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 Truth Exchanged for a Lie

“It was too painful for me until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end” Psalm 73:16b-17

The writer of this Psalm noted the prosperity of people who gave no thought to their Creator; the One who gives them life and provides their sustenance in gracious abundance. He observes that they are full of pride and count pride in themselves as a blessing (v 6), they oppress others (v 8) and boast in wickedness and blaspheme against God (v 9). They are at ease in the earthly riches (v 12) that God has provided for them.

The psalmist then asks himself what the advantage was of him living a righteous life in which God has frequently chastised him (v 13) when the ungodly appear to suffer no chastisement (cf. Hebrews 12:5-8).

We live in such a world as the psalmist observed. There are many who deny God’s existence and are proud in themselves for their material success. Such blessings were meant to turn their hearts in thankfulness for God’s grace. Instead they boast that they have done it by their own ability and strength.

Those who walk with the Lord Jesus Christ do suffer at the hands of the ungodly. Many have their earthly lives ended prematurely at the hands of the ungodly. All Christians will suffer some form of persecution and oppression.

The psalmist then records that as he entered the sanctuary and bowed before the Lord praying about these matters, the Lord reminded him of the destiny of the ungodly.

The world is still going blindly on in unbelief and instead of receiving the truth the truth is suppressed. By God’s grace there are still many people turning to the Lord Jesus daily but that is against the tide of ungodliness. We live in an age of people “who [have] exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshipped and served the creature [man] rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).

As he waited before the Lord the psalmist realised that those people who have rejected God and refuse to have a change of heart have no expectation other than the wrath of God. He understood that such people are in dire need of mercy and forgiveness and that it was he who was in the most blessed state.

Jesus related an account of a certain rich man and a beggar named Lazarus to give us understanding when we observe these things (Luke 16:19-31). The most necessary thing for people is to hear and believe God’s word. Jesus said, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). At Easter we give special attention to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is another opportunity God has given us to share the truth with family, friends and acquaintances.

Eyes on the Eternal

“We remember the fish we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Numbers 11:5-6

It is possible that we may forget and take for granted the everlasting grace of God that meets our every need and begin to look back with selective memory on our past. God had been miraculously and graciously providing the manna for some time while Israel journeyed in the wilderness en route to the Promised Land that flowed with milk and honey. Some began to reflect on what they had left behind and they craved the food of Egypt and that craving spread like an aggressive cancer to many others. They complained against Moses but in reality their complaint was against God. It had the effect of wearing Moses down even to the point of desiring death. This was when the Lord intervened. He sent quail for a month and those who had yielded to craving for the old life died that month. We will die spiritually if we begin to crave the things of this world.

Israel was on its way to the Promised Land where God would personally dwell with the people. They would have all they needed. They could make bricks to build their own houses instead of building Pharaoh’s cities, they could grow crops to feed their own children instead of feeding Pharaoh’s armies, they would not feel the whip on their backs and they would not be forced to kill their own sons. They forgot all these things because they looked at their present circumstances and compared them with selected memories of their past. They also forgot or did not believe God’s promise and for that a whole generation of Israel died in the wilderness and never entered the Promised Land.

Our complaint against the Lord will begin when we take our eyes off our destiny. If we have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, dwelling with Him in His kingdom is our destiny regardless of our present circumstances. God has and will graciously provide all we need as we travel toward our real and eternal home. If we begin to doubt His promise we will also begin to look back and complain against His gracious provision and leading. We will again desire those things that brought only death and destruction. We will lose the joy of an abiding and intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ.

In writing to the Christians in Corinth Paul wrote, “… we do not lose heart. … our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

When our desire is for our Destiny and our eyes are upon Him we will see no reason for complaint regarding our present circumstance and we will have no desire to return to the existence we had before we met Him who is life. Our joy will be full.

Restoring Speech

“Behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the days these things take place because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time” Luke 1:20

Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, had been praying for many years for a son and Gabriel had come to tell him that their prayer was to be answered. By the time Gabriel came to Zacharias he and Elizabeth were both well past child-bearing age. Gabriel told Zacharias that they would have a son and, to give assurance and certainty to the prediction, even told him to name him John. It would not have escaped Zacharias’ notice that the name John means “God is gracious.” By the grace of God they would have a miraculously conceived son.

Not only would they have a son but that son would be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (v 15) even from within the womb and have a unique ministry to Israel preparing the way for Messiah.

One could scarcely blame Zacharias for taking a deep breath and reviewing what he had heard but sadly he followed that with a response that many of us might do as well. He doubted that the Lord could do it because he looked at his circumstances and not at the Lord.

The angel told him that he would be mute until all was fulfilled. The fact is that we have nothing to say apart from what God has spoken. Notice that Zacharias should have taken the word of the Lord literally. Had he done so, he would have had the privilege of sharing the promise of a son with family and friends; but because he didn’t believe the word spoken, he lost that privilege and joy.

If we don’t take the Gospel of Christ in its plain ordinary meaning and believe it in our hearts then we have nothing to offer this world and would be better off mute. We will also lose the joy and privilege of sharing the Gospel of Christ.

God did not restore Zacharias’ speech until he showed evidence of faith by naming his son John. If we have strayed from speaking the word of God faithfully, He will also restore our ability to speak His word and bring life to the spiritually dead when we return.

John writes that it is God’s word that sets His people apart from the world (John 17:17), not the various interpretations that people may apply to it. “Your word is truth” he wrote. The official in Capernaum found saving faith when he “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him” (John 4:50) as did many others as recorded in the Gospel accounts.

When we don’t take Jesus at His word we make Him appear a deceiver or liar and we lose all credibility as a witness of Jesus Christ. An ambassador speaks the word of his country and an ambassador of Christ speaks Christ’s word.