Sunday, March 23, 2008
SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
The Wisdom of Our Redeemer (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Romans 9:21-23)
In the Bible what does it mean, "to redeem" a person?
It means to rescue from death, and most often it means to rescue from the Second Death, which is Hell.
Did the Lord Jesus Christ suffer and die on a cruel cross to redeem every human being on the face of the earth?
The Lord Jesus said that there are more people going to Hell than there are going to Heaven. And Christ did not go to the cross for those of whom He knew that they themselves would go to Hell.
Then whom did Christ redeem out of the hands of Satan when He suffered on the cross?
We read here in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4:
2 Corinthians 4:3
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
2 Corinthians 4:4
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
This passage says that those for whom the Gospel of Christ crucified remains hidden they are lost, which means they are still unsaved and on the way to Hell.
Why does the Gospel remain hidden to them?
Verse 4 says that the god of this world, Satan, has blinded them. No, he has not blinded their eyes, but he has blinded their minds, so that they will not believe the Gospel. Their minds remain in spiritual darkness. Their carnal minds remain in the grip of sin and of Satan.
What then is "the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ"?
That light is the righteousness of Christ, and that righteousness is imputed to everyone whose mind has been opened by God the Holy Spirit. This righteousness is imputed to all those for whom the Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross at Golgotha.
How many ways are there to forgive sins?
There is only one way, and that is through the Atonement of Christ on the cross. There was only one time in the history of the world that sins were paid to the satisfaction of the righteousness of God when Christ suffered and died on the cross. Either your sins were paid there at the cross, or they were not paid at all.
Those who were chosen to have their sins paid were not chosen for any good quality they might have, or for anything they might do, but they were chosen entirely according the good pleasure of the will of God the Father, and He gave them to His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
But God did not arbitrarily choose some and not choose others. We do not have a God who does things at random. God has a definite plan and a definite purpose in mind. Herein is the wisdom of Christ that He chose some to be saved from Hell, whereas others He passed by, according to the plan and to the will of God. And God decided on that plan before the foundation of the world. When Christ died on that cross, the destiny of this chosen number of people was sealed: They are going to receive a "Born Again" soul at sometime in this life on earth, and their destiny is going to be the New Heaven & New Earth.
But is God aware of all the other people in the world who are going to Hell on account of their own sins?
Of course God is aware of them. He is going to create them. But God did not plan to save them, since that does not fit the plan of God for His elect people. God says in Romans 9:21-23,
Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
God made "vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory" and God made "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction". And thus Christ sealed the destiny of the vessels of mercy at the cross when He paid for their sins, and Christ sealed the destiny of the vessels of wrath at the cross when He did not pay for their sins. It was Judgment Day for Christ, because He was a stand in for all those vessels of mercy, and it was Judgment Day for all the vessels of wrath, because they were appointed to pay for all their own sins in Hell. And the history of the world from the cross forward till the end of time is only an outworking of this Judgment Day at the cross.
Can you see that the event of the cross in AD 33 is both a cleansing of the elect and a Judgment on the reprobate?
This is the language we find in many places in the Bible.
"Behold, the Day Cometh" (Malachi 4:1,5, 3:17-18, Joel 2:31, Acts 2:16,20, Matthew 24:29)
In Malachi 4:1 God speaks about a terrifying Day, which in the context is called, "The Day of the Lord". This expression "The Day of the Lord" occurs 29 times in the Bible, plus many times where other expressions are used. We read in Malachi 4:1,
For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
This sounds like it is the end of time.
But is it really referring to the end of time?
Within the same context we read in Malachi 4:5, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD".
From the New Testament we know that this verse finds its fulfillment in the coming of John the Baptist, and the great and dreadful day of the Lord refers to the time of the cross of Christ
Moreover, Malachi 4:1 begins with the word "For". It means that we have to go back at least two verses to see this context.
And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
Verse 17 speaks about, "in that day", which is an expression that occurs 112 times in the Bible, mostly referring to the Last Day, but often referring to the time of the cross.
What is the meaning of "in that day" here in Malachi 3:17?
The context of verse 16 refers to those whose names have been written in the Book of Life. Then in verse 17 God says, "And They shall be mine, in that day when I make up my jewels".
