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THE HOPE OF GLORY


By Harold Key

    A Reflection....

      Revelation....

        Promise....

          Destiny....

            YOU!


"What is man that you are mindful of him,

the son of man that you care for him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

You made him ruler over the works of your hands;

You put everything under his feet…"

Psalm 8:4-6



CONTENTS


Forward

Dear Reader

Man, "a-Being-in-Process"

The Son of Man, as Conceived by First Century Rabbis

The Son: From God to Man and from Man to God

Seeing the Son as the Image of the Father

The Son: the "Only Begotten" and the "Firstborn"

(a Distinction with a Big Difference)

"We Shall Be Changed"-- The Promise Assured by the Prototype

The Revealing of the Sons of God

Postscript

A Closing Prayer

Poem-"THE SON OF MAN"


All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version unless indicated otherwise.




FOREWORD

To those interested enough to read a Foreword


In early 1989 I was invited to write a critical article on the topic, "The Son of Man," scheduled to appear in the fourth issue of a new quarterly journal. So I wrote the article. My wife Wilma and my brothers Roy and Raymond proofed my manuscript and offered several much appreciated suggestions for improving it.

At the end of the year, the first issue of the journal came out. The second and third issues also were published as scheduled during the first half of 1990.

But then one slight problem developed. Funds ran out before enough subscriptions and donations came in to keep the journal going. So the fourth issue (and the article) never got published.

However, my brother Roy evaluated what I wrote favorably enough to personally make a few dozen desktop copies. He evidently thought it was worth his effort, saying, "I think this is breaking new ground."

I think most of the people who received a copy said "thanks," or maybe something like that. I remember some, who actually did read it, said they didn't understand it. Some complimented it. But the remainder simply never mentioned it again in any manner at all-at least not to me.

Really, I put a lot of thought and time and prayer into the paper because I was attempting to deal with basically the most wonderful aspect for me in the whole of creation.

Because of the limited space I was to be allotted in the journal (fifty pages double spaced), I didn't write out the actual wording of some Scriptures that I cited references to. And for better clarity, some statements needed just a little more expansion. So I have tried to do those this time. So this is about twice the length of the earlier article for the journal.

If and when you read this, I pray that it will be just the right time for you to receive a thrilling new dimension of God's glorious good news for you (and for everybody).

May the Holy Spirit take these words and illumine your mind and energize your heart beyond all you have yet experienced, as you glimpse more fully the nature of your birthright.

And you don't need to thank me. But you do need to thank God. For as someone else has put it, "You are destined for the throne!"

At least one reader grasped what I was trying to convey and in semi-seriousness suggested the title be changed to read: "The Spittin' Image of God." So I have changed the title, but not into that.

October 29, 2003



"For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined

to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order

that he might be the firstborn within a large family."

Romans 8:29 (NRSV)



"THE HOPE OF GLORY"

Your Nature and Destiny Disclosed in Jesus

I wish I could actually see you and learn just who you are, so that as you read what I have written, we could move along together. "Getting in step" with your audience is how I describe this action to the students in my communications classes. Obviously, it would be helpful if all speakers had in advance a mental picture of their audience as they prepare to present a message. And, obviously, it would be helpful to every writer.

Not knowing who you are, what your beliefs are, nor what your level of religious literacy is, I ask your patience for a few moments as I try to get in step with you.

On one hand, I certainly don't want to insult you by being too simplistic and offend you by talking down to you. Neither do I intend to bore you with matters you learned long ago. Yet, on the other hand, I don't want to lose anyone by taking too much for granted. I don't think I ought to assume you already understand and believe the religious language and ideas that some of us grew up with. Please stay with me a little longer as I do the best I can.

It does seem to me this study of "The Hope of Glory" should begin with pointing out the obvious and then moving from there. And the most obvious is that this paper has something to do with the person of Jesus who is called Christ. And it has something to do with humanity. So please bear with me.

Starting with that, we can then state there are two basic attitudes among people toward this person Jesus. One is favorable and the other, of course, is unfavorable.

First, there are those who believe Jesus was an actual man who lived about two thousand years ago, and that he was, at least, an extraordinary teacher of great merit. The other attitude toward Jesus is one of disbelief. And that disbelief is, in essence, a rejection of his significance, ranging from a very mild tolerance to a very fierce opposition.

As a matter of fact, the person of Jesus and what he represents has had a tremendously polarizing effect on people from his birth until this very day. I don't expect in this paper to do very much toward changing the minds of those that disbelieve in him or who dislike him. I certainly would like to help them come to faith, but they probably won't be reading this beyond their first glance. And really, such a person would be much better served by reading instead the early Bible narratives-The Gospels According to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These present Jesus with much greater justice than I could ever possibly do.

So I suspect any readers are likely to be people whom the world counts as "Christians," either in reality or, at least, in sympathy. Obviously, those who are unsympathetic toward religion in general, and toward Christianity in particular, will tend to regard the records of Jesus' life as biased and unreliable. However, if all friendly accounts are ruled out ipso facto (by the fact itself), that creates an impossible situation, since there are no other available records to consider.

Of course, there have been many attempts described as discovering the historical Jesus. But keep one thing in mind. As people review documents from eyewitnesses and contemporaries, their so-called "discovering the historical Jesus" always have been efforts by unsympathetic persons many centuries after the actual time of Jesus. With no new or hard facts to go by, they don't seem to realize it istheir bias that makes them presume to know more and to be wiser than the people who wrote the original accounts. So, in fact, the critics are the ones who are in the actual "Catch 22" situation rather than the canonical writers of the New Testamentaccounts.

Special Note

At this point I want to make very clear that throughout this paper when I use the term man, I am using the term in the generic manner in which it was used in the original Biblical manuscripts. That usage is clarified in the very first chapter of the Bible. And it is important to recognize the term in the Bible is gender-inclusive. It has neither a macho-male nor a feministic connotation about it whatsoever.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our own image, in our own likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:26-27

I am aware that I could use he/she, or s(he), and her/him, or other such devices to accommodate some modern sensitivities. But I feel this would not only be clumsy but would divert the focus of readers from the wonderful hope of glory itself and onto matters that this study is not related to.

So I ask you to read my usage of the generic term man with a gender-inclusive meaning except when I refer to a specific male as "man."

Thank you.


Man-a-Being-in-Process

There are many differences among Christians. Regrettably, these sometimes have led to such bitter behavior by Christians toward one another and toward non-Christians that our view of Jesus himself has been obscured or grossly distorted. And that is tragic-both to us Christians because it corrupts us and because it prevents non-Christians from seeing the real Jesus.

It seems to me that most of these differences between Christians are ultimately related to matters of culture. That is, there are conscious or unconscious ways of looking at things, which affect people's understanding and practice of Christianity. Many of these differences are simply preferences and are not basic to, nor do they involve, the very heart of the gospel of Jesus. But not all differences are inconsequential. Some differences are absolutely vital. Those that are fundamental to the core truth of the gospel have to do, of course, with one's attitude toward and trust in the very person of Jesus himself.

Sometimes, unfortunately, we get the impression from many Christians that the person Jesus is not himself the cardinal, heart-and-soul, core of Christian faith. Frequently he is treated simply as the originator (similar to Moses or Mohammed) of a system of religion. Perhaps this treatment is because he is invisible (and apparently dead to many). It seems Jesus is often regarded as one of several "doctrinal" parts of a creed (a religion) that is called Christianity. While he is said to be a substantial aspect of Christianity, to many Christians he himself is not the central focus.

I'd like to explore the possibility that there may be only two fundamental, or foundational, differences among Christians. Let me highlight the difference. Whether or not it is apparent at this point, these differences do relate ultimately to what is called the Resurrection. (I'm not intending to get into the "did not/did so" argument to try to prove anything about the claim.) What I'm trying to point out right here is that the significance of what really happened to the body of Jesus three days after his death is what the gospel message was actually about. (Incidentally, the word gospel comes from the word godspel, an Old English translation of the Biblical Greek word for good news.) Whatever the first message about Jesus was, keep in mind that the people who proclaimed that message considered it to be good news-very good news.

To some Christians it would appear that the whole business of Jesus having to die and then be raised was rather arbitrary. Since God was Almighty, he could have chosen another way. But this was the way God decided to do it. To these Christians, venting his righteous wrath on Jesus is just exactly the way God wanted it. They say God was being "merciful" by punishing Jesus instead of punishing deserving sinners. So, since that was the way God deemed things should be, you have to "believe" it. They apparently do not realize that this doctrine evokes the image of a heartless and cruel, bloodthirsty God. This concept of God may lead one to "believe" this is the way God is, and it can lead one to fear him, but it can scarcely lead one to trust him and feel secure with him.

I think such people, in effect, regard everything about the gospel as simply aspects of a divine legal plan to save mankind through establishing a "Christian" system. To them, if people will just comply with the rules of the system, they will be "saved." I sincerely hope this study will speak meaningfully to all these people.

But among others who reject a crass arbitrary legal system, some say it doesn't really matter whether Jesus actually arose physically and bodily after dying, because he continues to "live" in the hearts of those who are in sympathy with his cause. I think these people identify his "cause" basically with universal love and justice among mankind. I also think they are essentially humanistic in outlook and quite narrow in their understanding of God's cause. Perhaps this study of The Hope of Glory" will speak to them, as well as to the rest of us. I sincerely hope so.

Some people seem embarrassed by anything that has a supernatural aspect to it. They regard such as "spooky" and therefore unbelievable. Strangely, even some Christians are that way. But, we miss the whole point of the gospel if we rule out everything that strains our credulity. The entire story of Jesus as recorded is nothing less than astounding from the beginning to the end. Indeed, it is mind-boggling from the virgin birth through the resurrection and ascension. But the story doesn't stop there-not at all. It is just as mind-boggling from the ascension to the coming consummation.

Make no mistake. A believer (in the New Testament sense) is exactly that: a believer. We are called to accept truth that is unique by its very nature. This is truth which cannot possibly be subjected to repeated laboratory demonstrations. Nor can there ever be double-blind experiments to test that truth statistically. As I indicated, the truth concerning Jesus in its very essence is beyond human ability to duplicate, regardless of any and all advancements in the field of physical science.

But on the other hand (and this is important to note), we are never called to believe that which is false either in fact or in inference. Christian faith is certainly not "believing that which is untrue!" No one is remotely asked to be irrational. We are rather presented with testimony which by its nature transcends the rational. It is imperative that we see a clear distinction between testimony that conflictswith the rational and testimony that transcends the rational. It seems to me that to deny such a thing as trust can ever transcend the rational (as we conceive of the rational) is evidence of a closed prejudiced mind. Then of course, if that is the case, any further attempt to study is pointless.

