Gospel in Books and Trees and Adam and Christ

Revelation 20:11–15

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

As we draw near the end of the book of Revelation, we see the great white throne judgment. There all people who have not already been raised to life experience their resurrection and the confirmation of their eternal destination.* When the people are brought before the throne of Christ, we see a dichotomy. There are two ways a person can be judged. There are books and there is a book.

The passage above shows us that a person judged by the “books” is judged based on his own deeds. What did you do in your life? A person judged by the “book of life” is given life simply based on whether or not his name is present there. The bottom line is that, if God judges you based on what you do, your works, you die forever. If, however, you are under the grace of Jesus, the Lamb, you live eternally in glorious joy.

Think of some other popular pairs in Scripture, and this scene develops some greater clarity. In the garden, God pointed out two trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam was forbidden the tree of knowledge. If he chose to eat of that tree, he would die. God, in the garden, had a very simple test for Adam. If the man would obey God’s command, he would live. If he rebelled against that command, he would die.

Of course, the two trees also remind us of the two choices for humanity’s representative leadership, our federal head. Adam is the original representative of mankind before god. All who remain under Adam’s representation die. Adam sinned and brought guilt on all humanity as we see in Romans 5:12-19 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. Under Adam, the command to live perfectly before God still applies, any failure still brings death, but there is no way to live well enough to earn life.

God sent Jesus into the world to be the second Adam, the better Adam, the true and perfect representative for mankind. If a person is found in Christ, even if that person has not lived up to God’s standard of perfection, he will live because of the perfection of Christ. Jesus, God in flesh, lived the perfection Adam never did. Jesus died a perfect sacrificial death. Jesus rose from the grave, defeated death, and proved that all who come to him are forgiven. Jesus is now the representative of all who come to him in faith. God actually grants to the saved the legal record of Jesus’ perfection.

Put the books, the trees, Adam, and Jesus all in one scene now and see how clearly the Bible has been telling one single story. You have a choice of trees. Will you have the tree of life or the tree of death? You have a choice; will you be represented by Adam or by Jesus? You have a choice; will you be judged by your own actions in the books, or will you be found forgiven by Jesus with your name in the book of life? There is no third option. Either you try to live as your own master and die, or you surrender to Jesus and receive all the grace he offers. Choose life. Choose the Christ. Choose the book of life.

* I view Revelation 20 from a historic pre-millennial position (not dispensationalism). Thus, I believe that two resurrections are being promised, the resurrection of the forgiven and the later resurrection of the lost.

A Promise of a Better Kingdom

Zechariah 2:10-12

10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. 11 And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 12 And the Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.”

To the Jew of the sixth century BC, the return of Judah from Babylonian captivity was a major event. It must also have been loaded with questions. Now that God has judged us for our sin and returned us to our land, what should we expect? Will Messiah come and make us a political power? Is the promise still alive? What does it look like?

Here in Zechariah, we see some glorious truths of the promise of God that were made under the Old Covenant but which can only be fulfilled by the establishment of the New Covenant. Notice how God speaks of what will occur beyond the physical return of exiles to Jerusalem. It is cause for joy. God will dwell in the midst of his people. That is bigger and better than even the Old Testament experience of the Jews with the temple or the tabernacle. While those edifices symbolized the presence of God, their walls were there to tell the people that there must be a separation between the Lord and them, a boundary that the people cannot cross. This dwelling in their midst promised in Zechariah sounds bigger and better.

Verse 11 points to the fact that God will gather to himself more than the Jews. Yes, the Jews who trust in him will be included. But God is gathering for himself a people out of all the nations. Again and again, as God makes his ultimate promises, he points to the building of a new people of God, one not determined by ethnicity but by faith.

In verse 12, we see the Lord taking Judah and Jerusalem for himself. Something about this promise of God will include God in Jerusalem accomplishing his kingdom purposes. The place where the temple stood, the place where David ruled, that place will be the great launching point of the blessing of God.

