God makes no errors. Yet some have portrayed the cross as some sort of divine blunder in which a defeated God gave rise to two thousand years of earthly chaos, division and suffering.Before that, there were ages of anguished tumult, as the human procession swelled the centuries with shameful iniquity. By contrast, the faithful see the sacrifice of Jesus as the crossroads of history, enabling those who follow the way of it’s majestic call to rise to a life of righteousness. In most cases, they are well aware of it’s consequences for humanity. But do they really understand it’s many universal and eternal consequences? God knows the end from the beginning. That is an article of faith, supported in the Word. He, himself, is both the beginning and the end; He creates all things for his own pleasure. He is all-knowing and all-powerful. Human beings – the believing and unbelieving alike – are all too aware that we can only dimly perceive the big picture. The cross was no error. As the supreme fulfillment of the Bible’s most ancient prophecy, it blazes forth with prodigious perfection, the culmination of a divine plan that has truly cosmic implications. Yet, in spite of this obvious truth, and others that accompany it, we tend to question both God’s ways and his will, as though we somehow think we have a better way to run things, if he would only listen to us. We humans tend to doubt the perfection, both of his rule and his judgment. Many times over the past 5,000 years, man has put God on trial, sometimes under life-and-death conditions. Why, we wonder aloud, does God continue to permit evil? Veiled in this query is the idea that if we could step into God’s shoes, we would immediately command that all evil cease to exist. Suddenly, the universe would be a better place. The struggle between good and evil would come to a halt, once and for all. But God, who is in complete control of time, space, matter, energy and motion, chose to allow evil to prosper. Why did he allow Lucifer’s iniquity to grow until it spilled over into a full-scale heavenly revolution. Many have reasoned that if they could acquire God’s power for only a moment, they could put an end to the fall of the anointed cherub who became Satan. Implicit in this question is the idea that perhaps God should never have allowed Satan to exist. It is as though they are saying God committed some enormous cosmic error. Why does God allow suffering, even among the saints and the innocent. The supposition expressed in this question is that suffering is meaningless and counterproductive. It suggests that God is not a God of love and concern, who nurtures humanity until the full completion of the redemptive process. More than that, it implies that he is whimsical and uncaring. Questions like these have continued unabated for millennia. If God could grow fatigued, he would probably be very tired of them by now. But he is far above the fray. His commanding words sweep away such thoughts in an instant …
“I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it. Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?” (Isaiah 45:5-10).
Here is the classic passage on God’s sovereignty. It portrays the foolishness of that which is created trying to question it’s creator. Humanity, of course, is deeply preoccupied with such questions. Philosophers, along with the founders of various cults and isms build their very reputations upon intellectual pursuits that are centered upon methods of doubt, human logic and challenge. The end of such interrogatory methods is misery – existential self-loathing. In their own tormented agony, the lost often rue the day they were born, saying to their father and mother, “Why did you bring me into this cursed world?” To them, courage is the very act of continuing to live, despite their certitude that life is hopeless. But in the passage above, God pronounces woe upon those who follow such a course. He says that he has very good reasons for bringing man into being. First, he is the only God who exists. By definition, he is the embodiment of good. Anyone who
questions this is questioning the very foundation of the universe. Secondly, from the very first day of creation, he declared the groundwork of what he knew would become a great struggle between the righteous and the wicked. He said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). Light is the substance of all creation, and he separated it from darkness. This is more than a description of creation. It is a metaphor that delineates the Bible’s primary theme of spiritual struggle: light verses darkness. At that moment, he recognized that on the earthly plane of existence, evil was destined to become a force to be reckoned with. Note that in the same way he contrasts light and darkness, he differentiates between peace and evil … between harmony and calamity. By allowing evil to continue, God “created” evil. God is good. In Luke 18:19, Jesus told the rich young ruler that only God, in his basic nature, is good …
“And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God” (Luke 18:19).
Satan, on the other hand, is evil. Ezekiel 28:14 says that he once walked in the Lord’s very presence, a delegate of his power …
“Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire” (Ezekiel 28:14).
But in pride, he rebelled …
“Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee” (Ezekiel 28:15-17).
But, one skeptical of the divine order might object, “Can God really be said to create evil by allowing it to flourish?” Because of God’s omnipotence, the answer must be yes. But the questioner might insist, “But why would he do so?” Buried in this question is the thought that God committed the grievous error of even allowing rebellion in the first place. But God makes no errors. Throughout his word, he invites us to see him as he truly is …
“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10).
