Hebrews Lesson 142 December 11, 2008
NKJ Psalm 119:9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.
Well, we did not have class on Tuesday night because of the annual Pre-Trib Rapture Study Group meeting which meets every year around the second week or so of December in Dallas, Texas. This year it was another good conference. The conference has really expanded over the years. When I first began going back in 1998, there were about 40 or 50 in attendance, almost all of whom were pastors, and/or prophecy teachers or professors in seminaries or Bible colleges. Around 2001 or 2002 Tim LeHay got the idea that we should open it up to anyone who wanted to come. Those who were the actual members of the Pre-Trib Study Group would still sit in the center front with tables and study aids and all of that.
The focus would still be the same in terms of presenting papers and presentations of a scholarly nature. But there would be many, many people who would be very interested in this kind of work – similar to some of the Bible conferences and prophecy conferences that had begun in England and some in the United States back in the 19th century. There were the Aubrey Conferences in England in the 1830's. There were some others. There were the Niagara Bible Conferences here in the United States. Moody had some conferences. It was through these prophecy conferences that the teaching about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the rapture and dispensationalism became disseminated and became so popular in the United States.
It was considered to be such a breath of fresh air in terms of prophetic studies because the emphasis was on the immanency of Christ's return; but that there were no prophetic signs related to the rapture: that He could come at any time, but there were no signs.
Remember in the 19th century you had various groups who would set a time or set a date.
They would say, "This is when the Lord's going to come back."
Then people would quit their jobs and leave their homes and everything else and go sit on a mountaintop waiting for Jesus to come back and He wouldn't come back.
You still have people who do things like that – like the guy who came out with his book in 1988, 88 Reasons Why Jesus Is Going to Return in 1988. He didn't return so he wrote a book the next year 89 Reasons Why Jesus Will Come Back in 1989. I understand that the guy is still around somewhere, but I don't know that he is continuing to edit his book.
That was the idea of the immanency of Christ's return; but, it was a sign-less event, and was such a refreshing wind of truth that it had a tremendous impact among evangelicals especially since it came out of a fundamentalist background.
The original use of the term fundamentalist related to conservatives who believed in the fundamentals of the Bible – that the Bible was the verbal plenary inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, a belief in miracles, a belief in the substitutionary atonement of Christ, belief in the virgin birth, a belief in the literal Second Coming of Christ.
Remember in the context of the 19th century that's the same time that the Bible was really coming under attack from what was called higher criticism, liberal theology; liberal protestant theology coming out of the European seminaries and universities where many churches in America were sending their young men who left America believing in the fundamentals of the faith and returning not believing in the fundamentals of the faith. That set the stage for what became known as the fundamentalist modernist controversy that began in the late 19th century and bled over into the 20th century and sort of ended with the Scopes trial as sort of the death of the fundamentalist.
But what was at the core that were these men – these tremendous Bible teachers like Moody, R. A. Tory, C. I. Scofield, Louis Sperry Chafer, and Blackstone and many others – who really had prophecy at the center of their teaching ministry. Even though many people wrongly used prophecy or abused it and made it some sort of sensationalist thing, that is not necessarily true. People misuse the Bible all the time. Just because they misuse the Bible doesn't mean you don't teach the Bible. So misusing prophecy is no reason not to emphasize prophecy. But it's amazed me how down through the last century how many, many people have been saved by studying or learning or hearing or reading about Bible prophecy. I think hundreds of thousands have gotten saved reading Hal Lindsey's book The Late Great Planet Earth and tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands or more have gotten saved reading the Left Behind series that LeHay and Jenkins wrote and many other books of that nature. So it has a tremendous usage apparently in God's plan for evangelism.
So this year we focused on a number of different things. There was a man, a young British scholar just got his PhD last year named Dr. Paul Wilkinson who wrote his dissertation on the rise of Zionism and specifically Christian Zionism in Britain in the 19th century, which is a fascinating read for a scholar; very interesting to study how that grew and developed. He spoke on the relationship of John Nelson Darby who was the first to truly systematize dispensationalism, the first to clearly articulate the Doctrine of the Rapture – not that he's the first.
Some people come along and say, "Well, Darby invented the rapture." But the rapture precedes Darby. There have been numerous findings in the last 15 or 20 years especially related to men in the Pre-Trib Rapture Study Group who've gone back and had the opportunity to go through and read and translate works that hadn't been translated or discovered before. There have been several documented instances of men going back to at least the 5th or 6th century AD who clearly understood that the church would not go through the tribulation. So Darby just systemized it. That was a great message.
