Salvation: Do We Have a Choice?

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I have been a Christian for many years and in all that time, the three subjects that seem to have generated more confusion and conflict within the Body of Christ than anything else have been…

Predestination and Election
The Eternal Security of the Believer, and
Women in Ministry.

For all of the discussion and arguments provoked by these subjects, though, not much in the way of a consensus seems to have been achieved.  I believe this is primarily due to the fact that proponents on both sides of the issues have often neglected to interpret the verses supporting their positions within their immediate contexts, as well as within the overall context of the scriptures.  However, I believe that once they have been interpreted with a proper understanding of God’s overall purpose for man, and with a clear definition of the terms involved, we will find that these concepts are not all that difficult to grasp and that most, if not all, of the confusion can be eliminated.

Predestination and Election

What Predestination and Election Are All About

Since both Predestination and Election and Eternal Security relate to the subject of Salvation—which we are presently addressing in this series of exercises—they will be dealt with in each of our next two sessions, while the subject of Women in Ministry will be addressed in a session of its own at a later time.  Now, as for…

Predestination

The most important requirement for understanding Predestination is the knowledge that God’s purpose in creating mankind was to bring into existence a people who could ultimately become His family.  The significance of this purpose becomes clear when we look at three passages of scripture which address the subject of predestination; for, in each one, Predestination is presented within the context of the believer’s membership in the family of God:

In Ephesians 1: 4-5:  He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.

In Romans 8: 29:  For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren [brothers].

In Ephesians 1:11:  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted Christ should be to the praise of His glory.  (This verse should be coupled with Romans 8: 16-17:  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.)

From these passages, it is easy to see that we have been Predestined—

–   To be adopted as sons of God—that is, to be legally placed into the family of God as His children;
–   To be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus—that is, to be remade spiritually until we think, look, and act like God’s children;
–   To obtain an inheritance—that is, as legally adopted sons, and as spiritually conformed sons, to inherit the estate of our Father.  This inheritance was secured for us through the death of Jesus Christ, and is an inheritance which we will receive upon our own deaths.

Once we understand that God’s purpose for Predestination was to make us part of His family, then we can come to a better appreciation of the term’s definition.  The word predestine is made up of two components…

…pre—meaning before + destine—meaning to set apart (or intend) for a certain purpose.

When God says that we have been predestined, what He means is that pre-, or before the foundation of the world, He destined, or set man apart for a certain purpose—or, He designed us in advance for a particular destiny.  As we have just seen, that destiny is:

–   To be adopted as sons of God;
–   To be conformed to the image of Christ; and,
–   To inherit the riches of the Father.

Support Adoption

Supporting Adoption Through Salvation

But how did He accomplish this?  First, God pre-designed us for our destiny by the way in which He originally created us; and second, through His plan for our re-creation, or Salvation.

In Genesis 1: 26-28, we are told that when God created man, He created him in His own image and likeness.  That is, He created man:

–  With a spirit which would live eternally, like God;
–  With a soul consisting of a personality made up of mind, will, and emotions, like God; and,
–  As a moral being with the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, like God.

However, when the first man, Adam, was seduced by Satan, he failed the first test of “Sonship” which was obedience to the Father.  As a result, man’s spirit, the means by which he communicated with God, died; and, without the spirit to give godly direction to his personality, man became a slave not only to his fleshly desires but a slave to Satan as well.

When God’s intended “sons” became slaves to sin and Satan, He put into effect the second part of His plan for our Predestination—that is, His plan for our re-creation or Salvation.  Through the substitutionary and sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, God provided the means by which we could be redeemed, justified, and regenerated from the curse, penalty, and power of sin.  Then, through the work of the Holy Spirit, He provided the means by which we could be drawn to God, convicted of our need to be saved, converted from sinners into “sons” of God, and sanctified, or set apart for the holy purposes of God.

As you can see, every human being who has ever lived has been predestined—or designed beforehand—for the glorious destiny of becoming a child of God, just by virtue of the way He was created by God.  However, because we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God’s intention for us, not everyone will realize that destiny—and this is where election comes into play.

Election

By definition, Election means a choosing or choice, implying that a vote of some sort has taken place.  However, this does not mean that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have held an election in order to vote on which person will or will not be allowed into the family; for that would contradict the clear meaning of Scripture in passages like:

Heaven or Help

Be Sure to Cast Your Vote for Heaven Before It’s Too Late

John 3:14-16:  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Joel 2: 32 and Acts 2:21:  And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10: 11: For the Scripture says, Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

So, if the members of the Godhead are not the Ones doing the voting, then that must mean that the ones who are making the choices are the humans involved.  In other words, although God has predestined, or pre-designed, every human being to become a member of His family, the responsibility for electing, or choosing, to do so rests with the individual.  The conclusion that we must come to is that God, in His foreknowledge, knows who will and who will not elect to become His children, but He does not do the electing for them.  Man, having been created in the image of God, with the capacity to choose and a will to exercise, is not only given the opportunity but also the responsibility to choose where, and with whom, his spirit will spend eternity.

