Nov 12, 2007

“When We See Him…”

By Dave Hunt

There are many proofs, which no one can refute, that the Bible is the Word of the true God, who is the Creator of mankind and of the unfathomable universe in which we find ourselves. Although the hundreds of unfailing Bible prophecies are the most powerful proof, one of the most obvious is the amazing consistency found in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Remember that most of the prophets through whom it was written lived at different times in history, in different cultures, and never met one another. The only rational explanation for this consistency is what they all declared with one voice: that they were each inspired of the one true God. These claims were not hidden or tentatively stated but boldly and repeatedly affirmed.

For example, in the Pentateuch alone the declaration is made literally hundreds of times that Moses was reporting what God had said directly to him "face to face" (Ex 33:11; Num 14:14; Dt 5:2-5; 34:10). Biblical prophets were not inspired indirectly through an angel (as both Muhammad and Joseph Smith claimed they were) but declared that they had personally heard from God himself_! Like Moses, Israel's many other prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi, make this claim hundreds of additional times. More than 60 times Ezekiel swears that "the word of the Lord" came to him with the command to pass it on to mankind. So it was with the other biblical prophets.

The Book of Job is believed to be the oldest book in the Bible, yet the major biblical themes of redemption, resurrection, and the Second Coming are clearly expressed. This is done in perfect harmony with all that would be declared by prophets of God in the remaining pages of Scripture over the next 1,600 years. Consider this powerful and pointed declaration:

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....(Job 19:25-27)
Here Job clearly declares that his physical body will be resurrected, even after being eaten by worms in the grave. He also knows that the Redeemer who will make this possible is an eternal Being who will one day come to earth and that he (Job), in his resurrected body, will see the infinite God for himself_. So it must be for us also. This is an awesome, even frightening, prospect, which, were it more real to us, would transform our lives!

Could the Redeemer, also called the Savior, to whom Job refers, actually be God? He doesn't say so directly, but the implication is there. Like later prophets, Isaiah makes it very clear: "I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour....Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" (Is 43:11; 45:22). So God, the Creator of all, is the Savior who becomes a man through a virgin birth and dies for our sins on the Cross! How can that be possible?

Prophets who lived after Job, in writing additional Scripture, added detail upon detail but never contradicted what was said before or what followed later. In many cases they contributed additional Scripture without having seen what had previously been written-and still without contradiction. By comparison, there are no prophecies at all in the Qur'an, the Hindu Vedas, Bhagavad-Gita, sayings of Buddha or Confucius, or in the scriptures of other religions, all of which contain many internal contradictions. Prophecy is unique to the Bible, and it is the great proof that is overlooked by most preachers and apologists.

The Bible's perfect internal consistency is presently our focus. The first mention of the promised virgin-born Redeemer/Messiah/Savior (called the woman's seed) coming to earth is found in God's pronouncement of judgment upon the serpent who beguiled Eve: "Her seed...shall bruise thy head [a death blow]" (Gn 3:15). Rebellion brought death not only to Adam and Eve but to all their descendants, separating mankind from the Creator. Temporary reconciliation to God was granted in the death of sacrificial animals: first in the death of animals to obtain skins with which God covered Adam's and Eve's nakedness when He cast them out of the Garden and withdrew His presence from them (3:21-24); then in the lamb that Abel, and presumably Adam and Eve, offered as a sacrifice to cover their sins until the Messiah would come and pay the full penalty (Gn 4:4).

In Isaiah, the mystery of the Redeemer unfolds further. A baby boy would be born, who is both the Son of God and God the Father: "A child is born...a son is given [whose] name shall be...the mighty God, The everlasting Father" (Is 9:6). The Son and the Father are One, as Jesus said, "I and my Father are one" (Jn 10:30). This eternal One, "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting," would be born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2). He would ride into Jerusalem on the colt of an ass and be hailed as the Messiah (Zec 9:9) exactly 483 years (Dn 9:24-26) after the command had been given to restore Jerusalem from its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. That edict by world emperor Artaxerxes Longimanus was given on the first of Nisan, 445 BC (Neh 2:1-10). The fulfillment of this prophecy, therefore, had to occur on April 6, AD 32. That very day-now celebrated as Palm Sunday-Jesus rode into Jerusalem.