Then Roger Oakland who is the author of the book Faith Undone. He's had an apologetic ministry. I first met Roger back around '89 or '90 when he was doing a lot of work on the New Age movement as well as creation-evolution. He has had written and done some tremendous studies on the emerging church. He did a presentation on apostasy and the emerging church. And this is really interesting. I'm going to have to do some work on this myself but how within Roman Catholicism there is the worship of Mary. If you go to Fatima in Portugal that Fatima is the daughter of Mohammed. So there is this connection being made between Mary and the worship of Mary in the Roman Catholic Church and the worship of Fatima who is the daughter of Mohammed and this is coming together and is seen as a possible precursor to the religion of the end times as Islam and Roman Catholicism may possibly merge around this. We've learned more about this over the years and focusing on the Eucharist and the Eucharistic Christ. It's not about Christ. The Roman Catholic Eucharist isn't about Christ. It's about the Eucharist. It's about the bread. It's idolatry and how this fits with the worship of Mary. This was very, very interesting.
Then Wayne House gave a paper on Josephus and his writings on the fall of Jerusalem and how that relates to the distorted interpretations of the preterist.
In the afternoon there was Kevin Zuger presented on the meaning of the word "to meet" in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
We had a great banquet on Monday night where Joel Rosenberg the author of the Last Jihad and The Copper Scroll and The Ezekiel Option and now Epicenter which is a non-fiction book detailing what's going on the Middle East and how this may be a precursor to the events of Ezekiel 38 and 39 – the invasion of Gog and Magog into the Middle East detailing the fact that for the first time in history there is an alliance between Russia in the north and Iran. This has never happened in history and yet that is what's at the core of the Gog and Magog invasion in Ezekiel 38 and 39 and a number of different things going on there. He was the speaker and did an excellent job.
Then I guess the next day John McClain gave a presentation on the chronological and sequential structure of the book of Revelation.
Then the next day Dr. John Whitcomb who is of Whitcomb and Morris fame writers of The Genesis Flood. He has become sort of the elder statement of dispensationalism now that Dr. Walvoord is with the Lord. Dr. Whitcomb is about 84 or 85 now. He gave an excellent paper on the sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom.
Mike Gender did a paper on Roman Catholicism and Bible prophecy a lot of which overlapped with what Roger Oakland had done in showing this relationship between the worship of Mary and the worship of Fatima.
Then there was another presentation on the kingdom of God and a discussion of current events.
Charlie Clough gave a great paper that went over the heads of probably 90% of the people there. Several pastors looked at me afterwards and said, "I don't know that I understood anything he said." It was truly a great paper.
Then Tommy presented the same paper that he had done here at Chafer last year on the meaning of earth dwellers in Revelation. So that gives you a little overview.
Some of that will be available and papers will be posted up on the Pre-trib.org and those papers will be posted up on that website. There will be ways for some of you to get the tapes, MP3's and videos and things like that.
Okay, let's go to Hebrews 9:3 for just a few moments before we start to look at some other things. Now, just a little word of insight for all of you who are sitting here. If you were here last week, I began to do some introductory work on the meaning of the word kaphar and atonement going back through the key events in the atonement once again the Day of Atonement and how that relates to an understanding of Hebrews 9.
Then I didn't get as far as looking into Colossians 2, which I want to do tonight. Then when Sunday morning came along because we have the mention of the altar, the horns of the altar in Revelation 9 related to the beginning of the 6th trumpet judgment; I went back through this again because we had to identify the altar of incense, its location, things like that.
Now tonight we're going to look at some things that are repetitive from Sunday morning.
So someone may say, "Why are we getting the same thing over and over again?"
The reason is (number 1) you need to hear the repetition. Also remember that aside from those of you that are here tonight hundreds of people are going to listen to these lessons and they're going to study Hebrews from beginning to end and they won't hear what you just heard on Sunday morning. Or, they'll be going through Revelation from beginning to end and they won't hear the corollary lessons in Hebrews. So, you hear a certain of repetition and redundancy from last Thursday to Sunday to this Thursday. But those who hear these series in isolation from the other classes that I'm teaching don't get that level of repetition. So some of this material needs to be in both series. That happens every now and then where I'm teaching something and it seems like there's a confluence. The force comes together and everything fits and 3 classes in a row in three different books all talk about the same thing. But that material needs to be there because of the fact that people listen to these series in a different order than we experience them on our Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday experience.
