15th October 2023

The Cosmic Sacrifice of Christ

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:5, 2 Peter 3:6-13
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Automatically Generated Transcript

If ever there were a topic, there was a topic, where there's so many details, and so many aspects, and so many different opinions, that's got you a bit confused, I guess it's mostly likely to be about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The fact that the Scriptures teach that Christ is going to return is called the Second Advent. The First Advent, of course, is when He came at Christmastime and He came to be born, and the Second Advent is when He's coming to rule and to culminate the history up to that point of the entire world. And this is taught in the Scriptures in many different places, including the Old Testament, but certainly in the New Testament, so it's beyond doubt that Jesus Christ is going to come back again. There is another set of details about that Second Coming of Christ, nonetheless, that is somewhat hard to work out where they all fit in. And so I think it is a healthy thing to have in your mind that there is a certainty of the event, the Second Advent, but at the same time there are a lot of details that you can hold in abeyance to see how they wash out, how they happen. And therefore to have doctrines, to have ways to believe of Jesus' Second Coming, it's always a good thing to be open to have the Lord instruct you more and more about how it's going to come about and all the things that occur.

I've always had one aspect of the Second Coming that perplexed me and didn't know how to fit in with my system of things. And it is the fact that the Bible teaches that there's going to be a New Heavens and a New Earth. And there are many right things that they teach, but there's also some confusion in there as well. And just the fact of that is perplexing to me, the fact that God has left it so. But I'm going to give you tonight just not a whole lot of details and a whole lot of discussion to put onto you the same problem I have of how do you handle all the details. I'm just going to show you one thing and one thing tonight that makes all of your understanding about theology have a step forward in getting it clear. And to do that we're going to start with the Bible passage which is in 2 Peter, 2 Peter and in Chapter 2. And this is one of the passages that does talk about the fact of there being a New Heavens and a New Earth. And so let me point out to you one little connection that if you keep thinking it through it will make a whole lot of things fit into place, not only about the Second Coming but also about the First Coming and the fact of Christ's death and all the details of it. And here it is in 2 Peter 2 and verse 8 and I'll read it from the screen of your version which is clear. But he's patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and goodness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the Day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt with fervent heat as they burn? But according to his promise, we're waiting for New Heavens and a New Earth. Here's the little clause, in which righteousness dwells. And the purpose for which we're going to have a New Heavens and a New Earth is for the proper installation of the era of righteousness. We're waiting for the New Heavens and the New Earth in which righteousness dwells. Now we've been going through in the morning services about the Beatitudes and the fact that the Beatitudes are about the righteousness of God and the fact in it is those Beatitudes disclose that we will never have of ourselves sufficient righteousness to be Christians. And when we mourn our lack of it and cry out to God, then do we get from Him sufficient righteousness. And the whole Christian gospel at its very core is the fact that we are sinners and there's nothing we can do to overcome that inhibition to receiving the blessing of God.

But the gospel is that God has provided a righteousness for us and that gift of righteousness is given when we respond to the gospel. When we respond to the gospel, it's not a work that deserves the gift of righteousness, but a condition that God has made that if you repent, turn from the sin, if you receive Christ and let Him be your Saviour, then you get the gift of eternal life. And the word for gift of eternal life is the word charisma, because the word charisma is the idea of something come by grace, something that is a gift not earned nor deserved. And that's the gospel that God makes available, the righteousness. Other verses in Romans talks about this righteousness coming from heaven. So the gospel is a message from heaven that tells you how you can be gifted with a righteousness from God that will mean that you'll be saved, not because of your own contributions. Your repentance is necessary, but it's not a contribution that earns you anything. It's the due thing you should do, given the statements of facts of your being sinful and God having done what's necessary for you to be forgiven. And so we get a gift of righteousness that gets us in. Now the point that really struck me about the heavens, the new heavens and the new earth, and particularly when you look at this passage is that last little bit.

According to his promise, we're waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. And to have everything new to be befitting the era of righteousness, which we got by gift. And the Beatitudes are all about how we don't have the righteousness, but God can give it to you and how wonderful it is when we mourn for not having it and cry out to him. And then as we've been seeing in the morning services, and it's good for you, me to keep the evening service up to date with how we're travelling through the Beatitudes. Those Beatitudes move from what you have to do to get in the door, to have this gift of righteousness and therefore be in the door with God. To what you then, how you should then live, how you should then become a part of the team that is disseminating the availability of the gift of righteousness. And this verse we're looking at in the second Peter is talking about the eventual having a new heavens and new earth for the total condition that there'll be righteousness everywhere and no unrighteousness. When we're glorified in heaven, there'll be the finishing up of getting us cleaned up for glory. Glorification that happens when you hit heaven is going to make you someone with no more sin. And you'll be fitted for a new heavens and a new earth. Now mind you, that has a few implications if you let them filter through.

