You are the Gospel!- Rob Bell and the Anathema of “The Resurrection Rescue”

July 27, 2009

Clicking a link to something called “the Good News according to Rob Bell” is like hearing an episode of Friends is on TBS– you’ve already seen the show a hundred times but you watch anyways just in case.  So, I clicked it, pretty sure what I’d get, but attentive to see if there was anything redeemable.  Alas, it’s the one where he says Rachel’s name at the wedding again.

The video opens with Bell doing what he does best: standing still in Weezer-glasses, giving a “history lesson” on Judaism and the Roman Empire, denying all of the things evangelicals say and playing the tune of oppression of the poor and powerless.  Actually, it ends pretty much the same way too.  However, I did grab a bit of the transcript just for us to look at:

The gospel is the good news that God hasn’t given up on the world, that the tomb is empty and that a giant resurrection rescue is underway and that you and I can be a part of it. And so yes, this has a deeply personal dimension to it. Jesus is saving me. He’s saving me from my sins, from my mistakes, from my pride, from my indifference to the suffering of the world around me, from my cynicism and despair. The brokenness I see in the world around me is true of my own soul, and so he’s rescuing me, moment by moment, day by day, because God wants to put it all back together—you, me, the whole world. And so he starts deep inside each of us with our awareness that we need help, that we need saving, that we need rescuing. And then he begins to show us step by step what it looks like to put flesh and blood on this gospel. Because we all fall short, and that’s the beautiful part. Broken, flawed, vulnerable people like you and me are invited to be the hands and feet of a Jesus who loves us exactly as we are and yet loves us way too much to let us stay that way.

I believe. I believe because I see. I see the resurrection all around me. If people only had your life and they were asked the question, “Has Jesus risen from the dead?,” how would they answer? Has he? May you be a “yes” to the question, “Has Jesus risen from the dead?” And may you come to see, may you understand, that you are the good news. You are the gospel.

Where to begin?  Well, let’s start at the beginning.  ”The gospel is the good news that God hasn’t given up on the world, that the tomb is empty and that a giant resurrection rescue is underway and that you and I can be a part of it.”  I wonder where he got that from?  Empty tomb?  Okay.  God hasn’t given up?  Sure.  Resurrection rescue??  No atonement??

Rob Bell amazes me.  In a day when everyone wants to attack the atonement and what was accomplished on the cross, he just avoids altogether.  Honestly, I have listened to Bell enough to know that to him Jesus’ death on the cross was just a way to get him dead.  Nothing else.  At times he tries to add some sort of atonement in there, but it’s never very sincere.  Nope.  For Bell, the rescue is accomplished at the resurrection, and now that Christ is resurrected, “[he] is saving me.”  That’s funny, since Hebrews 10 tells us that,

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (vv.11-14)

So, who’s right?  Is it Bell who tells us that Jesus is raised from the dead to go around saving us “step by step”, or is it the Bible which says that Christ offered “a single sacrifice for sins [and then] sat down at the right hand of God” waiting for the second coming?  Is our salvation is “moment by moment, day by day” rescue, or is it the case that “a single sacrifice has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified“?

Clearly for Bell there are only two options: either he out and out denies what the Bible says about the atonement and Christ’s completed work of redemption, or . . . wait, I guess there’s only one option.  If our rescuing requires Christ’s continual work, then Hebrews is false and salvation is not secured by the cross.  Is that a bet you wnat to take?

Which of course leads into my other issue, namely that “You are the gospel.”  Really?  Is that what we’re told to do?  Are we supposed to be pointing to ourselves to lead people to God?  Are the claims of the Bible only as good as my witness?  I’ll concede that there may be good intention here, but the execution is very poor.  Right from the beginning the point is to minimize ourselves and point to Christ (cf. John 3.30), so to place the final emphasis on the believer and not somewhere more biblical, like say, Christ on the cross (cf. Galatians 2.20), is probably a bad course of action.

But like I said, what do you expect?  Everyone knows they we’re on a break, and everyone knows that each new Rob Bell production brigs us one step closer to universalism.  At least he looks cool distorting the gospel though.

Darkness . . . – A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 4.3-6, part 1

July 23, 2009

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4.3-4)

I believe that this verse speaks well together with Hebrews 11.6,

And without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

God can only be pleased by the faith of those who believe in and seek him, and no one can do this who is “blind” to the gospel.  No one may reject the light of the gospel and serve God simultaneously, for those to whom the “gospel is veiled” are one who are perishing.

