Key precept: Paradoxically, death is humanity’s greatest strength against immortals.
We can envision the plot of the entire Bible – the conflict between God and the Adversary for rule over all of creation – as God and Satan playing a deadly cosmic chess match where the winner takes all, literally. On one side we have the white king – no, not God but his human son, to whom he gave the kingdom, the power, and the glory. On the other side we have the black king, the Adversary, who was deeply offended by God’s choice of heir.
It appeared that Satan won the very first match when he lured humanity into a death trap.
But he was mistaken. As the plot develops, we will find that every move that Satan makes, God successfully counters. That’s because God has a long range strategy and sees the end from the beginning, and Satan is constantly playing catchup.
“I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isa 46:9-11)
This most specifically and especially includes the decision to
“make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over…all the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)
Don’t overlook the absence of “likeness” in the creative process. It was only “in the image of God made he man.” (Genesis 9:6) That’s twice this statement is made, providing confirmation of this concept.
But never do we find a statement that God “made” man in his “likeness.” That is because likeness, or character, can’t be imposed. It only develops through deliberate choices made by each individual. As he inadvertently did again later in the Garden of Gethsemane, instead of wrecking God’s plan in the Garden of Eden, Satan actually became the agent to realize God’s plan by providing choices.
Cultural historian Warren Susman researched the rise and fall of the concept of character, tracing its prevalence in literature and the self-improvement manuals and guides popular in different eras…During the 1800s, “character was a key word in the vocabulary of Englishmen and Americans,”…Young people were…told that character was the most priceless thing they could ever attain. Starting at the beginning of the 20th century, however, Susman found that the ideal of character began to be replaced by that of personality…
The rise of psychology, the introduction of mass-produced consumer goods, and the expansion of leisure time offered people new ways of forming their identity and presenting it to the world. In place of defining themselves through the cultivation of virtue, people’s hobbies, dress, and material possessions became the new means of defining and expressing the self… “The vision of self-sacrifice began to yield to that of self-realization,”…While advice manuals of the 19th century (and some of the early 20th as well), emphasized what a man really was and did, the new advice manuals concentrated on what others thought he was and did…A great example of this is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People from 1936. It focused on how to get people to like you and how to get others to perceive you well versus trying to improve your actual inner moral compass…
The etymology of character is quite telling. The word comes from the Greek kharakter for “engraved mark,”…Anciently, a character was the stamp or marking impressed into wax and clay, and as Henry Clay Trumbull explains in 1894’s Character-Shaping and Character-Showing, it served as:
“… trade-mark, of the potter, the painter, the sculptor, the writer, or any other artist or artisan, or inventor, as indicative of the personality of the maker…”
“Character is nature and nurture. It is nature cultured and disciplined, so that natural tendencies are brought under the sway of the moral motive…
Above all, [character] includes a choice, a settled habit or bent of will, so that it can be seen in its outcome in conduct…
The one quality most associated with character in the nineteenth century was self-mastery – the dominion of an individual over his impulses and desires, so that he was in control of them, and not the other way around. A man of self-mastery embodies the kingship of self-control and can direct his will and make his own choices, rather than being a slave to his base impulses.
King David, the human archetype and dynastic founder of Yahweh’s Anointed / Christ King over all the earth, gives us example after example the development of the kingship of self-control throughout his lifetime.
“And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt? Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to day into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD‘s anointed. Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand.” (I Samuel 24:9-11)
The penultimate King Jesus had to go through this same developmental process.
“And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” Luke 22:41-43)
The Apostle Paul states the requirement for this process in no uncertain terms.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
In other words, only by dying to self can humans transform into the likeness of all-powerful eternal God.
When Adam faced a choice to respond to his wife’s crisis, he freely chose to act for the benefit of his wife, at the expense of his own welfare, even to death. By this act of love he began to develop God’s likeness, and it was only by mastering his own domain that he began to develop the ability to truly have dominion over anything else.
Immortality has one drawback that Satan overlooked, doubtless because he hadn’t yet encountered the alternative.
Immortals are by definition changeless. Immortal beings are permanent, locked into a status quo, their estate.
In contrast, mortal human beings are changeable, allowing us to to grow and develop and transform.
The thing is, Satan knew about death. He just didn’t know about resurrection.
“God says, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace…” (Isa 55:11-12)
It turns out that death is not a trap, it’s a release. It is not a coffin lid slamming shut, it is a door opening to another plane of existence. The same God who breathed life into a lifeless clay image once is certainly capable of doing it twice.