So we're looking at this passage in Hebrews 9 and the focus here is on the Day of Atonement and how that is fulfilled by what Christ does on the cross and how the picture of the shadow that is seen in the Day of Atonement itself and in the Tabernacle foreshadows the work of Christ on the cross. But then as we look at the work of Christ on the cross (the finished, completed work of Christ on the cross) and its explanation in the New Testament primarily in Paul's epistles; then we can go back and see aspects and dimensions and features in the Old Testament festival and in the Day of Atonement and in the worship of the Day of Atonement and we then get a better understanding (better focus, better clarity) on what happens both on the Day of Atonement and what was accomplished on the cross
So I pointed out last time that (and again on Sunday morning that) the typical way in which we look at the floor plan of the Tabernacle is like this with the golden altar of incense outside the Holy of Holies, outside the veil and in the holy place. But Hebrews 9:3 states:
NKJ Hebrews 9:3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All,
That is having in its possession…
NKJ Hebrews 9:4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant;
We've gone through the material in both the Old Testament and the New showing that it seems that the best explanation is that in the Tabernacle itself the golden altar of incense was inside the Holy of Holies.
It would look like this because it was designed that the incense on the Day of Atonement would completely cover the Ark of the Covenant so the High Priest would not look upon it. Just as a point of clarification throughout the Old Testament the only priest that's authorized to go into the Holy of Holies was the High Priest. Aaron was the only one mentioned. There is really little mention of the altar of incense after the Pentateuch. But in the Pentateuch all the instructions are to Aaron and no one but Aaron ministers at the altar of incense. He's the one that goes in every morning and every evening to change the incense to bring in the coals so that the altar of incense is burning continuously throughout the day. So you didn't have other priests go in there.
By the time of the New Testament and the Second Temple, this is where Zechariah is when he is ministering at the altar. He is the father of John the Baptist. When the angel appears to him and announces that he and Elizabeth are going to have a child that will be John the Baptist and what his ministry will be. He just doesn't believe it so the angel strikes him speechless. He is unable to speak until the child is born.
So because of that people have also brought up the question up as to well, he's ministering at the altar so priests were ministering at the altar. But it's clear from the testimony of others such as Josephus and Philo and others that during the Second Temple period the altar was outside in the holy place. Actually there is nothing in the Holy of Holies. I think that there was a transition that occurred and because there was no Ark of the Covenant during the Second Temple period, then that room was basically was not used at all. There was no need for the altar to fill that room with smoke because there was nothing to look at or to obscure so that other priests could minister at the golden altar. For various logistical reasons they moved it out to the holy place. We have clear evidence of that. Unfortunately I think that a lot of people look at Second Temple testimony (eyewitness testimony) and then say that must be exactly the way it was in the First Temple and in the Tabernacle when we know that there were minor variations of this type between each of these stages.
So we looked at those verses and if you go on down to verse 6 we read:
NKJ Hebrews 9:6 Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.
That is when everything was made ready for when the Tabernacle was completed or finished.
That was the role of the priest. What the writer of Hebrews is simply saying here is that the priest went in continuously into the outer room into the holy place. They are changing the table of showbread. They are lighting the oil for the menorah. But they do not go passed the veil; they do not go into the Holy of Holies.
Then in verse 7 we read:
KJV Hebrews 9:7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:
That's the King James Version translation. Your New American Standard I think is a little clearer.
NKJ Hebrews 9:7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year,
The "alone" there modifies High Priest and shouldn't be translated alone but should be translated "only"... only the High Priest. No other priest goes in there; only the High Priest went in once a year. Look at the whole thing. Then you have an explanatory clause.
not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance;
So he goes in once a year to offer for the people's sin. It's not that he went in once a year, but that he went in once a year for that purpose. You have to look at the whole sentence structure and not just stop it halfway through and say that means he only went in on the Day of Atonement. He would take care of the incense on a regular basis. But again it was only the High Priest who is functioning in that, not the priests.
