27. Enemies Disarmed

Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 27. Enemies Disarmed

Col 2:15   And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

More mystery. “Powers and Principalities”? Intriguingly the Bible says more about this than most realise. Isaiah prophesied about God at the end: “In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below.” (Isa 24:21) ‘Powers’ and ‘kings’ -both rulers. Similarly, Daniel: He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.” (Dan 4:35) Whatever they are they are part of God’s creation: “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him,” (Col 1:16) and they are all under Jesus’ rule: “Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” (1 Pet 3:22)

Now the only other ‘beings; apart from the Godhead and mankind that are mentioned in the Bible are angels, some of whom are fallen and follow Satan (see Mt 25:41 & Rev 12:9), all of whom are spirits (Heb 1:7,14) and when they are fallen we refer to them as demons. The leader of them is Satan: “that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray …. the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night….” (Rev 12:9,10) and it is there we see one of the primary things he does – accuse people.

It is legitimate to suppose that ‘powers’ are angelic beings and there is a hierarchy (see Dan 10:12-14). Paul confirms these are our enemies: “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12)

And yet to the Colossian Paul said Jesus has disarmed them. How? Well, we’ve seen one of Satan’s primary tactics is to accuse God’s people (e.g. Zech 3:1). How does he accuse us? He points out our guilt and demands that justice be seen and we be condemned and punished. But now Jesus has come and died for us, the apostle John was able to write, “if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 Jn 2:1,2) Thus when Satan comes to accuse us, it is like Jesus steps up and says, “Father, I died for this one. Their sins are dealt with,” and so Satan and his followers are disarmed. It is only the unknowing who go down under his accusations. Our answer should always be, “Yes, I fell, I sinned, and I am sorry, but Jesus died for that sin, so I rest in his forgiveness. Satan go away.”  See James 4:7 and rejoice.

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61. Conclusion: The Big Picture

Focus on Christ Meditations: 61.  Conclusion: The Big Picture

Isa 9:6,7   For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever

As we draw to the end of this series, how can we sum up all the things we have seen in these studies?  I’m not sure, but let’s have a go at creating a ‘painting by numbers’ big picture of the Christ. We must start as we did at the beginning, with the Old Testament and perhaps we might here expand the picture a little with wider references that are usually taken as referring to the Messiah, to help build the end picture. Then we must go on to consider his nature and his activity, and see where that leaves us.

The Expected One: The Jews expected One to come who would be: A prophet like Moses  (Deut 18:18), a ruling conqueror (Balaam’s prophecy – Num 24:17-19), a shepherd  (Ezek 34:23), a prince (Ezek 37:25), a ruler from Judah (Gen 49:10), the Seed of David with an everlasting kingdom  (2 Sam 7:12-), bringing the presence of God with him  (Isa 7:14), a ruler  (Isa 9:6-7), a Son of man coming with the clouds to rule  (Dan 7:13,14), God’s servant  (Isa 42:1-/49:1-/50:4-/52:13-). Thus they expected the coming one to be a combination of the Son of David, a great ruler, a prophetic messiah, a priestly messiah, a son of man and a suffering servant. It was a somewhat confusing picture.

His Divinity and Humanity: As the picture eventually becomes clear – and really that was not until long after he had ascended to heaven – we see a figure who is both God and man.

First, let’s remind ourselves of his divinity. As our verses above say, “He will be called….Mighty God.”  In the New Testament we see this confirmed. The word was God (Jn 1:1).  Jesus himself inferred it again and again e.g. In 5:18. The apostle Paul declared it again and again:  “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col 2:9) and “Who, being in the very nature God. ..”  (Phil 2:6). The writer to the Hebrews spoke of him being without sin (Heb 4:15) which is only possible in deity!

But then his humanity: “You seek to kill me, a man who told you…” (Jn 8: 40) “Touch me and see; a ghost does not….” (Lk 24: 39). “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity”  (Heb 2:14) “Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.” (Jn 4:6)

 His Activity: How, if asked, would you speak of all the activity of Jesus that we have seen in these studies, and even more in the New Testament? Let’s consider past, present and future:

Past Activity:  he came from heaven, he lived on earth, he taught widely, he healed the sick & raised the dead, he cast out demons, was falsely tried & crucified, he took our sins on the Cross, he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.

Present Activity: he draws people to God, he heals & delivers, he moves in affairs of world to bring about God’s purposes, he prepares the church for his second coming.

Future Activity:  he will return to earth, being seen by every person, he will take his followers to be with him, he will vanquish the enemy, and he will judge every person.

