04 November 2010

From Everlasting To Everlasting

I recently wrote a paper for my Biblical Theology class on the outline of the Bible. I've posted it below...

"From Everlasting To Everlasting"
by Timothy Harris

Everything finds its beginning with God. The Bible says that God exists "from everlasting to everlasting" (Ps. 90:2, emphasis added) and since He has no beginning or end (Rev. 1:8) He operates outside of the finite human categories of time and space. There is one God in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who is Creator of all (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 40:28), and this God is transcendent, which means that He is "distinct from His creation. He is not part of it, for He has made it and rules over it... God is much greater than creation... He is independent of it," (Grudem, 267). Though God is independent of His creation, He is not completely removed from it. He is also immanent, which is a term that describes God's engaging with that which He has created. While the Creator of all things maintains His transcendant holiness, being completely "other" than His creatures, He is also personally interested and involved with His creation. God is particularly mindful of human beings, whom He created in His likeness and image (Gen. 1:26, 27). He has, according to His lovingkindness and for His glory, condescended to make Himself known to mankind through the Holy Scriptures. This collection of writings that was written over the course of about 1,500 years is not just a compilation of ordinary literature, but the very word of God revealed to man by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Thes. 2:13; 2 Peter 1:19), the third person of the triune Godhead. The word of God (The Bible) is authoritative and inerrant; it is "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart," (Heb. 4:12). The Westminster Confession of Faith describes the Bible as "the whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life," (Chapter I; Article VI). So, since the Bible is the means by which God historically reveals Himself to humanity, and is also sufficient revelation of His will for all people everywhere for all time, it follows that our understanding of His revelation is recognized in a historically comprehensive and progressive manner.

"God is to be praised as Creator, by reason of the marvelous order, variety, and beauty of his works... God is to be trusted as the sovereign LORD, with an eternal plan covering all events and destinies without exception, and with power to redeem, re-create and renew; such trust becomes rational when we remember that it is the almighty Creator that we are trusting. Realizing our moment-by-moment dependence on God the Creator for our very existence makes it appropriate to live lives of devotion, commitment, gratitude, and loyalty toward him... Godliness starts here, with God the sovereign Creator as the first focus of our thoughts." (Packer, 22). At the beginning of time as we know it, God began His work of creation (Gen. 1:1). The Bible describes the creation account as a series of events spanning six days, in which God generated the heavens and earth and all that fills them (Gen. 1). He made everything ex nihilo (out of nothing), including man (Gen. 2:7), the crowning achievement of His creatures, whom He created on the sixth day. God saw that everything He made was good, and rested on the seventh day (Gen. 1:31; Gen. 2:1-2). He instituted the created order and placed man in the Garden of Eden to work and care for it (Gen. 2:8, 15). An established system of roles, responsibilities and relationships were given to mankind with regard to God and to the rest of the creation. Adam and Eve lived in perfect fellowship with God; humanity was created upright and was fully capable of unhindered worship. Humanity was pure and pleasing to God, and God was supremely desireable to the man and his bride, who were capable of enjoying Him and His glory fully.

"The tempter came from the spirit world with the suggestion that man, by placing himself in opposition to God, might become like God. Adam yielded to the temptation and committed the first sin by eating of the forbidden fruit. But the matter did not stop there, for by that first sin Adam became the bond-servant of sin. That sin carried permanent pollution with it, and a pollution, which, because of the solidarity of the human race, would affect not only Adam but all his descendants as well," (Berkhof, 221). The perfect harmony in the created order—the holy fellowship between God and man—eventually turns to disorder and darkness. One of God's angelic creatures defied the Almighty God and was cast down from the heavens. This fallen-angel then set forth an attack on the harmony of the created order by distorting the truth of God. A serpent, which was "both a real serpent and a demonic power, who made use of the former to carry out his plan" (Vos, 34), appeared in the Garden of Eden, deceived Eve and tempted Adam to willfully sin against God (Gen. 3:1-7). God pronounced a curse upon both the serpent and humanity (Gen. 3:14-24), but He would not leave His creation to ruin. With the penalty of death for sinning against God came His grace—the protoevangelium (first gospel). God promised that the Seed of the woman would set things right (Gen. 3:15). "The promise is, that somehow out of the human race a fatal blow will come which shall crush the head of the serpent." (Vos, 43). According to God's infinite wisdom and good pleasure, and for the supremacy of His glory, He predestined an elaborate plan of restoration for His creation. Before the creation event, God sovereignly decreed the intricate arrangement of His will for all things, including sin (which He did not author, but allowed temporarily) for the demonstration of His glory in His redemptive purposes.