Then verse 8 we read:
NKJ Hebrews 9:8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All
That is the Holy of Holies.
was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle
It's not made clear yet while the First Temple…
was still standing
In other words they are looking at the shadow and the shadow means that they don't have a crisp, clear understanding of what all this is representing. Sometimes we think that in the Old Testament, the Old Testament believers had a very clear understanding that the lamb meant that they understood that God would send a Messiah and that Messiah was going to die for their sins. They didn't understand it that clearly. They understood that God was going to provide salvation for them, but the mechanics and the details were not that clear. Remember it's not until Isaiah 53 that we have a clear explanation and revelation that He will be made sin and He will die in our place, so that becomes a little more clear. But this is much earlier than that so it's still more obscure to them. Their trust is really in God and that He will provide a solution. But the details of that solution are not real clear.
If you would have gone up to them and said, "See this lamb represents the Savior and just like the lamb is killed the Savior is going to be killed and He's going to be crucified," they would go, "Huh?"
To support that, just look at the disciples. When Jesus shows up and he tells the disciples again and again and again that it's necessary for Him to die for the sins of the people, it just doesn't get passed their ears. They can't comprehend it; it doesn't make sense to them. That's why we talk about the fact that the Old Testament is a shadow of the reality.
I used the illustration on Sunday that if I were to get a couple of you up here and we were to turn the lights off and had a bright spotlight on you to cast a shadow up on the wall, there are certain things that we would be able to tell about the person casting the shadow. We could probably tell if they were male or female. We could perhaps judge by comparison and get some idea of their size or their height or their proportion. We might get some idea of their hair and what their hair looked like. But with that silhouette we would not be real clear on a lot of details. It would be when the lights come on and we see directly the person who's casting the shadow.
That's what is true of this. Again and again we have this imagery that this is just a shadow based on the ultimate reality of the Temple in heaven, the dwelling place of God in heaven.
We've seen in our study of Revelation that there's the altar in heaven; there's the Ark of the Covenant in heaven – the altar of incense that is – and the Ark of the Covenant. No other furniture is mentioned in heaven in these visions of the heavenly temple also called the Heavenly Tabernacle emphasizing the dwelling place of God.
So the Holy Spirit is teaching through these shadow images in the Old Testament. In the progress of revelation, little bits are added down through the centuries to fill out the picture so that by the time God sends the Second Person of the Trinity on His mission as Savior, then they should have enough information to be able to identify Him. That is what Paul refers to in Galatians 4:4 when he says:
NKJ Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
So then we looked at verse 9.
NKJ Hebrews 9:9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience --
That word is teleios. It's not the idea of flawless. But it has the idea of "complete" in regard to the conscience.
NKJ Hebrews 9:10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.
To understand verse 9, you have to understand verse 10. Verse 10 is focusing on the issue in the Tabernacle on the Day of Atonement. It has to do with the sacrifices that are being brought to deal with the unintentional sins that are committed by the Jews and by ritual uncleanness. So that's what he's summarizing in verse 10. If they ate the wrong food or drink or they didn't go through the right ritual washings or there were unwitting sins (involuntary sins) then there were these sacrifices that would cleanse them ritually so that they could then come in and participate in the ritual and that all of these rituals were just symbols of an ultimate spiritual reality.
I find that this is something that has confused a lot of people. I mentioned that when we were at Pre-Trib the last two or three days, that Dr. Whitcomb gave a paper on the sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom. I find that this still confuses a lot of people. I was talking to some pastors who were there for the first time this time and they just had never really understood that: that there were going to be literal animal sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom. Look at Hebrews and Hebrews says that Christ is the completion of that. All those animal sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed to Christ. The blood of bulls and goats couldn't take away sin; so why are we going to have animal sacrifices in the future if Christ has paid the once-for-all sacrifices, which is what we cover here in chapter 9?
The reason is that the sacrifices never had to do with the real spiritual relationship between the Old Testament Jew and God. They had to do with a ceremonial and ritual relationship with God. So we have to draw this distinction between the ceremonial and the ritual coming into God's presence and the real spiritual coming into God's presence.
Let me illustrate. David is out with the sheep. David sins. Does David have to run to Jerusalem and offer a sin offering before he can confess his sin and get back in fellowship? If he has to always bring a sin offering to get back in fellowship in terms of his real relationship with God; then before he gets back to the sheepfold in Bethlehem he's sinned again he's got to turn around and run back to Jerusalem. He has another sin offering and then he turns around and he's almost out of Jerusalem and he sins again and he has to turn around and run back. He's never going to get home or he's going to be winning the Olympics before long because he's running back and forth.