The theme of the Lamb, which begins in Genesis as a promise of the coming Messiah who would pay the penalty for the sins of mankind, is progressively and consistently developed by prophets and apostles throughout the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments. Israel's deliverance from slavery in Egypt was through the blood of the Passover lamb. The promise of Redemption through a coming One who would die in sacrifice for our sins continued through the Levitical sacrifices. Its fulfillment in the Messiah began to take shape with John the Baptist's declaration of Christ: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29)-and it will culminate with the focus of heaven on the Lamb slain for the sins of the world (Rv 5 and 6), and God's eternal throne finally revealed to be "the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rv 22:1).

In spite of the prophesied enthusiastic welcome that Jesus of Nazareth received on that first "Palm Sunday," the prophets foretold that the Messiah would immediately be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zec 11:12,13), rejected by His own people, and crucified (Ps 22:14-16). That prophecy was given 500 years before crucifixion was known. The prophets declared that three days later the Messiah would rise from the dead, show Himself to His disciples for 40 days, then ascend to heaven.

No one could qualify as the promised Redeemer without fulfilling all of these and many other prophecies. There are no rivals offering their Messianic credentials. These prophecies and many others given in the Bible to identify beyond question the Messiah were fulfilled by only one Man. The many irrefutable prophecies and their fulfillment prove that Jesus Christ, and He alone, is the Messiah. Yet most Jews refuse to this day to accept what their own prophets foretold-and they remain in unbelief, as do the vast majority of Gentiles.

In preaching the gospel to their Jewish contemporaries after Christ's resurrection, the apostles recited these and numerous other detailed prophecies given in advance so that the Messiah could be unmistakably recognized when He came. They pointed to what all in Jerusalem knew: that these prophecies, given centuries and even thousands of years before to identify the Messiah, had all been fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. For two thousand years, these facts have been the solid foundation of the Christian's faith that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah of Israel, Savior of the world, crucified for our sins, resurrected, now in heaven, and soon to return to catch up His own to be with Him in the Father's house forever. He is also coming as the judge to punish the unrepentant-a part of the gospel often overlooked.

Presenting this proof was the modus operandi of the apostles in preaching the gospel (Acts 17:2,3); and this remains the way, though neglected, that we are to preach it today. Incredibly, the prophetic foundation of the gospel is scarcely referred to by most pastors, preachers, and evangelists. Instead, lost souls are offered testimonies of celebrities and athletes and invited to "dialogue," as though unchangeable truth can be revised to make it acceptable to an alleged "post-modern " generation. The only "Scripture" most of today's uncertain souls know is an emasculated, paraphrased "Bible," rewritten to eliminate conviction of sin and catering to the rebellion of those who insist upon having the gospel modified to suit their unbelief. God will not accommodate their rebellion!

Of them, the Scripture says there is "no fear of God before their eyes" (Ps 36:1; Rom 3:18). That indictment applies also to many of today's most popular televangelists, as well as to their followers whose ears they tickle. If they believe in God at all, that alleged belief is scarcely reflected in the ministries and lives of Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Pat Robertson, the Robert Schullers (father and son), the Crouches, et al. They, and many others like them, demonstrate by what they say and do and by their praise of one another and their scorn of God's eternal truth that they don't really believe in God or expect to see Jesus and give an account to Him one day. To face God and Christ in judgment cannot be a real prospect for such men and women, or their lives and preaching would reflect a holy fear that is totally absent.

