Faith Foundations

Eternal Judgment: 4 – Atonement Is Not Universally Applied


Suggested Pre-Reading: Eternal Judgment: 3


Upon hearing that righteousness before God is granted apart from the law, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, one might be inclined to think that everyone will therefore be counted as righteous on the Day of Judgment. After all, if salvation is not the result of human effort, but an effect of Jesus’ atoning death, what would prevent all humans from being saved? Indeed, this is a fair question to ask. To answer it, we must go to Scripture. As we do so, we see unequivocally that only some people get saved; only some are counted as righteous before God.

If this sounds shocking, that a loving God only grants righteousness to some people, consider the only other options in regards to salvation and righteousness:

  • God saves none
  • God saves all

If either of these options were true, there would be no need for the Bible and the teachings of God. If the point of Scripture is to teach the way of salvation, then such a teaching is pointless if God does not save. Conversely, if God has determined to save everyone, then there is no need to know the way of salvation taught in Scripture, for salvation will be granted no matter what one believes.

So the idea that the Bible teaches only some will be saved stands up under logical scrutiny. Furthermore, the New Testament is replete with references to righteousness being granted to those who have heard about the sacrifice of Christ and believed the message they were told.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe…(Romans 3: 21 – 22)

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4: 5)

…with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform…for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4: 20 – 25 segments)

…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10: 9 – 10)

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10: 14 – 17)

These passages make it clear that it is not simply the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that saves. The sacrifice of Christ must be coupled with the faith of an individual, in order to be efficacious in regards to righteousness. We see in the Old Testament this idea of coupling faith with a God-ordained sacrifice. The prophet Isaiah rebuked the people of Israel for faithlessly participating in God-ordained temple sacrifices.

Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah. “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me…” (Isaiah 1: 10 – 13)

The people did not have faith in God. Yet they brought before God sacrifices in accordance with the law. Because they lacked faith, the sacrifices they brought were not received by God. Likewise, if someone does not believe in Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of Christ is of no value to them, although the fact remains He did indeed die for them, just as the bulls and goats did indeed die on behalf of faithless Israel in the days of Isaiah.

We see another precedent in the Passover. Although the invitation to slaughter the Passover lamb and smear the blood was given to all, only those who actually believed God, and killed the lamb and smeared the blood, were passed over by the destroying angel. Similarly, the invitation to believe in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is extended to all people through the preaching of the gospel. Yet only those who believe the preached message will be declared righteous on Judgment Day. Spiritually speaking, the atoning work of Jesus Christ must be applied to the individual human soul, just as the atoning blood of the Passover Lamb had to be applied to the doorposts. If the lamb was slaughtered and the blood was shed, but the blood was unapplied, the house would have lost its firstborn that night.

Let us end with a hypothetical.

There are two people sitting next to each other at church on a Sunday morning. Both claim to be Christians. Both, on the Friday night before church, went out on the town and committed grievous sins against God – drunkenness and sexual immorality. While the pastor is preaching the gospel message of Jesus Christ, the first person is delighted with joy, for they know that not only the sins they committed on Friday, but the sum work of their entire life, will lead to a judgment of “guilty” by God. But they do not fear this judgment, for in faith they believe in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and they know their righteousness is because of Christ and not because of their own piety. The other person, knowing that they sinned against God on Friday night, made a point to show up to church on Sunday, hoping to make up for the sins they committed by attendance and by putting a little extra in the offering plate. This person in their own mind is generally a moral person pleasing to God, but every once in a while slips up and needs to make amends to get right with God.

Only the first person has true faith in Jesus Christ. They will be counted as righteous on Judgment Day. The other person has a false faith. They believe in themselves, and that they can atone for their own sins through religious service. They will be guilty on the Day of Judgment and judged as an unbeliever.

