© 2023 Warren L. Johns. All Rights Reserved.
Our Father in Heaven,
Yours is the Everlasting Kingdom,
With all Power, and all Glory, Forever
At the command of Almighty God, a blob of water-covered matter, floating in dark cosmic space, was transformed into a “tiny blue dot,” pulsating with life, in a flash of a week’s time.
The first ancestor human couple, created in the “image of God,” dominated Planet Earth until conned by the arch deceiver. Adam and Eve’s falling for Satan’s lies, led to corruption of DNA and relentless drift into depravity’s death spiral. Evicted from Eden’s pristine environment, they lost their honored status in God’s family and the privilege of living in God’s presence. When son Cain murdered his brother, death’s darkness tore at the hearts of that first couple.
Evil’s pandemic swept through future generations, awash in gross debauchery. A global flood carved up the face of the Earth and destroyed the entire human race, other than the family of Noah, a righteous man who remained loyal to God.
God, the Father of mankind, in all His wisdom and mercy, offered humans a second chance to reclaim membership in His family. The plan centered on Jesus, His only begotten Son who appeared on Earth to live the Father’s love, justice, and forgiveness and to surrender His own life to pay the death penalty for all human sinners. Any person believing in Christ, repenting of sin and inviting the Holy Spirit to guide the life, will be welcomed into the Everlasting Kingdom.
Blood delivers life to the body. Loss of blood symbolizes death, the penalty of choosing to walk away from the Life-giver. Regardless, the heavenly Father will never walk away from children trapped in Earth’s cycle of death. His love and justice, rich and deep, allowed the life blood of His son Jesus, to be shed to pay the penalty for all sinners.
God the Father’s master plan guaranteed whoever believed “would not perish” but would inherit “everlasting life.”
Abraham, descendant of Noah, lived a righteous life in the midst of a culture drifting toward a plethora of evil enticements. A childless old man, God promised this hero of faith his descendants would be as “numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”
To activate His master plan, God chose this honored people to deliver His second chance message of hope that would shatter the shackles of sin’s death curse. As a critical first step, God intervened to free Abraham’s enslaved descendants from baking bricks and stoking Pharaoh’s iron-smelting furnaces under the stifling heat of Egyptian skies.
Relishing the sweet taste of freedom in route to a Promised Land, this multitude of illiterate ex-slaves didn’t need to be polished, academic scholars to sense the power of a loving God, who guaranteed rest from physical labor on the seventh day of every week—one of ten rules for better living, carved on two tables of stone.
While wandering in a desert wilderness, this band of slave survivors were shown a shadow of God’s master plan. Ritual sacrifices that shed the blood and caused the death of innocent animals, reminded the newly freed of sin’s deadly penalty.
The graphic symbolism portrayed a coming divine Messiah who would voluntarily allow his blood to be shed as figuratively “the lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.”
Instead of bringing the message of hope to a suffering world, Abraham’s genetic descendants drifted from a divine calling as a “chosen people,” they assumed an inherited posture of privileged superiority.
During several centuries of ceremonial practices, an expanding list of man-made rules and regulations evolved into a pro-forma system, distorting the ministry’s original purpose. Embracing a self-imposed pedestal of privilege, they not only looked down on gentiles but refused to enter the homes of gentile neighbors. Once Christ appeared, He warned against self-righteous bullying. “Do not judge or you too will be judged.” MATTHEW 7:1
Blinded to the spiritual significance of the sacred ceremonies introduced by Moses, practitioners of the ritualized religious tradition expected the Messiah to establish a materialistic kingdom of wealth and power, honoring the “chosen,” rather than God’s Kingdom of Glory. Subtle drift from Israel’s divine calling eventually blinded temple priests to the appearance in their midst of Jesus of Nazareth, the only begotten Son of God, the promised Messiah.
