Tag Archives: eschatology

Seven Reasons to Study Eschatology

One gripping and distinct feature of biblical Christianity is that it is forward-looking. God has spoken authoritatively about the future in His word, the Bible. Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and other world religions each have their own doctrine of the future, but they are not as comprehensive and convincing, nor as fascinating and terrifying as the Bible’s teaching on the future. They all pale in comparison like a penny to a planet.

The word of God covers it all, like a reporter from the future. In the Bible, God tells us that there is life after death, that we must face Him in judgment, and that life will go on well after you take your final breath. But the Bible’s teaching on the future is not limited to eternity in heaven or hell—it also explains what God will do in the future to bring history to an end. God has a plan for the future. He will work in history to accomplish His purposes. The Bible tells us what will happen to us as individuals in eternity as well as what will happen to the world in history.

The branch of theology devoted to the study of the future is called eschatology. The Greek word eschatos means “last” or “end,” and eschatology is the study (the ology) of the end, or the study of the last things. Eschatology is the study of the Bible’s teaching on the future. When we study eschatology, we engage the plethora of biblical authors who were inspired by the Spirit of God, as He gave them “reports” about the future. We listen to John who was caught up in the Spirit when he penned the book of Revelation. We attend to the teachings of Peter, Paul, James, and Jude as God disclosed to them the events of the future by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And most importantly, we also hearken to Jesus, the eternal Lord, who told us what to expect in the future and in the life to come.

But why study eschatology? Why learn what the Bible teaches about the future? After all, isn’t eschatology confusing and only understood by scholars and pastors?

To be fair, eschatology can be confusing and it has certainly been muddied by years of misinterpretation and misrepresentation. Modern-day eschatology can be like a supreme pizza with too many toppings—nothing more than an unappealing mess. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can clearly understand what the Bible teaches about the future through careful and faithful study. And here is why you ought to do so:

Reason #1: Because You Cannot Know the Future Without Eschatology

Human beings have memory of the past and awareness of the present, but we do not have the ability to foresee the future. You might have flashbacks, but you cannot have flashforwards. Precognition and perception of the future is reserved for Doctor Strange and the God of the Bible—and only one truly exists (sorry, Marvel fans). We may make reasonable predictions about the future based on patterns or natural order, but we do not inherently possess the ability to forecast future events with exact precision. Only God knows the future—He is omniscient or all-knowing. “He knows everything,” John wrote (1 John 3:20b). His understanding is beyond measure and He knows everything about everything. He is the author and possessor of the only infinite encyclopedia.

Thankfully for us, the God who knows the future (and ordained it) has revealed the events of the future, to some extent, in His word. God has disclosed in the Scriptures what are the grandiose eschatological events that will affect the entire universe, as well as what will happen to each individual person in eternity, based on their belief or rejection of Christ as Savior and Lord.

As Wayne Grudem aptly stated, “Although we cannot know everything about the future, God knows everything about the future and he has in Scripture told us about the major events yet to come in the history of the universe. About these events occurring we can have absolute confidence because God is never wrong and never lies.”1

Reason #2: Because Eschatology Is in the Bible

You should study eschatology simply because it is biblical content. Everything in Scripture is profitable for the believer (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and that includes the doctrine of the future. True, nowhere in Scripture is it written, “Thou shalt study eschatology,” but this is one area of theology that you are specifically exhorted to get right.

That is what the apostle Paul implied in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In this passage, Paul explained that death is only “sleep” for believers, since Christ will come again in a glorious return to “wake up” believers in resurrection. He dealt with the future in this text—eschatology. But notice how he prefaces the passage: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (v. 13). Paul did not want the Thessalonians to be ignorant or uninformed about death, “the coming of the Lord,” and the resurrection when believers “will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (v. 15, 17). He wanted them to be informed as opposed to uninformed about futuristic events.

For Paul to say this means it is possible to be either informed or uninformed about eschatology. You can have the right information, the wrong information, or no information about the future. But you can and should be correctly informed. It is possible to possess correct knowledge about the future and it is expected that you do what is necessary to possess it.

Reason #3: Because False Ideas Abound

No area of theology is as rife with false ideas as eschatology (soteriology is a close second). Useless speculations and unbiblical propositions swarm the field of eschatology like a diamond ring in a public trash can—it’s hard to see the good stuff for the abundance of garbage. Shelves of misleading books have been published on the end times by those claiming to be evangelicals as well as liberal theologians who treat the Bible like Silly Putty, modifying it in anyway they want. And every year, dozens of new bizarre and bogus eschatological books fly off the press. You can count on it—if Israel fires a missile, if the United States votes for a new President, or if the moon burns red in an astronomical anomaly—someone will fill their pocket by releasing another phony volume on how the Bible supposedly predicts such matters.