Righteousness before God is real. It is not given to all, but only to some. And it cannot be faked, for God is not deceived. Those with true faith, a faith that is itself a gift from God, are the righteous ones. Those with a contrived faith, a faith that comes not from God but from within, are lawless and do not know Christ.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7: 21 – 23)
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Eternal Judgment: 3 – Atonement Is The Answer


Suggested Pre-Reading: Eternal Judgment: 2


Atonement is the answer to the question, “How are sinners made righteous outside of the law?”

But what is atonement?

It is the means by which sins are forgiven by God. As we seek to understand this, we do well to turn to the Old Testament and its description of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Aaron shall enter the holy place with this: with a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He shall put on the holy linen tunic, and the linen undergarments shall be next to his body, and he shall be girded with the linen sash and attired with the linen turban (these are holy garments). Then he shall bathe his body in water and put them on. He shall take from the congregation of the sons of Israel two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. Then Aaron shall offer the bull for the sin offering which is for himself, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household. He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting. Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat. Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the LORD fell, and make it a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat. (Leviticus 16: 3 – 10)

This description of Yom Kippur can be summarized as follows:

Element Purpose
Bull Sin Offering For the High Priest
Goat 1 Sin Offering For the People
Goat 2 Bears the sins of the people and is released to the wilderness

Note how God did not ask the sinners to sacrifice themselves or to bear their own sins for atonement. Rather, God prescribed the bull and goats to deal with the sins of the people. This is the heart of Biblical atonement – it occurs by means of a substitute. Substitutionary atonement is what keeps the forgiveness of sins distinct from law-keeping. You can never atone for your own sins by obeying God’s law, because God requires a substitute for atonement.

Moving from the Old Testament to the New, the author of Hebrews explains how Jesus is the ultimate substitute.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9: 11 – 14)

For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Hebrews 9: 24 – 26)

For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10: 1 – 4)

In order to prove Christ’s atonement as greater than even Yom Kippur, the author of Hebrews makes an a fortiori argument. He agrees with the established fact that in the days of Moses God ordained atonement through sinful priests and animals. He then proceeds to argue that if atonement could come through weak vessels, such as a sinful high priest and mere animals, how much more so could God ordain atonement through the sinless and spotless Messiah, as part of the New Covenant.

This idea of the Messiah as an atoning substitute is not unique to the book of Hebrews, or even the New Testament. It was prophesied hundreds of years in advance by the prophet Isaiah.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities…

But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.

But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering…

My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities…

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors

(excerpts from Isaiah 53)

Note how the prophet says Messiah will “justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities”. When atonement happens, the sinner is made righteous in God’s sight. The person who was once separated from God is now reconciled and brought near to God. Theologians call this the Great Exchange – Jesus takes our sins and He gives us His right-standing before God.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5: 21)

This law-gospel binary is essential for all to understand. The law is not the gospel and the gospel is not the law. Our righteousness before God comes not through our own ability to keep God’s law and make up for sins committed, but by having our sins placed on the ordained substitute for atonement. In the days of Moses, it was animals – bulls and goats. In our day, the appointed substitute is Jesus of Nazareth. He went to the cross and shed His blood so that our sins could be atoned for and forgiven once-for-all.

Atonement is why righteousness is outside of the law, and why the gospel is actually good news. There is nothing we can do to pay for our sins, because Jesus has paid it all.

Eternal Judgment: 2 – Righteousness Must Come Apart From The Law


Suggested Pre-Reading: Eternal Judgment: 1


Let us remind ourselves of the predicament.

One day there will be an Eternal Judgment. God will send people to eternal bliss or eternal torment. If this future judgment is based on one’s ability to keep God’s law, all will be sent to eternal torment, for the Bible clearly teaches all have sinned against God and earned death:

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… (Romans 3: 23)

…the wages of sin is death…(Romans 6: 23)

Yet the Bible, just as clearly as it states all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, acknowledges there will be those judged righteous and granted eternal life.

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12: 2)

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25: 31 – 34)

A great paradox, then, has been presented to the reader of Scripture: how does a sinner who has earned death become righteous in God’s sight and inherit eternal life?

