|TRUTH KNOWS NO CONFUSION
The manifestation of God in human flesh was intimated to Adam and Eve in the Garden after the Fall. The development of that promise is a history of faith manifested in human hearts, beginning with the mother of the human race. If only her child could be that Messiah!
But there were to be millenniums of schooling before the Seed of the woman would be manifest in the flesh. The human race had to learn that the battle between truth and error was real, and although the sting of death is sin, the faith of God is stronger than the grave. The children of Adam would begin to know the anguish and pain that sin had caused God from its inception.
The only liability truth must meet is mankind's immaturity. Just as children are easily deceived, so also Satan can confuse and befuddle immature adults. It is therefore both a plea and a confident hope that Paul expresses:
The seed of truth contained in the promise given in Eden must be allowed to germinate and grow to maturity. The plan of salvation is the history of this growth from seed to harvest. When the promise was given to the mother of mankind, there was in it an intimation of God becoming human flesh. The appreciation of that promise must grow and develop until God's people reach a unity of faith and knowledge of the Son that measures with the stature of Christ. This growth involves the painful development of faith and spiritual vision. Because this experience has been developing for 6000 years, we may know the magnitude of the ordeal. It has not been God's unwillingness to dispense faith that makes the process so long, but the nature of our blindness that fails to comprehend it.
When Adam sinned, a crisis followed. "Our God is a consuming fire" and sin is very combustible (Hebrews 12:29). It cannot stand in His presence. Of the wicked it is written, "the Lord shall consume [the wicked] with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy [them] with the brightness of his coming" (2 Thessalonians 2:8). This brightness and glory which judges and destroys is the power of righteousness and truth itself. In other words, the essence of God's own character ignites sin. This is not because of anger or retaliation on His part, but the result of spiritual law; sin cannot abide in His presence.
This placed God at a disadvantage in His dealing with Adam. How could He make His righteousness known to fallen man? How could He teach him and reclaim him, without consuming him? The very thing most needed was that which would destroy.
A beginning had to be made to put the truth of righteousness back into the hands of man and veil its glory to fit his ability to endure and receive it. This was initiated by using symbols and types and shadows. Adam and Eve, without realizing it, faced their first lesson when God supplied them with skins for clothing; sin caused death. From this first kindergarten lesson the children of men had to go on to the majestic sanctuary service with all its glorious implications. The tabernacle, the priesthood, and every part of the solemn service was to point to the cross on Calvary when the true Lamb would offer His own blood.
The result of His sacrifice would be manifest in the final atonement when the sanctuary is cleansed and sin is blotted out. This plan of salvation would be like a seed planted to grow in the history and development of truth, from symbol to symbol. The time must come when man could again commune with God face to face.
Although the second coming of Christ is referred to often in Adventist conversation, little do we realize what is involved and the crisis that is pending. Each time the remnant is confronted with the pure truth of the atonement, the heat of this glory, the glory of the cross, seems more than we can bear. The natural heart seeks a detour around the cross which demands that "self" must die. But from eternity the Almighty has understood that this is the only way for life to continue. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone" (John 12:24). The supreme manifestation of this principle in God's existence was made plain when He faced the cross and agreed to give the only Begotten to become "flesh" as a member of the human race. Thus it was at the cross that the veil between man and God was rent and His character was seen in all its glory. It is in the light of this glory that we see the Word made "flesh."
But we are loathe to receive this truth and our childish faith is content to accept a Saviour who came only part way to meet man's needs. We say He was different. The glory of His manifestation in the "flesh" overwhelms us, and the battle between faith and sin continues. So the advent must be delayed until we learn in the school of Christ the sinfulness of sin. God cannot set up a lie.
One notable student in this school of revelation was Abraham. His ordeal is a parable to help mortals see that God is real and that He appreciates and experiences the very emotions His children pass through as they face the horrors of sin and death. The parallel is so close that the name of Abraham and the name of Messiah would be set in the same context: "To Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Galatians 3:16).
Any student in the school of Christ who accepts the Seed as the Master Teacher is related to Abraham, or he is not really an heir of the promise. "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. … If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:7, 29). True Israelites are those who understand the potential of the dynamics hidden in the promise:
What is there in the experience of Abraham that so closely reflects the glory of the Son of man that only those who enter into a similar experience are counted heirs of the promise? Many aspects of Abraham's life reflect the pattern of sacrificial commitment displayed by the Seed. He left those closest to him and the security of his homeland; he moved into enemy territory as a stranger; he exhibited a generosity and loyalty to Lot and his family beyond the accepted norm; he displayed a faith in God's word that carried him through to realize all that had been promised. These similarities and many others clearly reflect the nature of the Saviour.
