Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jesus in Genesis

In recent years, a new surge has developed within the creation vs. evolution arena which calls itself the “Intelligent Design” movement. As its name implies, the focus of Intelligent Design, or “ID” as it is sometimes called, is to make people aware of the scientific evidence for a higher (or at least intelligent) cause behind the universe and life, rather than the usual evolutionary “explanation” of chance accidents over time producing “apparent design.” Because of the this focus, many Christians interested in defending creation on scientific grounds have given their full support of ID, as well as those who are interested in having creation taught in public schools without being accused of bringing religion into the science classroom. And while ID does provide many good arguments against evolution by chance, there is an important piece of the creation puzzle that is missing in Intelligent Design, a “design-flaw”, if you pardon the pun: the identity of the Intelligent Designer! Intelligent Design simply says that there is a designer who is responsible for creating the universe and living things and leaves it up to the individual to determine who the designer is, whereas, biblical creation tells us not only that there is a Designer, but also who that Designer is, how He created, and what He has done for His creation. As John 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.” The Bible identifies this Living Word as Jesus Christ, and tells us in Colossians 1:16-17 that, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” It is amazing to think that Jesus, born in Bethlehem as a human baby, with tiny, baby hands is the same Jesus who’s Hands created the very Universe and formed man from the dust of the ground, and the same Jesus who’s Hands would one day be pierced for the sins of mankind on a Cross. What a powerful and amazing God we serve! 

Now, there are many non-Christian religions which claim to believe in the Bible (or at least the Old Testament), yet disagree with all that I just said, claiming that Jesus is not truly God, and therefore, did not really have any part in the creation of the Universe. Even in many Christian circles, there are some who are now claiming that because Jesus referred to the early chapters of Genesis as true, literal history, that He was only “accommodating” His message to His Jewish culture, or that as a human being, He was finite, and didn’t really understand the “truth” of evolution and millions of years. But what such viewpoints are missing is the fact that Jesus is not just in the New Testament. As we will be examining today, Jesus Christ as the Creator God can even be found in the very Creation account itself, as well as the rest of Genesis 1-11, which describe the early history of the Earth. But beyond this, Jesus Christ as the Redeemer who died for our sins can also be seen in prophecies and foreshadowings found in these chapters, as well as throughout the whole Old Testament! So, just as intelligent design speaks to an Intelligent Designer, biblical creation in Genesis speaks to the Creator, telling us who the Creator is, and what He has done for us. So, let us begin taking a look at the appearances of Jesus Christ as Creator in Genesis 1-11.

Appearances - Many people would say that because the name ‘Jesus’ does not appear in the Old Testament, that Jesus was not present in those portions of history. But the New Testament shows us that Jesus is, in fact, God Himself, being the Second Person in the Triune Godhead, the Trinity. Now many non-Christian religions claim that because the word ‘Trinity’ does not appear in the Bible, that it is not a biblical concept. However, not only does the New Testament show us that the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God and all one, but the first book, chapter, and even the first verse of the Bible show us that there is a plurality within the unity of the Godhead. You see, the Hebrew name for ‘God’ used in Genesis 1 is Elohim, which is also the word which can be used to describe idols, “little-g” gods. Now, in the Bible, you often see Hebrew names for places and people ending in -im, and that is because -im is the Hebrew plural. In other words, the Hebrew version of the English letter ’s’ when used for showing plurals is the suffix -im. So, if the name for God used in Genesis 1 is Elohim, is it singular or plural? Plural! So, in other words, the word used here for God implies plurality within God. So then, why is Genesis 1:1 not translated, “In the beginning Gods created the heavens and the earth”? Well, in addition to the clear statements that there is only one God, the Hebrew word for ‘created’ used in Genesis 1:1 and in other places throughout the creation account, is bara, a third-person singular. So, in other words, God is plural, but the verbs used to describe His activity are singular. In English, it would be similar to saying something like, “they was.” So, in Genesis 1:1, we can already see that God is plural in nature, yet functions as a unit; a plurality in a singularity, or multiple persons within one God, which is precisely what the Trinity is. Since Jesus is the Second Person in the Trinity, God the Son, and the Trinity is recorded as having created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:1, we can already see, even in Genesis 1:1, that Jesus is the Creator.               