Before answering this question as the Bible answers it, we must first dispel the notion that the answer is “by keeping the law”. Let us use a courtroom analogy to demonstrate the point. Imagine that a man who robbed a bank is being tried for bank robbery. Will his defense be, “Yes, I robbed the bank, but I didn’t murder or rape anyone, so because I kept those laws, I should be declared innocent of bank robbery”? That type of defense, in an earthly court, is absurd. Whether or not he kept some laws has no legal impact on the law that he broke. In the heavenly court it is the same – no amount of law keeping can erase the sins we have committed. Why would my not having murdered someone legally erase my sin of hateful thoughts toward that person?

The conclusion then is this – righteousness must come apart from the law. This Biblical idea is in opposition to what is commonly taught in false religions. Many false religions send sinners to the law to earn righteousness and deal with sins previously committed. Think of the doctrine of karma in eastern religions or the rite of penance in Catholicism. But the Bible is clear on the matter – the law does not save. Here is what the Bible says about salvation on the day of judgment:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe…(Romans 3: 19 – 22)

This argument also appears in the letter to Galatia:

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. (Galatians 2: 21)

Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3: 11)

Jesus Himself stated the same argument clearly and succinctly:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3: 16)

These verses of Scripture make it clear: those whom God will judge as righteous are not the law-keepers, but those whose faith is in Jesus Christ.

This idea is really quite scandalous. If someone lives for seventy years and only commits one sin a day, that equates to 25,550 sins over the course of a lifetime. Will God really declare someone righteous at the Eternal Judgment who has sinned over 25,000 times? Yes, God will – if the person trusts in Christ.

To understand more how this can be, we must discuss the Biblical teaching of atonement. This we will do in the next article.

Eternal Judgment: 1 – Judgment Is Needed For Justice

Gospel means good news. In order to understand how good the gospel of Jesus Christ is, one must understand how bad the bad news is. The bad news is very bad: God, at some point in the future, will put an end to the earth as we know it. He will bring all of humanity before Him, as defendants in a courtroom, and proclaim “guilty” or “not guilty” to each and every person. Those found guilty will be sent to everlasting torment, with no hope of parole. The first clear Biblical reference to this event, which is called the Eternal Judgment, is found in the Old Testament book of Daniel:

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12: 2)

Before discussing how it is that God determines guilt or innocence, let us for a moment ponder the philosophical and logical implications of this event.

Adolf Hitler was a madman who killed millions of Jews for no good reason. He evaded justice by taking his own life prior to being captured. One must ask, “Did Hitler’s plan work?” Did Hitler escape justice by killing himself? If there is no Eternal Judgment, if there is no judgment after bodily death, then the answer is unequivocally yes, Hitler evaded justice. But if the human soul lives beyond the bodily death of this earth, and will stand before God one day, then no, Hitler did not escape justice. God will ensure that he is punished appropriately for his transgressions.

For a moment let us theorize that Hitler did not commit suicide, but was captured. Undoubtedly he would have been executed for his offenses, but perhaps leading up to his execution he would have been tortured. The question that must be asked is whether any amount of torture could truly repay Hitler for all the evil he committed. How much torture is needed to equal the deaths of six million Jews? How much torture is needed to account for the economic destruction, the lives lost during official combat, and the murdering of non-Jew invalids and the poor? Hitler would, even without killing himself, escape justice, because no human court could inflict a punishment that would ensure justice was served. It is not humanly possible to punish a man like Hitler, in proportion to all the evil and destruction he was responsible for.

The conclusion then is simple: without a judgment by God after death, there would be no such thing as objective justice. Justice would always be limited in scope (Hitler could never be adequately punished for his evils) and justice could be evaded (either through death or by hiding from human authorities). With an eternal judgment, justice is objective and no one will escape. God will ensure that all are brought to justice, with the righteous being rewarded and the wicked being punished.

