The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

The Unfolding Revelation of Salvation (for One People of God)

The more I read the Scriptures, the more I realize the Book of God is one progressive written revelation–a revelation of God’s plan of salvation for all people.

Even the word “revelation” has within it a progression from something that is not yet revealed, to something that becomes manifest. Between the unrevealed and therevealed is the progression. In Scripture, the “manifold” (many folds) wisdom of God is peeled back layer by layer, to gradually reveal both His justice and His mercy, His authority and His voluntary humility, His unequaled greatness and His willingness to condescend to help the helpless. Reading and grasping the big picture in a progression of real historical events leaves one overwhelmed at the creative genius of our God.

All Scripture points to Jesus, the means of Salvation! But as you journey from Genesis to Revelation, Redemption is opened bit by bit.

Let’s begin in Genesis.

When there were only two human beings on the earth that needed redemption, God began His redemption story. When they brought sin into the world by their disobedience, He convicted them, subjected them to severe consequences, and promised–in Gen. 3:15–that there would be enmity between satan and the woman’s Seed, but the Seed would win the battle. This “Seed” was the first mention of Jesus Christ, the only Redeemer and Savior for sinners. The covering of skin over Adam and Eve’s nakedness pictured the covering we receive when our sins are atoned for and forgiven–a costly covering bought with the death of the Innocent and Holy God. “The woman” figuratively was the Church. God’s Church–those who belonged to God by faith–would go on to bring forth the Seed who would bruise the serpent’s head and rescue sinners from his kingdom.

The first two children born on the earth became a picture of the division that exists between those who seek to please God and those who don’t. Cain slew Abel because his brother’s deeds were righteous, and the Church’s first martyr was safely deposited under the altar of God, to rest there until the full number of his righteous brethren were also killed. (Rev. 6:9-11)

In the days of Noah, the Lord revealed His hatred for sin and many aspects of His means of redemption and the future final judgment. Only those who believe His warnings and work out their salvation with fear and trembling–in accordance with His commands–would be saved. Noah was the only patriarch of his time with ears to hear, signifying that comparatively few will be saved. He followed the Lord’s blueprint exactly, and his family survived to enjoy the new world. The ark was a type of salvation in Christ. When God shut the door on the ark, He demonstrated that the “day of salvation” would come to an end; thus the only safe time to get right with God is “Today.” The human rejection of salvation in Noah’s day, while two of each animal were saved, pictures how Jesus came to His own, but most of His own received Him not–and Gentiles were saved instead. Noah’s family pictured God’s Church (throughout all of history) issuing the invitation, and storing up such food as would sustain believers while they waited for the new world. And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. (Lk. 17:26-27) Yes, the days of Noah pointed to future days, days which seem to be fast approaching.

Why did the Lord choose Abraham? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring on Abraham that which he has spoken of him. (Gen. 18:19) Here was another man seeking God, and he was also chosen to be an instrument of God’s grace. He believed the Word of God that he would have a child, he obeyed God’s command to leave his people and become a sojourner, and his faith was counted as righteousness. A promise was made to him that because of his obedience, in his Seed, all nations will be blessed (Gen. 22:18). It was, from the beginning, a promise with global implications. He would be the father not just of one nation, but of many (Gen. 17:4). Now who do you suppose this Seed was by whom all nations would be blessed? Yes, back in Genesis 3, we learned of a Seed who would crush satan’s head. The apostle Paul later identifies this same Seed as Christ. He tells us the promises to Abraham are fulfilled in Christ, and anyone who is Christ’s is Abraham’s seed and inherits the promise (Gal. 3:16; 29). Paul stated that in making the promises to Abraham, God had preached the gospel to him and foretold how Gentiles would be saved(Gal. 3:8). The beautiful, glorious GOSPEL, my friends! It was being unfolded in Abraham’s day and Abraham understood it, keeping himself as a foreigner even in “the land of promise,” always waiting for the heavenly city.

Next we come to Isaac, who was chosen over Ishmael even though both sons came from Abraham. God did not choose by blood or tradition; a faith response to His promises is what He looked for. Sarah foolishly tried to make God’s promise come true before the proper time by “helping” her husband father the child Ishmael through Hagar. Poor Hagar was caught in Sarah’s foolish act of the flesh, but God took care of her and her child, and continued with His plan, using each event to teach us. Isaac was born by a miracle of God, and received the blessing of Abraham’s inheritance. And what do these things mean? Years later, the mystery is explained by Paul. Hagar and Ishmael represent children born according to the flesh–Jews who think they are Abraham’s children by blood or religious ritual alone, who count upon having the letter of the law without having the Spirit who wrote it. (Though Paul applied it to the Jews of his day, I believe it also applies to Gentiles who think they are saved through the same fleshly means.) Sarah and Isaac represent the TRUE CHURCH–those who are born by a miracle of God and receive Abraham’s inheritance–salvation–by faith! Sarah herself pictured the “Jerusalem Above,” the mother of the free (for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom). And so the very gospel that brings salvation to those who are born of the Spirit–not the flesh–came even more into view. (Gal. 4:22-31)

