The Eternal Timeline
The Eternal Timeline
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
This morning we focus on the greatest happening in human history, at least until now. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most compelling story I know. It is amazing to me that sometimes folks think they need to dress up this amazing story.
No novel, no movie, no play, can compete with the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. and yet, so many times, people in the church feel they need to dress it up a bit. On resurrection Sunday, all over the country this morning, churches are holding easter egg hunts and that sort of thing all because they want to take advantage of the fact that Resurrection Sunday is probably the most attended church day of the year.
Naturally, every pastor, every church board, every Christian who cares about the Great Commission and seeing people participate in the church want to see a lot of people on this Sunday morning. But sometimes, rather than the actual reason for the celebration, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, being the centerpiece and main focus, many churches will resort to trying to create a carnival atmosphere, with colored eggs and candy and coloring books and all kinds of things like that.
Now, they will tell you, “we want families to come to our church. We want to attract them to our church, so we will use whatever gimmick is necessary to get them here, and then, once they are here, we can expose them to the gospel.”
I would never put their motivations into question. I believe many people really want to reach their communities, and so having these types of events has become, in many churches, the main way to do outreach. Like I say, I’m sure their motivation really is to see people come to saving faith in Jesus. However, the problem of this is that the bible tells us that in the end, there is one means that God uses to draw men to himself, and that is by drawing attention to the risen Savior through the proclamation of the gospel.
It is a mysterious thing called preaching. 1Cor1.21
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
Interesting. Paul calls it the folly of what we preach. Now, we know for certain, if we study all of Paul’s writings, that he didn’t believe it was folly for him to preach, but rather, it seems folly to those who have put an awful lot of stock in the wisdom of the world. Those who think of themselves as philosophers, wise people. those who like to debate. I did something I always say we shouldn’t do a moment ago, I read you one verse absent from its context. Let’s take a look at what Paul meant when he was using the word folly. You see, what he was saying was, that it is folly to those who are not in Christ, or in other words have never come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
To those who have not responded to the good news about Jesus with faith, all of this seems to be folly.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Do you see what Paul is saying here? The world can’t know God through wisdom, that is, the wisdom of people. But what appears to be a folly to those who put a lot of stock in their earthly wisdom is the power of God and the wisdom of God. And those of us who God has drawn to himself through the preaching of the gospel, and have been regenerated by His Spirit, and saved with a saving faith, are not ashamed to share this with others. Paul said to the Roman church,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
So the gospel, or good news about Jesus, is folly to worldly people who feel they have a lot of wisdom, and it appears to be silly and weak to many, but for those of us who are being saved, it is the power of God, so we are not ashamed of it, for it brings salvation to all who believe.
Many in the world look at what goes on in churches every week, that people would gather to pray and sing some songs and hear some guy stand up and talk about what the bible says to us. For many, it is folly. But it is the means that God has ordained by which he draws men and women to himself in order to save those that he will give the gift of faith to.
So gathered here this morning are many people. Some of you I know, many of you I do not. I do not assume that everyone here has put faith in Jesus and made him Lord and King in their lives. In fact, unless we have the first church service in history where everyone is for sure saved, out of this many people, I can assume that there are many here who do not have a true, saving faith in Jesus, and so I preach.
Some of you are here because you were kind enough to join your family. You don’t attend church except at the holidays, which indicates you most likely do not have a deep love for the church such that you desire to be here, but you still have enough respect or love for your family that you are willing to come a couple times a year to church. In this group there are those who may be agnostic, that is, they don’t really care much about church or religion, but have nothing against it, and possibly there are those who are antagonistic to the church, and maybe even have a good reason for not liking the church, because they had a bad experience and were once hurt by people in the church who called themselves the people of God.
Others among us are true believers, and attend church regularly and are committed to the church, giving their time, friendship, finances, and talents to make the church the beautiful community it is.
Some are here and are true believers, but are traveling and so are here this week but will be back in their own home church next week.
And it is possible that some are here that simply found our website and wanted to be somewhere this Sunday morning and you found that our location or our service time worked into your plans this morning.