The Trinity is also seen elsewhere in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 1:26, we read, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Now, one could say, “But wait a second, Caleb. Couldn’t the plural “Us” and “Our” be referring to God and the angels?” Well, let’s take a look at the context of this verse so we can get a true understanding of what this verse means. In Genesis 1, God’s creative activity consists of two parts: God’s spoken commands, and the fulfillment of those commands. For example, God commands the earth to bring forth plants, and the words, “… it was so…” follows, showing that God’s commandment was fulfilled instantly at His spoken Word. This is also the case in the creation of man, however, in this case, God is recorded as having discussed His plans with Others. God proposes to “make man in Our image,” and His plan is fulfilled in the following verse, Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” So, if man was created in God’s image, can there really be any question about the identity of the “Us” referred to by God? No! So, in the creation of man, we see that God is both plural and singular, multiple persons in one God, which is the definition of the Trinity. 

Another place where the Trinity is directly referred to is in the account of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, verses 7 and 8, “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.” Just like in the creation of man, God speaks of His plans in Divine Council, and then proceeds to fulfill them. And as in the creation of man, the word “Us” is used by God to refer to this Divine Council, and then it says that the LORD was the One fulfilled that plan! So, this Divine Council can only be God Himself, again showing us that there is a plurality in the Godhead; not multiple gods, but multiple persons within the One God. 

So, what does all of this show us about Jesus? First, it shows us that as the Second Person in the Trinity, Jesus is fully God and possesses all of the attributes of God, including the eternality of God. It also shows us that Jesus is the Creator of the entire universe, as well as the Creator of man. And isn’t that interesting? We are created in the image of Jesus Christ Himself, since Jesus is part of the “Us” being referred to in the creation of man in Genesis 1:26-27, and as hinted in Genesis 3:8, “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” He created us to be able to walk with Him in a close, personal fellowship. Yet, Jesus did more that create us in His image. As a result of the Fall, which we will look more at in a few minutes, the image of God was stained by sin, and we lost our ability to walk with God in fellowship because of our sins. But as Phillipians 2:5-11 tells us, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” So, Jesus came to be born into the image of man, who was created in the image of God Himself, and as we learn in Romans 8:29, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” So, Jesus came as a man to restore the broken image of God in man and the broken relationship with God and man, and He is also the One “who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” And as we see at the Tower of Babel, as the Creator and the Author of all history, Jesus is fully in control of all things and is in authority over man to rule and judge.  

Prophecy - And along those same lines, as the Creator, Jesus has the full authority to give Laws. As I like to think of it, when I create something out of LEGOs, I have the authority to make rules about the way one treats and handles my creation. Likewise, in Genesis 2, God is recorded as having given Adam and Eve a very specific instruction as to what they were and weren’t allowed to eat in the Garden of Eden, and He warned them that if they rebelled and ate from the Tree He commanded them to not eat from, their punishment would be death. Yet as we all know, the serpent deceived Eve, Adam chose to rebel and eat the fruit, and they were both expelled from the Garden, and as Romans 5:12 tells us, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” God then cursed His creation, placing it under a bondage to death and decay. Yet even in this darkest and most hopeless moment in history, God shows His love for His creation by giving a promise of hope and a prophecy of a Light who one day would be sent as a solution to this problem of sin. In the middle of God’s curse, in Genesis 3:15, He proclaims, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Here, we can see that the coming Redeemer would be one of us, a kinsman related to Adam and all of His descendants by blood, but also not related to man directly, as He would be the Seed of the woman, showing that this coming Messiah was going to be born of a virgin woman. This verse speaks of the Messiah as a victorious conquerer coming to defeat the serpent and his seed, sin and death, but by what sounds like a defeat. Scripture talks in other places, such as in Isaiah 53, about the Messiah being a suffering “Man of sorrows” who, “by His stripes we are healed,” and in other places as a victorious, conquering King. As a result, many Jews believe that there are actually two messiahs, one who would suffer for man’s sins, and another who would come and reign as the victorious “son of David” upon the throne of Israel forever. Similarly, Muslims believe that Jesus didn’t actually end up suffering and dying on the Cross, because they believe that “allah” would never allow one of his prophets to be treated so shamefully. However, as we can see, even in the earliest chapters of Genesis, Scripture is clear that God would only be sending one Messiah, who would be both a conquering King who would bruise the head of the serpent, and a Man of sorrows who would take the punishment for our sins upon Himself on a Cross.

