Thursday, September 25, 2014

Imagine a Perfect Universe: Genesis, Revelation, and the Cross of Jesus Christ

I imagine in the perfect state the world existed in Genesis 2 reality made a great deal of sense.  Everything was good and right.  I imagine the universe itself, the alignment of the stars and galaxies was much different.  Even to the point where it would be hardly imaginable.  In the current state of the universe everything is in motion, getting further and further from the center point of the explosion event we call the "big bang."  As a result the universe is a barren place, small solar systems and galaxies separated by incredible amounts of space.  In a perfect harmonious universe, what would the universe look like?  Soon enough we'll know.  After the millennial reign of Christ, the final conclusion of the end of evil and the remaking of the universe, the stars, the earth, and the garden city of our future (Rev 20-22).

But today, we exist in a very complicated, broken reality inexorably devastated by sin.  And our escape hatch, our "emergency beam out" is Jesus Christ.  I start to realize why in my past, as I searched for God, I was drawn to so many apocalyptic visions, books, and movies, like the Matrix, or Donnie Darko.  In Donnie Darko a time paradox had occurred in which the primary universe had been altered by the impact of an artifact from outside the system, which generated a "tangent universe."  The idea of the tangent universe was all of reality had been broken, and as the talking Rabbit told Donnie Darko, in 28 days the world will end.  A tangent, broken universe has to end for the primary universe to be recreated as it is suppose to be.

In the same way in Revelation chapter 21 God remakes the heavens and the earth (the entire universe) to be as they were before the fall of man.  God has a way of inserting such thoughts and ideas into the minds of artists, and even in our depraved media culture, some truth shines through.

The books of the Bible Genesis and Revelation are fascinating because they describe our past, and our future.  So in Genesis 2, the universe and the earth made a lot of sense.  I'm sure it was quite easy to call a spade a spade.  It was easy to tell how great God was, because humanity existed directly in the presence of his spirit and glorious being.  Holiness was a fact of life in response to the awe for God, and there was no natural inclination to sin within the human mind.

Of course then, there is the grand mystery of Lucifer (Isa 14:12-15).  One of God's angels, created, living in the direct presence of God, serving him, and how, somehow, within the heart of Lucifer he conceived of sin.  Pride paved the path.  But how could a being in the direct holiness of God, viewing it, seeing it, feeling it, come to believe he ought to be god?  So Lucifer became Satan.  And the first humans sided with Satan, believed him, disbelieved God, despite their intimacy with him, and that is where we are today, the planet, the universe cursed by the logical outworking of that sin of self-deification.  Recall in Genesis 3:4 4 (C)But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  The temptation was "disbelieve God, and exalt yourself to the position of God through disobedience."

We can see the results all across the planet (Gen 3:17).  When there is more than enough wealth and food to go around, but entire continents suffer starvation, brutal conditions, and rampant disease.  And even much more locally, we see strip clubs, bars and clubs plastered with screens and loud music and scantly clad men and women.  Alcohol on every shelf, drugs on every corner.  Abortion clinics, self exaltation shopping malls, and television screens full of temptation to everything and worship sessions at the local NFL, MLB, and NBA stadiums.  This is what happens when man tries to play god.  

Now it seems, it is very difficult to call a spade a spade.  Do you know what I mean?  We struggle with such difficult questions like "Why do bad things happen to good people?"  

"Why do rich bankers successfully suppress the truth, why do they always get away with it?"

"How can the minimum wage be so low a single mother has to work three jobs just to pay for a one bedroom apartment?"

"Why are so many people so in love with studying the smallest details of NFL football statistics, teams, the Packers, but they can't even name the four gospels?"

And on and on and on the questions go.  Paradoxes in reality.  Mucky, difficult situations.  With the curse of sin upon all hearts, and the natural Earth itself, a billion paradoxes were triggered.  

Let's look at some examples from scripture:

Matthew 23:12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

That's where the 1st step comes from in twelve step programs.  We admitted we were powerless over (insert problem, drugs, alcohol, sex, money, depression) and that our lives had become unmanageable.  When we humble ourselves before God, and admit we need his help, he helps us.  When we humble ourselves before him, he exalts us.  In the same way, when Jacob wrestled with God in the later books of Genesis, God asked Jacob one question: What is your name?  

Did God forget what his name was?  Is that why he asked?  Of course not.  But if you recall, when Jacob stole the blessing from his brother Esau, he had lied about his identity (Gen 27:19).  Then God asked him what is his name.. Do you know what Jacob means?  It means "deceiver."  So when Jacob was willing to admit his identity as a deceiver, God then responded in saying he would make a great nation out of him.

Genesis 32:28 (NIV) Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Most would assume, if I want to be "exalted", honored, dignified, lofty, powerful then I need to climb the social ladder.  I need to step on the faces of my brothers to get positions in the church.  I need to become popular.  I need to get the promotion.  But instead, God says humble yourself before me, and then you will be great.  A paradox.