If the story of Jesus is true all the way through, then Jesus is indeed a uniqueman. I realize that a double comparison in our English language is considered ungrammatical, but in the New Testament Greek language of the Gospels a double comparison is often used. So, in fact, if the Gospel story of Jesus is true, Jesus is the "most unique" of all men-absolutely like and yet wonderfully unlike any other person in all our experience.

Don't let me lose you here. Stay with me, please. If we have ever been asked to state the most profound thought that has ever entered our minds, we probably realize it was extremely difficult to put into words. And we very likely still have great difficulty putting an answer into concise words because it really involves the whole of our basic being. It involves where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. Putting it personally, it deals directly with the question, "Who are you?" Where did you come from? Why are you here? Where are you going? Can you actually put your answer into words?

This may seem highly presumptuous of me, but I am going to try to deal with that profundity. I appeal to you to read charitably. If you read like an English professor, my mistakes in grammar will probably divert you from concentrating on what I am trying to say. If you read like a legal attorney, you may dismiss everything on technicalities. If you read like a theologian, you'll soon realize (if you haven't already) that I'm no theologian. But if you read like a gold prospector, you must be willing to sift through ever so much (that you suspect you may have to throw away) because the nuggets that are hopefully to be found will be worth all the effort. Of course, be assured I'm certainly not consciously or deliberately putting in any waste material just for the fun of hassling you!

There are three important goals I would like to accomplish through this paper. First, I want you to really appreciate God, your heavenly Father, more gloriously than you ever have before. Secondly, I want you to appreciate who you actually are-truly to think more highly of yourself-than you have ever thought before. (You will also think more highly of others when you do.) And, thirdly, I want you very literally to trust more than ever in Jesus Christ as God's wondrous means to your perfection, so that you will never ever fall away from him.

Hoping to have clarified earlier my generic usage of the term man, I quote now an appropriate passage from Elton Trueblood's book, The Common Ventures of Life. The truth in Trueblood's observation is basic to grasping the answer to the profound question of "Who Are You?" which is what this paper, The Hope of Glory, is all about. So please read the following very carefully and thoughtfully.

    "What we discover as we look at our world philosophically is a series of levels or stratifications of reality. The lowest level, and apparently the earliest, is mere MATTER, with its mechanical basis. Above this is LIFE, which in its characteristic forms, grows and reproduces itself in one way or another. The third level is ANIMAL MIND, which, in its characteristic forms, seeks means to the satisfaction of instinctive appetites. The fourth level, SPIRIT, not merely chooses between means, as animal mind does, but proceeds to the choice between ends, by referring to a recognized ideal standard of good.

    "These levels are by no means wholly separated, but are connected in specific ways. In each case the lower is necessary to the actuality of the higher, but the higher controls and utilizes all the levels beneath it.

    "Man includes all four levels in that he is material, living, mental and spiritual all in one. So far as we can tell, a tree includes only two of these [the lowest] levels. Furthermore, the true value of the lower levels becomes clear only when they are utilized by the higher."

Please note the identified ascending levels of reality: mere matter, simple life, brute animal mind, and human spirit. But then Trueblood goes on to state:

    "Now an important point to note is the way in which this philosophy unites man with nature at the same time that it elevates him above nature by recognition of the unique differentia of spirit. It is part of man's glory that he can apprehend [the process], but the more he apprehends the process the more certain he becomes that he is an integral part of the same process. He has emerged in the midst of the process that he apprehends… That the world should give rise to creatures sensitive to values and concerned with duty gives one clue to the secret of the nature of the world."

Then Trueblood quotes the critical truth that was observed by the philosopher Aristotle long before the birth of Jesus Christ :

    "You know what anything is by seeing what it is becoming."

For emphasis, let me restate Trueblood's observation of the four levels of reality from the lowest to the highest: (1) mere matter, (2) simple life, (3) brute animal mind, and (4) human spirit - with each successive level's value seen in its controlling and utilizing all the levels beneath it. And, so, I call special attention to the fact that the true nature of anything is not revealed by simply looking at it as it is, nor by looking at what it once was, but in the understanding of what it ultimately is becoming.

This particular insight is basic to an understanding of "The Hope of Glory." The revelation of who you and I really are is grasped by us only as we understand what we are destined to become. If you do not think you quite understand what has just been presented, I urge you to read again Trueblood's statement and my comment following it. Unless you realize something of the tremendous significance and the implications of this, it will be exceedingly difficult for me to communicate what I consider crucial in this study.

The thesis of this study is simply this fact. Man, as the highest level of the created world, is in reality "a-being-in-process." And we must see the completed end of the process in order to understand what man is. The Gospel of Jesus Christ asserts that he, the man who after he had died was raised from the dead by the power of God, is indeed the completed end. The good news in this fact is this: in that man (Jesus) we see the true nature and destiny of every man.

This possibility, this truth, (man, "a-being-in-process") is essential to an understanding of the theme in this paper. This understanding tremendously elevates our appreciation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are a part of, but more than, lower levels of reality. But we are not yet what we are designed to be. That which we are destined to become will involve all levels of reality from the lowest to an even higher yet to come. I hope this idea is so appealing that you will want to continue your reading. I'm trying here to get you to have the anticipation of a "gold prospector" with the feeling you just may be close to some real pay dirt.


The Son of Man, as Conceived by First Century Rabbis

A study of "The Hope of Glory" requires a willingness to actually study, to explore, to consider from a fresh perspective both some familiar and, perhaps, some unfamiliar Biblical passages and concepts.

An old, old question by immature readers has long been, "Should the Bible be understood literally or figuratively?" A flippant answer would be "Yes." But a more respectful and correct answer is, "The Bible should be interpreted by the same rules as other literature is interpreted."

Isn't that interesting-and so simple! In that interpreting, you need to be reminded of something you already know-the Bible often uses accommodative language, or figures of speech in addition to historical fact. We are not supposed to insist that figures of speech must be interpreted literally.

See Mark 4:33 (also Matthew 13:34; Luke 8:9-10) where the justification is given for using such accommodative figures: "With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand." In John 11:13-14, it says, "Jesus had been speaking of his [Lazarus] death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead.'" Again in John 16:25, "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language."

Figures of speech often were used to offer hope, reassurance, encouragement, comparison, etc. These figures were and are designed to speak to the felt needs of people as they pr0esently were/are, depending upon their ability to understand. For instance: to those who are hungry, there is offered "bread" or a "supper" or a "feast." To the dry and thirsty, there is offered a "drink" or a "fountain" or a "stream" of water. To those that are tired and weary, there is offered a "place of rest." To those who feel estranged and outcast, there is offered "shelter" or a "house" or a "home." To the deprived and impoverished, there is offered a "mansion" or even a jewel-studded city with "gates of pearl" and a "street of gold." And we could continue to cite other accommodative language that would hold attraction to people with various felt needs. These are meaningful to those who are feeling the needs that produce corresponding longings. People can both intellectually and emotionally relate to such figures of speech.

Are we then to conclude that, literally, the highest level of man (spirit) is after all to be satisfied and fulfilled with the lowest level of reality (material)? Surely not! This may be the actual expectation of the followers of some other religious leaders. But it is not to be true of us who follow Jesus Christ.

However (and this is important), we must not assume that no lower levels of creation will be involved in the final phase of the kingdom of God. We must not try to spiritualize all references to the lower levels of creation. Rather, they must be involved somehow, not just in the beginning, but also in the completion of man, whom we have pointed out is a-being-in-process.

Therefore, the Biblical Psalmist's awed question before the Creator deserves the most serious attention:

    "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" Psalm 8:4.
Such a study as this necessarily involves the basic Biblical doctrines: the nature of God as well as the nature of man, the nature of sin, and the nature of salvation. We call this "theology." Now whether or not we like that word, we all really do have a theology. That is, every person has some ideas and beliefs about right and wrong-even if he or she is not considered a theologian. So, the question that ought to be considered is not whether you have a theology, but whether you have a good or bad theology.

Let me try to clarify. Let's compare theology with a baby. The concern of the baby's parents is not whether it exists, but what is its condition. Is it healthy or unhealthy? Will it grow properly as it should or will it not grow properly? So it is with a person's theology. A good theology is one that is in accord with divine revelation and is continuing to mature accordingly. A bad theology is one that is not in accord with divine revelation, or is not continuing to mature properly in its apprehension of truth. So the concern you ought to have is what effect will your theology have on you toward your becoming all that God intends for you to become?

Now to the Bible. In the process of laying on some rather heavy theology, the writer of Hebrews cautions his readers like this:

    "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore, let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity." Hebrews 5:11- 6:1.
I realize critical modern scholarship, as well as legalistic scholarship, may become antagonistic toward some of what I'm going to say, because it likely will challenge some treasured premises of their theology. But remember-read on like a gold prospector, please.

In the thinking of many people the term Son of Man exclusively designates the person of Jesus Christ. And it usually does whenever the "m" in "man" is capitalized. However, in the Bible the term "son of man" really means a man, or we should say a person of "mortal," in contrast to "immortal," origin. For example, the prophet Ezekiel throughout the book by his name was constantly addressed as "Son of man" (not "the Son of Man"). This was a term of address to Ezekiel always made by a supernatural being. Even more precisely, he was addressed as "Son of man" ninety-three times, always by a superior to an inferior-always by one immortal to one who was mortal. This was a continual reminder of his mortality ("son of man") and identified him fully with the people of Israel, his sinful fellow countrymen.

It is with regard to this relation of inferior to superior, of mortal to immortal, that makes the Psalmist marvel about the true nature of "mere man" cited in Psalm 8:4. (Incidentally, the predominant feature of Hebrew poetry is not the rhyming of words but a reference in the next line of the stanza to the thought in the previous line.)

So, look again at the awe-filled question:

    "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"
Critical modern scholarship asserts there was a Son of Man Myth that had been developed by the time of Jesus, and was appropriated by his disciples to support their claims of his deity. Such assertion seems strange in view of the fact that even his closest disciples never referred to him even a single time with those words. Jesus did refer to himself as "Son of Man" eighty-two times. But so far as we know he was never characterized as "Son of Man" by any disciple other than that one time by Stephen, the first Christian martyr, as he lay dying. (Acts 7:55) Surely Jesus' disciples at least would have used the term somewhere in their many writings if there had been such a myth which they wished to appropriate. The fact that they did not indicates their testimony was based not on tradition but on their firsthand knowledge of who and what they were proclaiming.

While there was no single identifiable, unified concept of "The Son of Man" in Jewish thought at the time of Jesus, there was, of course, familiarity with what is called "the Danielic Vision." In the Old Testament book of Daniel. there was someone described as "like a son of man" who receives the kingdom of God.

