God and Reason—Part 2

The Bow of Promise

“And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice.” —Genesis 22:18

OBVIOUSLY, if we are to reason correctly concerning God, it is primarily necessary to clear away the accumulated mists of superstition that have caused so many to lose faith in him and in the Book that is reputed to be his Word of truth. This is not an easy thing to do, but it is hoped that this discussion will materially aid in that direction.

Not all, of course, are sure whether or not they should accept the Bible as an authentic record of the origin and destiny of man, but all should at least be interested in the reasonableness of its brief presentation on the subject when critically analyzed—especially after all the mists of tradition have been cleared away from its simple, straightforward story. What, then, is the Bible story of man, when stripped of superstition and mere human assumption?

It says that after man was created, God told our first parents that they would surely die if they disobeyed his law: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) This seems simple and clear enough. But is it true? Yes, this statement, made long ago to the progenitors of the human race, is verified today by billions of tombs and a continually dying world, which testify to the grim truth of that clearly spoken law.

On this point, then, it is evident that the Book of Genesis is in harmony with uncontroversial reality. The fact that Adam did not actually go into the tomb on the same day in which he disobeyed the divine law is no proof that the death penalty was not a literal one. A critical translation of the Hebrew text concerning this penalty gives it as “dying thou shalt die.” (Gen. 2:17, margin) This gives the thought that the process of death would begin at once, and continue until life became wholly extinct. And that is exactly what occurred.

But something else also occurred back there in Eden. From a source other than the Creator came a seductive statement to mother Eve: “Ye shall not surely die!” (Gen. 3:1-4) This suggestion that God had lied to his creatures is said to have come from the serpent.

Four thousand years later, the Apostle John identified “that old serpent” as being “the Devil and Satan,” and indicated that he has been the great deceiver of all nations. (See Revelation 20:1-3.) We now have two contradictory statements; one accredited to the Lord, in which he states that man would surely die; the other coming from one whom the Scriptures designate as a deceiver, in which he insists that man would not surely die. The first of these we have found to be substantiated by facts. Death is indeed a reality, concerning which the Bible says, “The dead know not anything,” and again, “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”—Eccles. 9:5-10

The Great Deception

But what about the serpent’s statement, “Thou shalt not surely die”? Jesus declared concerning this serpent that he is the “father of lies.” (John 8:44) If, therefore, the record of Genesis is true, we should expect to find some evidence throughout the ages of Satan’s deceptive efforts in connection with the subject of death. And, as the Revelator indicated that this old serpent has deceived all nations, we should expect his deceptions to be universally manifested. Do we find such evidence? Yes!

While Satan had said definitely that death would not result from partaking of the forbidden fruit, yet actually Adam and Eve, as well as all their progeny, have died or are dying. Hence it became necessary for Satan to do something about it. Of course he was not willing to come forward and apologize for falsely accusing God of being a liar; hence, he took the further sinister step of inducing the people to believe that what appeared to be death was not death, but the gateway into some other—either higher or lower—form of life. And because of the innate fear of death that lurks in human hearts, nearly all mankind have preferred to believe the lie that there is no death. Through this great deception, then, most have been made to believe that death is really a friend rather than an enemy, as the Bible declares it to be. (I Cor. 15:26) There is a glorious hope of future life, however, not because man cannot die, but because he does die and is to be raised from the dead.

But how can we have any standing before our Creator whose laws have been broken? What is the basis for hope that anyone may have an opportunity to return to favor with God and again enjoy the privilege of living everlastingly under conditions of complete happiness? Will God cancel his decree of condemnation against us merely upon our promise to do better from now on?

The Bible most assuredly points out the Creator’s plan whereby the lost race is to have an opportunity to return to harmony with him, but if we are to learn the truth on this point it is necessary to proceed cautiously. It is evident that we will never have our questions satisfactorily answered by delving into traditional theology, hoping therein to find some reasonable basis for faith and comforting hope, so let us confine our search to the Bible itself. Thus far the Bible is found to be in harmony with well-known and well-established facts, and also with reason. This gives us confidence. Is it not then reasonable to expect that it must contain a satisfactory solution to this entire problem of human destiny?