Proverbs 11:24-25 (ESV)
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. 

This is another powerful example.  By all worldly measures, if I give away what I have, donate to charity, help friends out, eventually I'll have nothing and be destitute.  But that is not the case.  God promises that those who give freely paradoxically end up growing richer.  Another paradox of reality.

 The ultimate beautiful paradox occurs on the cross of Jesus Christ.  One of my favorite pieces of scripture from the book of Philippines describes the paradox in a very powerful way:

Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:(I)

Who, being in very nature[a] God,(J)
    did not consider equality with God(K) something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing(L)
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,(M)
    being made in human likeness.(N)
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death(O)
        even death on a cross!(P)

Therefore God exalted him(Q) to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,(R)
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,(S)
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,(T)
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,(U)
    to the glory of God the Father.

C.J. Mahaney said: “The personal desolation Christ is experiencing on the cross is what you and I should be experiencing--but instead, Jesus is bearing it, and bearing it all alone. Why alone? He's alone so that we might never be alone.”
C.J. Mahaney, Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing  

Charles Spurgeon wrote: “Jesus has borne the death penalty on our behalf. Behold the wonder! There He hangs upon the cross! This is the greatest sight you will ever see. Son of God and Son of Man, there He hangs, bearing pains unutterable, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Oh, the glory of that sight! The innocent punished! The Holy One condemned! The Ever-blessed made a curse! The infinitely glorious put to a shameful death! The more I look at the sufferings of the Son of God, the more sure I am that they must meet my case. Why did He suffer, if not to turn aside the penalty from us? If, then, He turned it aside by His death, it is turned aside, and those who believe in Him need not fear it.”
Charles H. Spurgeon, All of Grace

The cross of Jesus Christ is the ultimate paradox.  God became man, lived a perfect life, not one sin.  By all measures, someone who lives a perfect holy, loving, humble life should never, never, never be punished the way Jesus Christ was.  By all measures that is wrong in the highest regard!  Yet by that act, by dying on this sin planet, Jesus provided our escape, our elevator off this planet.  He became death, to defeat death.  A sneak attack.  Death can hold anyone who has sinned.  However, death could not hold a man who never sinned once. 

Acts 2:23-24 (NIV) This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
People have told me they don't understand the value of the cross.  "Some guy was crucified on a cross, so what!"  I would say that person is seeing Jesus as man only, and failing to understand the aspect of his divine deity.  He was God, and is God.  It wasn't just a man, or even a perfect man, but the fully God, fully man, who defeated death.  In addition, the prospect of an entire life lived without committing one sin, without a single fault, is so unheard of on this planet it might as well be entirely alien.

Of course most cannot see it.  Most stumble on in this world blindly, wrapped up in distractions and sins and they die outside the cross, rejecting it's power.  Bringing us to yet another fascinating paradox.  

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT) The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.

One would assume that if the message of the cross is the most important thing that ever happened on Earth, it would be treated as such by the people of Earth.  However it is not the most esteemed event on Earth.  The cross of Jesus Christ is possibly one of the most notorious and controversial events on Earth, but less and less is it taken seriously.  The skeptics abound, and as Francis Schaeffer warned in How Should We Then Live? the naturalists conquered the public schools with the materialism philosophy of life and now by the millions schools and colleges turn out diehard skeptics, atheists, agnostics, and scientism fanatics who turn hard against the mere mention of the supernatural; unless perhaps it's worded in the form of eastern mysticism, or that "all religions hold to the same spiritual principles" a statement of incredible ignorance toward all religions, ironically.  

It's fascinating to look at the impact of the cross over the span of human history.  Early on it was esteemed somewhat highly.  The human calendar of years itself all hinged on the cross.  Of course the world Christian movement has faced perplexingly difficult situations again and again, the Roman persecution, the fall of the Roman empire to barbarians, the abuse of power by the Papacy, the Muslim invasion of Europe and North Africa, the Reformation, World War II, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, the Cold War era, and now today we face an entirely new situation. 

There are so many contributing factors to the new situation facing world Christianity, but one word could probably sum it up: globalization.  And with it corruption, central banking, liberalism, abortion, religious persecution, gay rights, the decline of civil liberties, and so many other issues that strike to the very core of the faith.  Thankfully the message never changes:  Jesus Christ the God-man died on the cross to provide forgiveness for my sins.  Any man with a humble heart has to admit the reality of sin in his own heart.  I prefer to look at the sins around me, but I can also see my own.  And I can see the need, the vital need for forgiveness.  