It is a great exercise in faith to completely understand that God’s plan is not a reactive one. Since he knows the outcome from the beginning, it is not necessary for him to change his position from time to time in response to the wickedness that erupts around him. Before the condition even existed, he already knew of it, and had formulated his plan. Before evil was allowed to flourish, God in his wisdom saw that it would perish of it’s own weight. It would become an eternal exhibit of it’s own folly – a lesson to those who might consider going in their own ways. As we continue to investigate the inherent goodness of God’s plan, we shall begin with the oldest prophecy in the Bible. In the process, we shall recall not only God’s creation, but his sublime method of dealing with the created beings who surround him. Hopefully, I’ll make it clear that his reasoning is perfect and his actions so sublime that they blaze with glorious unity, ultimately erasing all our questions as we begin to grasp his purpose.
IN EONS PAST
No one knows when Satan fell, but it must have been some time prior to the creation of Earth. His fall shook the heavens, and after the creation of this planet, “… made the earth to tremble” (Isaiah 14:16).
Once, Jesus sent forth seventy men to spread the word of his kingdom. Upon their return, they elatedly told him of their success …
“And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:17-20).
In this remarkable statement, Jesus reveals his true, sweeping perspective. He recalls an ancient event that he had witnessed in a view from the throne. His words are sparse, but laden with drama and meaning. Jesus matter-of-factly told his followers that he had witnessed Lucifer, the “lightbearer,” streaking from Heaven to Earth as a bolt of lightning. What is lightning? In the strictest sense, it is an enormous energy charge that has gone completely out of control. The character of Satan’s fall must be more than mere metaphor. It seems to tell us about the catastrophic nature of his defeat. On the earthly level at least, lightning is an electrical charge that builds to the breaking point, then collapses in an enormous random discharge that seeks the easiest path to release it’s energy. It is a chaotic implosion of forces that are stretched to the breaking point. When it is released, it will harm anything that happens to be in it’s path. The tremendous, but harmonious energy with which God had infused Lucifer, the anointed cherub, was released in a catastrophic way. His energy spent in a flash, he fell from Heaven to become the sublime and seductive serpent, bent upon revenge, and filled with a fury against God and his entire creation. During his earthly ministry, Jesus announced that the serpent and all who followed him were inferior in power to his disciples. It is no accident that he made this proclamation in the context of Satan’s disastrous fall.
THE GARDEN AND THE SERPENT
When God brought man into existence, a new race was born. Mankind was destined for eternal life in the presence of it’s creator. Many writers have detailed Adam’s origin, and the superior nature that he must have possessed at his beginning. Genetically perfect, gifted and nurtured by God, Adam was blessed beyond the dreams of modern man. He was our physical and mental superior. In addition to these gifts, he was placed in the perfect environment …
“These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:4-9).
As astonishing as it is to consider, the Lord personally constructed a perfect environment for Adam. This is a point that is often overlooked. Whatever the world outside the garden may have looked like – and that is debatable – Adam’s world was absolute paradise. The Lord made sure that there would be a continuous supply of food, as well as infallible protection from the outside world. The Garden of Eden must have been something like a game preserve, with the first man as the central participant, and the object of God’s care. But he placed Adam under a single stricture, and it was accompanied by a serious warning …
“And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:15-18).
In this brief, but complex description, Adam was given responsibility and a test. His job was to keep the garden, it’s trees and it’s fruit. The test came in the form of a strange tree, which we later learn was planted right in the middle of the garden. It’s fruit was edible, but forbidden. Doubtless, it was attractive, given it’s later part in the drama. But it was certainly deadly. The Lord plainly made that known to the man. Adam was also given the woman, who was made by God to be a helper suitable for him. Thus, the innocent man and his mate began to live “normal” lives, fed and clothed by the Lord God who had created the heavens, the earth and their rockingly beautiful little preserve.
LIGHTNING STRIKES THE GARDEN
At this point, the biblical skeptic – if he believes the story at all – might be saying, “Wait a minute, why would God have planted a tree in the garden whose fruit was off limits?” Hidden in this question is the doubt that God offered man a fair chance, given the fact that a single infraction on the part of either Adam or Eve would result in the fall of mankind. Wasn’t God being too severe in his testing? A better question would center on God’s purpose in creating what must have been a very carefully calculated environment. In the human way of thinking, God simply required too much of innocent man. But obviously, this view is incorrect, since the creator makes no errors. What, then, was he doing? The third chapter of Genesis brings a new character into the drama. His presence introduces the element of darkness …
“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:1-7).
