Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Only Sovereign – 1 Tim 6:14b-16

The appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display  at the proper time—he who is  the blessed and only Sovereign,  the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality,  who dwells in  unapproachable light,  whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (ESV)
Proper Time
Have you ever asked God why He doesn’t come back now and set all things straight? If you have, you aren’t alone. The question is as old as the Bible. Job asked why God didn’t judge in verse one of Job 24. In the rest of the chapter he listed various atrocities of mankind and the plight of the poor and downtrodden. He even intercepted our arguments that the wicked are broken like a tree (Job 24:18-20) and pointed out that God prolongs or draws out the life of the wicked making them feel secure even though they don’t know how short their lives are (Job 24:22-23).
Asaph asked the same kinds of questions as he observed the same things in Psalm 73. He echoed the complaints of Job and even despaired that he had tried to live a good life in vain (Ps 73:12). Have you ever thought about how much easier or fun life might be if you didn’t have to tithe? How many times have you heard someone say he didn’t go to church because it was the only morning he had to sleep in? Do you envy the rich who prey on other and build their Cayman accounts at the expense of others?
When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. (Ps 73:16-17 KJV)
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Heb 9:27 KJV)
The proper time for Christ to appear will be a shock for many. 2 Cor 5:10 says that we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give account of our lives. For Christians, that will be a time of joy (Jude 24), but for those who don’t know Jesus, it will be a time of horror (Rev 20:11-15). While Christians look forward to the day that God will reveal Jesus in glory, we often forget that the majority of people who have been born or will be born first see Jesus in His Glory when they die and are judged. We need to keep our focus on Jesus and not on the temporal things of this world so that our eternity will not regret living as God wants.

