Tony Martlew, Dip. Th.
MOST people, Christian, agnostic or atheist, know the basic story of Easter. It is possible, of course, that with the decline of Christian teaching in most schools today, that there are some children who only know that they are supposed to eat as many chocolate eggs as possible!
However, we all know, (and, hopefully), appreciate the real significance of Easter. But, it is possible that we may not be aware of the events covering a period of some four thousand years which lead up to it.
I never cease to be amazed at one particular aspect of the drama of the Crucifixion, and it is this: the Creator knew exactly what was going to happen, even before the creation of the earth.
Thinking about this, purely from a human standpoint, I am sure that any of us, knowing in advance that mankind was going to disobey the Laws, would with foresight, circumvent the occurrence. But the Creator did not do this! In His foreknowledge, He looked down the pages of as yet unwritten history, and still allowed Satan to have his own way.
We all know the saying: ... 'To be forewarned is to be forearmed'. We mortals would have seen the disobedience of mankind and thought of some way of keeping him on the straight and narrow path, thus making things far simpler.
The fact that the Creator knew exactly what mankind would do, and the awful consequences of his disobedience, should make us stop and think deeply.
It is not just a matter of passing interest, something to tickle our intellect. It is the most important thing that we can contemplate, because what Jesus did on the day of His crucifixion was of the greatest significance, and all previous history was leading up to it. It would also affect the future of the planet, thus making possible a future great act of restitution.
To understand this great Plan of Almighty God fully, it is necessary to go back to the beginning of the world.
In the great Act of Creation, after each day was completed, God looked upon His work, and, we are told, 'saw that it was good'. On the sixth day, after the final act of Creation, including mankind, we are told in Genesis 1:31:
"And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day."
It was not long before the perfect Creation was spoilt by the entry of sin, and this earthly Paradise was changed. Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden, weeds grew and multiplied, and nature became a hazard. It is important that we understand what God said to Adam and Eve, for it gives us a clue as to the meaning of subsequent history.
"And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;" (Genesis 3:17)
Note especially that God said 'for thy sake'.
This curse was not something brought about by a vengeful God, simply to punish mankind, or by way of saying 'You have disobeyed me. Now you are going to suffer for it'.
What lay behind this curse was not retribution, but a plan of reconciliation, based on Christ's incredible love for mankind. It may not, on first inspection, appear to be a plan of love. There are many today who sincerely question the motives of Almighty God. They look out on a world of misery and injustice, and say "If God is a God of love, why doesn't He do something about all the suffering and lawlessness?"
I maintain that He is doing something, in fact He started doing something before Adam sinned. The clue to put us on the right path of thought is in Genesis 3:17, which we have just studied, "cursed is the ground for thy sake".
As incredible as it may appear, from that moment, the long, hard, painful uphill climb back had begun. It has been progressing for about six thousand years. The critics will wonder why it has been so slow, but in order to answer this question, we have to consider God's ultimate purpose in creating mankind in the first place.
We read in Genesis 6:5-6:
"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart."
Note especially that mankind's wickedness grieves the Lord, meaning that it causes Him deep sorrow, and grief and sorrow are only shown for those who are loved. In this way we begin to understand that the Creator's Plan is one of love, and this is clearly shown to us by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:3, where the prophet had a vision of God's love for His people, Israel:
"The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee."
Jeremiah then goes on to promise a time of restoration, and the whole feeling of the chapter, and of others in Jeremiah's prophecy, is of great love. Notice that Jeremiah says "everlasting love". To demonstrate this love, God established a nation from one righteous man, Abraham, whom He called His friend. He established covenants to this nation. The Creator God, who earlier had repented that He had made mankind, now entered into a covenant relationship with him.
Would it be logical to assume that if God had no future in mind for mankind, but would punish him and then leave him to his own devices, He would have chosen a particular righteous man to call His friend, and make a nation from him? The Creator knows exactly what He is doing, in spite of what some bishops might say today. This may not be how mankind would do things, but it is God's way, and we are told: 'God's ways are not man's ways'.
You may wonder why God has conceived such a long-term plan. He could have frustrated Satan at the outset. To understand why He did not do this is to understand the reason for mankind's existence.
If God had dealt with Satan from the beginning, generations of mankind would not have experienced living under the Old Covenant and been able to look forward to the New Covenant. This Plan, therefore, is an all-ernbracing one, carefully calculated so that the requisite number of generations would each have experience of taking part in the reconciliation process.
We must conclude that Almighty God is working out a great Purpose for the earth, towards a great climax. This climax could not occur unless another great event had already taken place, and this was the coming to earth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The event did not hit the headlines at the time, in fact only a few people were directly involved.
Every year, at Easter tirne, we remember the great act of atonement, or At-one-ment. God came in the flesh, and made Himself lower than the angels, which He had created. He came to offer Himself as a sheep to the slaughter in order to free mankind from the effects of Satan. Our loving Saviour made us an offer which we cannot refuse, - or can we? Sadly, the vast majority of people in this so-called Christian country have rejected His offer. Most people honestly believe that they qualify for a place in Paradise, simply because they live a good life, and haven't done any harm to any one else. (Can they be sure about this?) If you are confronted by any who believe that we can work our own passage, ask them these questions:
What did Jesus rnean when He said:
"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved and shall go in and out, and find pasture." (John 10:9)
"I am thegood shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." (John 10:11)
What did He mean by:
"He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." (Matthew 12:30)
What did Paul mean when he said:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Think of Christ's agony in the garden, His mockery of a trial, the scourging and the nailing to the cross. If these things have no meaning for mankind's existence, then our Saviour endured it all for nothing. He had the choice, He was not obliged to come to earth and suffer, having taken on the form of a servant. He could have stayed in Heaven at the right hand of the Father. He suffered, died, went down into hell and rose again to give us the chance of a new life.
It is important that we accept His sacrifice in order that the state may be wiped clean.
The great climax which I mentioned will be the visit from outer space, the second coming of the Lord. This will hit the headlines, for we are told that:
"Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen." (Revelation 1:7)
Remember, the Second Coming of our Lord can only come about because of the Resurrection of the Saviour. As St. Paul said:
"And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." (I Corinthians 15:14)
But, God be thanked, Jesus did rise from the tomb and open the gates, in order that all who accept and believe His free Gift, maybe partakers of everlasting life.
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