God's purpose is to make the earth as good as it was before Adam sinned.
No, SORRY, not good enough!
What do we say to those millions who died in earthquakes,tornadoes, floods, and wars? "Don't worry, God will return the world to the state of paradise. Sorry about the pain and suffering in the meantime."
God's purpose is to install Christ as King of the earth to bring it peace and prosperity.
No, SORRY, not good enough!
Over the centuries, there have been people who have had a large measure of peace and prosperity. If that were the full extent of His purpose, this group wouldn't be satisfied. In any case, Ecclesiastes tells us that physical wealth is just a chasing after wind. And those people know that that is true whether they read it in the Scriptures or not.
God's purpose is far BIGGER and BETTER than any of this. God's purpose must be worthy of His great name. The great name of the God who created and sustains a beautiful, perfect, awesome and intricate Universe. It must be something which no critic, human or celestial, could possibly find fault with. It must be the final answer to thousands of years of pain, suffering and death. It must answer every demand of justice.
Many at this point would say it couldn't be done. It's too good to be true. We have often found by bitter experience that if something sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.
This morning, I want to show that God's purpose is perfect and satisfies every demand of justice.
I shall begin by showing you something you have probably heard of many times, but never actually seen one before.
What is it?
For those of you who can't see from where you are sitting, it is a card with 2 letters - I and F. It is a BIG IF. What is a BIG IF?
Here are two examples:
IF I win the national lottery, I shall be happy.
IF I lose 10 kg in bodyweight I shall be perfect.
Here are two more examples that I want us to consider in our search for God's purpose:
IF God is a god of love, he would not allow evil to exist.
IF God is a righteous judge, he must destroy all evildoers forever.
The first two examples are wishful thinking. The last two examples remind us of Satan's words to Christ in the wilderness. Matthew 4:3:
"IF you are God's son, turn these stones to bread."
"IF you worship me, I will give you all these kingdoms."
Christ answered Satan's BIG IFs with words of Scripture. Unless we too answer with Scripture we will not find the truth to our BIG IFs. We will be relying on human logic and philosophy. When we find the answers to our BIG IFs, we shall understand God's purpose.
First, "IF God is a God of love, he would not allow evil to exist."
It is easy in an ivory tower to say that evil is necessary to reveal good. But in the real world, we do not experience evil in an abstract way. We see human ATROCITIES, natural DISASTERS, dreadful DISEASES, and abject POVERTY. And this for thousands of years and often with innocent babies.
It is no answer to say that man brings many of his problems on himself. The human race suffers every day in many different ways. Is it not overkill? Is it fair?
Only ONE Man has lived a perfect, sinless life. Was it fair that Christ was crucified by the will of God? Christ Himself asked God, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass by from Me."
But there was no other way. Our Lord did not beg the Chief Priest for mercy, or Pilate for clemency. He recognized the fact that GOD ALONE could deliver Him from their power, and, since this was not His will, He submitted.
He obeyed God. But was it easy? The account in Matthew 26: 36-45 takes only minutes to read. The crucial verse is 39:
"And coming forward a little, He falls on His face, praying and saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. However, not as I will, but as Thou!"
That verse took only seconds to read. Yet when Christ returned to His disciples, he asked them, "Are you not strong enough to watch one hour with Me?" That was no casual, five minutes prayer. We don't know what else He said, but we know it was spoken with intensity. But He didn't just pray once.
Verse 42 records a second time of prayer. Verse 44 records a third time, saying the same word.
Christ struggled in prayer because He knew what must happen. The evil came to a climax when He cried out to God later that day:
"My God! My God! Why did YOU forsake Me?"
The most evil event in human history was also the most important. Nothing more clearly explains the purpose of evil than that surrounding Christ's crucifixion.
The priests, the people and the Romans were doing their utmost to oppose the will of God. Yet they were carrying it into effect. If all this evil is only a foil for good, then what we are talking about is nothing more than an interllectual exercise. But God's purpose is not an intellectual exercise. Which it would be, except for ONE thing. Christ's sacrifice is the way God shows His LOVE.
"For thus God loves the WORLD, so that he gives His only-begotten Son..."
The truth is that once evil has served its purpose it will cease to exist. Does this mean that the EVILDOER will also cease to exist?
We come then to our SECOND BIG IF. "IF God is a righteous judge, he must destroy ALL evil-doers for ever."
Many would say that this must be the fate of Judas Iscariot. Is there anything though that can be said in his defence? This is an important question, because IF there is a chance for Judas, there is hope for every other human being. If you were his defence lawyer what would you say?
Nobody asks to be born. Nobody has a choice in the circumstances of his birth. That includes Judas. Like everyone else he, too, had his faults. Yes, he was a thief, but Judas, by HIMSELF, would not have betrayed Christ. He had a conscience. When he realized what he had done, he returned the thirty pieces of silver, and took his own life. There is no indication in Scripture that an OUTSIDE influence drove him to suicide.
There were many things against him:
- His doom was prophesized hundreds of years before he was born. How could he withstand God's Word?
- Christ Himself chose him, knowing he was the one who would betray Him. None of the disciples, including Judas, chose Christ. Christ chose him. If He hadn't chosen him, he would not have had an opportunity to betray Him.
- Satan could not be sure that Judas would betray Christ. Judas was not depraved enough to betray Christ. Satan had to enter into him to force him. It is the ONLY example in scripture of Satan entering into anyone. We could say that his actions were done at a time when his mind was temporarily disturbed.