How will God determine the proper time for Jesus to return? Paul says in 1 Tim 2:6 that at the proper time, Jesus came the first time to give Himself as a ransom to pay for our sins. We can go back to Daniel (Dan 9:26) and other prophecies in the Old Testament and see that the proper time had been revealed but was kept a secret until Jesus came (Rom 16:25-26). The Old Testament scholars of Jesus’ day knew a lot about the coming Messiah, but they couldn’t put it all together and show up in Bethlehem when Jesus was born or welcome Him when entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matt 24:14 KJV)
The same thing applies to Jesus’ second return. We know many prophecies about His return. A very important one is that the Gospel must first be preached to all nations. There are many more tribes that still need to be reached with the Gospel. If we look forward to His return and want to speed its coming (2 Peter 3:12), then we should be doing everything we can to spread the Gospel near and far. The Jesus Film project now has an app for mobile devices to show the Jesus Movie and other Gospel films.[1] It is available in over 1,150 languages. Let others know about it.
God’s Sovereignty
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. (Acts 1:6-7 KJV)
While we wait for Jesus’ return we must consider that only God knows when the right time will be. Most translations say that the Father has fixed the date by His authority. This conveys two important truths about Jesus’ return. The first is that the day is fixed. God knows the date and when it will happen. It isn’t a moving target. This seems contradictory to 2 Peter 3:12 where we are encouraged to speed the day until we understand God’s authority or sovereignty which is the second truth of the passage.
His sovereignty isn’t something we can understand with our limited minds. When we work to hasten Jesus’ return, we are doing what He intended in the first place. When we don’t spread the Gospel because of our sinfulness, He knew that would happen as well. However it goes even beyond knowing these things and His ability to work them together to accomplish His purpose and timing.
And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God saw the people of Israel, and God knew their condition. (Ex 2:24-25 RSV)
What do you think when you read this passage? Do you think that God was suddenly surprised to see what had happened after the Israelites lived 430 years in Egypt? In Gen 15:13, the Lord told Abram that his descendents would spend 430 years in Egypt. Think of everything that had to occur for that to happen. At that time, Abram didn’t have any children and Sarai was already past childbearing age. You know the story that eventually lead his great-grandchildren to sell their brother Joseph into slavery. How the caravan of Ishmaelites (also great-grandchildren of Abraham) came at just the right time to buy Joseph and take him to Egypt. All this was planned by God to bring them all to Egypt and to build them into a great nation.
The Bible tells that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart multiple times and that Pharaoh hardened his own heart while Moses displayed God’s miracles. Is God sovereign? Was this simply God’s foreknowledge of the future or did it demonstrate that He is able to affect even our attitudes and behavior to accomplish His will? How well this demonstrates that God is King of kings and Lord of lords. There isn’t any person, whether the most powerful in the world, or the least, whom God can’t direct (Prov 16:9). What were the results in this case?
And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame [exact] day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. (Ex 12:41 KJV)
If you think this is only coincidence, then you need to see how many other prophecies of the Bible have come true down to the exact details. Some were fulfilled in the Old Testament so that we can trust the reliability of the Scripture which demonstrates God’s sovereignty and points to Jesus’ first appearance. Some of the prophecies in both the Old and New Testaments speak of His second coming. Will you be ready for that if it happens before your death? If you were to die today are you ready to stand before Jesus? Are you ready to meet Jesus face to face either way?
God’s Imortality
We can’t imagine God’s immortality because we are mortal. We have a beginning and an end. Everything we see has a beginning and will have an end. Whatever we do is started and finished. The past can’t be relived and the future can’t be lived ahead of time. But God has always existed. No one created God, and if that were possible, the one who created Him would be the real God and the created one would be an imposter. The beginning and the end are all the same to Him.
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. (Ex 3:14-15 KJV)
When Moses asked God for His name (by the way, God isn’t His name), He first said it was I Am that I Am. It is almost as if God wasn’t sure how to describe Himself in terms that we could understand. By saying this, He means that He exists. The One who exists is sending you to the Israelites. He then formalizes His name as Jehovah.
I Am: OT:1961 hayah (haw-yaw); a primitive root [compare OT:1933]; to exist, i.e. be or become, come to pass (always emphatic, and not a mere copula or auxiliary).
Lord or Jehovah OT:3068 Yehovah (yeh-ho-vaw'); from OT:1961; (the) self-Existent or Eternal; Jehovah, Jewish national name of God.
From the Hebrew definitions of the two words, we can see that God is because He has always existed and that He is self-existent. That’s like saying a Boeing 787 built itself after it caused all the materials to come into existence. However with God, there was no point of origin when He didn’t exist. This is why He is God and no one else can claim to be God. No one can claim to make himself exist much less keep himself in existence. It is another mind-boggling attribute of God.
As a side note, most translations write God’s name, Jehovah, as Lord. Note that Lord is all caps even though the last three letters are small caps. This is traditionally the way we can always identify that the name of God, Jehovah, was used in the original Hebrew language.
So what does this mean for us? What importance does God’s eternal nature have to bear on how we live or what we do or say?
Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, “My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” (Isa 46:8-10 NASU)
The first thing is that it reminds us we are sinners. There is no way we can have the clarity and perspective that God has. As a result we look to our own pleasures and wills to do what we want. The NIV calls us rebels. We tend to think we are in control and that is an affront to God because we set ourselves up as gods when we do that. Since we are sinners and there is no one else like God, we need to acknowledge Him and get on board with His purpose.
His purposes and good pleasure has unfolded in the pages of the Bible as history has gone exactly the way it has. Jesus came at the right time. He gave His life for our salvation. Each of us has been born and live in the place God predetermined so that we would Him (Acts 17:26-27). His purpose is for us to bring glory to Himself as we turn to Jesus in faith and repentance and His pleasure is to give us eternal life with Him (Gal 1:4).
God’s Dwelling
 There are many descriptions of heaven in the Bible. Many books have been written about heaven. Some have approached it from a very biblical perspective and others drawn their conclusions from very questionable sources such as near death experiences where people have claimed that they were taken to heaven and saw a bright light. We have just talked about God’s immortality. Doesn’t it seem strange that a self-existing being would have a dwelling place? Perhaps the unapproachable light shouldn’t be construed to be as literal as we often think.
He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. (Ps 104:2-3 NIV)
When we view His dwelling in poetic terms, it is clear that God’s dwelling, or heaven, is as much beyond our understanding, as is His immortality. God describes Himself as filling heaven and earth (Jer 23:24). How can He dwell in unapproachable light and fill heaven and earth at the same time?
The only answer that I can provide is that heaven is much more that we imagine. I had a conversation with a person of great faith yet could only comprehend heaven as a physical place somewhere out in the universe, perhaps on a planet in some distant galaxy. I don’t think the conversation went well. I couldn’t convey the concept that heaven wasn’t in our physical universe and yet was a real place where there are things with physical substance but are not temporal as is everything in this universe. I look at 2 Cor 4:18 where Paul says that the unseen things are eternal. We will see them someday just as clearly as when God allowed Elisha’s servant to see the mountain surrounding Elisha with God’s army of horses and chariots of fire.
God has allowed some to see glimpses of heaven in various ways. He showed Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 and John throughout the book of Revelation. He showed Peter, John, and James on the mount of transfiguration. When we die, we will go to be with Christ (Phil 1:23) but even being with Christ after death isn’t the same as the ultimate glory of heaven described in Revelation 21. We will not see God in that unapproachable light until we receive immortal bodies because heaven is imperishable and only imperishable things can dwell in the presence of the imperishable (1 Cor 15:41-53). What we will be when we die before the resurrection, we don’t know. Jesus promised the thief on the cross that he would be with Jesus in Paradise.
Just as Moses saw God on the mountain in a burning bush, in the smoke on top of Mount Sinai, or face to face in the tent of meeting, we will be able to see God when we go to be with Christ because we are in Christ (Col 3:3). However, I don’t think we will see Him in all His glory until the promises of Revelation 21 and 22 are fulfilled and the Glory of the Lord provide the light and the Lamb is the lamp for the New Jerusalem.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, God's home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. (Rev 21:3-4 NLT)
Then we will join Paul in giving glory and honor to God and the Lamb during His eternal reign. I can’t wait. How about you? Are you ready for this?

[2] (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

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