The First Human Death

“Has God indeed said …” Genesis 3:1

These are the first recorded words of Satan and their echo is still reverberating around the world as strong as on that first occasion. People around the world are showing open rebellion and defiance against their Creator. Sin has made people more willing to shake the fist of defiance at God.

Satan chose to discredit God through Eve most likely because she had not heard the original command from God (2:16-17) She received it second hand from Adam. This is a good reason why everyone should hear from God first-hand and personally. This made Eve vulnerable, as it will any person who does not read God’s word for themselves, and Satan knows it.

Apparently Eve chose to accept Satan’s criticism of God without consulting Adam and she ate of the fruit. This put Adam in a place that he could not have envisaged. He would have to choose between his relationship with God and his relationship with Eve. For how he should have responded, refer to Numbers 30:8. In full knowledge of what he was doing Adam accepted Satan’s criticism of God and so sin and death entered the world. The first human physical death was Adam and Eve’s son, Abel, murdered by their firstborn, Cain (4:8). Abel’s death must have caused immeasurable grief and shock to Adam and Eve. Seeing this terrible consequence of their sin would have been horrific.

The record of the Bible is one of God speaking to people, through the prophets and through the Lord Jesus Christ, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Even so Satan still finds numerous willing ears to his question. Since he spoke to Eve through the serpent he has continued to ask of men and women, “Has God indeed said…” The response is evident all around us. God allows Satan to serve Him by continuing to test the hearts of men. But there is the voice of Jesus calling men to repent, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

Each person will make their own choice as to whether they will believe Satan’s lie or God’s truth. Receiving Satan’s lie as truth is to call God a liar and a deceiver. Satan is a murderer and a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

To choose to believe what God has said is the opposite of what Adam did in the Garden and opens the grace door (John 10:9-10) to salvation purchased by Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.

The Book of Life

“Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” Revelation 20:15

This unambiguous statement was written by John as a description of what God was revealing to him. The purpose of the occasion was that John record this for people to read, understand, believe and act upon. If the statement is not true then God is a deceiver and not to be trusted. No wonder John wrote at the beginning of this book, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).

Since the lake of fire is the destiny of all whose names are not in the Book of Life and only those whose names are in this Book will enter the new creation (Revelation 21:27) it is a matter of highest priority and greatest urgency for every person to be sure their name is in that Book.

In John 3:18 we read, “He who believes is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Twice in this verse it says that the dividing factor is faith in Jesus Christ. Everyone’s name is written in the “books” as condemned but upon exercising faith in Jesus Christ one’s name is written in the Book of Life. Jesus called this being “born again” (John 3:3, 7). Paul called it a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).

Condemnation is God’s sentence upon sin and since condemnation came when Adam sinned we are all born in sin and “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), all are condemned and God’s wrath abides on us. However, the one who believes is no longer condemned because he has trusted that Jesus Christ died for his sin (John 3:36; Romans 5:8; 8:1). This is the reason Jesus came (John 3:17).

Only in Jesus Christ can condemnation for sin be removed because He bore the sentence for our sin on the cross. Forgiveness of sin and deliverance from wrath is only through Jesus Christ who died in our place (Hebrews 9:22, 26-28).

Anyone who denies this truth reveals that their name is not yet in the Book of Life. Their destiny is the lake of fire but that is not God’s desired destiny for anyone. Jesus bore the sin of everyone so that all might be saved but only those who believe Him will have their names written in the Book of Life.

Again I write, this is of the highest priority and the most urgent concern to anyone who is not assured that their name is written in the Book of Life.

Partakers of His Holiness

“God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten.” Hebrews 12:7

The men and women of the Old Testament have parts of their lives recorded for us as witnesses to us of God’s ways and the sinful nature within us. This is for our benefit not amusement. The key phrase in chapter eleven is “By faith.” Their experiences were as diverse as ours will be. We should never expect that God will take us along the same disciplinary path as someone else or that they will travel the same disciplinary path as us.

God’s grace may also be revealed in quite different ways. For some the grace of God in response to their believing His word brought about wonderful and miraculous miracles (11:33-35a). For others God’s grace in response to their believing His word brought horrendous trials, suffering and persecution (11:35b-38) but He delivered them out of them all. Under threat of fiery furnace Daniel’s three friends said, “… our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us from your hand” (Daniel 3:16-18). Whether by burning or preservation they knew they would be delivered from the King’s hand.