Similarly, this agrees with Ephesians 2.1-3,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Here we see that “the god of this world [who] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” is the same as “the prince of the power of the air” that those “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” follow.  This is a hard word, but its reality makes the truth to be found in verse 6 of 2 Corinthians 4 all the more glorious!

Fully Fixed on the City to Come- Watch David Platt Bring It at the SBCPC

July 2, 2009

Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” -Hebrews 13:13-14

Going into last week’s SBC Pastor’s Conference I had heard a lot about David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brooks Hills in Brimingham, AL, but had never actually heard him preach, and so for me he was definitely the main attraction (much more than, say, Mike Huckabee).  Then, when he announced his sermon text was Hebrews 13 I was practically giddy (both that he was in Hebrews 13 and that he actually had a sermon text, a disappointing rarity among the conference’s speakers).  And then he preached.  Wow!

I say this all to let you know that I just found a blogger who has posted his conference message and I think it would do everyone reading this good to take 36 minutes and set them aside for praising God through the words that Pastor Platt delivered.  Though you may get beat up a little, you certainly won’t be disappointed.  Check it out here.

To Be Free of the Flesh, part 3- The Second Purpose of the Final Resurrection

April 22, 2009

Last time we stated that a first purpose in God’s plan of a final resurrection for all people is that he had always intended for the spirit and body to be married, and thus it is to this that he returns his creation in the end.  Today we will examine a second reason for the final resurrection of all people, believers in particular, to immortal, physical bodies.  To do this, let’s begin in Genesis 28.

Genesis 28.1-5 gives us an account of Isaac’s sending of Jacob to find a wife in Paddan-Aram at the house of his mother’s father, among the daughters of his uncle Laban.  Seeing him off, Isaac commissions Jacob with the blessings that have been passed down through the generations since Abraham, saying specifically, “May [God] give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” (v.4).  With this Jacob pictures the life for believers who are also labelled as “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 1.1, 2.11), a people whose citizenship is said to be in heaven, though they still live upon the earth (Philippians 3.20).

Continuing in Genesis 28.10-22 we find Jacob, freshly departed off to Paddan-Aram to find himself a wife, stop in the night to rest.  While sleeping he experiences the dream most of us know as the dream of Jacob’s ladder.  Among the things God says to Jacob in this encounter is, “The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring” (v.13), which is serves in reiterating the promise which Issac had just passed along to him.  The curious thing  is, that in looking back now, we see biblical testimony that this inheriting of the land never actually happened (cf. Hebrews 11.13, “These [the patriarchs, including Jacob] all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth“).  Moreover, this inheritance was not accomplished later by any if the succeeding generations of Israel, not Joshua (cf. Joshua 13.1), not David (cf. Hebrews 4.5-8), no one (cf. Hebrews 11.39).  Thus, we are left asking the question, “Did God lie?”  The answer to this is “No” and comes to us from Hebrews 11.16 and 13.14:

But as it is, [the patriarchs] desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11.16)

For here we [believers] have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13.14)

So, the promise is of a heavenly city yet to come.  But what does this even mean?  Is it further described in Scripture to us?  Gloriously yes!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21.1-3)

In Revelation 21, following the return of the conquering Christ in chapter 19 and the Great White Throne judgment in chapter 20, we see the picture of the final resting place for believers, and it is delivered to us as a holy city that comes from heaven down to a new earth (one that has been “set free from its bondage to corruption,” cf. Romans 8.19-22).  This is not a spiritual place in the sense of disembodied spirits inhabiting it; this is an earthly place within the physical creation made to be inhabited by physical bodies.  And just what physical bodies will inhabit it?  Why, immortal, sinless, glorified bodies of course!

Therefore, we see that a second, and  greatest reason for the final resurrection is because God’s ultimate plan of eschatalogical salvation for those called according to his name is a heavenly city on a regenerated planet where he may dwell freely with his people having no need for sacrifices or veils or priests.

Tomorrow we will spend one last day in this thought, working out what our response to the hope of a final resurrection should be in our everyday lives as believers.

Good Friday- An Event 1400 Years in the Making

April 10, 2009

This past week I taught on Isaiah 53 in my Sunday School class and about how it is the bridge for us between two very important texts regarding our salvation– Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 9.  