These seven terse verses tell the horrifying story of paradise lost. They are usually characterized as “the fall of man,” and the source of sin. However, the story they tell is much greater than that, for in reality, they signal the defeat of the already fallen serpent. A place more desirable than any other on earth had been invaded by the serpent, who had once occupied much higher regions as a watcher over the throne of God. The serpent certainly broke into the garden. But how did he do it? We know that later, when Adam and Eve were driven from the garden, their re-entry by the same path was blocked by an angel. The very fact that they could be thrown out never to return suggests that the garden’s borders were impenetrable. In their fallen state, the man and woman had no access to the garden. But before their fall, the serpent seemed not to have had any trouble at all getting in. The answer seems blatantly clear: rather than block his path, God had allowed, perhaps even encouraged, the serpent’s entry into the garden. The lightning that fell from Heaven had struck earth, and it’s consequences reverberated across the universe. The serpent could now say that he had spoiled God’s new race of humans. He had made them sin, and thus, violate God’s prime injunction. God was far from being surprised at these developments. He had obviously planned them!
THE SERPENT TRAP
God, who knows the end of all things in advance, couldn’t possibly have been shocked to discover that the serpent had soiled the paradise he had created for Adam and Eve. It is quite the contrary. The dark development of original sin must have proceeded in precisely in accordance with his master plan (remember that God said, “I create evil.”). If we back out for a wide-angle view, the Bible gives us enough information to discern God’s plan. The fallen Lucifer, now the serpent, was subtle indeed. But he was not nearly as subtle as the God who set a trap that sealed his final, miserable fate. Picture the beautiful, rockin’ planet Earth. Before the flood, it was situated to produce an ideal environment for man. It’s weather was perfect, it’s vegetation was custom designed and so far as we know, it was free from pests and disease. In an ideal location, God had planted a special garden for man. It must have been even more favorable than the earth in general. There, he placed the man, the woman and the forbidden fruit. But it was more than the perfect place for man. God had perfectly crafted it to lure the serpent. Imagine a beautiful blue and green sphere that stands out against the velvet blackness of space like a gleaming jewel. It is teeming with new life that thrives in it’s perfected environment. It is the planet Earth, God’s latest project in the realm of time and space. And in the one small development known as the “Garden of Eden, there is something that is of particular interest to the serpent. Various cultures of the world still worship him as the flying dragon who takes wing to soar around the world in search of his lost power. One day, they believe, he will regain it and take his rightful place as the ruler of the world. In the early lives of Adam and Eve, we can imagine him circling the planet to view God’s work. Then, he swoops low and spies the special garden that God planted for the man and the woman. Lower still, he sees them for the first time – God’s brand new creation. Daily, they live out their lives in a state of exquisite peace. God, their creator, even comes to speak with them. They have neither fear nor worry. To them, life is an unending delight. It is conceivable that the serpent spent some time studying these new humans in the blessed ecstasy of their little utopia. It is also quite likely that he became increasingly annoyed by them. Their righteousness and close fellowship with their creator must have galled him to the point that he had to do something that would prove his superiority to God. He concluded that a test was in order. From a later incident recorded in the book of Job, we know that this is the way his mind works. In that case, Satan (the serpent’s formal title of of “adversary”) complained to the Lord about the righteous Job, saying that the man was only faithful because of his wealth and blessing. Remove those, said Satan, and Job would curse the Lord to his face. Thus, the Lord allowed Satan to test Job. In the end, Job’s faith stood the test. The serpent’s research on the couple had disclosed that there was a tree in the midst of their garden whose fruit was out of bounds. Perhaps he had known about it from it’s first moment of creation. In either case, the result would be the same. Instinctively, he knew that the tree and it’s fruit could provide the test that these new humans would be unable to pass. But it was not really the couple that he wanted to destroy. In his sight, they were probably not even worthy of notice. What he really wanted was to show the creator that the two people in his newly-created race would rebel against him, if given the chance. What a way for the serpent to get even with the one who had judged him. So, as a beautiful and persuasive being, he entered the garden to test Adam and Eve. He used the woman to gain an opening. Under his seductive coaxing, she “saw that the tree was good for food.” That is, it stimulated her appetite and appealed to her desires. Furthermore, the fruit had visual appeal. Down through the ages, artists have featured paintings and sculptures of fruit. There is something about their shape and color that is mentally attractive. The serpent made her see that. More than that, the serpent had convinced her that the tree could, “make one wise.” It’s not known for sure, but perhaps it contained some mind-altering chemical … a sort of drug. It may have possessed a type of psycho-active chemistry that was capable of opening the human mind to new experiences. But the core of the matter is that the serpent twisted the Lord’s clear pronouncement, saying that if she ate the fruit, “Ye shall surely die.” He lied, of course. And so Eve ate of the fruit, and so did her husband, Adam. Man had fallen. More importantly, the trap had been sprung. In that moment, the serpent – the great dragon, the Devil and Satan – was destroyed.