First, the highest, the most august, the most solemn scene imaginable:

    "As I looked thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him; Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; The court was seated, and the books were opened."
Then, the most magnificent climax to this scene is described in breathtaking splendor:

    "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion was an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." Daniel 7:9-14.
Jesus referred to that vision when he left the Jewish temple in Jerusalem for what would be his last time. He connected Daniel's glorious vision with a prediction of the horrific destruction of this temple. His disciples begged him to tell them more about such awesome times. So he told them that the coming of the Son of Man would be preceded by cataclysmic conditions as "spoken by the prophet Daniel." He went on to declare, "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:30; Mark 14:26; Luke 21:7)

The Danielic vision was a fundamental aspect of the Messianic hope. It was for this the Jewish faithful earnestly prayed night and day. The Messianic hope was that some day a son of man (a human child of Jewish parentage) would be born who would be given by God supreme authority over all human kingdoms and powers. Though a mortal man, he would be called the Lord's Anointed, the Messiah, the Heir, the Son of God, because this man would become God's personal instrument ("the arm of the Lord"
*) for fulfilling all the divine promises to Israel. Jewish tradition tells us that every devout Jewish mother's hope for her son was that some day her child would be the one whom God would choose to be the Messiah.

In anticipation of this coming person who would in himself embody and bring to God's people all that they desired, Isaiah the prophet writes:

    " For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end." Isaiah 9:6-7a.
Such a Messiah alone would be worthy to be given the sacred name of the Almighty. He alone would be given God's full authority over all creation. As heir to rule over everything (in this sense the "son" of God), the Son of Man would deserve to be honored and adored by "all peoples, nations and men of every language."

Before leaving the temple this last time, Jesus had just silenced those who repeatedly tried to entrap him with their legalistic questions in order to have him condemned and crucified. After he had replied to their questions, he asked them to tell him whose son they thought the Messiah (Christ) to be. They refused to answer Jesus lest they concede that he actually was God's Promised One. It was out of this their final frustration that they had Jesus arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court.

    "'If you are the Christ [Messiah],' they said, 'tell us.' Jesus answered, 'If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.' They all asked, 'Are you then the Son of God?'" Luke 22:67-70.
Please note that when Jesus used as a self-reference the term "the Son of Man," his prosecutors immediately asked him, "Are you then the Son of God?" These fiercely Judaistic authorities clearly equated the one term with the other. Now, it is very important to remember that these people were not Christians, so they were not projecting later New Testament concepts into their usage of these terms. And we must not make the mistake of assuming that they understood the terms in the Christian manner.

Matthew records Jesus as declaring to the Sanhedrin, "I say to all of you: in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." Matthew 26:64.

At this statement, they burst out in summary judgment, "Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips." Luke 22:71.

And so they condemned Jesus to death as a blasphemer who claimed to be no less than the Son of Man in the full Danielic sense-a mortal who claimed that he would be glorified and given complete rule over all of God's creation-the son of God.


The Son: From God to Man and from Man to God

    "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him." John 13:3-5; ESV.
The religious leaders amid their continuous and heated challenges of Jesus often made scurrilous references to his origin. When he claimed to be from God they were appalled. They were infuriated at his assertions that God was his Father and the one who had sent him to preach. More than once they picked up stones to stone him to death. Time after time he deplored their stubborn blindness in believing who he was-the one who had come from heaven.

    "'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life…But you have no idea where I came from or where I am going…I stand with the Father who sent me…I am one who testifies for myself ; my other witness is the one who sent me-the Father.' Then they asked him, 'Where is your father?' 'You do not know me or my Father,' Jesus replied. 'If you knew me, you would know my Father also. But,' he continued, 'You are from below, I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you, you would die in your sins. Unless you believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.'

    "'Who are you,' they asked. 'Just what I have been claiming all along,' Jesus replied. 'I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.'

    "They did not understand that he was telling them about the Father. So Jesus said, 'When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am…'" John 8:12-14, 18--19, 23-28.
"When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am." The ancient statement ("you understand what a thing is by seeing what it is becoming") was verified, more than the philosopher Aristotle could ever imagine, after Jesus had been crucified and raised. It was what Jesus became that revealed his true origin and identity-and ours.

When Jesus told the religious leaders where he had come from and who his Father was, they sneered, "Who do you think you are?….We know where you came from….We were not born of fornication" [implication: "like you"]-and similar jibes. Once Jesus told them, "You have no idea where I came from or where I am going." (John 8:14) How true that was. And sad to say, this is true of the world as a whole today-true even of many who are regarded as Christians.

To the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus' day, a claim to be the Son of Man was tantamount to an assertion of being the Son of God. It was the claim of being God's legitimate heir-with the right to sit on the very throne of the kingdom of God-with the authority to rule the entire earth. They could not possibly imagine an ordinary looking person like Jesus from Nazareth could ever have that privilege.

You will remember that earlier in this paper I asked you if you could state the most profound thought that has ever entered your mind. We said that thought necessarily involves who you are, where you came from, why you are here, and where you are going, what is the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of sin, and the nature of salvation. Why, you would have to have nothing less than the mind of God himself to fully answer that.

So I said I recognized it would be very difficult for you to put fully such a profound thought into words. I also said you might think me presumptuous, but I was going to try to deal with that profundity. Now you know that it is certainly just as difficult for me, as it is for you and everyone else, to express fully such a thought in words. God also knew that to be true. So for our sakes He graciously put this expression fully into one human being. Significantly, this one special person is called "the Word"-the very one whom the people around him called Jesus of Nazareth-the one known now as Jesus Christ the Son.

Therefore it is the answer to this question about the identity of Jesus that expresses the most important thought that has ever entered the mind of anyone. In each person's inarticulate, inmost, answer is comprehended the entirety of his or her theology. Our actual attitude toward Jesus expresses our real concept regarding the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of sin, and the nature of salvation. It shows what we think about ourselves-where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going.

But how can anyone have any attitude toward Jesus unless he or she has heard about him? This is why Jesus was and is so insistent that the gospel ("Good News") should be told to every person of every tribe and tongue and nation. Not incidentally, this urgency throws significant light on what many have called possibly the strangest of all statements in the Scriptures-about Jesus going and preaching "to the spirits in prison."

    "For this is the reason that the gospel was preached to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit." 1 Peter 3:19; 4:6.
Ultimately, confrontation with the actual Jesus Christ is the need (and the judgment) of every person. The hope of the believer, and the fear of the unbeliever, is that when he shall appear, "we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2) The fact is, eventually every person must say (and knowingly say) either "Yes" or "No" to the Son. We all must, and shall, either willingly or unwillingly be confronted directly with the Word, that full and perfect revelation of God and Man in the risen and glorified Son.

    "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." 2 Corinthians 5:10.
Face to face with the Son! He must confront each one of us in order to reveal our inmost self. Simply seeing him as he is will disclose where our heart is and has been all along. Our reaction, when we see him as he is, will disclose either our true desire for, or our actual hatred of, the real God and our like or dislike of that nature that he wanted us to have. There will be no sustained self-delusion then as there may be now. There can be no cover-up before him. There will be no postponing of revealing the decision we already have made. There will be no neutrality when we are finally face to face with the Son.

So, we come back to my early statement of the extreme importance of what happened to the body of Jesus three days after his death. The apostolic testimony of a literal bodily resurrection of Jesus is by no means unimportant. His resurrection was essential to his glorification-not just as a creedal statement to be affirmed, but as a fact that affects everything in the universe. This fact shapes our perspective of the nature of all things-God, ourselves, our destiny. It even alters our perception of time, space, the universe and our place in it. It is the total life of Jesus the Man, both before and after "the day he was taken up to heaven,"* that reveals the ultimate purpose of God for every man and for the whole of creation.

It is the resurrection of Jesus that clarifies every claim he made about himself and validates all of them. It illumines the whole of what he taught about the nature of humanity and God's relation with man. It substantiates the whole Biblical thrust of God's grand design for history. It shouts to the world that God's power in the person of Jesus Christ is fully adequate to perfect the entire creation.

No wonder the Apostle Paul wrote as he did about the gospel which God "promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 1:2-4.) The concept of first century rabbis was correct in connecting the Son of God with the Son of Man. However, their view was exceeded vastly by reality. When God raised Jesus from the dead, the concept of "Son of God / Son of Man" took on cosmic proportions with infinite impact for time and eternity. Not just for Jesus himself, but for the whole of humanity-past, present, future. At last, one man (fully and completely man had been perfected to become fully and completely God.

Don't let me lose you here. And don't judge this to be blasphemy, as the Sanhedrin did in their attempt to evade facing the full force of who Jesus was. Please note that Paul stated, "who as to his
human nature" Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. (verse 4) Read the Scripture again to make certain that I am quoting it correctly.

Do you grasp the almost incredible truth of this evolution? Is it little wonder that even the closest disciples of Jesus failed at first to comprehend the full significance of it? As they grew in their awareness of that implication, they had to revise their entire understanding of reality-of God, Jesus, his cause, who they were, the potential of every person, and what they had before them as their mission. Their alteration of the title for Jesus from Messiah to Christ was not just to translate a Hebrew word into Greek. True, both words imply "anointing," but they are not equivalent. Christ involves a substantial difference from Messiah because the earlier Jewish expectation, through a limited conception, had been infinitely surpassed by the glories of reality.

Some people have tried to express this perfected nature of the unique Son as the "God-man." The Scriptures do not use that terminology although such characterization is probably valid. Perhaps the equivalent of "God-man" is meant by the scriptural expression, "the Son." This term (the Son) is frequently found in the New Testament writings without further designation. Used this way, it means both Son of God and Son of Man. "
THE SON"-fully embodying the essence of both God and man-perfect, full, complete-all that God is and all that man is intended to become.

In his incarnation the Son of God became the man Jesus. Most of us readily agree with that statement. And we have at least some level of understanding as to what that involves. Yet I dare say we may not have thought much about nor be so ready to accept the corollary or corresponding truth. (But as a gold prospector, please don't stop your digging now. I assure you it is right here that the lode will be uncovered. And the treasure to you will be tremendous.)

By the Incarnation, God became a man in Jesus. We say the Son of God became the Son of Man. But the point to be stressed is that in the Incarnation the real
God became a real man, fully in our own nature.

    "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:5-11; NRSV.
By the Incarnation we see the descent of the immortal God to his complete humiliation as a mortal. If so, then by the Resurrection we see the Son of Man become the exalted Son of God. Or do we? Did Jesus, a man (a mortal), become God (immortal)? First, do we believe Jesus was really mortal, that he was he in truth "made like us in every way" (Hebrews 2:17) Was he completely human like us in every way indeed? Had he actually "emptied himself"
* as Scripture declares?

What does this Scripture mean if not what it says? Or did the Son of God retain ["grasp," "cling," "exploit," as other versions read] at least some particle of his divinity and so have an advantage that all the rest of us do not have in our lives?

