What’s It All About?
Why am I here? What is the meaning of it all? Is there a purpose for my life? Does God have a plan for the human race? Does God really care about me and my future? Or, in today’s incredibly insecure terror-filled globe: “What in the world is going on?”
Have you thought about and even asked these existential questions, silently to yourself or aloud to others at some time in your life? It’s startling how many people seek answers from any and all sources other than the Word of God, which addresses all these anxieties and more. It’s also alarming that so many people avoid these questions because the right answers interfere with personal pursuit of power, prestige, prosperity, and pleasure.
The Bible contains a sweeping record of God’s majestic plan for the universe and mankind. Untold volumes of books and articles and commentaries have been written and sermons preached about the tremendous truths of Scripture; thus, the following is a super condensed summary that gives added meaning to the term, in a nutshell:
God created man and woman to worship him, fellowship with him, and enjoy the magnificent earth on which the human race was placed. It was, in fact, Paradise; aptly defined in Webster’s Dictionary as, “a place of bliss, felicity, or delight.”
Unlike animals, we were made in God’s image (soul and spirit) which includes the profound privilege of free will and choice. God did not create us as puppets. He wants us to willingly love, obey, and follow him because we want to; not because we have to. Adam and Eve chose wrongly. Sin entered the world, as did the revolting result of that deliberate disobedience: death, both physical and spiritual—eternal separation from God. To use the title of John Milton’s superb book, it was: Paradise Lost.
But God, through his immeasurable love and grace and mercy, offered a remedy: Salvation through the supreme sacrifice of Messiah Jesus, the Son of God (John 3:16). The just for the unjust, the righteous for the unrighteous, the innocent for the guilty.
For Adam and Eve, it was to believe what God said about disobedience bringing death to the human race. But if they listened to him and obeyed what he said, they would live forever in Paradise. It was really that simple. Then at the time of Christ, it was to totally trust the Lord by personally believing and receiving God’s ultimate plan of redemption for the human race, only possible through Messiah Jesus. A plan of salvation applicable to and sufficient for all people who have ever lived… before, during, and after his sacrificial death, and resurrection to validate the truth of so great a salvation.
As it was in the beginning, so shall it be at the end of this age. All those who have acknowledged God’s solution for the otherwise unsolvable human predicament, and have agreed that only Messiah Jesus can bring us back full circle to what and where we were meant to be, will be (once again) given bodies equipped to live forever. God himself will bring Heaven down to the (new) earth through the (new) Jerusalem where all believers will live. Only it will be even better. In the Garden of Eden, God visited with Adam and Eve, but did not dwell with them.
Listen to the awesome promise for believers: “…Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them” (Revelation 21:3). There have been so many down through the ages and alive today that don’t want God living with or among them. Tragically for them, they will get their wish.
How will The Lord accomplish all this? What will he do in order to complete our destiny as first announced by Jesus: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14:1-3, italics for emphasis).
The Glorious Rapture
This wonderful promise from Jesus was then revealed in more detail to the Apostle Paul in one of the most famous prophecies in all of Scripture. Before we read it, let’s look at some synonyms of Rapture: Ecstatic, blissful, joyful, elated, and euphoric.
“We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died, will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever” (I Thessalonians 4:15-17, italics for emphasis).
Compare the italicized words in the John 14 passage (spoken by Jesus) to the italicized words from the Apostle Paul. Jesus, himself, will come to take believers from the earth to live with him forever in a place he has already prepared for us.
Since this is the first article that begins the fourth year of the Eye of Prophecy website, I’d like to quote from the very first article written (July, 2013). I would encourage you to click on the July and August archives of Eye of Prophecy and read the five-part series on the What, Why, When, Who, and How of the Rapture.
From, What is the Rapture?
The Greek word translated “caught up” found in the following passage is harpazo, which literally means to seize or snatch away (quickly).
