Monday, 22 March 2010

Paradise is a place on earth

A summary of the Bible Hour presentation at the Christadelphian Hall, Blackpool Street, Burton-upon-Trent on Sunday 21st March 2010.

This blog uses Bible references. If you don’t have a Bible, you can find the Bible text online.

‘Paradise’ in the Old Testament

The word ‘paradise’ is of Persian origin, it means an enclosed garden.

In Genesis 2:8 we read of the Garden of Eden. In the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) this is the word ‘paradise’.

Some things we learn about the garden of Eden:
  • It contained all kinds of trees (Genesis 2:9, Ezekiel 31:8-9)
  • It was well watered (Genesis 2:10, Ezekiel 31: 4, 16)
  • It contained gold and precious stones (Genesis 2:12, Ezekiel 28:13)
  • It was a place of joy, gladness, thanksgiving and melody (Isaiah 51:3, see Genesis 3:8 which says literally ‘the sound of God walking in the garden’).

Paradise restored

In Acts 3:19-20 the return of Jesus Christ to the earth is referred to as "times of refreshing" and "times of restoration of all things". In Matthew 19:28 it is referred to as the "regeneration" or ‘rebirth’.

What is it that will be restored?

The future Kingdom of God is described in many places, e.g. Isaiah 35; Isaiah 54:10-14, 60; Jeremiah 31:10-14; Ezekiel 36:33-36. Notice how the Kingdom will have the characteristics of the Garden of Eden which we noticed earlier.

‘Paradise’ in the New Testament

The New Testament mentions ‘paradise’ three times:

1. 2 Corinthians 12:3, which seems to be a vision of the Kingdom of God

2. Revelation 2:7, again looking forward to the Kingdom (compare Genesis 3:22)

3, Luke 23:43. In response to the remarkable confession of faith of the thief who was crucified beside him, Jesus said "Verily I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise" (note that the punctuation is put in by the translators and was not in the original text). It is sometimes suggested that this means the thief went to heaven that day. This can’t be the case because:

  • As we’ve seen, paradise will be on earth, not in heaven
  • the Bible is clear that Jesus died and was buried, was raised, and only after 40 more days ascended to heaven. So what does it mean? The dead are unconscious (Ecclesiastes 9:5-10). When believers die they are said to be asleep (Mark 5:39, John 11:11-14). The thief died that day, and his next waking moment will be in paradise.

The Kingdom of God

In Revelation 21 & 22 we are given a picture of the Kingdom: God dwelling with people; joy and happiness; precious stones and gold; the river of the water of life; the tree of life; no more curse. All references back to the Garden of Eden.

If we show faith in Jesus like that of the thief on the cross, the promise of paradise can be ours too.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Green leaves and rainbows

The Bible is our guidebook from God and we are told in 2 Timothy chapter 3 verse 16 that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God (or God-breathed), and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness". The Bible must therefore be understood as a whole. Each part forms a different "piece of the jigsaw" which when viewed in total provides us with a picture of God’s plan and purpose.

The account of creation in the first few chapters of Genesis tells us that God created the earth in seven days:

Day 1 creation of light
Day 2 separation of the water into sky and sea
Day 3 creation of life on land (plants)
Day 4 creation of the sun, moon and stars (light)
Day 5 creation of fish and birds in the sky and water
Day 6 creation of animals (life)
Day 7 God rested

A pattern seems to emerge within the order of creation shown above. Light, water and life appear to be important here. Patterns and themes emerge throughout the Bible and this being the inspired word of God, these must exist to teach us something. A similar pattern exists within nature (God’s creation). Photosynthesis is the process by which plants acquire their food and energy and is denoted in the following equation:

water + carbon dioxide + light -> sugar + oxygen (life)

Lessons from Noah and the flood
The pattern of water plus light resulting in life is seen again in Genesis chapter 9 verses 13-17. Here God used a rainbow, which is created when sunlight shines through raindrops, to symbolise his promise never to destroy the world by flood again. "I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me an the earth… the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh."

Teaching of Jesus about light, water and eternal life
Jesus taught His disciples that He "is the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." John chapter 8 verse 12. He and his disciples also taught that baptism is essential for salvation. Baptism as described in the New Testament always involves full immersion in water. Romans chapter 6 verses 3 to14 explains why this is so important. The act of being fully immersed in water symbolises the believer associating him/herself with Christ’s death and his/her sins are symbolically buried with Christ. On rising out of the water the believer associates him/herself with Christ’s resurrection and is symbolically raised to a new life as a disciple of Christ. Through Christ’s sacrifice and faith the believer also gains the hope of eternal life in God’s Kingdom which will be established upon the earth when Christ returns. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." John chapter 3 verse 16.

Green leaves and rainbows
Faith is explained in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1 as "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see". We cannot see God but we can see evidence of His creation all around us. Every spring when green leaves rise from the "death" of winter can remind us of the death and resurrection of Christ. Each time we see the beauty of a rainbow we can be reminded of God’s promise of eternal life through faith in His son "the light of the world" and baptism in water.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Sin - the human disease

A summary of the Bible Hour presentation at the Christadelphian Hall, Blackpool Street, Burton-upon-Trent on Sunday 7th March 2010.

This blog uses Bible references. If you don’t have a Bible, you can find the Bible text online.

What is sin?

If you go back to the original languages in which the Bible was written you’ll see that ‘sin’ literally means ‘missing the mark’. Imagine you’re an archer doing target practice. You aim for the bullseye, but you miss. So when you know what you should do but you fail to do it, or when you know you shouldn’t do something but you go ahead and do it anyway – that’s ‘sin’.

The first sin was when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:6). (Incidentally if you compare this verse with 1 John 2:16 you get a comprehensive summary of sin.) Sin happens when we fail to resist temptation. (The process is described in detail in James 1:12-15.)

We’re living under the curse that Adam and Eve brought on the world. We are all prone to sin and we all sin.

Where does sin come from?
Within us. No one is responsible for our sins except ourselves – Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 15:19-20.

The effect of sin

Death. James 1:15.

How depressing is this!

The battle against sin
The Bible contains inspiring accounts of the lives of great and faithful people, who devoted their lives to God’s service. But all of them, somehow and at some time, ‘missed the mark’. Except one …

Jesus Christ was the one human who has never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). By his death he defeated the curse that Adam and Eve brought upon humankind; and if we belong to him, we can share in his victory (Romans 8:1-4).

Christians are not perfect. We still miss the mark a lot of the time, however hard we try (e.g. Romans 7:23). But we have confidence that if we belong to Christ, any and all of our sins will be forgiven – all we have to do is genuinely ‘repent’ (say we’re sorry and mean it).

Where will it end?
Romans chapter 6 is all about baptism. This is how we come to belong to Christ. Verse 23: “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”