Leviticus 16 describes for us the Day of Atonement, that day that the people of Israel came together and had their sins atoned for by the intercession of the high priest making sacrifice for them and sending out the scapegoat to remove their iniquity.  This chapter ends by saying,

And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments. He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Moses did as the LORD commanded him. (Leviticus 16.29-34)

Continuing into Isaiah 53 we find the picture of the suffering servant, a man afflicted by God, and here is what we are told of him:

Surely he has borne our griefs
     and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
     smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
     he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
     and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
     we have turned-every one-to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
     the iniquity of us all
. (Isaiah 53.4-6)

Finally, Hebrews 9 shows us that in dying on the cross, Jesus Christ, our great high priest, served to fulfill the requirements of the Day of Atonement and to make an end of the sacrifices necessary for us to be justified and able to stand in the presence of the Almighty God.  It tells us that, 

[W]hen Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9.11-14)

So, we see, just in brief, the story told to us throughout the Bible, of a need for sacrifice, of a suffering servant who is to come and bear our iniquities, and finally of the one who completed this work.  This Good Friday let’s celebrate the greatness both of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and of a God who loved us so much he orchestrated the whole of history to lead to our redemption.  

Glory be to God forever!  Amen.

For No One in Particular?- What Atonement Reveals about Itself (Part 2)

November 21, 2008

Last time we made two points in regards to the actual execution of atonement as revealed in Scripture. First, we showed that it is not enough to generally propitiate God’s wrath, but for true propitiation to take place that propitiation must occur on the level of individuals. Second, we argued from Leviticus 16 that the Old Testament institution of atonement, practiced in the Day of Atonement, had its broadest application in providing atonement for the people of Israel, not for the whole world.

We will pick this up today in Hebrews 9 and 10 in which I will argue that we would be wrong to construe the extent of the atonement any broader than it was originally given in Leviticus. The objection has/will be made by some in interpreting Hebrews 9 and 10 that, since the new covenant is open to both Greek and Jew, then so also is the atonement provided being provided for “both Greek and Jew” (i.e. everyone) as well. However this is an argument being made without actually consulting the text of these chapters. If we were to do so we would find things slightly different.

To find the audience for Hebrews 9 and 10 and thus to find the people for whom Christ is “securing an eternal redemption,” the place to look is chapter 9 verse 15. This verse says that

Therefore [Christ] is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Now, I believe there are three ways to read this, and none of them is advantageous towards a traditional Unlimited Atonement position. One way of reading it is that Christ is the mediator of a new covenant unto salvation for those who are called, in which case this would logically be to the exclusion of those who are not called, with Christ not being a mediator for them, and therefore not offering the atoning sacrifice on their behalf.

A second way is that Christ is the mediator for all so that those who are called may receive the atonement offered for them, and not those who are not called, in which case the offer of the atonement is not made to everyone, since this call is the same call which in Romans 8.30 leads to justification and we are not trying to argue for universalism. But if the offer of atonement is not made to everyone, then even if Christ atoned for everyone the atonement is still limited to an extent which goes beyond that argued by traditional Unlimited Atonement.

Of course the third, and what I believe is the correct way to understand this, is by recognizing that “those who are called” now stand in the place of Israel from the original process in Leviticus 16. I would argue this by connecting “those who are called” with Romans 8.28 (“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”) and 1 Peter 2.9-10 (“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”), both pitting “the called” as being God’s chosen people, a role that has long been reserved for Israel (cf. Exodus 19.5-6, Deuteronomy 7.6). Therefore, since originally the atonement was made for God’s people (the assembly of Israel) and not the whole world, so now also the atonement has been made for God’s people (the called out elect) and not the whole world.

Going further, I think that we can view Hebrews 9.15 in light of Hebrews 10.15-17 and further establish our claim. Hebrews 10.15-17 says

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Hebrews 9.15 says that Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, a covenant which Hebrews 10.16 says “put[s God's] laws on [the] hearts” of those under it, and “writes them on their minds.”  God then adds that for those under the covenant he “will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more” (v.17).  Thus, the expiation of the burden of sins is granted to those who are under the covenant, who are converted in the sense of verse 16.  But, the ones who are converted in view of Hebrews 9.15 are “those who are called,” and therefore, Christ could only possibly be said to be mediating for those who are called, which once more limits the atonement to God’s people, the called out elect.

In conclusion, I believe that we have been able to argue from Leviticus 16 and 17 and Hebrews 9 and 10 that the atonement is Scripturally portrayed as limited simply by appealing to its execution and without having to turn to the disputed and often times messy extent verses.  Please interact with this and raise objections as necessary and I will do my best to respond to them.