Turn on the television and you’ll find a plethora of late-night prophetic “experts” whose only real expertise is falsehood. Jim Bakker promotes the sale of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods on his television program, since apparently the Bible prophesies a famine in the 21st century. Irvin Baxter, who hosts Understanding the Endtime, teaches on his one-hour program that the Bible mentions the United States, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and other biblical prophecies which are being fulfilled before our eyes by current events. During It’s Supernatural, host Sid Roth interviews guests who have visited heaven in near-death experiences and crazed charismatics who claim God spoke directly to them about how Russia will lead the way to the New World Order.

These dangerous wolves and their deadly ideas will remain abundant since they have convenient explanations for a confusing subject. And they will continue to have a bounty of material since there will always be wars, earthquakes, planetary phenomena, and technological advancements.

The temptation to be deceived and the susceptibility to circumvent biblical truth is especially prevalent in the study of eschatology, since it is sometimes puzzling and complex. By the way, if we believe that we are exempt from deception in our own eschatology, then we carelessly assume that we are better than the Thessalonians and need no warning from the apostle Paul! He wrote to them: “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3a). He did not want them to be unsettled or deceived in their thinking about the second coming and eschatological events—which means it is possible to be deceived and unsettled.

The final and only authoritative word on the second coming, the end times, and the future is the word of God. The way to determine if a stick is crooked is to lay a straight one beside it—and studying the Bible’s teaching on eschatology is the only way to avoid crooked deception. Proper interpretation will prevent you from falling into parlous deception (or it may rescue you from it).

Reason #4: Because Clarity is Possible and Confusion is Avoidable

Many people drive past the study of eschatology because it appears to be complicated and baffling. Unfortunately, eschatology has been understood as nothing more than perplexing charts, heated arguments, endless “isms,” and biblical math. This is a serious underestimation, to say the least, for biblical eschatology is so much more.

Certainly, God is not responsible for the confusion that has infiltrated eschatology. He is not the author of confusion and His word is clear and understandable (1 Corinthians 14:33). The responsible party for confusion, then, must be sinful and fallible men.

Why, then, is eschatology sometimes unsettling and confusing? Here’s how I see it: on The Price is Right, each audience member shouts a different answer to help the contestant make the right call on the value of an item. But it’s nothing more than annoying noise because of the abundance of answers. Does that mean there is no correct answer? No, but it makes it difficult—nearly impossible—to discern the right answer. Likewise, understanding what the Bible truly teaches about the future is challenging because everyone is shouting different answers—but that doesn’t mean the right answer is undiscoverable.

Again, Paul implied in 1 Thessalonians 4 that you can have the right biblical information about the future. And he also implied in 2 Thessalonians 2 that it is possible not to be deceived regarding eschatological matters. A biblical and thoroughly correct understanding of eschatology is attainable. The study of eschatology is definitely demanding and difficult, but it does not have to be disorienting. The right answer is out there—the difficulty lies in muting those who shout the wrong answers.

Reason #5: Because Eschatology Affects Your Life in the Present

“I’ll be by your office between 9 and 10 this morning,” a church member assured. Did they mean 9:15 or 9:59? Well, I didn’t have that information. All I knew is that they would visit me in the near future. And I conducted myself accordingly by waiting for them by the church door. What I knew about the future affected what I did in the present.

When you learn and discover what the Bible says about the future, your life in the present is directly impacted. What you do today is always governed by what you know will happen tomorrow. And when you know for certain, for instance, that Christ will visit the earth again in glory and judgment (as the Bible teaches), you will stand by the door in anticipation! His second appearance is guaranteed, unavoidable, drawing nearer, and no man knows the day or hour when it will be (Matthew 24:36). Knowing this truth about the future compels you to do something about it now.

Eschatology enables faithfulness in the present. As John Frame wrote, “So far as I can see, every Bible passage about the return of Christ is written for a practical purpose—not to help us to develop a theory of history, but to motivate our obedience.”2 The promise of a new heavens and new earth encourages you to abandon worldliness. The reality of belonging to the kingdom of God now prevents a toxic obsession with the affairs of earthly kingdoms and nations. The certainty of impending (and ongoing) state-sponsored persecution of the church compels you to stick close with the local church, in preparation to suffer and die together. What is done in the present is determined by what is to come in the future (at least, it ought to be).

I’ve often heard, “Why concern myself with what’s going to happen in the future? What’s gonna happen is gonna happen, so shouldn’t we focus instead on evangelism, Christian living, and figuring out how to grow closer to God?” Interestingly, biblical eschatology is what provides clarity and perspective on all those crucial matters. Eschatology fills the fuel tank of passion in evangelism. Eschatology keeps you glued to the right path. And nothing will compel you to grow closer to God than knowing that the day of the Lord grows closer (which is eschatology). Eschatology may be concerned with the then, but it is certainly for the now.

