Sunday, November 6, 2011

God's Plan of the Ages - Lord of the Living and the Dead

Joseph Herrin (11-06-2011)

A person cannot properly understand Yahweh’s plan of the ages without a clear understanding of the pattern of death, burial and resurrection. The judgments of God, whether it be the death of sinners in past ages, the cross in this age, or the lake of fire which is the second death in the age to come, serve a purpose in the process of reconciling all things to the Father.

When Yahweh first created mankind there was no death present in the creation. As long as man was walking in oneness with the Father, being under Yahweh’s authority, and had not transgressed the will of God, there was only life. Death is a result of transgression.

Romans 5:12
Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned...

Romans 6:23
The wages of sin is death...

Before man had ever sinned, Yahweh told Adam what the consequences of disobedience would be.

Genesis 2:16-17
Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

There was only this one prohibition that Yahweh gave to man. All other things were lawful. The prohibition Yahweh pronounced was not arbitrary. It is very significant, for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents that which is most harmful to man. Prior to his transgression, Adam discerned what was right through conversation with God. What Yahweh said was righteous and acceptable was good. What Yahweh said was unrighteous and displeasing was evil. Man had to remain in a state of communion with the Father to know good and evil. Man could abide in life to the end of the ages as long as he remained in fellowship with God, submitting freely to Yahweh’s authority.

What the tree of the knowledge of good and evil held forth for man was the promise of man being able to determine right and wrong apart from Yahweh. If man were to eat of this fruit he would no longer need to consult with Yahweh to know what was righteous and unrighteous, what was the good way and what was the evil way. Man could look inside his own soul and take counsel there. By eating this forbidden fruit man would acquire an innate ability to determine good and evil for himself.

All creation remains in a state of Sabbath rest as long as it is yielded to the rule of the Creator that formed it. Should any part of the creation be severed from the Head of all rule and authority, beginning to act as its own head, then it must die. Even as man cannot continue to live when he is beheaded, so too can there be no spiritual life when man is severed from the Head and source of all life. To be severed from Yahweh is death.

Satan spoke some truth when he enticed Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit.

Genesis 3:4-5
The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

The lie of Satan was “You surely will not die!” The truth was that man would gain an ability that was God-like. Only Yahweh could determine what was good and evil, for only He had perfect wisdom and understanding, able to determine righteous and unrighteous conduct. Man had been created to be dependent upon Yahweh. Adam had to maintain fellowship with God to know truth and to walk in the way of life.

When Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he gained the ability to look within himself to know right and wrong. At that moment man was severed from his Creator. Rather than having God as Head, man became his own head. Man became a god unto himself, determining in the counsel of his own soul the way that he would go. Man’s nature became soulish, for he began to be ruled by his own soul.

Man’s fateful choice led to all humanity becoming “darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God...” (Ephesians 4:18). To be excluded from the life of God is a terrible condition for any created being. The love of Yahweh for mankind was such that He could not leave him in this condition of separation. Man was walking in spiritual death. He was excluded from the life of God.

Yahweh alone is the source of all light and truth. Once man was severed from the life of God it did not take long for the darkness in man to manifest. Among the first offspring of Adam and Eve, we read that Cain slew his brother Abel. The spiritual death man was walking in led to a spirit of murder. Soon, the darkness of man became so great that Yahweh was grieved at having made man.

Genesis 6:5-7
Then Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Yahweh was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Yahweh said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them."

The grief that Yahweh felt was not the emotion of a pitiless judge that is making a ruling regarding those for whom he has no compassion. Yahweh’s grief was that of a Father who saw a son who once had great promise, and was formerly innocent, being consumed with darkness and given over to every form of wickedness. It was love for man that led God to cut short their lives, and bring an end to the wickedness that had consumed them.

The Bible testifies that Yahweh takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Yahweh’s desire is that man might be reconciled to Him.

Ezekiel 18:21-23
“But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked," declares Yahweh God, "rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?”

When God judges a people, we see a manifestation of His righteous wrath. What the church has little discerned is that the wrath of God does not last forever. Yahweh loves man so much that His wrath will always give way to a renewal of mercy. That which has been cut off will be restored. We see this pattern everywhere throughout Scripture.

Isaiah 54:4-8
"Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; But you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your husband is your Maker, whose name is Yahweh of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth. For Yahweh has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one's youth when she is rejected," says your God.  "For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you," says Yahweh your Redeemer.