If we put this all together, we see the gospel in sign form. On the surface, this looks like a major promise of blessing on Jerusalem—and it may be that. But well beyond blessing the city, God is going to accomplish his eternal purpose. Jesus, the Son of God, will come into Jerusalem declaring himself King. Jesus will bring to God a nation made up of people from all nations. There will be rejoicing and blessing for the people, as god will live in the midst of his people in a way never before experienced in Israel. The Spirit of God who came to his church in Acts 2 is the better fulfillment of the promise of God dwelling among his people. And, by grace, we also look forward to the day of Christ’s return when God will dwell in our midst both physically and spiritually forever.

Tinkering with Typology in Zechariah

Zechariah 2:1-5

1 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand! 2 Then I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.” 3 And behold, the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him 4 and said to him, “Run, say to that young man, ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. 5 And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst.’ ”

Prophetic promises in the Old Covenant often carry with them something far greater than they appear to promise. The promises are sometimes pictures foreshadowing that which is to come. When this is the case, we call them types, a theological word for something that points to something else, its antitype.

I recently heard Sam Renihan present three truths about biblical types. A type in the Old Testament includes analogy, escalation, and otherness. Analogy is that element of the type that helps us to have a depiction of what is to come. So, as an example, a sacrificial lamb is analogous of Christ, because the lamb’s blood is shed for the sins of others. Once one sees the Christ to whom the lamb points, it is not hard to imagine how the lamb is analogous, a picture, of the Savior.

Escalation indicates that the antitype is always something greater than the type. No shadow is as great as the substance being shadowed. The sacrificial lamb in an Old Covenant blood sacrifice is nothing near as great as the shed blood of the Son of Almighty God. The fulfillment is always greater.

Otherness indicates that the fulfillment of the type is not merely a bigger experience of exactly the same thing. The type depicts something that has in itself a true difference from the sign that pointed to it. Jesus is not a physical lamb. Instead, Jesus is God who took on human flesh. Jesus is not just a bigger and better sacrificial animal; Jesus is something altogether different, altogether other, altogether greater. The death and resurrection of Jesus does not bring about momentary forgiveness with a requirement of sacrificial repetition, but instead grants eternal, once-and-for-all forgiveness to the believer by grace through faith.

If we are to see the glory in many events and promises in the Old Testament, we need to grasp that many of these are also analogies the fulfillments of which are truths that are both greater and other than the signs. Take Israel in the Exodus as an example. God pulls a single people group out of physical slavery in Egypt. This is a sign that points forward to God, in Christ, rescuing (analogy) a multiethnic people (escalation) from slavery to sin and death (otherness).

Thinking these things through helps me to rejoice in the prophecy that I cite above from Zechariah 2:1-5. In a vision—which helps us to expect typology—a man goes to measure Jerusalem. An angel sends a message to tell the man that the city will be inhabited by so many people that it will be like an unwalled village with God himself as its protection. What do we do with this promise?

In an immediate application, the people of Zechariah’s day should have seen a promise from God of provision and protection. The people were not to underestimate the Lord’s ability to restore and rebuild. They should not assume that God’s ability to accomplish his will is something they could encompass with the measure of their own expectations. God is greater and will do greater things than they imagine. And God will surely accomplish his plan with Jerusalem.

Has this promise come to pass? Certainly God restored Jerusalem and kept the city whole until the arrival of Messiah. But, when we see the grand expanse of the promise, it is a promise that has not yet come to pass in a literal and physical sense. The fulfillment of this promise requires a time in which God makes Jerusalem a great city over which he personally stands guard. Because of this, many expect this to literally be what will come after the return of Christ but before the eternal state, a millennial Jerusalem under the rule of Christ.

For the pre-millennial thinker, the promise of a vastly expanded and supernaturally ruled Jerusalem as the city ruled by Jesus who will be physically present during a thousand-year reign. For those who hold to other eschatological positions, this promise is either something that is yet to be literally fulfilled or something that will be figuratively accomplished. Without attempting to argue for an eschatological millennial position, I want to suggest that it is possible that this prophecy offers us something more, a typological promise that is glorious.