Although intellectually we may nod our head at the notion of an eternal judgment being required for true justice, we at the same time may be fearful about such a judgment, wondering whether we will be found guilty. How is it that God determines guilt and innocence? The surprising teaching of the Bible is that God’s judgment is based not on one’s actual deeds, but on one’s faith in the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. This is why the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news – one can be a law-breaker and yet be acquitted and declared innocent. This scandalous idea will be the subject of the next discussion.

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 3 – The Five Major Covenants Teach the Centrality of Christ


Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 2


The Bible contains five major covenants, or promises, from God:

Name Details
Noahic Covenant God promised to never again destroy humanity by flood
Abrahamic Covenant God promised to bless all the nations through Abraham
Israelite Covenant God promised to bless Israel if they obeyed His law and to curse them if they didn’t
Davidic Covenant God promised to set one of David’s offspring (the Messiah) on the throne as king forever
New Covenant God promised to usher in the Messianic kingdom and write His law on peoples’ hearts (unlike the Israelite Covenant in which the law was written on stone)

Each of the five covenants has Messianic implications. To put it another way, each of the five main promises of God are best understood in relation to the Messiah and His kingdom. Consider the words of the prophet Ezekiel, which link the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant to the start of the New (Everlasting) Covenant:

My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them…David My servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. (Ezekiel 37: 24 – 26)

The link between the covenants and the Christ was noticed by far more than the prophet Ezekiel. The authors of the New Testament also commented on the five covenants and interpreted them in light of the Messiah:

Covenant New Testament Reference
Noahic For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3: 5 – 7)
Abrahamic Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3: 7 – 9)
Israelite Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also…For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 7: 11 – 12, 10: 1)

Davidic After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’ From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus…(Acts 13: 22 – 23)

New (Everlasting) For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the LORD, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant (Hebrews 8: 7 – 9)

As we can see by these New Testament teachings, each of the covenants relate to Jesus the Messiah in their own particular way. Jesus will judge humanity with fire, akin to how God judged humanity with water in the days of Noah. The nations have been blessed through Abraham because it is the gospel of one of his descendants (Jesus) that has gone out to the world and brought unbelievers into the household of God. The Israelite Covenant demonstrated that humanity by its own power could never achieve righteousness through obedience, and it pointed to the need for a greater covenant in which God supplied everything necessary for salvation – this was fulfilled by Jesus and the New Covenant. Jesus and the New Covenant were also the means by which God fulfilled His promise to David, to provide him an everlasting throne and kingdom.

Just as the New Testament is about Jesus, just as the Old Testament is about Jesus, so too are the five major covenants about Jesus. We should expect this, because it is consistent with what God wants us to know. God wants us to know and believe in Jesus Christ, and He has engineered the whole of Scripture, including His five main covenants, to testify to Jesus and our need for a Savior.

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 2 – The Old Testament Implicitly Teaches the Centrality of Christ


Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 1


It is clear that the New Testament was written to document the words and deeds of Jesus and to declare him to be the Christ. It is not as clear that the Old Testament was written to set the stage for Jesus of Nazareth. On the surface, the Old Testament is an account of the nation of Israel, beginning with God’s creation of Adam and ending with the return of the Jews from the exile. Beneath the surface, the story being told is about a great king who would come from the nation of Israel and rule the world in righteousness.

Although Christians should read the Old Testament and learn how it points to Christ, many do not do so, finding a cover to cover reading intimidating. For those intimidated by the Old Testament, there is a summary of the whole story found in the ninth chapter of Nehemiah. The summary, provided in full at the end of this article, was written after the return of the exiles from Babylon and covers from the beginning of creation to the return of the exiles. If the summary proves to be intimidating, one can focus on the following excerpt, which captures the essence of the Old Testament:

You are just in all that has come upon us;
For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.
For our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers have not kept Your law
Or paid attention to Your commandments and Your admonitions with which You have admonished them.
But they, in their own kingdom,
With Your great goodness which You gave them,
With the broad and rich land which You set before them,
Did not serve You or turn from their evil deeds.