For No One in Particular?- What Atonement Reveals about Itself (Part 1)

November 20, 2008

I think the greatest flaw in understanding how general or particular the atoning work of Christ is is that we focus on verses which may or may not be trapped in context and we consider too highly what we would want instead of what God has done. Therefore, I think to properly understand the atonement we must first properly understand what the atonement is.

I stated in yesterday’s post that “Atonement for a Christian is the act by which sins are forgiven and reconciliation is made with God. It contains two parts: propitiation, the act of satisfying God’s wrath; and expiation, the act of removing the burden of guilt from the sinner.” Going through the Bible there are two big places to look for an actual discussion of the act of atoning for sin: Leviticus 16 and 17 and Hebrews 9 and 10.

However, before looking into those chapters I think it is important that we more fully encounter why atonement is necessary for salvation. We stated that atonement provides propitiation of God, but what do we really mean by this? What I think a lot of people mean, particularly those on the unlimited atonement (UA) side of the debate, is that God has some general cloud of anger and wrath which must be satisfied and Christ, in his death, does this. Yet, to think of God’s wrath as just ambiguous anger towards this thing called ‘sin’ is not severe enough. Ezekiel 18.20 says

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

God is not just angry at sin, God is angry at you because of your sin. Thus, God need not just be generally propitiated, he needs to be propitiated individually for each sinner. This individualization of responsibility is further established by 2 Kings 14.6 and Jeremiah 31.30.

So, we see that it is not sufficient for God to just have some cloud of wrath towards sin propitiated, there must be more. Irregardless of the extent of the atonement, for Christ to provide atonement for any person he must provide it for that person individually since God has a specific portion of wrath resting individually against them. This understanding is key to the argument that I will put forth.

With a proper perspective of where God’s wrath lies we are now prepared to look into the main passages on the actual execution of the atonement. Following the thought that the New Testament is the realization of the Old Testament, and the fact that understanding Hebrews 9 and 10 necessitates an understanding of Leviticus 16 and 17, we will start in the OT passage. What we see when we get here is a step-by-step outline to the Day of Atonement, or more importantly, to the actual doing of the atonement ritual. Within that what we see are occasional explanations about who and what the various sacrifices and rituals affect. Of particular interest is the broadest application of the sacrifices, namely, Who in the end is the atonement being provided for?

Recall that at this point in history there are two distinct types of people (at least biblically): Israelites and Gentiles. Now, what does Leviticus 16 say about who is atoned for? Verse 17 says “No one may be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the Holy Place until [the high priest] comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel.” All the assembly of Israel. Not all people, but all the assembly of Israel. Similarly, verse 21 says, “And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel . . .” And verse 24, “And he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place and put on his garments and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people.” And verse 33, “He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly.” And verse 34, “And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins. . . .” Therefore, I believe it is overwhelmingly clear that the atonement, as originally established in the OT, was never intended as a sacrifice for the whole world, but only for God’s people, Israel.

But what difference does that make in the New Testament, since we all know that salvation is available to the Gentiles at this point? Well, the first thing I would have to say to that is that it is important to have a right understanding of who truly comprises “Israel” throughout redemptive history before getting sidetracked here (I’m sure I’ll argue this sometime, but not right now). However, even without that, I think Hebrews 9 and 10 gives us enough information that we can get to the right place anyways, which will be where we pick things up tomorrow.

Rebuilding the City- A Final Thought

September 24, 2008

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” -Esther 4.14

Though I may return to this idea later, I think I have said what I feel convicted to say for now about the necessity and process for rebuilding the church in America. However, after spending a number of posts going over how we can move towards returning the church to the place where Christ left it, there is one final thought that I would like to share, and this, breaking with the theme of the looking into the post-exilic books of Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, comes from the book of Esther.

The key verse from Esther, what so many people know, is Esther’s great declaration of submission in “If I perish, I perish” (4.16). Yet what I want to focus on is the words of Mordecai which led her to make this declaration. Mordecai, speaking as a devout Jew who was supremely concerned with the future of Israel, nevertheless knows that in the face of adversity, God will provide someone to save his people (“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place.”). In like manner I am coming to you guys fully aware that no matter what happens to the church in America, in the end God will raise up his people to deliverance.