THE ANCIENT PROPHECY
Destroyed? Some would say that he is still very much alive. Furthermore, he seems quite powerful and effective. And, in a way, this is true. Nevertheless, the serpent should be thought of as the “walking dead.” His days are numbered. From God’s point of view, the struggle is over, and Satan’s cause is finished. Like the snake that he is, he may thrash for awhile after receiving his mortal wound to the head, but soon, he will succumb to certain eternal death. When the Lord God snared the serpent in the garden, it was perhaps the highest and most brilliant act of a loving God toward his created universe. He had met the problem of a Heavenly rebellion by fashioning an irresistable lure: two humans, a garden and a forbidden tree. Yes, he could have destroyed Lucifer and all those who followed him in a flash of fire at the first sign of his iniquity, but that might have raised questions among the loyal faction of the heavenly host. A rumor
might have arisen among them to the effect that the Lord God of Heaven is so afraid of this thing called “iniquity,” that he had to destroy it, lest it overcome even his magnificent authority. They might have wondered why even the highest created being – the anointed cherub – could be vaporized by an angry God. And they could legitimately wonder, “If it could happen to him, maybe it could happen to us.” There is no way to know for sure, but if iniquity had been immediately squelched, the created heavenly beings might have begun to wonder about the Lord God’s love and wisdom. But that very wisdom produced the couple in the garden. They were the first members of a race that would produce the Messiah. He would be the essence of love and would walk among his fellow men as an illustration of God. News of his coming is the first prophecy in the Bible. It is the curse that God included in his elaborate trap. Instead of destroying iniquity directly and immediately, he would allow it to destroy itself …
“And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:14-15).
And so, the trail of the serpent became the path of redemption. In the end, the universe would witness a glorified mankind and an evil destroyed of it’s own corrupt weight. It would serve as an eternal example, both to Heaven and to Earth: Sin, by it’s very nature, is doomed to failure. Any discussion to the contrary would be instantly faced by this one, crushing illustration, starting with the moment that the serpent became just a snake in the grass.
MESSIAH AND THE SERPENT
At the very instant that he realized his goal of corrupting the couple in the garden, the serpent was smashed. He knew what he was selling Adam and Eve, and that it would bring them tot he slow, lingering death of old age. But until it was too late, he didn’t realize that he had, in fact, fashioned his own death. God devised a plan whereby the fallen serpent would plant the seed of his own destruction. From the moment of his curse, there begins an unbroken chain of prophetic references to Christ’s coming. Much has been written about the seed of the woman as the first prophecy of Christ’s virgin birth. It would oppose the lustful and worldly seed of the serpent. When Jesus came, it was in direct confrontation of the snakelike religious representatives of Israel …
“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell?” (Matthew 23:33).
Here, in Matthew 23:33, Jesus is speaking to the scribes and pharisees. He directly names them as the offspring of the serpent. His mission, when fully realized, will destroy their leader. His own genealogy, through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah, is carefully arranged, not only to destroy the serpent, but to establish an earthly kingdom, as the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). He is the promised seed of Genesis 3:15. Paul, while persuading the Galatian believers of their heritage through the faith of Abraham, rather than the Law of Moses, wrote …
“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).
COSMIC IMPLICATIONS OF THE CROSS
When Christ, the seed of the woman, came to give himself as a ransom for humanity, his death upon the cross was foreordained. His blood sacrifice satisfied God’s perfect requirement for the atonement of humanity. Among Christians, there is a widespread awareness that Christ’s sacrifice was eternal in it’s consequences. The Aaronic priests, who were subject to death, were forced to make daily intercession and sacrifice to maintain the spiritual state of Israel. By contrast, Christ’s sacrifice was eternally consecrated. Having completed it, he rose to the heavens, where he is seated at God’s right hand. There is a general understanding that believing inhabitants of this world are saved by his actions. But there is one implication of the cross that generally escapes our direct attention, namely, that the cross had heavenly, as well as earthly, consequences. In Colossians 1:20, Paul writes that the work of the cross had effects that reached more than merely our physical world …
“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:20).