In Abraham's experience there is one act which overshadows all others. His supreme expression of faith, that unveils the essence of Christ's mission, was bound up with his only son upon an altar of rock and wood at Mount Moriah. In the drama of salvation, the very place where Abraham was called to offer Isaac exhibits a profound meaning. Moriah in the Hebrew is the conjunction of "Yah" or Lord Jehovah, with "ra'ah" which means to see or experience, to perceive or regard. This dark tunnel of tribulation through which Abraham had to pass was eventually to culminate in a sacrifice on a hill that included all this hidden in its name.
In other words, the place of his supreme act of faith is named the place where God is perceived and revealed. It was not a vision. It was a promise in visible form, a demonstration of faith as real as life itself. And this ultimate reality of faith shows not only the believer's union with God, but the character of God Himself as He agreed to offer His Son to become a part of the human family.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). This is the assurance that faith brings into existence that which is the basis for hope. This is why the faith of Jesus was, and is, a complete demonstration of God the Father. This demonstration is the fruit of the knowledge of God and Christ, which knowledge is life eternal. All the promises of God find their fulfillment in Christ as He became a member of the human family. Thus perfect faith completely reveals the God who made the promises (Romans 4:13). "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
For the Word to be made flesh meant to make the promises of God evident in the Seed. Genuine faith must produce tangible evidence. The incarnation of Christ was the manifestation of the faith of God that fulfilled all His promises and gave the universe a new understanding of His character. This was evidence never seen before. We therefore stand in awe at Jesus' words and haltingly accept them: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9).
Abraham Is Our Father In Faith
Who is willing to part with an only child? But even more difficult, who would part with a child who is the answer to prayer, the fruit of a miracle? But for Abraham, there was much more pending than the loss of family and heir. Offering his only son Isaac demonstrated faith in its purest form. In this we are confronted with the truth of his whole experience, for it portrays Christ's humanity and our relation to it and our understanding of it.
His crisis of faith involved his entire life history. Isaac represented far more than the guarantee of Abraham's family tree. The salvation of the world was pending in the fulfillment of God's promise "in Isaac." Isaac was the visible evidence of faith rewarded after decades of distress. Time had not lessened the intensity of Abraham's mental turmoil. The promised land of Canaan was never realized by this weary sojourner. Hostile neighbors kept him adrift without security or any real possession. Frustration had been his lot for years and the gift of a family eluded him and Sarah. What hope was there that he or the promised seed would ever reach Canaan? Then came Isaac.
When all hope had nearly vanished, God did the impossible and parted the symbolic "Red Sea" for the patriarch and his wife. The miracle son was born. Abraham through faith now knew the reality of God's faithfulness. The substance was held in his own arms. This seed was irrefutable evidence. Isaac was the gift of salvation itself, and for Abraham the desert was now in blossom. God had finally honored and accepted this man who hung on by faith. The domestic problem of two wives was settled. A well was dug and ownership sealed. A grove was planted, his travels were over and he stayed in the land of the Philistines for decades. And then he was struck as if by a bolt of lightning.
Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee to the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:2). To take Isaac away was to annihilate faith itself. This was a reversal, a revoking of the promise, a cancellation of his whole life's experiences. Perplexity, doubt, frustration flooded the soul of this old man whose every hope centered in this child of promise. A terrible shaking commenced in the heart of Abraham. He entered a time of trouble such as he had never seen. Despair rolled in like a flood. Had God forsaken him?
And so he reviews his life. He sees little good. There was vacillation; there were lies to Pharaoh; there was the faithless and illicit affair with Hagar and the resultant bond-son Ishmael. Had his faithlessness brought this judgment? What else could this be but a "judgment"? Death itself would be a welcome retreat from this horrible abyss of shattered hope, yet God was still leading.
An ember of faith still burned. He would cling to the promise in spite of the overwhelming sense of being forsaken. God must be faithful. If He demanded Isaac's life, He could and would resurrect him, for mercy and justice would meet in God's dealings with man.
In the wake of this heart-rending travail was born one of the most vivid and profound revelations of God's own passionate struggle in the sacrifice of His Son. How could He give Him to become flesh and blood and take on human nature and become a member of the rebel race?