Nehemiah 9: 33 – 35

God was very good to Israel, over and over and over. Their response to God’s goodness was sin and a refusal to obey the commandments God gave them. For nearly one thousand years, from Moses to the end of the exile, the Law proved incapable of changing the hearts of the people. The promised blessings of the Mosaic Covenant were not enough to inspire godliness, and the promised curses of the Mosaic Covenant were not enough to prevent sin. Something greater than the Law of Moses was needed, to cause the people to trust and obey God. If the Law of Moses was to remain the primary administration, why not think that Israel would remain in a perpetual state of sin and rebellion and exile?

It is viewing the Old Testament in this way – as a chronicle of Israel’s perpetual disobedience – that enables one to see how the story is dependent upon the Christ. Israel’s inability to obey the covenant of Moses is resolved by the prophetic promise of Jesus and His new covenant. Consider the words of Isaiah, who wrote of a great king from the line of David who would rule in righteousness.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. (Isaiah 9: 6 – 7)

Consider the words of Jeremiah, prophesying that a new covenant would be made, in which the law of God would be written on the hearts of men, rather than on tablets of stone.

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31: 31 – 33)

The promise of a savior-king, enacting a covenant in which He by divine power changes the hearts of His people and atones for their sin, is is the exact solution needed for a people who continually proved incapable of obeying the law by their own power. If the prophecies regarding Christ are removed from the Old Testament, the story started in the Old Testament has nowhere to go. For one thousand years the law failed to produce godly people, and unless that law were replaced with something better, there is no reason to think anything would change.

Our conclusion then, in light of all that has been said, must be that Jesus is central to all that is going on in the story of Israel. If by removing Christ from the Old Testament the story has nowhere to go, what other conclusion is there to draw?


Old Testament Summary In Nehemiah 9: 5 – 37

O may Your glorious name be blessed
And exalted above all blessing and praise!

You alone are the LORD.
You have made the heavens,
The heaven of heavens with all their host,
The earth and all that is on it,
The seas and all that is in them.
You give life to all of them
And the heavenly host bows down before You.

You are the LORD God,
Who chose Abram
And brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees,
And gave him the name Abraham.

You found his heart faithful before You,
And made a covenant with him
To give him the land of the Canaanite,
Of the Hittite and the Amorite,
Of the Perizzite, the Jebusite and the Girgashite—
To give it to his descendants.
And You have fulfilled Your promise,
For You are righteous.

You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt,
And heard their cry by the Red Sea.

Then You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh,
Against all his servants and all the people of his land;
For You knew that they acted arrogantly toward them,
And made a name for Yourself as it is this day.

You divided the sea before them,
So they passed through the midst of the sea on dry ground;
And their pursuers You hurled into the depths,
Like a stone into raging waters.

And with a pillar of cloud You led them by day,
And with a pillar of fire by night
To light for them the way
In which they were to go.

Then You came down on Mount Sinai,
And spoke with them from heaven;
You gave them just ordinances and true laws,
Good statutes and commandments.

So You made known to them Your holy sabbath,
And laid down for them commandments, statutes and law,
Through Your servant Moses.

You provided bread from heaven for them for their hunger,
You brought forth water from a rock for them for their thirst,
And You told them to enter in order to possess
The land which You swore to give them.

But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly;
They became stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments.

They refused to listen,
And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them;
So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt.
But You are a God of forgiveness,
Gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness;
And You did not forsake them.

Even when they made for themselves
A calf of molten metal
And said, ‘This is your God
Who brought you up from Egypt,’
And committed great blasphemies,

You, in Your great compassion,
Did not forsake them in the wilderness;
The pillar of cloud did not leave them by day,
To guide them on their way,
Nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go.

You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them,
Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth,
And You gave them water for their thirst.

Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want;
Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell.

You also gave them kingdoms and peoples,
And allotted them to them as a boundary.
They took possession of the land of Sihon the king of Heshbon
And the land of Og the king of Bashan.