The writer exhorts us to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us. Anything that drags us back from realising God’s purpose, revealed in 12:10, should be cast off. The sin that so easily ensnares us is no mystery. This whole part of Hebrews deals with it. If believing God’s word is faith then unbelief is the sin that turns us from faith. The fact is that we become ensnared in the sin of unbelief all too easily and may thereby invoke a disciplinary action from God. This action demonstrates that we have a special Father – son relationship with Him. The absence of it may seem good but it may also reveal that we are not sons of God.

There is a huge consequence to us individually and corporately (church) when we do not take God at His word and act upon it. Matthew tells us this consequence: “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58).

Ignorance of God’s word will produce the same effect but love for Jesus will compel us to study the Bible for ourselves. No one enjoys discipline even though the outcome is good. We also know that discipline can be avoided if we study God’s word, believe it and act upon it (the evidence that we believe it).

God’s wonderful purpose in this is that His holy Divine Nature given to us (2 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 12:10) may be worked out in our experience for His glory. The O.T. record shows us many examples of God achieving this in the lives of men and women just like us.

The Goodness of God

“Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4

It isn’t unusual for people to justify their belief that there is no God based on the corruption they observe among people. The nature of bias is that we only see or hear what we want to see and hear. In the previous chapter Paul wrote that the invisible attributes of God are clearly revealed in His creation (1:19-20) and so people who choose not to believe Him have no valid excuse for not believing.

We see the sun rise or set for a few minutes each day and observe its beauty; but in reality God performs both sunrise and sunset 24/7. If we travelled west at the speed of the earth’s rotation we could have a perpetual sunrise or sunset. We may observe the beauty of a rose bud opening over a few hours but at any given time there are many roses and multitudes of other in full colourful bloom. We have stood in wonder and marvelled at a new baby but there are parents in awe and wonder at their new baby all around the world all the time. We live in a world that provides far more food than required for the current population. It is only man’s greed for wealth and power that prevents it being distributed to the people or allowing them to grow their own. Some people look at man’s corruption and blame God. Others look at the goodness of God and seek deliverance from the corruption of man.

The forbearance and longsuffering of God is that He holds back on the outpouring of His wrath against evil for a reason (Romans 3:25-26). Peter agrees with Paul when he writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The delay in judgment is not because God does not exist, but because He is showing His goodness in contrast to man’s corruption, so that all people may have a change of heart and come to Him.

Those who are biased toward sin look at the corruption of mankind and say there is no God. Those who are sick and tired of this corruption look at the goodness, forbearance and longsuffering of God and come to Him for forgiveness and cleansing.

For the former, Paul does not have good prospects. He writes, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are storing up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37) and John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Those who believe His word may come in absolute confidence of being received, forgiven and cleansed. Those who don’t believe His word will, because of the hardness of their own impenitent heart, choose to remain under God’s wrath.

The Glory of God

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 2:1

This is the greatest and most desired miracle of all. It is the only miracle that is permanent into eternity. The forgiveness of sins and the destruction of the sin disposition that we inherited from Adam is the reason for Jesus being born into this world. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).

In the eleventh chapter of John’s Gospel we can read of the restoration of life to Lazarus. Both Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters, knew that Jesus is God incarnate (vv 27, 32) and that He could have healed him before he died. Neither of them, nor Jesus’ disciples, considered that He could restore Lazarus to life after he had died. Their faith was real and genuine but Jesus would stretch and strengthen their faith by revealing more of Himself. Notice that Jesus initiated the whole situation that allowed Mary, Martha and Lazarus to endure suffering and grief in the process.

Jesus had been telling His disciples that He would soon be taken and crucified. This experience with Lazarus being raised would help prepare them for that rapidly approaching day when they would need to accept that Jesus had been raised bodily from death.

We notice in the Gospels that miracles of themselves do not bring about belief in who Jesus is. Upon the resurrection of Lazarus many did believe in Jesus (v 45) but there were also many who did not even though they were well aware of the miracles Jesus had done (v 47). Indeed, it was the miracles that provoked them to want to kill Jesus (v 53). They would also try and kill Lazarus to conceal this miracle (12:10-11).

Lazarus suffered an illness until he died and after Jesus raised him to new life he was hunted in order to kill him again. All this was because Jesus desired to reveal Himself more fully to His friends and disciples. You can check with Lazarus when you see him but I am sure he has no complaint against Jesus.

Jesus came into this world to save sinners and give to them resurrection life. We can read the verse at the head of this article with immeasurable gratitude and praise. But His coming is not about us though we benefit beyond measure. Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (v 40). This whole event was about Jesus revealing the glory of God but only those who believed in Him would see it. Jesus making us alive from bondage to sin and death is so that those who believe may see the glory of God. At Christmas time it is only those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who will see the glory of God.