What would applying our grasp of types and antitypes tell us about this promise. The shadow is a promise that God will preserve Jerusalem, fill it with many people, and protect it. If this is typology, then this is an analogy for something else, something similar but greater. Might it not in fact be God using the city of Jerusalem and promises relating to it as analogous promises of what God will do with his people as a whole? After all, Galatians 4:26 refers to “the Jerusalem above,” while Hebrews 12:26 mentions “the heavenly Jerusalem,” something greater than the earthly capital city of physical Israel. We see something very similar as we look at all the symbolism connected to the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21. It is not hard to imagine a biblical analogy of a promise to a city being a promise that will actually be for all the people of God.

How then is there an escalation? The promise is that God will bring lots of people, presumably Jews, to Jerusalem, so many that it will spread beyond its boundaries. What does God actually do? God saves a people for himself out of every nation, not Jews only, and they spread over the entire globe. This is escalation in multiple ways. The globe is greater than the city. The multiethnic kingdom of God is greater than monoethnic Judea. The protecting presence of the Spirit of God over his people is greater than God simply being a wall to a city.

And otherness is easy to grasp. The promises made here talk about God preserving a city. But the actual promise fulfillment is other. The fulfillment, which is greater and better, has to do with the salvation of god’s people and the establishing of his kingdom in Christ forever.

While many people will interpret this passage as a literal future promise for a literal city in a singular geographical location—and that is certainly possible—I believe that we can see even more. We have reason to see this as a type. The fulfillment of this type is analogous, greater, and other. The promise is for a city. The fulfillment is the Kingdom of God in Christ. The promise is physical safety. The fulfillment is eternal life and spiritual salvation. The promise is for a single people group. The Fulfillment is for people from all nations in Christ.

And, if a typological take on this passage is correct, we can cling to this promise with hope and joy. We may think we can measure what God will do. WE cannot. We may look for earthly protection, but God has something greater for us. God will save a multitude of people for himself from all nations, expanding beyond the bounds of many people’s imagination. God will be in his people, giving his Spirit to protect us and show us his glory. For sure, eventually, there will be a day when the Lord Jesus physically reigns on this earth, and all will be made right. This prophecy certainly may be pointing us in that direction too. But even before we see that take place, The fulfillment of this type is something we can experience and rejoice in because of the mystery of Christ now made known in the gospel.

Speaking with Noble Character

Proverbs 31:26

She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Many of us have heard of the “Proverbs 31 woman.” Many ladies have gone through bible studies about her. Many ladies’ conferences have focused here. And now, many have pushed back, finding there to be a lot of law in many of those teachings without, perhaps, much grace.

Without jumping into that discussion, I think it is safe to say that we can see godly attributes, good characteristics, in Proverbs 31:10-31. The 22 verses each begin with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet—it’s an acrostic. This section offers us the A-B-Cs of a godly lady.

When reading through these things, verse 26 grabbed my attention. Honestly, it did not grab my attention as anything particularly feminine. Instead, it grabbed my attention as something particularly godly and something particularly needed today.

The woman of noble character speaks with the two attributes of wisdom and kindness. Wisdom indicates a lady with a right love of and fear of God. She speaks true things, applying the knowledge of God to daily living. She can look at a situation and bring the truth of God to bear in a way that is right, accurate, and helpful.

The noble woman also speaks with kindness. Please let us never forget that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit of God in our lives. While many on-line have mocked those who question a person’s tone when they speak about issues, the truth is that godly people have kindness as a fruit. And here, as we study the woman of noble character, kindness is an attribute of her speech and her application of godly wisdom.

As I already mentioned, I see nothing particularly feminine here. It is not as if the word of God does not wish for godly men to speak with wisdom and kindness. It just so happens that this particular piece of wisdom in godly character is found in our passage about the woman of noble character. I would suggest to you that all believers could benefit from a dose of both wisdom and kindness as we speak. This is not a call to softness or compromise. It is merely a call to believers to display the fruit of the Spirit in how we speak and how we write.