His Position Today: We need to expand on the above: He is at God’s right hand (Rom 8:34), his is crowned with glory (Heb 2:8,9), he is reigning (1 Cor 15:25), so all things are under his feet (Eph 1:22), with all authorities in submission to him (1 Pet 3:22) and his rule is increasing (Isa 9:7).

The Big Picture: Let’s conclude with a summary of all he did, is doing and will do:

  • Jesus left his glorious position in heaven to come to earth. Jn 17:5 / Jn 6:38
  • He put aside his glory and lived in human frailty. Phil 2:7
  • He was tempted in EVERY way we are, but he DIDN’T give way to sin. Heb 4:15
  • He came in perfect obedience to his Father in heaven. Heb 10:7 / Jn 5:19
  • He allowed the Holy Spirit to minister through him to heal the sick, deliver the demonised, raise the dead, and generally counter the works of Satan on earth. Lk 4:18,19 /  Mt 11:4,5
  • He was plotted against and falsely tried. Acts 4:27 / Isa 53:3,8 / Acts 2:23
  • He was beaten, tortured and crucified by Satan’s agents and was railed against by the demons hordes but never responded wrongly. Mt 27:26-30 / Psa 22:12,16
  • He took our sin upon himself on the Cross. 2 Cor 5:21 / 1 Pet 2:24 / Isa 53:12
  • He descended into hell to complete his punishment. 1 Pet 3:18-20
  • He rose from dead as proof of who he was. Acts 2:24 / Acts 17:31
  • He ascended into heaven to rule at his Father’s right hand. 1 Pet 3:22 / 1 Cor 15:25 / Eph 1:20-22 / Psa 110:1
  • He is now IN THE PROCESS of putting everything in subjection under his feet. 1 Cor 15: 24,25 / Eph 1:19-22   /  Eph 2:6,7
  • That process will be complete when he comes as conquering king. Rev 19:11-17 / 1 Thess 4:16,17 / Mt 24:27,30,31.

A Final Comment: The Biblical Testimony that we have considered in these studies, was written by about a dozen men, inspired by God. It had to be God because in no other way could this testimony be so uniform and coherent. If anyone would study these things seriously they must come to this conclusion: it is true, it happened, and is happening. We could have written considerably more on the way this kingdom of the Christ is being worked out today, but you have to stop somewhere!

The end conclusion must be a challenge to all those (ignorant – that’s not unkind, just factual) people who unwisely put Christianity alongside any other world religion and, even worse, put Jesus Christ alongside any other world or religious leader. That isn’t an option when you look at the records. You may try to deride the records but that says more about you than it does the records, that are of the highest level of integrity and trustworthiness. Accept the records for what they are, and you are confronted with a challenge that says, if you see the Christ as revealed here, you can never be the same again. He is unique, what he has done is unique, and one day we will all stand before him – and KNOW, and then we will be on our knees in worship or pleading. At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10,11) Start it now.

16. The Rule of Jesus

Meditations on “The Big Picture” 16. The Rule  of Jesus

Rev 1:4,5    Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

Some would refer to the present ere as the day of the Spirit but the names of the Holy Spirit include ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ and so the Holy Spirit is the executive arm if you like of the Godhead, but He administers the will of Jesus in his people while Jesus sits at his Father’s right hand in heaven exercising his rule, deciding and determining what will be. Now of course many of us would prefer to focus on the works of the Spirit as seen, say, in the Acts of the Apostles and that is certainly the starting place.

Yes, there we see on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit being poured out on the believers and them being equipped to be Jesus’ witnesses (see Acts 1:8, 2:1-4,14-21).  Yes, there we see Peter preaching the first sermon and three thousand being saved (Acts 2:22-41), there we see the apostles performing miracles (e.g. Acts 3:1-10) and then taking the opportunity to share the Gospel (Acts 3:11-26) And so it continues. The Holy Spirit moving through the early church with signs and wonders accompanying the preaching of the Gospel.

