REDEMPTION IN CHRIST JESUS
The things of the Way of Life constitute RELIGION. As a word, it is derived from the Latin religio, which signifies “to bind again”; hence religion is the act of “binding again”, or that which heals a breach previously existing between two parties. The two in question are God and man. Though man sinned from the beginning, God's love is such, that He initiated terms of reconciliation: “He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The fact that God instituted religion is proof of the love He bears towards the human race. He seeks to appease men by His goodness, which invites them to repentance (Romans 2:4). God would draw men by His love which is manifested in all that He has done for the world. He has sought to enlighten it, and to exalt it to a participation in the divine nature by the ameliorating influences Of the Truth. This is styled “the Word of Reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-20), and is contained in His Word. It reveals the fact and the effect of sin, the nature of man, the need of redemption, and the means whereby salvation unto life eternal can be obtained.
(5) The Need of Redemption from Death
The Reality Of Death.
Death is a reality that none can avoid. Sooner or later its grim shadow darkens every household, its chill hand stretches out to claim every person. The tears and sorrow that attend such occasions testify to death's reality, and constitute a repudiation of the alleged immortality of the soul, so confidently, universally, but also falsely taught by Christendom. A person's feelings around the graveside confirm the teaching of the Bible: “The living know that they must die, but the dead know not anything” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
We wish to impress the fact that though belief in the theory of an immortal soul is so widespread, it is not found in the Bible. Instead, the Bible sets forth death as the cessation of all life, thought and action (Psalm 6:5; 30:9; 88:10-12; Isaiah 38:18-19); a state of silence (1 Samuel 2:9; Psalm 115:17); a condition of corruption and destruction (Acts 13:36; Job 28:22; Psalm 49:9, 12, 14, 19, 20). It teaches that Christ brought “life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10), which would not be true if man possessed an immortal soul from the beginning. It sets forth hope in a resurrection of the body from the grave unto life eternal, rather than in some immortal, intangible entity called the soul, ascending into heaven.
In no instance does the Bible set forth hope of immortal souls ascending into heaven on the death of the body; on the contrary, it dogmatically asserts that apart from a resurrection, those who have “fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (1 Corinthians 15:18).
Think on that statement! How could it be claimed that those who have “fallen asleep in Christ are perished” apart from a resurrection, if mankind possessed immortal souls? Their souls would have ascended into heaven, and it could not be claimed that they are perished, even though they may not be raised from the dead.
And notice, that it is those “in Christ” who are said to have “perished” if there be no resurrection!
The statement shows conclusively that death is a reality, not the gateway to glory, and that the need of redemption from death is urgent.
Furthermore, a testimony to death's reality is proclaimed in the fact that people don't want to die anyway even though they may profess belief in an immortal soul! It is of the greatest significance, that despite the glowing picture of heaven frequently portrayed upon the canvas of a preacher's imagination, he evinces no eager desire to wend his way thither! He continues to look upon death as a calamity, and prefers to remain alive on earth, even though his existence there might be attended with circumstances of frustration and difficulty.
Why is that so?
Because man's subconscious repudiates the false theory of life in death.
The theory of the immortality of the soul is a fallacy designed to minimise the reality of death It is claimed that death is really the gateway to greater experience in heaven, but if that were true, it would transform the great Enemy into our best friend and suicide, instead of being a crime, would be an act of wisdom! If mankind possess immortal souls, then death is no punishment as taught in the Bible (Roman 6:23), and the sacrifice of Christ to provide life was quite unnecessary, for long before his death) countless millions must have already ascended into heaven.
In contrast to this teaching, the Bible clearly teaches that the soul is mortal (Psalm 78:50; 89:48). Consider the following reasoning:
The Bible teaches: “The soul that sinneth shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Obviously this refers to all mankind, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and therefore all are mortal.
The Bible teaches: “He poured out his soul unto death” (Isaiah 53:12). The reference applies to the Lord Jesus Christ, a sinless man. So that even despite his perfect obedience, his soul died! If his soul died, we most certainly can conclude with the Bible that “no man can keep alive his soul” (Ps. 22:29).
The Bible teaches: “Those who have fallen asleep in Christ are perished” if resurrection is not a fact (1 Corinthians 15:18), but this would be incorrect under any circumstances if man possessed an immortal soul. Therefore, to believe the Bible, we must believe that man is mortal both body and soul.
The word “soul” frequently appears in the Bible, and is used in many different ways, but never as an immortal, divine spark in man that lives on after the death of the body. In Genesis 12:5 it is used for persons. In Numbers 31:28 it is used for both men and beasts. It is sometimes used in the sense of mind, disposition, life, etc. It is spoken of as being capable of hunger (Proverbs 19:15), of being satisfied with food (Lamentations 1:11, 19); of going into the grave (job 33:22, 28); of coming out of it (Psalm 49:15).
In Genesis 1:20, 30, the word is used in connection with birds, fish and animals, as well as mankind, and all are said to have “souls” in common one with the other. Thus:
“God said, let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life (margin, soul)” (Gen. 1:20).
“God created great whales, and every living creature (or living soul)” (Gen. 1:21).
“Every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life (margin soul)” (Gen. 1:30).
“God breathed into his (man's) nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7 these words are the same in the Hebrew Scriptures as those rendered “living creature” in Genesis 1:21 quoted above).
Never once, in the 800 times that the word “soul” occurs in the Bible is it referred to as being immortal, or as living on after the death of the body. Never once do the words “immortal soul” occur in conjunction in the Bible.
Hell Signifies The Grave.
Perhaps the gravest indictment against the theory of an immortal soul living on after the death of the body, is the related doctrine of bell. If the soul is immortal, a place must be found for the souls of the disobedient as well as for those of the worthy; and as the Bible reveals that most men are in the former category, and “have no hope” (Ephesians 2:12), so hell must be the destiny of the majority.
This is true, but now we must establish what bell signifies.
Many churches interpret the term as describing a place of sulphuric flame and everlasting torture. Certain symbolic passages of the Bible are taken out of their context and given a meaning never intended, and upon this distorted foundation of Scripture, there has been built up the terrible doctrine that God consigns to everlasting misery, the souls of both the wicked and the ignorant.
Such a “hell” is a figment of the imagination, and an insult to the God of love revealed in the Bible, The Christian world condemns a Hitler for the agony and torture that he instituted in the concentration camps of Germany, and yet teaches that Cod permits something even much worse and permanent in hell.
A consideration of the evidence, however, will show that the doctrine is false. False it must be, of course, if the soul of man is mortal as we have indicated above; for the two doctrines stand or fall together.
The word “hell” comes from an Anglo-Saxon root signifying “to cover.” It finds its place in such words as “helmet” which signifies a covering for the head. The “place of covering” referred to as “hell” in most places where it is used in the Bible, is the grave.
The word “hell” has been used as a translation for the Hebrew word, Sheol in the Old Testament, and the Greek word, Hades in the New Testament. But these words have also been rendered “grave” as in Genesis 42:38; Psalms 30:3, and the following places:
“O grave (sheol) I will be thy destruction” (Hosea 13:14).
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave (hades-see margin) where is thy victory” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
To be consistent, Sheol and Hades should be uniformly translated “grave” throughout the Bible.
The hell of the Bible, therefore, is the grave. The Psalmist declared:
“Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol)” (Psalm 16:10).
“God shall redeem my soul from the power of the grave (sheol) (Psalm 49:14-15).
Of Jonah it is recorded that he cried “out of the belly of hell (sheol).” This “hell” was the belly of the fish (Jonah 2:1-2), a place of covering which was to him a grave, but certainly not the “hell” of popular theology.