You know how often we have to confess the same sins sometimes. So there is this distinction. David could be out with the sheep, sin, confess his sin; he's back in fellowship with God. That has to do with his real relationship with God. But the next time he goes to Jerusalem to the Temple there has to be a ceremonial cleansing of that sin so that he can participate in the ceremonial ritual in the Tabernacle. That is a physical picture of what happens in the spiritual realm. But these have to be kept separate. Now the purpose for the physical rituals and the sacrifices was to provide ritual cleansing for participation in the rituals in the Tabernacle – the feast days so that when sinful men, sinful priests come before a holy God there has to be this visible ceremonial sacrifice depicting an ultimate spiritual reality.
In the future Temple that is in Jerusalem, Ezekiel clearly defines a ritual sacrificial system. But it's not Levitical. There are differences between the ritual that's going to be in the Millennial Temple and the ritual that's in the Mosaic Law. This really bothered the rabbis back in the intertestamental period when it came to deciding whether or not the book of Ezekiel should be included in the canon. They felt like there were these contradictions because they thought that Ezekiel was really talking about the Levitical Tabernacle, the Levitical temple and the Levitical priestly ministry and sacrifices and not something prophetic.
So one of the rabbis it's said burned through 100 barrels of oil. He had one lamp. You don't put a whole lot of oil in that lamp so to burn 100 barrels of oil means you are locked away in that room by yourself for an awfully long time. After you've been in there in isolation for 5 or 6 years burning through a 100 barrels of oil you can just about make any contradictory statements say the same thing. So he worked out this very fantastic system of correlation between Ezekiel's sacrificial system and the Levitical system to satisfy the rabbis and they accepted Ezekiel into the canon. But they had a primary hermeneutical or interpretive malfunction. That is, they didn't recognize that Ezekiel was talking about this future temple that would come about and there would indeed be this change of sacrifices because the ultimate atoning work of Christ on the cross was completed; but these other sacrifices had to do with ritual cleansing of the Zaddokite priests serving in the Millennial Temple.
Here you have these fallen Jewish priests. They have sin natures. They're going to have infractions of the Law and sin when they're serving in the Temple. They have to be ritually cleansed to carry out the rituals to fulfill the same picture that we have in the Old Testament temple.
So anyway, as Dr. Whitcomb was presenting this paper and going through this he also went through some of the same material on atonement that I presented and had come to the same conclusion that the idea of kaphar for atonement is the word that emphasizes more the idea of cleansing than it does the idea of covering.
So just to review, I pointed out that:
- The English word for atonement that we have in our Bibles and Old Testament (doesn't occur in the New Testament) was coined in the English from the phrase at-one-ment, which is a word that emphasizes reconciliation – bringing two disagreeing parties together as one. So that emphasized reconciliation.
- If you look the word "atonement" up though in any English dictionary, what you will also discover is that it is often defined with the word "redemption" because there is a blood sacrifice that's made. There is the bull that is sacrificed, a goat that is sacrificed. Their blood is brought in as a sin offering and put on the mercy seat and then sprinkled in front of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. It is that blood sacrifice and it's the blood that pictures the payment price for sin. That is redemption. The word redemption means to pay a price. That's the core meaning in the word redemption. But payment of a price is a very different idea than bringing people who are at odds with one another together in reconciliation. So they're not synonyms; but they speak of different facets of the work of Christ on the cross.
- Then there's the whole imagery of the mercy seat itself the kaphoreth as it was called in the Hebrew, which is hilasterion in the Greek – called the mercy seat. This depicts the satisfaction of God's righteousness and justice. Before God can be truly reconciled to man, His righteous standard has to be satisfied and His justice has to be appeased. If you look up the word kaphar in many dictionaries or even atonement in English; it will also use this word to appease justice or to appease someone's wrath. So that brings in this idea of propitiation that is also vital to understanding all of Christ's work on the cross.
- Then another word that is used relates to the fourth point: that because God is propitiated and the penalty is paid, the debt of sin is then cancelled. It's that idea of canceling or wiping out the debt, just completely removing, eradicating, blotting out the debt as if it never existed that we have the idea of forgiveness.
- And also another word that's used in theology is expiation. Now forgiveness is a very important term. That should be Colossians 2:12-14 down there on point 4 not Colossians 1:12-14.