Abraham's faith was like a key that opens a door to reveal the glory of heaven itself. This glory evidenced through the faith of the aged saint is the true consummation of the promised Seed. Isaac, as it were, was resurrected in a revelatory message of God's own struggle. This is why the promise revolves around Abraham and Christ, who are partners in disclosing the wonders of the plan of salvation.
It was Abraham who penetrated the faith of Jesus. That penetration could only emerge because of following the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. It was on the cross that Jesus fully bore the doubt of humanity and triumphed over it through faith. Throughout His life He bore the cross daily; Calvary epitomized the struggle. This is the faith that demonstrates and reveals God in the "flesh." As surely as every step in the experience of Abraham was real, so Christ, the seed of Abraham, really became a member of the human family. He took human nature upon Him in a post-Fall dimension without exemption and faced temptations like Abraham had and as we know them today.
This experience for Abraham was like passing through the valley of the shadow of death. He was sorely tempted to turn his back on God's promises and cling to his "flesh" in Isaac. So Christ had to choose between His will, the clamors of His "flesh," or face the cross and drink the cup. In each case the salvation of the world was in the balance; all depended upon faith.
Without understanding the liabilities that Christ assumed in taking sinful human nature, we lack the last essential building-block in construction of the temple of truth. We will never be equipped with the "faith of Jesus" until we understand the ground over which His faith passed. To "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth," we must know Him as one "made like unto His brethren." Then we will see clearly that He is "a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say his flesh." This will provide "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" (Hebrews 10:20, 19).
Therefore we are Christ's, we are Abraham's seed, we are heirs according to the promise. The world waited 4000 years and then God sent forth His Son, the gift as promised, "made of a woman, made under the law." All this that we might be sons and not slaves, heirs of God through Christ the Seed of Abraham. In this truth there is no confusion.
"My God and Your God"
As mentioned, Jesus habitually called Himself the "Son of man." The implications of this are immense and need to be better understood. Was He telling the world that He had a special family connection with mankind? The truth of this may be seen as He talked with Mary after the resurrection.
He had finished His earthly ministry. He had done all that He could do before returning to heaven. Would His walk in the flesh with the children of men fulfill the law? Had He been the second Adam in reality, and conquered where the first Adam had failed? How could He know? According to what He said to Mary the confirmation remained to be seen.
It was then that Jesus said, "Mary," and it was then that she was resurrected from her grave of grief. She recognized Jesus and answered, "Master." There He was, real and living, standing before her. He was about to make a startling statement. He would confirm how He had joined Himself to the children of Adam without a shadow of exemption, truly the Seed of the woman. With a note of suspense and profound anticipation Jesus tells Mary: "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:17).
Almost an unfathomable statement! Here was the One who made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a slave, made in the same fashion as men. Here He was proclaiming to the world that there was news for His "brethren" that they must understand. The news was, He was going back to His Father, the same Father that they had. He was going back to His God, the same God they had, and He wanted His "brethren" to know that He was one with them. He had broken down the wall of partition between man and God and they were nigh unto Him, no longer "far off." He confirmed that He was the son of Adam, which was the son of God and that Jesus Himself was the Seed in that royal lineage (Luke 3:23-38). His blood had sealed His kinship with the children of men for He had abolished in His "flesh" the enmity of man toward God (Ephesians 2:13-16).
But when Mary told His "brethren" these things, they "believed not" (Mark 16:10, 11). The question comes to us: Do His brethren in the end-time, when the mystery of God is to be finished, have any more faith than the disciples had, and do they really believe what He said?
"I Say Unto You …"
When Jesus was brought to trial, He let the world know that He was "made like unto his brethren." The case against Him was going badly. The authorities knew what they wanted to do but they could find no witnesses. How can they put a man to death without witnesses? There was no agreement even among the bribed witnesses. Finally two were found with a story that might influence the court.
The account as given in the Greek is dramatic! "This man said, '1 can destroy the shrine of God and through three days build it again.'" But the Accused remained silent. He knew He had never said such a thing. What He had said was like a parable which even His disciples did not understand until after the resurrection. "He spake of the temple of his body" (John 2:21, 22).
But for now in this trial, Peter is in the courtyard experiencing his time of trouble. When he comes to his senses he rushes out in bitter repentance. How could his deceptive heart have been so completely unknown to himself?
Meanwhile the court is becoming tense. After they finally find two witnesses the Accused refuses to defend Himself. The prosecutor is embarrassed and frustrated and as a last resort calls upon the God of the universe to bring this trial to a verdict by demanding the Accused to speak. The words are piercing: "1 adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God." The court waits in solemn suspense to hear what this "man of Galilee" will answer (Matthew 26:63).