Peter used the term to teach the doctrine of the resurrection declaring concerning Christ: “His soul was not left in hell (hades) ” (Acts 2:31 ). It is obvious that Jesus never went to the place of torture, to which many churches refer “hell,” but that be did go to a place of covering, into the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. This was the “hell” of Peter's discourse, from whence Christ rose after three days' burial.
BIBLE ANALYSIS OF THE WORD “HELL”
The Hebrew and Greek words, “sheol” and “hades” have been both rendered by “hell” and “grave”, but should uniformly be translated “grave”. The following references list where these words appear:
“SHEOL” is rendered “grave” in the following verses: Gen. 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31; 1 Sam. 2:6; 1 Kings 2:6, 9; Job 7:9; 14:13; 21:13; 24:19; Psa. 6:5; 30:3; 31:17; 49:14-15; 88:3; 89:48; 141:7; Prov. 1:12; 30:16; Eccl. 9:10; Song 8:6; Isa. 14:11; 38:10, 18; Ezek. 31:15; Hos. 13:14.
“SHEOL” is rendered “hell” in the following verses: Deut. 32:22; 2 Sam. 22:6; Job. 11:8; 26:6; Psa. 9:17; 16:10; 18:5; 55:15; 86:13; 116:3; 139:8; Prov. 5:5; 7:27; 9:18; 15:11, 24; 23:14; 27:20; Isa. 5:14; 14:9, 15; 28:15, 18; 57:9; Ezek. 31:16, 17; 32:21, 27; Amos 9:2; Jonah 2:2; Hab. 2:5.
“HADES” is rendered “hell” in the following verses: Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14.
“HADES” is rendered “grave” in the following verse: 1 Cor 15:55.
Two other Greek words have been translated “hell” in the New Testament:
“GEHENNA” is rendered “hell” in the following verses: Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6.
“TARTAROS” is rendered “hell” in the following verse: 2 Pet. 2:4.
It will be seen from the above quotations that the terms “hell” and “grave” are interchangeable words, and relate to the “covered place”, the grave. The word “gehenna” comes from the phrase “valley of Hinnom”, a place of destruction, just outside of Jerusalem where the refuse of the city was destroyed in flame. Thus, this word relates to a state of utter destruction, from which no salvation is possible. “Tartaros” signifies a deep pit from which one would eventually be drawn out for judgment. It thus describe death-state pending judgment.
Another word rendered “hell” in the New Testament is Gehenna. Gehenna was a valley outside the walls of Jerusalem (still called by this name) in which burned a fire that was fed by the refuse of the city. Anything worthless, and to be completely destroyed was consigned into Gehenna. The term thus became synonymous with the ideas of rejection, dishonour, judgment and utter destruction.
The Lord used the term in that way to describe the fate of the wicked.
Annihilation is a far more merciful end than the terrible fate of suffering eternal torment in a hell of sulphuric flame, presided over by a diabolic genius of torture, such as some have conjured up! The idea is completely foreign to the teaching of the Bible, and to the character of the God of love and mercy revealed therein.
The Bible sets forth death as the punishment for sin (Romans 5:12), and such passages as Mark 9:43 (where the word Gehenna appears) are properly interpreted as highly descriptive and figurative expressions representing the disgrace and total extinction that awaits the sinner at Christ's return (Ps 37:10, 20, 36; 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Proverbs 24:20; Job 21:30).
Perhaps this is best illustrated by considering one use of this word, Gehenna.
It occurs, as we have stated, in Mark 9:43, and is there rendered as “into hell (Gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched.”
This continuously burning fire in Gehenna was the Jerusalem rubbish destructor that was always kept burning to consume the rubbish of the city, including the bodies of criminals.
That was clearly obvious to the people of Christ's day, though it may not be so to us today. However, a little research into Scripture will prove our point.
The Lord continued on from his reference to Gehenna, or hell, by stating:
“Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (v. 46).
In doing so, he was quoting from Isaiah 66:24, which speaks of a form of instruction that will be set up in the Promised Land, in the future age, when Christ will reign on earth. The prophet declares:
“They (worshippers-see v. 23) shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”
If these worshippers are able to go forth and view the results of judgment and punishment, the place where the “worm shall not die,” is certainly not the “hell” of current theology, but merely the grave or sepulchre of wicked men. Ezekiel 39:11, 15, 16 speaks of a great mausoleum being set up in the Holy Land, to commemorate the overthrow of those who will come up against Jerusalem to battle at the time of the end. This could well be the place referred to literally in Isaiah 66:46 and figuratively in Mark 9:43.
One fact emerges, that the “hell” of the Bible is the grave.
Redemption Is A Dire Need.
We suggest that the reader therefore open his eyes to the great difference that exists between prevailing theology and the teaching of the Bible. The former is visionary, impractical, and fails to provide for the real needs of man; the latter is tangible, logical, and well adapted to his requirements. We all know what man has at the moment: a life of toil and frustration, ending in death. This, however, does not have to be his inevitable fate. The Bible proclaims a time when this need longer be so; when immortality will be granted those who have faithfully kept the precepts of Christ, and when Christ will reign on earth with his resurrected and immortalised followers as his associates (Revelation 5:9-10).
Meanwhile, redemption is a dire need. Death, with a terrible finality, awaits all, unless we take the necessary steps to conquer the grave (Revelation 1:18). Accident or sickness can cut us down in the prime of life. The worthy and the waster find a common resting place together in mother earth (Job 3:14-22). The careers of all, whether useful or otherwise, end in the grave, so that often all the experiences of life seem futile and vain.
The philosopher then steps in, and with a hopeless view of life and death proclaims his teaching: “Let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” The athiest proclaims his viewpoint, and questioning the existence of God, finds refuge in the fallacies of evolution. So the skeptic would get rid of God, and all responsibility towards Him.
Others, however, are not so foolish. Acknowledging the incontestable evidence that God exists, and yet oppressed with the prevalence of evil and the inevitability of death, they find fault with God. They ask, “Why did God create man thus?” In their ignorance, they question the love and wisdom of God, and failing to understand His purpose, turn completely from religion.
Why God Permitted The Exercise of Freewill.
It is often suggested that God would have done better if He had created man perfect from the beginning. Certainly, that would have prevented the record of trouble and evil that man has manifested since creation.
But it would also have interfered with the development of such virtues as faith, love, voluntary obedience, mercy, forgiveness, and so forth.
It is these that God desires to see manifested above all else (Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 1:7).
This is understandable. What do we desire and treasure most in our relationships one with the other? It is the spontaneous affection and loving obedience of a child; the faithful loyalty of a friend in time of adversity; the free offer of pardon or forgiveness when we have sinned.
Is there any real pleasure in the mere forced obedience of a child, or loyalty from an acquaintance that we must buy to receive?
There is none.
So it is with God. If He had created man as a mere automatum who had to obey Him like some animated machine, it would mean that the greatest pleasure derived from the attributes of a loving character would be denied Him, so that He would find little pleasure in creation. God delights in voluntary acts of love and obedience extended towards Him (Deuteronomy 11:26-28; Psalm 71:13-15), and He will suitably reward them.
To that end, God gave man the attribute of freewill. Unfortunately, man has used this liberty as license, and in general has turned his back upon his Creator, whilst, at the same time, blaspheming Him because he suffers the consequence of his own folly. Men violate natural laws, and yet blame God because they suffer the result of such laws. They gratify their lust without limit, and yet deplore the immorality that comes as a result. They manifest a ruthless indifference to the rights of others, and yet stand aghast at the conditions of violence and war that overshadow modern civilisation. God does not force men to sin, neither does He compel them to be obedient; but, as His just prerogative, He punishes the guilty and will reward the obedient.