Colossians 1:12-14 is an important passage, and let's go ahead and turn there right now to Colossians 1. But the key passage is in the second chapter of Colossians. So turn over to Colossians and we see that in the first part of Colossians, in Colossians 1 starting in about verse 13 and then going down to verse 23, we have an explanation to some degree of the work of Christ on the cross as it correlates to the person of Christ on the cross. As we go through this, I want you to see the connection between these words.
In this diagram I've taken a pentagon here that represents the concept of atonement. We have these 5 different facets to that word that we see in various dictionaries and explanations. We have redemption, expiation, propitiation, reconciliation, and forgiveness. As you approach the cross, you can approach the cross from different directions. There are some that come and the concept of redemption (that Christ paid the price for you) is what the Holy Spirit uses to get their attention and to bring them to an understanding of who Jesus is and what He did and to believe on Him. Others come from the direction of forgiveness or expiation. The fact that they are forgiven of sin, that there is a guilt, a problem with their conscious; they have this inherent understanding of their guilt before God and the sin in their life. So forgiveness is that doctrine which the Lord uses to bring them to salvation. For others it may have to do with justification, propitiation. In the Reformation period was a time when justice and law was a very dominant idea in society. So the doctrine of justification by faith alone was a very strong doctrine that resonated with people where as we live in a very subjective age today that emphasizes relationship and relational dynamics. So reconciliation becomes a concept that resonates a lot with people in our culture.
But the word atonement that God uses in the Old Testament (or the word kaphar rather that he uses in the Old Testament) is such a broad term that it includes all of these different facets as it's used to explain the dynamics of Christ's work on the cross..
We go to Colossians 1:13. Looking at Colossians 1:13 we read;
NKJ Colossians 1:13 He
Who is God the Father…
has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
So Paul is writing this from the perspective of one believer to another. He's not talking about what the cross has done for unbelievers. He's talking to believers about what God has done for believers, the dynamics of salvation and how that should change the way you're thinking and the way you're operating. He's writing to a group of believers who are still being influenced by the human viewpoint concepts of the Greek culture around them.
So he's starting with this doctrine of the cross to help them understand that this isn't just abstract theology. But this should change the way you live. You shouldn't continue to live like the unbelievers in the culture around you.
So he starts off with this interconnection between what God did through the cross and why that means that Christ who did it must be fully God.
So he writes:
NKJ Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
NKJ Colossians 1:14 in whom we have
A present tense reality as believers. It's not that some of this may apply to unbelievers; but he's only talking about what we have in Christ as believers.
redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
I want you to pay attention as we read through some of these passages what all gets accomplished through His blood. We've studied the Doctrine of the Blood of Christ before and we understand that this isn't talking about His physical blood; all the components of red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, hemoglobin and all of that. The term blood is used as a metaphor for death because in the Scripture it is the shedding of blood that is a picture of death. The life is in the blood. So that's the metaphor. That's the picture. So it's through His blood. Or you could do a simple word definition to make it more literal – through His death.
But what do we have? We have redemption. It is His death on the cross that paid a price. That's the concept of redemption. It purchased something. But then we have a phrase that follows it that for all intensive purposes in the English as well as in the Greek appears to be an appositional phrase: the forgiveness of sins.
Now if I were to poll the congregation to give me a definition of forgiveness the one that will most likely bubble up is one that is similar to what is in Webster's Dictionary and Oxford English Dictionary. That is a view of forgiveness that is subjective in orientation. We think of forgiving someone as not harboring ill feelings towards them, not being bitter or angry or harboring hatred towards someone. That's what we mean by forgiveness.
That's not what's meant here. That's why I think it's confusing because if you think of forgiveness as not harboring anger or hate towards somebody, how can that be synonymous with paying a price? See, it doesn't fit. Redemption is the forgiveness of sin. So somehow the idea of forgiveness is equivalent to the idea of redemption or purchasing something or paying the price for something. So we have to bring that together.
The problem that we have is that we have a false understanding of what forgiveness is. When you get into what we will look at in just a minute (Colossians 2), we see that forgiveness is defined as canceling a debt or paying the debt. That's what redemption is. It's paying the price. That's the idea that's emphasized there in forgiveness. It's canceling a debt whereas a sin is viewed as incurring a debt against God. It is the debt that God wipes away. Nothing is owed God.