I then quote the rapture passage from I Thessalonians 4. Continuing with the excerpt from What is the Rapture:
Yet the English word “Rapture” is entirely appropriate as a one-word description of the remarkable prophetic proclamations found in I Thessalonians 4 and I Corinthians 15. Remember, the word Rapture is not a direct translation of the Greek word, although it is a very close transliteration of the Latin word; rather it is a substitute or alternative or expanded way to describe emotionally or spiritually what is taking place. One of the definitions for rapture found in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary is, “a mystical experience in which the spirit is exalted to knowledge of divine things,” and a companion definition is, “an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion.”
Thus, we have a captivating combination of the original Latin and Greek words, which is accurately rendered “caught up” in most English translations of the Bible. These words convey the dynamics of the actual time/space sequence involved in this literal transfiguration of the Christian’s physical body, with the spiritual joy, emotional bliss, and mental delight in what is taking place. Those who have accepted Christ as their personal Savior (both the dead and the living), will experience the highest degree of spiritual and physical euphoria possible, as we will be instantly changed and then transported to heaven, there to be with our Lord and King forever. As the sayings go, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” And, “What a way to go!”
More Spectacular Features
Just three of four years after Paul disclosed this extraordinary event to the Thessalonians, he elaborated on God’s phenomenal plan for that part of the human race who trust in the redemptive sacrificial atonement of Messiah Jesus.
In this subsequent revelation to the Corinthian Church, Paul goes all the way back to Adam, giving us more marvelous details that can answer all of the questions (and more) posed in the opening paragraph of today’s article.
Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul:
“The Scriptures tell us, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living person.’ But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.
“What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies” (I Corinthians 15:45-53).
*Note: If you only have time to read one of the aforementioned series of articles on the Rapture, then please choose, How the Rapture (will take place), posted 8-24-13. Reason: It explains in great detail that the sequence of Rapture events described in I Thessalonians Chapter 4 (by carefully correlating I Corinthians Chapter 15 with I Thessalonians 4) will take several minutes, and NOT be over in the twinkling of an eye. The only thing that will happen in the blink of an eye is the actual “transformation” from our earthly bodies to our heavenly bodies.
The New American Standard Bible translation uses the words, “changed” and “put on” (the immortal body in place of the mortal), which is the same as “transformed” employed in the New Living Translation … only a little less emphatic.
The Greek word used in I Corinthians 15 is, allesso. Which means: altered, changed, or transformed.
Transform is defined in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary: “to change in composition or structure; to change the outward form of appearance; to change in character or condition.”
The operative description in I Corinthians 15 of transform is an action verb that further illustrates, confirms, and emphasizes God’s implementation of his divine plan and ultimate purpose for which we were created … to live with our great and glorious God and Messiah forever. But first we need to be saved from our sins and the penalty of those sins by accepting Christ as our personal Savior. When we do that, we immediately have (present tense condition) eternal life. Because we will need a body equipped to last forever, our earthly bodies must first be changed/transformed to a spiritual body like our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus who arose from the dead with the first (ever) heavenly body.
Thus, the composition of our bodies will undergo an extreme makeover that will alter our appearance to a form or condition that will far surpass the most perfect of earthly bodies. Yet, we will still recognize each other and will no longer change in appearance.
We will never grow old again! No more balding, stooping, sagging, folding, wrinkling, expanding, or shrinking!
An Even Stronger Concept
“Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matthew 17:1-2, NASB).
Normally I would have quoted the above passage from the New Living Translation; all Scriptural references in Eye of Prophecy articles are from the NLT, unless otherwise designated. In Matthew 17, the NLT uses the English word, transformed, which is the same word it uses in the I Corinthians 15 passage concerning the change of our earthly bodies to spiritual bodies at the Rapture. The reason I chose the NASB (which translates the Greek word to transfigured) is because that Greek word is different than the word, allesso, found in I Corinthians 15.