How Man Exercised His Freewill.
At this stage, we suggest that you read Genesis chapters 1, 2, 3. These chapters record the beginnings of Creation, the establishment of Law, the manifestation of sin, the punishment of death, and the promise of redemption.
Notice that when God looked upon His handiwork at creation, he pronounced it all as “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
At that stage, man was “at one” with God. He had the mental capacity to comprehend Divine principles, and the ability to manifest them. He was provided with all things necessary for life, and placed in a Garden of Delight (Eden), with but one simple law: to avoid the tree concerning which God declared: “thou shalt not cat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
Adam and Eve were thus placed on probation, and though they were not immortal, neither were they at that time mortal as their descendants are today, for they had not then been brought under the power of the “law of sin and death” which afterwards worked “in their members” to inexorably bring them to the grave (Romans 7:20-25).
This change was brought about by sin, or man's thought less and God-defying exercise of freewill.
Thus the very One who pronounced man “very good” at the epoch of creation (Gen. 1:31), later pronounced that he is “evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).
Meanwhile, Adam and Eve, the first human pair, were instructed concerning matters of worship and the Divine will. They were given a simple law, and granted a freewill, that enabled them to manifest obedience and respect for their Creator.
Unfortunately, they used the freewill granted them, the ability to obey or disobey, to sin against God, and so they earned the penalty of death.
The circumstances are outlined in the third chapter.
Tempted by the serpent, Eve succumbed to his suggestion and ate of the forbidden fruit, and then persuaded her husband to do likewise.
This record of the introduction of sin and death is very important, for it is basic to a correct understanding of the Bible as a whole. Many go astray at this point. They view Adam and Eve as possessing an immortal soul, and thus interpret death in a special way, or they consider the serpent as a figure of speech defining an immortal devil, the ruler of hell.
The serpent, however, is clearly defined as one of the “beasts of the field,” though possessing unusual characteristics, and a shrewdness uncommon among the brute beasts (see Genesis 3:1).
It was included among those designated “very good” by its Creator (Gen. 1:31). It was placed under the domination of Adam, but, wiser than other beasts, it sought to dominate him. It had heard of the prohibition that God had placed upon Adam and Eve in regard to eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, and, being “more subtle” than any other animal, it began, in its own clever way (Gen. 3:1), to reason upon the Law of God from a purely animal or fleshly standpoint. Why should not Adam and Eve eat of the tree? Why should not they please themselves? Would such eating necessarily result in death?
Thus it began to question both the need of such a law and the certainty of the penalty that God had threatened would be experienced.
With such philosophising, developed from observing and reasoning upon divine law from a merely animal or fleshly standpoint, the serpent urged Eve to please herself and eat of the forbidden fruit.
And Eve, instead of rejecting the temptation of the serpent, meditated upon his suggestion. That was her undoing. The idea of partaking of that which was forbidden found a lodgment in her mind. Desire to satisfy her curiosity for the forbidden fruit had been excited by the serpent reasoning. She began to look at things from a new perspective, created by the doctrine of the serpent. Previously she had viewed them only in the light of God's prohibition with which she had been in full accord. Why should she abstain? Would God really bring her under the power of death? What was death anyway? Had not the serpent said. “Thou shalt not surely die?” As she gazed at the tree she saw that it “was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and one to be desired” (Genesis 3:6). Thus lust conceived in her, and it ultimately brought forth sin; and sin, having been committed, earned the sentence of death (Genesis 3:19; James 1:15).
Eve partook of the tree, and induced Adam to do likewise. Thus sin was first committed, and through it came death: “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Romans 5:12). Mortality became a physical principle of the flesh, which was transmitted to Adam's posterity (Romans 5:17-19). Man was no longer in his original “very good” state. Rebellion had been generated in his heart, death was now his destiny, and the fellowship that bad previously existed between him and God had been broken by disobedience (Gen. 8:21).
God alone could institute the means of reconciliation and redemption; and this He proceeded to do in His mercy and His love.
Was God revealed as unjust in all these transactions? By no means. Was He unjust in creating Adam and Eve “very good”? No, He was not. Was He unjust by placing them under a law? No, discipline is good for such as them. Was He unjust by fixing a penalty for disobedience? No, for without such, law would lose its power. Was He unjust by punishing them? No, for otherwise man would learn to defy God with impunity, and would bold His laws in contempt. Was He unjust by providing the means of reconciliation and hope of life? By no means, on the contrary the righteousness of God is upheld, and His mercy and love revealed, in those very principles.
What Resulted From Sin.
The introduction of sin produced a new set of circumstances, and resulted in drastic changes.
Man was no longer “very good” (Gen. 1:31), but was now subject to death, and possessed of a heart which “is evil from youth” (Gen. 8:21; see also Psalm 58:3; Jeremiah 10:23; Romans 7:18).
All creation came under curse.
The ground brought forth thorns and thistles, so that man could only reap its fruits by hard toil (Gen. 3:17-19).
The animal creation became subject to change, many becoming carnivorous (cp. Gen. 2:19 with Isa. 65:25), the serpent being cursed “above all cattle” (Gen. 3:14).
The woman, because of her presumption in leading the way to sin, was now appointed to be subject to her husband. Death would prevail over her posterity, so that her sorrow and conceptions would be multiplied: the former, because death would overtake her children; the latter, to compensate for the wastage brought about by death.
The sentence of death was pronounced against the man because be had followed the woman into sin. From henceforth his posterity was subject to mortality. As Adam and Eve bad been defiled mentally when they heeded the teaching of the serpent, morally when they applied it, and physically when mortality took hold of them, so there now existed a need for their redemption from this state into which they had fallen.
For the moment, sin was triumphant. However, God did not create the earth and man upon it that sin and death might reign thereon, but that it might reflect to His glory (Numbers 14:21). But with sin temporarily triumphant, what was He to do? He could destroy man, and commence again with, perhaps, the same result; or by the exercise of love and mercy in forgiveness, He could redeem man from the conditions of evil that be had brought upon himself and the earth by his folly.
God decided upon the second of these two alternatives. In doing so, He even made Sin His helper. For man was humbled by sin, and forced to recognise his dependence upon the mercy and forgiveness of God. It emphasized those virtues, so that by experiencing them from the Creator, man learned the need of exercising them towards his fellow-man.
Out of the chaos caused by sin, God again commenced His purpose. His plan is to restore paradise again upon the earth, and, in Christ, man obtains even more blessings than were lost in Adam. The time will ultimately come when there will “be no more curse” (Revelation 22:3); when the earth will bring forth its full increase (Ps. 72:16); when those called by God will be elevated to glorious unity in Christ (Galatians 3:28; John 17:21), and when death itself will be eradicated (1 Corinthians 15:25-26, 54-58).
The Plan Of Redemption Typified To Adam.
Before they sinned, Adam and Eve's conscience was good. They were naked, but not at all ashamed, or afraid, in the presence of the angels, who conversed with them in the name of God. But their conscience having been defiled through sin, they became conscious of their nakedness, and filled with shame and fear (Genesis 3:10). They tried to cover their nakedness by sewing fig-leaves together and making themselves aprons, but God stripped them of their fig leaf device, and slaying an animal clothed them with its skin.
