Essay – Redefining Our Understanding

A large portion of people live in fear today.  Fear of sickness and disease, fear of lack, fear of prosperity, fear of terrorism, fear of natural disasters like earthquakes, tornados, floods, fear of tragedy and accidents, etc.  The problem with fear is it has no boundaries. It can range from big ones like fear of death and what happens to you after you die to small fears, that almost sound made up. Like for example, anatidaephobia which is the fear that somewhere in the world a duck or goose is watching you!  Then, of course, there is panophobia which is the fear of everything and phobophobia which is the fear of fear itself!

While I can understand that people who have not yet awakened to the revelation of their redemption live their lives in bondage to fear. The sad thing is that the body of Christ makes up a large portion of the people who walk in fear. We are told over and over in the Bible to fear not and yet fear has become a constant companion in the lives of some people.  The writer of Hebrews refers to the fear of death. He is talking to a transitional generation of Jews who lived on both sides of the cross. All of their lives they lived in bondage to fear. Paul is telling them that Jesus destroyed him who had the power of death and they are now free to walk in the freedom that is theirs! They were not the same people that had lived on the other side of the cross…. Every hindrance had been removed, and they were now free to be who God had created them to be.

They lived in fear of a punitive, judgmental God….. a God who needed to be appeased through constant sacrifices, daily prayer three times a day, feasts, festivals, obedience to the law, dietary restrictions, the way they dressed, and on and on and on. Paul was helping them transition out of that old legalistic fearful mindset into the freedom of merely resting IN CHRIST. Out of the do to be system and into FINISHED! DONE!  Fear had become their way of life just like fear has become the way of life of many believers today.

 

2000 years later we should be walking in an abundance of freedom and peace. We shouldn’t have any idea of what fear and striving looks like. Of what sickness and disease look like. Or what having any needs at all looks like.  But we are walking no different than these Hebrews Paul was writing to.  Centuries of bad teaching, of wrong theology, has made us fearful. Without a proper understanding of God, we cannot agree with Him. We cannot agree with what He knows to be true about us. Instead of our foundation being built on the Rock it has been built on sand… on fragments of that Rock. Pieces of the Rock. But the problem with sand is it shifts and blows away by the slightest breeze. So, when sickness comes against us, when it looks like lack may win when the Doctors report is, and it seems like disease has taken over, we yield to fear because our foundation couldn’t handle these false appearances. Because our foundation was merely sand, fragments or pieces of the Rock, not the entirety of the Rock. Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against the Rock, against understanding our identity in Him… that like Him we are son of man and son of God.

An understanding of our identity is crucial. Because our actions are a reflection of who we believe we are. A mistaken identity results in wrong, distorted behavior. Behavior religion calls sin. But sin in the New Testament is simply unbelief. And the original unbelief (sin) was in not believing we were who God said we were. Adam and Eve didn’t believe they were EXACTLY like God – made in His image and likeness. They believed the lie that they were lacking something of His identity… concluding He had withheld from them a part of Himself. Romans 1:32 tells us that they (referring to Adam and Eve) knew God’s judgment.

Judgment is to make a decision, determine a course of action, to decree a verdict. It is a decree of righteousness. What was God’s original righteous decree?  In Genesis 1:26 He said, Let Us make man in Our image and according to Our likeness and give them dominion over ALL things! Even after Adam fell, God did not change His original righteous decree over mankind. It still stood. Only now it was distorted in the mind of Adam and Eve and passed on to future generations.

Paul uses the phrase “judgment of God” five times in the Bible. He is not referring to a judgment of God at some future date where we will all be judged for all of the sins we have committed.  First of all, Paul is talking to a transitional generation, not us. Second of all, we were never separate from the Father, and we were never sinners. Mankind only thought they were and then acted and behaved like it. Because as a man thinks in his heart so is his experience.

Even when Paul talked about a day of wrath and judgment, it wasn’t talking about a future day reserved for judgment. God had already judged ALL of mankind innocent, just and righteous and in that decision His wrath… His passionate love toward them was revealed in the Incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Paul didn’t teach anything punitive in judgment. And Jesus didn’t teach that judgment was punitive. He said that God didn’t send Him to the judge the world and that the Father judges no man. And yet Christianity has capitalized on it, preaching it from the pulpits and presenting God as a harsh, demanding, angry, judgmental god. And Scriptures have been translated from that perspective. The word in Romans 1:32 is dikaimoa and is translated righteous decree, justice, judgment, sentence, etc. In Romans 3:21 the word is dikaisune and is translated righteousness, acceptable, made right. Both words have the root dike which means to judge equal or two parties finding likeness in each other. Sounds a lot like God’s original judgment of mankind in Genesis 1:26 made in His image and likeness!  So, depending on which translation you read is what you take away from these verses that use the root word dike.  You can either see Him as punitive Judge or One who looks at us and sees His own reflection.