Foreshadowings - The Oxford Dictionary definition for the verb foreshadow is to, “be a warning or indication of (a future event).” As we have seen, God promised after the Fall to send a Redeemer who would conquer the serpent, but that’s not the only thing God did then. As we know, when Adam and Eve sinned, their eyes were opened, and they saw that that they were naked. So, they sewed fig leafs together to make coverings for themselves, and they hid from God. However, even after seeing what Adam and Eve had done, God showed His love and mercy to them by making coats of skin to cover their nakedness and shame. Of course, skins don’t grow on trees (at least not comfy skin), so this requires that an animal be sacrificed in order to cover man’s sin. So, do you see what this is? This is the first animal sacrifice for sin! This is confirmed in the next chapter in Genesis 4:3-5, “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.” As Hebrew 9:22 tells us, “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” You see, because the punishment for sin is death, sin requires the shedding of innocent blood in order to be covered. Since vegetables don’t have blood, Cain’s sacrifice didn’t make the cut. However, as we read later in Hebrews 10:4, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” You see, because only man was made in the image of God, the blood of animals could not sufficiently cover the sins of man. Only the blood of a perfect human being could sufficiently cover the sins of mankind. In Genesis 8:20, following the worldwide Flood, we read, “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” Those, like Noah, who lived in the days before the coming of Christ would offer animals for sacrifice, believing that one day, God would send the Messiah who would be the perfect sacrifice who’s blood would be sufficient to cover sin. You see, the Old Testament sacrifices were symbolic of what was to come. As John the Baptist said of Jesus in John 1:29, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” 

And just like Adam and Eve needed physical coverings in order to cover their physical shame and nakedness because of sin, so we, and all humans, need spiritual coverings to cover our physical shame and nakedness. The Bible tells us in Romans 5:12 that, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” And this is more than just physical death. This is also spiritual death, or the second death described in Revelation: Hell. Now, if you asked most people, they would tell you that Hell is the place where bad people go, and that Heaven is the place where good people go. However, according to the Scripture we just examined as well as others like Psalm 14:3, “There is none who does good, no, not one.” So, just like Adam and Eve, we go day by day trying to cover up what we have done by doing good works. In fact, all man-made religions are just that; man’s attempt to solve the problem of sin by doing good works, whether giving to the poor, doing service projects, paying money to a church, conserving natural resources, or any other thing which people consider to be good. But as Isaiah 64:6 tells us, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” You see, God’s standard is perfection, and just like Adam and Eve’s clothes of fig leaves, our good works are insufficient to cover our spiritual nakedness and shame. But just as God mercifully provided coats of skin by slaying an innocent animal, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus, the very Creator God Himself, stepped down from Heaven to be born as a human baby, to live a perfect life, and ultimately to fulfill His promise of redemption by taking upon Himself the just wrath of God by shedding His own blood on a Cross, paying the death penalty which was given to all humanity in the Garden of Eden. In doing so, Jesus not only paid the penalty for sin, but He also gave His own righteousness to all believers, so that we could have a righteous standing before God, so that when God sees us, He sees the righteousness of Christ rather than our nakedness and shame of sin.  Then He was raised from the dead by God the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit, conquering death, after which He ascended to Heaven and sat back down at the Right Hand of God the Father, where He is now glorified and exalted, and now awaits the time of His Second Coming, where He will judge the world and take home those who have been forgiven of their sins. 