This was designed to teach an important spiritual lesson. Nakedness is used in Scripture as a symbol of sin (Revelation 16:15), and as man, since the Fall, is born into a constitution of sin (Romans 5:19), so he is represented as being figuratively naked, and in need of a covering. It is a divine principle that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission” of sin (Hebrews 9:22), and this was graphically illustrated to Adam when his fig-leaf device was stripped from him, and be was clothed with the skin of a slain animal.
That sacrifice pointed forward to that of the Lord Jesus Christ who is figuratively represented as “the lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). In Christ, therefore, God has provided the covering adequate to hide our spiritual nakedness, and we must avail ourselves of it if we would be saved.
Death is a state of unconsciousness, the cessation of all life, thought and action.
The doctrine of the immortality of the soul is false.
The hell of the Bible is the grave, with the exception of those figurative passages which use the term to denote total rejection and destruction.
Sin came through man's exercise of freewill in defiance of the law of God.
Death, or mortality, came as a punishment of sin.
God's mercy is revealed in the provision He has made for the forgiveness and redemption of sin-stricken man.
This redemption provides for a cover which is found in Christ Jesus.
God is revealed as being both just and merciful. He was just in punishing man because of sin; He was merciful in providing for his redemption from the effects of sin.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 5
1. What does the term “religion” signify?
2. Where, in the record of the Bible is the term “soul” applied to animals?
3. What did Christ bring to light through the gospel?
4. The Bible bears record that the soul that sinneth shall
5. Paul states that even those who have died in Christ are perished, if there is no …
6. What do the words “sheol” and “hades” actually signify?
7. Why does God permit the exercise of free-will?
8. What was the most disastrous result of Adam's misuse of his free-will?
9. What was the condition of both man and beast at the time of creation-(very good, or perfect)?
10. How did God acquaint Adam with the means of redemption, after he had sinned?
11. How can mortal man be delivered from the power of the grave?
(6) The Promise of Redemption
God's Three Great Covenants Of Promise.
Our previous study showed that due to the state into which mankind fell as a result of sin, redemption is a dire need. We now draw attention to the hope of Redemption. This is set forth in three great covenants of promise which form the basis of all Bible teaching.
References to them are found throughout the Scriptures, and particularly in such statements as the following:
“Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers; and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy” (Rom. 15:8-9).
“There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4).
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
The first of these three covenants of promise was given in Eden, after Adam and Eve had sinned; and it promised life in contrast to the state of mortality to which they had become subject in consequence of sin.
The second was made to Abraham, as he wandered a stranger and homeless in the land to which he had been directed, and it promised him an eternal in inheritance.
The third was made to King David, and set forth the hope of a settled, enduring throne of glory, free from the enmity that he had experienced during his lifetime.
There is progression in those three great covenants of promise.
The Edenic Covenant (Genesis 3:15) promised mankind what bad been lost through sin: even LIFE.
The Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12, 13, 22), promised that which Abraham lacked: an earthly possession where that life could be lived, even an ETERNAL INHERITANCE.
The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7), promised Divine RULE on earth, by which the inheritance will be efficiently governed.
The first offered LIFE; the second promised INHERITANCE; the third proclaimed eternal AUTHORITY.
In each case, that which was promised, and which is to be obtained only in Christ, is greater than that which was lost, or given up.
The LIFE promised in Eden is ETERNAL and therefore greater than that which was lost through sin.
The INHERITANCE promised Abraham will be FOREVER, and therefore more than compensates for that which he gave up when he left Ur to serve God.
The KINGDOM promised David will be both SECURE and EVERLASTING, and therefore far more glorious than that over which he reigned and which was subsequently overthrown.
Moreover, these three covenants of promise which shall be outlined in detail in subsequent studies, form the basis of every doctrine, teaching and prophecy contained in the Bible.
Redemption Promised In Eden.
To gain the background to the first, or Edenic, Covenant of promise, please read Genesis 2:15-17 where God's law to man is stated, and Genesis 3 where the circumstances of the fall are outlined.
The promise of redemption is stated in Genesis 3:15:
“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.”
In seeking the true meaning of the Bible, it is always valuable to consider the background.
We recommend that you read again Genesis 3, observing the following sections:
1. The Temptation vv. 1-5
2. The Fall vv. 6-7
3. The Inquest vv.8-13
4. The Judgment vv. 14-19
5. The Token of Redemption vv. 20-21
6. The Expulsion vv. 22-24
It is not our intention to expound upon every detail of this chapter, though we shall be very happy to consider any questions you might ask in regard to it. Our main intention is to concentrate attention upon the covenant of promise contained in verse 15.
The passage should be interpreted figuratively and not literally. It proclaims the decree of God to establish “enmity” between the “serpent” and the “woman”, and between the seed of both, and announces His intention of providing a “seed” from the woman who would completely destroy the “serpent”.
Many make the mistake of teaching that the serpent related to satan as a fallen angel, but the punishment imposed upon it (v. 14), and God's description of it as being “cursed above all the beasts of the field” shows that this is wrong.
The serpent was an animal that temporarily had the power of speech. As a “beast of the field” it symbolised the flesh, and when it spake, it did so as one motivated only by the flesh, and not by reverence towards God or His word.
The serpent was the “father of lies” (John 8:44), for it had falsely declared: “Thou shalt not surely die” (Gen. 3:4), and by its insidious suggestion, it had led Eve into sin.
In the figurative language of Genesis 3:15, therefore, it stands as a symbol for the “thinking of the flesh” which leads to error, sin and death, and which is at “enmity with God” (Romans 8:3).
On the other hand, though Eve had sinned, she bad proclaimed the Truth that God had taught her (vv. 2-3), so that in this declaration of the Divine purpose, she is used as representing the Mind of God, which proclaims truth, and sets forth disciples of righteousness and life.
Between these two ways of thought: between Truth and Error, or the Mind of God and the mind of the flesh, there exists enmity; and God has so designed it because His ways are so much higher than those of flesh. This enmity has resulted in religious controversy throughout the age, so fierce and unrelenting, that the blood of thousands has been shed, whose only crime has been their refusal to bow before the forces of error which have often masqueraded under the name of Christ.
This enmity, or conflict, is also manifested within the mind of every individual who would seek to do God's will, for be will inevitably find that it is at variance with his natural desires. Paul's experience is that of all. He wrote:
“I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; hut how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:18-19).
He wrote of two modes of thinking which a person can manifest, and he showed the ultimate result of both:
“To be carnally minded (the minding, or thinking of the flesh see margin) is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:6-7).
With a mind enlivened by the Truth, Paul desired to serve God, but be found that be constantly fell short of the standard set him in Christ because of the strong impulses of the flesh, How could he obtain the victory over the flesh? That was the problem that daily faced him. The answer is, only by the forgiveness of sin that God grants in Christ Jesus (Romans 7:18-23).
A conflict raged in the mind of the Apostle as he considered the requirements of righteousness, and the demands of the flesh. All who would live in accordance with the precepts of Christ experience the same conflict, but through the strength available through him (Phil. 4:13), they can gain the victory.
It is a matter of encouragement to those who may be depressed with a sense of failure to attain unto the standard set by Christ, that even the great apostle Paul had to lament the same inability, and seek the forgiveness of God in Christ.
Thus we conclude that a state of antagonism exists between Truth and Error, and Righteousness and Sin, in which the latter are temporarily in the ascendancy, and that condition illustrates the first part of the declaration of Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman … ”
The Woman's Seed And The Serpent's Seed.
The declaration of Genesis 3:15 states that enmity would also exist between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. These terms also should be interpreted figuratively.
