Everlasting life

Jesus told his twelve apostles they would sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel when his eternal kingdom was established (Matthew 19:28) and then he added, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19:29). The Greek words translated everlasting life, aionios (ahee-o´-nee-os) zoe (dzo-ay´) referred to an endless existence similar to that of God. The implication being that an association with Christ entitles you to share in the inheritance he will receive from his heavenly Father.

Jesus used a parable of a worker in a vineyard to explain the reward that would be given to faithful servants of God. He said, “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1-2). Jesus also talked about a future harvest in the context of non-Jewish believers receiving salvation. He said, “Say not ye, There are yet four months and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together” (John 4:35-36).

Jesus’ reference to the reaper receiving wages (John 4:36) suggested that preaching the gospel was a type of work that would be rewarded in heaven. The persecution of the early church made it very difficult for those that wanted to share their faith with others to do so publicly. All of the twelve apostles were tortured and/or killed because they refused to denounce their belief in Christ. Even the Apostle Paul was killed because of his commitment to preach the gospel. In his parable, Jesus said the labourers that were hired first murmured against the goodman of the house because he rewarded everyone equally. They said “These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day” (Matthew 20:12).

Jesus responded to the issue that was brought up about bearing the burden of the work by stating “Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto the last, even as unto thee” (Matthew 20:14). The Greek term translated last, eschatos (es´-khat-os) may refer to the lowest person in rank or the farthest from a place or time (G2078). Believers today are far away in time from the events that took place when Jesus was alive on Earth and therefore much more reliant on faith to accept him as their savior. On the other hand, we could be very close to the events that will take place when Jesus returns and have a much greater sense than ever of our need for salvation from this world. Jesus said, “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many are called, but few chosen” (Matthew 20:16). By this, I believe Jesus meant that only the believers far removed from the actual events of his death and resurrection would be able to appreciate his sacrifice and be willing to give up everything in order to inherit everlasting life.

The Son of God

The genealogical records of his birth (Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38) both showed that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, but looked at his unique position from two different perspectives. First, Matthew established that Jesus was the legal heir to David’s throne and therefore, he had the right to identify himself as the king of the Jews. Luke traced Jesus’ ancestry all the way back to the original man, Adam. In his account, Luke did not specifically stated that Jesus was the son of Joseph, but said he was “being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph” (Luke 3:23). Luke’s comment was intended to show that Jesus could inherit his father’s estate, even though he was not his biological relative. His position as the first born son of Joseph’s family entitled Jesus to certain rights and privileges. What Luke was most likely getting at by linking Jesus to Adam, the first man whom God created, was that Jesus inherited not only the blessing that God bestowed on Adam as his “son” (Luke 3:38), but also the sin nature or curse that was passed on from generation to generation after Adam sinned in the garden of Eden. The importance of Jesus’ humanity and identification with the sin nature of man was stressed by Luke in his gospel because he wanted to make it clear that Jesus was a member of the fallen human race.

Jesus held a dual position from God’s perspective, he was both a member of the human race and a member of the three-person trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As the Son of God, Jesus also had certain rights and privileges. God said after Jesus was baptized, “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Luke3:22). This statement clearly identified Jesus as God’s biological offspring. Mary was told before Jesus was conceived that he would be “called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The implication being that Jesus would not be called or recognized as the biological offspring of Joseph. As his human offspring, Jesus was well pleasing to God because he was the result of God’s long and arduous attempt to save mankind. Thousands of years had transpired since Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden, but Jesus’ birth essentially brought to a conclusion God’s plan of salvation and marked the beginning of a new era; one in which God’s relationship to man would be restored and his spiritual offspring would finally come into existence. At the onset of his ministry, Jesus acknowledged that he was destined for a single mission, to establish the kingdom of God on earth (Mark 1:15). In order to do that, Jesus had to overcome the constraints of his humanity and enter into the realm of the spirit where man and God become one.

Rest

God designed the world to operate in a state of perpetual motion. The fact that the earth rotates at an approximate speed of 1000 miles per hour on a continual basis demonstrates that humans are wired for activity, but there is also an innate need for us to rest. The example God gave us in his work of creation was six days of activity followed by one day of rest. It says in Genesis 2:3, “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” The Hebrew word translated rest, shabath (shaw – bath´) is where the word Sabbath or the concept of a day of rest comes from (7673). God intended rest to be a part of our lives, but very few people understand why it is important.

God did not need to rest after he created the world. The purpose of his rest was to acknowledge the completion of his work, to see that it was finished. The process of ending is important because it shows us that it is possible to complete something from a standpoint of perfection. In fact, the Hebrew word translated perfect, tamiym means complete (8589). When Abraham was 99 years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1). In other words, God was saying he wanted to bring Abraham to a place of rest or his life to a point of completion. Closely related to the idea of completion is purpose or destiny. When we walk before the LORD, we arrive at the destination he has predetermined to be our place of rest, our perfect ending.