If it is true that he did completely divest himself of all his pre-incarnate deity to become exactly like us in every way, then is the corollary true? Will we say, then, that by the Resurrection a mortal
man, fully in our nature, actually and truly became completely divine and immortal?

The answer of the Scriptures is an unqualified "Yes!" By the Resurrection of Jesus-Man, a-being-in-process-was actually
perfected. That is, one human being now fully attained to the ultimate purpose for which all mankind has been created. Man at last, still having humanity, was fully and completely clothed with deity!

Pontius Pilate's unintended prophecy when he said, "Behold the man,"
**became gloriously fulfilled. Jesus, and he alone (until we also are resurrected at his promised return) has become indeed perfected, completed man. Truly, as one of us, in his glorification and ascension he has become "our Man in heaven." As the prototype of the new humanity, Jesus is the "firstfruit." Jesus is Representative Man. He is our Representative before the throne of God-in every sense of that position-on our behalf.

It is this awesome aspect of Jesus' being that has received too little attention in our popular preaching, but which to me is the most cherished of his functions. It is this that I want to come back to in just a little bit.


Seeing the Son as the Image of the Father

We are quite aware of the pre-existence of the "only begotten Son of God" prior to his Incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth. The Apostle John so refers to Jesus five times as "only begotten." (The actual Greek word is monogenes.) In each instance the term has reference to his divine nature with all those supernatural qualities that he inherently possessed before he "emptied himself" and became a man.

From eternity as well as in time, the one and only God has been expressing himself in many diverse and often unfathomable manners. But God himself in his essence is supremely personal (being self-aware and having infinite wisdom, love, and all the excellent personal attributes that we humans know and value). So out of all the ways he has employed over time to convey his exact self-expression, the most suitable and comprehensive characterization of himself is in a human form as "the only-begotten Son of God," or simply, in "the Son."

    "In the past God spoke to our forefathers at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son." Hebrews 1:1-2.
Here is one place where The New International Version and most other versions are surpassed in accuracy of literal translation by The New American Standard Version. The force of the literal Greek language is not, "He has spoken to us by his Son," but it actually states, "He has spoken to us in* his Son." The difference in meaning may not appear to be much, but on the other hand it may be major. The one presentation could be that of a person who is a teacher about God. The other presentation is that of a person who is the embodiment of God, which carries a gigantic difference in meaning. As the Son, Jesus (not just in his teaching, but in himself-his entire being) is God's ultimate all-inclusive Word to us.

It is this total self-expression of God that the gospel tells us about. From the first of the Apostle John's account, he calls this complete and perfect self-expression "the Word of God" with reference to God's intent and power and even his very nature.

    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, glory of the one and only** Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:1-3, 14.
Likewise, the Apostle Paul declares of the Son:

    "He is the very image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross." Colossians 1:15-20.
In one grand utterance Paul describes the Son in his glorious nature from eternity to eternity. Ever since that encounter on the Damascus Road, the man Jesus Christ consumed Paul's mind and heart. For whatever length of time it took in the Arabian desert, Paul pondered until he understood the significance of Jesus' full identity. When he did return to society, "at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God." (Acts 9:20)

So far as we can observe from the Scripture record, Paul was the first of all the believers to proclaim Jesus is the Son of God in those precise words. Up until Paul's profound conversion experience, the apostles are portrayed as proclaiming Jesus in terms of the expected Messiah of Old Testament prophecy.

Peter, in the very first gospel sermon, after quoting from the prophet Joel, declared to the Jews from all nations who had gathered in Jerusalem for their high holy days:

    "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him: 'I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.' Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ [footnote: *Messiah], that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, 'The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.' Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ [Footnote: *Messiah]." Acts 2:22-36.
Peter, a Jew, was speaking to Jews in their Jewish language. So the actual word he used was not the Greek word "Christ" but the Hebrew word "Messiah," as the footnote indicates.

The next recorded sermon, from Acts 3, states:

    "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ [footnote: *Messiah] would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ [*Messiah], who has been appointed for you-even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to him in everything he tells you." Acts 3:13-22.
Remember, Peter was speaking to Jews of their Messiah. In the next recorded sermon, from Acts 5,

    "The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead-whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him." Acts 5:30-32.
And the next chronologically recorded proclamation about Jesus is given in the eighth chapter of Acts:

    "Philip went down to a city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ* [footnote:*Messiah] there." Acts 8:5.
Since the Samaritans spoke the Jewish language, Phillip used the Jewish word "Messiah," as the footnote states.

The point I am trying to make here is that the earliest proclamation of the gospel was made by Jews preaching to Jews in Jewish (Hebrew) language. As such, their aim was to convince their own brethren that Jesus was the long awaited Christ (the Jewish Messiah). Jesus' apostles wanted to create trust in the person of Jesus. That would mean acknowledging and submitting to him as the Messiah, God's special Anointed One, who would correct all things. By such trust, the Jews would be saved.

I don't intend to imply the earliest gospel message was wrong-not at all. Those who believed in Jesus were saved. But there was a deficiency in their preaching . It was in their limited Jewish concept of the Messiah-the Jewishness on the part of the proclaimers. Although Jesus had often spoken of the universality of the gospel, his disciples assumed the message was for all Hebrews-but just for Hebrews. That was the reason for the controversy about Peter's preaching to the Gentile Cornelius and his household in chapters ten and eleven ofActs [especially 11:19]. This assumption that the gospel was for Jews only limited both the target of their message and their concept of the Christ.. It took a direct miracle to get the Jews to go preach to Gentiles.

Not only did the earliest disciples preach about Jesus to Jews only, but also there is no record that they said he was the "Son of God" in any sense beyond the concept of the Jewish Messiah. We don't know for certain that they didn't. But we certainly don't have any record that they did.

It is likely that the limiting of their audience to their Jewish brethren was due to a limited understanding of all that was involved in the full identity of Jesus. At first their understanding of Jesus the Christ was essentially the same as Jesus the Messiah. But just as their understanding of the nature and the scope of the kingdom had to grow, so their understanding of the nature and the vastness of theKing had to grow also.

Jesus Christ confronted Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road and commissioned him to become Paul the apostle "to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel" (Acts 9:15). That event exploded the disciples' limited view of mission through an enlarged consciousness of who Jesus actually is. The concept of the universality of the gospel introduced an understanding of the true nature of Jesus Christ. The limited Jewish idea of a Messiah was swallowed up in a vastly greater awareness of a universal, even a cosmic, Christ.

Now back to our early critical quotation from Trueblood which deals with levels of reality.

    "These levels are by no means wholly separated, but are connected in specific ways. In each case the lower is necessary to the actuality of the higher, but the higher controls and utilizes all the levels beneath it."
The Jews started out believing they at last had the Messiah ("the Son of Man" in the rabbinical sense) and discovered they really had the Christ ("the Son of God" in the cosmic sense). Now the inspired writers can (and do) refer to him as "the Son," fully embodying all the essence of both man and God-perfected man and perfect God-fully and completely both.

Jesus Christ, "the Son," is now all that God himself is and he is all that God intended man to become. At last one man, a-being-in-process, has been perfected.

Our minds simply stagger at the marvelous plan of God for man. We, too, ask that age-old question:

    "What is man that you are mindful of him?"
The author of the epistle to Hebrews quotes the Psalmist's question, but does so in connection with "the world to come." (Hebrews 2:5) Like Trueblood in quoting Aristotle, the writer of Hebrews agrees that in order to understand what somethingis, you have to see what it is becoming.

Even in connection with the world that is, we are aware that sacred scripture states man was created in the image of God, after his likeness. However, I suspect that most people assume the image and likeness of God to be anthropomorphic (man-form). That means, in effect, we have "created" God in our image and afterour likeness, instead of the other way around. And so, we have seriously limited our knowledge of both God and man. Which is to say, by not knowing who we are, we cannot understand nor appreciate our purpose in God's unspeakably glorious plan for us now and in the age to come.

Otherwise, we could not regard so lightly who we actually are and our place even now, to say nothing of who we shall become and the place to which we shall attain when:

    "…the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets." Acts 3:21.
How can we possibly describe all that the "restoration" of man actually involves? Who could even begin to put it into words? God can and God did-inthe Living Word-Jesus Christ the Son of Man and the Son of God-the Son!

"Behold THE MAN!" Man-a-being-in-process finally perfected-a man who actually attained the intended end for which man was designed. Glorified-all that God is and all that man was purposefully created to become. In the perfected Son is revealed fully what God's gracious intention is for every one of us of the entire human family.

If people were aware of this, then why on earth would they squander such an inheritance in a far-off country and feed on husks from hog troughs? (Luke 15:11f) Yet more incredible, how can even many Christians do this, all the while affirming they haven't "lost their salvation"? What in heaven's name do such people think "salvation" is? Do they regard salvation as merely some kind of after-death transportation that gets one to heaven, rather than a here-and-now transformationof the inner-life that gets the quality of heaven into them? Inner change is essential to the process of "being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (1 Corinthians 3:18)

Jesus repeatedly and consistently taught about kingdom-persons as people who underwent inner change that produced external results. Read again all his parables about yeast (leaven) transforming the dough until the whole is changed
*; about seed falling into the earth, dying (changing) in order to become plants with roots growing down and stalks growing up-"first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head."** Inner change is essential in the kingdom of God and always produces outward results.

Being "born again" is not simply a frivolous empty expression. When Jesus said unless a man is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven [footnote: "born from above"-John 3:3, 7], he really meant it. He was speaking of an inner experience of God's grace. And he meant far, far more than the religious ceremony that is the outward sign.

Of what worth is it, either to God or to me, if I get to be taken to a place for which I am not suited and that I do not really and truly want? After all, what is salvation? Is it simply that I get to escape a place of torment in fire and brimstone? Even so, how content would I be if I get to a place, any place, however lavish, if I do not relate in heart and mind with the character and purpose of the one who is the very center and with whom I will associate constantly and intimately? If I really am not in gut sympathy with the Father and Son and the saints, would not my having to endure their immediate presence for an endless eternity actually bring me increasing and unutterable misery rather than expanding delight?

No amount of striving to get (whether on earth or in heaven) brings peace and fulfillment. Contentment is from the character of what one becomes, rather than the extent of what one gets-even if in prospect what one hopes to get seems "heavenly." Those who want to get recognition are never completely satisfied with the level of recognition they get. Those who want to get power are never totally satisfied with the extent of power they get. Those who want to get sex are never really satisfied with the amount they get-unless they become one with their mate on the spiritual level. That's the way the Creator designed us.

People are never made content by getting, no matter what they get or get into. People who are set on getting wealth are never satisfied with the level of wealth they get. When I was a boy, I remember the largest and wealthiest landowner in both our county and the next county telling my father, "People say I want too much land. But I only want that which joins mine." So, until he died he was never satisfied with what he got but was always trying to get more.