You see, the jewels represent people.
What day is this that the Lord Jesus Christ makes up His jewels?
It is the day when He suffered and died on the cross. This was the day when He made up the jewels for His crown. This was the day when He paid for the robe of righteousness with which He was going to clothe His Bride, the church, consisting of all the Old Testament and New Testament saints which God is pleased to save. Therefore, "in that day" in Malachi 3:17 refers to the time of the cross. But look at Verse 18,
Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
When will we know for sure who the righteous and who the wicked are?
We will not know it in this life, but we will know it on the Last Day, when God has raised up from the grave the bodies of all people, either for rapture or for judgment. Here in Malachi 3:17-18 we see the time of the cross and the judgment of the Last Day next to each other, side by side. And thus we realize that Malachi 4:1 applies both to the time of the cross and to the Judgment on the Last Day.
God writes this way more often, and we will see it if we keep our eyes open to it. For example, in Malachi 4:5, "the great and dreadful (or fearful) day of the Lord" refers to the time of the cross of Christ.
I know that the day the Lord Jesus began to atone for our sins was a dreadful day for Him, but why was it also a fearful day for human beings?
Another example: In Joel, God prophesied here of the coming day of Pentecost in AD 33, and God also mentioned the time of the cross in verse 31. There we read,
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
When was the fulfillment of this prophecy?
God indicated in Acts 2:16 that Pentecost in AD 33 was the fulfillment of this prophesy. God says, through the mouth of the Apostle Peter,
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:
Indeed there was a darkness of about 3 hours when Christ hung on the cross. And indeed there was a moon eclipse on the evening of the Passover, in the year AD 33, where the moon turned to a reddish color, because the blue from the sunrays have been scattered by the earth's atmosphere.
But why did God use such ominous language?
This is language that points to the end of the world, when "the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light" (Matthew 24:29).
Why would God use such ominous language?
God does that to make it absolutely clear to us that He is a sovereign God who is sovereign in all things, and that means all things!
God's providence is at work in all things, in all of history, in all earthquakes, hurricanes, wars, and even whether my car will start this morning. There are only two things God cannot do, and God will not do. God cannot sin, and God will not tempt anyone to sin.
"Those that Fear My Name" (Malachi 3:16, 4:2, Romans 3:11,18, Revelation 19:13, 22:18, John 8:12, Romans 8:6-7, James 4:6)
Who are those that fear God and that fear His Name?
Those that believe on Christ do not fear Satan any more, and they do not fear Hell any more, because they believe that Christ will be on their side.
But do they fear God?
Yes, they do fear God; but they do not fear Him as someone who will hurt them, but they respect Him as Almighty God who has all the powers of the universe, and who will protect them from Satan and al the wicked powers in high places. It is interesting to see the connection between Malachi 3:16 and Malachi 4:2. God speaks about those who fear Him in Malachi 3:16,
Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name.
Do you think that God listened and learned about those who fear Him, and as a result God wrote their names in a Book of Remembrance, which is the Book of Life?
That is an absolutely impossible idea, because it implies that God would grow wiser as time goes on.
Does God learn from events that are happening in history?
Of course not!
That is not the God whom we worship. The God of the Bible says that "He knows the end from the beginning". This does not just mean that God is omniscient, that He is, but it means that God creates the circumstances so that things come to pass as He designed them, and not because He foresaw them. We must harmonize the Bible. Speaking of the entire human race God says in Romans 3:11, "There is none that seeketh after God", and God says of them in Romans 3:18, "There is no fear of God before their eyes".
Therefore, when we read in Malachi 3:16, "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another", we realize that something special has happened to these people.
They have gotten a different nature than the nature they were born with. In fact, they have become "Born Again", or else they would not behave in such a manner.
And why have they been "Born Again"?
They were chosen by God to inherit eternal life as the Bride of Christ, which means that the Lord Jesus Christ would suffer and die for their sins also. That is why they feared God and feared His Name.
And what is His name?
You might say His name is Jehovah, or His name is Jesus, or His name is Everlasting Father, and we can make a list of over one hundred names of God or of Christ.
But what is the all-inclusive Name of Christ?