When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God wanted them to enter into his rest, which means he wanted them to end up at the same place he was. You could say that God’s temple was his house or his place of residence, but it was really just a marker for the entrance of his Messiah into the world. In order to ensure that his birth would occur and not be overlooked by his chosen people, God designated a specific location for his Messiah to be born. In a sense, you could say that location was God’s place of rest,  but technically it was Jesus birth, and subsequent death, that marked completion of God’s work of salvation. When Jesus died on the cross, he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

There was really only one requirement for the Israelites’ Messiah to be born. God’s people had to occupy the territory he had designated for an inheritance to Abraham and his descendants. The problem was that the Promised Land was inhabited by other people and the Israelites couldn’t get rid of them. The ongoing battle between Israel and its surrounding neighbors continued until the Israelites were taken into captivity by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. After they were released from captivity, the Israelites were reluctant to return to their homeland because they feared being overtaken again. The Jews were dispersed throughout the Persian Empire when Esther became queen. After Haman the Agagite’s plot to kill all of God’s people was uncovered and stopped, it says in Esther 9:16 that the Jews had rest from their enemies.

The defeat of Haman brought rest or completion to the Jews because his death fulfilled the last Old Testament commandment as well as prophecy related to the Israelites’ occupation of the Promised Land before the Messiah’s birth. It says in Deuteronomy 25:17-19, “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it.”

The new temple (part 12)

The first command that God gave Abraham was, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Genesis 12:1). Later, after Abraham began to dwell in the land of Canaan, The LORD said to him, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Genesis 13:14-15). It’s possible that the spot of land Abraham was standing on at the time this promise was made to him was the location of the new temple described by Ezekiel in chapters 40-48 of his book.

The new temple was located in the center of a foursquare piece of land measuring 25,000 reeds (approx. 50 miles) by 25,000 reeds. Each of the tribes of Israel were given a portion of the land surrounding the new temple based on their birthright, rather than their birth order. Due to the fact that Jacob’s twelve sons were born by four different women; two sisters, Rachel and Leah; and two handmaids or servants; the sons’ inheritances were equal in size, but not equal in their location. The tribes descended from maidservants were placed farthest from the sanctuary (Note on Ezekiel 48:2) and the tribes of Judah (Leah’s son) and Benjamin (Rachel’s son) were placed closest to the sanctuary.

The reason the location of the tribes was important with regards to the sanctuary or temple of God was because it says in Ezekiel 48:35, “the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there.” God’s physical presence in his temple was unique to the new temple described by Ezekiel. Previously, a cloud had filled the house of the LORD as a visible manifestation of the presence of the Lord (1 Kings 8:10 and note). I believe in the new temple, Jesus will be sitting on a throne and will be visible to all who enter the sanctuary. The only question is, will he remain there after the millennium is over?

The Hebrew term for ever or everlasting, olam (o – lawm´) is associated with time (5769). Olam is properly translated as “concealed, i.e. the vanishing point.” It is possible that what we are able to see now is a result of the earth spinning at a particular rate that makes somethings visible and others things invisible. Perhaps in the future, the earth will not rotate, but will merely stand still in a stationary position. Without movement, there may be an opportunity to see things that were once hidden from our view. Like when we are in a moving vehicle speeding along a highway, objects are missed because there is only so much we can take in. Eternity could be just a point in the future when movement stops.

Mount Seir

Mount Seir represented a significant obstacle that the Israelites had to overcome in order to enter the Promised Land. Mount Seir was the home of the Edomites, descendants of Jacob’s twin brother Esau. The name Seir means rough (8165), but it is formed the same as the word sair which means “devils” (8163). Sair was used to describe Esau’s hairy skin in the book of Genesis where it talks about Jacob deceiving his father in order to obtain his brother’s blessing. It says, “And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man” (Genesis 27:11). Rebekah disguised Jacob by putting the skins of the kids of goats upon his hands and neck. When Isaac felt Jacob, it says in Genesis 27:23, “he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him.”

The word sair is used in Leviticus 17:7 in connection with demon worship. It says, “And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations.” The interchangeability of the words Seir and sair may have been an intentional effort to connect Jacob’s brother Esau with pagan worship or to remind Jacob and his descendants of the deception he used too obtain God’s blessing. Either way, mount Seir was like the apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan that was used to buffet God’s people, lest they should be exalted above measure (2 Corinthians 12:7). Most of the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness was spent circling mount Seir. Moses recorded in Deuteronomy 2:1-3, “Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days. And the LORD spake unto me, saying, Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.”