As I preach this morning, I have nothing to do with whether God will draw someone to himself, other than my responsibility to preach and be faithful to God’s Word. But my prayer for you is this: For the true believers among us, may this reminder of the wonderful story of God’s salvation plan build your faith and inspire you to serve God better. For those who are not believers, my prayer is that God will draw you to himself this morning by his Holy Spirit through his Word and through the folly of this thing we call preaching.
The title of this sermon is Perfect Timing. Let’s look again at the verse I opened with: Gal4.4
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
From eternity past, God has always known the perfect time to implement each of the steps in his plan to give salvation to sinners. We are going to look very quickly this morning through a few of the major events in God’s timeline.
And God has put eternity in our hearts:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.
We must begin with a very important understanding, and that is that God is not constrained by time. He is eternal, meaning He has always been around, and always will be. He is self-existent. There is no force above Him that He must rely on to exist. So when we look at this timeline, it is important to understand that the timeline we are talking about actually has a beginning, even though God himself does not.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
The creation marks the beginning of the timeline as we know it. So God created the world, everything in the world, including the elements, energy, the laws of physics, he created creatures, animals and human creatures.
God is the only thing eternal, and has complete control over time, and in Galatians 4.4 we see that Jesus was born in the fullness of time. Now, to fully appreciate how God knew way ahead of time when the fullness of time would be, the time that would be just right and perfect within his plan of redemption for humankind, we can go through various parts of scripture, and we can see that in this book, the Bible, written over a period of thousands of years by dozens of authors, who were separated not only by time but in many cases by geography as well, is absolutely perfect in how every part fits together with the rest, and this morning I hope you will leave here with at least an better appreciation of the perfection of God’s Word and how amazingly it was assembled.
I mentioned the creation, but I cannot elaborate too much here at this time, or I may get in trouble as many of you have hams in the oven and we don’t want those lunches overcooked. But shortly after creation, we have an event in the timeline we refer to as the fall.
You may have heard this story. God created the first two humans Adam and Eve, and he placed them in a paradise, the Garden of Eden, to care for the garden and to be fruitful and multiply, and they were allowed free access to the entire place with one exception, they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent twisted God’s words, and Adam and Eve ultimately ate of the tree, and this is when sin entered the world, and with sin, many consequences of sin, including death.
And perhaps at this point you are wondering what this has to do with resurrection Sunday. Well, here is the deal. Jesus rose from the grave and we celebrate that today. But why did He need to die in the first place, and what good does it do us? Well, to fully answer this question we must talk about the fall.
So Adam and Eve sinned, and God came to them and issued a decree of the grave consequences. Death, painful childbirth for the woman, thorns and thistles to thwart the efforts of the man in his work, he would sweat and work hard to do the same work that previously had been pleasurable for him.
But the consequences were not for Adam and Eve only. The serpent also was given a punishment, because the serpent had twisted the Word of God and led astray Eve. And in the curse of the serpent, which included being relegated to eating dust and going on its belly, there was also a promise that gives a hint that God would someday provide a remedy for the sin of mankind.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This scripture points us towards Jesus. He would be the one whose heel was bruised, that is, he suffered and died on the cross, but who ultimately would bruise the head of the serpent, and we will get there soon and elaborate on that a bit.
Throughout the Bible we see God expanding on this promise of one who would be born of woman and would bruise the head of the serpent.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Of course, we often hear this verse at Christmastime, and so those of you who may only come to church at Christmas and Easter, even you probably picked up that this prophecy has to do with the birth of Jesus. Matthew’s gospel tells us clearly that this prophecy was fulfilled in Christ.
Since we are on the subject of the timeline, again we go back to the verse we started with: Gal4.4-5
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
There are many events in the timeline that I cannot go over in this brief time together. I know the crockpots are simmering back home for many of you, but in the intermediate time between these major events are many other important events that prove or verify the truth of God’s word, especially the many prophetic passages that point to the birth, life, death, resurrection, and second coming of Jesus.
There is Abraham’s journey, and the enslavement of God’s people in Egypt, led out by Moses, who also gave the law. Finally the arrival at the promised land, but with many problems and fallbacks and hard lessons learned.