People who get into a marriage discover that, unless they truly become one in sympathy with each other, their situation becomes hellish, and they long to escape from that which they had thought before they got into it that it would be heavenly.

So if we hope to "get salvation," or should we even hope to "get to heaven," without becoming one in heart and purpose with the Father and the Son, we are doomed to be discontented in this life and absolutely miserable in the next. "Meaningless! Meaningless!…Everything is meaningless!"
* That was the conclusion of Solomon, the king who got more than anyone else of everything that the world offered in this life. But his heart was not truly one with God (as shown by his marrying hundreds of idolatrous wives).

This is why the Apostle Paul willingly repudiated all his own previous attainments that he had once considered to be prizes. He gave up everything that he had gotten in order to become one with Jesus Christ. His one compelling desire was "knowing Christ" on the most intimate experiential level of complete spiritual union with him.

    "I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith. As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead." Philippians 3:7-11; NLT.
Complete, total union with Christ, in every aspect of his being, sharing with Christ in all the experiences of this life and the next-that was Paul's one aim.

Salvation is, now and always, the secure state in which the likeness of God is being perfected within you (or in me, or in others) until you, or I, or they become completely conformed into the image of Christ-whatever that involves. Surely, when "the time comes for God to restore all things" (Acts 3:21), that restoration necessarily will include the kind of relationship that existed between the Creator and the created in the very beginning. "Restoration" will restore the intimate relationship between God and man that existed before man's sin separated him from the source of his very being.

Salvation is nothing less than that situation in which an intimate and secure relationship with God is established while God is perfecting man's nature. Salvation is the state of one who really wills to have God's will done in one's entire being. It is that condition in which the son desires to be just like the Father. It is that state of grace in which man experiences authentic fellowship with God Almighty-fellowship in a distinctly secure and untroubled way as God's process is being completed within a person-a process that will eventual fully clothe one's humanity with divinity. It is that mutually desired relationship now (which absolutely determines the future) between the Creator and man-a-being-in-process.

After three years of teaching about the Father's will to his selected ambassadors, Jesus' ultimate word to them was still himself. At their as yet undeveloped level of comprehension he exclaimed, "O there is so much more I want to tell you, but you can't understand it now." (John 16:12-Living Bible)

And so to our finite understanding, the very person of Jesus himself is the highest word-the word that surpasses all other words. He is the final word that can ever be spoken to us-the only one who has been, who now is, and forever will be worthy to wear the designation: "The Word."

    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only [footnote*: 'only begotten'] Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…No one has ever seen God, but God the only [footnote*: 'only begotten'] Son, who is at the Father's side, has made him known ['revealed him'-KJV]." John 1:1, 14, 18.

The Son: the "Only Begotten" and the "Firstborn"

(a Distinction with a Big Difference)

Please bear with me a bit longer if you do not yet see clearly the point I am trying to make. Remember, I promised that if you read like a gold prospector, you will soon strike a vein of invaluable spiritual treasure. And that will be more than worth any little tedious digging for it right now.

I have already called attention to the Greek word monogenes
*, with reference to the Son, that is translated "one and only," which the footnote indicates may be translated "only begotten." The King James Version and the New Revised Standard Version both read "only begotten" in the text instead of "one and only."

For our purposes I do not want to engage in semantics such as early theologians did in debating over concepts of "substance," "co-existence," "begotten, not made," and the like. However, I do want to point out and emphasize something that it seems is overlooked or not consider significant by commentators today. But it is significant in that it is fundamental for us. In Jesus' we discover who we actually are and what we are destined to become-man: a-being-in-process.

The thing to note about the word monogenes, whether it is translated "one and only" or "only begotten," is that the reference is to the unique relation of the Son to the Father. Either expression emphasizes their special relation. It does not refer at all to the Son's relation to humanity. So we rightly speak of Jesus Christ in his relation to God the Father as "the Son of God"-whether "one and only" or "only begotten."

However, there is another Greek word that does stress the Son's special relation to humanity. That word is prototokos, which is usually translated "firstborn." But, the word prototokos ("firstborn") in the Bible does not always refer to Jesus the Son of God. The word is sometimes used in reference to different human beings and even to animals, as we all remember from that final plague ("the death of the firstborn") upon the Egyptians in freeing the enslaved Hebrews. In this word the leading idea is "first" in chronological relation to any and all others who are born of that family. According to Scripture, we rightly speak of Jesus in his humanity as "the Son of Man." Chronologically, his human birth occurred centuries after the creation of the first man. Where "firstborn" is used in reference to Jesus, it involves a special significant and substantial concept in relation to man. It is that concept that we want to explore now.

I'm afraid many Christians assume that "the only begotten" and "the firstborn" are merely two ways of referring to the same aspect of the divine pre-existent nature of the Son. That, most definitely, is not the case. The first has reference to his glorious nature and relation with the Father before he emptied himself to become a man. The second has reference to his glorified nature after his life, death and resurrection as a man, and his relation with all humanity. Before he became a man, he was glorious. After he lived as a man, as a resurrected man he was glorified. This is so very important to grasp. As the "only begotten," he emptied himself of his glory. As the "firstborn," he was glorified. That is, Jesus received again the glory that he had with the Father from the beginning. And what a breathtaking meaning that has for all of us who likewise are to be glorified with him! That glory with him is our inheritance-for we are all his brothers and sisters. How great, how absolutely marvelous is our birthright! It is "the hope of glory!"

    "The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ." Romans 6:16-17.
On that dreadful night before his crucifixion, Jesus in trust looked beyond his coming agony on the cross to the glorification that awaited him in his resurrection.

    "After Jesus said this, he looked up toward heaven and prayed: 'Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true and living God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.'" John 17:1-5.
Both expressions [monogenes and prototokos] are applied to Jesus by the writers of Scripture, but they have entirely different meanings. Discerning the distinction between these is essential in our proper understanding of "The Son of Man" and what that means as to what (who) we are becoming. "The only begotten"[monogenes] refers to the perfect nature of his original pre-incarnate existence. On the other hand, "the firstborn" [prototokos] refers to the perfected nature of his humanity (through his living, dying and rising). That is, prototokos is the glorified completion of a-being-in-process (a perfected man)! It is this unique aspect of the person of Jesus Christ that enables him to be called, not just in the Hebrew sense but in the universal (even cosmic) sense, not only "the Son of God," but also "the Son of Man," or simply, "the Son."

While both aspects of "the Son" are beyond our full comprehension, I suspect that for Christians our dominant concept of Jesus is his glorious divinity rather than his glorified humanity. In effect, we think much more in terms ofmonogenes ("only begotten") than in terms of prototokos ("firstborn"). I'll explain. Our pre-baptismal confession, if there is one at all, is generally something like this. "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Since that is the King James Version rendering of the confession of the Ethiopian Eunuch [Acts 8:37], we who practice the baptism of believers tend to take this as our divine directive. It may bother some to discover that later versions of the Bible leave out verse 37, indicating in the footnote that many ancient manuscripts do not include the verse.

I imagine the "confession" of the man about to be baptized (as recorded in verse 37) was omitted from Luke's original account simply because it didn't take place. That "confession" is rather most likely indicative of the church's historical tendency to stress the divinity of Christ to the lack of emphasis upon his glorified humanity. The earliest actual Christian confession of which we can be certain (because Romans was written before Acts you know) is the statement by the Apostle Paul:

    "[I]f you confess with your mouth 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9.
Of course, critical modern scholarship, with their liberal followers, does not seem to want to emphasize anything more than Jesus' humanity. But without his resurrection Jesus was not glorified. To believe that God really raised him bodily from the dead requires a much more profound acknowledgement of his unique position as Lord. Lordship requires much more than lip service and token confession of his role as teacher and founder of a religious system. Lordship requires total submission to him as actual master. In his glorified nature, he is the Word of God to be trusted and obeyed. To refuse to believe in the Word is to not follow it (him). Such refusal is to attempt to live one's life in one's own strength. And that is essentially the very nature of original man's rebellion (Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.). Rejection of the Word of God is the death of any man, with no hope of resurrection glory.

In 1 Corinthians 15, that great chapter about the Resurrection, the Apostle Paul writes:

    "[S]ince we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless… "But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead." (1 Corinthians 15:12-15a; NLT.
And what are the implications for mankind of the fact that Christ has been raised from the dead? Paul goes on to write:

    "He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, Adam, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man, Christ. Everyone dies because all of us are related to Adam, the first man. But all who are related to Christ, the other [second] man, will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised first; then when Christ comes back, all his people will be raised…

    "Our earthly bodies, which die and decay, will be different when they are resurrected, for they will never die. Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. They are weak now, but when they are raised, they will be full of power. They are natural human bodies now, but when they are raised, they will be spiritual bodies…

    "What came first was 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. Every human being has an earthly body just like Adam's, but our heavenly body will be just like Christ's. Just as we are now like Adam, the man of the earth, so we will someday be like Christ, the man from heaven." 1 Corinthians 15: 20-23, 46-49; NLT.
Please get this point. Saving faith includes more than accepting the truth that Jesus perfectly represents God [monogenes-"only begotten"] and confessing that truth. Even the demons know that and tremble.

"What do you want with us, Son of God?" they [the demons] shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?"

    "When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, 'You are the Son of God!' But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ." Luke 4:40-41.
Saving faith is much more than acknowledging that Jesus came from God. It also embraces the marvelous truth that Jesus perfectly represents us to God. The demons did not believe that Jesus was their representative before God. They knew he was their judge. Jesus is our representative because he is the "firstborn" [prototokos] from among us. Not only is Jesus Christ the one who became God'ssecond Man on earth, but he is the one who now is our first Man in heaven! The "firstborn" from among the dead ones-us! "The first of a great harvest." (1 Corinthians 15:20-NLT)

All of us who speak of "the truth" need to be reminded that the apostolic writers use that expression in reference to the person of Jesus. "The truth" is certainly not any unique abstract beliefs or specific practices that may separate and identify religious groups. It is not such "doctrines" or "creeds" to debate. Jesus emphatically declared "the truth" to be himself.

    "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6.
The Apostle Paul was determined to maintain "the truth" of the gospel (the good news) regardless of the number or the prestige of any others who claimed to be the representatives of the truth. (See the second chapter of Galatians-particularly verse 5.) There was much more at stake than the quibbling over a religious ritual. It dealt with the very heart of man's access to God. The question above all questions is how may a person be put right with God? How is it possible for man (sinful, mortal) to be made able to have the fullest fellowship with God (holy, immortal)? And yet such fellowship is what God wants and what he offers in the Son Jesus. That, Paul says is "the truth."