Others may wish to observe the roles of the Church and Israel. It is a fact, forgotten by many, that the early church was entirely Jewish in nature with all the apostles being Jews and Jerusalem being the heart of the church. As the church reached out with the Gospel more and more, it was obvious that it would change its nature with believers coming from the larger population of the world and thus became more Gentile orientated. Indeed Acts shows us quite clearly that it was Jewish hostility that forced the apostle Paul to move on sometimes and thus pushing the Gospel out even further. (Some modern historians suggest that Jews continued to be saved in numbers until the seventh century). With the fall of Jerusalem  – and the church leaders had already moved on – Judaism was also dispersed into the world (see Rev 12)

As far as individual Jews are concerned, they are no different from Gentiles in terms of needing salvation: there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom 10:12,13) yet when it comes to them as a people, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.” (Rom 10:25,25)  Some will say that word ‘Israel’ simply means all believers whether from Jew or Gentile background, others will say it means the Jewish people will eventually be saved. Time alone will tell. That they as a people still have a part to play in the plans of God seems fairly obvious.

Which leaves us coming back to Jesus revealed as:

  1. a) the one seated next to the Father in heaven (Mark 16:19 / Acts 2:33 / Acts 5:31 / Acts 7:55 / Rom 8:34 / Eph 1:20 / Phil 2:9 / Col. 3:1 / Heb 1:3 / Heb 8:1 / Heb 10:12 / Heb 12:2 / 1 Pet 3:22), and
  2. the one with all authority (Rom 8:34 / Eph. 1:22 / Heb 2:8 / 1 Pet 3:22 / 1 Cor. 15:25 / Isa 9:7  / Psa 110:1,2) and
  3. the ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5, Psa 110:1,2, 1 Cor 15:24,25)
  4. the one ruling over the church (Rev 1:12-20)
  5. the one who will return sometime in the future in power (Matt 24:42,44, Matt 25:31-32, Acts 1:11, Eph 1:9,10, Rev 1:7)

It might be well to emphasis the 1 Cor 15 verses: Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24,25) We may not be able to discern his works but the truth is that he IS reigning over this world – from heaven. He brings things about by his Spirit working in his followers, he will use Satan and his demons and powers as he sees fit (this is too big a subject to cover here, but he does) and he will work to manipulate circumstances, yet overall it is a mystery for most of the time. BUT he IS ruling; this is the era of Christ’s reign from heaven.

However when we see the praise given to him in heaven there comes a surprise: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:9,10) We the believers should be reigning. Now there will be some who say that is in the future but when you consider Jesus’ words, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:19 & 18:18) there seems a certain amount of ‘exercising rule’ about that. There is a similar hint in Eph 1:22 – “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,” Perhaps, as with so many things it is a partial reign this side of heaven, fulfilled completely in the new heaven new earth where, “they will reign for ever and ever.” (Rev 22;5)  Some room for more reflection there!

Pre-AD1 (say) Christ sat with his father in heaven, waiting for his day on earth to come. Somewhere about that time, about AD30-33  He expressed his father’s kingdom in his ministry on earth. Since that time he has been reigning from heaven. At some point in the future he will return again as a conquering king (see Rev 19) and will then preside alongside his Father in eternity over the new heaven and new earth. The present ‘stepping stone’ of history is unknown to us as to duration for the time being – so watch the skies.

14. Fulfilment

Jesus in John’s Gospel : 14 : Jesus, fulfilment of prophecy

Jn 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

If there is one thing that comes over very clearly in the Bible it is that the coming of Jesus was no accident, no last minute idea of God, but part of a long-stated plan of the Godhead, formulated long before in heaven.  For the educated people of Jesus’ day the fact that God had spoken in the Old Testament period about a Coming One is quite clear, so let’s consider some of the prophetic verses that they knew about.

Gen 3:15  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” i.e. someone in the human race would crush the work of Satan yet be injured by him in the process.

Gen 22:18 through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed i.e. the earth will be blessed by a descendent of Abraham’s family.

Gen 49:10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his i.e. a ruler will eventually come from the tribe of Judah who will rule over the nations.

Deut 18:15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers.” i.e. God will raise up a great prophet out of Israel.

2 Sam 17:12,13 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” i.e. from David’s family will come an eternal ruler.

Psa 2:2,6,7  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One..…I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill… You are my Son” i.e. God has an anointed one, a king, His Son who is coming.

Psa 110:1,2 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.” i.e. God has a ruler who will come from heaven.

Isa 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanueli.e. a coming son will be called ‘God with us’.

Isa 9:1  in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan i.e. Galilee will be a place of special blessing.

These are just a sample of what some suggest are at least three hundred prophetic references in the Old Testament to the coming Messiah. It seems almost that every time prophets got tuned into heaven something of the theme of the Coming One broke through. It was almost as if it was something constantly there in the background of the Father’s mind, so even when He was sharing with His servants other present day issues, something of the blessing He had planned for the earth through His Son broke through in His thoughts. Throughout the whole of time prior to two thousand years ago, the Father had it in His mind, something they were constantly working towards. The Son leaving heaven and coming to the earth to save mankind was THE big event in the hearts in heaven, and then two thousand years back, all of the past planning came into being. He came!