Ezekiel’s prophecy against mount Seir revealed the continued animosity between the descendants of Jacob and Esau. It says in Ezekiel 35:5-6, “Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time that their iniquity had an end: therefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall pursue thee: sith thou hast not hated blood, even blood shall pursue thee.” God’s use of the words perpetual hatred to describe the Edomites’ attitude toward the Israelites indicates that Esau never forgave his brother Jacob for stealing his birthright. Instead of accepting the outcome of the situation, Esau sought revenge and tried to recover what he felt was rightfully his. In response, God said:

Because thou hast said, These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess it; whereas the LORD was there: therefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will even do according to thine anger, and according to thine envy which thou hast used out of thy hatred against them; and I will make myself known amongst them, when I have judged thee. (Ezekiel 35:10-12)

The elect

One of the issues God had with the children of Israel being his chosen people was their attitude of entitlement. In spite of their disobedience to God’s commandments, the Israelites saw themselves as better than the rest of the world, because they were consecrated to the LORD (Isaiah 65:5). God’s judgment of his people was intended to bring an end to their bad behavior (Isaiah 65:6-7).

God’s primary objective in the captivity of his people was to preserve the Messianic line of descendants until Christ was born. Although the nation of Judah was destined to spend 70 years in captivity, it took much longer to purge the idolatry from the people’s systems. Isaiah described this process in terms of wine making. He said, “Thus saith the LORD, as the new wine is found in the cluster: and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants’ sake, that I may not destroy them all. And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and mine servants shall dwell there” (Isaiah 65:8-9).

The “mine elect” (Isaiah 65:9) Isaiah was referring to in this passage was the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Upon his birth, Jesus became the heir to the throne of God’s  kingdom, which in Isaiah’s time encompassed only the Promised Land. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, a new covenant went into effect that determined God’s elect or chosen people would no longer be those born into the household of Jacob, but those who accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Isaiah declared of those who rejected Christ, “And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for the Lord GOD shall slay thee, and call his servants by another name” (Isaiah 65:15).

The millennial reign of Christ that begins at the end of the great tribulation will be a time of transition from temporal to eternal life. During that time period, there will still be sinners alive on earth (Isaiah 6:20), but a new system of government will exist that mandates submission to God (Isaiah 32:1). It will be evident at that time that God’s elect are “chosen ones” (972) that have been called into the service of God on an individual basis rather than collectively as a group, as with the nation of Israel. Isaiah declared of these people:

They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and whiles they are yet speaking, I will hear. (Isaiah 65:22-24)

The kinsman redeemer

The Israelite community was designed in such a way that families would remain in tact for centuries and ultimately for eternity. When they entered the Promised Land, each of the twelve tribes of Israel was designated a territory that they were to occupy. Every family was to have its own piece of property that would be passed on from generation to generation through an inheritance given to the oldest son. In the event, the family got into debt and had to sell its land, the property could later be redeemed by a close relative referred to as the kinsman redeemer.

It was the responsibility of the kinsman redeemer to preserve “the integrity, life, property, and family name of his close relative or for executing justice upon his murderer” (1350). In the role of executor of justice, the kinsman redeemer was referred to as the avenger or revenger of blood. Isaiah portrayed the arrival of the avenger on the scene as someone waging war on Israel’s enemies. He said, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me; for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment” (Isaiah 63:1-3).

Isaiah described the day of the Lord as one in which there would be much blood shed. Revelation 19:13 indicates that that day will come at the end of the great tribulation when God’s wrath is poured out on mankind. John the apostle declared, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipt in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Revelation 19:11-14).

The Messiah’s role as the kinsman redeemer was unique to the Israelites because the kinsman redeemer had to be a blood relative. Although Jesus died for the sins of the world, he only came to redeem the children of Israel. Isaiah declared of Israel’s Messiah, “For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie; so he was their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:8-9). Israel’s rejection of its Messiah caused the door to be opened to the Gentiles who received their inheritance as adopted children of Christ. Eventually, the family of God will be integrated and all who are true believers will share equally in Christ’s inheritance (Isaiah 63:17).

Suffering

The prophet Micah was an ordinary man, an average citizen of the nation of Judah, that received a message from the LORD about God’s judgment against Samaria and Judah. Regarding the idolatry of Samaria, Micah was told, “And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces and all the hires thereof shall be burnt with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate” (Micah 1:7).

Micah was greatly affected by the message he received because his own home town was going to be overrun by the Syrians as they marched toward Jerusalem (Micah 1:14). What was going to happen to Judah was a reversal of what they had experienced during the reign of king Uzziah. Over the course of fifty plus years, Judah’s borders had been expanded. They had regained territory lost in various wars and were prospering financially.

One of the indictments Micah brought against the rich citizens was their abuse of the poor. Micah declared, “Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! When morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their own hand” (Micah 2:1). Basically, Micah was saying that people were dreaming up schemes to get rich and were acting without restraint. In particular, people were stealing each other’s land and were disrupting the social order of the nation (Micah 2:2).