Reason #6: Because You Cannot Prepare for the Future Without Eschatology

You can’t prepare for something if you don’t know it’s coming. If I had no knowledge of my church member’s intent to fellowship in my office that morning—I might have missed an important visit. If you missed the emergency weather warnings on the morning news, you may get caught in a tornado on your way to work. If you toss a summons from the courthouse that states that on such-and-such date you are to appear in court for a speeding ticket, you may end up paying more than a small fine!

If you do not know that Christ is coming again, you may be on the wrong side of the most important visit in history. If you miss the warnings in Scripture about the storm of God’s wrath that Christ will unleash at His Parousia, you will get caught in more than a tornado. If you ignore the clear statements in the Bible that you will be judged on the Final Day, you will pay more than you could ever imagine.

You must know eschatology to be prepared for the redemptive events of the future. But conversely, you need biblical eschatology to avoid preparing for something that will never happen. Many believe credit cards and vaccines are the mark of the beast. More believe that Joe Biden is the antichrist (like literally every other United States President). And some hold that the moving of the United States embassy to Jerusalem is an undeniable sign of the end. Here’s the bottom line: your heart won’t wander into these endless and meaningless speculations about the future when you are firmly planted in the Scripture’s teaching on the future.

Reason #7: Because Eschatology is Encouraging

As stated earlier, it is lamentable that eschatology has been reduced to a puzzle of confusion. This grave miscalculation of the value of biblical eschatology has caused many Christians to forfeit one of its most rewarding benefits: encouragement. Surprisingly, it is eschatology that will lift your head and lighten your heart. Tell me—what is more encouraging than knowing that Jesus is coming to earth to bring grace and reward? What is more encouraging than knowing Christ will come again to usher in a new heavens and new earth? What is more encouraging than knowing He will transform your lowly body and gather you unto Himself?

When you are troubled with guilt, study eschatology—it tells you that you will be guiltless on the day of Christ’s coming (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13). When you are weary of this present world and physically afflicted with bodily aliments, study eschatology. It assures you that the Savior will “transform [your] lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20). When you are exhausted from grief, study eschatology. It reveals that Christ will bring heaven to earth for every believer and, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). When seeking things above and living for the kingdom becomes burdensome, study eschatology. It proclaims that such faithfulness is worth it because, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).

Conclusion

How can you get started in your study of eschatology? There will be more on this later. This is only the first of many forthcoming posts in a series on biblical eschatology. To the best of my ability, I will cover it all right here on the blog. I will discuss the central eschatological passages in Scripture, interact with all the main viewpoints, and discuss topics like the rapture, the great tribulation, the antichrist, Israel and the church, the kingdom of God, the millennial reign of Christ, and much more. But if you want to get started studying eschatology, I recommend reading The Bible and the Future by Anthony Hoekema, Kingdom Come by Sam Storms, A Case for Amillennialism by Kim Riddlebarger, and The Presence of the Future by George Ladd. For works more systematic and more appropriate for study, see the volumes Systematic Theology by John Frame and The Christian Faith by Michael Horton.

  1. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1091.
  2. John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2013), 1094.

Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Beagle).

You’ve Got Questions: What Does “Blessed Are the Meek” Mean (Matt. 5:5)?

You’ve Got Questions: What Does “Blessed Are the Meek” Mean (Matt. 5:5)?

Before answering this question, it’s important to see the obvious logical connection between these different Beatitudes. Clearly, each one follows on from what has gone before. Also, the Beatitudes, as they proceed, become increasingly difficult. In the first Beatitude (Matt. 5:3), we are asked to recognize our spiritual poverty apart from God. When we truly realize our spiritual poorness apart from God, we inevitably become “poor in spirit.” That in turn leads to the second state in which, realizing our own sinfulness and our own true nature, realizing that we are so helpless because of the indwelling sin within us, we become godly mourners (Mat. 5:4). If these things are present, then it follows that we would reach a point at which we become concerned about other people. That’s where meekness comes in. A man can never be meek unless he is poor in spirit. A man can never be a meek unless he has seen himself as a vile sinner.

What then, is the meaning of meek? The Greek word for meek here is praus, which means to be mild, or gentle. The same Greek term is used of Jesus’ triumphal entry when Matthew quotes Zechariah 9:9, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble (praus), and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden” (Matt. 21:5). Meekness is very similar to “poor in spirit,” but it is not exactly the same thing. Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others. It is my attitude towards myself, and it is an expression of that in my relationship to others. Meekness does not weakness. It doesn’t mean laziness. Meekness does not mean niceness. Meekness is compatible with great strength and it is compatible with great authority and power (as we will see). When a man truly sees himself for what he is, no one can say anything about him that is too bad. “He that is down needs fear no fall”—John Bunyan. When we are meek, there will a be a complete absence of the spirit of retaliation, having our own back or seeing that the other person “pays for it.”