The serpent's lie brought man kind under the influence of the “law of sin and death” (Romans 7:23, 25; 8:3). The effect was that man became subject to an intensification of fleshly desire, and to a state of Mortality that ends in death. In a figurative sense, therefore, the serpent is used as a symbol of fallen human nature.
The term “seed of the serpent” represents those who are governed by the lusts of the flesh to the exclusion of God's way. The Lord Jesus used the figure in describing the religious-minded but self-righteous Scribes and Pharisees: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the condemnation of bell?” (Matt. 23:33 ).
On the other hand, the “seed of the woman” are those who are governed by the teaching of God. The foremost of these is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is preeminently the seed of the woman who was provided to destroy the serpent power, and others become of that seed in a multitudinous sense by being inducted “into him” (see Gal. 3:26-29). Concerning him, Paul wrote that he was made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption (or status) of sons (Galatians 4:4-5).
This first covenant, therefore, states the inevitability of conflict between two principles and two classes of persons, and its result. nose exclusively governed by the flesh, are in opposition to those ruled by the law of God. The conflict is unto death, although, through the mercy of God, the ultimate victory of the righteous is sure.
In the warfare between the two seeds, God declared that the serpent would “bruise the heel” of the seed of the woman. A bruise on the heel may cause inconvenience, and incapacitate one, but it is not fatal; a person will recover from it.
This was the case with the Lord Jesus Christ. He was figuratively “bruised by the serpent” inasmuch as he suffered the penalty due to sin. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). As Saviour of mankind, be inherited the nature common to all, a nature that had been brought under the power of death, from which he, also, bad to be redeemed that he might redeem others. In his ministry, lie experienced all the hostility, the enmity, that rightousness has ever experienced from the sinful and wicked, and, finally, was crucified by the serpent power of sin manifested through Jewish and Gentile rulers.
But the triumph of sin was only temporary, even as a “bruise on the heel” is not fatal. Thus the Lord Jesus rose from the dead unto life eternal, having gained the victory over sin and death.
On the other hand, the serpent was warned that the seed of the woman would “bruise thy head” (Genesis 3:15).
A fractured skull can be a fatal wound, so that in this declaration, God was predicting that the seed of the woman would destroy what the serpent had brought into being: sin and death. Though Jesus, as the seed of the woman, inherited the consequences of Adam's sin, in that he possessed a nature common to all, he triumphed over it, and opened the way to victory for all who will come unto God through him. Thus Paul taught:
“As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14).
The devil is described as that “which had the power of death.” What has the power of death? As far as the Bible is concerned it is sin. Thus:
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55-57).
“The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
But from whence come the prompting of sin? The answer is, from within, from the flesh, Jesus being witness. He declared:
“From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, wickedness” (Mark 7:20-23).
“I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:18).
He spoke of “sin that dwelleth in me” (Romans 7:17), thus using the term as a synonym for human nature, the promptings of sin which reside in the flesh. Christ conquered sin by triumphing over the flesh in his lifetime, and by submitting to the death upon the cross. He rose from the grave to life eternal. With this change of nature, the serpent power of sin had no longer any hold on him. It had bruised him on the heel, in that he had been put to death, but in rising from the grave, he had recovered from the blow, and in attaining unto life eternal he had administered a fatal blow to the serpent power as far as he was concerned.
No longer did death, which, originally had come through sin, have any claim upon him. He had been saved out of it, and made it possible for others to do so also (see Romans 5:17-19; Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15; 5:7-9).
He rose to life eternal because of his perfect obedience to the will of his Father (Acts 2:24); and lie opened the way to victory and life eternal for all who would come unto God through him. Not that they will render perfect obedience, but in him they can obtain the forgiveness of sins, and the incentive to a change of life, which is impossible apart from Christ.
“He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto an them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).
A SUMMARY OF THE SYMBOLOGY OF THE EDENIC COVENANT
The Serpent As A Symbol.
In the declaration of Genesis 3:15, the serpent is used to represent that which he manifested and produced. He gave expression to the thinking of the flesh, which led to error and sin, and finally resulted in death. As a symbol, therefore, he represented the flesh under the law of sin and death which now resides in every mortal. The following are some Bible references to the serpent in such symbology:
“I will put enmity between thee (the serpent) and the woman” (Genesis 3:15).
“Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived” (Numbers 21:9).
“The sting of death is sin” (1 Cor. 15:56).
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the on of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The Woman As A Symbol.
She represented that which she proclaimed. She spake truth (see Genesis 3:2-3) which had been revealed to her from God, and in this she proclaimed the mind of God. Adam called her name Eve (or LIFE) because the hope of life had been promised through the seed that would come through her. She therefore represented a community that is associated with the Truth of God, and who are related to the life that it set forth. References to the woman as a symbol, representing the community of believers, are found throughout Scripture:
“I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2).
“Therefore as the church (Gr. Ecclesia) is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands … Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.… For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great secret: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ecclesia-or company of believers-Eph. 5:23-32).
“The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7).
The Seed of the Serpent As A Symbol.
They represent those who allow the flesh in all its weakness to govern their lives, e.g.,
“Their (the wicked) poison is like the poison of a serpent” (Psalm 58:4).
“They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent: adders poison is under their lips” (Psalm 140:3).
“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the condemnation of hell” (Matthew 23:33).
Seed of the Woman As A Symbol.
The seed of the woman points directly to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God who administered the death blow to sin and death through his personal sacrifice, but the term is extended to all those “in him”, and in whom the Word of God resides, producing fruit to His glory. As Christ was begotten by the Spirit of God, so a spiritual sense, are begotten to a new life by the spirit-word. Thus:
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23).
“Ye must be born from above” (John 3:7-mg).
“A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation” (Psalm 22:30).
“When thou (God) shalt make his (Christ's) soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10).
“And I (God) will put enmity between thee (the serpent representing sin and death) and the woman (representing the community embracing the truth of God and seeking to obey His will), and between thy seed (the serpent's seed, representing those who allow the flesh to govern their thinking and actions) and her seed (those moved by the principles of God's Word and will, chief of whom was the Lord Jesus Christ). It (should be rendered, `he'-the Lord Jesus) shall bruise thy head (shall bruise the serpent on the head by destroying both the power of sin through providing the atonement for it, and the inevitability of death through a resurrection to eternal life), and thou (the serpent, representing sin and death) shalt bruise his heel (or incapacitate him by bringing him temporarily under its influence).”
The Symbology Demonstrated To Adam.
Read Genesis 3:17-23, and notice how that the symbology and teaching of Genesis 3:15 was impressed on Adam. He was told that he would be brought under the influence of death because of his sin (vv. 17-19), but immediately he responded by calling his wife's name Eve, or Life. This was because she is symbolically “the mother of all living,” or those related to life. By naming his wife as he did Adam revealed his faith in the promise made.
God then revealed what this entailed: a sacrifice for sins. He made “coats of skins and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). This pointed forward to the offering of the Lord Jesus who is described as the “Lamb of God (typically) slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).
The chapter thus shows the origin of sin, the punishment of death in consequence of it, the hope of life in the mercy of God, and what is required in the sacrifice of atonement.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 6
1. How is Genesis 3:15 to be understood? Literally or figuratively?
2. Name the parties between which there would be manifested enmity according to God's decree.
3. Who is the principal “Seed of the woman”?
4. How did Christ “bruise the serpent's head”?
5. Why did Adam call the woman “Eve” after God had revealed His plan of redemption to them?
6. Why did He cover them with the skin of an animal?
(7) To Christ Through Baptism
How Christ Fulfilled The Promise.
In fulfilment of the promises of God, Jesus, as “the seed of the woman,” was born of the virgin Mary by the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit. His mother was told:
“The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35.)