- Christ knew what had happened to Judas, but did nothing. Christ had cast out demons before, and He could have cast out Satan.
- Yet He did nothing. More than that - He told him to do it quickly. No pleading to stop him. Again, God's will was that Christ must die in accordance with the prophecies.
With a defence like this, Judas, even though he committed such a heinous crime, the WORST CRIME in human history, could well be let off in a human court.
But would he? Human justice is also meant to be a deterrent, to encourage the others not to break the law. Justice has to be done and seen to be done. Nobody can be allowed to get away with MURDER. Surely, if Judas is let off for this crime, God could not have a case against anyone.
Then where would He be? ANARCHY!!
And yet, and YET!! Judas, according to the common teaching, is to suffer for all eternity in torment for what God forced him to do in one hour.
But this makes God to be an inhuman fiend. Where is the God of LOVE in all this? What Scriptual evidence is there that anyone will 'ROAST IN HELL'? Here it is - in Matthew 25:46:
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Where is that eternal punishment? Revelation 20:14:
"If anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
Well that's it then! Judas will suffer in torment forever. But wait a minute! What do we do with these scriptures:
"Consequently, just as the result of ONE trespass was condemnation for ALL men, so also the result of ONE act of righteousness was justification that brings LIFE to ALL men."
1 Corinthians 15:22:
"For since in Adam ALL DIE, so in Christ ALL will be made ALIVE."
and Colossians 1:20,
" ...and through Christ to reconcile ALL to Him (making peace through the blood of His cross), through Him, whether those on the earth or those in the heavens."
How can we reconcile ALL these Scriptures? I used the New International Version. The problem lies in the word translated "ETERNAL". But if the original Greek word means an "AGE" - an unspecified period of time with a beginning and end - then all is clear.
So what will happen to Judas?
For the past 2000 years he has been dead. There is no pain or knowledge in death. His next conscious moment will be when he wakes up from death. He will see Christ as his Judge at the Great White Throne.
It will seem to him that it was only moments previously that he saw the condemned Christ being led away to death. He will not need a lengthy trial to know that he is rightly convicted. God, as a righteous Judge, could not pass over Judas's betrayal, or any sin, transgression or offence. Judgement is necessary before God can bring salvation and reconciliation to anyone. God's judgement comes before a person can live a life without sin.
Judas' name is not written in the Book of Life. Therefore he will die the SECOND death until the consummation. Again he will feel no pain, nor will he know anything. But then death is to be abolished. It will end. Judas will live again.
Is it fair that Judas should have been chosen by God for this purpose? Judas, like every human being, is the clay. God is the Potter. He has the right over the clay, out of the same kneading to make one vessel for HONOUR, and another for DISHONOUR (Romans 9:21).
God is making know His powerful doings. He is also making known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy - US. He is making us ready for glory. We shall experience this glory before Judas does. He wouldn't have understood the words of Hosea:
"I shall be calling those who are not My people,'MY PEOPLE.' And she who is not beloved, 'BELOVED'... We shall be called 'sons of the LIVING GOD.'"
Just as Judas had no choice in the matter, neither did we. But that is the whole point of GRACE. It is unmerited favour .
But in the meantime, how do we cope with a world filled with EVIL? Even if we know that evil is part of God's purpose and is temporary? We could ask another question, "How could Christ have lived with His disciples for all those years of his ministry, knowing that one was a traitor?"
The answer is summed up in three words: "It is WRITTEN." Evil must be borne, or the Scriptures cannot be fulfilled. These are the words of the psalmist (30:4-5):
"Sing to the Lord, you saints of His. Praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a MOMENT, but His favour lasts a LIFETIME; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."
How could Christ, how could we, when we are in glory, bear to watch, "tormented souls burning in a hell of sulphur and brimstone for ever and ever"? We couldn't and neither could God. IT WON'T HAPPEN. That is the imaginings of human philosophy. We must look to God's revelation to find the answer.
God never makes mistakes. Nothing catches Him by surprise. God does not have a Plan B. God is not experimenting. Neither is He doing things on a whim of the moment. It is not a big game with God.
We can accept what God has revealed He will do, because God is LOVE, because God is not a liar, because God is trustworthy and faithful and keeps His promises.
There are no 'BIG IFs' in God's purpose.
God's purpose is certain to succeed. There is no "IF it will succeed," only "WHEN."
SO WHAT IS GOD'S PURPOSE?
The answer has been in the scriptures for 2000 years. Let us read it in context in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28.
"Yet now Christ has been roused from among the dead, the Firstfruit of those who are reposing. For since, in fact, through a man came death, through a Man also, comes the resurrection from the dead. For even as, in Adam, ALL are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall ALL be vivified. Yet each in his own class: the Firstfruit, Christ; thereupon those who are Christ's in His presence; thereafter the CONSUMMATION, whenever He may be GIVING UP the kingdom to His God and Father, whenever He should be nullifying ALL sovereignty and ALL authority and power. For He must be reigning until He should be placing ALL His enemies under His feet. The last enemy is being ABOLISHED: DEATH. For He subjects ALL under His feet ... Now whenever ALL may be subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also shall be subjected to Him Who subjects ALL to Him, that GOD MAY BE ALL IN ALL."
MAY GOD SPEED THAT GLORIOUS DAY!!
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