Although the meanings are substantially similar (transformation or transfiguration … both are accurate and appropriate), the Greek word used in the exceptional scene we just read is, metamorphoo. Which makes the saying, “It’s all Greek to me,” not entirely true! There are several Greek words that are nearly identical to their transliterated English counterpart. This is one of those words. So what is the English word? You’re right: It is metamorphosis.
Webster’s definition of metamorphosis: “change of physical form, structure, or substance (especially) by supernatural means; striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances.”
Which is why the English word, transfiguration, is the better description of the astounding change in Jesus’s appearance on what most Bible scholars refer to as the Mount of Transfiguration.
Transfiguration is defined by Webster’s Dictionary at two different levels. The first level is more closely akin to transform, which is: change in form or appearance. But the second (higher) level of transfiguration is defined as: “an exalting, glorifying, or spiritual change.” In fact, Webster’s cites the transfiguration of Christ as an example. As noted, both of the definitions for metamorphosis and transfigured directly attribute this kind of “striking, exalted, glorified” change to one that is supernatural … by (the power of) God.
Which is exactly what Jesus experienced on the Mount of Transfiguration. It was a preliminary divine demonstration that Jesus was fully God and fully man. It was also a stunning “preview of coming attractions.” The greatest of which was the resurrection of Messiah Jesus in a new glorified body; one that was exalted even above and beyond the human body he was born with. It was a spiritual, heavenly body that could never die.
Although our great God and Savior, Messiah Jesus, is far above us in every way (for all the reasons found in Scripture), God has promised born again believers that we, too, will someday be graciously given the same kind of eternal, indestructible body like Jesus has; whether we have died before Jesus returns or are still alive.
How great is that!
Yes, we will be transformed at the Rapture; but at the higher level of transfigured! Immediately after the transfiguration of our mortal earthly bodies to heavenly spiritual bodies, we will be “transported” directly to heaven. The change in our bodies and in our address and living quarters will involve a “transition.”
While we’re still in Webster’s Dictionary (at least I am), let’s also define, transition: “A passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another; a movement … from one form … to another; an abrupt change in energy state or level…”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for my transfiguration and transition! And away we go!
For a more in-depth examination of I Corinthians 15 where the Apostle Paul uses the seemingly conflicting term, spiritual bodies, please refer to Eye of Prophecy articles, Spiritual Bodies … A Contradiction of Terms? Part I & II (posted 9-26-15 & 10-3-15).
The Second Adam
Often in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke), Jesus is referred to and refers to himself as the Son of Man. Whereas Jesus is the Son of God and God the Son (the main emphasis in the Gospel of John), he made it clear that he was also fully human. But in a unique way.
Thus uniqueness is readily apparent in I Corinthians 15. As we read earlier in that chapter, Messiah Jesus is referred to as the, “last Adam.” The context in that passage was a contrast of Adam’s natural body (which all human beings are born with and in which we will die) to our glorious hope of receiving an eternal spiritual body like our Lord Jesus Christ, made possible by his resurrection from the dead.
Later in the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul expands on the correlation, but also difference between the first and the last Adam. Before reading this passage, we need to remember that Adam was created physically, morally, and spiritually perfect. Not God-perfect (only God is God), but humanly perfect when created by God … “without fault or defect” (Webster’s).
The integrated body, soul, and spirit given to him was meant to be eternal. Had Adam and Eve not disobeyed God, they would still be alive today. And this wicked, weary world we live in would still be as it was in the beginning … a paradise.
“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (Romans 5:12).
Let’s pause here for a moment. Granted it’s a deep subject, one that cannot be fully explained or understood, even by doctors of medicine, physics, and theology. I’m referring to the process of aging and death itself. But Scripture is clear and the record of man’s existence fully attests to that clarity: Sin is a disease of the entire person—body, soul, and spirit. It is the ultimate cause of death in every human being. We begin to die soon after we are born. God said that if Adam and Eve chose to disobey the one and only commandment given to them, they would surely die. Which is exactly what happened, although God graciously gave them and others a long life before they died.
Many have heard the expression, “Two things in life are certain: Death and taxes.”