Silence could reign no longer. The Accused must bear witness but what He says they hear only to condemn. Today the question is, Do we hear what He really said? In His reply may be found an idiomatic way of saying "Yes," but in His reply there is also a profound latent ambiguity. To the question of the high priest, "Are you the Christ, the Son of God," Jesus answers: Those are your words, Caiaphas, that is what you say, but I tell you now, you will see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven. The judge seizes these words of the Accused, and decrees there is no need of further witnesses, He is worthy of death. By His own testimony He must be condemned.
What does the Accused say? When the high priest tries to put words into His mouth, Jesus proclaims that He is the "Son of man." He belongs to the human race, a child of Adam, the son of David. He declared before the universe that at His second coming He would return as the "Son of man." He comes sitting on the right hand of power and He is there because He "overcame." This was a prelude to what He told Mary, "My God and your God," for He sits down with the "Father in his throne" after He "overcame." We too may sit on that throne as we overcome by the faith of Jesus (Matthew 26:57-66; Revelation 3:21).
Luke reiterates the account (Luke 22:66-71). The "chief priests and the scribes" as a group were seething with the question, "Art thou the Christ? tell us." He was in a no-win situation. If He told them they would not believe, and if He asked them they would not answer, but they could know this: "Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God." With bated breath they all joined in a direct question, "Art thou then the Son of God"? He answered them,
You say that I am," these are your words, and on these words He was condemned. His positive proclamation was, He was the Son of man, and He never seemed to tire of declaring this.
"Son of Man"
This was the title that Jesus used scores of times when He referred to Himself.1 The way that He used this title has deep implications which show that it was far more than just a name, a handy appellation. It describes a condition, a heritage that provided a badge of nobility and authority. Clearly the second Adam respected His place in the grand plan of creation, while the first Adam despised his delegated office and was willing to cast it aside, coveting the throne of God. In contrast, Jesus was not concerned with grasping the place He had as God. He was willing to lose His reputation, take the form of a servant, and be "made in the likeness of men," suffering the wages of sin without ever becoming a partaker of sin (Philippians 2:7, 8).
It is this very quality of being the "Son of man" that gives Christ credibility before the universe. The common pagan idea of God would allow Him to do whatever He pleased because He is God. The true Christ was constrained to help man in his post-Fall condition when the easy solution would have been to write him off as beyond repair. Obviously there was no need to help Adam in his pre-Fall condition. He didn't need a Saviour. It was in this environment that God sensed that He needed to do something drastic, beyond the ken of mortals, and so "gave" the balm of Gilead to cure the disease of sin.
Jesus referred to His Father as "working" and setting an example so that He also had to work (John 5:17). He tried to explain this to the Jews when on the Sabbath He healed the infirm man who had been smitten for thirty-eight years. This was more than they could endure and they "sought to slay him." When He said He had to work because His Father worked, their zeal to kill Him was intensified. Breaking the Sabbath by healing was bad enough, but claiming "that God was his Father" was intolerable. But Jesus was not dismayed by their disdain. On the contrary, He proclaimed that all He was doing was the result of seeing what His Father did. He Himself could "do nothing." In the end, at the final showdown, He would have "authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man" (verses 19-30). The Seed of Abraham, by hand-to-hand conflict with sin, would understand what was involved in the judgment. By not seeking His own will He would render a judgment that was just.
Only the Son of man could do this for only the Son of man truly believed what Moses and the prophets had written about Him.
To call Himself the "Son of man" was not just the temporary title to assume for a while on earth. It has eternal significance. John the Revelator stood ready to write when he received his message for the seven churches. The Alpha and the Omega, "the Almighty," was declaring His purposes and the prophet listened. There is an amazing family kinship disclosed as the prophet acknowledges his assignment. He ' responds: "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ," was ready to write in a book what the Spirit spoke (Revelation 1:4-9). John, serving as a prophet, presumed to say that he was a "brother" of the Alpha and Omega. This he could say because the "first and the last," the Son of man, became a member of the human family.
As he began to write of the glories revealed to him, he was ushered into the place of the "seven golden candlesticks." This was the tabernacle of the very presence of the Creator. In the midst of the seven candlesticks was "one like unto the Son of man" whom John recognized in all His glory and sacred attire. Here in the midst of heaven was the "Son of man," and here was the One John could call "brother."
