Salvation in time, and beyond time

This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” published by the MBC’s High Street Press (visit highstreet.press).

In the previous column, we explored three facets of salvation before time – foreknowledge, election, and predestination. While these are sovereign acts of God, they cannot be divorced from human responsibility. 

God’s sovereignty, and the endowed right of people to make decisions for which we are held accountable, are parallel biblical truths. Where they intersect in the mind of God is a wondrous mystery to His creatures.

In this column, we turn our attention to facets of salvation in time, and beyond time.

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The Angel of the LORD

Following is an excerpt from Jesus Before Bethlehem: What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD, released by High Street Press.

The female donkey sees him first: an ominous, sword-wielding figure appearing right in front of her. Startled, she veers off the path and into a field, prompting her rider to strike her in anger. Next, the mysterious swordsman cuts off the donkey’s escape route. Panicked, she presses against a stone wall, jamming her rider’s foot. A second beating ensues. After a third confrontation with the swordsman, the donkey crouches in surrender.

That does it. The rider, a mercenary prophet named Balaam, beats the donkey mercilessly – until the donkey speaks: “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?”

The prophet replies, “You have made me look like a fool. If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you now!” 

At last, Balaam’s eyes are opened and he sees what his donkey has seen all along: a divine person, called the angel of the LORD, standing in the path with a drawn sword in his hand. The prophet prostrates himself in worship before the angel, confesses his sin, and receives further instructions.

Numbers 22 records this strange scene involving a prophet for hire, a sword-brandishing angel, and yes, a talking donkey. In fact, we may be so charmed by the loquacious beast of burden that we overlook the angelic intruder. Who is the angel of the LORD?

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Trinitarian facets of salvation

This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” published by the MBC’s High Street Press (visit highstreet.press).

Stated simply, salvation is God’s remedy for the sin that has ruined everything and alienated everyone from Him. The Lord reveals this remedy as soon as Adam and Eve rebel against Him. 

God promises a future Redeemer who crushes the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15). Then, He provides additional promises throughout the Old Testament, granting us more than four hundred prophecies, appearances, or foreshadowings of the Messiah, a King who comes as a virgin-born child in Bethlehem.

This child, Jesus of Nazareth, bursts onto the scene at just the right time (Gal. 4:4). He lives a sinless life and dies on a Roman cross, taking upon Himself our sins and paying the penalty of death for them (2 Cor. 5:21). Then, He rises physically from the dead on the third day, conquering Satan, sin, and death, and freely offering forgiveness of sins and everlasting life by grace through faith in Him. Before ascending into heaven, He promises to return one day to fulfill all things – that is, to complete His work of salvation and to set everything right (Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; John 14:1-3). 

For followers of Jesus, salvation is experienced as an everlasting, unbreakable relationship with Him. It has both temporal and eternal benefits. Consider, for example, that we are foreknownelected, and predestined in eternity past. Put another way, we are saved before time began. 

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Jesus Before Bethlehem

High Street Press offers a unique resource for personal or group study titled Jesus Before Bethlehem: What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD.

Written by Rob Phillips of the Missouri Baptist Convention, the 338-page book explores dozens of Old Testament appearances by a figure often identified as “the angel of the LORD.” This figure not only speaks for God; he speaks as God. He appears as a man, a voice from heaven, a flame within a thorn bush, and a divine presence in a pillar of cloud and fire – all of which come to us as Christophanies, or appearances of Jesus before Bethlehem.

The book addresses the question: What was Jesus doing prior to his conception in Mary’s womb? While we see the Father and the Holy Spirit actively engaged in human affairs across the pages of the Old Testament, the other member of the Trinity (Jesus) is foreshadowed in messianic prophecies but otherwise absent from the earth. Or is he?

Jesus Before Bethlehem is designed to show how the eternal Son of God has always taken a personal interest in those he created to be his imagers on earth.

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John’s testimony from Patmos – part 2

In the previous post, we looked at several passages from the Book of Revelation that address the return of Jesus. In this post, we complete our study by examining passages from the last chapter of Revelation. In addition, we offer a brief summary of posts from November and December regarding the second coming of Jesus.

Revelation 22:7 – “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” 

Three times in the epilogue of Revelation, Jesus declares, “I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20). This accentuates the urgency of Christ’s return and affirms his previous promises in the Gospels and the Book of Revelation. His repeated statement also validates what John has seen and heard on Patmos, and what the apostles have written about in their eyewitness accounts and epistles.

Jesus attaches a blessing to the promise of his imminent return: “Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” This is the sixth of seven blessing statements, or beatitudes, in Revelation. [The seven beatitudes of Revelation may be found at Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14.] While we wait expectantly for the Lord’s return, our lives should reflect the truth of Scripture. When we conduct ourselves in this way, we find ourselves happy.

We may not fully understand the details surrounding the Day of the Lord, but the New Testament writers make several truths plain: (1) Jesus is returning one day – physically, visibly, in power and great glory; (2) we do not know the day or the hour of his return; (3) we should live in view of his imminent return; (4) when he comes, all people will know it; (5) Jesus will judge all people personally, rewarding believers according to their faithfulness and punishing unbelievers in varying degrees according to their evil deeds; (6) he will create new heavens and a new earth, setting everything right; and (7) the glory of eternity with Christ will cause the “former things” of this world to fade away.

Eternity may seem far off to us. Yet if we keep the prophecies of Revelation in front of us, we learn to live more comfortably in the tension between the already and not-yet.

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