Dear friends, we need the grace of Jesus here. Who has not spoken unwisely? Who has not been guilty of unkind speech? Who has not laughed when sharp, even mean-spirited, snarky lines have put others in their place? May we lean on the Lord for mercy. May we ask Jesus for help and wisdom. May we seek that the Lord would fill us with his Spirit and that his Spirit would bear the fruit of kindness in us. May we never compromise. Kindness is not allowing sin to go unchecked. May we not tolerate evil. But may we not look like the world in our attitude. Instead, may our lives reflect this noble lady of Proverbs 31 in wisdom and kindness.

Endurance, Faith, and Obedience

Revelation 14:12

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

What does it look like to live as a true believer in a hard world? God’s word calls us to endurance. And God’s word describes us as those who trust Jesus and follow his commands.

Revelation 13 and 14 paint for us a picture of a polarized, divided, embattled world. In chapter 13, the beast is marking out men as his own and persecuting all who refuse to be identified with him. Those who will not bow to his evil worship or take part in his wicked practices will be cut off from polite society. They will be attacked, mocked, ridiculed, ignored, persecuted, robbed, starved, exiled, and killed. Were a Christian to see that chapter alone, it would be powerfully disheartening in many ways.

But then, as the follow-up to the vision of the beast and false prophet, much like we see in other passages, our scene shifts. We see the Savior, standing strong, keeping his own. We see those bearing not the mark of the beast but of the Lamb. We see songs of worship and faithfulness among the people of God.

Then, as a transition, we read the verse that is above. What we see in chapters 13 and 14, I believe, come together, meet, and lead us to this conclusion. The beast is evil. The world will grow hostile toward those who love and follow the Lord. When the evil are in power, they will seek to ostracize those who love the Lord. But, in the midst of this all, Jesus has his own. Jesus keeps his own. Jesus loves his own. And the call for those who know Jesus is to endure. Stand strong. Do not give up. Do not be discouraged. Endure.

The call for endurance, as we see above, has a tie to marks of identity. The call is for saints, those saved by Jesus and set apart for God. All true believers are granted that label by God. All who know Jesus are set apart from the world to the glory of God. And the saints are to endure, not giving in to the temptation to compromise with the world and live like those who belong to the beast.

At this point, depending on the author of the article, a reader might expect one of two things. One might expect a bigtime gospel reminder, a doubling-down on grace and hope. Or, given another author, one might expect a passionate call to obedience to the word and ways of the Lord. In point of fact, God gives us both.

How do the saints endure? Faith and obedience are central. Let’s first talk obedience, as it is the lower-hanging fruit. To love Jesus, to stand strong, to remain faithful in this life in the face of hardship requires obedience to the word of God. What will make a believer stand out in this fallen world, especially in seasons of persecution and hardship, is the believer’s willingness to obey the Lord without compromise. When the world demands that all applaud or even experiment with forms of immorality, the believer refuses. When the world demands that families compromise their schedule to the world’s values, the believer treasures gathered worship. When the world says that worship is forbidden, the believer worships anyway. Believers obey. Understand, Christian, that obedience is part of endurance.

But never should we have a legalistic existence. WE do not earn our spot in heaven by doing what is right. No, true endurance is founded in the gospel. We endure in faith. No matter how much the world wants to make us doubt, we believe. The follower of Christ is first and foremost a believer. We are believers before we are doers. We are believers, resting in the person and the perfectly finished work of Jesus. Our hope is never in ourselves or in our ability to obey. Our hope is in Christ and in Christ alone.

In the first centuries, Christians lived in a hard world. The Roman government, from time to time, would demand compromise. Believers had to rest in their faith and choose to obey God instead of Caesar. This required endurance, bearing up under pressure. In the days of the Reformation, when the church had been so corrupted as to lose its hold on Scripture, when the church had become so tied to political powers that one could not see a line between the word of the king and the word of the Lord, Christians had to endure in faith and in obedience to the recovered Holy Scripture. And today, in a world of cancel culture, sexual perversion, and mocking of morality, we are still to endure. We are to be the saints of God. We are to keep the faith, totally trusting in Jesus alone as our hope. And we are to endure in obedience, loving the Lord who saved us by obeying his holy commands.