Now that we have been strengthened by this understanding of God’s purposes through Predestination and Election, we are ready move on, more fully prepared to take on our next challenging exercise—which is, the question of whether or not we can lose the Salvation that Christ died to give us.

Predestination

Everyone Has Been Predestined for Adoption into the Family of God

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Jesus invites ALL to come, just as they are…

 

God Remembers…

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In anticipation of our soon-to-begin Vignette #8, let’s take a few minutes to review the situation that poor Noah was in when our last Vignette ended.  As you may recall he, his immediate family, and a large number of animals were locked up in the Ark—the really big boat he had built at God’s direction—and were floating around on what must have seemed like an interminable sea.

The Ark on the Waves

At Sea in the Ark

This massive ocean had come into being (perhaps I should say it had come back into being) when God released onto the earth the waters which had been stored above and below it at the beginning of creation; an action which eliminated nearly every trace of His original creative work and restored the earth to its initial state of primordial chaos.

We also need to think back to the summary statements of our off-stage Narrator, made just before the curtains closed on Vignette #7, as he sadly reported…

And all flesh died that moved on the earth (Gen. 7:21)…
Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark (Gen. 7:23)…
And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days (Gen. 7:24)…

I don’t know about you but if it had been me, by this time I would have been one severely traumatized human being; not only because I had so recently endured the most terrorizing of all disasters—one involving earthquakes, volcanoes, fires, floods, and hurricane-like storms—but, as it was just pointed out by our Narrator, because I and all those with me would have now been cooped up on a boat for 150 days, without any sign of land or end to our cruising in sight!  Certainly, 150 days would have given me plenty of time to ruminate on our situation and to formulate a list of the “concerns” that I would have liked to have presented to God, should I ever hear from Him again.  In fact, if it had been me there, instead of Noah, here are a few of the issues I would have liked to have brought up in my next encounter with Him…

  1. God, what happened to You—where did You go? Did You forget about us?  We haven’t had a word from You in 150 days.  Given the ordeal that we have just been through, couldn’t You have made an appearance every once in a while to give us an update on what has been going on outside of this boat?
  1. Speaking of these 150 days, when I first signed on for this venture, I was led to believe that it would only last for 40 days and 40 nights—roughly six weeks and not the five months which it has become. As You well know, I have already invested a good part of my life, not to mention all of my material resources, in this undertaking; so I don’t think it is asking too much for You to have been a little more upfront about the actual terms of this contract—especially when You know how much I value having a clear “Definition of Terms” laid out for me, with no contingencies hidden away in the fine print.
  1. You see, if I had only known in advance how long this confinement was going to last, I would have packed a lot more clothes and brought a lot more scrolls to read; plus, the boys could have brought along some of their musical instruments to help break up the boredom. During the 40 days that the Deluge was in progress, we at least had the sound of the wind and the rain, not to mention the on-going underground rumblings and convulsions to listen to.  But for the past 110 days, there has been NOTHING to break up the sound of dead air and the monotonous drone of water sloshing up against the hull of the boat.
  1. Finally, about the living conditions here on the Ark, I am very sorry to have to report that they have been a lot more challenging than what I had anticipated. Of particular concern to me have been…

The Water Situation

Because of the foresight that You gave us, we knew to incorporate cisterns into the design and construction of the Ark and, during the forty-day downpour, we were able to collect and store a great deal of rainwater in them.  However, since the rain ended—and since we have been confined on board a lot longer than I had originally planned for—we have been unable to replenish our supplies.  In light of this, and not knowing how much longer we will be afloat, it seems that the wisest course for us to take now is to initiate a water rationing program for the duration of this trip.

The Sanitation Problem

Of course, the rationing of our water will mean limiting the number of baths we can take and the amount of laundry we can do–plus, it will make keeping this huge vessel clean virtually impossible.  When you consider that we haven’t had a really good breeze through here since the rain stopped, and with odor from the animals wafting up from the two lower tiers of the Ark to add to our aroma, the atmosphere in the upper tier where we are living will, no doubt, soon become rather rank.

By the way, about the animals, we are very grateful that once they were settled in their darkened cubicles and the boat started rocking back and forth, they all seemed to drift off into the deepest and most extended period of sleep imaginable—in fact, they are all still sleeping.  I just can’t imagine how we would have ever fed them all, plus dispatched all of their pooh, had they been awake all of this time!