We Christians know that the current state of Earth is temporary.  This is the tangent (temporary) universe destined for destruction.  God will make it new, and we will live in that new world.  But before then terrible things will happen.  Satan still runs amuck in the nations of the Earth.  He secretly controls many of the nations.  The evidence mounts everyday.  You start to wonder when the US Department of Homeland Security purchases 1.6 billion rounds of hollow point ammunition.  I don't make this stuff up, I just bring it up.  I'm not too concerned however.  If the time comes in which I must die for my Lord, so be it.  He'll help me through those difficult moments, I'm sure of it.  Remember at the stoning of Stephen:  

Acts 7:54-60 (CEV)  When the council members heard Stephen’s speech, they were angry and furious. 55 But Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit. He looked toward heaven, where he saw our glorious God and Jesus standing at his right side.56 Then Stephen said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!”
57 The council members shouted and covered their ears. At once they all attacked Stephen 58 and dragged him out of the city. Then they started throwing stones at him. The men who had brought charges against him put their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 As Stephen was being stoned to death, he called out, “Lord Jesus, please welcome me!” 60 He knelt down and shouted, “Lord, don’t blame them for what they have done.” Then he died.
We may be asked to die for our faith tomorrow.  Such is the case for many Christians living in the middle east, India, and China.  Then again it may be our children, or our children's children, or their children, or their children in the West who are finally forced to die for their faith.  No man knows the day or hour.  None.  But it's always wise to be watchful.  

And don't forget what the scriptures say: The anti-christ is coming ( Thessalonians 2:3).  This is Satan's last desperate attempt, his last desperate power grab.  He may try to kill God at the battle of armageddon.  Of course he will fail, but he has people today on Earth who believe by serving him they will be rewarded in Satan's future kingdom ( a kingdom that will never come, thankfully).  Google "Bohemian grove" or "Project bluebeam."  Certainly fascinating theories at the least.  Many of the people who follow Satan are most likely world leaders.  It's simply a reality of Satan's current kingdom on Earth.  I'm not going to go too far into descriptions and interpretations on the books of Daniel and Revelation.  But we do know that the anti-christ will try to appear to be the real Christ.  He will try to fulfill certain prophecies.  He'll probably be able to do so quite convincingly, most likely with the use of the latest technologies.  My guess is, and remember this is only an educated guess, but my guess is that the anti-Christ will emerge as the leader of a unified all inclusive religion which attempts to bring adherents from all religions under the same umbrella.  Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sics, and of course as many Christians as they can convince.  The anti-Christ will bring together all these religions under a "new age" spirituality.  All will be welcomed.  Evolution, the latest scientific theories, and world peace will all be brought into play to get people to sign off on it.  All of this will lead to a single world government under the leadership of this anti-christ and his false prophet.  The plan will be to bring about a "new age" through esoteric consciousness evolution, technology, and world peace.  Sounds great right?  Unfortunately those who stubbornly cling to exclusivity, say, of Jesus Christ as the only way, will be dealt with, forcefully.  I'm sure they'll say something like "Barriers to peace must be removed."  Scriptures also mention the "mark of the beast" which will most likely be a microchip implant which scripture says will be in "the right arm or forehead" (Rev 13:17).  Of course it's a bait and switch, and the world peace will become all out war, a total control system, and eventually destruction.  So definitely be on the watch for those developments in the news today.  Like I said, those are just some theories that bounce around in my head as I study and learn more about scripture and current events.  Definitely do the research before you come to any conclusions regarding end times prophecy.  There is a lot of speculation, which is fine, but the best source of wisdom is the Bible, and prayer.

It's exciting though.  I need not feel any fear, nor should you.  I want to see Jesus Christ return.  I want to see reality repaired.  I want to see the end of this sinful, broken universe.  My escape is guaranteed through the work of Christ on the cross.  Now I'm waiting, and telling others about the good news.

Sharing the good news is hard sometimes though.  People don't want to understand.  And the atheist professors love to talk about Buddha, Hinduism, the gnostic gospels, and prattle on about eastern mysticism and universalism.  Such nonsense.  

“If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.” –C. S. Lewis  
Christianity describes reality the best.  It just does.  It's the hardest message, but given the grim realities of our world, those that no one wants to see, it would have to be a hard message.  I don't like being told about my own sinful nature.  Unfortunately at the end of the day it's plain and simply true! It describes reality the best!  And it's the only way I can see a perfect world in the future.  It's logical outworking is the best world, Jesus Christ is the best humble example of love.  I've written extensively on how science indicates strong evidence for design.  We've seen how history and archaeology confirm the Bible as legitimate, and the empirical evidence shows that from one peasant named Jesus who was crucified, there are now 2.1 billion followers of him today. That tells me that Jesus Christ did in fact literally rise to life from the death of the cross, and he is literally alive today, and he is God. So I follow him.

And I wonder.  I dream.  I ask questions in the fullness of my Christian worldview, like...

What will the perfect universe be like?  Will we roam the stars?  Will we live in a beautiful garden?  What language will we speak?  What, oh I wonder, will it feel like?  I imagine it will feel quite good and well, to be sinless.  I look forward to those moments with great anticipation, and I tremble at night in fear that my own sins might net me, and strip me of the faith I currently hold in Jesus Christ.  But I trust God will help me, and deliver me from every one of those sins.  And he will.  I may be fully assured of that.  So can you.  Amen.