Astounding as it may seem at first, the cross brought relief not only to Earth, but to Heaven. Here, the word “reconcile,” comes from the New Testament Greek word, katallasso, speaks of a “changing” or “exchanging” of one thing for another. It implies a major change in the way things are done. The conditions under which God views man are radically changed through the cross. But so are the conditions in Heaven, which has been forced to endure the spectacle of Satan’s fall and the consequent melancholy echoes of the rebellious hoards who followed him. His rebellious followers are the, “… principalities … powers … rulers of the darkness of this world … spiritual wickedness in high places.” Here, in Ephesians 6:12, they are mentioned as being present, both in this world and in “high,” or heavenly places. They fight against God’s holy angels. They are the dark side in the battle of light versus darkness. But the cross of Christ changed the terms of the battle. It became clear to Satan’s dark following that they were doomed. From that day to this, they tremble in the knowledge that only one step remains. Christ must return to physically complete that which has already been spiritually fulfilled. On earth, there are still those who dwell in ignorance about this battle in the heavenlies. In Heaven, Christ’s triumph has been openly exhibited …
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it (Colossians 2:14-15).
Before the cross, humanity was under a death sentence. All had failed to meet the critical necessities of the Law. Jesus, the seed of the woman, changed all of that on the cross, sweeping aside the condemnation that had proceeded from the serpent in the garden. More than that, he “spoiled” (took captive) the rebelling principalities and powers in heavenly realms. In Heaven, they became the centerpiece of a triumphal parade. Much in the manner of ancient earthly emperors, Jesus displayed them for all to see. They, and all their leaders, including Satan himself, were defeated. Then, in a joyous, heavenly pageant, they became an exhibition of his victory.
REDEMPTION, A SCHOOL FOR THE ANGELS
Ironically, the agent of the evil serpent’s defeat was none other than the woman. Eve, in her weakness, had been unable to resist temptation. Having masterminded an irresistable lure for the serpent, the Lord God had also completed the means of his downfall. As if to add insult to injury, he used human weakness as the weapon of choice against the fallen serpent. In the process, he created a glorious chain of redemption in which the blood of the cross would simultaneously crush the serpent’s head and produce the means of human redemption. It is an amazing and definitive spectacle to know that he used failed human beings to bring his plan to culmination …
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).
Satan cannot boast in excuses that he was defeated by a superior force. Forever, he will be forced to face the ultimate, cold fact that his own pride, greed and lust brought him down. And God used the weakest of sentient beings to exact Satan’s punishment. The innocent, newly-created Eve delivered the final blow to the old dragon. And the angels in Heaven are only too aware of this fact. Satan will forever reside in their thoughts as a person unworthy of any respect. Eve’s redemption, and ours, was the beautiful side of the mechanism that destroyed the serpent. We, the redeemed, have received a salvation of inestimable value. Just as Satan is the dark side of the heavenly exhibit, we are the bright side. We are a testimony of them of God’s wisdom and grace. As Peter clearly wrote in 1 Peter 1:12, the prophets wrote about future events that were beyond their understanding …
“Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12).
The angels must have been amazed at the marvelous way that God chose to handle the sin problem. Not only did he arrange for it to collapse of it’s own corrupt weight, but he brought forth a new race of the redeemed who could stand in the places of those who had mistakenly chosen to follow Lucifer. From our human perspective, the serpent trap has taken a long time – several thousand years – to spring shut. But in the view from the heavens, it has already slammed shut with a resounding thunder that reverberates with startling finality.