The Matter of Our Diet

As for our food, we have been eating nothing but grains and dried fruit for the past five months and, to put it bluntly, we are getting pretty sick of it.  There are only so many ways these foods can be prepared—especially when you consider that, due to safety concerns, we cannot light a fire over which to cook them.  Mrs. Noah has done her best to be creative but really, our menu is getting awfully tiresome and, after all of this time, it is starting to taste a little stale.

It is not that I am complaining, mind You; it’s just that, while we are so very thankful to be alive—particularly when everyone else on the earth has perished—I felt I should call these things to Your attention, in the event that another flood of this magnitude is called for in the future.  If it is, then You can use this information to make adjustments to the plan, and to work out the bugs in the operation before any such disaster gets underway.  Oh…just an afterthought…in the event that another Ark is ever needed, it would really be nice to have a deck on top so that, when the rain is over, whoever is manning the ship can go out and get some sun and fresh air.  I am not complaining, mind You—I’m just saying…

With that, we begin to hear the sound of splashing water coming from the Stage, and as the curtains open, we see the Ark—just as we left it—bobbing up and down on the waves.  And, as if he had been reading my thoughts, we hear our Narrator open this Vignette with these words…

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark.

And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.  The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually (Gen. 8:1-2).

And, as if to let us know that this wasn’t going to be an overnight process, he goes on to add that…

…At the end of 150 days the water had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.  And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen (Gen. 8:3-5).

Noah Releasing the Raven

Noah Releasing the Raven

We then watch as Noah, after waiting another forty days, opens the window of the Ark and sends out a raven which, rather than returning to the Ark, flies back and forth over the waters until they are dried up off of the earth.  Noah also sends out a dove at this time but, when she can find no dry place to land, she returns to him in the Ark.  Undaunted, seven days later, Noah tries the same thing again, only this time the dove comes back to him in the evening with a freshly plucked olive leaf in her mouth.  While this lets Noah know that the waters have subsided, ever patient, he waits another seven days before sending out the dove again.  This time, however, she does not return.

After this, our Narrator continues with this commentary…

…in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth.  And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked and behold, the face of the ground was dry.

In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out.  Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.  Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animal and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’

So [after spending 370 days in the ArkNoah went out, and his sons and his wife and his son’s wives with him.  Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark (Gen.8:13-19).

Noah leaving the Ark

Leaving the Ark–At Last!

In another little aside here, let me just say—if it had been me there, instead of Noah, after floating around in a boat with a bunch of animals for over a year, a boat over which I had no controls,  I would have fallen down and kissed the ground, dirt and all–even though I have no use whatsoever for dirt, sweat, or bugs!  I would have been so happy to be back on solid ground again, I would have hugged that dirt until someone came and scraped me up off of it. Once again, I am not complaining, I am just saying…

Noah's Offering Following the Flood

Noah’s Worship and Offering of Thanksgiving

However, on our Stage, we see Noah do something entirely different.  He immediately sets about building a makeshift altar with the few materials he can find, and upon which he proceeds to offer some of every clean animal and bird he brought with him as a burnt offering.  But, while we sit silently, reverently, watching the smoke from the offering rise heavenward, our reverie is suddenly shattered by the voice of the Lord as He utters this all-important promise…

I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.  Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.  While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease (Gen. 8:21-22).

Then, in much the same way that He did with Adam and Eve, God blesses Noah and his sons, saying…

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it (Gen. 9:1, 7).

However, unlike He did with Adam and Eve, God tells Noah that from now on…

The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea.  Into your hand they are delivered.  Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.  And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.  And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning:  from every beast I will require it and from man.  From his fellow man I will require a reckoning of the life of man.  For…whoever shed the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image (Gen. 9:2-6).

Then, as if this wasn’t enough, God—who had warned Noah of the Flood, who had instructed Noah how to build an Ark for the safety of him, his family, and the animals, and who had protected and provided for Noah throughout the tribulation of the Flood and its aftermath—does one more amazing thing.  He enters into a covenant with Noah—that is, He initiates a contract with him, in which He promises that…

…never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:  I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.  This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth (Genesis 9-17).

Noah's Rainbow

The Sign of God’s Promise to Noah

Wow, what a wonderful promise–and what a great place at which to end Vignette #8! Before we leave this Vignette, though, let me just say, that with this promise, all of my previously stated “concerns”–you know, the ones that were offered in the event of another flood–can be completely disregarded.  For, while they were legitimate at the time, they are now no longer relevant.  Please keep in mind that I am still not complaining, I am only saying…

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Join the Gaithers as they remind us that in any crisis, as long as we are in the Ark of Salvation, “It Is Well With My Soul”…

 

 

Biblical illustrations courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org/.