Jacob wrestled with God. He had desired the birthright of his brother Esau and deceived him to get it. As a man living a real life in God’s history, he needed to be broken and fully submitted to God, but his story became yet another picture of the gospel. The “birthright” of salvation can be taken from us and given to another who wants it more, if we place too little value upon it. Esau became a picture of those who sell the birthright (salvation) for temporary pleasure (Heb. 12:16). Again, bloodline did not seal anyone in the promise. God has always retained the right to choose only those who seek Him and place value upon His Word. Jacob later saw in a vision a ladder reaching from earth to heaven. Upon awaking, he exclaimed that he was in “the house of God.” (Gen. 28:12-17) This dream foretold the mediation of the Savior, who would come to earth and be the Way by which men are reconciled to God. Those thus reconciled would be His House, His very dwelling place!

Jacob had twelve sons, one of which became a picture of the Messiah/Seed. Joseph dreamed his brothers bowed down to him, and he was hated for this and his father’s favoritism toward him. Clothed in a coat of many colors, perhaps depicting the international scope of Christ’s ministry, Joseph’s close relationship with his father became unbearable to his brothers. Rather than doing what was right themselves, they wanted to kill the one who exposed their own unrighteousness. When they sold him to traveling merchants to be rid of him, they could not have known that in time, the Jews would “sell” their very Deliverer–the promised Seed–to be crucified, thus fulfilling the unfolding picture. In spite of much personal suffering, Joseph went on to become the unlikely savior of Egypt and all who would come to him for food–unfolding the truth that Jesus is the Savior of the world and all must come to Him for the bread of life. Even Israel (Jacob) had to come to Joseph to live, showing that even that nation must be saved by Jesus. Joseph’s brothers did bow before him, looking for mercy, just as all Jesus’ “brothers” must do to be saved. As Joseph, Jesus was “fruitful in the land of His affliction”–the earth. The Word of God has accomplished what He was sent to do.

When the children of Jacob/Israel were in bondage in Egypt, God raised up a deliverer, the humble Moses. The bondage of Israel represents the slavery to sin all sinners labor beneath. Pharaoh represents the cruel king of this dark kingdom–satan. He is a harsh taskmaster, forcing sinners to attempt what will always be impossible. Moses was saved from infanticide just as the Seed/Christ would later be saved–the dragon/satan always nipping at His heels and trying to abort the ministry of the One who would bruise his head. Moses, as a picture of Christ, battled against Pharoah–not with carnal weapons, but with the Word of the Lord and signs and plagues sent from heaven. The Exodus he led out of Egypt was a picture of the glorious Lord Jesus leading those who trust in Him out of the world and into the kingdom of God. The Israelites crossed the Jordan river safely, while Pharaoh and his army were drowned; this pictured the baptism into death God’s people must undergo to be saved, and also pictured the ultimate overthrowing of satan and those who hate God’s people.

Aaron, the High Priest of the wilderness tabernacle, was a direct picture of Jesus–the High Priest to come who would pass through the very heavens to mediate for His people (Heb. 4:14). While Moses was a shepherd and a prophet, a humble man who was willing to die for his people, Aaron sprinkled innocent blood on the mercy seat to atone for the nation’s sins. Both men, fallible as they were, were foreshadowing the works of the Seed/Messiah to come.

The sacrifices of animals were never able to atone for sin (Heb. 10:4). This sacrificial system given to the Hebrew family, including the blueprint for the tabernacle, was given as a copy of a reality which already existed in heaven(Heb. 8:5). The veil which kept the people from the inner sanctuary signified thatthe Way into the Most Holy place was not yet revealed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. It was a mere illustration of the reality which would soon be manifest. Christ would come and officiate in the “more perfect tabernacle not made with hands…not of this creation” (Heb. 9:7-11). As Mediator of the New Covenant, Jesus redeemed even the sins committed under the first covenant (Heb. 9:15). Thus He fulfilled the Old Testament shadow and became the Savior of everyone who ever lived, or would live, a life of repentance and faith.

By the time Joshua led the Hebrews into Canaan, there had already been a huge “cutting off” of those who did not have faith. The older generation, with exception of Joshua and Caleb, perished and never inherited the shadow of promise. They did not believe God, and they continually tested Him in spite of His past faithfulness. Neither their lineage nor their participation in the tabernacle rituals were able to secure for them an entrance into “the promised land”; thus they became an example to those who would come after, that we must overcome temptations and obey the Lord if we want to inherit the real promise (I Cor. 10:1-13). Joshua was a type of Christ, leading the people in battle as Christ leads those soldiers who side with Him (2 Tim. 2:33). Remember, however, that Joshua himself worshiped the Commander of the Army of the Lord, Who refused to be identified as fighting for either Joshua or the enemy. He fought only for the Lord (Josh. 5:13-15), signifying that God’s work is for His own glory, and He is not a respecter of persons. Joshua’s rescue of the Gentile Rahab from the city of Jericho was an early example of God’s grafting Gentiles into His spiritual nation. Heb. 11:31 declares that Rahab was saved by her faith!