Wrong! Some down through the years have escaped taxes, like kings and queens and others. Not so, death. Mortality is a 100% certainty. One out of every one people dies. The only exception can be made by God … when he took Enoch and Elijah directly to heaven.
Whether through the blood, genes, DNA, or all of the above, every human being has been infected with sin. It is not a result of society, culture, or upbringing. Those can be factors that contribute to the nature and extent of wrong things we do, but they are not the innate cause. Any parent can attest to that fact when the first word they hear from their two-year old child is, “No!” Followed by a temper tantrum that shock mom and dad so much that they can’t believe what they’re seeing. Not their little angel! It took less than one generation for Adam’s son, Cain, to murder his brother Abel.
Time/space only permits partial examination of the Romans Chapter 5 passage that begins in verse 12 (earlier quoted) and goes through verse 21. You may want to read the entire passage; for purpose of our subject at hand (first and last Adam), let’s pick it up with:
“…Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ … For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.
“…Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone … So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:14-21).
Quoting from the commentator in the New Living Translation on this passage: “Adam was the counterpart of Christ. Just as Adam was a representative of created humanity, so is Christ the representative of a new spiritual humanity. We were all born into Adam’s physical family—the family line that leads to certain death. We have inherited his guilt, a sinful nature (the tendency to sin), and God’s punishment. Because of Jesus, however, we can trade judgment for forgiveness. Christ offers us the opportunity to be born into his spiritual family… To which family line do you now belong?”
The Virgin Birth of Messiah Jesus
The entire life of Christ was a miracle, if for no other reason that the numerous miracles he performed to heal horrible afflictions, dreaded diseases and inoperable conditions such as those who were leprous, lame, deaf, and blind. And also his supernatural power over the laws of physics, i.e. turning water into wine and walking on water itself.
Jesus’s entrance into this world was also a marvelous miracle. Some call it the Immaculate Conception, others refer to it as the Virgin Birth … which it was. Jesus came to us through the natural process of birth; but Mary’s conception was supernatural.
“Mary asked the angel (Gabriel), ‘But how can this happen? I am a virgin.’ The angel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35).
*Note: Luke was a medical doctor. He knew full well how babies are (normally or naturally) born! Yet he reports the Virgin Birth as absolute fact. And why wouldn’t he, after also receiving first hand witness accounts from the Apostles (mostly Peter) and many others of all the miracles Jesus did, including the greatest of all—the resurrection!
Luke began his Gospel by citing other people who had also undertaken written accounts “about the events that have been fulfilled among us…” via eyewitness reports. He writes: “Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught” Luke 1:1-4).
God’s perfect plan to rescue the human race from spiritual death (eternal separation from God) required a sacrificial shedding of blood by a human being who had never sinned … the perfect sacrifice. Why? Because as Scripture says, “For the life of the body is in its blood … It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible” (Leviticus 17:11).
Blood and what it means to human life has been an enigmatic source of wonder and amazement from the beginning. Blood is symbolic of life, which is why we sometimes honor our fallen soldiers with words like, “they spilled their blood to keep us free.” Which is another way of saying, they died. Yet, it is much more than that: it is the literal indispensable substance of life.
That is why God gave himself, through the 2nd part of the Trinity: God’s Son who was born of a woman, but not from the seed of a man (which would have infected Jesus as a human being with sin). Because everyone in the human race has sinned, only God, himself, was qualified to be the perfect substitution to pay for our sins and pardon the punishment we all deserve.
All true Jewish and Gentile believers (and even some unbelievers) accept this astounding but also unfathomable truth: that Jesus was (still is) God in human flesh. We believe the truth of it, although we don’t fully understand how it could be done. But then, there are myriad mysteries of life and the universe that no one comprehends completely, or even partially. Not even the scientists!