Loving Not Your Life

Revelation 12:10-11

10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

Revelation 12 gives us a vision of epic events happening in history. We symbolically see the first coming of the Savior. We see the devil, depicted as a dragon, plotting to devour the Son of God, the promised one, before the plans of God can come to fruition. And we see that, no matter what the devil tries, he is incapable of conquering the people of the Lord.

Notice how the people of God have defeated the schemes of the devil in their lives. As verse 11 says, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” How do the people of God survive the evils of the enemy? More than mere survival, the people of God conquer the evil one by three things. We conquer by the blood of the Lamb. We conquer by the word of our testimony. And, we conquer by loving the Lord more than our own lives, even to the point of death.

I think that the first two things are simple to grasp. The blood of the Lam is the sacrificial blood of the Savior that covers our sin, that frees us from the evil accusations of the devil. The power of the devil to accuse us before the Lord is broken because of the Savior’s life, death, and resurrection. The word of our testimony certainly includes our proclamation of trust in Jesus and his finished work.

I believe that many in the church today would embrace a claim to the blood of the Lamb. Many will happily testify of grace given us in Jesus. But I wonder of how many of us could it be said, “they loved not their lives even unto death.” I wonder if the church is teaching the people of God not to love their lives. I wonder if the church is really helping people in this soft western society to be willing to face loss, hardship, and even death for the name of the Savior.

Look at your own life. What could you do without for the name of Jesus? Be careful before you make a blanket statement. What would you be willing to let go of, were it needed, in order that you would be able to honor the Lord? Picture your favorite entertainment. Think about your kids’ sports team. Think of that vacation you want so much. Think of future financial security. Think of your health. What would you love not if it meant loving the Savior more? Perhaps this will help you to see what might have ahold on your life. Perhaps this might help you imagine where the devil himself can get handles by which he can steer you.

Now, thanks be to God that we do not save ourselves or stay saved by our goodness. I do not want to present to any of us a Christianity that rings with the cry, “Do more!” I want us to know that our whole hope for our whole eternity is bound up in what Jesus has already done—it is finished! But let us see that victory in this powerful vision was found by those who rested in the blood of the Lamb, who testified of his grace, and who loved not their own lives, even to the point of death.

Bitter-Sweet Proclamation

Revelation 10:8-11

8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 9 So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10 And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. 11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

What is it like to bring the word of God to bear? Bitter-sweet is a fair answer. It is probably wise not to expect it to be different.

In Revelation 10, John is tasked with consuming the word of God that he would then take and speak to the peoples and nations. This parallels Ezekiel 3, where the Lord gives the prophet Ezekiel a scroll to eat. Both prophets find the word sweet in their mouths. Both, before the end of their chapters, also find bitterness.

Why bitter? Why does the word that John eats make his stomach bitter? Perhaps it is because he knows the hard things he will have to say. John will communicate that the coming wrath of God will bring death and destruction on a rebellious world. Ezekiel certainly endured the bitter experience of watching the people rebel against God and harden their hearts rather than repent under the proclamation of the word.

Do you assume that proclamation is easy? Do you assume that it will always be a treat? You should not. Just consider how easily you repent. More than likely, when you are in sin, there will be a stubbornness or a blindness to your sin. Most of us do not like it when we are reproved. We ought not expect a sweet experience to be the norm when we have to use the word of God to bring conviction to bear on others.

But do not miss the sweetness. Both when John and Ezekiel ate their scrolls, the word was sweet as honey in their mouths. These men new that the word of God is good. It is sweet. Whether proclaiming grace or judgment, whether pointing out our sin or God’s loving kindness, god’s word is good. And no amount of bitterness in experience can remove the goodness of God. God’s word is always true, always right, always trustworthy, always reliable, always sufficient. God’s judgments are always just, straight, solid, unwavering, and perfect. And these things are sweet.