Wednesday’s Gift…

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Wednesday’s gift in celebration of His Truth, My Voice’s second birthday is a replay of my favorite teaching video, “The Bible:  The Story Behind the Bible.”  I originally created this as a PowerPoint presentation to be used in my Bible Studies and then later converted it to a video.  If you have ever wondered what the Big Story of the Bible is, then this video should help explain it to you.

 

Tuesday’s Gift…

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Tuesday’s Gift in celebration of His Truth, My Voice’s second birthday is a return visit to the reflection,

“Of Trees and Tapestries…”    

Tapestry

A Beautiful Example of a Tapestry

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spiritthat they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Try to imagine with me, if you can, what human history might look like to God, as He surveys it from beginning to end.  From the prophetic insight given to us by Isaiah in the passage above, it seems quite likely that God would view it as a forest of trees, one stretching all the way from the Garden of Eden to the coming Paradise in the new Heaven and Earth; trees which, in His eyes, are representative of the countless lives of men and women throughout history who have been made righteous by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  As plantings of God, they have come in every size and shade imaginable, yet they have all produced the same desired fruit of holiness by which the Lord God, the creator and sustainer of all the earth, will forever be glorified!  What a truly satisfying picture this would be for God to behold; nothing less than a magnificent tapestry depicting His marvelous and ages-long redemption; an intricately woven work of art designed to surround His throne and to testify of His unfathomable love, grace, and mercy for all eternity.

Weaving on a Loom

At Work on a Loom

Although some may not be all that familiar with tapestries, they have been around for quite a long time, with some known to have been in use as far back as the ancient Grecian era.  Similar in texture to carpets, but hung on walls instead of covering floors, tapestries have served as portable murals for centuries, often gracing the throne rooms of kings as ways of depicting the memorable events or victories that have taken place during their reigns.  Typically, tapestries are woven on vertical looms, or large wooden frames, that hold two sets of threads—the longer set being the stationary, immutable threads running lengthwise which are called the “warp,” with the shorter set being the variable threads running width-wise which are called the “weft.”  The threads making up the warp are held in place under tension by the two sturdy frames at the end of the looms; while the shorter and discontinuous weft (threads) are woven in and out of part or all of the warp to create the design of the tapestry.

With this imagery in mind, let’s now try to imagine how such a weaving process might be applied to the story of God’s redemption.  To begin, let’s close our eyes and try to visualize an enormous loom being set into place by God when, “In the beginning…,” He bracketed the timeline for His redemptive story through the placement of two sturdy frames, one marking the beginning and the other marking the ending of human history.  Having already discussed these at great length during many of our previous visits, we should be quite familiar with the two wooden frames by now; for they are the two trees that man was given to choose from in the Garden of Eden.  The tree that was chosen, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, in its choice, became the beginning frame for the tapestry; while the tree that was rejected, the Tree of Life, took its place as the end frame—the frame toward which all of the design work was to be directed.

Given the enormous distance between these two frames and the incredible number of events that the design of this tapestry was meant to depict, we should not be surprised to learn that an additional piece of wood had to be inserted at the midpoint of the loom in order to secure and support the weight of the weaving work which would be taking place upon it.  This plank was a tree, too, and one that we have also already discussed; for it was the Cross on which the Son of God was crucified; the lifeless tree which, throughout time, has served as the embodiment of all of mankind’s dead works and futile attempts at self-salvation.

Now, with the framework for the loom all set up in our minds, let’s begin to visualize the commencement of the weaving process as the first set of threads are placed on the loom.  These are the warp (threads), and for the purposes of this tapestry, they are ten unbreakable cords which have been stretched tautly from, and then securely fastened to, the first side frame, over the middle plank, and on to the other side frame.  White in color and extending out across the ages, these cords are God’s eternally fixed standards of holiness–His unchanging rules for righteous living–known to us as the Ten Commandments; the plumb lines against which the actions of all men will be and have been measured.   It is only fitting that these should be the first threads that are woven into the fabric of redemption because, unlike everything else:

     –   The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;  the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
     –   The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
     –   The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever, the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether (Ps. 19:7-9).

Given the nature of these laws, what better foundation for redemption could have been laid, other than these?