In terms of personal relationships sometimes we're offended or somebody treats us ill, we think they owe us something. Well, forgiveness is wiping out that sense of them owing us something. They don't owe us anything. There is no sense of repayment that has to be made. The debt is wiped out. That's the idea of forgiveness.
In verse 14 here we see that the foundation of these salvation doctrines is on redemption and forgiveness. Now verses 15 down through 19 focus on the person of Christ: that in order to do what was done on the cross (paying the price so that sins could be wiped out) He had to be God. He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of creation.
NKJ Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
He is the creator. He carried out creation.
NKJ Colossians 1:16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
NKJ Colossians 1:17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
NKJ Colossians 1:18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
NKJ Colossians 1:19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,
He's fully God. He has to be fully God in order to do what He did on the cross.
Now Paul comes back to the subject of what Christ did in verse 20. He writes:
NKJ Colossians 1:20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself,
Who does the reconciling? God does the reconciling.
by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
Now it is very important to understand this. As we look at this idea of making peace, it's related to reconciliation both in verse 20 and in verse 21. So the grammar here is important. The grammar here is very important. What we have here is a statement.
NKJ Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight --
The participle there precedes the action of the infinitive to reconcile. The infinitive to reconcile is a present infinitive, which is used as your main verb. So the action of having made peace precedes the action of reconciliation. So peace comes before reconciliation. We're reconciled by making peace. Look at other passages related to reconciliation.
Hold your place and turn over to 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.
NKJ 2 Corinthians 5:18 Now all things are of God,
Who performs the action of reconciliation there? God does.
who has reconciled us to Himself
It's a complete action.
through Jesus Christ,
And Paul goes on to say:
and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,
That's what we're announcing when we evangelize – that God has reconciled us to Himself. That is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. When did that occur? Does that occur at the cross or does that occur when an individual understands the gospel and believes in Christ? When was God reconciling the world to Himself? Is this objective or subjective? This is objective. It occurred when Christ was on the cross. When Christ died on the cross God is reconciling the world to Himself so that the position of the world in relation to God changes because Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world.
It's not talking about what happens when somebody trusts in Christ as their savior and that relationship changes experientially, it's talking about the objective payment that occurs on the cross that reconciles the world to God so that the position of the world, the relation of the world to God is not the same after the cross as it was before the cross. So God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them and has committed the word of reconciliation.
So we announce this reconciliation to man so they can then trust in Christ as their savior. So that's reconciliation in relation to the whole world and in relation to what happened at the cross, not what happens when somebody believes in Christ.
Now let's go back to Colossians1 again as we wrap up there.
That peace is made t the time of Christ's death on the cross. That is what Paul is saying there. He's able to reconcile all things to Himself. That includes everything.
NKJ Colossians 1:20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace
He's already made peace first.
through the blood of His cross.
… the death of Christ on the cross. So that's when peace is made.
Then verse 21:
NKJ Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight --
What he's talking about there is the same thing he talks about parallel passage in Ephesians 2:11ff is that because Gentiles were excluded form the Law – now that the Law has been completed and Christ has died on the cross then gentiles and Jew alike are reconciled and the law is not the issue anymore. Jew and Gentile can both come to the cross on an equal footing. There's not a difference there.
Now let's turn over to Colossian 2. Let's skip down to verse 13. You will recognize the wording here is parallel to what Paul says in Ephesians 2:1. In Ephesians 2:1 Paul says:
NKJ Ephesians 2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
Then he goes on and lists some other dynamics related to carnality. Then finally when he gets down to Ephesians 2:4 he says:
NKJ Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
NKJ Ephesians 2:6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
He's saying the same thing here; but he says it a little differently. He adds some different dynamics. He says:
And you, being dead in your trespasses and sins….
Is that what it said? No. See it's a little difference. Why? He's got a different audience. He says:
NKJ Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
Oh. Does that mean it's a sin to be uncircumcised? No. What's he talking about? You're a Gentile. You're not Jewish and you're not under the Law. You are a gentile who was formerly excluded, but now you are reconciled and brought near because of what Christ did on the cross. Does that mean you're saved? No. But it means that position that relationship that God had with Gentiles in the Old Testament is different now because of what Christ did on the cross.
Now we have to pay attention to the verbiage here a little bit and the Greek grammar. It's very important to understand this. The words "being dead" there are actually a participle. It is a present participle. The main verb comes after that introductory clause – "He has made us alive together." Just underline that in your Bible. That's your main clause. That's what he's talking about. That is your finite verb. That's your main thought.