So, dear Christian friend, love and proclaim the word. Take the word into the depths of your life. It may walk you through times of bitterness. But God’s word will always, absolutely always, prove perfect and sweet in the end.

Our Hope to Come

Revelation 7:13-17

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,

and serve him day and night in his temple;

and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;

the sun shall not strike them,

nor any scorching heat.

17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,

and he will guide them to springs of living water,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Where is your hope? For many Christians, especially we who live in the west, our hope is not in the right place. Is your hope in the government of the US? Is your hope in your ability to financially plan for the future? Is your hope in your health? Is your hope in entertainment? Is your hope in your children and their success?

The book of revelation refers to the time in which we live as a time of tribulation (note that John calls himself our partner in tribulation in1:9). And while it may in fact point to a season of intense hardship to come, nothing about this book indicates that we live free from tribulation, free from pressure, free from pain in any age before Christ returns. In chapter 6, with the opening of the seals, we saw a set of hardships that, while terrible, have marked the history of the church from Jesus’ day until now without much of a break.

Chapter 7 then uses a fascinating technique to give us hope. The chapter opens with the sealing, the preservation, of the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel. But something is odd about the list—it is not an accurate tribal list as it leaves out Dan and includes Joseph (v. 8) and Manasseh (v. 6.) though Manasseh is a subset of Joseph. John hears of this sealing of the tribes of Israel, but when he looks he sees a greater reality. John looks and sees a countless multitude from all nations, not merely from physical Israel. John sees that Israel here is the multitude of the saved of all ages regardless of their ethnicity.

Then one of the elders asks John just who this group is, this great multitude of people worshipping God in white robes. And we learn some beautiful things. These are the saved, washed in the blood of the Lamb. And they have a future, a hope, that is far greater than any hope anyone has ever imagined.

In verse 15, the saved are before the throne of God and serve him in his temple. As we watch Revelation unfold, we will find that the temple of God is going to be the whole world made new by the Lord. In Genesis, Eden possessed many features of a temple. In the Old Testament, the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple actually were smaller temples, walled off places designed to keep sinful humanity out of the presence of the Lord. But in Revelation, God lifts the curse, completes his holy plan, and brings all of his children into his holy presence to glorify his name forever.

The saved serving God will be sheltered by him (v. 15) and will have his protection from the hardships of this fallen world. There will be no harmful hunger or thirst. The people of God will need no shelter from the elements (v. 16).

In verse 17, we see that the saved will be led by the Lamb, provided for as by the Good Shepherd, brought to springs of living water, and comforted. What a glorious thing to see that the Lord himself will wipe every tear from our eyes. God will comfort us and grant us joy that outweighs any pain, any hardship, any hurt we have ever experienced.

Our hope, believers, is in the victory of Christ. Our hope is not in American ingenuity. Our hope is not in medical breakthroughs. Our hope is not in the joy of a victorious sports franchise. Neither is our hope in having enough money to take that dream vacation, build that dream home, or buy that dream automobile. Our hope is not in preserving the environment or cleaning up the Internet. Our hope is, it must be, in the promise of the Lord of this kingdom to come. Our hope is in coming to Christ, finding forgiveness in his blood, being granted his imputed righteousness, and living forever as priests in his temple.

Anthropology 101

Psalm 143:2

Enter not into judgment with your servant,

for no one living is righteous before you.

In Psalm 143, the psalmist pleads with the Lord for mercy. In his plea, he confesses a truth about himself and about all humanity that we would do well to understand. No one is righteous before the Lord.

Since the fall of Adam, excepting Jesus, there has not been a truly righteous man or woman walking the earth. I am not here suggesting that there have not been people who are significantly more righteous than others. Nor am I suggesting that there have not been good deeds done by quite loveable people. What I am saying, what Scripture is saying, is that there is not been, apart from Jesus, a single person who can stand as righteous before the Lord.