Christ had no corporeal existence before that point of time. Though he was in the mind and purpose of God from the very beginning, and in that sense was “with God,” be did not exist as a person until the “word was made flesh and dwelt among” the Jews 1900 years ago (John 1:14).
Unfortunately, confusion reigns concerning the person of the Lord Jesus, and his purpose and place in the plan of God, as a result of the reaching that claims be is the second person of a Trinity, or that he preexisted before his birth.
We ask that if the reader believes either of these doctrines, he suspend judgment upon what we have stated above, until all the evidence is before him. We undertake to explain any verse of Scripture in the light of the teaching we have set down, but we fail to understand how anybody can logically believe that Jesus and God are two persons and Net one, or that the Lord Jesus existed before he was born.
Jesus was born of his mother, and grew up to reverence God, his Father. We learn that he “increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). This expresses normal development; but if Jesus were God such a statement is incomprehensible; or if he pre-existed, it meant that he must have forgotten everything he knew in his previous existence, and had to learn it all again!
Born of a human mother, he inherited the nature common to all mankind. This is a nature subject to death, so that the Lord was in need of redemption from death, just as much as those he came to save. He was subjected to the some trials and temptations as is mankind generally, but whereas all others have failed, be triumphed over the nature he possessed, and rendered sinless obedience to God.
Where did Christ derive the strength to conquer, whereas all others possessing the same nature have failed? The answer is: from God. God was his Father and a spiritually-minded woman was his mother, so that from birth the Lord inherited qualities that be was able to develop by his own independent freewill as he grew towards maturity (see Luke 2:40, 42-47, 52). In addition, he was granted the spirit of God without measure (John 3:34), and this quickened him in the understanding of God's will and purpose (Isaiah 11:2-3; Luke 4:18-19). By these means, Jesus, who was the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), received strength that enabled him to render sinless obedience to the requirements of his Father, and manifest a character which reflected the Divine image (1 Peter 2:21-24).
This was necessary for the work of redemption, so that it is not solely the work of Christ, but that of the Father and the Son acting in conjunction one with the other. The Bible teaches: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19). Jesus leaned heavily upon the Father, and God strengthened him, with the result that the fullness of the Divine character was revealed in a human body, that inherited the consequences of the first sin.
The lesson of redemption, therefore, teaches that we must seek a Strength apart from flesh, even that which comes from God (James 1:17), if we would develop a character pleasing unto Him. Moreover, such Strength is available to us, as Paul taught. He declared: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).
How The Seed Of The Woman Was Bruised On The Heel.
Thus, being the “begotten son of God,” Jesus was the perfect “seed of the woman” promised in Genesis 3:15. In accordance with that prophetic covenant, his righteousness so excited the enmity and malice of his fleshly contemporaries, that they conspired to put him to death. They, (the seed of the serpent), by “wicked hands” brought him to the cross, thus, unconsciously, fulfilling “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23-24). God had decreed he should thus die (Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10) as a sacrifice for sin (Psalm 40:5-9; Heb. 10:5). They did not realise that he was the “lamb of God” to “bear away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and therefore, they imagined that once they bad crucified him, they had seen the last of him.
How mistaken they were was revealed three days later when he rose from the dead.
Why did God permit His son to die upon the cross? What was accomplished in his death? First of all, it constituted a public exhibition of what is due to flesh which the history of mankind has revealed to be evil and sinful in its tendency.
Jesus rendered perfect obedience to the Father, in spite of the flesh, not because of it (John 6:63). If Jesus had yielded to his own will instead of that of the Father, be would not have rendered perfect obedience “even unto the death of the cross,” for in submitting to the requirements of God, did he not say: “Not my will but Thine be done.”
Flesh which has proved so rebellious against God throughout the ages, could only be atoned for by one way: the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22). The flesh of Jesus, hanging lifeless upon the cross, presents the lesson of salvation to humanity. Being of our nature, he had to conquer it in order to attain unto immortality. This he did by rendering perfect obedience unto God through the strength he derived from that source. In a figurative sense, therefore, he had crucified the flesh in life by controlling its desires, and subjugating his will to that of his Father. When, at last, he hung lifeless upon the cross, the struggle was at an end. In that final act of dedication, the flesh had been silenced for ever, and no longer could assert itself against the will of God.
The “crucified Jesus” is a public exhibition of what God requires of mankind if they would seek after salvation, whereas the risen Christ” is the symbol of hope for those who are “in Christ.”
How The Serpent Power Was Bruised On The Head.
Peter taught that whereas wicked hands crucified and slew the Lord Jesus, God raised him up, “having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24).
Why was it “not possible that Jesus should be holden of death”?
Because God is just (Romans 3:26), and it would have been quite unjust of Him to have allowed death to retain its power over one who had rendered so such perfect obedience.
But He raised him from the dead, and the risen Christ becomes the token of hope for all who believe in him. Paul wrote that the Lord was “delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). In another place (1 Corinthians 15:22-23), he showed that the fact that Jesus rose from the dead is a guarantee that all those “in Christ” will rise also: “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive”
Though all mankind die, only all those in Christ will be granted eternal life.
As he triumphed over the serpent power in himself, so he has made it possible for mankind to triumph likewise.
Christ Triumphed-How Can We?
Jesus rendered perfect obedience even unto death, and thus triumphed over the flesh, but we do not! How then can we gain the victory and avail ourselves of God's salvation?
The answer is, Through God's mercy. He is not only just but “the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
How can a just God justify us if we sin?
The answer is: Only by the forgiveness of sins. And God is merciful to extend such forgiveness in Christ Jesus (Psalm 103:8-14). The process was symbolically revealed to Adam and Eve, for the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice reached backwards as well as forwards (Hebrew 9:15). Our last study showed that after Adam and Eve had sinned, and had become conscious of their nakedness, God slew an animal, and with its skin He clothed them, thus teaching them that sin must be covered over, or blotted out, before He can be acceptably approached. The Bible declares: “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are COVERED. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Romans 4:7-8).
Jesus also declared: “Behold, come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Rev. 16:15).
How can sins be blotted out, or forgiven? Peter explained the process. He declared: “Repent, and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38. See also Acts 3:19). Paul taught: “Ye are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ … ” (Gal.3:25-26).
Those who have been properly baptised, have put on Christ as a garment, and as he is styled the “lamb of God,” it can be said of them that they have been figuratively clothed in the skin of the sacrificial animal provided them by God, as Adam and Eve were literally.
We speak of being “properly baptised,” for true baptism demands a sound understanding of the basic principles of God's word, followed by total bodily immersion in water. Such a baptism is essential to salvation, as the Bible reveals by precept and example.
Jesus was baptised, saying: “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Paul was baptised at the bidding of Ananias: “Arise and be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord“ (Acts 22:16). Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, was baptised after Peter bad declared “He (Jesus) commanded us to preach unto the people … that whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:42-43). The Lord commissioned the Apostles to go forth with this command: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptised shall be saved … ” (Mark 16:16).
Outside of baptism, a man is said to be “a stranger from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11-13).
Why Baptism Is Required.
Baptism is a symbol of sacrifice. As Jesus gave up his life on the cross, the true believer, by submitting to baptism publicly proclaims that he will figuratively “crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof” (Galatians 5:24). A person does this when he subordinates his personal desires to perform the will of God.
Baptism is the first act of obedience; it is an act whereby the believer humbles self to please God.
The word “Baptism” comes from the Greek bapto. Concerning this word, one authority has written: “Bapto signifies `immerse, dip, plunge.' No translator has ever ventured to render the word by `sprinkle' or `pour' in any version.”