The words above were addressed to Israel. Yahweh calls Israel His “firstborn” (Exodus 4:22). As such, Israel serves as a type and shadow of how Yahweh will deal with all the nations. Yahweh chose Israel to be a nation holy unto Him. Israel strayed often, forsaking Yahweh and serving other gods. Israel became filled with murder, adultery, and all forms of corruption. This led to Yahweh forsaking Israel in His wrath. But His wrath lasts for a moment. Soon Yahweh’s everlasting lovingkindness once more was manifested and He took Israel back to Himself. What Yahweh did for Israel, He will do for all nations.

Isaiah 12:1-5
Then you will say on that day, "I will give thanks to You, O Yahweh; For although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For Yahweh God is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation." Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation. And in that day you will say, "Give thanks to Yahweh, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted." Praise Yahweh in song, for He has done excellent things;
Let this be known throughout the earth.

Why is this message to be known throughout the earth? It is because Yahweh will have compassion on all peoples of the earth. Yahshua gave a parable to declare this truth. The parable is of the prodigal son. The older son (the firstborn) is Israel. The younger son that went out and spent his inheritance on prostitutes and riotous living is the nations. The father in the parable rejoiced when his younger son returned home in humility desiring reconciliation. The father received the son gladly, for his son had turned away from his sin. The prodigal had awakened to the fact that life with his father was far better than a life of sin and darkness.

Luke 15:20-24
“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate.”

How remarkable is the love of God! He does not delight in the death of the wicked. He desires repentance and restoration. Reconciliation is what He takes pleasure in.

Consider, however, the response of the older brother. The older brother reveals the attitude of the Jews regarding God’s willingness to receive unto Himself the nations of the earth. Rather than rejoicing with the father at his brother’s return, the elder brother was angry. He refused to go in and join in the festivities, or to rejoice in the reconciliation of his brother.

Luke 15:25-30
“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.' But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’”

The attitude of the elder son is detestable. He is angry because his father is merciful. So too were the Jews incensed at the idea that the nations should be reconciled to God. They wanted to be exclusive. Their hearts were selfish. They did not share the burden that the Father has for the prodigal nations. Jonah is a visible example of this failure of Israel. Yahweh had compassion upon Nineveh. Though the city and kingdom were full of sin, Yahweh urged them to repent rather than be destroyed. Jonah, however, was angry with God. He wanted Nineveh to suffer the wrath of God and not be spared. Yahweh said:

Jonah 4:11
"Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"

Let us not pass over the statement here that Yahweh has compassion even upon the animals he has created. Yahshua told His disciples that not one sparrow falls to the ground without the Father knowing it. He then says, man is worth more than many sparrows in the eyes of God. Will not God have compassion upon man, whom He has created to bear His own image and likeness?

In a previous chapter we looked at the account found in Peter’s writing of Christ descending into hell to preach to the souls imprisoned since the days of Noah. Although Yahweh was angry at that generation for a moment, He had chosen to have mercy upon them. Yahweh sent His Son to proclaim the reconciliation that He had gained for mankind through Yahshua’s atoning sacrifice and resurrection from the dead.

Tragically, many Christians today manifest the same attitude as the elder son in the parable of the prodigal. They are angry at the suggestion that God will reconcile all nations and all people to Himself. Yet, this has ever been Yahweh’s plan, and it is exhibited often in Scripture.

It could be argued that there was no more wicked group of people on the earth than the inhabitants of Sodom. Outside of Lot’s family, Yahweh could not find a single righteous man among the citizens of that city. In His wrath, Yahweh overthrew the cities of the plain. He struck them with fire and brimstone, and all the inhabitants perished.

Consider the patience and love of God manifested in this event. Yahweh told Abraham that if He found even five righteous people in the city, He would not destroy it for the sake of the five. Yahweh could not find even five righteous. Therefore, His wrath was unleashed upon Sodom and the cities of the plain. If you think that was the end of Yahweh’s dealings with the inhabitants of Sodom, you would be wrong. The prophet Ezekiel recorded Yahweh’s words to Judah when Judah had turned to wickedness. What is revealed is amazing.

Ezekiel 16:49-55
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it. Furthermore, Samaria did not commit half of your sins, for you have multiplied your abominations more than they. Thus you have made your sisters appear righteous by all your abominations which you have committed. Also bear your disgrace in that you have made judgment favorable for your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. Yes, be also ashamed and bear your disgrace, in that you made your sisters appear righteous. Nevertheless, I will restore their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, and along with them your own captivity, in order that you may bear your humiliation and feel ashamed for all that you have done when you become a consolation to them. Your sisters, Sodom with her daughters and Samaria with her daughters, will return to their former state, and you with your daughters will also return to your former state.”