That is an aorist tense verb which means he's looking at it in terms of past action - what has happened in the past. He's talking to them. They're believers. They were regenerated in the past. Now he brings in regeneration there, but that's a subjective change that occurs when we trust Christ as savior.
Now the interesting thing there is that participle that is translated "being" is a present participle. But it's connected to an aorist tense verb. Now I know I'm getting into some technical grammar here, but in Greek what that means is the tenses of participles don't have anything to do with time. The tense of a participle has to do with its relationship to the action of the main verb. So a present tense participle means the action of the participle is taking place at the same time as the action of the verb. So the action in the past of the verb was, "you were made alive". At that time of being made alive, your status was you were spiritually dead. So that's why even though it's a present tense particle, it's translated as a past tense participle.
having forgiven you all trespasses,
Now isn't that an interesting phrase there.
When did He forgive you of all trespasses? Did that happen when you trusted Christ as your Savior? Or did that happen at the cross? See we look back at Colossians 1:13-14 - redemption happened at the cross. Redemption is equivalent to forgiveness and that happened at the cross. Forgiveness occurred at the cross. It didn't occur when you trusted Christ as your savior. When were your sins forgiven? When were they wiped out? When were they cancelled? Not when you trusted Christ as your savior, but when Christ died on the cross in roughly 33 AD.
So sometime in the indefinite past before He made you alive, He forgave you. This idea there is that the forgiveness participle there is a participle of means that explains how He was able or the basis of why He was able to make you alive together with Him by having or by forgiving you all trespasses.
Then you have another participle at the beginning of verse 14 that's translated having wiped or having cancelled or having obliterated…
NKJ Colossians 2:14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us
Literally it's certificate of indebtedness. So we have a debt against God, but it's wiped out. It's forgiven. But when did that happen? That participle has a timeframe to it. It should be translated, "He made us alive together by forgiving all trespasses when (that's the temporal idea) He wiped out (or when He cancelled) the certificate of debt that that was against us which was contrary to us".
When did he do that? Well, he explains it in the next clause
And He has taken it
That is the certificate of debt.
out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
That last phrase removes all doubt as to when the forgiveness occurred. The forgiveness is the cancellation of debt and it says that the certificate of debt was nailed to the cross. It didn't get nailed to the cross when you and I trusted Christ as our savior. It got nailed to the cross when Christ was on the cross. What this passage is telling us is that the sins are wiped our, blotted out, obliterated. They are viewed as a debt against God.
Nearly every commentator you read will say that this is referring to the Mosaic Law. Well, weren't people sinning before the Law? Sure they were. It is viewing sin - man's sin - His deficit because of sin is viewed as a debt against God that is wiped out, obliterated at the cross so that man can't pay that penalty. That aspect, the objective legal penalty, is paid for by Christ on the cross so that God's relationship to man is changed. That's what the whole focus of the Day of Atonement is – is depicting that.
As far as the Jews are concerned all the debt of sin that piled up from one Yom Kippur to the next is now dealt with, paid for. God's justice is satisfied by the application of the blood on the mercy seat. Then when the High Priest would come out and put his hand on the scapegoat and identify the sins of the people, confess them and they were identified with that scapegoat. That scapegoat is then taken far, far away into the wilderness and let go so it can never find its way back. That depicts the fact that no matter what we've done, it is not the issue. It's been paid for.
Now what's important about that (at least theologically) is it helps us to understand the extent of the atonement and answers that problem. But the issue is either Christ truly, really, genuinely paid the penalty for every person sins so that the sin of everyone that sinful debt is cancelled. But it's the application of that that must happen to change our experience because we are stillborn spiritually dead. That certificate of debt is not the issue anymore because that was nailed to the cross. But we are still born under condemnation. We're born spiritually dead. We're born without righteousness and until that changes a person can't have a relationship with God. They'll remain condemned. That's what happens in salvation. We recognize that Christ paid the penalty in full and it was nailed to the cross. That's the picture of atonement.
Now next time I want to come back and address the issue of the extent of the atonement a little bit in terms of the reality of why this is paid objectively in full. It's paid in full. That's what Christ says at the end – tetelestai – it's paid in full. Nothing can be added to that payment. But if we don't accept the payment, then there's no internal change in us that must transpire in order to have eternal life and in order to be with God in heaven.
So we'll look at that next time.