That being so, it is obvious, that what is styled “christening” is not a Scriptural baptism.
But though baptism requires complete immersion, it is in itself much more than mere immersion in water. A person may be completely immersed when he takes a bath, but he is not baptised when so doing. The Greek word baptiso comes from a word that signifies not merely immersion but also the act of dyeing; which process, of course, changes the colour, or appearance, of a garment.
Now immersion in water will not change a person unless it is prompted by an understanding of the will and purpose of God; and so, the first essential to a true baptism, is an understanding, and an acceptance, of the first principles of God's revelation (John 3:16; 11:25; 17:3; Acts 8:37). It is this belief that transforms mere “immersion” into “baptism,” and causes a person to be figuratively “dyed” with the blood of Christ.
Immersion without knowledge would be like trying to dye a garment in clear water!
Only a knowledge of God's way will transform a person's perspective. He then will view things from God's standpoint. He will begin to think along the channel of Divine ideas and ideals, and will strive to attain unto a higher way of life than is normal with most. The serpent impulses within him will become subdued by Christ who by his knowledge will “dwell in his heart by faith.”
So important is a pre-baptismal understanding and belief, that there is recorded in the Bible an instance where some were re-baptised when it was brought home to them that they had lacked certain essential beliefs previously (Acts 19:1-5).
A Symbol Of Sacrifice.
Concerning the significance of baptism, Paul wrote:
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6:3-6.)
The terms “baptised into his death,” “crucified with him,” “the likeness of his death,” identify baptism with Christ's death. His death was sacrificial, so that baptism is a symbol of sacrifice. In submitting to the act, a person publicly indicates his intention of endeavouring to follow in the footsteps of his Lord, in the hope of attaining unto life eternal at his return. As the death and resurrection of the Lord to life eternal bruised the head of the serpent power as far as lie was concerned, so baptism is for believers the beginning of a process that will enable them to triumph over sin and death. The “body of sin” (or human nature) will be held in check morally as they imitate the example of Christ, and they will be physically changed at his return so that their present state of mortality will be clothed upon with immortality (1 Cor. 15:51-54).
By baptism, therefore, believers identify themselves with the offering of Christ. They confess their sins, acknowledge that death is the just penalty for sin, and recognise that the flesh is evil and needs to be overcome. Seeking the forgiveness of God for sins committed, they will try to build into their lives those Divine at tributes revealed in the character of the Son of God.
Baptism is a token of personal sacrifice; it is the etiquette required of God in order that we might acceptably approach Him. It is the outward symbol of an inward washing “by the Word” (Ephesians 5:26), the humble acceptance of God's will, the first act of obedience for the “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Henceforth believers have an Advocate through whom they can approach the Father, an Advocate who “knows the feelings of our infirmary, for be was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” and through him they “can obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).
Believers commence a “new life” once they have accepted Christ through baptism (Colossians 3:9-10), thus beginning a process that will end with the complete conquest of the serpent power as far as they are concerned, by attaining unto life eternal at Christ's coming.
Paul taught: “IF we have been planted in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6:5). Let Christ guide us, and we shall ultimately win through to life eternal, and an everlasting abiding place upon this earth.
Meanwhile, that fellowship that existed between God and Adam, but which was broken by sin, is restored in Christ (1 John 1:3), and provision made for the forgiveness of sins when they are confessed before Him (1 John 1:9). By this means, and by the ultimate change to immortality, the serpent power of sin and death will be conquered, and the triumph of redemption will be complete:
“Death is swallowed up in victory O death, where is thy (serpent's) sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:54-57.)
As Eve was first mentally corrupted by the lying doctrine of the serpent, then morally corrupted as she put it into execution, and, finally, experienced physical corruption when death lay hold on her, so those who attain unto life eternal will have reversed the process. They are mentally cleansed by endorsing God's truth (John 15:3), morally cleansed as they put it into practice, and will be physically cleansed when they are delivered from death, to attain unto the victory in Christ Jesus at his coming.
Thus the road to that victory leads to three developments, Belief, Baptism, and Obedience.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 7
1. Is flesh good or evil?
2. Did Christ's nature differ from those whom he came to save?
3. Why could not the grave hold him if he was mortal?
4. Why was he raised from the dead, and clothed with immortality?
5. What did Adam and Eve need, after they had sinned, and realized their nakedness?
6. What provision has God made for the covering of our sins?
7. What is baptism?
8. How can we conquer sin?
THE NEED FOR REPENTANCE
Man has departed from the right path, and become hardened in ways as hurtful to himself as they are abhorrent to God. A halt and a right-about-face are indispensable. The Gospel contains the call in this direction-the command to “repent”-as a preliminary to acceptance and salvation. Man hates this condition-the insistence on the part of God that He shall be heard, believed and obeyed. This weakness accounts for the sad words of the Lord Jesus: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” How solemnly, and in what manifold ways, has God inculcated the essentiality of obedience. It is this feature that largely makes the Bible a neglected book. People who have no relish for submission will not endure the chafing and pricking which a proper reading of it entails, and hence relegate it sooner or later to an unreachable shelf. Repentance, it must be remembered, means a change of mind-a change from the human to the Divine.
(8) Hope Through A Resurrection
Immortality Is Not Inherent.
Previous studies have shown that sin brought death, and that death became the common lot of all mankind, so that even the Lord Jesus was subject to it. At the same time, God, in His mercy, promised a Redeemer (Christ Jesus) who would triumph over sin and death, and by his own glorious resurrection to immortality, lead the way to life eternal.
This teaching is quite contrary to the widespread theory of an immortal soul that lives on after the death of the body. As we have shown, such a doctrine is not taught in the Bible, and mankind instinctively turns from it.
Despite the glowing pictures of heaven painted by preachers upon the canvas of their imagination, no one desires to taste of death in order to go there.
The Bible teaches that eternal life is not the natural inheritance of man, but something that must be sought (Acts 13:46-48; Romans 8:13; Hebrews 5:9). Paul taught:
“God will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life.” (Romans 2:6-7.)
If eternal life is something a person must seek, and which God will grant only on conditions, obviously it is not inherent in man in his natural state. And that fact is clearly taught throughout Scripture.
Consider the following well known text:
“God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16.)
Here the alternative is to “perish” or have “everlasting life” conditional upon belief and obedience-for the word has that dual significance. If the latter were a natural heritage, however, a person could not utterly perish, whether he believed or not.
The Bible teaches that those who do not fulfil the conditions set by God will not receive eternal life (Romans 2:12; Galatians 6:8; Luke 12:46, Heb. 10:28-29; 2 Pet. 2:12) . They will “perish” or be given over to death.
A Resurrection-The Only True Hope.
It follows from logic, and from clear Bible teaching, that if man is mortal, and yet the reward that God has set before him is immortality, the only possible way to life eternal is through a bodily resurrection.
This is the clear teaching of the Bible. Paul taught:
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man (Adam) came death, by man (Jesus) came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam (and all are in him by natural birth) all die, even so in Christ (and we become such by baptism) shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming” (1 Corinthians 15:19-23).
There is no mistaking the meaning of these words; they teach the doctrine of a bodily resurrection at Christ's coming. Again, Paul taught:
“The dead shall be raised incorruptible* … for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:52-57).
This teaching is clear, and needs little explanation. It proclaims the doctrine of a bodily resurrection from a state of death to one of eternal life. It provides no scope for belief in an immortal soul.