You made their sons numerous as the stars of heaven,
And You brought them into the land
Which You had told their fathers to enter and possess.

So their sons entered and possessed the land.
And You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites,
And You gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land,
To do with them as they desired.

They captured fortified cities and a fertile land.
They took possession of houses full of every good thing,
Hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive groves,
Fruit trees in abundance.
So they ate, were filled and grew fat,
And reveled in Your great goodness.

But they became disobedient and rebelled against You,
And cast Your law behind their backs
And killed Your prophets who had admonished them
So that they might return to You,
And they committed great blasphemies.

Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them,
But when they cried to You in the time of their distress,
You heard from heaven, and according to Your great compassion
You gave them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors.

But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before You;
Therefore You abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they ruled over them.
When they cried again to You, You heard from heaven,
And many times You rescued them according to Your compassion,

And admonished them in order to turn them back to Your law.
Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to Your commandments but sinned against Your ordinances,
By which if a man observes them he shall live.
And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen.

However, You bore with them for many years,
And admonished them by Your Spirit through Your prophets,
Yet they would not give ear.
Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.

Nevertheless, in Your great compassion You did not make an end of them or forsake them,
For You are a gracious and compassionate God.

Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and lovingkindness,
Do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before You,
Which has come upon us, our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers and on all Your people,
From the days of the kings of Assyria to this day.

However, You are just in all that has come upon us;
For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.

For our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers have not kept Your law
Or paid attention to Your commandments and Your admonitions with which You have admonished them.

But they, in their own kingdom,
With Your great goodness which You gave them,
With the broad and rich land which You set before them,
Did not serve You or turn from their evil deeds.

Behold, we are slaves today,
And as to the land which You gave to our fathers to eat of its fruit and its bounty,
Behold, we are slaves in it.

Its abundant produce is for the kings
Whom You have set over us because of our sins;
They also rule over our bodies
And over our cattle as they please,
So we are in great distress.

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 1 – The New Testament Explicitly References The Centrality of Christ

The Christian ought to believe that God’s oracles center around Christ because Jesus, the Christ, explicitly said that very thing. In an encounter with the Pharisees, recorded by the disciple John, Jesus dispelled the notion that the primary function of Scripture is to teach the law of God so that one could be righteous through holy living.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me…For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. (John 5: 39, 46)

After His resurrection from the dead, Jesus made another explicit statement about the Christ-centered message of Scripture, during a conversation with His disciples.

Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24: 44 – 47)

The author of Hebrews told us that God’s oracles climaxed with the coming of Christ.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Hebrews 1: 1 – 2)

Prior to Jesus, God spoke to Israel through a series of prophets, and the prophets looked ahead to the coming of the Christ. When Jesus came, the prophets ceased, for the Messiah had been revealed, and their message was no longer needed. All that was needed was for the words and deeds of the Messiah to be written down for posterity, and that has happened thanks to the authors of the New Testament.

Believing that Jesus is the main focus of the Bible is key to accurately reading and comprehending the Bible. One of the easiest things to do is to forget that the book is primarily about Jesus. When one does this, when one forgets, the book often becomes about the reader. The reader goes to Scripture to extract principles for living a better life, just like the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day. This narcissistic reading can even happen when reading about Jesus – instead of focusing on the glory of Jesus and giving Him due praise, the reader instead studies the words and deeds of Christ, merely so they can try to mimic those qualities in their own life and become “a better person”.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit gave us explicit references in Scripture, which prove the primacy of Christ, to help guard our hearts and minds as we approach God’s holy word. Since God desires His people to worship Him in spirit and in truth, we must read Scripture, the revealed word of God, accurately. As we increase in our comprehension of the Biblical narrative, and as we increase in our comprehension of our own sinful nature, we will learn that it is impossible to please God through our living of His law. It is only because of what Christ has done on our behalf, by dealing with our sin, that we can be pleasing to God. The redemption of mankind through the sacrificial death of Jesus of Nazareth is what the oracles of God all point to, in one way or another. The apostle Paul summarizes this great work well:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5: 21)

To rightly understand the gospel of grace, and not turn it into a gospel of works, one must understand that Jesus stands in the center of all of God’s revealed truths.