 

In Romans 3:21 it says apart from law (or works) the righteousness of God has been revealed by the law and the prophets. What did the law and the prophets point to? Of course, to Jesus. Jesus is the righteous judgment… the decree or decision of God. The reflection of God… the exact representation of image and likeness. He was the final word God had to say about mankind. In John 14:20 Jesus said in that day (after His resurrection) (because all hindrances had been removed) they would know… they would have intimate knowledge, first-hand knowledge that was no longer hindered, that they would understand the union they have IN HIM. That they would realize that this had always been the actual condition of mankind… it had always been their identity from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

The Father judged no man punitively, ever! Romans 5:18 tells us that man’s judgment brought condemnation and a sense of separation upon ALL men. It was not God’s judgment, it was Adam’s decision that resulted in that. God’s judgment was that man was made in His image and likeness with dominion over ALL things. Adam’s disregard for that judgment caused him to make his own judgment. To decide for himself that he was lacking something, that he was not in the image and likeness of God, that God had withheld from Him. That decision caused him to have a son in his own likeness and image.  The very reversal of those words in Scripture reveals that Adam’s identity had been warped in his thinking… that distortion was passed down to his son, Seth. And then 1 Peter 1:18 tells us that the futile manner of life was passed down or handed down by tradition. Ways of thinking, wrong mindsets and identities were passed down from the ancestors starting with Adam.  Jesus came and revealed who we truly always had been, and He redeemed us from that futile manner of life.  His finished work on the cross didn’t change our identity but instead revealed the truth of our ALWAYS having been sons made in the image and likeness of our Daddy.

 

Man’s separation was only in his own thinking… in his own awareness. Proverbs tells us as a man thinks in his heart so is he… or so is his experience in life. God changes not – man changed. Adam changed. Genesis 6:7 tells us that God repented that He made man. For years I thought that meant God was so sorry that He created man! Sorry enough to destroy everyone but Noah and his family in the flood. I’m so glad that God is redefining our understanding of Scripture through men and women who understand the nature and the grace of God! Repent in Hebrew means pity or sympathy. Abba simply looked on His sons and had pity or compassion for their “futile manner of life” that Adam had passed on to them through distorted thinking, through the loss of the revelation of sonship.

In that compassion, God decided and determined, He made a judgment, which was really a judgment made BEFORE time began… before Adam fell. He made a judgment to speak our language… to send His Son to reveal to us who we had always been and who the Father had always been. And to be what man thought they needed to be right with God… a sacrifice. But not just any sacrifice.  He was to be a ONCE FOR ALL sacrifice. The sacrifice to end the sacrificial system that He never desired. To stop the sacrificial system that continued to feed man’s sense of lack and unworthiness. Without the shedding of blood was according to the law… not according to God!

So, John 12:32 tells us that Jesus drew all men to Himself. And while He did draw all men to Himself, in context, it is referring to the judgment that is mentioned in verse 31. He drew Adam’s judgment, Adam’s decision that resulted in condemnation upon all men, that resulted in death being passed upon all men so that He could restore God’s original judgment that had been lost…. the lost revelation of it. Making us a new creation… a redeemed mankind world, no longer a fallen world. As if the fall never happened… as if the original judgment of God had never been lost. All hindrances to that revelation removed FOREVER! Habakkuk 2:14 prophesied saying, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. YES! Jesus restored what was lost and now the earth… all mankind, are filled with the knowledge, the intimate first-hand knowledge of the glory, of the original view and opinion of God! They may not all be awake to that knowledge… but they are filled with it, and as we share this glorious good news with them, they will awaken to that knowledge.

Hebrews 9:26 says, but now once in the end of the world (ages) hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Now was then not now…. it was 2000 years ago. ONCE in the end of the ages. End is singular, and ages are plural. It was the coming together of two ages creating one end – the restored age! Verse 27 isn’t talking about physical death but referring to death awareness that was a result of Adam’s (judgment) decision being cast out as a result of Jesus’ (judgment) decision. There is no separation between God and man!