For this we have to go to Revelation 19:13, where God writes about Christ in His final battle against Satan and all the followers of Satan. God says in Revelation 19:13, "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God".
That is the all-inclusive Name of Christ: It is The Word of God.
If anyone says that he or she believes on the Name of Christ, ask them if they believe the entire Word of God, including Romans 9 and John 6 and other chapters that are not so popular these days. The Name of Christ is the entire Word of God, from cover to cover, and nothing may be added from dreams or visions or tongues or angel visitations.
"If anyone adds to the words of the prophecy of this Book, then God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this Book".
Now God says in Malachi 4:2,
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
Here is another name of Christ: The Sun of Righteousness.
When Christ says that He is like the Sun, we remember that He said, "I am the Light of the world: He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).
But in Malachi 4:2 God says quite a bit more. A characteristic of the Sun is that it has its own light. The sun is a source of light in itself. So Christ is the Sun of Righteousness. Like the sun He too is a light center, and the light that radiates from Him is Righteousness. In Him there is Righteousness, and from Him Righteousness issues forth unto all, for all, and into all the hearts of those that fear His Name. And this light of Righteousness will continue to radiate from Him into all the world and into the hearts of His elect people until all the darkness of sin shall be completely chased away, and righteousness shall fill all the new creation of the New Heaven & New Earth.
Righteousness is the state of being right with God, in agreement with the will of God. Therefore, Righteousness is in Christ only and can be obtained from Him only. It also means that there is by nature no righteousness in us, and that with us is the darkness of sin and death. We are conceived and born in sin. We are corrupt in our very nature. We are haters of God and of the Law of God, and we have sinned all our life.
"We are carnally minded and are not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be".
Such was the material that Christ had to mold into the shape of the Bride of Christ. That was quite an undertaking.
And do I hear anyone claim that he has made a contribution to this fabulous metamorphosis?
Can anyone claim that his contribution was that he has made a decision to follow Jesus, and that this decision came out of his own good heart?
Let him remember, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble" (James 4:6).
Can anyone be so proud as to ignore that "there is NONE that seeketh after God"?
How is it possible that some forget that a load of sin oppressed us for which we can never atone?
An immense power of corruption had dominion over us and held us in bondage, from which we were incapable of delivering ourselves. We dwelt in the darkness of the shadow of death. And into this darkness came the shining light from Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. We now realize that we do not have any righteousness of our own. Christ is our Righteousness. For this purpose He was ordained from before the foundation of the world, in order that He might be the head of the church forever. And for this purpose He came in the fullness of time, and He came into the flesh. He came with the same flesh and blood and sinews and bones as we all do, except for sin. Therefore He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, but He was not infected with Adam's sin, therefore He was not infected by sinful flesh. He was the Second Adam. Just like the first Adam initially was created without sin, so Christ came without any sin. If He ever had committed one tiny sin, He would no longer qualify for the role of the spotless Lamb of God. He would not qualify to be our Redeemer. But thanks be to God that The Lord Jesus Christ never committed any sin. Indeed, Jesus Christ, the Son of God who has come into the flesh, born of a virgin, made under the Law, was made sin for us though He knew no sin, was crucified and endured the wrath of God in our place, and who arose from the dead on the third day, He is the Sun of Righteousness,
With Healing in His Wings (Malachi 4:2, 1 Corinthians 13:10)
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up frisk as calves of the stall.
Is there healing in His wings?
Righteousness is the very basis and the essence of our healing. As long as we are not righteous before God we have no right even to be healed. It is our sin and our guilt that make us worthy of God's damnation and the Second death. It is the wrath of God that makes us unspeakably miserable. But in His favor there is life. And therefore we can be healed only through the favor of God, which is the grace of God. But His favor is only upon the righteous. Therefore, we must be righteous, justified before God before we can even have the right to be healed. It is the very essence of our healing that we are delivered from the corruption of our carnal nature, in order that we may enjoy the light of life. And so, only the Sun of Righteousness can possibly have healing in His wings.
What are His wings?