That said, the second part of verse 14 is the challenge I meant to lay out here initially in quoting Nehemiah 2.17 (“Then I said to them,’You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.’“), that being “who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” If you are reading these words, please test where the Lord is directing you, where his call is on your heart, and if you feel him leading you to stand up among the church in America, among the body of believers that is beat down and derided in the culture, and call them back to Acts 5.13 status (“None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem“), then by all means do it.

There is no time to be fearful. As has become one of my most favorite verses of late, I call all of you to embrace Hebrews 13.13-14, “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” The church is waiting, crying out for people to lead it back to greatness in this culture, to being a city on a hill and a light unto the world. Join me and be those leaders!

Can We Please God Outside of Faith?- A Look at Hebrews 11.6

July 26, 2008

Recently in the “blogosphere” I have been engaged in a lot of discussions where people have argued for the ability of man to participate in doing things which are pleasing to God while not actually being submitted in faith to Christ. This is apparently their way of trying to rectify one, why people who do “good things” can be okay even if they aren’t Christians, and second, how people who have never been presented with the Gospel can still be saved. This latter idea is so infectious that it even seems to have stricken “the great evangelist” Billy Graham (there is even more to read in the transcript). However, instead of just taking these “well-meaning” arguments at face value I think we should look at what Scripture says in Hebrews 11.6:

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

The first question must be, “What is ‘faith’ ?” Look to the preceding chapter, Hebrews 10.39. The author,
writing to Christians, says, “But we are . . . of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” This discourse then continues into chapter 11 and so we must conclude that ‘faith’ here is saving faith, namely, faith which believes “God raised [Christ] from the dead” (Romans 10.9), faith which justifies (Romans 3.28), faith through which grace saves us (Ephesians 2.8). Thus, we are being told that without saving faith, and so salvation and a regenerate heart, no man may please God!

So what? Well, this means that those who would argue that people are pleasing God by their good deeds, people like Oprah or Angelina Jolie or whoever, and yet deny Christ or the necessity of believing in him, are wrong. That means that people who claim a person can be saved because they lived a life that was pleasing to god outside of faith are wrong. It is faith, and being raised to a living hope by God (1 Peter 1.3), which puts us in a position to please God and not remain as “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2.3) as we all sure are without Christ.

This is such a prominent error among people but we must stand firm that no man is able to please God apart from being reborn through faith in Christ.

Christ’s Purpose in Coming and Coming Again- A Look at Hebrews 9.28

July 22, 2008

“So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9.28 )

Why did Jesus come to Earth? Where is he now? Is he coming back? These are some of the biggest questions which people through all ranges of Christianity ask. They want to understand, need to understand, who Jesus is and what he’s done and plans to do. Of course, it would be arrogant (and dangerous) to say that any one verse explains all of this to us, but in my readings I have come across a passage which I think says a lot to us on this issue, especially in light of some of the current popular Christologies in our culture.

The whole of Hebrews 9 is an amazing chapter and is a very keen place which I would direct people to who want to understand better what the Old Testament sacrificial system was about and how it pertains to Christ’s workings on the Cross. However, the very last verse of that chapter is what I want to key on, verse 28. I believe that in this verse God is revealing to us through his inspired word a clear (though by no means comprehensive) picture of what Christ did and what he still intends to do.

“Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many.” Who “offered” him? He offered himself (vv.14,25-26)! And how does Christ’s offering of himself correspond with Isaiah 53.10 (“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.“)? So, it was Christ offering himself and the Father executing the sacrifice!

Then did God send Christ specifically to die? Many people today will say that Christ came as our example to show us how to live and that that was his sole purpose in being brought to earth; that the Cross was an example of submission but was unnecessary for God to use in the forgiveness of sins. Yet what does it say: “will appear a second time, not to deal with sin . . . “ So if in the second appearance it is emphasized that he won’t be coming to deal with sin, it would seem logical to deduce that the emphasis of his first coming, the incarnation, was in order to deal with sin. And where do we see sin being dealt with? On the Cross (Isaiah 53.5, Romans 4.25, Colossians 2.13-14, 1 Peter 3.18)!

But what about the second coming: “[Christ] will appear a second time . . . to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” Thus when Christ returns it will be in glory to claim what is his and to save them from this dying world and to make them glorified with him forever in the New Jerusalem where God’s presence will forever dwell (Revelation 19-22).

This is great news! Christ came to deal with sin and will be coming again to gather those that belong to him for eternal fellowship with the one true God at the end of time! Amazing! Thank you!