    "[God] wants everyone to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For [namely, or specifically] there is only one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." 1 Timothy 2:4-5.
"The truth"-the sum total of the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of sin, the nature of salvation-is all embodied in the glorified Jesus Christ. It is he who mediates, or bridges the difference, between men in their lower state and God who wants to bring them up to his state. Please note that Paul clearly stated the "man" Christ Jesus is the mediator. This unique mediating role is by Christ the risen and glorified firstfruits, the "firstborn from the dead," of humanity-the "Son of God" and "Son of Man"-"The Son."

Christ Jesus bridges the gap as the first of humanity to become perfected. He is the first of created man to complete the process, "being made perfect [perfected] through suffering." (Hebrews 2:10) He is the prototokos, the prototype of perfected humanity. All the levels (lower and higher) of reality are combined in him. As perfected Man (God-man), he is material, living, mental, and spiritual all in one. And these levels are all connected in specific ways with the highest controlling and utilizing all the levels beneath it.


"We Shall Be Changed"

The Promise Assured by the Prototype

Jesus Christ is the first of the new order of humanity. Now we understand what man is because we see not just what he was, but we see what he is becoming. What astonishing implications for all mankind are involved in him who is the prototype of the new man! No wonder the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ is to be proclaimed to the whole world.

The glorified Jesus Christ-the prototype of the new humanity-is God's revelation of the final level of perfected man in the ultimate course of creation. This is the "mystery" or "secret plan of God" that the Apostle Paul wrote and preached about.

    "When I came to you I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.

    "We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.' But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit." 1 Corinthians 2:1-11.
Although "angels long to look into these things" (1 Peter 1:12), this is the mystery which neither angels nor demons knew in advance. …"the mystery…accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Ephesians 2:9, 11)

The reconciliation of Jew and Gentile is the context in which Paul writes about this "mystery" in his letters to the Ephesians and to the Colossians. The "mystery" is an open secret to those in whom the energy (the Holy Spirit) of the glorified Jesus Christ is already at work. "The Man" ("the Son") who supplies the missing link between man and God, also bridges the gap between man and man.

    "For he [God] has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." Ephesians 1:9; RSV.
Again, in Colossians:

    "…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son whom he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."
    Colossians 1:13-20.
The reconciling power of "the Son" is demonstrated whenever and wherever persons trust him. His energy, his life (the Holy Spirit) invades the individuals who trust in him. These, with his energizing life within them, are called his church-his body of which he is the head.

    "…for the sake of his body, which is the church, I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness - the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. [Emphasis added.] We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." Colossians 1:24b--29.
This is "the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (verse 27). Jesus Christ's glorious Spirit, the energy of his new life, is in us now, and the reality is evidenced by his unifying effect among us. Clearly, selfishness, strife, and alienation are not from him but from the evil one. However, all these are overcome by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God through the Son.

The visible reconciling effect of Christ among men is solid evidence of his invisible reconciling effect between man and God. We can be assured of Christ's vertical reconciliation of us to God because we experience his horizontal reconciliation of us with men who are made in the image and likeness of God. The saving power of God in Jesus Christ is just that. It (salvation) is in him. He himself is the Savior. Reconciliation of alienated "Jew" and "Gentile" with each other is not accomplished by anything they do. It is simply the supernatural effect of the living Christ within all who were once estranged. So it is in the reconciliation of man with God. The power is not from within ourselves-not in ceremonies and rituals or works or anything we do. This saving power is from him. It is in him. And, the good news is this: by the grace of God, through faith, Christ the Son is in us.

Paul frequently writes to believers of the mystery in terms of "in Christ" and "Christ in you." This is the supernatural effect of faith (trust) in Christ Jesus "the Son." Let me try to compare this divine phenomenon with something that is easily understood in our everyday natural experience. I was born and grew up in a house in north Alabama where we had a fireplace in each room. And at each fireplace there was always a poker that was used in stirring up the coals of fire. I discovered that if my brothers or I left the poker in the fire long enough it would become red hot. And when it became fiery red, it could start flames of fire by touching paper or similar objects. So as long as the poker was among the coals of fire, one could say both that the poker was in the fire and the fire was in the poker. The truth of that statement would be evident. Of course, when the poker was left out of the fire, the fire went out of the poker. To have the fire in the poker, all it had to do was remain in the fire. Similarly, as long as the believer trusts in Jesus Christ, he is "in" Christ, and Christ is "in" him. The saving transformation we need both within and without is not by the work of the believer. It is by the work of the Son in whom he believes.

This is why Jesus urged his disciples to remain in him so they would have his life within them. Instead of making the comparison to pokers and fireplaces of north Alabama, Jesus used a horticultural analogy with which they were much more familiar from their own everyday lives.

    "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." John 15:4-6.
The quality of eternal life is not merely that it is endless. For eternal punishment is also endless. Eternal life is the life of God mediated through our union with the person of the Son as closely as a branch is to the vine-or a poker in the fire. This mystery, "Christ in you," causes us to anticipate nothing less than experiencing fully "the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27) Our hope is to be like him, not just in some ways in this life, but to be personally and completely like him in every aspect ("glorified with him"*) throughout the endless life to come.

    "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." Titus 2:11-13.

    "[N]ow we are children of God, and what we shall be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:3.

    "But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer everything, everywhere."
    Philippians 3:20-21; NLT.
Our hope is not to become as Jesus was (as wonderful as that would be). Rather, the Christian hope is even much more magnificent than that. Since we arein Christ now, our "blessed hope" is to be glorified -to become perfected as Jesus is! We look to and await the glorified Jesus-the Son.

This "hope of glory" is far more substantial than a wish. Already we (who have placed our confidence in what God has done in Jesus Christ) "are children of God." We have "received the spirit of sonship." (Romans 8:15) Because of our trusting God's finished work in Jesus Christ, God has put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come.

    "Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5.

    "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-to the praise of his glory." Ephesians 1:13-14.
Standing beside the open casket on funeral occasions, I have often reminded the bereaved family and friends that God never intended what they are experiencing. From before creation God never wanted any person to suffer the pain of death. He never purposed that the grave become the victor. Suffering, sorrowing, dying-that is not what God designed to be human destiny. It was not his desire that life should be cut short-that two, having indeed become one, should feel the heart-rending grief of eternal separation in the annihilation of everything.

God never intended for man, the crown of his creation, who was made in his image, to end in nothingness. Death as conqueror is such a cruel mocker of that image of divinity with its god-like capacities. The eloquence and beauty of speech and song, the masterful artistry of carefully trained hands, the disciplined intellectual brilliance, the vast capabilities of mind and body, the years of expressing compassion and conscientiousness-all to end in a final mute, rigid, moment of humiliation and then disappearing forever into eternal nothingness.

No! NO!
NO!

The Bible begins with a completely different description of the divine intention. The first two chapters beautifully picture the Creator's careful preparation of a perfect creation. Then he said,

    "Let us make man in our own image and after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:26--27.
That the creation process took place, we are told. The mechanics of the process we are not told. And, personally, I am not bothered about the possibilities of how it was done. I'm quite content to leave that study to others. (However, I seriously doubt that anyone will fully understand the mechanics of it in this life.) But I am concerned that everyone recognizes the levels of reality in the creation process, however it was accomplished. First, there was matter. Then, there waslife. Then, there was animal mind. And, finally there was spirit. Each level incorporating and utilizing all the lower levels. What I am greatly concerned about is the incredible nature of man who was created.

Just as the eternal Word of God was and is the agent of God's power in the uncreated realm of the spiritual, so man was and is designed to be the counterpart of God's word in the created world. The "son of man" was designed to be the counterpart of the "Son of God." Man (male and female) was created and commissioned to be lord over the entire material realm. In other words, man as lord (subject only to his Lord) was to have full authority over all creation. Just as the Uncreated Son was subject to no one except the Father (to do only what the Father showed him), just so the created son was intended to be subject to no thing and to no one except his Creator Father (and always do what the Father shows him).

Man, as the son of God on earth (Luke 3:37), was destined unto eternal life. Such was the significance of "the tree of life" in the middle of the Garden with the Father's permission to freely eat of it. (Genesis 2:9, 16; 3:22)

Man, created to be master of the material world and destined to become divine! But not so do we see him now. That position of rule and intimate relationship with God is precisely what we do not now see in mankind. Rather, we see weakness, disease, rapaciousness, dishonor, and death. We see the God's perfect world ravaged by the very ones who were commissioned to tend it as its lords. Look wherever we may throughout creation and we see at best only a corrupted version of both man and environment.

What happened to the will of him who is omnipotent? What thwarted his glorious design? And is the Creator's wonderful purpose to be frustrated forever? Are we compelled to admit that there is no way for God ever to achieve his original marvelous intention for man and all creation? Has the Lord God Almighty been forced in defeat to yield to simply a damage-control alternative, as apparently many Christians believe?

No, not at all, if we believe the Bible. Just as the first two chapters of the Bible describe the perfect origination of man and all things of creation, so the last two chapters describe the perfected consummation. Thus will come to pass in even surpassing grandeur the yearning of every son of God: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Nothing less! And nothing else!

Between those first and last chapters of the Bible is the story of what went wrong and what God himself is doing to overcome that wrong and make everything into what he intended for it to become. The whole thing is nothing less than His Story, which is what history really is.

The unifying theme of His Story is focused in the Only Begotten (monogenes)from heaven who "emptied himself" (ekenosen-Philippians 2:7) and in a fallen dying world, took the nature of mortal man in order that he might himself become the "firstborn (prototokos) from the dead." (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15-18; Hebrews 12:23)

"Firstborn" (prototokos) speaks not simply of Jesus' resurrection. The significance of "firstborn" goes much beyond his personal triumph over death for himself. "Firstborn from the dead" means his being the first (as the beginning point) of the resurrection of all "the dead ones." An equivalent term is "firstfruits," the first ripened fruit of a harvest that is still to be gathered. Ancient Israel of the Old Covenant always celebrated "firstfruits" as the promise of the "ingathering." Lest we miss any of the significance of "ingathering," the harvest was when all the fruit had completed the ripening process. And of course, that which was harvested was the same nature as the "firstfruits." And we of the New Covenant must not miss the fact that Christ, as "firstfruits," is the promise and the revelation of what each and all of us shall be in the "ingathering" when he returns.

    "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him [who are of his nature]." 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23.
The glorious purpose of God in creation, far from being frustrated, finally has been realized in part in the perfection of the first one who was fully man-a-being-in-process. In Christ the process has been completed. In one man, Jesus, humanity actually has been elevated to no less than union with divinity. The one who as the "Son of God" emptied himself to become the "Son of Man" has been raised by God to be now the glorified "Son."