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea [outer space] gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead [humans] which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” (Revelation 20:12-13)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Yahweh’s Chosen Savior / Yeshua Messiah / Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” (I Pet 1:3-4)
If only he had known!
“…your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God…we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (I Cor 2:7-8)
The regeneration from death to new life is glaringly apparent in our day-to-day existence. We see this in
- the addition of brand new cells in the growth process of children’s bodies,
- the development of new muscle tissue and physical skills of athletes,
- the daily replacement and regeneration of worn-out cells and damaged tissues of adult bodies.
So why is it so difficult to accept the revelation of the resurrection of the entire body, after death, into a transformed body? Ahh. You have to believe in Creator and Sustainer God for that.
“Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain… So also is the resurrection of the dead:
- It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
- it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory:
- it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
- it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
…Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual….As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (I Cor 15:36-45)
The ability to change makes mortality, at first glance so weak, actually incredibly powerful because of the unlimited potential it unleashes in human beings. Every human being has the potential for becoming anything on the spectrum of monster to saint. Throughout our entire life in this time-space, each individual defines – and can continually redefine – who he or she is. Our essential personhood, our souls, are shaped by the choices we make and the actions we take.
What is occurring in the invisible soul is apparent in the changing physical structure of the brain. It is self evident that children are self centered, and that they must be taught to be considerate of others, to share, to take turns, to obey authority, to tell the truth, etc. Adults become loving or hateful, educated or illiterate, wise or foolish, righteous or wicked by the choices we make in response to the experiences we face. We can change – convert – from one condition to another, throughout life, until this stage of existence ends at physical death.
Most religions teach that after the death of the body the soul continues to exist, and that its condition, either a state of bliss or torment, depends on its morality in this life. Most religions also teach resurrection of the body, which the immaterial soul and spirit need for self-expression and interaction in the material dimension.
“I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord...and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. (Rev 6:9-11)
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house [body] whence I came out.” (Lu 11:24)
Belief in the resurrection of the body is the reason for mummification, a practice associated with Egypt but found all around the world. Belief in resurrection is basic to ancient Hinduism’s concept of cycles of reincarnation until achieving nirvana. “Resurrection is the heart of Buddhism.” Belief in resurrection is fundamental to the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The first clear reference to resurrection in the Bible is found in the oldest book of the Bible. It describes resurrection as the final step in the process of redemption from the curse of death.
“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins [as with a horse, the controls, in this context nerves, observed in a dissected body as strings connecting the brain to every part of the body] be consumed within me [ashes to ashes, dust to dust].” (Job 19:25-27)
Belief in the resurrection explains why Jacob and Joseph wanted to be buried in the Promised Land – so that they would find themselves among their people in that future time when Shiloh, or “the sent one“, the Promised / Sent One, the Christ, gathers the people, i.e. resurrects the dead.
“And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days…The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be...And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father…My father made me swear, saying…in my grave which I have digged for me in the land of Canaan, there shalt thou bury me. And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die, and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying…ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died…and they embalmed him…”(Gen 49;2-20; 50:2-5, 24-26)
The fact that Jesus is the Promised One, the Messiah, the Christ, Shiloh, was recorded for posterity in legally defensible testimony by the witnesses of his resurrection.
“Yahweh’s Chosen Savior / Yeshua Messiah / Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David [who was of the tribe of Judah] according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:” (Ro 1:3-4)
Belief in the resurrection became the dividing line between denominations of the Old Covenant guardians of God’s revelation. It was precisely because the Pharisees, the fundamentalist denomination within Judaism, believed in the scriptural doctrine of the resurrection that many of them, including Saul, AKA Paul, accepted the apostles’ witness of Jesus’ resurrection, and logically from that point of departure, the rest of the testimony regarding this proof of God’s satisfaction with his atoning death as fulfillment of the promised redeemer.
“…when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.” (Act 23:6-9)
Since physical death is the ultimate consequence of sin, AKA separation from the Creator and Sustainer, resurrection of the body from death is an essential element of salvation from sin. It is no surprise to find that the adversary opposes the teaching of the resurrection, making it a point of contention among the New Covenant guardians of God’s revelation.
“…how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (I Cor 15:12)
The current popularity of the zombie genre is actually tied directly to the belief that there is no resurrection of the dead to new life with an intact soul.