His wings are the rays that issue forth from the sun, and in those rays there is a healing power. Through the grace of God, by faith, we must expose our souls to the rays of this glorious Sun of Righteousness so that we may be healed. He can heal us from our stubborn sins, which plague us in this life. Not only will this Sun of Righteousness make us justified before God, but He will also sanctify us in this life by giving us more and more work to do, which qualifies as work that is pleasing to God. Here in this life it is true, only in principle. But in the Day of the Lord, on the Last Day, all shall be perfected. The rays of the Sun of Righteousness shall penetrate into our graves, and change our bodies so that they become glorified bodies like unto the glorious body of our Lord. It is in this way that we shall be complete "sons of God", and we shall be complete as the "Bride of Christ". And then we read here in Malachi 4:2, "and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall".
That is not a translation that fits the context. The context is that of Judgment Day. There is no more growing to do after Judgment Day, because "When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away" (1 Corinthians 13:10).
Therefore a better translation would be: "and ye shall go forth, and frisk as calves of the stall".
When Christ comes again we will be so delighted that we could jump for joy, like calves that are just let out of the stall. Of course, this is just an earthly way of expressing our joy. On that Day of the Lord we will have entered a totally new world, with new bodies that do not resemble our old bodies. How we will express our joy then cannot be described in terms of this world. But we will be grateful, for sure, and we will have the mind of the Lord. In such a state of mind we will tread down the wicked. God says in Malachi 4:3,
"Ye Shall Tread Down the Wicked" (Malachi 4:3, Revelation 14:11, Psalm 137:8-9, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3)
And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.
Who are the wicked?
The wicked are all the unsaved at the time of Christ's return. They are the enemies of Christ, and we will consider them to be our enemies as well.
Will we enjoy doing this?
In this life we do not relish such a thought. It is true that our nature is to seek revenge, but we do not seek revenge to this extent. But when we have entered our life in the presence of God we will also have the mind of God. It is only then that we will understand that an eternity in Hell is a just penalty for all the unsaved of mankind. What we read here in Malachi 4:3 is only an earthly description of our participation in the Judgment process.
For example, why does God write that the wicked "shall be ashes under the soles of your feet"?
It is to indicate that the unsaved shall endure the fires of Hell. But the fires of Hell shall not annihilate them so that they become ashes. No! The Bible is very clear that "the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever" (Revelation 14:11). A second example is given in Psalm 137.
As we approach the end of time this world will move into the church, and the church will be responsible for destroying the last vestiges of the true Gospel, much like what happened when the nation of Babylon overran the nation of Judah. That is why near the end of time the church is called Babylon in Revelation 17 and Revelation 18.
But when God brings judgment on the church He writes in Psalm 137:8-9,
O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
Here again is an earthly description of God's wrath. What God is teaching herewith is that even little children can be subject to the wrath of God. They are not great sinners, but little sinners, and as such they are enemies of God and haters of God. Our role will not be that of children bashers, but that our role will be as judges, judging with Christ is very clear from 1 Corinthians 6:2-3.
1 Corinthians 6:2
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
1 Corinthians 6:3
Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?
The saints shall judge the unsaved of this world, and the saints shall judge the fallen angels.
In what way will we participate in this activity if Christ is also their judge?
We do not know. All we know is that we will be grateful for our salvation when we are with Christ in the New Heaven & New Earth.
How great is our Gratitude? (Matthew 7:13-14, Malachi 3:16)
With Thanksgiving Day just three days ago, I wonder what we as a congregation have been giving thanks for.
Do we realize how close we were to being condemned to Hell?
The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 7:13, "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat". Many, means the majority of mankind, because He said in the next verse, Matthew 7:14, "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it".
It means that the probability that we would be grouped with all those who go to Hell is far greater than the probability that we belong to the few elect.
Do we appreciate this?
If we have faith in the Word of God, and if we find in ourselves an urgent desire to work for the Lord in gratitude for what He has done for us, then we can count ourselves happy that Christ saved us.
Are we grateful for such great salvation?
And does this gratitude show in our actions?
If you have been just barely rescued from a burning house, would you be grateful to your rescuer?
How does our gratitude show?
God says in Malachi 3:16,
"they that feared the LORD spake often one to another".
Can we say that of everyone reading this?
I would like you to meditate on this question:
"Am I grateful for my salvation? And if I am, how does it show?"
By Alfred Chompff