Christ provided the way for you to choose eternal life and not eternal death. Until we personally, consciously and willfully come to Christ for the gift of eternal life, we are automatically on the road to damnation in the hereafter. Adam’s fall brought death (physical and eternal) upon all mankind …
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
But the way out is simple and clear …
THE WAY OUT AND YOU
In order to accept the offer of God’s grace and his salvation, you must take the crucial three steps of …
1. Agreeing – A belief and agreeing with God in all that he says in his word, the Bible, about the fact that you are separated from God, as every man and woman on the face of the earth are before accepting his salvation. The Bible reveals that all are separated from him in a spiritual state of death, or in another way that the Bible puts it, in a state of sin, that will result in eternal damnation. Agreeing with God in your heart that you are in need of his salvation. The Bible reveals that God looks upon the heart of a man, and thus, responds accordingly to the man or woman who comes to him for salvation in recognition of his inability to save himself. The Bible makes these facts very clear – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The Bible describes these three kinds of death: physical death (the state experienced when life leaves our bodies); spiritual death (spiritual separation from God caused by our state of spiritual death, or state of sin that results in outward acts of sin on a daily basis as the Bible also puts it – the state of sin is received from the first man Adam); and finally eternal death (the fixed state entered into by the individual who dies physically while he or she is dead spiritually). It is eternal death, in particular, which is the horrible result of receiving the wages of sin. The Lord Jesus Christ frequently described such a death as being eternal (without end) in a destiny which he called Hell. He described Hell as a literal place of judgment (Matthew 13:42); a place of everlasting fire (Matthew 18:8); a place of torment (Luke 16:24,28); a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:50); a place of remorse (Mark 9:44-48); of bitter memory (Luke 16:25), and a place originally prepared for the Devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). In fact, Jesus more often warned about Hell than he spoke about Heaven. It is not God’s will or desire that any person should be consigned to perish in Hell (2 Peter 3:9), but rather that all should come to repentance of unbelief toward him and believe on him for the salvation of the individual’s soul. But God’s justice requires that the “soul who sins” (remains in it’s state of death or state of sin) is the one who will die eternally (Ezekiel 18:4). So, agree with God, admitting that you are unable to save yourself and in a state of sin under God’s just condemnation for that sin and that you are in need of his salvation.
2. Believing – Then, believe that God does not want you to perish eternally in the torment of Hell because of your sin. Believe that God loves you so much that he provided a way whereby he could still be a just, holy and righteous God, and yet pardon you. Believe that God did not just overlook sin, but that he sent his only begotten son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to provide salvation by personally paying the penalty for sin. Believe that Jesus Christ, whose life, death, burial and resurrection is the best-attested fact of antiquity, did come to earth to live, die, rise again and ascend to Heaven in order to provide justification and salvation for all who trust him. Believe that he, and he alone, can save you because he has fully satisfied the just demands of God. Believe that you can’t become righteous in God’s sight by your own effort. Believe that he wants to save you and that he will save you. The Bible provides a solid basis for such belief …
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
“But God demonstrates his love toward us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
God presented him (Jesus Christ) as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies the man or woman who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:25-26).
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures … ” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
“Jesus answered, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out [drive away]” (John 6:37).
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
3. Calling – It is not enough to agree with God, admit your need, and believe that Christ can and will save you. You must act upon those facts. You must repent of the sin of your unbelief toward him and actively call upon him for the salvation of your soul based on the fact that you cannot save yourself because of your sins. You must be willing to completely turn from your own efforts to save yourself or from any other hope. You must come to Christ, calling upon him for salvation and counting on the fact that he will do what he has promised. This means simply taking the gift of pardon and eternal life which he offers. Merely believing about Jesus Christ without coming to him makes as much sense and is as effective as believing that a medication can successfully treat a fatal disease, but failing to take it. Yet again, the Bible emphatically and authoritatively provides the basis for such statements:
“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).
The word translated “believe” here means to “rest one’s entire weight and trust on the object or person in which the belief is placed.” It requires action in keeping with the intellectual assent of that belief.
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
” … but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
The logical question you may be asking at this point is: “how do I come to Christ and call upon him?” The answer is that “calling upon the Lord” is just another term for praying, or talking to God. To talk to God is not a complicated process, dependent upon some special rituals. God has invited people to approach him through his Son in simple, straightforward terms. In fact, Jesus approved of the dishonest, despised tax collector who simply prayed, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” While the exact words of your prayer to God are not of vital importance (since God sees and knows the attitude of your heart), the following is the kind of prayer that you could pray in calling upon God for salvation …
“Dear Lord Jesus: I realize that I need you. I admit that I have sinned and that I deserve your just, eternal punishment for that sin. But I am sorry for my sin and I am turning to you and asking for forgiveness. I believe that you died and rose again to pay sin’s penalty on my behalf. I come to you and open my heart to you. I ask you to come into my life, forgive me for all of my sin and make me your child. I invite you to take control of my life and to cause me to be the kind of person you would have me to be. I thank you for doing this because you have promised that whosoever calls upon you, as I am doing now, shall be saved. I pray this in the name of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”
If this prayer expresses the desire of your heart, I urge you to sincerely and genuinely express it to God as your prayer. The Bible makes clear that when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in our heart, God forgives our sins and counts us righteous, and that when we openly confess with our mouth what we have done in our heart, God gives us assurance of that salvation (Romans 10:9-10).
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:3-7).
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