David was chosen from among his more likely brothers to be king of Israel, demonstrating again that God looks upon the heart in His choices. As a shepherd who risked his life battling bear and lion to save his sheep, David demonstrated the heart of the coming Messiah who would lay down His life for His friends. As the youth armed with boyish weapons courageously facing the giant, he demonstrated how Christ would defeat satan with unlikely weapons because God was with Him. As the anointed king living like a refugee in the wilderness, hunted incessantly by jealous Saul, and supported by his faithful “mighty men,” he again demonstrated aspects of Jesus’ ministry. Before His time to die had come, there were unsuccessful attempts on Jesus’ life. Those seeking power in this world were and still are jealous of Jesus; they can no longer kill this overcoming King, so they persecute and kill His followers. Nevertheless Jesus’ disciples are His “mighty men.” They might not look like much in the world’s eyes, but those who know their God (Jesus) do exploits (Dan. 11:32).

For the sake of time, I will mention only two more collections of men that manifested the glory of God’s salvation–the judges and prophets of Israel.

The judges of Israel rose in a time when men were doing “what was right in their own eyes.” Rather than allowing the old covenant to lead them to faith in their Savior (Gal. 3:24), many were leaving God for the idols of the heathen. They continued to “honor God with their lips,” while withholding their hearts from the Spirit’s gracious influence (Isa. 29:13). They continued to circumcise their flesh, but would not circumcise their hearts. Judges were raised up by God to win battles and bring stability to the nation. Jesus promised His disciples that they would sit on twelve thrones judging Israel. I believe they are already on those thrones judging the Israel of God (the church). Some of His disciples were used to give us the New Testament Scriptures, by which we today judge all matters in the church. And in some sense, all God’s church members are called to judge in the church (I Cor. 5). Through righteous judgment, we rebuke impurity in those who say they are God’s, but do what is right in their own eyes, and we overcome the lies that continually try to lead God’s people off course.

Next came the prophets, pleading for Israel’s repentance and warning of God’s judgment if they should refuse. God’s people was His Bride, and she was meant to be faithful to Him. But most (thankfully, not all) under the old covenant were unfaithful, and turned God’s glorious unfolding gospel on its head by saying God had delivered them so they could now sin with impunity (Jer. 7:1-15). They insisted they could not be destroyed because they were “the people of God” and God was with them, deliberately forgetting that the promises had always included curses on the disobedient. (Does this sound familiar? The same sin-excusing doctrine is preached in many churches today–Jude 3-4). They persecuted, and sometimes killed, the prophets sent to them. Ultimately, Jesus would be THE Prophet Moses said would come, to bless the people by turning them away from their sins (Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:26). As the prophets came with the word of the Lord in the Old Testament, God has now spoken to us “in these last days” through Jesus (Heb. 1:1-2). He was crucified by those He came to save. Jesus taught that His disciples would also be mistreated like the prophets, but such are blessed and will inherit the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:10-12).

After years of prophetic silence, John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah and anounced that the Kingdom of God was here–not just in type, but in reality! The time for wishy-washiness was over; repent and believe the gospel or be banished from the kingdom! Only the repentant would be accepted.

Jesus came also calling for repentance. He did many miracles to support His claim to be God come in the flesh. He rebuked and corrected His enemies, who were perverting the truth with their professed adherence to the letter of the Law and purposeful ignoring of its spiritual intent. He openly declared that all things written in the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms about Him would be fulfilled (Lk. 24:44).

The layers that had been unfolding over time suddenly revealed to the world the Plan of Salvation in all of its manifold beauty. He was lifted up, and He drew all men to Himself. The King of Glory didn’t look like much to carnal eyes, but the spiritually reborn had found the One whom their soul loved. Those who stumbled over Him, being disobedient, found themselves on the outside of a supernatural kingdom that can only be entered by the supernatural Door. And thus the Story reached its grand climax.

The examples I shared in this paper suffice to show us that Scripture is one beautiful unfolding revelation of one plan of salvation offered to all people. In the next post, I will try to explain why many people do not recognize the seemlessness of this beautiful redemption story in Scripture, but instead think there are two groups of “chosen people” and two “plans of salvation.” But for now, I want to end this writing focused on the amazing Truth–

God’s Kingdom/Church has been established on His holy mountain. The Seed of Gen. 3 has come and bruised the serpent’s head. God’s King is on His throne never to be de-throned, and His kingdom is advancing by the Word of Truth, by the power of God, and by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left (2 Cor. 6:7). As a kingdom which is not of this world, it is neither defended nor destroyed by anything the god of this world can create. Jerusalem Above is the eternal city of refuge to which poor sinners can, forsaking their sins, flee in good faith that they will find mercy and life.

The Gospel message of salvation–something Paul called “the revelation of the mystery”– has been fully opened to our minds by Jesus Christ, who fulfilled all things. The Old Testament prophets had “the Spirit of Christ in them,” and they prophesied of “the grace that would come to you,” says Peter (I Pet. 1:10-12). John called it “the everlasting Gospel” (Rev. 14:6) and referred to Jesus as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:7). The Book of Revelation wraps up what began in Genesis–the story of how the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world, defeats every enemy including death, and inherits the nations. Praise be to Him forever!

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