There never was from God’s side. And Jesus removed any hindrance of man thinking he was separated from God… the death awareness was cast out! But religion still uses Isaiah 59:2 to promote separation between God and man because of sin. The verse prior says God’s arm is not too short to save or His ear too dull to hear us. That doesn’t sound like separation to me from God’s side. But our iniquities and sin that was the result of mistaken identity, built barriers between us and God (never between God and us) and hid His face from us… man couldn’t see Him correctly because we didn’t see ourselves correctly. Colossians 1:21 says that we were only alienated in our minds. Hard to understand how religion can still preach that we are separate from Him because of sin when Romans 8 says that NOTHING can separate us from His love.

Everything flows from identity. Right or wrong perception of identity. We have always been sons, always made in His image and likeness and with dominion over ALL things. Even when man left the garden, he still had dominion. Galatians 3 tells us that mankind was always master of all even when they were under the law and a child no different from a slave. Their identity was still a master or lord of ALL. Mankind was always to rule and have dominion. But a false perception of identity distorted that authority.

Our authority is rooted in our identity… in God’s image and likeness. He is Love. Only in love can we rule and reign the way we were designed to.  Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t destroyed because of sin, they were destroyed because they did not love. Israel was to be a light to the world of the goodness and love of God. But they weren’t able to because of a distorted identity about themselves AND God. God’s heart has always been for the nations… for ALL people. He has NEVER been an us and them, God…. He has no outsiders of His covenant love.

The Temple had an area called the Court of the Gentiles where the nations could come and worship God freely. They could get no closer to the Holy of Holies than this outer courtyard. There was a large stone that warned them not to get any closer to the inner courts. Its inscription read: “No foreigner is to go beyond the balustrade and the plaza of the temple zone. Whoever is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his death which will follow.” This wasn’t God’s heart! Jesus came through and cleared out the money changers, declaring, “My house shall be a house of prayer for ALL nations.” The law produced exclusion. God’s heart is for ALL His sons. When Solomon dedicated the Temple in 2 Chronicles 6, he prayed that when the foreigner would come and pray that God would hear from heaven and answer his prayer. The priests of the Temple in Jesus’ day had turned the Court of the Gentiles into a market place of money changers and the selling of animals. It would have been a chaotic atmosphere, noisy and with the smell of animals. While the inner courts were quiet and dignified and “holy.” What shame that must’ve produced in the Gentiles who came to seek God. You would’ve felt like a second-class citizen. You would’ve felt the sting of being an outsider… an undesired outsider in the Temple and obviously an undesired outsider to God!

 

But they were never undesired or outsiders to God! Only to religious minds. In Luke 4, Jesus addresses Israel’s neglect of the people of The Blessing….. Gen 12:2 “I have blessed you to be a blessing to ALL families of the earth.”  In verse 23 in Luke 4, it indicates that they are asking for signs and blessings to flow in their own town because so far Jesus had been doing miracles in Capernaum which was a city of both Jews and Gentiles.  Jesus was indicating that He had also come to be a light and a blessing to the Gentiles.  This would include their Roman oppressors… unthinkable! They were offended that He had taken a passage of vengeance and judgment upon the nations and turned it into a passage of mercy and blessing. Offended that His gracious words…. or words of Grace were towards the Gentiles. He reminds them of Elijah and the widow from Sidon.  He also tells them of Elisha and Naaman the Syrian. This offended their exclusive way of thinking.

Not unlike our offense as believers when the word ALL is mentioned in regards to salvation and God’s grace. They expected God to judge their enemies, the Gentiles, the outsiders of the covenant… to have vengeance on them. Not understanding that God’s heart beats with restoration and love for every single son. Romans 2:4 says that it is the goodness of God that leads men to change their minds about Him. The goodness of God or the chesed. Chesed is His love for mankind that won’t let them go! It is a covenant love that is immovable, unshakable, an unchangeable loyalty to His mankind….. ALL mankind. God’s grace is a given that is always being given!  There is nothing we can do to earn or merit His grace.  It is given because of chesed… His covenant loyalty toward ALL… HIS LOVE THAT WILL NOT LET ANY GO!

The law was meant to point people to Jesus… to lead them to the love and good news of His grace towards ALL. But the Mosaic law boxed people in… enslaved them to a list of commandments that didn’t reflect the heartbeat of God. Hebrews 10:27 says that if you despised Moses’ law, you would be stoned to death by 2 or 3 witnesses. The word for despised is atheteo and meant to reject, break faith with, to disregard or refuse to acknowledge. So, if you refused to acknowledge any of it, chose to reject any part of it as not from the Father, then you were stoned. There was a high penalty for speaking out against the religious order of the day. But Hebrews was about Jesus being the MUCH BETTER! It was about giving them hope. We’ve taken those verses and used them to make people fearful. To tell them they could lose their salvation because of sin. That is a gross mistranslation of Scripture. The writer of Hebrews wanted to expose how false mythology and paganism had influenced their thinking.