With God’s laws now securely attached to the frames of the loom, the really intricate work on the tapestry can begin to get underway.  What makes this part of the process so tricky is that before the weft (threads)—or those short and variegated “loose threads”created by humanity’s failures to measure up to the standards of God’s laws—can be woven over and under that holy warp, they must first be tied to the crimson cord that runs through the entire length of the tapestry’s design.  This cord was introduced into the human story immediately following man’s first violation of God’s command and, as the cord of redeeming faith, it went on to connect every image in the story, from the beginning frame at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, all the way to the Cross, and then on to the end frame at the Tree of Life.

Of course, this cord was none other than our blessed Redeemer, Jesus Christ; the One who was promised, the One who came, and the One who will come again—and, the only One capable of salvaging all of the threads left dangling by the sins of mankind and then incorporating them into a beautiful and eternal work of art for all to behold.  And how was He able to do this?  By dying the death that should have been ours, on the tree representing all of our dead works, He was able to remove sin’s curse, and open the way to the Tree of Life once more, to any and all who would believe.

Try to imagine with me, if you can, God looking around His throne room, gazing lovingly upon His glorious tapestry of redemption—the one depicting the millions, perhaps even billions, of oak trees that were made righteous through their faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ; each tree springing up from a seed sown in the earth and then growing toward heaven, and each tree reproducing that one seed many times over through an abundant spiritual harvest, some of which will include:

     –   the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” that was produced through the discipline of the Lord (Heb. 12:11);
     –   the fruit of a life transformed by the Spirit, one in which the very character of Christ was reproduced;
     –   the fruit of many answered prayers;
     –   the fruit of souls that were won for the Lord; and,
     –   the fruit that was produced whenever fear was overcome by faith, darkness was overcome by the light, and the flesh was overcome by the Spirit.

Try to imagine with me, if you can, the kind of joy a sight such as this would bring to the heart of God.

When, at the end of time, God scans His forest of trees, will He find you there?  Will you be a part of His tapestry of redemption—one of His oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified?  If not, can there possibly be a good reason why not?

 

God's Trees of Righteousness

God’s Many Trees of Righteousness

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

The Tapestry of Redemption presented in song, by the Tally Trio in “He Saw Me/Jesus Paid it All.”

 

 

Searching for Truth in the First Book of Begats

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Although I now use the English Standard Version as my study Bible, when I first started out, oh so many years ago, I used the King James Version—a translation that I loved because of the more melodic and poetic language it used in its presentation of the Bible Story.  The one aspect of that translation that I did not care for, though, was its use of the word “begat” in the many genealogies recorded for us in scripture.  “Begat” always sounded so harsh and impersonal that its use made those already tedious and uninteresting passages all the more difficult to get into and to appreciate.  And yet, when I was finally able to get past the archaic wording, as well as all of the repetitious and somewhat sanitized documentation contained in the passages,  I found that there was a lot of truth waiting to be discovered there among all of those old “begats.”  And, searching for some of those truths is what we will be attempting to do next, as we pause to critique the first such list in the Bible—the one which was presented in our most recent Vignette, “The Lineup to the Flood.”The Book of Begats

This Vignette, number five of the nine which make up Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story, covers the material found in Genesis 5; a chapter which introduced us to the descendants of Adam though his son, Seth.  It should be noted here that Cain’s descendants, as the rejected line, were introduced back in Vignette #4 and, following their brief moment in the spotlight, they moved to their proper place at the rear of the stage.  Now, as for how we will conduct our search for truth in Seth’s line of begats, it will be done by analyzing the People, Patterns, and Precedents that were presented to us in the course of this Vignette.

The People…

An important thing for us to remember, when coming to this first genealogical list in the Bible, is that all of these funny sounding and sometimes hard to pronounce names belonged to real people, living in real time, and doing life in very real ways.  They were people who had to work for a living, who had to find and make homes for themselves and their families, who had to learn to relate to the other people around them—however difficult they may have been, and who had to learn to cope with the raising of children—many, many children, in fact.  Because they were all descended from Adam, this meant that they were all members of the same family—with everyone, at any given time, having to fill the roles of mother or father, brother or sister, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, or grandparent or grandchild to someone else.  What a relationship nightmare that must have been!

However, there was more to being a descendant of Adam than merely belonging to the same huge physical family; it also meant being members of the same huge spiritual family.  Since each one had come into the world bearing the image and likeness of Adam, this meant that they, like he, were all sinners in desperate need of redemption.  Even though not all of them would go on to acknowledge this need in their lives, the ten that did were lined up across our stage—with one representing each of the ten generations from Adam to Noah.  As the men who held on to their faith in God, and to the promise He had made to Eve concerning a coming Redeemer, they, as the members of the Antediluvian Spiritual Hall of Fame, were the ones who kept the promise and the lineage of that Redeemer alive all the way to and through the Flood.  Of these ten, there are four—Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, and Noah–who merit special recognition; something which we will be sure to give them when we get to the Precedents section of this critique.

