 10:4) The Father gives honour to the Son, as the Son seeks the Father’s honour, in all he does, to glorify his Father. 

1 I’m indebted to Professor Bruce Ware who helped me see the distinctions of the Godhead in the Trinitarian way during a course delivered at Heritage Seminary, Cambridge, Ontario.

2 Jesus prayed in John 17:1, NLT: I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. I have further written on Yahweh who called Moses in the burning bush, referring to Himself as “I am” and later revealed His name as “Yahweh” to Moses. Later Jesus inferred that: I and my Father are one and the same person by saying: Before Abraham was, I am. John 8:58

The Righteous shall live by faith in Christ

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…for in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’.” (Romans 1:16-17; compare Genesis 15:6; Habakkuk 2:4)

In the first chapter of Romans, Paul is exalting the righteousness of God as our foremost focus on what is revealed through the atonement of Jesus Christ — what was taught to us as the primary message of the Gospel.

The letters of Paul on the Righteousness of God

Peter was called the apostle of hope, and John of love, whereas Paul was the apostle who defines the doctrine of God’s righteousness as it applies to our life of faith in Christ.

Paul experienced direct communications from the Lord. He was taught by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12) and even caught up into paradise to hear unspeakable words (2 Corinthians 12:4). He was led by the Spirit into the importance of the law and the prophets where Jesus revealed to him the truths verified in the Lord’s atoning death. Jesus gave this to Paul who was directly called to become his chief doctorate on earth — Paul, the principal intellectual architect of the Gospel and Christ’s church.

He teaches the doctrine of God’s righteousness from the objective truth opened up to him in the Old Testament, and from his experiential acquaintance with Christ as the end of the works of the Mosaic law for any false sense of justifying righteousness. The apostle makes use of all the terms employed by the other writers, such as redemption, propitiation, peace, and the like, descriptive of Christ’s sacrificial death, there is one peculiar to him, THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD, which very frequently occurs. Though announced in the prophets, and indirectly alluded to by Peter and John in their use of the designation “the Righteous One,” it is especially found in Paul, who uses this abstract expression to describe the atonement in relation to divine law. 1

“Righteousness by Faith in Christ” has been a doctrinal term with many different concepts within the various denominations of the church. It may be one of the most confusing and uncomprehended teachings due to its many variant ideas both academic and unacademic. However, Christ himself told us to “seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness.” (see Matthew 6:33 NIV) It is imperative that we understand God’s kingdom wherein his children seek His righteousness above all else. It is the golden-key doctrine — that unlocks the blessed life.

Theories of Law and Grace Abound

The are some groups who believe that the Mosaic law including the Decalogue is done away with which doe does not line up with scripture.

As a Puritan who believed in the continuation of the moral law found in the Decalogue — not to be confused with the ceremonial laws, given within the Mosaic period, Theodore Beza (1519-1605) affirmed that ignorance of the law-gospel distinction “is one of the principal sources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity.” 

In agreement and with careful clarification of the distinctions of the administration of law and grace, the Puritan reformer, Burgess, noted that “when one takes the law strictly [primarily and foremost] and identifies it with the covenant of grace, he or she confounds “the righteousness of works, and of faith together” and he added as a Puritan writer during the Reformation of the Protestants versus Roman Catholicism “as the Papists do”. 3  He was careful to express this distinction because the Papacy had instituted many works-related methods by which to be saved such as indulgences.

Aside from works as a method to obtain salvation or merit from God I would like to make a scriptural observation of truths noted by the prophets, both in the new and old testaments worth comparison. We find that men and women were often accounted righteous in tandem with a confession of sin and God’s reconciling forgiveness, and by expressing absolute belief in the prophetic word of God declared to them as when Abraham believed God’s claim that his progeny would include the nations. Thus it is evident that grace has been working through the old as well as the new covenant when God restores a person from a life of sin; and when a man walks in faith as a friend of God as did Abraham. (Psalm 32:1-2; Romans 4:3, James 2:23) Further study on this point: (Romans 7-8; 3:25-26, 4:8; Galatians 3:11; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Hebrews 10:38)

A comparison of Paul’s letters to the Galatians, Romans, and Philippians where the righteousness of God is the central thought shows that there was a doctrinal conflict within the churches antithetical to living a righteous life by faith. These letters reveal his constant need to counteract Jewish legalism. The mindset of the Jewish Pharisee hinged on the works of the law, a refined keeping of the written code with its strict enforcement of legal ceremonies such as circumcision as erroneously thought to remain in continuum with the gospel of Christ. However, the purpose of the Mosaic law was to increase the Jews’ understanding that we are all sinners and to lead us to understand the need for Christ’s atonement. (Galatians 3:24) This understanding Paul brings out well in his letters.