Why does this matter?? Consider the complaints that some wish to raise against things in the doctrine of salvation. Why did Jesus have to come and die? Why would God judge the poor man on the island who has never heard the gospel? Why would God elect some to salvation? All these questions have an answer in the fact that no human being, on his own, is righteous. All people fall short of the infinite righteousness of God. All fall infinitely short. The only way for unrighteous men to be redeemed is through the death of Jesus. The reason the man on the island is judged, hearing the gospel or not, is because he is unrighteous. The reason God elects some to salvation is that, had he not done so, none would be saved.

God is utterly and absolutely perfect. To please him—as if this were possible—one would have to live up to the standard of absolute perfection. None can. Besides, all of us have already entered the category of unrighteousness by being descendants of Adam who plunged our race into unrighteousness. No, we are in desperate need of a Savior. WE must have an alien righteousness applied to our account, or we die.

Once we understand the fallenness of mankind, we also can think more properly about the world in which we live. Why do we need political systems with checks and balances? Why do we need fences, guards, and armies? Why do we not assume that all people will simply do the right thing? None is righteous.

This would be a bleak worldview were it not for the grace of Almighty God. God has sent his Son. Jesus has lived the righteousness we could not. Jesus fulfilled God’s demand of perfection. Jesus died to pay our penalty for failure. Jesus rose to bring us life. Jesus grants to all who trust in him his record of absolute perfection. God views us with the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. The glory of the gospel is that God makes the unrighteous righteous through the gracious work of Jesus.

From Judgment to True Hope

Amos 9:11-15

11 “In that day I will raise up

the booth of David that is fallen

and repair its breaches,

and raise up its ruins

and rebuild it as in the days of old,

12 that they may possess the remnant of Edom

and all the nations who are called by my name,”

declares the Lord who does this.

13 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord,

“when the plowman shall overtake the reaper

and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;

the mountains shall drip sweet wine,

and all the hills shall flow with it.

14 I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,

and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;

they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,

and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.

15 I will plant them on their land,

and they shall never again be uprooted

out of the land that I have given them,”

says the Lord your God.

We deserve judgment. God brings hope. This is so often the message of God to his wayward people in the books of the prophets. And it is certainly the message of Amos.

Almost all of this book has been the pronouncement of judgment from God on the northern kingdom of Israel before their fall. Around 750 BC, Israel was living large. They were wealthy and felt safe. God chose to tell the nation that judgment was coming. And the judgment to come would be devastating.

What we know from history is that the northern kingdom fell to Assyria around 722 BC. The people were led away. They were scattered. They never returned to their land. And if all we had was Amos 1:1 through 9:10, we might feel utterly hopeless for this people.

But look at the ending of the book above. God will do something that nobody expects. God will restore, refresh, rebuild. God will bring life where death was the rule of the day. The power of this section works best when you have read through nearly nine chapters of judgment, well-earned, well-deserved judgment.

What does God promise? He will restore the fallen booth of David. Once again, though the united kingdom under Davidic rule has not been seen since 930 BC, God will sit a Davidic king on the throne. Does this mean that God is going to build an Israel that looks like the Israel over which Solomon reigned? NO, what God will do will be greater. In verse 12, the Lord gives us the restoration result, “that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name.” The restored booth of David will be greater than any Davidic kingdom, because the promised Davidic king will possess “all the nations.” This is the kingdom of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of David.

And what has God promised will come in this kingdom? Verses 13-15 show us a curse-less world. Crops will grow. Wine will be plentiful. Dwellings will be rebuilt. Safety, peace, genuine prosperity, the reign of the King, and an unshakable reward are all coming. God’s people had earned total judgment. God promised hope. And the hope God promised, the kingdom he brings and the Savior who reigns, these are greater than any hope Israel had ever imagined.

Today, the promised King has come. He is now seated on the throne of the universe. He has all authority over all nations. And we live in the light of his rule and in the true hope that his promises will come to pass. Find hope, Christian. Share the good news. Believe the promise of the kingdom of Christ that spans all the nations. Seek to glorify God by being a part of his kingdom now. Long for the return of the Savior that will bring all of this to perfect fulfillment.