God Reveals His Oracles: 4 – How God Has Given Specific Revelation


Suggested Pre-Reading: God Reveals His Oracles: 3


Even though God gives to all of us a general understanding of His eternal power, divine nature, and moral character, by writing such things on our hearts, it was God’s good pleasure to choose long ago a specific group of people to receive His detailed oracles; truths about God, man, and the events of history. God even told these people about future events before they happened, such as the death of the Jewish Messiah and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem.1 Thankfully, these chosen people wrote down the divine words, so that we could have them today. One must keep in mind that due to limited technology, the only two ways the ancients could give us God’s words were in writing or by means of an oral tradition. Without a doubt, a written tradition is far superior to an oral one, and so the ancients preserved for us God’s words using the best method available.

Now who were these people who God chose to write down His oracles? They were the Israelites – the Jews. God personally established the nation of Israel by delivering the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from slavery in Egypt, and by using the man Moses to help lead them. One of the promises God gave to the nation through Moses was to provide a line of prophets who would dispense holy truth. Moses recorded this promise:

“The LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18: 17 – 19)

God spoke to Israel over the centuries through various prophets. God did not speak with other nations in the same way; the relationship between God and Israel was unique. This uniqueness was attested to by the apostle Paul:

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. (Romans 3: 1 – 2)

So these Jews, who at the time were the only people entrusted with the oracles of God, wrote God’s words down for posterity. Over the course of time a portion of their many writings were collected and bound together as one book – this book today is called the Bible. The Bible is a library consisting of sixty-six books from some forty authors, whose writings occurred over the span of more than one thousand years. Despite the multiplicity of authors and span of time, the Bible is a cohesive narrative with discernible plots and themes. This should be expected, since God was the one giving the words to be written down. The Bible is the key source of information about God and man, and it says of itself:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3: 16 – 17)

Now, what is the main point of the Bible? Since God has gone to the effort of inspiring words to be written, and binding them together in a singular book, what is the message of this book that God wants us to know? The answer to these questions is the focus of the next series, which will discuss the essential Christian principle “God’s Oracles Center Around Christ”.

As we move on to the next principle, regarding Christ, let us summarize in three key points what has been discussed over the course of this series on divine revelation, points which are an orthodox Christian perspective on divine revelation.

  1. God must speak to us, if we are to know anything specific about Him.
  2. God could choose to speak to all people or to some people.
  3. God chose the Jewish people to be the recipients of His specific divine instruction, and their words have come down to us today in the form of the Bible.

The Christian must be convinced of these three things, and they must cling to the notion that the edifice of all true Christian doctrine is built upon the foundation that the Bible is the divinely revealed word of God.


1 Book of Daniel, Chapter 9 Verse 26: “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary…” These words were written approximately 500 years in advance of Jesus’ death and the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome.

God Reveals His Oracles: 3 – How God Has Spoken To All Men


Suggested Pre-Reading: God Reveals His Oracles 2


As we think about the two ways God reveals His truths – either to all men or to some men – it is perhaps difficult to conceive how God might speak, or might have spoken, a truth to all men. Certainly in our lifetime there has been no booming voice from heaven, loud enough for everyone on earth to hear. And we are all aware that there are atheists, who claim to disbelieve in God altogether. If God has spoken a message to all men, how could there be atheists? If God has spoken truth to all men, how has He done so?