"It is the nature of God that moves him to make His promises, and in keeping the promises which He makes, God does not take anyone into partnership. He is not only totally able to keep His promises without assistance, but He insists upon doing doing so. As these promises emerge they are focused upon the central theme of salvation. The God of the covenant is revealed as God the Savior. The point of the promises is that He pledges Himself to a total work of salvation," (Motyer, 2). After Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden by God (Gen. 3:24), they had children (Gen. 4). The sin of man endured as the oldest son of Adam and Eve murdered the younger (Genesis 4:8). The wickedness of man continued through the next several generations, but God chose to extend grace to a man named Noah (Gen. 6:8) and his family by revealing His plan for a global flood and establishing a covenant with him (Gen. 7-9:17). Though God saved humanity through Noah, sinful man again attempted to steal God's glory, but the plans were thwarted and God scattered them and confused their language (Gen. 9:1-9). Several generations later, Abram was called out of his country by God and given the covenantal promises of land, seed, and blessing (Gen. 12-23). He believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3). Abraham (God changed his name from Abram) and his wife Sarah had a son, Isaac to whom the covenant promises were extended (Gen. 24-25:1-23). Likewise, Isaac and his wife Rebekah had a son (Jacob), to whom the covenant promises were also extended (Gen. 26-35). Jacob's son Joseph, was sold into slavery by his brothers (Gen. 37:12-36), but God blesses him so that he becomes mighty in Egypt (Gen. 39:2-6; Gen. 41:37-57). The favor of God towards the Israelites (descendants of Jacob) eventually becomes a reason of envy and hatred by Egypt and Pharaoh oppresses them (Ex. 1:8-22). God calls the nation of Israel out of bondage with signs and wonders through the leadership of Moses and enters into a covenant with Israel (Ex. 2-15). The Lord gives them the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai and establishes laws to govern them by and instructs them to make an ark and a tabernacle for Him to "dwell" in (Ex. 19-27). A priesthood and formal system of sacrificies is instituted as well, so that atonement is made for sin (Ex. 28-29; Lev.). The first generation (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb) wandered in the desert for forty years and the Lord condemned them to death, but Joshua led the second generation into the promised land (Deut. 31:7-8; Num. 14:20-38). Israel continued to rebel against their leadership, so God appointed them Judges like Joshua (Josh. 1) and Samuel (1 Sam. 3) to govern them. The nation desired a king like their neighbors, so God gave them Saul (1 Sam. 9-10). He ruled well for a time, but disobeyed God and was replaced by David (1 Sam. 15-16). God then made another covenant, this time with David and His bloodline (2 Sam. 7). David's kingship was passed to his son Solomon (1 Kings 1), but the kingdom was eventually divided into the tribes of the northern and southern kingdoms (1 Kings 12:16-24). Over the next few hundred years, both kingdoms would be taken into captivity (Jer. 24). When the nation was freed, many went home to rebuild, but a large number stayed in the land where they were taken captive (Ezra 1-2). Wars raged throughout the land, dynasties rose and fell, and the people of God were in utter ruin; their hope in God dwindling. While the future of God's chosen race seemed uncertain and their outcome bleek, the Lord God, whose word is true, would show His faithfulness in keeping His promise perfectly.

"Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated unto the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein He was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent's head; and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world; being yesterday and today the same, and forever," (The Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter VIII; Article VI). After about four hundred years the second person of the Holy Trinity, condescended and took on flesh to fulfill the covenant promises (Luke 2). God the Father sent His Holy Spirit upon a virgin and she conceived a child and named him Jesus (Jehovah is salvation). Born of the Davidic bloodline (Isaiah 11; Matt. 1; Rom. 1:2-4), this "Lion of the Tribe of Judah" (Gen. 49:8-12; Rev. 5:5) fulfilled all that was foretold of Him in the law and the prophets (Luke 24), and performed signs and wonders. Jesus of Nazareth, who was fully God and fully man, was born under the law and lived a perfectly righteous and sinless life (1 John 3:5). This God-man, came into the world to provide salvation to sinners by propitiating (atoning or satisfying) God's wrath on sin (Rom. 3; Heb. 2).Though He was betrayed by one of His disciples, and unjustly tried, imprisoned, and sentenced to death, this was not unknown to Him, for He prophesied about His crucifixion (Matt. 16:21-23). The cross of Christ was an event that demonstrated the glory of God by simultaneously showing His justice and mercy. "The most spectacular display of God's glory is in a bloody instrument of torture because that is where God's goodness was most displayed," (Carson, 115). Not only did Christ know about it beforehand, but He and the other members of the Holy Trinity foreordained it. This was an integral part of God’s plan of redemption. The gospel of Jesus Christ, who lived and died, and was raised and exalted to the right hand of the Father, was the message of redemption and reconciliation that the Old Testament institutions and promises pointed to. The salvation of sinners has now been fulfilled by His substitutionary atonement on the cross. He died, was buried for three days, and conquered death by rising victoriously from the grave (1 Cor. 15:1-4). While His atoning work is finished, Christ lives and intercedes for us now. As was promised, He poured out His Spirit upon the leaders of the church in the first century and that Spirit continues to minister to believers today in a variety of ways.

"Finding all of our supreme joy and contentment in the God who is there, this God who discloses Himself forever and perfectly, inexhaustibly, before His own blood-bought people, means that all of the culture of the new heaven and the new earth will be suffused with shalom, with the well-being, the flourishing, the social peace whose measureless source is the one who sits on the throne, and the Lamb," (Carson, 222). There will soon be a day when Christ shall return to defeat the enemies of His kingdom and bring His people home to rest (1 Thes. 3:11-13; Rev. 19). It shall be a terrific and awesome day when the Lord returns; while His people will be saved from eternal torment, those who are not His will be justly condemned (Rev. 20:11-14) "When the time comes and the Lord Himself swings His sickle, time as we know it will be no more, and judgment will be final... you move into the new heaven and the new earth—or you move into hell itself—and you remain in principle what you are already. If as a Christian you are already seen as righteous in Christ, if you have already been increasingly conformed to the likeness of Christ, you move into a new heaven and a new earth, and righteousness becomes yours..." (Carson, 209-210). Everything finds its fulfillment with God. That which He has made serves its ultimate purpose according to His will. Human beings, in particular, will either be freely justified by faith and reconciled to the Creator, or justly condemned and eternally separated from the Almighty God for denying Him. We will either experience the terror of hell and inherit death for the wages of sin, or positional fulfillment of God's promise to His children; namely, that they will rest in a land of their own in His presence doing what they were made for: worship. "The heavens are the LORD’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!" (Ps. 115:16-18).

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology: New Combined Edition; Grand Rapids; Eerdmans (1996) p. 221
Carson, D.A. The God Who is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story; Grand Rapids; Baker (2010) pp. 115; 209-210; 222
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine; Grand Rapids; Zondervan (1995) p. 267
Motyer, J. Alec. "Covenant and Promise"; Evangel: The British Evangelical Review; Vol. 1:1 (1983) p. 2
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs; Wheaton; Tyndale House (1993) p. 22
Vos, Geerhardus. Biblical Theology: Old and New Testament; Banner of Truth (1975) p. 34
The Westminster Confession of Faith. (1646) Chapters I.VI; VIII.VI

All Scripture references are from the ESV (English Standard Version).

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