With Moses came the law, the ten commandments you may have heard of, but also the laws regulating sacrifices, so that whenever a sin happened, there was a remedy, which involved blood. But all of this pointed to a sacrifice to be made that would be a once for all sacrifice. Do you know who made the first sacrifice for sin in the Bible?
God did. You see, before sin entered the garden, Adam and Eve were naked, innocent, completely free from shame. After they sinned, their eyes were opened. They now understood evil, and they suddenly realized they were naked. The way God covered their shame was that he killed animals to make them garments.
And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
This showed that to cover for sin, for forgiveness of sin, for the removal of shame from sin, there had to be the shedding of blood.
Of course, one may still say, “but I don’t really think God is going to punish people for sin, since they are just doing what is in their nature to do.” But if we think this we have totally missed the holiness of God.
In our world, this is pretty common. People have no respect for God. They don’t understand that he is perfect, he is all powerful, he is the creator and he gets to make the rules. And we all have broken his rules.
The bible says if we break just one of God’s rules, we are guilty of breaking the whole law.
We could go through some of the laws just to show we are guilty, but those laws are summed up in these, Jesus said, “love the lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself”. Who among us could be so bold as to say we have perfectly kept this law? We cannot. All have sinned. And we have all sinned really in two senses.
For one, we bear the sin of Adam. Every descendent of Adam is born into sin.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
Theologians call this concept federal headship. Adam was the chief representative for the whole human race, and when he sinned, death spread to all because all sinned. To which many people will cry out, “not fair!” why am I guilty for Adam’s sin? Well, whether you consider this fair or not, this is God’s decree, and as the creator, and the Holy One, what He decides is always right and good, so if God says all men sinned because we were in Adam and as the head of the race we bear his guilt, that is the right thing to have happened. Later, Paul answered the objection of one who may find it unfair that God would create people who would end up sinning and guilty by saying
But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
So we are guilty of sin in the sense that Adam asa the head of our race sinned, and so we are also born into sin because it is carried on. You could say it is in the DNA of every human. But even without the Federal Headship thing, we know in our hearts we are guilty of sin.
Whatever sin you may think is the most minor, the most harmless, is extremely offensive to our Holy, Creator God. Every sin, RC Sproul often said, is cosmic treason. And there is absolutely nothing we can do to make up for our sin. We could give our money away, do good deeds, even suffer, but none of that will bring us anywhere close to removing the guilt of our sin, the shame of our sin, the penalties of our sin, which are like wages, the wages we earn from our sin is death, Paul said.
But God was good. He had determined that in the fullness of time, He would send His Son to redeem those who were under the law. His timing was perfect. Historians haver commented on how the timing was so perfect for Jesus to arrive when He did. The Roman empire had built a road system, allowing the gospel to be spread, many other factors of history and geography have been pointed out to show this really was a good time for Jesus to come.
In God’s perfect timing, He provided for Adam and Eve the sacrifice. He killed animals, shedding their blood, for their sin, to cover their guilt and shame.
And then He provided His own Son to be the once and for all sacrifice. Friday night we reflected here on the sad events of Jesus’ final hours before dying on the cross, and also the tomb. He was the perfect sacrifice that died so that you and I can be freed from our burden of sin, given eternal life instead of the spiritual death we deserve, He took the shame of being stripped and beaten so that our shame became his. And on the other side of that equation, for those who put saving faith in Him, we are clothed in righteousness because it is the righteousness of Jesus and not our own that we stand before God clothed in, like pure white.
Though your sins were like scarlet, you can be made white as snow because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And when He sensed His death was immanent as He hung there, He said “It is finished”. The debt was paid for our sins. God could turn his anger and wrath towards the sinful away for those who were covered by the blood of Jesus. His sacrifice, just like the one God made for Adam and Eve, gives a covering for our sin and shame.
He was taken from the cross and laid in a tomb, and on the third day, we read this:
And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The followers of Jesus thought He was the Messiah, but they watched Him die on the cross and be buried. We can sympathize with them in their confusion, for they hadn’t fully understood that He must be their sacrifice. But, oh, the joy of that morning!
