Last week I shared how Jesus lives perpetually in the glory and power of His resurrection, and by the new birth our spirit also lives within the ever-present and eternal condition of ‘is risen’.
My thought today is how Jesus paying for our sins on the cross also spans time and space, but in a different way. Let me explain.
Our spirit is born again and empowered with the life of God provided by Jesus living in ‘is risen. Our soul is being renewed to ‘is risen’ truths in the process called discipleship. But our spirit and soul are trapped in a fallen, earth-made body which continually wants to go the way of the world. One day we’ll have a glorified body made of heavenly material which will by nature always want to please God like our spirit does, but for now we are in earth bodies.
This sets us up for a life-long tug of war between our ‘is risen’ empowered spirit and our ‘do your own thing’ body, with our soul being the battle ground between the warring sides*. (*Galatians 5:17, James 4:5)
One day we are emotionally and mentally on top of the world, ready to slay the dragon, and the next we succumb to the sin(s) we hate in our spirit but which our flesh loves.
The cross that spanned time
When Paul wrote “while we were yet (still) sinners Christ died for us” in Romans 5:8, it was only about 20 years after the cross, meaning he was writing to people who were in fact alive and living in Rome at the time Jesus was on the cross in Israel. The original readers of his letter to the Romans could nod their heads in agreement as they read that line, and tell each other what they were doing in the spring of that year when Jesus died.
We live 2,000 years later, and though that verse has been used in countless sermons, it isn’t accurate for us to say “while we were yet (still) sinners Christ died for us”, because we weren’t even born until more than 1900 years later!
A much more accurate understanding for us is found in II Timothy 1:9, written just before Paul’s death in the middle 60′s AD, to Timothy in Ephesus. This was read by people, the largest majority of whom by that time, were born after the cross:
“Who (God the Father) has saved us and called us with a holy calling not according to our works, but according to His (Father’s) purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ *before the world began.” (*literally ‘before times eternal’).
We talk about how our sins were on that cross, looking back 2,000 years. And we read about Old Testament saints like *Abraham and **David who looked forward in time and saw by the Spirit the cross that would one day pay the price for their sins. (*Hebrews 11:17-19, **Acts 2:25-28, 31)
That means the Father did something beyond the laws of nature at the cross; While observing His Son on the cross at a specific point in time, He transcended time by pulling all sins from the first sin of Adam up to the point of the cross and put them on Jesus, while also from that point of the cross looked forward in time to all our future sins we would ever sin, and put past, present, and future sins all on the cross at the same time.
Like some celestial giant standing above the cross, it was like He took one arm and reached back through time to the start of man’s history and swept all man’s sins up in His mighty reach, while simultaneously with His other arm stretched forward in time to the end of man’s history, sweeping up all future sins in His span, then bringing His arms together He funneled them all onto Jesus on the cross.
Paul states in II Timothy 1:9 that in the mind of the Father God, He first did this before He ever created the physical universe, and followed through with it at the cross, which was when time caught up with the Plan.
He brought all sins past, present, and future together to one time and one geographical location onto His Son on that cross. Is it no wonder Jesus, who had always called the Father, Father, now cried out in agony as He felt the weight of the sin of the world upon Him; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The test of something of man or something divine in origin
Man describes things by that which is known by man, meaning for instance, if we could take a modern airplane back in time 500 years, the people seeing it would describe it as a giant bird. This shows human origin in the description as they simply relate it to what they already know. An outside – that is to say divine – source of information in this example would be to describe exactly what it was, a flying machine built by man for carrying people and goods.
Similarly, creation stories that relate the creation of the world by things known by man, reveal a human source – not divine. So when several ancient religions say the earth is carried on the back of a turtle or tortoise, we know that is natural knowledge. Yet for just one example, Job 26:7 states plainly that God “hangs the earth on nothing”, showing an ancient understanding of the earth and space that reveal that knowledge was given from outside of mankind.
The cross and the resurrection – both reveal divine knowledge
And so it is we see the claims of both the cross and the resurrection did not originate with man, for in their claims is knowledge beyond people merely sharing information related to natural things around them.
The New Testament authors did not claim the story of 1 man hanging on a cross for the sins of the world were limited to that time and space and things they could relate to in their life experience, but instead wrote how God spanned time to gather all sins past, present, and future and put them on that one Man, His Son, to buy back man from death.
That ancient man, who didn’t even have the ability to travel faster than a horse could carry them, wrote of the cross spanning time past and future to gather all sins to that 1 event, is beyond their ability to think or even imagine.
Similarly, the men and women who claimed Jesus was resurrected from the dead did not tell their experiences in a way limited to man’s natural knowledge – as if Jesus merely revived or even that someone stole the body. No one claimed a giant turtle carried Him to heaven, for instance. The context of the resurrection story was set by angels who used the gnomic aorist, “He is risen”, indicating His resurrection is a condition of existence that spans time and is simply beyond the ability of those (ancient) men and women to even imagine.
Add to that the eyewitness accounts including over 500* at the same time seeing Him alive after His resurrection, which reveals no plot nor lie nor tale spun of their own, and the only conclusion is that the resurrection has a divine origin, outside the knowledge of man. (*I Corinthians 15:6)
Thus our sins had a finite and definable end at the cross, while us being joined to ‘is risen’ life and power is an eternal state of existence. Wow.
I have concluded what Peter did in Acts 2:24: “But God raised Him up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He could be held by it”, which led to His perpetual condition, the state of existence that “is risen” reflects – forever free and alive – and so are we…by His amazing grace.
With Paul let us acknowledge we have not yet arrived, but this one thing we do, we forget those things which are behind, and reach forth to those things before…we press toward the mark of the high call in Christ Jesus.
Another random through next week, until then, blessings,