We are given the suggestion in Genesis 3:15 that the Creator, even from the beginning, intended to do something more for the human race than merely condemn it to death. The promise there is to the effect that “the seed of the woman” would eventually bruise the serpent’s head. Of course, this is a rather vague and indefinite statement; but in the light of subsequent divine revelations it is seen to be wonderfully full of meaning.

We turn, for example, to almost the last chapter in the Bible—Revelation 20:1-3—and there we find the Apostle John declaring that in vision he saw a mighty angel come down from heaven and lay hold upon “that old serpent” and bind him for a thousand years, “that he should deceive the nations no more.” This is a prophetic picture portraying the fulfillment of that vague promise of Genesis 3:15 that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head. In other words, in this highly symbolic language, the Creator assures us through the Revelator that our first parents’ sin is not to result in a lasting blight upon the human race; but that in his own time and way a sure cure will be effected, and the serpent himself will be destroyed.

Thus we have located the two extreme ends, so to speak, of this God-given bow of promise—the promise given in Genesis that the serpent’s head would be bruised, and the vision given to the Revelator that this same serpent would be bound, and finally destroyed. However, let us not stop here, but rather continue our search through the sacred record, in the hope that we may find some of the details of how Satan’s death-dealing work in Eden is to be destroyed, and the human race restored to the lost Paradise.

God’s Promise to Abraham

Leaving the disappointing scenes of Eden, let us come down to the time of Abraham—over two thousand years later. From this period onward it is no longer necessary to accept so many things by faith. Archaeologists have recently excavated Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, also various ruins of ancient Canaan, which substantiate practically every detail of Bible history covering that whole period. In view of these discoveries it is now admitted even by skeptics that the Bible is by no means a collection of old wives’ fables, such as a great many once were led to believe.

Now to Abraham, God made a very remarkable promise which has not yet been fulfilled. He said, “In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1-3) Later on in life, when his son Isaac had grown to manhood, God reiterated this promise and also confirmed it by an oath. But Abraham died without seeing it fulfilled. The promise was passed on to Isaac, then to his son, Jacob. Esau, Jacob’s older brother, bartered the right to inherit it for a mess of pottage.

Finally Jacob reached the end of his span of imperfect life, yet God’s promises to bless all nations had not been fulfilled to him; so upon his deathbed he passed this sceptre on to his son Judah. We cannot here examine all the many related promises in the Old Testament which enlarge upon this original covenant made with Abraham. Suffice it to say that in these promises the Jews saw a great personality pictured—the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”—whom they became accustomed to speak of as their coming Messiah. (Gen. 49:8-10; Rev. 5:5) The tremendous influence of these ancient promises has been one of the contributing factors that have kept the distressed and persecuted people of Israel separate from the rest of the world for more than four thousand years until now. The Jews stand out today as a living testimony of the reality of God’s dealings with them in the past, and of the hope-inspiring promises to them as his chosen people. Many of these promises, however, still remain unfilled.

The Messiah Promised

At the time of Jesus’ first advent many of the Jews were on the alert regarding the coming of the long-promised Messiah. We are told that one night, out upon the hills of Judea where shepherds were tending their flocks, suddenly there appeared a supernatural light, and the sound of unusual voices. Incredibly fantastic, do you say?