Indeed, not only most unbelievers but most professed Christians as well do not live as though they really expect, like Job, to stand before God as their holy, righteous Judge-at least not soon. Being caught up to heaven in the Rapture one day, which is supposed to be the "blessed hope" (Ti 2:13) eagerly anticipated by every true Christian, is increasingly denied by many evangelical leaders and their followers. Nearly all Presbyterians, as well as Calvinists of other varieties, and even many so-called watchdogs (such as Hank Hanegraaff) who claim to guard the church from error, firmly oppose an imminent Rapture and insist that the church has replaced Israel.

There are, of course, many evangelicals who preach sound biblical truth yet deny it in their lives. The prospect of soon seeing Jesus, whose eyes are "as a flame of fire" and at whose feet John, the disciple whom Jesus loved (Jn 13:2,23; 20:2; 21:7,20), fell "as dead" (Rv 1:17), ought to arouse the fear of God in our hearts! I think of this often, and I tremble. On the one hand, the prospect of suddenly finding ourselves in the glory of Christ, the One who loves us so much that in great agony He suffered for our sins, thrills us and fills us with excitement and joy-but at the same time it ought to fill us with awe and life-changing fear. Yet how often do most of us even give this imminent possibility a passing thought? Shame!

The irreverent and ignorant attitude of many pastors and their followers is betrayed in their confident and casual talk about "hanging out with Jesus" in heaven, as though He's just one of the guys instead of the Creator of the universe! He knows our every thought, word, deed, and motive. At last, standing before our Lord at His Judgment Seat, we will see, revealed in the light of His perfect holiness, the blackness of our deceitful, desperately wicked hearts (Jer 17:9,10). He will wipe tears of shame and remorse from our eyes, never to be remembered again, enfolding us in His infinite, eternal love.

The awesome reality of being in heaven, falling on our faces before Christ and the Father on their throne, does not grip us as it should. It all seems far away and unreal, obscured by good health, the prospect of earthly joys, and the delusion that we have unlimited time to experience them.

The hope of being snatched from this world at any moment, if really believed, would have a powerful purifying effect upon us. Most of what seems so important to us in our busy lives would become exceedingly embarrassing in its pitiful triviality if the light of eternity shined upon it. Take your highest ambition, most irresistible lust, your greatest pleasure, dearest passion-and as soon as you add death to these things they sink into nothingness. How sad that death must stare us in the face before we receive this wisdom.

At the Judgment Seat of Christ, where "we must all appear...that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor 5:10), the issue will not be salvation or hell but reward or loss. There we, the Bride of Christ, will be given pure white robes of righteousness for the wedding!

Though "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23), wonder of wonders, the "God of all grace...hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus" (1 Pt 5:10). Our Father's goal is not only to have us in heaven but to transform us into the glorious image of His beloved Son. The glory that Adam lost was pale compared to the glory that the redeemed will reflect as a display to the universe for all eternity.

That transformation should be in process now for each of us. We are, in fact, being changed into His image "from glory to glory." Our progress is disappointingly slow, however, because "now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face" (1 Cor 13:12). As we behold Him by faith, we are changed into His image "by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor 3:18). David's greatest desire was to continually behold "the beauty of the LORD" (Ps 27:4). Is that the passion of your heart-of mine? It ought to be.

This poem was found in Darby's Bible after Christ called him home:

Low at Thy feet, Lord Jesus,This is the place for me;Here I have learned deep lessons:Truth that has set me free.Free from myself, Lord Jesus,Free from the ways of men;Chains of thought that have bound meNever can bind again.None but Thyself, Lord Jesus,Conquered this wayward will,But for Thy love constraining,I had been wayward still.
When we see "the Lord of glory" (1 Cor 2:8) in glory, "we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 Jn 3:2). So it is our failure to see Christ clearly while we are here below that hinders us from being fully transformed into His image. We are blinded by this world.

One day soon, however, by death or by the Rapture, the veil will be removed. We will be with Him and shall see Him as He really is. When that clear understanding awakens within us, we will truly be like Him. What a glorious, eternal day will have dawned at last.