One of the implications of it is that how is this new righteousness everywhere worked? It's worked by Jesus' death and resurrection. And the fact of Jesus, and I was fascinated by the way that Joey led us in the communion service. It was accurate and good Joey. Thank you. But Christ's death on the cross wasn't only to finish up the arrangements to move from the old covenant to the new covenant. It was certainly that, the new covenant, really that communion moment was the moment that we could pinpoint if you wanted to pick one of where Jesus is explaining the new covenant righteousness. But it is because Christ's death achieved a cosmic benefit. Cosmic means the whole world, including the physical world. Are you aware of the fact that when Jesus came to go to the cross, he was redeeming the entire planet? Let's take for example the animals. They live under the curse that we humans have caused to come. When we fell and sin is in us. The animal kingdom has written in it what makes them groan. The Bible says that they, all of creation, groans with anticipation of us, of them, being able to join in the liberty that we get. In our salvation, when at last it's complete. And all of creation has the marks on it of things that are imperfect. And when you hear in the news of some terrible cataclysm, of there being a great snowfall and people being killed under the avalanche. When you hear about the waters of the seas rising because of the heating of the oceans and there are islands that get swamped. Or twice as many terrible storms of hurricanes hitting the Caribbean and that sort of thing.

When you hear of the earthquakes that happen, you know that you're living in a planet that has been affected by sin. And it's effect on the physicality of the very planet we live in. And the God's answer to that problem was in Christ coming and dealing with the human sin that triggered it all. And his death was to redeem all things under himself. I'm quoting the Bible. Christ's death was not just to give a tick to each and every person who's done and then he dies for them and that's that. It's a cosmic death. How is it possible because of who the person Jesus is? And as I often say, his blood is too precious to be assigned a little value that caters just for the sins of you and me. His death was a cosmic payment for the whole of the universe. And for the possibility of this new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells. That is enormous and has enormous consequences to a whole host of other doctrines in the Christian church, in the Christian religion as to what Jesus achieved when he came and succeeded in his mission. And so that's the first thing I want to point out. I did sit at home wondering whether I should take us through a tour of all the Old Testament verses about the day of God's wrath. And there's a New Testament spots that I could now quote about the day of the Lord. But if you go chasing that in the Old Testament, my goodness, the description of the anger of God at the sin of the different occasions and of the world in the Old Testament.

That's why a lot of people think the Old Testament has a very angry God. Well, there is an anger of the Lord and the day of the Lord is the day that his anger boils over. And that's true enough. It's not something that you can ever deny. But that's not the point I want us to talk on tonight. I want us to go back to our Thessalonians. If we go to Thessalonians, we're actually looking at the carryover of the fact of Christ's death and what it does. But also to point out that in one Thessalonians, we've got second Thessalonians to take into account. And I'm not going to do that tonight. Don't worry, that would only complicate it all again. But in first Thessalonians in chapter four, then going on into chapter five, we have some more things which will conclude my message that I'm pointing out to us. Now, this is a very famous passage, first of all, starting in verse 13. And often this passage is the one where it talks about Jesus Christ coming for his saints. Or should we word it, Jesus Christ's coming with his saints, because both are true, as you'll listen along and hear. But the context of it is that the people of the generation of Peter and Paul and the others had a very sound belief that the second coming of Jesus is going to be one where it'll happen suddenly and Jesus will be with us. And it's going to be a time of it'll be the second advent. And there has been a lot of across the years of history changes in how to understand exactly what is the nature of Jesus coming again.

When this college here, we had a Baptist college here, which my dad became the principal. And when he arrived back in 1967, there was an existing professor of theology here from Scotland. He was from a lovely man who taught theology. He was fairly liberal. And in the sense that his training had been one that's where there are lots of doubts of the Bible and parts they believe in parts that they didn't, which is what you mean by being theologically liberal. But nonetheless, a man endeavouring to be a Christian as best as he could understand. And but when he saw that my dad arrived, he was an evangelical, meaning someone who trusted the scriptures to be accurate. He saw that his time here was up and he went back to Scotland. He had to finish his own PhD, which he did about the second coming of Christ is six or so volumes long. I went to Scotland and looked up his PhD. It was a masterpiece across all these volumes. And what he did his PhD on was the beliefs about the second coming of the first century writers, the early church fathers, sometimes you call them. And he read there that they were very much premillennial like my dad was. Premillennial means that after Jesus arrives for the second advent, there will be a millennium, a thousand years.