Let us remember that if the Bible Is what it claims to be—a revelation of the Creator’s purposes toward the children of men; the same Creator who brought into existence all the other mighty works of creation—then it is not hard to believe that such a Supreme Intelligent Being has also created various orders of spirit beings on higher planes of existence than man. And if he desired to have these higher angelic creatures communicate with man on such a momentous occasion as the Savior’s birth, it would be very easy for him to have arranged it. This is just what he did! Through the medium of one of these mighty angels, God announced to the shepherds, “Fear not: for, behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”—Luke 2:10,11

The word Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Messiah. Hence this angelic announcement simply signified that the world’s Messiah, whom God for so long had promised to send, had now actually been born, and that he was indeed to be the Savior of the world. That is why it was good tidings unto all people—all the families of the earth were to be blessed as a result of his birth. But how is Jesus, the Messiah, to be the Savior of the world? What is to be the nature of the blessing that he will bestow upon all?

From what we have previously learned, the human race, through Adam’s transgression, lost the privilege of living everlastingly on the earth. Now if death simply means death, as it manifestly does, then there would seem no way for any of us to be saved except by being liberated from the death penalty and then restored to life.

“Peace on Earth”—When?

But what about the fact that although this Savior, this Messiah, made his advent into the world nearly two thousand years ago, the world continues to die as before? In what sense is he its Savior? If there is no eternal torment from which the race is to be rescued, then from what does the Messiah save it, and how? And will it be different when it is saved?

All, of course, are mindful of the beautiful music and the inspirational sermons that are heralded forth each Christmas from every church in Christendom. The cry, peace on earth, goodwill toward men, is annually announced on every hand. But is it not true that thus far these pronouncements have been largely empty words? Does the cry of peace on earth, as it sounds in the ears of a dying soldier, mean very much to him? In time of war, the professed followers of Jesus in one nation slay the professed followers of Jesus in another nation, and call this their Christian duty. If they are faithful in doing this, will they joyfully meet their slaughtered foreign brethren in heavenly bliss? Is this the manner in which the prophecy of peace on earth is to be fulfilled? Our study has not yet unfolded sufficiently to supply the answers to these puzzling questions, but let us go on, and see that the Bible does have something satisfactory to say about them.

We have now traced the messianic promises from the day of the Garden of Eden down to Jesus’ time, and found that these promises are to find a fulfillment in the Master. Paul indicates this in Galatians 3:8,16, where he clearly identifies Jesus as the promised seed of Abraham. John the Baptist announced Jesus, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” At that time John clearly recognized Jesus to be the promised Messiah. (John 1:29) Later, however, John was thrown into prison, and while there he began to wonder whether or not he might have been mistaken. He then sent messengers to Jesus to inquire if he really were the Messiah, and Jesus sent back a very interesting reply. He directed the messengers to remind John that at his hands the sick were being healed; the lame were made to walk; the blind to see; the deaf to hear; and that, on certain occasions, even the dead were made to rise.

Jesus’ Works Fulfill Prophecy

Why did Jesus answer John in this peculiar manner? It was because the prophets had foretold that the Messiah would do just such things as these! Thus was John reassured. And not only was John the Baptist impressed by the mighty works of Jesus, but it was quite natural that many in Jesus’ day should also become convinced of the Master’s messiahship, and that the long-promised messianic kingdom was about to be set up for the blessing of Israel and the whole world of mankind—all the families of the earth. Indeed, the common people finally became so enthusiastic that they attempted then to make Jesus a king; and did acclaim him as such as he rode into Jerusalem on an ass.

Just five days later than this, however, something happened which mystified the disciples and others who looked upon Jesus as the Messiah. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day became jealous of his popularity, so they instituted a plot against him, seized him, conducted a mock trial, condemned him to death, and finally had him crucified as a malefactor. What did this mean? How could it be that he who had come to be the king of earth should thus be taken and crucified? Such a turn of events did not harmonize with the disciples’ conception of what the Messiah should do and be—establish a kingdom and be the king over, and deliverer of, the people. How keen their disappointment must have been when their hopes and expectations were thus dashed to the ground!

Three days thereafter, two of the crestfallen disciples of the Master were walking on their way to Emmaus when suddenly a stranger joined them. Noting their sorrow, he inquired as to the cause. They then related to him the events of the past days and how bitterly they had been disappointed in their expectations relative to the miracle-worker of Nazareth.