A still higher level of reality (which is the ultimate) truly has been achieved. At last, in the glorified Jesus, the true and full value of all the lower levels of reality become clear as they are controlled and utilized by the highest. Now Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man (the prototype-the Perfected Man) can declare triumphantly:

    "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me." Matthew 28:18.
Now at last in the "firstborn" (prototype) and the "firstfruits" (promise), we see what the Creator really intended for man to be. Jesus Christ in his resurrected glory is perfected man. He is The Representative Man because he is all that God is and all that God intends man to become. Jesus Christ is "the truth" personified. He not only once fully represented God to man in his humanity, he now in his glory fully represents man to God.

    "This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men." 1 Timothy 2:5.
O the incredible blessedness of that good news for us! Is it any wonder that he told us to proclaim this gospel to every person?

I certainly do not understand how the holy Spirit of Almighty God could enter the pristine "dust of the ground" and bring forth someone (Adam) made in the image and likeness of God. But I'm not God. Neither do I understand how God's Spirit could so act again as to impregnate a mortal woman's body and bring forth someone (Jesus) just as truly in the image and likeness of God. But, again, I'm not God. Should I (or anyone) have a "problem" in accepting the possibility that God could make either the "first man" or the "second man," it is because we do not believe either in the intelligence or in the greatness of God.


"Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14.)

That which is so preposterous is one's unbelief in the greatness of God. In reality, unbelief is an insult to God, who is able to do these and more because he is beyond our comprehension in wisdom and power. God has always been serious about having his will done on earth as it is in heaven.

The question of the Apostle Paul to his judges is so appropriate to us:

    "Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?" Acts 26:8; NLT.
Unbelief is not merely the denial of God's existence, but it is to have a view of a God that is too small. Unbelief stresses the difficulty of raising the dead. Faith stresses the God who is greater than death and everything else.

To refuse to believe in the resurrection of Jesus (and in ours) is an insult to God's intelligence and power. What he began to do, he will complete. The Spirit of the glorified Son of Man is the "deposit," the "earnest", the guarantee of what is to come for us.

    "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Corinthians 1:20-22.
Again,

    "We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies. Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it's not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit." 2 Corinthians 5:2-5; NLT.
The resurrection of Jesus removes the question of "can" there be a resurrection of anyone from the dead. That matter now is forever settled. There is no more doubt of "if" there can be a resurrection. Now it is only a matter of "when." His resurrection, and his Spirit in us, guarantees ours.

In a most real sense the uncreated, pre-existent, Word (the almighty creative force) of God emptied himself of divinity and took existence as a human being (embryo, fetus, baby, infant, child, adolescent, adult) in our very same likeness. Scripture is quite definite about this-not as merely "appearing" to have flesh and blood-but as actual fact.

    "Because God's children are human beings-made of flesh and blood - Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying…Therefore, it was necessary for Jesus to be in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters…Since he himself has gone through suffering and temptation, he is able to help us when we are being tempted." Hebrews 2:14-15, 17-18; NLT.
Here is the affirmation that this was a genuine "self-emptying" (kenosis, Philippians 2:7) of all the divine powers that would place Jesus at an advantage over others who share in flesh and blood. We must guard against the common mistake of saying he was a human just like we are, but slipping in an idea that he was somehow still divine and not "like us in every respect." Jesus did not have resources all along that we do not have. He really was as vulnerable as we are.

His was no pretense at becoming completely like us-no sham. Let's illustrate merely one aspect of his total self-emptying. Would it, or would it not, be reasonable to suppose that the newly born baby Jesus was thinking as he lay in the manger, "I'm the Son of God! I'm the one by whom the Father made this world!" But why would he not know this? It was because he had "emptied" himself. Therefore, all his supernatural self-awareness, as well as all his supernatural powers and his exercise of them, had to be learned through a life of trust in and devoted submission to the Heavenly Father, just as it is with us. It took him about thirty years to learn this.

    "And the child grew and became strong: he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him…And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." Luke 2:40, 52.

    "Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect [i.e., perfected], he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." Hebrews 5:8-9.
Let's go one step further. It is important for us to recognize the profound significance between the meaning of "perfect" (with regard to design) and "perfected" (in regard to something that through testing measures up fully to the purpose for which it was designed). It is the difference between untested concept and proven performance through the test of repeated real life conditions. It is simply the difference between before and after.

My point is this. In the beginning the first Adam was designed without defect-perfect-when, as the Bible says:

    "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

    "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." Genesis 1:26a, 27, 31a.

    "The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath [spirit] of life, and man became a living being [soul." Genesis 2:7.
Man (and "Adam" is the Hebrew word for man) as the highest level of reality, was able to do more than "choose between means to the satisfaction of instinctive appetites as animal mind does." Now god-like, he proceeds to "choose between ends, by referring to a recognized ideal standard of good."* That recognized ideal standard of good was (and always is) the word of God.

But, because Adam was man: a-being-in-process, the process was interrupted when he willfully disobeyed. The "first man" was never perfected. Which means, he never attained the purpose for which he was made. He failed when he was tested. Because he did not maintain his integrity (his submission to God in all things), he was not glorified. Although he was designed a perfect man when he was made, he was never perfected. That is, God's plan (the process intended for perfecting man) was not completed in and for "the first Adam." Nor was God's will perfected in any person until God started the process anew and completed it in Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Bible calls "the last Adam."

As representative man, the first Adam brought sin and death to all men in contrast to the Representative Man Christ, the last Adam, who brought righteousness and life to all humanity.
    "When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. And though there was no law to break, since it had not yet been given, they all died anyway-even though they did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did." Romans 5:12-14a; NLT.
However, as perfected Representative Man, Jesus Christ, the "last Adam," undoes all the effect of the failure of the first Adam.

    "What a contrast between Adam and Christ, who was yet to come! And what a difference between our sin and God's generous gift of forgiveness. For this one man, Adam, brought death to many through his sin. But this other man, Jesus Christ, brought forgiveness to many through God's bountiful gift. And the result of God's gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man's sin. For Adam's sin led to condemnation, but we have the free gift of being accepted by God, even though we are guilty of many sins. The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God's wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

    "Yes, Adam's one sin brought condemnation upon everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness makes all people right in God's sight and gives them life. Because one person disobeyed God, many people became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many people will be made right in God's sight." Romans 5: 14b-19; NLT.
Writing to the believers in the early Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul put it this way:

    "For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he has 'put everything
    under his feet.'…When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all." 1 Corinthians 15:21-28.
"So that God may be all in all" is the stupendous end of God's experiment with creation in general and man in particular. But, instead of a pantheistic obscurity of man's individual personhood, the Father's design is that each should:

    "…be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. Romans 8:29; NRSV.
As within a large family, although each child is a distinctly identifiable person, there is usually a recognizable "family likeness" among them. People often remark on how much my brothers and I resemble each other. And older people who knew our father say our likeness to Charlie Key grows more striking every year. So it is that our Heavenly Father will generate the family likeness more and more in each of his sons and daughters. And we now get a glimpse of the Father's likeness (which we are destined to be formed into) as we look at the glorified Son.

    "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." 1 John 3:1-3.


The Revealing of the Sons of God

We Christians often make the same mistake that the world makes. The world's concept of man is drastically limited. The truth is, we have never seenGod and we have never seen a real man. To see a real man, we would have to see a perfected man. As Aristotle said centuries before Jesus was born, "To understand what something is, we must see what it is becoming." Since the philosopher never saw a completed man, his philosophy necessarily was not complete. We quite frequently have an incomplete view of God precisely because we have a low view of man. What we see as we look at one another is, as yet, onlya-being-in-process. Unless we see the resurrected Jesus Christ (one man in whom the process has been completed), we have a pitifully shallow concept of what God intended that each of us become. What we see (even looking at ourselves) is something as different in appearance now from the God-like creature we shall be as the caterpillar of today is from butterfly of tomorrow.

Jesus' teaching about himself as the Son of God absolutely horrified the religious leaders in his day. The keepers of orthodoxy in Jerusalem actually took up rocks to stone him to death after he had opened the eyes of a man born blind and then referred to God as his Father, saying that he and the Father are one.

    "Once again the Jewish leaders picked up stones to stone him. Jesus said, 'At my Father's direction, I have done many things to help the people. For which one of these good deeds are you killing me?' They replied, 'Not for any good work, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, have made yourself God.' "Jesus replied, 'It is written in your own law that God said to certain leaders of the people, I say, you are gods! And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people, who received God's message, were called gods, why do you call it blasphemy when the Holy One who was sent into the world by the Father says, 'I am the Son of God?'" John 10:31-36; NLT.
The Scripture that Jesus had reference to is in the eighty-second Psalm which reads:

    "But these oppressors know nothing; they are so ignorant! And because they are in darkness, the whole world is shaken to the core. I say, 'You are gods and children of the Most High. But in death you are mere men. You will fall as any prince, for all must die.'" Psalm 82:5-7; NLT.
Jesus said the Psalmist was correct. ("You know that Scripture cannot be altered [broken]"). The religious leaders were the ones who were ignorant. They were the ones who were in darkness. They were the ones who were perilously close to blaspheming the Holy Spirit in their denial of Jesus as the Christ. How completely ignorant they were of the true role of the Messiah/Christ-the Representative of what the sons of man really once were and are destined to become in resurrection glory.

It was not blasphemy to so speak of man's original divine state even if he now is fallen from it and mortal. When we say we are "born again (from above) children of God," do we really mean it? Or, do we actually mean, "well, sort of," lest we fear we will commit blasphemy?

How greatly we need the mind of Christ so that we might view every person in light of the divine potential in each one. Only from that perspective can we begin to understand God's great mercy and longsuffering and loving kindness toward even the vilest one of us.

In contemplating the glory of God and of the Son ("the heir of all things"), the writer of Hebrews 1:5, referring to Jesus Christ, quotes Psalms 2:7 where God declared: "You are my Son: today I have become your Father." This is a spine-tingling revelation that at a specific moment in time, a man, Jesus Christ, became God's "firstborn" [prototokos] from among fallen humanity-the "firstfruits" of the vast harvest he will reap when he returns. He who was the Son of God from eternity, but who emptied himself of his divinity to become man, now in his resurrection became perfected humanity, having it clothed with divinity.

Note: in Jesus' resurrection he did not empty himself of his humanity, but completed it, as God designed from creation that it should become. The Son of God emptied himself of his deity to become mortal man. But the Son of man did not empty himself of his humanity when he was glorified. Rather, he was:

    "…not unclothed , but further clothed, so that what is mortal is [was] swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee." 2 Corinthians 5:4-5.
Jesus' prayer was granted in full:

    "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you." John 17:1.
And the glory of God in his Son-this is the Father's highest desire for each and every one of the whole of mankind. The Scripture says he "has prepared us for this very thing." His intention is fulfilled only "in bringing many sons to glory." (Hebrews 2:10) Nothing less. Nothing else.