In Romans, “the righteousness of God” is a descriptive name Paul uses to illustrate the atoning work of the Father, allowing and determining the death of his son, Jesus Christ on the cross — displaying Yahweh’s righteousness of the once-and-for-all final atonement to redeem humankind from sin. Because the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all One in the Godhead, it should be understood that this was a joint effort to redeem man first prophesied in Genesis 3:15 and referred by Paul after the cross in Romans 16:20 — a plan which was put into effect before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)

For this reason, some churches hold to a continuance of all of the ten commandments as a rule of faith because Christ died to redeem transgressors of God’s divine law. Because we all have sinned (Romans 3:23-24) when we are moved by Christ’s atonement on the cross and His offer of grace, the Spirit of God lovingly convicts us of sin and leads us to repentance (John 16:8). We find repentance comes easily when we first understand the forgiveness of our Lord. (Romans 2:4).

In tandem with faith in Christ, led by the Spirit in love, it is of paramount interest to understand righteousness by faith is synchronous understanding of the moral law as now written on our hearts in response to Christ’s atoning work (Jeremiah 31:33). The divine law which is based on love was the standard bar of Christ’s atonement, so any faith in the receipt of grace upholds the primary genus articulated further by differentiating a divine moral decalogue and as such cannot be contrary to Christ’s remnant church! (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3; Revelation 12:17, 14:12)

Martin Luther noted that “whoever knows well this art of distinguishing between the Law and the Gospel, him place at the head and call him a doctor of Holy Scripture.” 4  The 10 commandments are not observed as a way of justification, but as based on the foundational principles of loving God first for what He accomplished in His Son on the cross on our behalf, and loving others as yourself, which is the way that the Spirit leads us to agree with in our lifestyle by faith and love (Romans 8:14).

The letter to the Galatians is an enforcement of the great truth that this righteousness of faith in Christ is the one plea valid before God; without complicated confusion by adding any form of works for our justification before God to add to this completed work of salvation. (Galatians 2:21, 3:21).

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we find the same antithetical theme even though other points required attention in this church (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 3:9). Paul contrasts the two economies: the law is called the ministry of condemnation, and the gospel, the ministry of righteousness. In the letter to the Philippians Paul accounts all things as a loss in exchange for this righteousness despite approaching martyrdom (Philippians 3:9). We find an allusion to the righteousness of God also in the pastoral letters. (Titus 3:5–7).

All alike need the provision of the gospel, and must repair to it; FOR they have nothing to expect but a revelation of wrath on their account. The mode of expounding this phrase by allusion to the divine attribute was in reality overcome at the Reformation. Luther tells us that, having long had a desire to understand the Epistle to the Romans, he was always stopped by the expression “the righteousness of God,” which he understood as the divine attribute; but after long meditations, and spending days and nights in these thoughts, the nature of that righteousness which justifies us was discovered to him; upon which he felt himself born anew, and the whole Scriptures become quite a different thing. It is evident, indeed, that there can be no allusion to the divine attribute of justice, because this would furnish the idea of an incensed God, which is the purport of the law; whereas the provision is one of grace, displaying a reconciling and justifying God, which is the essence of the gospel. 5

In Romans, we will see that the primary use of the term righteousness of faith or righteousness by faith will represent God’s righteousness in the act of his redemption of humanity: Christ was made to die for our sin so that the righteousness of God might cover us as we accept his gracious gift of His own Son Jesus Christ. As theologians note, Christ was a propitiating sacrifice in our stead, as he died on our behalf for our transgressions of the law. (I John 3:4)

First, it must be clear that the Christian is not made as a man or woman to attribute any of the righteousness of God to him or herself (2 Corinthians 5:21) by any good works demonstrated outwardly by our keeping of any prescribed law. Humanity has proved incapable of achieving any righteousness on our own. (Philippians 3:9).

If we think of God’s unmerited favour towards us, covering our sin as a father might lovingly embrace a long-lost son (Luke 15:18-20), we have a pretty good picture of His forgiveness, which motivates our love to follow Him as our Redeemer, and to demonstrate our life as a reflection of Christ’s righteousness via His Spirit within — letting our light shine as Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:16)/

Secondly, the divine justice against man’s sin was due to the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Because that law furnished the rule or standard by which God’s righteousness was tried and delivered resulting in the atoning death of Christ; we now seek to follow the Royal law of Christ, by loving God and our neighbour as yourself. Love is the fulfilment of the law (Romans 13:10)

This righteousness is called a gift (Romans 5:17) and said to be of God, moreover divinely provided in Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Since this is in contrast with the ongoing failure of works of the law, or of any good works of our making (Philippians 3:9), the fact is clear. We have no righteousness of our own. This atonement of Christ on the cross is the gracious provision of God, which is imputed, accounted to us only by faith in what he has done on our behalf. (Romans 4:3-6, 22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

1 Smeaton, G. (1870). The Doctrine of the atonement, as taught by the apostles. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Theodore Beza, “The Christian Faith (1558)”  in Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: Volume 2: 1552-1556, comp. James T. Dennision Jr. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 173-74.   

Burgess, Vindiciae Legis, 230

Martin Luther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel:  Thirty-Nine Evening Lectures, ed F.W.Walther, trans. W.H.T. Dau (St. Louis, Mo.: Concordia 1986

5 Smeaton, G. (1870). The Doctrine of the atonement, as taught by the apostles. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.