The Patterns…

But for now, though, let’s take a step back and try to get a look at the big picture presented to us by the men in this genealogy.  For, in so doing, we will see some Patterns starting to develop, as a result  of the sin nature passed down by Adam, which will characterize the human experience from this point on.  They are…

  • Life becomes a tedious and monotonous cycle of birth, reproduction, and death;
  • As this cycle repeats itself and as more and more people are born into the world, the level of wickedness increases dramatically while righteousness decreases in a corresponding manner;
  • This decrease in righteousness leads to a diminishing of the hope that God’s promise of a Redeemer will ever be fulfilled which, in turn, leads to an ever increasing sense of despair among the people of God;
  • But, even in the face of this all of this wickedness and despair, God repeatedly proves His faithfulness by His on-going preservation of a remnant through whom the Redeemer will one day come.

The Precedents…

As for the precedents that were established during this pre-flood period in history, if we look at the unusual way in which this chapter opens, and at the unique characteristics of the men previously singled out for special recognition, we will find these Precedents to include…

1.  The Precedent of The Book of the Righteous… 

When Chapter 5 opens, it does so by saying, “This is the book of the generations of Adam”—a statement marking out a whole new section in the book of Genesis.  We know that it is the beginning of something new because toledoth, the Hebrew word for generations, is used eleven times in Genesis, and each of those times it is used to designate a break or a transition in the story.  But, while a break in the story is significant, it isn’t unusual enough to qualify as a precedent-setting event.  For that, we need to direct our attention to sepher, the Hebrew word for book, because its use here marks the first time that a record of human history is made, and that God begins recording a list of the righteous.

The Book of LifeThis list of names will become a special set of books, later referred to as The Book of Life, which, when human history comes to an end, will be brought out for all to see.  Its ultimate revealing will take place at something called the Great White Throne Judgment; the climactic end-time event described in Revelation 20 where, in verses 12 and 15, the Apostle John describes how these books will be used…

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Then another book was opened, which was the book of life.  And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done…And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

From this, we can conclude that the name of every human being who has ever lived will be written in one set of books, along with everything he or she has ever done.  In addition to these, there is another set of books, referred to here and in other places as “The Book of Life,” which contains the names of all of those who, through faith, have trusted in God for their salvation.  While everyone’s name will be listed in the first set of books, only the names of those who are deemed righteous according to God’s standards will appear in the second set of books—books which had their origins here in Genesis 5.

2.  The Precedent of The Practice of Prayer… 

From what we can gather about Adam’s and Eve’s, and Cain’s and Abel’s encounters with God, they appeared to have taken place on a personal and very intimate level.  However, with the appearance of Seth, and at about the time that his son, Enosh, was born, a new and different shift in the way men approached God seems to have taken place.  This change is noted for us in Genesis 4:25-26, where it says that…

…Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.”  To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.

Praying HandsAlthough this passage tells us that men, for the first time, began to call upon God in prayer, it doesn’t explain why this practice became necessary.  Was it because, as more and more people were born, worship became less of an individual practice and more of a corporate one? Or, was it because God, in response to the ever-increasing level of wickedness upon the earth, had withdrawn His presence from among the people?  Whatever the reason, here in the lifetime of righteous Seth, the practice of prayer had become a necessity and became an established precedent in the lives of godly men. 

3.  The Precedent of Preaching and Prophesying… 

Because the population and the level of wickedness began increasing at such an alarming rate, it wasn’t long before the preaching of repentance and the prophesying about a coming judgment became a necessity.  And, as we learn in Jude 14, 15, 16, 19, this was something that Enoch undertook with great zeal…

It was also about these [the wicked] that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” …These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage…It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

PreachingAlthough there may have been others who had seen the need for this type of ministry and practiced it before the time of Enoch, it was during his lifetime and as a result of his ministry that the preaching of repentance and the prophesying about judgment became, for us, a Biblically-documented Precedent. 

4.  The Precedent of The Translation or Rapture of the Saints… 

Not only was the Precedent of Preaching and Prophesying established in the life and ministry of Enoch, the Precedent of a Translation or Rapture of the Righteous was also established by him.  For in Genesis 5:24 we are told that…

…Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him…

…and in Hebrews 11:5, that…

…By faith, Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.”