He was not a premillennial. He was what you call a millennial, doesn't believe in there being one. And and that had been one of the features of the difference in theology that he saw my father coming, changing how the college would be. But when he did his dissertation, he discovered that most of, not all, but most of the early church fathers were like my dad, premillennial. Believing that following Jesus' arrival in the second advent, there's to be a literal thousand years. And that really threw him for six, because he set himself to do this very careful study of the early church fathers. And they were all mostly, not all, but mostly turning out to be premillennial. The only way you can take to the premillennial interpretation is that you take a lot more of the scriptures in a literal way. You take it as they present themselves to be saying something that is what's going to happen, including there being a millennium. The chief millennium chapter is Revelation 20, talks about the millennium. And anyway, so he got sent for a spin in his mind and eventually wrote my dad a letter saying that realising that most of the early church fathers were premillennial, that he had to accept their method of interpreting the scriptures to be more literal, to take it on face value, and that he had become one too, including me and Evangelical. Which was tremendous rejoicing on our part to hear that that had happened to him.

And as time has passed and events have occurred more and more in the land of Israel and there are more and more evidences of the prophecies of the Old Testament, as this coming time of blessing on Israel and all sorts of changes happening even to the countryside and to the crops and whatever, as you can actually calibrate and see some of the evidence that the Old Testament prophecies should be taken far more literally, than what a lot of the Christian scholars had at that point done. There has been a return of respect to the premillennial interpretation of the second return of Christ. This chapter started to become taken far more seriously. Let's go on through and I'll show you the points that that applies to. We don't want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep. That's a nice way of saying the people who've died, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus or with Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Now that entails the fact that people who die in our current period of time before this return of Jesus, before the second event, they are with Christ in glory, but they're without their bodies because of what you'll read on now, and that Jesus, when he comes at the second advent, is bringing them with him. Why? For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord that we who are alive, who are left before the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

We will not get into his kingdom before them, them missing out, having died, because the actual kingdom being talked about is a kingdom to be physically present with Jesus in. We who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede, go in first before those who've fallen asleep. The Lord from himself will descend from heaven. So this is Jesus coming at the second advent. He'll descend from heaven with a cry of command and the voice of the archangel, a reiterating cry of an angel following Jesus' command, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Now this is mysterious to a lot of people because the dead in Christ are the ones that he brings with him, their souls, spirits, disembodied. But their bodies are in the tombs. And this is describing the putting together of the ones that Jesus brings with him into a resurrected body. It's a resurrection for them. The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together, the ones who are alive and left. If that were to happen tonight before you go home, Jesus Christ came, then we are the ones, if you're a Christian, who would be alive and left. You would also be caught up with this. And we'll be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so will we ever be with the Lord from that moment on.

There'll be a moment when we'll be caught up with the ones that come back, who'll get their resurrection bodies. Corinthians tells us at that moment that our bodies will be changed as well, so we won't be in a different category from them. We'll be with the resurrection body. We not having to die to get one, we'll be changed. And we'll be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Great joy did I have travelling to Chicago, simply because someone put a $50 American note under the door of where I was at a conference in Kentucky. And I had my Pontiac Catalina, but no money to go anywhere. But $50 got me to Chicago. And the reason why I drove there was that they have that Billy Graham Museum of Evangelism. And the Billy Graham organisation gave a whole building to the grad school, but the bottom floor they used for this museum of how evangelism has been done across the years. And a part of what they built for this museum of evangelism was a spot where you could get the gospel demonstrated by walking through it. And a part of your walking through it takes you through a crucifixion scene and also a resurrection scene and all the things to do with the gospel. But then you've got to climb up these steps and they go around like this. And you wonder what they're doing, because they're trying to, by this little journey you take through the museum thing, have the gospel demonstrated to you. And suddenly you push a door and you come out into a brilliant thing that's out in the open air. You're treading on something that's keeping you up in the air and there's light everywhere.

And it's a picture of you being in the skies. It's a picture of you at that moment when we'll be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. It's a very, very thrilling moment because you're not sure what's going on. Should I tread carefully in case this scaffolding doesn't work or whatever they've got there to put this glass around it. But you're in the skies and it's a part of the gospel. There is a moment. Now what that moment is called is the rapture. You may have heard the word of the rapture. The word in the Greek is a word that means literally to be snatched away. And this word is the one that's used here in this passage. We'll be caught up together. There's a together part of it as well. We'll be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. To meet the Lord in the air as he's coming down with these disembodied persons. And I'm not sure exactly the order of things but they get put into the body and they're popping out of graves everywhere. And they're being caught up and then there's us with them. And I'm looking forward to this moment because I'm going to look around for my mum and dad. And I believe that I'll see them no longer old and decrepit in age. My mother had a debilitating disease that made her unable to move her head much. And I'm looking to see them made as new in a moment in the air.