When he would have been overcome with the glory John fell at His feet, but the "Son of man" said, "Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore" (verses 17, 18). Here was the Seed, born of a woman, born under the law, the Son of man, "dead" but "alive for evermore," who would say to His "brother," "Don't be afraid." What more could the Majesty of heaven do to show sympathy and love for Adam's kin? The encouragement that John received is for us today.
When John finished recording the most fearful proclamation in all history (the message of the three angels), he was given further insight into the future. In vision he saw a white cloud and "upon the cloud sat one like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle" (Revelation 14:14). Here the second advent was portrayed. Ready for His triumphal return, the "Son of man" would come back still a member of the human family (22:16). The "root and offspring of David" would thrust in His sickle, for "the harvest of the earth is ripe."
John saw the true Christ. This was the One he could call "brother." This is the Mediator between God and man. The Greek in 1 Timothy 2:5 tells us that He is Christ Jesus, a man. We have the assurance that our Advocate understands fully our temptations. In the great pending trial of all ages, the children of Adam have an Advocate, a man to mediate, "the man Christ Jesus."
"Sons of God"
The immeasurable wonder of Christ becoming the "Son of man" stands beside another equally amazing truth. Sinners are to be called "sons of God." This is but the other side of the same coin.
John tells the church it can know anyone who has the spirit of antichrist because such will not confess that Jesus Christ came "in the flesh." By contrast, the church will know that the Spirit of God is in those who confess "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." This same author assures the church that the children of men are called to be members of the heavenly family. His record is:
ehold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:1, 2).
Jesus was the Son of man, and the Son of God. Wonder of wonders, God's children will partake of the same relation to Him. Human beings, belong to the heavenly royal household. Paul says, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.... The Spirit itself beareth 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 so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Romans 8:14-17). To suffer with Him is to see sin for what it is. Could the apathy of the church be the result of blindness, not believing that we have this high calling? Consider: "children of God," "sons of God," "joint-heirs with Christ"! How much closer could God come to the human race?
The sacred record tells us that we have been called to glory and virtue and have been given "great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). That "divine nature" is to be trained so that "we might be partakers of his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10). We need to stop counting on our fingers, though it is tolerated for children. A child that remains a child is a pathetic case. Adults must advance and go on from mathematics, to algebra, to calculus. The need for Adventists to grow up and advance in understanding the things pertaining to God and eternity is long past due, and increases with each passing year.
It is reasonable to believe that the second coming of Christ has been delayed because we have not sensed that the mystery of God remains to be finished. It can never be finished until we understand that implicit in the nature which Christ took is the potential for overcoming all sin. That He did not sin is proof of the power of the gospel. It is this power offered to all mankind that constitutes the "unsearchable riches of Christ" In His people "all men [will] see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:8, 9). The world waits to see and understand this "mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:26, 27).
For many years we have revelled in the prophecies, but to preach prophecy without understanding the gospel is to run without a message. The veil in the temple was rent at the crucifixion, opening to the universe new concepts of God's plan. So the veil of spiritual darkness surrounding ourselves in the end-time must be torn away. God's greatest limitation in finishing His work is our own spiritual blindness.
This is obvious from what the True Witness tells the seventh church: "Thou ... knowest not." A thousand committee actions based only on man's wisdom and strategy cannot fulfill our destiny and will only lead us on in blindness. The essence of righteousness is clear perception. As Christ became the Son of man He grappled with sin. He saw its result and this insight He offers to us.
From the time Jesus was twelve years old until He went forward in baptism He continued to study the Old Testament. He knew from the book of Daniel when He should be baptized. But the message that John preached demanded repentance. When John called the Pharisees and Sadducees a "generation of vipers" he was only speaking the truth. They came motivated by fear, without repentance. In this climate the "Son of man" came forward to be baptized, for in repentance is the total knowledge of sin. Christ's baptism signified that He saw repentance and sin with perfect eyesight. He had the ultimate conviction, and told John, "Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:1-15). He was made "to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This corporate appreciation of repentance and conviction of sin launched the Saviour on the path of obedience that was to end in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. Here He went through His "time of trouble." That time of trouble was not for want of food or shelter, but the terrible anguish of facing sin as His "self" sought an escape from the cross.
The "Son of man," the "Son of God," has marked out the path that every one of His followers will travel when the angels let loose the four winds of strife. That time of trouble for each child of God will be to face "self," and decide to accept the cross instead of seeking a detour around it. Our escape from sin can be no greater than our seeing sin for what it is. This perfect insight led the "Son of man" and the "Son of God" to His cross.
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