Who is this meek person? What is he like? Since this is a hard word to define, perhaps it is best to see examples of meekness to better understand what it means:

Abraham. After God had called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldeans to the Promised Land and had made the marvelous unconditional covenant with him, a dispute about grazing lands arose between the servants of Abraham and those of his nephew Lot. All of the land of Canaan had been promised to Abraham. He was God’s chosen man and the Father of God’s chosen people. Lot, on the other hand, was essentially a “hanger-on,” an in-law who was largely dependent on Abraham for his welfare and safety. Yet, as the story reads, Abraham willingly let Lot take whatever land he wanted, thus giving up his rights for the sake of his nephew, for the sake of harmony between their households. “Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left” (Genesis 13:8-9). That is a great example of meekness.

Joseph. You know the story. he was abused by his jealous brothers and eventually sold into slavery. Soon he came to be second only to Pharaoh in Egypt and he was in a position to take sever vengeance on his brothers. When they came to Egypt asking for grain for their starving families, Joseph could easily have refused, and he could have even put his brothers into more severe slavery than into which they had sold him! Yet he had only forgiveness and love for them. Speaking to his brothers, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors” (Genesis 45:5-7). Joseph understood that it was God’s place to judge and his to forgive and help. His is a great example of true meekness.

David. He was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to replace Saul as Israel’s king. But when, in the cave of Engedi, he had the opportunity to take Saul’s life, as Saul often had tried to take his, David refused to do so. “So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way” (1 Sam. 24:7). David presents before us a great example of meekness.

Jesus. He created this world, and we corrupted it with our sin. Christ is God and that means He is more powerful than we can imagine and more wise than we can imagine. We are dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1), and we will pay the price for our sins (Rom. 6:23), if nothing is done about God’s wrath against us and our terrible condition apart from Him. Christ became a man, going through our struggles, weaknesses and difficulties. Eventually He died a humiliating death that we might live life eternal. Paul expresses this truth: “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). Christ has demonstrated the greatest example of meekness. (For further study of Christ’s meekness, see Christ’s Supreme Example of Humility)

For further reading, please consult Sermon on the Mount: The Meek

Sermon on the Mount: The Meek

Sermon on the Mount: The Meek (Matt. 5:5)

“The Christian is altogether different from the world. He is a new man, a new creation; he belongs to an entirely different kingdom. And not only is the world unlike him; it cannot possibly understand him.”—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1)

In our consideration of the Beatitudes, we have already seen that Jesus turns the world’s ideas upside down. The world thinks in terms of strength, power, of ability, self-assurance and aggressiveness. But Jesus says just the opposite in the third Beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). Think about what a shock this statement was to the Jews of Jesus’ day. They had ideas of the kingdom which were not only materialistic but military also, and to them the Messiah was the One who was going to lead them to victory. So they were thinking in terms of conquest and fighting in a material sense, and immediately Christ dismisses all that.

The Text

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

The Meaning of Meekness

It’s important to see the obvious logical connection between these different Beatitudes. Clearly, each one follows on from what has gone before. Also, the Beatitudes, as they proceed, become increasingly difficult. In the first Beatitude (Matt. 5:3), we are asked to recognize our spiritual poverty apart from God. When we truly realize our spiritual poorness apart from God, we inevitably become “poor in spirit.” That in turn leads to the second state in which, realizing our own sinfulness and our own true nature, realizing that we are so helpless because of the indwelling sin within us, we become godly mourners (Mat. 5:4). If these things are present, then it follows that we would reach a point at which we become concerned about other people. That’s where meekness comes in. A man can never be meek unless he is poor in spirit. A man can never be a meek unless he has seen himself as a vile sinner.

What then, is the meaning of meek? The Greek word for meek here is praus, which means to be mild, or gentle. The same Greek term is used of Jesus’ triumphal entry when Matthew quotes Zechariah 9:9, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble (praus), and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden” (Matt. 21:5). Meekness is very similar to “poor in spirit,” but it is not exactly the same thing. Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others. It is my attitude towards myself, and it is an expression of that in my relationship to others. Meekness does not weakness. It doesn’t mean laziness. Meekness does not mean niceness. Meekness is compatible with great strength and it is compatible with great authority and power (as we will see). When a man truly sees himself for what he is, no one can say anything about him that is too bad. “He that is down needs fear no fall”—John Bunyan. When we are meek, there will be a complete absence of the spirit of retaliation, having our own back or seeing that the other person “pays for it.”

The Manifestation of Meekness

Who is this meek person? What is he like? Since this is a hard word to define, perhaps it is best to see examples of meekness to better understand what it means.

Cooperate with me on this. I am going to present you with various scenarios. Read them and imagine yourself as the person described in them. Then think about what you would do in that situation:

1. You own a lot of land. You have a distant in-law who depends on you for their welfare and their safety. They have all they need from your rightful land, but they are not content with it. What would you do? 