…what major films and media are calling a zombie…appear in literature as far back as the 9th century, in the Arabian compilation of folk tales titled One Thousand and One Nights.
But the author who played with the archetype…to give us our modern day version is H.P. Lovecraft…Lovecraft came up with a Frankenstein-inspired mad doctor who brought the dead back to life scientifically…as murderous and violent cannibals…
I’m going to…tell you exactly why people like zombie movies. The ugly truth no one wants to admit. The fascination is not because of the zombies themselves, they are merely the catalyst; the real fascination is with surviving a zombie apocalypse.
Being a survivor, playing the odds, making your own rules…The zombie apocalypse scenario changes all the rules for the people who must live on afterwards. And compared to other apocalypses that could happen, it remains the most appealing…
The other apocalypse scenarios basically all involve deities presiding over the fate of mankind. So it’s important to be good now so that you’ll be okay on Judgement Day. It’s all out of your hands…
The zombie apocalypse is the only end of the world scenario with real appeal, because it’s all up to you.
“It’s all up to you.” No laws. Back to the serpent’s first lie.
“For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise…which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Yahweh’s Savior / Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Ro 10:5-10)
The above passage in Romans is often used to justify an easy means of salvation – “just say these words after me…” Salvation is often treated as a “get out of jail free” card, simply escaping hell with a free ride to heaven. But that’s not what the Bible says. Resurrection of the physical body to immortality in a higher dimension is important, but only the last step in redemption from the curse of sin.
The immediate effect of salvation is redemption from the curse of sin in this life.
Anyone who has experienced spiritual victory over others’ and one’s own sinful oppression understands this.
“O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth…For thou hast been
- a strength to the poor,
- a strength to the needy in his distress,
- a refuge from the storm,
- a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall…
And he will…
- swallow up death in victory…
- wipe away tears from off all faces;
- take away from off all the earth [the rebuke of his people]:
And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isa 25:1-9)
Our mistake is in thinking of God’s gift of eternal life as a greater quantity that we experience in the resurrection of the body, but that is not what it is. Eternity can’t be measured.
Eternal existence, i.e. immortality, is a different quality. It is a spiritual state of being. That spiritual quality begins during, and continues beyond, the quantity of time the believer lives out his or her physical life. That spiritual quality is the new birth – the transformation of a human’s dead / disconnected spirit to living spirit when the believer accepts God’s offer to be reconnected to his Spirit.
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.“ (Joh 3:3-6)
“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (John 7:38-39)
“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come [they are thinking in physical terms] he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation [matching currents events with scriptural prophecy assuming God is locked into a time-line]: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! [the red heifer! the rebuilding of the temple! or any apparent fulfillment] for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Lu 17:20-21)
The biblical teaching that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God“ may be understood to refer to the resurrection of the body at the Second Coming, which I agree it does. But when we take into account Jesus’ teaching that “the kingdom of God is within you” in the here and now, we have to conclude that there is another aspect to resurrection.
“…put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof…For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink [think the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist or any religious practice or prohibition]; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God…” (Ro 14:17-18)
“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be [what else can that mean but “not a citizen in the kingdom of God?”] So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.“ (Ro 8:7-9)
With this background, we understand that the famous teaching on resurrection is not confined to the physical body in the future but is applicable to our new spiritual life in the now. Pay attention to the sequence of events as laid out by the tenses.
- Then cometh the end, [after the beginning and the middle]
- when he shall have [during the middle] delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have [still during the middle] put down all rule and all authority and power.
- For he must reign [present],
- till [during the middle] he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. [Who are the other previous enemies? Sin in all its guises.]…
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
- The sting of death is sin [present]; and
- the strength of sin is the law [present].
- But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [in the now.] ( I Cor 15:24-26, 55-58)
“For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for
- the end of those things is death.
- But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit [what is produced, your actions and their consequences] unto holiness, and the end [with resurrected body] everlasting life.
For the wages of sin is death [think separation from society with HIV and finally end of life with AIDS]; but the gift of God is eternal life [a quality of life in the here and now as well as after physical death] through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Ro 6:20-23)
Salvation is most definitely a free gift of God that empowers those who accept it to escape all the effects of sin, not just eternity separated from God in hell. Biblical salvation from sin’s rule and authority and power and enmity begins in this life, manifested in freedom from bondage to sin, AKA addictions not just to drugs but all uncontrollable personally destructive attitudes and behaviors. Resurrection to new life begins now in the reconnection of the Spirit of God to the soul and body and victory over sin’s effects of
- disconnection from God’s Spirit without access to transcendent life and power
- destruction of the body through uncontrollable behaviors like gluttony
- destruction of essential relationships most apparent in effects like wars, broken families and homelessness.