I hope and pray that each and every one of you have had your sins forgiven and have been covered by the clothing of Christ’s righteousness. If you haven’t, I would just like to remind you that just like the people who lived during the time before the Flood had no idea when the Flood would come, we have no idea when Christ will be returning. Jesus Himself said, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Don’t go another minute without knowing for sure that you have boarded the Ark of Salvation, Jesus Christ, by repenting (turning away) from your sins and placing your trust in the finished work of Christ on the Cross. As the verse we all know, John 3:16, says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” All you have to do to is simply repent and believe. 

We have seen today that Jesus is the Creator God, who has always been and always will be. He has  given us the Bible, which are His Words from beginning to end, and in Matthew 24:35, He tells us, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” So, as I like to conclude all of the presentations I give, the question I want to leave you with is, who are we going to trust as our authority in all areas? Are we going to trust in, Jesus, the Creator, or man the creation? Thank you.                              

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The New Answers Book 4 - Book Review

A new answers book for a changing culture and changing climate...

Over-All Rating: 5 out of 5
Content: 5 out of 5
Format: 5 out of 5
Thoroughness: 5 out of 5
Up-To-Date: 5 out of 5 
Age Recommendation: Preteen-Adult 

Climate change in the origins debate, that is. In recent years, the emphasis of evolutionary humanists has shifted from defending evolution to offensively questioning and ridiculing creation and the Bible. I regularly hear claims such as," "Creation is religion and evolution is science," "Creation denies natural selection," "Transitional fossils disprove biblical creation," "Noah's Ark couldn't have possibly survived a worldwide flood," "A worldwide flood couldn't have laid down various, uniform rock layers," "Young-earth creation has no scientific evidence," and even "Dragon legends were really inspired by dinosaur fossils excavated by ancient paleontologists"! Meanwhile, coming from Capitol Hill is a push for support of climate-change prevention, abortion, "gay marriage", and a limited freedom of religion for Christians. 

Yet, even in such times as these, Christians are faced with a command from Scripture to, "...always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." But how are Christians supposed to give this defense? As this verse, 1 Peter 3:15, tells us, "But sanctify the Lord God in you hearts..." We must set God apart as first in our hearts, and hold His Word as our authority in all areas, including in this area of apologetics (giving a defense). This can be difficult, but fortunately, the Lord has greatly blessed His people with many wonderful resources to help equip Christians to have a biblical worldview and to defend their faith. The New Answers Book series, written by various scientists, theologians, and scholars (many who are professionals in their fields), and edited by world-renowned apologist and speaker Ken Ham, are some of the best resources ever published on the issue of creation vs. evolution and the Bible, and the latest addition, The New Answers Book 4, is no exception. 

The New Answers Book 4 features new chapters on:
- Atheistic Devices
- Does the Gospel Depend on a Young Earth? 
- Was Charles Darwin a Christian?
- Should There Really be a Debate between Science and the Bible? 
- What Did the Reformers Believe about the Age of the Earth? 
- Are There Transitional Forms in the Fossil Record? 
- Could the Flood Cataclysm Deposit Uniform Sedimentary Rock Layers? 
- Should We Be Concerned about Climate Change? 
- Could Noah's Ark Have Been Made of Wood?
- What about Beneficial Mutations? 
- What About the Hebrew Language and Genesis? 
- Is Speciation Evidence for Creation or Evolution? 
- and many, many more!

Beyond the wide variety of topics covered, Book 4 also features the same, easy-to-read format of its predecessors. Some things which I personally enjoyed about The New Answers Book 4 were:
- Its emphasis on biblical authority in all areas.
- The conciseness of each chapter. 
- Its pick-up-and-read style, which makes it easy to get the answers you want at any time.
- The specific topic selection is focused on answering skepticism as well as updating the creation model.

All in all, The New Answers Book 4 is a great resource for those interested in defending the Christian faith, and for those who are seeking answers to questions about creation, evolution, and the Bible. Many thanks to New Leaf Publishing Group for providing me with a copy for review.