What is meant when Yahweh says “I will restore their captivity”? It is a reference to the imprisonment that those sinners have been held in since the destruction of Sodom, even as those who perished in the days of Noah were held in prison.

I Peter 3:19-20
He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark...

Christ came to set the captives free, both the living and the dead.

Romans 14:9
For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Acts 10:42
And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.

(See also II Timothy 4:1, I Peter 4:5)

There is an interesting passage found in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi.

Philippians 2:9-11
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Yahshua every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Yahshua Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Who are those “under the earth”? Is it not the dead? Christ testified plainly that those who were in the grave would hear His voice.

John 5:28
“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice...”

Paul tells the saints that “every knee” “of those under the earth” shall bow before Christ. Every tongue of all who have died will confess that Yahshua Christ is Lord. Even though Christ proclaimed that those in the grave would hear His voice, the Scriptures witnessing to this in many places, the church does marvel, and many do not believe. Christ died and rose again. His atonement was for all mankind as far back as Adam. He is Lord of both the living and the dead.

It is error to conclude that those who perished under the wrath of God have been utterly forsaken. Yahweh’s wrath is for a moment. His lovingkindness is everlasting. Not even the inhabitants of Sodom are forsaken eternally. Yahweh says that Sodom, and Samaria will both be restored after the same pattern as Judah and Jerusalem’s restoration. Mercy triumphs over judgment. One day all nations will return to Yahweh. He has sworn by Himself that every knee will bow before Him. Those who were incensed at Him will declare “Surely in Yahweh are righteousness and strength.” Yahweh’s reaction will then be as it was when the prodigal returned to his father.

Luke 15:32
“But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.”

Many more examples of God rejecting people in His wrath, but later receiving them back in His mercy, are found throughout the pages of Scripture. In His wrath Yahweh judged Moab.

Jeremiah 48:42
Moab will be destroyed from being a people because he has become arrogant toward Yahweh.

Nevertheless, in His compassion, Yahweh will one day restore Moab.

Jeremiah 48:46-47
“Woe to you, Moab! The people of Chemosh have perished; For your sons have been taken away captive and your daughters into captivity. Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in the latter days,” declares Yahweh.

Wrath is appointed for a season for the sons of men. Yahweh’s punishments are never eternal. Even the Law of Moses set limits to the punishment of a transgressor. What is revealed is very enlightening.

Deuteronomy 25:1-3
“If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. He may beat him forty times but no more, so that he does not beat him with many more stripes than these and your brother is not degraded in your eyes.”

Seeing that Yahweh forbid men to beat their brothers excessively, will He not also limit His correction to mankind? Would not God totally debase His children who transgressed for a season if He tormented them for eternity? Will Yahweh prove less merciful than He commanded men to be? When David was given a choice between falling into the hands of men, or into the hands of God for judgment, he chose God.

II Samuel 24:14
Then David said to Gad, "I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of Yahweh for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man."

David reveals in these words that man is not as merciful as Yahweh. The attitude of the elder brother to the prodigal has ever been present in the hearts of men. Is it any wonder that Christians today fall short of the mercy of God, proclaiming that those under God’s wrath must endure eternal torments, never to be reconciled to Him. Nevertheless, the testimony of Scripture is certain. Yahweh will restore all things to Himself through Christ.

Yahweh told Adam that on the day that he transgressed he would surely die. Yahweh is a manslayer. He puts sinful men to death that He might reveal His mercy by resurrecting them to newness of life. Not even the enemies of God are exempt from His mercy. Yahweh has testified that His plan of the ages will not be complete until His enemies are reconciled to Him. Those who filled the earth with violence in the days of Noah heard the preaching of Christ. The inhabitants of the wicked city of Sodom will return to their former state. Moab, the perennial enemy of Israel, will be restored in the latter days. God slays that He might make alive.

Deuteronomy 32:39
“Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal...”

Yahweh does not kill without making alive. He does not wound apart from bringing healing.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven... A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.

Each in their own order, all mankind will enter into resurrection life. God brings death to sinful men who are led by the passions and desires of their souls. He has to bring an end to the cursed life that He might resurrect men into the blessing of life in Christ. Let us not view Yahweh’s judgments as final. There can be no resurrection apart from death preceding it. The lovingkindness of God will not leave souls in prison forever. The dead will be raised. All those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth will confess that Yahshua Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

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Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063

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