Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
I felt moved to write this a while back. It’s my understanding of the overarching narrative of the Bible, centered around the gospel, and why the gospel–why Jesus–is so needed. This Good Friday seemed like an appropriate time to post it. If you’re reading this, I hope it ministers to you.
And remember as you read–however much the darkness currently seems to be winning, Sunday’s on the way.
Eons ago, in the eternal past, the eternal God, Yahweh, the great I Am, for reasons known only to himself, decided to make a family for himself. He created a race of beings that we know by different names – angels, watchers, elohim, sons of God – and he created a universe for them to inhabit and have stewardship over. Like any good parent, Yahweh involved his children in his work and plans and delegated power and authority and responsibilities to them.
But he wasn’t done. He decided to create a second set of children, different from the first, crafted out of the dust of the earth, made in his image and filled with the breath of his Spirit. He first prepared a planet just for them – or rather, for us – and within that planet he prepared a special place. A garden, set upon a holy mountain that intersected with his abode in Heaven, where his human and angelic children could co-exist and have fellowship with him. He gave his new kids dominion over the earth, charging them with its stewardship and with governing it.
But there was a problem. It was a problem that Yahweh had foreseen and planned for before his first creation. In order to be made in his image and have true fellowship with him, his children must all be given free will and agency. The problem is that free will can’t exist without the potential for disobedience, rebellion and sin.
Sure enough, one of his chief angels became full of himself and grew jealous of God and his newest creation, and he rebelled. And when he saw God’s new children and the special place we’d been given, he hatched a scheme to spoil it by tempting these new children to disobey the one command they’d been given.
Sin entered the world, and with it violence and corruption and death and destruction and decay. Generations later, more angels grew jealous and rebelled by coming to earth and further corrupting humanity, not content just to lead us into sinful, destructive practices but corrupting our very DNA by mixing it with their own. Their hybrid offspring, giants, called the Nephilim, overran the earth, committing atrocities against humans and nature and further corrupting Yahweh’s creation.
Yahweh looked down on what had been done and knew it couldn’t be allowed to continue. He chose one man who hadn’t been genetically corrupted, along with his sons and their wives, and preserved them as he flooded the earth to destroy the giants and cleanse it of evil.
But cleansing the earth didn’t cleanse the hearts of the human survivors. Sin was still a part of their genetic makeup. Within a few generations, humanity once again rebelled and rejected their Father. So he disinherited them and handed them over to his angelic sons to govern, while he set one couple apart for himself. An elderly, childless couple from whom he would create a nation of people belonging exclusively to him.
Again, some of these sons of God rebelled against Yahweh and set themselves up as gods over the people, demanding worship and leading them into idolatry and exceedingly corrupt and depraved practices.
Meanwhile, God gave that elderly, infertile couple a miracle baby. And from that son of their old age, he grew his own nation and raised up a leader for them from their own people. He gave them a Law to help them remain set apart and to keep them from straying into the ways of the rebellious nations and their imitation gods, and he gave them a land to call their own.
But the Law, with all its rituals, still couldn’t cleanse their hearts. It provided outward righteousness, but it couldn’t make them inwardly righteous, and again and again, Yahweh’s own special people rejected him and rebelled, wanting to be like the nations around them. So he gave them a king to rule over them. Generations and generations of kings. But the kings themselves rebelled, and led the people in worshiping the imitation gods of the nations instead of worshiping Yahweh.
And so, after centuries of wooing them, pleading with them, warning them, and giving them every opportunity to turn back to him, he gave them up to their enemies, exiled them from the land he’d set apart for them, and sent them into bondage and slavery.
At every turn, this whole human experiment seemed like a failure.
But really, it was all going according to plan.
Because Yahweh is God–omniscient, all-knowing and, well, a lot smarter than we are. A lot smarter than the beings he created who try to pass themselves off as gods, too.
You see, way back in the eternal past, when they, we, and all of this was still being conceived in the mind of God, he was well aware of the problem of free will and that creatures possessed of such an attribute would inevitably fall into sin and corruption and wreak havoc on his creation, and on each other.
And he already had a plan to deal with it.
Besides being the creator of everything, another thing that sets Yahweh apart from the other so-called gods is that he’s one unified being made up of three distinct persons–Father, Son and Spirit, or what we call the Trinity. These are all in perfect union and of one mind and one accord–and they were in agreement that the answer to the problem of free will would be none other than the second person of the Trinity, the Son, also known as the Word of God.
Another miracle baby entered the world. The Word made flesh, the Son of God in a manger, the second person of Yahweh himself come down, not just to interact with us on the mountain top, but all the way down into our suffering and muck, to live, suffer and die as one of us, so that we could live forever with him.
Let this sink in: before he ever created a single being, Father, Son and Spirit all knew that their created children would rebel and fall into bondage to sin and death, that they would by and large spurn and reject him. And they knew and agreed that the Son would enter this world as God incarnate, Jesus the Messiah, and give his life to save us.
And they thought it was worth it to make us anyway, free will and all.
God loved us so much, even then, that he gave us the freedom to rebel and reject him. And though it pained him to let us live with the consequences, he allowed it to show us how dark, painful and meaningless life is apart from him. He allowed his own special nation to fail to keep the law, to turn away from him again and again. He allowed it in order to show them their need for a savior, for a better mediator than the human high priest who made sacrifices for them year after year–for a perfect Lamb of God who is also our Great High Priest, who gave himself as the once and final sacrifice to satisfy the requirement of the law, cleanse us of our sins, and restore not just God’s chosen nation, but all of the disinherited nations as well–all humanity–to eternal fellowship with our creator.
And still, even now, he gives us the freedom to choose. We can choose Jesus and eternal life in his Kingdom and accept the free gift of salvation, bought and paid for with his blood.
Or we can refuse it and remain in our sins, in bondage and slavery to the darkness and the imitation gods of the world.
Those of us who choose Jesus will one day enter into his Father’s eternal Kingdom, after he does away with the old creation and makes all things new. And we will enter with our free will intact. But there will no longer be a danger that we’ll rebel and reintroduce sin into this new creation, because like an obstinate child who’s allowed to touch a hot stove, we’ll have learned our lesson the hard way. All these long millennia of human history, of death and decay, of evil and corruption, of suffering and oppression and hardship and sorrow, will have effectively inoculated us against using our freedom to defy God and his infinite wisdom.
And those who don’t learn that lesson? Who refuse to give their lives to Christ? Who believe they know better than God? Who choose to remain in their sin? They won’t be allowed to continue. Like a cancerous tumor, they’ll be rooted out and eradicated at the final judgment, cast into the Lake of Fire to perish along with their progenitor, Satan, that first prideful, rebellious elohim who started it all, where their corruption won’t be allowed to touch God’s new creation or his faithful children.
And even in that final act of judgment is mercy, because he won’t force you to spend eternity with him if you don’t want to.
The choice is yours.
“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” –Joshua 24:15