Man-destined for the throne. Man to rule under his Creator over the whole of creation. O glorious Day-the ultimate Jubilee-when, not just one small land of Semites and its relatively few people, but the entire universe again becomes free from its bondage to decay. What a day-when everyone and everything returns to its original owner-the earth to its rightful lords (man), and man returns to his rightful owner (God), because they at last have matured and been perfected into the very image and likeness of their Lord.

Looking toward this "revealing of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19), the Apostle Paul wrote:

    "Think what this means. If we are His children we share His treasures, and all that Christ claims as his will belong to all of us as well! Yes, if we share in his sufferings, we shall certainly share in his glory. In my opinion whatever we have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God's purpose it has been so limited-yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God.

    "It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realized our full sonship in him." Romans 8:17-23; Phillips Version.
The Psalmist enraptured by his glimpse of the destiny for which God created man exclaimed:

    "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet." Psalm 8:3-6.
After quoting the Psalmist, word for word, the author of the book of Hebrewsstates, "In putting everything under him [man], God left nothing that is not subject to him." It was as he was absorbed with the nature and work of Jesus Christ that this eighth Psalm came to his mind. In perfecting man, Christ is also redeeming the birthright of humanity which involves the control of "the world to come"(Hebrews 2:5). He quotes verbatim the above passage from the eight Psalm as he begins a treatise on "God's Perfect Man." After quoting this psalm, he goes on to state:

    "In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus [i.e., the firstfruits, the firstborn from the dead ones, the prototype], who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God, he might taste death for everyone.

    "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author [archegos] of their salvation perfect through suffering." Psalm 8:8-10.
Instead of translating the word archegos as "author" in verse 10, some versions render it as "pioneer," or "captain," or "leader." In the Greek language,archegos could mean any or all of these. It is a compound of two words: arche (first) and ago (to go). So literally, an archegos was one who led in order for others to follow. Consequently, Jesus Christ, the "firstborn," the "firstfruits," is also, the archegos (the one who has gone first on behalf of all humanity.) It is not simply that one man was perfected (glorified with the fullness of God) as a rare specimen of humanity, but that he as Representative Man (the Son of Man) is God's means for 'bringing many sons to glory." (verse 10)

The risen Jesus, as perfected Man, (Son of Man and Son of God) speaks triumphantly: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Matthew 28:18) Not power wrested through self-centered revolt (the temptation that caused Adam's fall), but the authority of the son reaching his maturity and coming into his share of managing the estate of his Father. Jesus is now man in the very likeness of God. Jesus is now man in the final form, the crown of creation.

Our glorified Brother is the perfect representative of what all perfected humanity will become!

Man who was made in the image of God, though fallen and marred (as each of us very well knows), in the glorified Jesus will have that image fully restored. Man, created to control all lower levels of creation (terrestrial and celestial) with the wisdom, the compassion, the power, and the approval of the Creator!

    "What is man?!"
Man, at present, is a divinely created being-in-process, destined for the throne to be lords over the whole of what Almighty God has made! Why else the persistent ingrained will to power? How else can we explain man's drive to subdue, to dominate, everything he contacts? No lower animal has such compulsion. Whence the insatiable need to conquer and control his entire world-the fiercest animals, the tallest mountains, the deepest oceans, even outer space? Why, in spite of the obvious hurt and harm and heartache that so often result, does man persist on imposing his ego upon all that is around him? Why do we stubbornly continue to commit in every generation all the prideful sins of our ancestors? Why don't we ever learn?

So, we go back to the beginning and retell the Story (His Story). As we retell the Story, we acknowledge that man, as we see him now, is fallen. O, how greatly he is fallen! But, praise God, he is not hopeless! Tell man the good news! Tell him how the infinite God, the loving Father, has condescended to become our Brother, one of us. Tell man how God's Spirit fully and completely entered our fallen humanity in Jesus of Nazareth, who fully and completely submitted himself all his life to the divine will.

Especially, tell every one the part about the Cross. Let them see how far and how deep was the testing. Let them know how far and full the Son of Man's submission to the will of the Father, went.

    "Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect [i.e., perfected], he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." (Hebrews 4:8-9.)
Let us look at the Cross. There we see who God really is and the suffering our sins cause to us-and to God. We see at Calvary the ultimate expression of the pain caused by the continuous conflict between the present state of fallen man and the way that the loving Father wants man to be. The Cross clearly displays in all its pathos the true heart of our all wise and loving Father and the perversity of our blinded fallen and stubborn self-will. It is through Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, on the Cross that the conflict between our crossed wills is ended.

But don't stop the Story at Calvary. Be sure to tell man of the Resurrection! Make sure he knows that Jesus not only died, but that he was raised from the dead, once for all! "Once for
all."* Ascending to the Father as the firstborn from among the dead ones, he now "sits at the right hand" (whatever that means) of the Lord God Almighty representing every man who keeps looking to our oldest Brother,The Son. Not only did he bear our guilt in his body and atone for our transgressions with his blood, but also he now reigns in glory and sends us the power that will change us into his likeness.

Don't get diverted from the Story by any incredulous questioning from skeptics as to the "mechanics" of how the change in us takes place. We are not sent by Christ to be psychologists. We are sent to be Story-tellers. One thing we know; people are not born over from above by the power of their intellect any more than they are by the power of their works. Rather, people experience the transforming new birth only through the Spirit of God that comes from hearing and believing the Word. The power to change is not in ourselves or from ourselves. The power is directly in and from Him. So tell the Story. Proclaim the Good News. Preach the Gospel. Focus on the Son, so that he, in the glorious power of God, may himself take away the veil of unbelief from the eyes of every man.

    "To this day…a veil lies over their hearts; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:15-18; NAS.
What we need now is to keep looking to Jesus Christ the Son, so that our Father will keep looking to us as though we already had become as the Son is now.

When history (His-Story) is finished, it will include our mortality being clothed with immortality through the work of Jesus Christ. What on earth will immortality involve? Or more correctly considered, what in the "new heaven and new earth"
** will it involve, which will include and utilize all lower levels of creation within it?

One thing for sure, whatever it may involve, immortality for man will relate to a perfected community of persons-with God himself and with all other humans who have been glorified also. As the Bible ends amid the "no mores" of Revelation, the imagery is not a setting of solitude but of a community. The lonely garden of untested Adam has finally become a city thronging with all the perfected brothers and sister of Jesus Christ-the completed family of God.

    "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem , coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband.

    "I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, 'Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.'" Revelation 21:1-4; NLT.
The Bible's image of the sons of man begins in a garden and is completed in a city. The garden of man's beginning, which God visited occasionally, is at last transformed into a city where God and humanity dwell together. From the very creation of man, the Creator said, "It is not good for man to be alone." [Genesis 3:18] Because man was made in the image of God, he needed companionship, relationship. The Creator charged them, "Multiply." "Become many." Man, bearing the likeness of God, was made for relationship-for wider and wider relationship-for perfect relationship-not only with his fellowman, but also with his God. God wants personal relationship with men and women who are like himself. That is very reason behind the creation of man. This kind of relationship is our deepest need and it is our highest reward. And it will be accompanied with the experiencing together of incredibly glorious godlike powers in a universal and cosmic harmony-for eternity!

The Son(s) of Man-coming into their full inheritance-receiving their birthright-crowning all of the Creator's experiment with creation. All the lower levels of reality at last utilized and controlled by the highest level of all. Praise God, our Heavenly Father will see that there is nothing less than a completely renewed creation, with perfected multi-dimensional sons and daughters of himself, the Lord God Almighty. His deepest desire, his will, is to have sons and daughters with all the glory of the "Firstborn," the "First fruits," the Prototokos, the Archegos, the Prototype, the One Who Goes First that Others May Follow.

This is the Plan. This is His-Story. At least, that is as far as he has given us the ability to see with mortal eyes. However, I am confident that when this mortal shall have finally put on immortality, we shall see a wondrously great deal farther. And we shall praise our Father all the more.

I thank you for staying with me this far. As I said in the beginning, so I repeat in closing. There are three things I hope to accomplish in this paper.

First, I want you to really appreciate God, your Heavenly Father, more gloriously than you ever have before. I want you to see him as the Waiting Father who is always watching from the front porch of the family estate in glory, calling longingly to you and to all his children, "Come home!"

Secondly, I want you to appreciate who you actually are, truly to think more highly of yourself than you have ever thought before. I want you to understand what you are by seeing what God's intention is for you to become. I want you to know who you are, not in terms of where you have been, but to know who you are in terms of your birthright. I want you to remember your Father's house and the inheritance that he yearns to bestow upon you. You are a beloved member of the family-God's family. Regardless of where you have been and how you now are dressed, when you come home, the robe, the ring and the shoes will be ready and waiting. And your Father will present them to you just before he calls you and all the family to the festivities.

And thirdly, I want you to trust very literally in Jesus Christ, as God's means to your perfection, so that you will never, never, fall away from him. I want you to see him as being more than the most loving and lovable person who ever lived. I want you to see him as even more than that perfect man who was raised from death to be the Hero of History. I want you to know that he is yourMan right now in the very presence of the great God of the universe. I want you to see him there representing you in your stead right now! Whatever has been your record, he has made it right. Whatever your indebtedness, he has paid it in full. Whatever your needs, he will see they are supplied. Wonder of wonders! He who has completed the course for created humanity, who has become perfected as man and has been glorified, not only reveals what you can become, but as your personal representative, guarantees your inheritance. What are you to do to get him to do this for you? You are to do the only thing you can do. Trust him now, and keep trusting him until he comes again to take you and all the Family to our home in the new heavens and new earth. Keep trusting him until the hope of glorybecomes realized-when you and all the Children of God are glorified with the full glory of the Son.

A Closing Prayer

    "[May] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. May the eyes of your heart be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe; the power that is like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but also in the one to come." Ephesians 1:17-21.


THE HOPE OF GLORY

O the force when God Almighty

Spoke the countless worlds in place;

Shaped and formed chaotic matter

For its crown: the human race.


O the Holy Lord Creator;

O the wonder of his plan;

Framing earth in full perfection

For the rulership of man.


O how monstrous that seduction,

Which rejects the Father God;

Seeking then to seize the birthright

In the strength of flesh and blood.


O the love when our Redeemer,

(He the universal norm,

Very God in man incarnate)

Stooped to take our human form.


O the depth of his submission:

Ev'ry rebel human will

Climaxed in that awful judgment

On Golgotha's blood-drenched hill.


O the quake of resurrection,

Jolting foe and friend that morn;

Stone rolled back and tomb now emptied,

Death destroyed and new life born.


O the secret hid for ages:

God's new Man now come to birth

In full majesty triumphant;

Lord of heaven and of earth.


O what glory far surpassing

All that mortal eye has known;

See our birthright, now in prospect,

On the destined cosmic throne.



"Now to the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." 1 Timothy 1:17.


By Harold Key
4026 Coapites St.
Pasadena, TX 77504

Unpublished © 2003, Harold Key

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