The same thing happened to Abraham. After God had called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldeans to the Promised Land and had made the marvelous unconditional covenant with him, a dispute about grazing lands arose between the servants of Abraham and those of his nephew Lot. All of the land of Canaan had been promised to Abraham. He was God’s chosen man and the Father of God’s chosen people. Lot, on the other hand, was essentially a “hanger-on,” an in-law who was largely dependent on Abraham for his welfare and safety. Yet, as the story reads, Abraham willingly let Lot take whatever land he wanted, thus giving up his rights for the sake of his nephew, for the sake of harmony between their households. “Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left” (Genesis 13:8-9). That is a great example of meekness. 

2. The world is without food and is in a great famine. Before the famine, your own family sold you into brutal slavery. Soon you become the king of the only nation with food. Your family comes to you in need, what would you do?

The same thing happened to Joseph. You know the story. he was abused by his jealous brothers and eventually sold into slavery. Soon he came to be second only to Pharaoh in Egypt and he was in a position to take sever vengeance on his brothers. When they came to Egypt asking for grain for their starving families, Joseph could easily have refused, and he could have even put his brothers into more severe slavery than into which they had sold him! Yet he had only forgiveness and love for them. Speaking to his brothers, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors” (Genesis 45:5-7). Joseph understood that it was God’s place to judge and his to forgive and help. His is a great example of true meekness. 

3. If someone had tried to kill you multiple times, and they were right “underneath your nose,” and you had the ability to kill them, what would you do?

The same thing happened to David. He was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to replace Saul as Israel’s king. But when, in the cave of Engedi, he had the opportunity to take Saul’s life, as Saul often had tried to take his, David refused to do so. “So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave and went on his way” (1 Sam. 24:7). David presents before us a great example of meekness. 

4. You are the founder of a great company. You know more than your employees, you make more than your employees, you are way more powerful than your employees. They mess up your company and destroy everything up and the only way they will live is if you become an employee, give all your power away, and then die a humiliating death. Would you do it?

Similarly, Jesus experienced the same thing. He created this world, and we corrupted it with our sin. Christ is God and that means He is more powerful than we can imagine and more wise than we can imagine. We are dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1), and we will pay the price for our sins (Rom. 6:23), if nothing is done about God’s wrath against us and our terrible condition apart from Him. Christ became a man, going through our struggles, weaknesses and difficulties. Eventually He died a humiliating death that we might live life eternal. Paul expresses this truth: “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). Christ has demonstrated the greatest example of meekness. (For further study of Christ’s meekness, see Christ’s Supreme Example of Humility)

The Result of Meekness

Jesus says that those who are meek “shall inherit the earth.” The person who is meek already inherits the earth in this way: A man who is truly meek is a man who is always satisfied, he is a man who is already content. The person who is not satisfied never has enough, he always wants more. On the other hand the satisfied person is happy to enjoy all things. He possess all things and yet those things do not possess him. “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (2 Cor. 6:10). But the phrase “shall inherit the earth” also has a very future implication. The meek person also knows that everything is in the hands of God—his rights, his cause, his entire future. One day God will completely reclaim His earthly domain, and those who have become His children through faith in His Son will rule that domain with Him. “If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12). We may not always have earthly blessings, but we have the promise of one day ruling and reigning with Christ.

The Necessity of Meekness

What then, does the Bible say about the necessity of meekness?

It is commanded. “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD” (Zeph. 2:3). Similarly, James writes to the believers of the Jerusalem church, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Those who do not have a meek/humble spirit are not able even to listen rightly to God’s Word, much less obey it.

Essential for church unity. Meekness is necessary for living in church unity: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:1-2). Paul commands the Ephesians to live in a way that is worthy of their great calling. How are they to do that? “With all humility and gentleness.” Those are the first characteristics mentioned in Paul’s list of behaviors necessary to live out church unity.

For effective witnessing. Meekness is necessary for witnessing: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Peter tells the believers to be prepared to defend the faith and to be verbal about their faith. . .”yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

Direct fruit of the Spirit. Meekness is necessary evidence of walking in the power of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23).

Conclusion

Are we living in true meekness? Let us face this Sermon on the Mount with all honesty, let us meditate on this statement about being meek; let us look at the examples; above all let us look at Jesus Christ Himself. Let us be finished with ourselves so that He who has bought us at a great price may come in and possess us wholly.


1. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the MountKindle Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: InterVarsity Press, 1959-60; Reprinted 2000), Kindle Locations 866-867.