This is the consistent teaching of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It reveals that the first work of Christ at his return is to raise responsible believers from death, with the object of judging them, and rewarding them according to their works. Here is sonic of the evidence to that end:
“Jesus Christ shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:1).
“Judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17).
“Many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).
“Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust… the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19).
“For we (believers) must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things in body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
“He that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:8).
Hope in a bodily resurrection unto life eternal is the basis of all Apostolic teaching. Paul declared that he counted all things but loss, “if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:11). He was using the expression in its complete sense, as denoting a resurrection to life eternal, and he continued by declaring that this was the great objective of his life, for which he was prepared to sacrifice all else.
On the other hand, the Bible will be searched in vain, for a single reference to the alleged immortal soul. Not once are mourners comforted with the idea that the souls of the departed are in heaven, but rather that, if believers, they will rise from the dead at the return of Christ (1 Thess. 4:16, 18). The Bible teaches that “no man hath ascended into heaven” (John 3:13), not even David, the man after God's own heart (Acts 2:34).
Paul made the hope of the resurrection a key-note of his defense of the faith. Before the Sanhedrin he declared: “Of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question” (Acts 23:6). Of Agrippa, he asked: “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead? ” (Acts 26:8). Before Festus be proclaimed: “There is a resurrection of the dead both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15).
That was the belief and teaching of the Apostles. If our belief does not provide for a bodily resurrection from the dead, it is not in accordance with the revelation and purpose of God. And there is no room for both belief in a bodily resurrection, and the immortality of the soul. If man goes to his reward at death, for what purpose is a bodily resurrection and judgment at Christ's coming?
Who Will Be Raised?
The Bible teaches, however, that whilst all will not be raised, and, in fact, comparatively few will be raised, all responsible believers will be resurrected to appear before the judgment Seat of Christ.
This fact was simply and clearly proclaimed by Jesus. He declared: “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
“Believers” shall rise, taught Jesus. He thus showed that “light” or “knowledge” is the ground of responsibility towards God. A person who understands the will of God has a responsibility to perform it on pain of condemnation if he does not. “That servant who knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47-48). Again, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). See also John 3:19; 9:41; 15:22.
On the other hand, many know not the purpose of God, nor His will. They “wander out of the way of understanding” and, according to Bible teaching, “shall remain in the congregation of the dead” (Prov. 21:16).
That is both just and merciful. The fundamental purpose of the resurrection is for judgment, and where there is no knowledge of what is required, there is no basis for proper judgment. The Bible teaches that such die, never again to live:
“Man that is in honour, and UNDERSTANDETH NOT, is like the beasts that perish … they go to the generation of their fathers (in the grave); they shall NEVER SEE LIGHT” (Psalm 49:18-20).
“They (those without understanding) are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise; therefore hast thou visied and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish” (Isaiah 26:14; 43:17).
“They shall sleep a perpetual sleep and no, wake” (Jeremiah 51:57).
“The stain that lie in the grave, whom Thou rememberest no more; and they are cut off from Thy hand” (Psalm 88:5).
“Without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).
“The understanding darkened, alienated from the life of God THROUGH THE IGNORANCE that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:17).
Unfortunately, the majority of mankind are in a state of ignorance before God, being blinded in heart. That being the cage, they are without hope. The serpent power of sin and death, remains triumphant. They live their little life “as a vapor” (James 4:14), and are soon gone. They experience their moments of triumph and disaster, of pleasure and pain, of success and sorrow, and then pass into oblivion, becoming as though they had never been. Their existence becomes but a rapidly fading memory which, to use a Bible term, finally “is forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
Therefore, whilst believers will yet live again, those who remain in ignorance or in error shall pass into oblivion.
The Judgment Seat.
But those who have come to an understanding of God's will, both just and unjust (Acts 24:15), will be raised mortal from the grave, and together with living believers, will be brought before the judgment seat of Christ. This will be set up on earth, at some secluded spot (2 Thess. 2:1), such as Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:1-2), where Christ will adjudicate over those who have “learned of him” (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10-12). Those who “by patient continuance in well doing have sought for glory, honor and immortality” will receive eternal life (Rom. 2:7; Gal. 6:8). Those who have willfully rejected the precepts of Christ, either by refusing baptism, or by failing to practice the principles set before them in his teaching, will experience “tribulation and anguish” as they are condemned and consigned to “the second death” (Revelation 2:11).
The righteous, however, will be given immortality (1 Cor. 15:53), by the bestowal of “divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and thus will be changed into the likeness of Christ's present glory (1 John 3:2; Philippians 3:21). Their victory over the serpent power of sin and death will be complete and lasting, and the power of the grave will lose its hold on them.
As the immortal associates of Christ, they will reign with him on earth. That is what Christ promised Peter. The Apostle bad claimed that he had left everything to follow Christ, and demanded to know what he would receive in consequence. Christ replied:
“Ye which have followed me in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold (i.e. more than he sacrifices), and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19:28-29).
The song of the Redeemed to be sung in the Age to come expresses the terms and status of the saved:
“Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).
“They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4).
Having conquered self, and gained the victory over the serpent power of sin and death, they will be competent to rule with Christ, and to assist in bringing all nations to God, that He might become “all in all .”
“For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death … and when all things shall be subdued unto Him (God), then shall the Son also himself be subject unto Him (God) that put all things under him, that God way be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).
“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
At the end of the thousand years reign a perfected world, in which sin and death will have been completely eradicated, and all will be made immortal, will be offered unto God, that He might be triumphant everywhere, being “all in all.”
Meanwhile, Christ has triumphed over the serpent power of sin and death, and offers to us the means whereby we can do likewise. In Revelation 1:18 he is represented as saying: “I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore; and have the keys (i.e. the power to unlock) of hell (the grave) and of death” (by a resurrection to life eternal).
Our wisdom lies in taking hold of those means that are extended to us, and using them to attain unto the life that will be granted us at Christ's coming if we do his will.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 8
1. Having established that man is mortal, what then is man's only hope?
2. Prove from the Bible that eternal life is only granted on certain conditions.
3. Where did the Apostle Paul give public account that the Hope of the Resurrection was the basis of Apostolic teaching?
4. What will be Christ's first work when he returns to the earth?
5. Who will be raised from the dead?
6. Under which conditions will those raised from the dead receive eternal life?
SUMMARY OF SECTION 2
1. God created man “very good” and placed him under law.
2. Man disobeyed God's law, and was brought under the power of the law of sin and death.
3. Man is now a death-doomed creature in need of redemption.
4. God promised He would redeem man from the state into which he had fallen by sending a Son who would triumph over the serpent power of sin and death (Gen. 3:15).
5. In due course Jesus was born, and rendered complete obedience unto God even to the laying down of his life on the cross; thus being “bruised on the heel” by the serpent power.
6. But God raised him from the dead, and gave him life eternal, thus completely destroying (bruising on head) the power of sin and death over Christ.
7. Acknowledgment of the true nature of flesh is the basis of forgiveness of sins. God extends mercy and forgiveness to all who come unto Him through Christ, and acknowledging their fallen state, seek to overcome through the means He has provided.
8. Baptism is the first act of obedience. It is only valid after an understanding and acceptance of the first principles of God's purpose. It is absolutely essential to salvation. See Acts Ch. 10. Despite the righteous character of Cornelius (V.2), he had to submit to baptism (V.6). He came to a true understanding of the divine purpose in Christ (V.37), and was subsequently baptised (VV.46-48).
9. Though the grave may claim us, our resurrection to life eternal is assured if we seek God in the way appointed. We, too, therefore, can likewise triumph over the serpent power through Christ.