The Virgin Birth was necessary in order for Jesus to retain his Divine nature that he shared with his Father from before time began. As the prophet Isaiah tells us: Messiah (Jesus) is: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Jesus had to remain God in order to accomplish something no mortal man could possibly do: Become the flawless sacrifice to restore man (woman) back to God; thereby, enabling us to live forever with the same kind of transfigured, resurrected body of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
There’s more … perhaps something that even some believers haven’t fully considered. We’ve already touched on this comparison; let’s examine it in more depth. I’m referring again to Paul’s representative depiction of Jesus as the second (last) Adam.
Another purpose for this correlation is to refute the notion that because Jesus is God, then, of course, he couldn’t sin. That his divine nature would automatically win out over his human nature. With this inaccurate inference: It was a foregone conclusion that Jesus couldn’t or wouldn’t sin; thereby diminishing or even discounting the once and for all efficacy of his substitutionary atonement for our sins. In other words: Though Jesus was fully man, his sacrificial death on the Cross was essentially meaningless because he didn’t have the capacity to sin. Thus, he was not a true representative of the human race. He was innocent of sin, but that innocence was predetermined by virtue of the fact that Jesus is God.
As we know, Adam and Eve were created without sin. Evil existed, but only in the spiritual realm of Satan and his fallen angels. Not with God’s creation of man. Adam and Eve were given a choice of trusting and obeying their Creator to know and determine what was best for them, and what was required to live forever in their earthly Paradise. They chose badly. They sinned. They died. Their sin nature was transmitted to their descendants and all peoples thereafter. Which means that it is never an issue if a person will do something wrong. Rather, it’s only a matter of when. Contrary to popular opinion, a child does not enter this world with a “clean slate.” That slate is already tarnished and inevitably will bear ugly marks of outright sin.
Even though Jesus wasn’t born with the infected disease of sin (inherited by the entire human race from the time of Adam and Eve), he, nevertheless, came into this world in the same physical and spiritual condition as did Adam. Exactly like Adam, Jesus, as a man, could have chosen to go his own way, do his own thing, and seek the pleasures and power (which Satan offered him) of the world instead of the purpose for which he came. Jesus could have listened to Satan and agreed with his lies, just as Eve and Adam did.
Although the Virgin Birth prevented Jesus from inheriting the dread disease of sin and assured the whole human race that he was the Son of God, it did not eliminate the free choice that Jesus was given as a man to obey or disobey God the Father. Thus, it was not impossible for Jesus to sin. That is why Jesus is called the second or last Adam. With one awesome distinction: Not only did he choose (as a man) to completely trust and obey God, he completed the plan and task given to him by God the Father … excruciating death on a Cross to take away our sins and pardon us from the eternal penalty of those sins.
How perfect is that? Answer: Christ is completely perfect. And so shall we, who have been made right with God, someday soon be transfigured to a heavenly body like our Lord’s. Which will complete our salvation begun when we were justified by God because we believed and received Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Throughout eternity, we will worship and serve Him, undefiled; in a transfigured body that can and will no longer sin; nor suffer any of the former consequences of sin … sorrow, pain, crying, or death (Revelation 21:4).
Things to Ponder
As the words of the song go: “Amazing love, how can it be; that you, my God, should die for me.”
To express my profound gratitude for so great a salvation because of what Jesus Christ did for me personally (for everyone who will simply place their eternal destiny in his hands), I’d like to quote an excerpt from my book, Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved? 666 concerning Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.
“Yet, it was the temptation scene that dealt the first Messianic blow to Satan’s plans, because that was the devil’s first opportunity to create an antichrist right then and there; to, in one fell swoop, twist and turn the true Messiah into Satan’s messiah.
“Eternal praise to our God and his Messiah that this did not happen! All glory to Yeshua who did not send a legion of angels to annihilate those who had arrested him in the garden! Everlasting gratitude to our Lord for not saying I’ve had enough, and stepping down from the cross! All power and dominion to the Son of Man for arising from the grave and conquering death once and for all! Go ahead, say it aloud with me. Amen!” (page 219).
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (II Corinthians 5:17).
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:21).