Someone who has truly embraced the free gift of salvation, i.e. is connected to God’s Spirit, will show it in their conversion from sinfulness / disconnectedness to righteousness / healthy relationships with God and his children.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ…” (II Cor 5:17-180
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law [of sin and death Ro 8:2] Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit [produce / products] of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are The Chosen One’s / Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal 5:16-24)
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death…Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Ro 8:2-3, 9-14)
These passages make it clear that as death is a consequence of sin, so eternal life is a consequence of righteousness. Righteous has always been defined, in God’s eyes, as restoring a right relationship with God. It starts by believing God but proceeds beyond that to acting in accordance with what pleases God. It’s like a marriage relationship. You can go through the ceremony and say the words “I do”, but unless you actually “do” and consummate the marriage you are not in a marriage relationship and it can be annulled.
- “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous…
- By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death…for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe 1) that he is, and 2) that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
- By faith Noah…prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
- By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out…
- By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” (Heb 11:4-19)
What all these men had in common was that their righteous standing with God was not based on acting according to a list of required and proscribed behaviors, a list of legalistic do’s and don’ts. Oh, but their actions still counted – they acted on faith in God’s word.
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin…ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father...If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.” (Joh 8:31-39)
The first principle to believe – and act on – is that the Promised Savior would reverse the curse of death in some mysterious way. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise [crush] thy head…” (Gen 3:15)
“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
- Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
- And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” (James 2:18-24)
What does that mean, to be a “friend of God?” It means to be in an intimate relationship, confiding your secrets, pledging loyalty and support forever – because you have the same beliefs and behaviors. David and Jonathan’s friendship provides a good example. Everyone knows that David championed Israel, but do we know that Jonathan did also? Their shared beliefs and faith in action knit them together as the ultimate best friends.
“Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin…And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Bethaven. When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits… (I Sam 13:1-6) Now it came to pass upon a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul said unto the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison, that is on the other side. And between the passages, by which Jonathan sought to go over unto the Philistines’ garrison, there was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side: and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh.
And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few. And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart….And Jonathan climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet, and his armourbearer after him:
and they fell before Jonathan; and his armourbearer slew after him…And there was trembling in the host, in the field, and among all the people: the garrison, and the spoilers, they also trembled, and the earth quaked: so it was a very great trembling. And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and, behold, the multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another….And Saul and all the people that were with him assembled themselves, and they came to the battle: and, behold, every man’s sword [of the Philistines’] was against his fellow, and there was a very great discomfiture. Moreover the Hebrews that were with the Philistines before that time, which went up with them into the camp from the country round about, even they also turned to be with the Israelites that were with Saul and Jonathan. Likewise all the men of Israel which had hid themselves in mount Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, even they also followed hard after them in the battle. So the LORD saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over unto Bethaven.” (I Sam 14)
Naturally Jonathan’s fame as the champion of Israel spread throughout Israel. One man leading the defeat of 50-100,000 enemies! Can you not see all the boys throughout Israel play-acting this famous scene over and over, and daydreaming that one day he would be a hero like the Crown Prince? But only David acted in reality on a conviction that he could also trust in the God of Israel, and found salvation not only for himself and his family but for the whole nation of Israel through his faith in action.
Think about how little of the written word of God David had at his disposal on which to base his trust. All he needed was Genesis 3:15. We can infer that because he acted on that – he personally crushed the head of the enemy of God’s people. Would there have been salvation if David and the men who followed him into battle had simply believed that God would send a deliverer? No.
“Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah…And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines…And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span [9-10 feet]…Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel…So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him…And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. (I Sam 17:1-52)
When David returned triumphant from battle, Jonathan had a choice to make – A) compete with this most evidently exceptional individual and become his enemy, or B) acknowledge his superiority and become his friend. Why? The prophet Samuel had publicly disinherited Saul without anointing his son. Jonathan had the choice to believe and act on the conviction that David was Yahweh’s Anointed king,
“Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord. And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel. And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.” (I Sam 15:23-28)
Can you see how this image would have been in Jonathan’s – and Saul’s – minds’ eyes as Jonathan acts on his faith that the LORD has given David not just the victory that day, but the kingdom in the future – by handing him his mantle.