 

Colossians: Christ’s Sufficient Reconciliation (Col. 1:20-23)

The following message was delivered  May 4, 2014 at New Hope Baptist Church in Ballard County, KY:

Our Position as Believers: Reconciled

Our position as believers is truly remarkable. There are many terms that describe our position as believers in relation to God and in relation to man as well. The Bible says that we are justified (Rom. 5:1; Gal. 3:24; Titus 3:7), forgiven (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13; 1 John 1:9), adopted (Gal. 4:5-7; Eph. 1:5), and redeemed (Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7). While there are many other descriptions, one of the greatest of those terms to describe who we are in Christ is reconciliation. That’s what Paul’s theme is in our text. The way Paul uses the term in Colossians pictures a thorough, full, and complete reconciliation. Let’s read it together.

The Text: Colossians 1:20-23, ESV

“20 And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

God’s Plan of Reconciliation

Let’s look first at v. 20: “And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” You may have noticed that our starting place in today’s text is a bit awkward. The reason for starting in v. 20 is because of the language-change. You see that Paul has changed his language from v. 19 in speaking about Christ’s preeminence to v. 20 talking about reconciliation and the first thing he tells his readers about is God’s plan of reconciliation.

Paul writes that “through him [Jesus] to reconcile to himself [God] all things.” That’s a very heavy statement. All things? Paul says here quite clearly that through Jesus Christ, God’s plan is to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven. But why would “all things” need to be reconciled to God? If God’s plan is to reconcile all things to Himself, then there must be some type of separation involved, creating the need for reconciliation. For separation is the opposite of reconciliation. What created that need? Well, you remember the creation story in Genesis, don’t you? Do you remember what God said concerning His creation? “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). About light, day, the moon, sun, stars, plants and animals, you read that God said that it was good. But when God looked and saw everything altogether that He had made, including man, He saw that it was very good.

But what happens two chapters later? The Fall. This is where sin enters the world. When evil and sin entered the world, God’s good creation was marred. It was defiled. Sin destroyed perfect harmony between creatures, and sin affected the entire creation. Paul describes this vividly in Romans 8: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it” (v. 20), creation, Paul says, is in “bondage to corruption” (v. 21), and, “we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (v. 22). We live on a cursed earth in a cursed universe all because of sin.

Now what is to be said of the beauty that we still see in creation? What about the rocks, trees, fish and lakes? This beauty is owing to God’s common grace. That is, God has still continued to allow creation to display forth beauty and greatness even though it is subjected to futility and corruption. There’s a reason animals kill each other. There’s a reason plants and animals die. There’s a reason that creation is not in exact harmony: sin.

But as you know, the Bible gives us the wonderful promises that God will again restore creation. He will recreate and “God will make friends with creation again” (1). Tremendous, dramatic, glorious changes will take place in that time. Paul says again in Romans 8 that “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (v. 21). God and the creation will be reconciled—the curse of Genesis 3 will be removed. Finally, “after all is said and done,” there will be a new heaven and a new earth:

“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Rev. 21:2).

God will make everything new and will reconcile all things to Himself. That’s the aim Paul is taking here when he says, “And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (1:20a).

A Word About Universalism

Now some have seen this as a path into the heresy known as universalism. This teaching holds that it doesn’t matter what happens in this life, one day everyone who has ever lived will be saved—God has no real wrath against sinners and one day everyone will be reunited with Him forever and there is no such thing as hell or the lake of fire. That’s a lie straight from the pits of hell and you’d be surprised, utterly surprised, at the number of professing Christians who hold to this view of God and eternity. But those who hold to this view say that this text indicates that even fallen angels and unbelieving sinners will be reconciled to God. Paul cannot mean here that there will be ultimate salvation of everyone. Not everyone is going to be saved—we know that. That’s one thing Jesus taught: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (Matthew 7:13). And Christ will one day say to unbelievers, “‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41), and then in v. 46 of that chapter, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

There are no second chances for those who go out into eternity without Christ. It’s against the Scriptures and everything that the Christian faith stands for if you identify with something like universalism. So where do unbelievers and fallen angels fall into this category of reconciliation? They will be reconciled to God in the sense of getting their final judgment. Only in the sense of submitting to Him for final sentencing:

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).

This all happens through Jesus Christ—this is the extent of the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ; this is God’s plan of reconciliation—“to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (1:20).

The Opposite of Reconciliation

It is God’s grand, glorious plan to reconcile all things to Himself through Jesus, but now Paul focuses on his readers in a special way. Before Paul talks about God’s central purpose in reconciliation—reconciling men and women to God, he reminds them of their state of being before reconciliation. He describes the opposite of reconciliation: “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (v. 21).

Paul focuses on his readers here. “And you who once were. . .” Paul is talking about something that these readers were, not something that they are now. And he describes the Colossians’ pre-Christian state in a three-fold way:

1. Position: “you . . . once were alienated” (1:21b).

The Bible actually talks about aliens more than you think. When you think of aliens, however, you probably picture the little green guys trying to abduct humans for research. Or possibly more relevant, illegal aliens, are those who come over to our country illegally. But why do we call the fictional green characters aliens, and why do we call illegal immigrants aliens? Because they are strangers. Aliens would be strangers because they’re not from our planet. Immigrants because they are not from our country. And when it comes to Paul’s readers, this is their position apart from God: strangers. To be alienated is to be cut off from God, a stranger to God, a non-participant in the things of God.