Israel had gotten involved at times with the false worship of other gods of the surrounding nations.  Worship that was intended to appease an angry god and get him to release blessing instead of judgment or cursing. Jeremiah tells us they built high places of Baal and had their sons and daughters pass through the fire offering them as sacrifices to the pagan gods. They mixed their worship of God with the worship of these idols…. Sacrificing to both. God never desired sacrifices, but these foreign, pagan religions did. This mixture of worship would make them unable to know and understand God’s nature of love… they would see Him, compare Him (Isaiah 40:25) to these gods they also worshipped who demanded appeasement and executed judgment. The writer of Hebrews wanted them to know God’s judgment was love. It was chesed! Hebrews 10 was a transitional generation… he was helping them transition out of their false mythological and paganistic ideas of God. Today we should have no need of the book of Hebrews because we should already know how MUCH BETTER Jesus is than angels, Moses, priests, etc. But we hold more to the false mythology, and pagan ideas of God than to God’s true nature expressed through Jesus and later through Paul.

The writer of Hebrews wasn’t saying that if they intentionally sinned in the future, there would be no forgiveness. He said there would be no more sacrifice available. He’s still preaching the MUCH BETTER – Jesus was the final sacrifice, there was nothing else needed. He was and is the MUCH BETTER! The writer is also preparing this transitional generation for what is to come – the destruction of the Temple where sacrifices were offered daily. In verse 18 he tells them that because they have been forgiven, offerings for sin are no longer required. Forgiveness is aphesis meaning COMPLETE forgiveness, deliverance, liberty, FREEDOM! However, we preach if you sin WILLFULLY, you’re done… you have no more hope! You can lose your salvation if you don’t offer “a sacrifice” of repentance. What happened to the MUCH BETTER report of Jesus in these verses? We preach a MUCH WORSE!

John said that if we sin, we need to confess or homologeo. We need to say what God says, to agree with Him.  To co-speak. Our confession should be because Jesus is the MUCH MORE there is no more requirement for sacrifice because I am COMPLETELY forgiven, COMPLETELY delivered, COMPLETELY free because of HIS once for ALL sacrifice.  Until Hebrews 10:18 becomes a realization and the persuasion of a person’s heart, they will be bound by the old sacrificial justice system and live in fear of judgment. Verse 27 says they had a fearful looking for judgment and fiery indignation. New King James Version says an expectation of judgment! And it doesn’t help that we preach that people are right in having that expectation. Instead of telling them that God isn’t judging anyone and came to judge no one.

The writer of Hebrews wasn’t agreeing with these transitional Jews on expecting judgment, in fact, he contradicted it in verses 10 and 14, telling them they are saints… they are holy and perfected. The people though had mixed grace with their pagan understanding of who God was, and we do the same.  Thinking He is a judge who rains down fire and wrath when we willfully sin and don’t offer a sacrifice to appease Him… in their case it was an animal, in ours it is confessing that sin, asking for forgiveness and vowing never to do it again. While all along God looks at us and sees us as COMPLETELY FORGIVEN, COMPLETELY FREE!  Verse 29 says “suppose you.” These were their suppositions… not God’s. They were already sanctified just like we are already sanctified. But we’ve been taught that sanctification is a process. Oh, we may not go to the Temple to sacrifice animals to be sanctified, but we believe like they did that it’s a process – there is something we must do over and over again to be made holy finally.

But the Gospel is the nearly too good to be true good news of God’s grace toward ALL mankind… freely given. The word Gospel has become a religious cliché for us today but was an obscure word in Paul’s day. There were only two times in all of the Greek literature where it was used. But this word so perfectly described what Jesus did that it became a common word among New Testament believers. Today most believers use the word Gospel to identify religious things… and most of what is called Gospel isn’t good news at all. Honestly, how good is your nearly too good to be true view of God? Hopefully, it’s getting bigger and bigger all the time. Just when I think my understanding has been redefined to the point where my understanding is nearly too good to be true, He proves that He’s even better than what I thought… the good of who He is, of His good news, got even BIGGER. He became even MUCH MORE than I understood! The good news of His free grace that we need redefining in our understanding is that ALL men are in Christ – whether dead, asleep or alive… He drew ALL men to Himself! And there is no need for an expectation of fiery judgment or wrath from an angry God, but we need only expect and experience love and oneness IN HIM.

 

 

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