Although another translation from this life to the next, without experiencing death, was realized centuries later by the prophet Elijah, the ultimate fulfillment of the precedent set by Enoch is still to take place at the end of time when, just before the onslaught of an event known as The Tribulation, a global translation or rapture of the Saints from the earth will take place.  Just as Enoch was removed from the early world prior to the Tribulation of the Flood, those who are alive and whose names are written in the Book of Life, at the end of time, will also be “taken up” because they, like Enoch, had obtained the witness that they walked with and were pleasing to God.Rapture

5.  The Precedent of God’s Long-suffering and Mercy…

In Genesis 5: 21-24, we learn that…

…When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah, Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years.  Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

And, then, in Genesis 5:27 that…

…all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.

The implication in the first passage is that before his son’s birth, Enoch had gone his own way, but that following Methuselah’s birth, he began developing a close, personal walk with God.  This, to me, begs the question of “Why the big change all of a sudden?”

Although the meaning of Methuselah’s name has not been completely settled for some, many believe that it means, “When he is gone, it will come”—with “it” referring to the judgment of the flood about which Enoch would later prophesy.  If so, it could be that Enoch had received a revelation about the coming judgment at the time of Methuselah’s birth; and, if he had, it would only be logical for him to believe that he might only have a short period of time in which to repent.  What if his son only lived a year or five years?  Not knowing how long a life his son would have would certainly have been reason enough for getting his life right with God as soon as possible—and to begin preaching to others about their need to do the same.

Could it be that Methuselah lived longer than other human because God, in His mercy, was trying to give men every opportunity to repent, like Enoch did?  It would certainly seem so, for as the second passage tells us, not only did God extend Methuselah’s life longer than any other human being’s, but that the year he died was the same year that the flood came upon the earth.

6.  The Precedent of The Preservation of a Remnant through Tribulation and Judgment…

Remnant in the ArkBy the time Methuselah’s son Lamech had a son of his own, things must have seemed pretty dismal because, when he named his name Noah, he spoke this prophecy over him, recorded for us in Genesis 5:29…

… ‘This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.’”

We shall see the fulfillment of this prophecy in our upcoming Vignette, for it will be through Noah that God will…

  • Reach out to the lost in his generation;
  • Bring the judgment of the Flood upon all of those who refuse to repent; and,
  • Faithfully protect and provide for His own, through the Precedent of the Preservation of a Remnant through Tribulation and Judgment.

As you can see, there is a lot more truth in this first book of begats than initially meets the eye; and, since “…All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…(2 Timothy 3:16),” it is still relevant and has application for our lives today.  That’s because, like those living between Adam and Noah…

  • We are all sinners whose natural end is death and eternal separation from God;
  • However, we can choose life instead of death by choosing to follow in the way of Seth instead of in the way of Cain;
  • This choice will always put us at odds with the majority who will be following Cain and the ways of the world;
  • But it will also mean that our names will be written in the Book of Life;
  • This will give us access to God through prayer;
  • It will motivate us to reach out to the lost through our testimony of the truth; and,
  • It will provide us the assurance that God will either take us out before, or preserve us through, any kind of tribulation or judgment that may come upon the wicked.

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Selah reminds us that throughout every age, God remains the “Faithful One…”

 

 

 

 

Vignette #5: Our Lineup to the Flood

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Genesis 1-4:  The Story So FarNow that we have completed our critique of the story of Cain and Abel, it is time for us to move on to the next Vignette, or mini-story, in our presentation of “God’s One Big Story.”  In order to put things into perspective, and as a benefit to those who may be new to our group, I think it is a good idea to do a brief recap of our story so far.

Here at His Truth, My Voice, we are currently undertaking a guided tour of the Bible, a tour which we have been referring to as “The Journey into the Land of Revelation Knowledge.”  We have named it this because, in going deeper into the Word of God, we will be traveling to places where the priceless revelations of who God is, who we are, and the parts we are to play in His wonderful Love Story of Redemption will be made known to us.

In order to aid us in our understanding of this Story, it is being presented to us in the form of a Play, consisting of Two Acts, each containing Six Scenes, which are separated by one long Intermission.  The Scenes and Intermission are being acted out on a series of Fourteen Stages and, at present, we are at Stage #1 where Vignette #5 of Act 1, Scene 1 is about to get underway.