Speaking of those who do not know Christ, “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Eph. 4:18). Sin is what separates us from God. Sin is what alienates us from God and creates that need for reconciliation back to our Creator. God is holy and we are not—and that is a problem for us. The Scriptures attest about Him, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing” (Habakkuk 1:13 NIV), “The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth” (Psalm 34:16), “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you” (Psalm 5:4, ESV). God is holy and our depraved position apart from Him is alienation/separation. And if nothing’s done about it, it will lead to eternal separation one of these days in the lake of fire where, “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15). The reason that it is an eternal hell is because sin is an offense against an eternal God. Our position depraved and apart from the saving grace of God is one of damnation: we were once alienated.

2. Intellect/Thinking: “you . . . once were . . . hostile in mind” (1:21c).

Not only alienated, but the Colossians had also been hostile in mind. This literally means that they had a hateful attitude towards God. According to Paul here in this verse, even our intellect is infected by sin. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:21). The Scripture teaches that the unbeliever’s mind is even corrupt and affected by sin. It doesn’t mean he cannot think, it doesn’t mean that he cannot be philosophical, it doesn’t mean that he has no logic—but it does mean that his mind is corrupted by sin and will not willingly submit to God or the things of God. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom. 8:7). Our mode of thinking was entirely against God.

There’s an interesting passage in the New Testament about this truth. It’s in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Paul says here that their minds are blinded. Wait a minute. I thought being blind meant that you couldn’t see? That’s the point here. Satan so darkens the minds of unbelievers that they cannot see the light of the gospel—they are blinded; even by their own minds. So don’t be under the impression that you can win people over with philosophy, or even theological discussion. You cannot save a single soul. Only God can regenerate a sinner who is that depraved. Only God can transform a man.

3. Actions/Deeds: “you . . . once were . . . doing evil deeds” (1:21d).

Not only were they alienated from God, and their minds hostile to Him, but they were doing evil deeds. If they are already so depraved that they are separated from God and hostile in their thinking, then it would follow that their actions would result in “doing evil deeds.” Jesus confirms this fact: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (John 3:19-20). Everything man does in His rebellion against God is sin: “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

Indeed, we are in an extremely depraved condition apart from Christ. Your predicament, if you are an unbeliever, is very heavy. We are not as sinful as we could be—God by His common grace restrains some evil in the world. But the Scripture teaches that everything about us, our minds, hearts, and wills are all inclined and bent towards evil and that every faculty of our being is corrupted by sin. The New Testament is replete with passages about who we are before Christ:

“Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents” (Rom. 1:30, KJV)

“Dead in trespasses and sins,” “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:1, 3).

“We were enemies” (Rom. 5:10).

“as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Rom. 3:10-12).

That’s the magnificent thing about salvation. God doesn’t just leave us in our depraved condition. He’d be just and right in doing so. God is not obligated to give grace to anyone—that’s why it’s called grace. It’s undeserved. God reserves the right to give grace to whoever He pleases—He doesn’t have to give grace to any sinner. But thank God He gives grace! God did a great thing on our behalf.

Why is this important to know? Why does the Bible place so much emphasis on our condition before Christ? Well, you will not appreciate your present salvation without remembering your past condition—you will not fully be grateful for your present relationship with God without remembering your past separation from God. If someone has a cold and they take some Mucinex to take care of it, do they normally rejoice, and hop up and down because they no longer have a cold? Not normally, unless they are just a happy person (and probably had too much Mucinex!). But if someone has had a terrible, life-threatening cancer and they receive treatment and beat the cancer. . . Oh there is rejoicing alright. They are very, very thankful. It works the same way in the Christian life. If you do not realize the depth of your sinful condition before Christ, then you will not even begin to realize how great a miracle your salvation actually was!

Too many believers treat their position before Christ like a fake threat. Like they were not in any real danger. It’s like the lady in the circus who spins on the wheel while the knife thrower pretends to throw knives around her. If you ask her at the end, “Don’t you feel glad that’s over? Aren’t you happy you’re still alive?” And she says, “It’s just a trick. The knives pop out of the wheel. What’s to get excited about? It’s just a fake threat” (2).

They say, “Nobody is perfect.” While that’s true, that’s not even scratching the surface of what you were before Christ. Read what the Scripture says about who you were before Christ, because when you recognize who you really were before God transformed you, then you will so much more appreciate your salvation now. Paul even says in Ephesians 2:11-12, “Therefore remember that at one time you were without Christ . . . having no hope, and without God in the world.”

How often do you ponder what your life was like before Christ? How often are you brought to tears of joy before the presence of Almighty God for saving you from such a depraved position? How often do you allow these things to grip you?