He is Risen indeed!
And yet, the story is not yet complete. There is still to come in God’s perfect timeline the next major event, the Return of the King. Sometimes we don’t trust God’s timing, but it will be perfect. We see the turmoil in the world, the craziness, the rampant sin, the injustice of the powerful trampling over the weak. We see death, and sickness, and sadness, and we wonder why God hasn’t just ended it already. His timing is known to Him, and is perfect, but we have a hard time believing that when we see what is happening all around us.
And truly every generation of the church has cried out to God, “when?”. For now, God is showing his patience toward the sinful, and He is giving us who believe in Him the privilege to share His good news as He continues to rescue sinners. But a day will come when his patience, or forbearance, will end. I can speak for myself and say that sometimes, when I pray, I feel a little schizophrenic. On the one hand, I pray, “Lord Jesus, Come Quickly”, and on the other hand, I want to ask him, a little more patience please. There are more lost souls needing to be saved.
Yet God knows already who He will save and when He will complete His work. When Jesus said it is finished, He meant the work of His sacrifice, but the work of the church continues until that trumpet sounds.
So we continue to sound the alarm to sinners. We must warn them that they have offended God, that the wages they have earned for their sin is death, spiritual death. But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.
If you are among those this morning who we call unregenerate, or unrepentant. If you have heard this message from God’s Word and have felt fear for the judgement of God to come, put your faith in Jesus. He has proven that he has victory over sin and death, and He can save you.
If you do not call upon the name of the Lord, your sin has earned you the wrath of God, which you may only experience a taste of in this life, but in the judgement you will learn what the scripture means when it says that our God is a consuming fire.
If you have mocked God’s created order by rejecting his call for all of us to live holy lives, and you have insulted the creator by choosing to make yourself out to be greater than him because you think your ways are better than his, If you know that you are in grave danger of judgment, and if you left the parking lot this very hour and were struck dead by a drunk driver on your way home, that the very next moment after your last breath you would be standing before God, the Holy, Holy, Holy God, who will be the righteous judge of all, and is a consuming fire, and one who before him the mountains will melt like wax.
If you know and feel that fear of God in your heart at this moment, do not wait another minute, but throw yourself down and beg God for mercy, and turn away from your sinful ways, and turn towards God’s ways of righteousness and holiness.
In the book of Acts, on the day of Pentecost, is recorded a sermon that Peter gave, and after he finished speaking, it tells us that many who heard it were cut to the heart, and they cried out, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
And Paul later would write that God’s love is proven in this fact: Rom5.8
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If you choose this day to put faith in Jesus for salvation, you must verbally confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
God’s word is near to you this moment. Does he draw you to himself this day? Here are some signs that Christ is drawing you to himself: First, you will feel a godly sorrow for your sins. This means you truly feel sorry, not because of the trouble you might get into, but because you have offended the Holy, perfect God.
Another sign that God may be using this message to draw you to himself is that you suddenly fear him like you never have before. Fear can be our friend. If fear of dying on the highway causes you to wear a seatbelt, that is a healthy fear. If your fear of God causes you to run to the cross of Jesus for salvation, this fear is your friend.
Not only this, but we should fear, because this is our duty.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Another sign God may be drawing you to himself is that you are hearing the words of scripture and believing that they are true.
And finally, you are feeling a true and godly sorrow for your sins, and a healthy fear of God and His judgments, and you believe this is true, and you follow Paul’s charge to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that He was raised from the dead, then once you do this, you will feel a tremendous peace that you have never felt before.
If any of these things are happening in your heart, and you would like someone to talk with or pray with, please, after our service closes, come to the prayer room.
Let me reflect on just one more part of the timeline that we still look forward to, and with this I will close. I will set the scene for you. John had this revelation. He was in the throne room of heaven, and a scroll is presented, but no one was worthy to open it. So John begins to weep, because no one is found worthy. Here is what happens next: Rev5.5
And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Jesus, who was humiliated and beaten and died, is now risen, and glorified. And he will continue to be glorified. All of this will happen in God’s perfect timing.