And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul...Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle. (I Sam 18:1-4)
Jonathan’s behavior towards David is exactly what anyone who claims to accept the son of David as their savior must do – publicly surrender to his authority. Like his father Saul, and the rulers of Israel in Jesus’ day, Jonathan could have clung to his self-glorifying sense of power. But he stayed true to the LORD and to his anointed to the ultimate extent of surrendering even his life. Why? Because his sould was knit with the Chosen One’s soul, he truly loved this Christ, i.e. his identity was now one with the LORD’s Anointed One. We can also infer from his actions in this life that he didn’t fear death because he also had faith in the resurrection when he would be reigning forever beside the Promised Deliverer. (On the side, I can’t help imagining Yeshua’s eyes rolling as James’ and John’s mother ask him to delegate the highest governmental authority to her sons. Seriously? After what Jonathan did to prove his worth?)
And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan Saul’s son delighted much in David: and Jonathan told David, saying, Saul my father seeketh to kill thee: now therefore, I pray thee, take heed to thyself until the morning, and abide in a secret place, and hide thyself: And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where thou art, and I will commune with my father of thee; and what I see, that I will tell thee. And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said unto him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to thee-ward very good: For he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, and the Lord wrought a great salvation for all Israel: thou sawest it, and didst rejoice: wherefore then wilt thou sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause? And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan: and Saul sware, As the LORD liveth, he shall not be slain. (I Sam 19:1-6)
“And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death. Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee…Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die. And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done? And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David. So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger…for he was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame. And it came to pass in the morning, that Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed with David…David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever. ” (I Sam 20:3-42)
The covenant of everlasting peace between Jonathan and David was an extension of their relationship, and only made possible by Jonathan’s faith-based actions allying himself with David. This is the same means by which all followers of the ultimate Chosen One / Christ are accepted into a covenantal relationship with God, whether under the old terms or the new.
“And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” (Gen 18:17-19)
“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit…” (Joh 15:15-16)
Paradoxically, anyone who seeks “immortality, eternal life” (Ro 2:7) on God’s terms must accept that death is a prerequisite in order to be resurrected to new life.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions [permanent dwellings, eternal bodies for our souls]: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know [death]. ” (Joh 14:1-4) with “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:” (II Cor 5:1-3)
”Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Mat 26:36-38)
Jesus is not just informing us that his followers need to die a physical death like he did in order to resurrect with a new body, because some believers will not experience death at the moment of regeneration.
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (I Cor 15:51-52)
He is telling us that we need to die to our soul’s self will during this life.
“The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Lu 9:22-24)
“I am crucified with The Chosen One/Messiah/Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable…why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not;“ (I Cor 15:19, 30-34)
“The first Adam” found salvation through faith in God’s word paired with action. Paradoxically it was the action of eating the fruit knowing he would lose his life for the Word’s sake. Plotted as it was by Satan, his action was certainly condemned by Satan – and legalistic religionists – but was it condemned by God?
Certainly there were consequences, inevitable physical effects from Adam’s action in the physical realm, but do we misinterpret these as punishments? How many times have our children suffered the consequences of their actions which, as teaching and transforming processes, we shouldn’t over-ride? How many times have we seen parents rescue their children from the consequences of their behaviors – to the detriment and ultimate destruction of their children? For certain, God was acting in the humans’ best interests when he expelled them from the Garden, to prevent them from missing out on transformation through death and resurrection.
“And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return…And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” (Gen 3:17-24)
Re-read the only law given to the first humans. It is not a moral law. It is a simple statement of a law of nature – “if you eat the fruit, you die.” No different from “if you drink poison, you die.”
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)
Eating the fruit broke a natural law and caused unstoppable physical effects, but eating the fruit wasn’t the sin. The sin was separating from relationship with God.
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat…” (Gen 3:4-6)
Adam died to self in order to obey God’s word for him to be “one flesh” with his spouse. With this understanding we realize that Adam did not lose his relationship with God even though he broke the physical law by eating the fruit. Adam remained God’s righteous king and, by maintaining his right relationship with his wife, carried out God’s plan to populate the earth with God’s human children through his original pair of humans. YES!!! Victory over Satan’s evil scheme!
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro 8:28-39)