19. Confusing Prophecy

MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH – No.19

Isa 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

If we have one characteristic that gets us nowhere, it is the desire to be in charge and fully understand everything that is going on! The desiring to be in charge simply means that so often we end up getting ourselves in a mess – we need God’s guidance and grace! The desiring to understand all that is going on is a fruitless desire because although we can know many things, when it comes to God we are so limited in our knowledge, especially about what He is doing today!

Our verse above is a classic example of this. Of course we read it and say, oh yes, that applied to Jesus. And we would be right, but suppose you were someone in Isaiah’s day? How do you think you’d feel about this verse then? It refers to a child, a son, but the only son we’ve had brought to our attention is Isaiah’s son, and he’s not of the family of David, he’s not a ruler. Is this a word that Isaiah is applying to his own son? But no, in the next verse we find, “He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,” which seems to suggest that this is someone from David’s family tree, so this would suggest that this is another child as yet unborn perhaps.

So first there is the confusion over who the son is but next there must be confusion over the description of this son. It may be too familiar to us, perhaps because we may have read it so many times or even heard it sung in music or sung it ourselves. First he’s going to be a ruler: “the government will be on his shoulders.” But then look at these incredible descriptions that follow, descriptions of this child yet to be born: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The fact that he’s going to be a great counselor and a bringer of peace is acceptable, but to call him Mighty God and Everlasting Father is outrageous! This child is going to be seen as God? He is going to be seen as the Father from heaven? How can such a thing possibly be?

Surely that must have gone through the minds of the people who heard Isaiah. He’s flipped! He’s really gone off the rails now! We always said he was a bit weird. Now we know! Hundreds and hundreds of years would pass before Jesus came and then there was controversy over whether he was, in fact, the Son of God. So why did God say this to Isaiah all those centuries beforehand? Well, I can only make a suggestion. We know from Scripture that the Trinity had planned the coming of Jesus from before the foundation of the world (1 Pet 1:20 , Eph 1:4, Rev 13:8). It’s almost as if the Father was so excited by the prospect of redeeming the world through His Son that He couldn’t help just dropping hints through His prophets throughout Israel ‘s Old Testament history.

These prophecies are God’s constant signposts, over 300 of them in the Old Testament pointing towards the coming of Jesus, things that had the Jewish scholars puzzled, signposts pointing to a God of love who has it in His heart to send His one and only Son to redeem mankind. Recently I was involved in a publicity campaign, seeking to raise the awareness of the world to the plight of persecuted Christians in China . At one point we sent out a Press Release: In twenty four hours there will be breaking news in Beijing. Twenty four hours later we released a second Press Release stating what had happened and why. This is the nearest I can get to a picture of what the Father was doing, inspiring His prophets through the centuries with tit-bits of information about the coming of His Son. As the archivists held on to the prophecies and the scholars studied them, they became aware of this recurrent theme: there is One coming who will be God’s anointed One, the Messiah.

Perhaps many of us take all this for granted now, but the truth is that if God wasn’t a God of love He would have given up long back and completely wiped out the whole world. The apostle Paul starts his famous 1 Corinthians 13 passage about love with, “Love is patient.” How we must have tried the Lord’s patience, and yet the wisdom of God had decreed that in time space history in what we call two thousand years ago, THAT would be the right time to send His Son. How He must have wanted to intervene earlier yet knew that that was the right time. The apostle Paul spoke of it as “at just the right time.” (Rom 5:6). Writer Michael Green in his book Evangelism in the Early Church points out that there were a number of things in the world that made that precise time probably one of the best times in history for the Gospel to be shared around the world.

The question of how much God could share with his prophets takes us down the path of thinking how the Lord brought His revelation to the world. Without doubt, as we read through the history of the Old Testament in particular, we see that there is a gradual revealing of the Lord Himself through His interaction with individuals and the nation of Israel , and a gradual revealing of His purposes for mankind. As we noted earlier, Jesus coming was not a last minute crisis act on behalf of the Godhead, but something planned even before they brought the world into being, knowing what would happen and knowing how they would have to act into history to redeem us. This word from Isaiah may not have brought great revelation when he spoke it, but it certainly did in the fullness of time. Perhaps this suggests that we ought to see ourselves as sometimes having much greater significance that merely in what we do today!