Writing Scripts

“You were hypocrites in your hearts when you sent me to the Lord” Jeremiah 42:20

The small, unprotected and disorganised remnant of Judah that remained in Judea must have felt vulnerable and unsafe. Those who had obeyed the Lord and surrendered to the king of Babylon were safe but removed from the land. Of those who had not obeyed the Lord most were now dead and only these few remained.

The armies of Babylon had gone home but they still felt that the Lord’s hand was heavy upon them and they were at risk. Since everything Jeremiah had prophesied had come to pass they went to him and asked him to seek the Lord’s counsel.

They promised that they would obey the Lord regardless of “whether it is pleasing or displeasing” (v 6) but the Lord knew their hearts and was determined to reveal their hypocrisy. What is revealed is that they had already chosen what they would do and were just seeking the Lord’s confirmation. This is often the way people relate to God when they do not have a genuine personal relationship with Him.

We need to be careful that we do not follow the example of these people. When we pray we should make up our minds to do as He reveals regardless of the response. Let us be sure that we have not already settled our direction before we hear the Lord’s response to our prayer. If we have, we will make up scenarios or accounts of events that will seemingly justify our actions even when contrary to God’s revelation and word to us. True prayer allows the Lord to respond as He chooses with the full intention of obeying whether it seems pleasing to us or not.

The people who came to Jeremiah with this request received a wonderful response – stay where they are and God would be their provider and protector until all Israel was brought back. If they chose to disregard and disobey the word of the Lord, contrary to their promise, they would suffer the very thing they sought to escape.

They had already made up their minds and instead of believing God’s revelation concerning past events and their current situation, they invented their own version that would make their decision look reasonable (44:16-19). In so doing they called God a liar (43:2). The Lord’s response to these people was, “Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves” (44:7). It is so illogical for people to choose against the revealed will of God. One can only wonder at how often we have rewritten our own history so as to put ourselves in a good light when in fact we are disobeying the word of the Lord.

The issue was not so much about where they should be physically but where their heart is toward the Lord. The same is true for us. The Lord will also test our heart motives in prayer. He doesn’t do this to harm us but to reveal where our heart really is so that our relationship with Him may become more intimate. God’s warnings were for Judah’s good, as they are for us, so let us take Him at His word and not try and write our own scripts.

Thank the Giver

“Thus says the Lord, “You have sold yourselves for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money” Isaiah 52:3

When the Lord spoke these words through Isaiah to Jerusalem the people had turned to idolatry and away from knowledge of the Lord. This sounds much like our world today. As we consider how the Lord dealt with Israel we will gain an understanding of how He will deal with people now.

The book of Isaiah makes it clear that the Lord’s intent is to redeem Israel. By the time we get to chapter 51 the Lord is pleading with Israel to “Listen to me,” stated three times. God wants to be heard but the people were not listening. Our world is not listening to God’s word either. There are few who really want to hear what God has said.

For those who do listen there is another step. The Lord then says to Israel, also stated three times, “Awake, awake.” It is not enough to just hear what God is saying but to respond to it. As our world is today so was Israel then. People who expect utopia on earth without Christ are dreaming. Israel had tried everything to keep safe. They attempted to build their own military, they had paid tribute to other nations and they had bought mercenary armies and yet they still suffered. For all their attempts to buy freedom they had failed. The Lord says they sold themselves for nothing. Their treasuries were emptied for no gain. All attempts that people make to buy deliverance the Lord says are futile.

Many people seek forgiveness and salvation but they want to be able to boast that they achieved it by their own effort, merit and wisdom. Such is the nature of pride. Paul responds to this by writing, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the Gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It goes against pride but forgiveness of sin and salvation are a gift from God. The Lord says through Isaiah, “You shall be redeemed without money” (52:3). Israel will be redeemed as a gift from the Lord. In this we observe the Divine Nature of God. In chapter 53 the Lord describes how He will do it. That chapter is a description of Jesus Christ at His crucifixion and resurrection. In a nutshell we have it in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus Christ is the Gift. Those who receive Him are the children of God (John 1:12). Later Paul would write, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The Lord’s plea with Israel and with all people today is to cease futile efforts to buy forgiveness and salvation with money, by acts of righteousness, by personal achievement, or religious ceremony and ritual, and simply receive forgiveness and salvation as the Gift it is in Jesus Christ. There is only one thing left for us to do. When we have received a gift, we thank the giver.