The Friday Christ died, an unseen hand ripped, from top to bottom, the temple curtain dividing the Holy from the Most Holy. Within fifty years, a Roman army destroyed the temple itself. The system intended to point minds to a coming Messiah had no further purpose.
Bureaucratic religious leaders who had inherited sacred leadership roles, misunderstand Christ’s mission and rejected His ministry. They inspired a mob to demand His Crucifixion. Following Christ’s death, in a vain attempt to stamp out “The Way,” the original term describing Christian believers, religious and secular powers pursued, imprisoned and killed His followers.
The Apostle Paul offers perspective.
“The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant…it will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers…I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” HEBREWS 8:8-10 Jesus, our High Priest “forever…has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” HEBREWS 4:15, 17
“The former regulation is set aside because it is weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced by which we draw nearer to God…Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.” HEBREWS 7:18, 22 “By calling this covenant ‘new’ He has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” HEBREWS 8:13
Devout Jewish students of Scripture, looking for the Messiah, had accepted “The Way,” unintimidated by threats from a hostile environment. Five hundred saw the resurrected Christ walking Earth during the forty days following His crucifixion. After His ascension into heaven, loyal believers filled an “upper room” in old Jerusalem, praying for guidance.
God answered their prayers by sending His Holy Spirit to lead them into the streets to share the good news of the plan of redemption, through Christ, with those who had come from sixteen regions to celebrate the Festival of Feasts. That day, three thousand devout Jewish followers of God joined Peter and the other apostles in putting their lives on the line for God, their Creator.
The Church had been born by the honest and the courageous. A short time later, after Paul had shared the good news of God’s coming eternal kingdom with Gentiles in many nations, the term “Christian” was first applied to Jews and Gentiles, in Antioch, who had, by faith, joined the fellowship of “The Way.”
“To whom did God swear that they would never enter His rest if not to those who disobeyed?” HEBREWS 3:18 “Since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it…Now we who have believed, enter that rest, just as God has said.” HEBREWS 4:1, 3
“On the seventh day God rested from all His work…It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in because of their disobedience. Therefore, God again set a certain day, calling it Today…” HEBREWS 4:4, 6, 7
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest, also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that, no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active…” HEBREWS 4:9-12
Worshipping God “Today” becomes a Sabbath “rest” by walking in the footsteps of Christ every day of the week. When the ten commandments are written on the living heart, the ten laws inscribed on inert tables of stone are not abolished or replaced but are animated in the lives of “born again” Christians. Fruits of the Spirit surface intuitively when powered by the Holy Spirit.
Christ reminded followers that the seventh-day Sabbath “rest” was “made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” While the ceremonial traditions had no further purpose by itself, the perfect character of God didn’t change, nor did His ten rules for better living change.
Christ’s death did not free humans to steal, murder, covet, lie, dishonor parents, commit adultery or worship false gods, make idols, misuse God’s name, or fail to worship God on the Sabbath of “the Lord thy God.”
Weekly Sabbath worship celebrates the creation of all life’s biodiversity on Planet Earth; it guarantees rest from physical labor every seventh day; it symbolizes a Christian’s freedom from sin’s death curse thanks to the gift of Christ’s sacrificial death and reminder of His Sabbath rest in the greave and Sunday morning’s glorious resurrection victory over death’s sting. And there’s more!!!
Assurance of life eternal in God’s everlasting kingdom coupled with the forever joy of finding God “Today” brings the bonus gift of a personal “peace that passes all understanding.” Guided by the Holy Spirit with God’s law written in their hearts, the lives of “born again” Christians intuitively love God “with all their hearts” and “their neighbor as themselves.”
“Love is patient, love is kind,
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight with evil
But rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
Always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails…and now, these three remain:
Faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love.”
I CORINTHIANS 13:4, 5, 13
Looking to the future, John the Revelator pictured the simple beauty of membership in the family of God. These are the “saints” who “obey the commandments of God” and “remain faithful to Jesus.” See REVELATION 14