Why Jesus Died

Then, this stranger, who in reality was the resurrected Christ, took occasion to explain to them why he had died; that his death had been foreknown and foretold by the Heavenly Father, and was a necessary precursor to the promised blessings that were to come through the glory of the messianic kingdom.

Later, these two disciples were relating their experiences to others, and they said, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32) Certainly there was good reason for the disciples’ enthusiasm. Now they saw that the Master’s death was not a tragic mistake, as they had thought, nor was it an evidence that he was not the Messiah. Finally the disciples came to realize that Jesus’ death was an absolute necessity in order for the world of mankind to receive the blessings of life which had been divinely promised.

Later, one of the disciples explained that Jesus, in his pre-human state, had been known as the Logos, translated ‘Word’ in John 1:1. It was this Logos, or Word of God, that became flesh for the very purpose of dying as a corresponding price, or “ransom,” for Adam, and the condemned race in him. (I Tim. 2:3-6; Rom. 5:12) By ignoring, or purposely concealing the accurate meaning of the Greek text as it appears in John, chapter 1, the translators have made it appear that the Logos, or the Word, is the divine Creator himself. But an accurate translation of the passage reveals the fact that the Logos was merely a god, or mighty one, while the Creator is referred to as the God—the Supreme One, the Almighty One.

The apostle tells us that the Logos was the agent of Jehovah in all the creative work: “Without him was not anything made that was made.” Doubtless this is why the plural pronouns, us and our, are used in the Genesis account of creation: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”—Gen. 1:26

The Scriptures speak of the oneness of the Father and the Son, but it is clearly a oneness of purpose and will, rather than of being. Jesus prayed that this same oneness should exist between himself and his followers. (John 17:21-23) That Jesus did not consider himself as one in person, and equal to the Creator, or that he was his own Father, is clearly indicated by his words when he said, “My Father is greater than I.”—John 14:28

The disciples knew that the wages of sin is death, not life in torment, hence it was easy for them to understand how the death of Jesus, who had been made flesh for that very purpose, could pay that penalty, and open up a way whereby the world could eventually return to harmony with God—hence to life. But prior to Pentecost there was still something quite mysterious to them about the whole affair. While they now knew that Jesus, their Messiah, had been raised from the dead, they saw little of him; and finally he left them entirely. How strange! When last seen by them, he told them to tarry at Jerusalem until they should receive further instruction through the medium of the Holy Spirit. Surely these things must have seemed to the disciples like very strange proceedings on the part of him whom they still believed to be the promised Messiah.

Not only were those early disciples themselves puzzled for a time by this further unexpected turn of events, but many since have misunderstood its true significance, and as a result have developed erroneous theories. If Jesus did not come to establish a literal kingdom upon the earth, then another reason for his coming must be discovered; hence to many it seemed logical to conclude that his coming, death, and resurrection were in order that people might be saved from the tortures of hell and whisked off to heaven when they die. But the Messiah is to establish an earthly kingdom and bless all the families of the earth in God’s due time, as we shall see.

As reasoning minds turn away more and more from the torment god of the Dark Ages, they want to know why nearly two thousand years have passed since Jesus left his disciples, and yet the world today is more under the control of selfishness, and has less faith in the Messiah than ever before. Thinking minds wonder why, if Jesus is to convert the world and save it from hell-fire, there seems to be so little progress along this line; and also, if it be the messianic purpose to establish an earthly kingdom, and thereby bless the people with life and happiness, why that has not yet been done.

If the Bible is the Word of God, which we claim it is, then we should expect to find these as well as our other reasonable questions fully answered therein. But we should remember, even as the Word declares, that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts. (Isa. 55:8-11) This does not mean that we should not inquire for an understanding of God’s thoughts, for he has asked us to reason together with him. (Isa. 1:18) When we accept this invitation to reason with the Creator, through his inspired Word, we find that which satisfies both our heads and our hearts.

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