The Means of Reconciliation

Paul never tells us who we were before Christ, without also telling us who we are now in Christ (or what God has done for us to transform us). He never tells us to remember what we are now without remembering what we once were. So Paul has talked about the Colossians’ depraved sinful state and the complete opposite of reconciliation. Now he talks about the means of reconciliation: “He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death” (v. 22a).

If we have a need for reconciliation to God then how is that accomplished? Paul says, “He has now [this is present tense] reconciled in His body of flesh by His death.” This is talking about Jesus. Jesus Christ is the one who has brought us to God. All the members of the Trinity work actively in your salvation. The Father initiates your salvation, He plans it. The Son accomplishes your salvation on the cross. The Spirit applies your salvation through regeneration. Now, Christ did a lot of things while He was here on this earth, but the main reason He came was to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). And if you know Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you are reconciled to God through His death. Your reconciliation to God is owing completely to the death of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t because you were good enough, it wasn’t because you did or said the right things, it was because Jesus died for you! “You contribute nothing to your salvation, except the sin that made it necessary”—Jonathan Edwards.

Are you reconciled today? Are you reconciled to God through Christ?

The Aim of Reconciliation

Paul has talked about God’s ultimate plan of reconciliation, the opposite of reconciliation, the means of reconciliation and now he talks about the aim of reconciliation: “in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (v. 22b).

In contrast with their three-fold depravity, Paul describes the three-fold aim of Christ’s reconciliation work on behalf of the Colossian believers:

1. “in order to present you holy” (1:22b)
2. “in order to present you . . . blameless” (1:22c)
3. “in order to present you . . . above reproach” (1:22d).

The Evidence of Reconciliation

Paul has described God’s plan of reconciliation, the opposite of reconciliation, the means of reconciliation, the aim of that reconciliation, and now he concludes this section by speaking on the evidence of that reconciliation. “If indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (v. 23a).

Paul says here that “continuing in the faith” is evidence that you have been reconciled: “Christ reconciled you in order to present you holy, blameless, and above reproach before Him . . . if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast.”

Paul is not saying here that “continuing in the faith” is necessary to your salvation because you are lacking something that Christ didn’t do. It’s necessary in order to prove your salvation, but not necessary because Christ isn’t enough. Christ is mighty to save, He saves to the uttermost, He is able to reconcile fully, completely, and thoroughly—salvation was not just made “possible” for you at the cross—but it was made actual for you at the cross. Christ actually accomplished, bought, and secured your salvation.

So, “continuing in the faith” is the necessary response and the “out-working” of a life that’s been reconciled to God. And the Scripture teaches that if your life does not show evidence of being reconciled to God, then you are not reconciled to God and you are still “alienated, hostile in mind, and doing evil deeds,” and you are not saved.

One of the most sobering truths of the Bible is that not all who profess to be Christians are in fact saved. Christ warned us about it: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23). And John writes in his epistle, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

No, you can never “lose” your salvation, but there will be a great falling away of those who were never truly saved. Look at Hebrews 6:

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of god and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Heb. 6:4-6).

Paul says here in Colossians that if we continue in the faith, we continue to be faithful to Him, continue to serve Him and love Him, if we remain steadfast and stable that it shows forth evidence of our present reconciliation with God.

Are you continuing in the faith? Does your life show evidence that you have been reconciled to God? Can you think of some ways in which God has shown His grace in your life? If not, then heed the words of 2 Cor. 13:5, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”

The Ministry of Reconciliation

In addition to Paul talking about the evidence of reconciliation, he speaks briefly in this section about the ministry of reconciliation. He writes, “[this gospel] which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister” (v. 23b).

Paul was made a minister of the gospel. We are all ministers of reconciliation. We are to tell others about Jesus Christ like Paul did. There’s a great passage of Scripture about that:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:17-20).

We owe people the gospel’s message this side of hell. The proper response to such a great gospel is joyfully sharing it with others. So who are you ministering to? Who has God placed in your life that you need to minister to? “You may be the only Bible people are reading.”—Billy Graham

Conclusion

We’ve seen today: God’s ultimate plan of reconciliation (1:20). Our state before Christ, the opposite of reconciliation (1:21). Christ’s present, real reconciliation work on the cross (1:22). The aim of Christ’s reconciling work (1:22). The evidence of Christ’s reconciling work (1:23). And how we are all made ministers of that gospel (1:23). Where is God stirring in your heart today? In the commands we found in the Scriptures, which are you not obeying? The gospel gives you the power to carry out those commands in obedience, so what are you waiting for? I pray we will be obedient to God and heed the truths gleaned from Colossians concerning this great position we have as believers: reconciled. 


1. John MacArthur, Colossians/Philemon (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1992), 58.
2. Adapted from John Piper, Remember That You Were Hopeless (Desiring God, 1981).