In Scene 1, we have been introduced to God in His role as “The Celestial Suitor”—the Supreme Being whose ultimate goal is to have a spiritual family to love for all eternity.  Since a family is naturally made up of a Husband and a Wife who have children, in this scene (covering the first eleven chapters of Genesis), God will create the world of nations, from which He will choose one—Israel—to be His Wife.  It will be through His relationship with her that His Son will eventually be born into the world; and, it will be through His Son that God will one day obtain the family He has always desired.  Thus far, this is what God has done toward the realization of His goal:

  • In Vignette #2/ Genesis 2He created Man and Woman to bear His image on the earth, and to multiply and fill the earth with that image of His glory. He also made them overseers of His creation, and charged them not to do one thing—eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
  • In Vignette #3/ Genesis 3…He allowed a malevolent spirit named Satan, who appeared in the form of a serpent, to test the first couple’s obedience to His will. In the serpent’s temptation, Adam and Even were presented with the only two real options in life—either to do things God’s way and live, or to go their own way and die.  When Adam and Eve chose the latter, sin, disease, and death passed upon them and all of their descendants.  But, when their sin resulted in their separation from God, He graciously showed them that their relationship with Him could be restored if their sins were atoned for through the blood sacrifice of an innocent substitute.
  • In Vignette #4/ Genesis 4…When the time came for Adam and Eve’s sons to offer their own sacrifices to God, on one such occasion, Abel’s offering was accepted while Cain’s was rejected. This made Cain so angry that he murdered his brother.  Then, when he refused to acknowledge and repent of this sin, God’s judgment led him to separate himself from God, and enter into a life of wandering.  God later provided Adam and Eve with another son, Seth, to take Abel’s place; and with his arrival, we see a division of humanity into two distinct groups beginning to take place—with Cain heading up the line of the wicked, and Seth at the head of those in the righteous line.  At the end of this Vignette/Chapter, and in keeping with the scriptural practice of identifying the members of the rejected line first, we were given the genealogy of Cain—an incorrigible line that would ultimately succeed in corrupting society, and one which would eventually end in the Flood.

This brings us up to date in our Story, and to Vignette #5, which covers the material contained in Chapter 5 of Genesis.  While there are many who would consider this to be one of the most boring chapters in the Bible, I hope to show you that there are some important things to be gleaned from its rather repetitious presentation of information.

Now PlayingWith that being said, the time has come for the next installment of our Story to begin—and for the lights in the theatre to dim and the curtains to part once more.  As they do, we find ourselves looking upon a Stage that is pretty much in the same state as when Vignette #4 ended.  The major difference is that Cain and his line of descendants have moved from the front of the stage to the back, forming a line across the rear of the stage.  The spotlight, which was previously on our right, has moved to our left, and is once more focusing on Adam, as we hear our off-stage Narrator begin his recitation with…

This is the book of the generations of Adam.  When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.  Male and female he created them, and blessed them and named them Man when they were created.  When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image and named him Seth.

Biblical Characters

Seth

Biblical Character

Adam

At this, we see Seth walk across the stage and stand next to his father.  As the spotlight moves to highlight him, we hear the Narrator speak again, saying…

The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years, and he had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died. 

This scene is then repeated five more times, with only the names and years being changed, and with our Narrator continuing in his very formulaic fashion…

When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh.  Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.

Biblical Character

Kenan

Biblical Character

Enosh

When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan.  Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 days, and he died.

When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel.  Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.

Biblical Character

Mahalalel

Biblical Character

Jared

When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared.  Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.

When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch.  Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died. 

Up to this point, everything has been going along monotonously well, but it is here—at the seventh generation from Adam—that we find something unusual taking place.  Our Narrator explains this, using the most economical description possible, by saying…

Biblical Character

Enoch

Biblical Character

Methuselah

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah.  Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years.  Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. 

In other words, unlike his predecessors, Enoch did not die but was translated out of his earthly realm of existence and into the heavenly realm of existence with God!  Then, without offering us any more to go on, and just as though this revelation was of little or no consequence, our Narrator once again resumes his narration with…

When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech.  Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.

But, just as he seems to be falling back into the same droning pattern of…

When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah… 

…and the spotlight comes to rest on Lamech, we are surprised to hear a sudden outburst from him, as he makes this prophetic statement about his son…

Biblical Character

Lamech

Bible Character

Noah

…Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands…

…after which, our Narrator continues, as before, with…

Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.

After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

The Line of the Righteous from Adam to the FloodAnd, with the line of the righteous stretched out on the stage before us, Genesis 5 or Vignette #5 abruptly comes to a halt.  The curtains close and the lights in the theatre come up again–and, we are provided with yet another pause in our production for the purpose of critiquing what has just taken place in the presentation.  Although it is tempting for us to think that there is nothing worth critiquing in this very abbreviated episode, there is quite a lot that has been revealed here that will need to be discussed.  So let’s  take a moment and change once more out of our Theatre Patrons’ Hats and into our Theatre Critics’ Hats, and get ourselves ready to analyze the People, the Patterns, and the Precedents being established in this one, seemingly uneventful, passage of Scripture.

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As Steve Green reminds us, let’s pray that when our lives are recorded  in God’s lineup of the Righteous, may all who come behind us find us faithful…