When God’s people entered the Promised Land, every family was assigned a portion of land that was to be their inheritance throughout time. Even if a person sold his land, it was to be returned to him or a family member in the year of Jubile, which occurred every 50 years (Leviticus 25:50). The people of Israel and Judah were not following this law and the poor were being left homeless (Micah 2:9).

Like Isaiah and Amos, Micah’s message referred to a remnant that would be regathered to their homeland. An interesting aspect of Micah’s prediction was its depiction of sheep apparently being led to the slaughter. Speaking for the LORD, Micah said, “I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of man” (Micah 2:12).

Psalm 44:22 also depicts God’s people as sheep being led to the slaughter. This psalm may have been written during the reign of king Hezekiah, which coincided with Micah’s ministry. Isaiah also used this illustration in his portrayal of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:7). God’s people and their Messiah were most likely depicted sheep being slaughtered because of the brutality they experienced and the innocent who were killed along side the guilty who deserved to be punishment.

Not chosen

The prophecy about Edom recorded in the book of Obadiah was a result of the nation’s rebellion against Judah (2 Kings 8:20). Edom, also known as Esau, was the older twin brother of Jacob who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:32-33). Esau was predestined to serve his younger brother, and yet, he refused to accept his position. The struggle between the two brothers was manifested in hostility between their two nations, and after Israel went into captivity, Edom sought to take advantage of Judah’s misfortune.

Edom made the mistake of aligning itself with the world powers hostile to God and his kingdom. Therefore, the nation was doomed to destruction. Instead of defending their brother nation, Edom joined a confederacy that stood against Israel and made a pact to support their enemies. It says in Obadiah verse 10, “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off forever.”

Like a gambler that makes a wager against his own team, Edom showed no loyalty to God’s chosen people, but rather reveled in the thought that they would be beaten by their enemies. Since a time had already been set for his people to be justified, God made it clear to the nation of Edom that they had chosen the wrong side. “For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee; thy reward shall return upon thine own head” (Obadiah 15).

While the foreign nations may have been able to claim ignorance about God’s plan for the nation of Israel, Edom could not. As descendants of Abraham, the people of Edom were aware of the promise God made to bless his chosen people. Jealousy and envy caused Edom to resent the choice God made. The nation, like their forefather Esau, could not get over the fact that God was in control and he would decide their fate. “And there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the LORD hath spoken it” (Obadiah 18).

Edom could have been saved if they would have continued to serve Judah. It was because they broke away and became hostile to Israel that they were condemned. The problem was that Edom wasn’t interested in God’s mercy. God’s plan for Israel included salvation for the gentiles. The only requirement was that they had to submit to God and do things his way, but Edom would not. “And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’s” (Obadiah 21).

Found out

In spite of king Ahab’s bad influence on the people in his kingdom, there were 7,000 Israelites that remained faithful to God (1 Kings 19:18). One of those men, Naboth the Jezreelite, lived next door to Ahab’s secondary residence where his wife Jezebel lived. Naboth lived on a plot of land  that had been occupied by his family for hundreds of years, perhaps since the Israelites entered the Promised Land. As if it were a trivial matter, “Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money” (1 Kings 21:2).

Naboth refused to give the land to Ahab because it was his inheritance. In other words, Ahab had no legal claim to the land. Naboth was honoring God by refusing to give Ahab the hereditary property that was supposed to stay within his family. Ahab’s reaction shows that he was upset, but intended to abide by Naboth’s decision (1 Kings 21:4). Then Jezebel stepped in and took matters into her own hands, “So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in the city, dwelling with Naboth” (1 Kings 21:8).

Jezebel’s action to take control of the situation was probably typical behavior for her. She was able to get the elders and nobles to do what she wanted, which was break the law and lie about Naboth committing a sin so that he could be stoned to death. Jezebel manipulated the Israelite legal system in order to accomplish her own selfish purposes. Although Ahab was willing to accept Naboth’s refusal, Jezebel was not.

When Ahab went down to the vineyard of Naboth to take possession of it, Elijah was there waiting for him. “And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD” (1 Kings 21:20). Ahab’s question to Elijah might have been expressed, have you found out what I have done or are you here to accuse me of a crime? Ahab had been caught red handed stealing Naboth’s property. No matter what he did to try and talk his way out of it, king Ahab was found out. He was guilty of letting Jezebel rule God’s kingdom.

Surprisingly, Ahab didn’t argue with Elijah when confronted with his sin. Elijah’s reference to Ahab having sold himself to work evil in essence meant that Ahab was unable to say no to his wife Jezebel and therefore, was under the power of Satan. It says in 1 Kings 21:27, “when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.” Ahab repented of his sin and because he humbled himself before the LORD, God forgave him.