Can you imagine that? And so we will ever always from this moment on be with the Lord. And from that moment on we and they will never be away from the presence of the Lord. Unless he sends us for a journey to another planet to do a job for him or something. But we're going to be with Jesus. Therefore encourage one another with these words. Now that's about the rapture and some people make jokes about they don't believe in the rapture. And I've told the story before to our congregation of one time at the college when at the morning tea I sat down with a good friend. Who was one of the other professors but he didn't believe in the rapture. And he called it the idea the doctrine the belief of a secret rapture. And he was saying with a bit of a laugh you know that he doesn't believe in there being a secret rapture. And I made a joke in return and said yes it's so secret that there's some theologians who've never heard of it. Which was him and we had heard of it but he didn't believe. But the idea is something that's almost too fantastic for some people. But it's right there in the scriptures and the word rapture is just the one that is there. That is the word caught up together it comes from the Latin Repere. And that Latin is the word we get rapture from it means to be snatched up.

If a horse came in angry at Jared because of something he's done out of his house. I don't know how the horse would be angry. And the rider went over and picked him from behind the knobs back there and then rode out again before we could even do anything. That would use the word Harpazo. If you're doing it in Latin. It's a biblical word so the people would tell you it's not in the Bible is just ignorant about Latin that's all. But the word is there in that Greek word which comes from the Latin. And that's why it's there. And we're meant to encourage one another with these words. Now you either have to say well no it's all wrong this we don't believe the Bible that much to take such a fantastic idea on board. Or you can say there must be another way that this is a metaphorical way of saying some exciting revival moment happened or something. But just read the passage. Make up your own mind whether it's talking to you about something that's going to happen or not. How would it be an encouragement if this is not real. It's just a thought people have. The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

So we'll ever be with the Lord. Now the thing that in the morning service I read a bit from one textbook that made the point that this is a metaphor. Now the thing that in the morning service I read a bit from one textbook that made the point that this is not a case of this being the end. Because of what follows. And what follows in chapter 5 our delineation of where the chapters divisions are. Something put in after the fact. But chapter 5 continues. And verse 1. I know you're fishing to get me verse 1. Okay. Now concerning the times and seasons brothers. You have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. There's a different set of circumstances for that sudden moment of God stepping in with much judgement. Than what we just read about the rapture. And for you are fully aware the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying there's peace and security. Then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains upon a pregnant woman.

And they will not escape. But you are not in darkness brothers for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of the light children of the day and we are not of the night or of the darkness. We're generally hopefully going to be aware that there is a moment of the day of the Lord. But that's not going to affect us in judgement because we are children of the light. And the Bible goes on to speak about the time of the great judgement of God for all. The book of Revelation has got much of it. And so it's coming later than the moment of the rapture. I'm not going to try and give you a whole thing tonight of all the second coming all the various. Orders event but just these two facts that I've mentioned. That one righteousness that the new heavens and new earth is for us to live in a creation which is now got totally righteousness. Because the death of Christ was a cosmic death for everything. Two that the snatching of us as Christians is prior to the time of the coming of the day of God's judgement. And there's other things that follow the rapture. If you keep those two thoughts in mind and continue to think about how you're going to understand the second coming. You'll get end up with as Professor Martin did in Scotland. A conservative point of view that recognizes that there's a lot more to the second coming than just the fact of Jesus arrives and we go to heaven.

Let's have a word of prayer. Heavenly Father we thank you for the scriptures and for the details in them. We do confess we don't always know how to digest everything that you tell us. And sometimes father our personal explanations to ourself don't get the whole picture. And we need your Holy Spirit to help us to understand. Help us to take on board what your word declares. Thank you for the spots where the Bible says by the word of the Lord. And then it teaches something. Help us to be believing of what the Bible teaches. Help us to understand. Lord surely there are spots where the interpretation is some sort of metaphor. Some trying to say in human words of something that is a bit beyond normal ability for the human mind to understand. Lord help us in that we pray. And give us wisdom to see the things that are facts that Jesus believed and taught. And the Apostle Paul is set forward so nicely here in this chapter. We pray that in Jesus' name and for his sake. Amen.

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