The Christian answers these questions by turning to God’s revealed truths in the Bible. The Bible, which records the truths God has revealed to certain men, tells us through Paul’s letter to the Romans that God has spoken certain truths to everyone.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1: 18 – 21)

From this passage we learn that God made two of His attributes evident to all men:

  1. Eternal Power
  2. Divine Nature

These two attributes of God were revealed through His creation. Creation is so magnificent that it undeniably originates, not from nothing, but from an eternally powerful and divine Being. The evidence of a God-created universe is so overwhelming, that to deny it is to commit intellectual suicide. Paul wrote his words nearly two thousand years ago to a people with far less technology and scientific knowledge than us today. How much more so should we as modern people see the creation pointing to the Creator.

Now in addition to God’s eternal power and divine nature, we are instructed that God has revealed a moral law to all men through the conscience:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them…(Romans 2: 14 – 15)

Here Paul is discussing how Gentiles (unbelievers) will be judged by God, since they were not the recipients of God’s divinely revealed Law that was given to Moses. The answer Paul gives is that God has given every man a conscience, and this conscience intuitively knows when certain things are good and certain things are bad. There are certain things that people know are right and wrong, and it doesn’t matter whether the government allows it or not. People know that there is a moral law that transcends legislation.

So there are three things revealed by God to all men – God’s eternal power, God’s divinity, and God’s moral character. It is worth noting that the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America affirms each of these three revelations.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…

The men who wrote and signed that document acknowledged that there is a God who is Creator, and that there are certain rights God has given to men. If God has given man the right to life, then murder is wrong. If God has given man the right to the property he acquires, then stealing is wrong. So there are laws given by God which are unchangeable. Even if a government were to say that murder is okay, it would not be. Even if a government were to say stealing is okay, it would not be. All of our consciences know that the government is not the ultimate authority in determining what is right or wrong. Otherwise, there could be no condemnation of Nazi Germany and other such government-led atrocities.

To conclude, we have learned that God has divinely ensured every human being receives three general truths about God’s nature. Everyone knows intuitively of God’s power and moral character. But this basic knowledge of God is not sufficient for knowing God in any real and personal way. To truly know God, He must give us far more specific and detailed revelations about Himself. In the next post we will begin to look at the Christian claim of God’s specific revelations being contained within the pages of the Bible, and why the Bible should be viewed as authentic and other religious writings as false.

God Reveals His Oracles: 2 – Methods of Transmission


Suggested Pre-Reading: God Reveals His Oracles: 1


If we accept the premise that God gives oracles to men, we must take the next step and conclude that these oracles must be communicated in a way that man will understand. It can hardly be considered an oracle if it is communicated in a completely cryptic way. For example, if everyone on the planet spoke English, but God gave an oracle in Spanish, and there was no way to translate the message from Spanish to English, then this could not be considered divine revelation, for nothing in the Spanish message could be discerned by the English-speakers. It could definitely be considered divine speaking, for it was God speaking in Spanish, but since there was no receiver of the message, nothing was revealed and there was no actual communication between God and man.

If we accept this basic understanding of divine revelation, that God speaks oracles using language that the recipients understand, we can proceed to examine the flow of the message from God to man. There are two fundamental ways:

  1. God reveals a truth to all men, or
  2. God reveals a truth to a select audience.

If God reveals a truth to a select audience, then the following can be presumed:

  1. Those who receive His message will share it with those who did not receive it, or
  2. Those who receive His message will not share it and will keep it to themselves.

We have then two models of the transmission of divine revelation, both of which can be diagrammed to aid our understanding.


Diagram 1: God Speaks A Truth To All Men

revelation-diagram1


Diagram 2: God Speaks A Truth To Some Men

revelation-diagram2


So we see that in regards to divinely revealed truths, God either speaks to all or He speaks to some. No matter who He speaks to, if He wants His message understood, He will ensure that the recipients can understand it. If God chooses to only speak to some, but He wants His message to go beyond the receiving audience, the responsibility is on the recipients to share God’s message with others.

It is important to note that the model of communication God chooses to use could vary for each revealed truth. In some instances God might choose to give all men a message, and in other instances He might choose to give some men a message. The next installment of this series will examine how Christians believe God speaks to men, using each of these two models just discussed.