Since the very beginning of time, God was working to accomplish the same purpose He is working to accomplish today. God is building a Kingdom for His Glory. That’s the plan that began in the beginning and which comes to fulfillment in the end of time.
God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply in order to spread God’s rule over the planet. God wanted the whole earth to be a place where heaven and earth met, where humanity could enjoy the divine, and where the divine could enjoy earth and humanity.
But, we know how that story goes. Adam and Eve sinned and were expelled from God’s presence. The gates of Eden were closed. The divine enemy, the Serpent, was banished from God’s presence to earth, the place where death reigns. As we learned last week, he became lord of the dead and had claim to every human being who would ever live—because they sin, and sin’s price tag is death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Later came the great flood and the story of Noah. After the flood waters subsided, God had repeated His purpose to Noah and his family: be fruitful and multiply. God was building a Kingdom for His glory.
But, humanity rebelled again. Rather than obey God and spread the knowledge and rule of God everywhere, they would build a tower to make a name for themselves.
Failure again. God mixed up the nations’ languages and turned the nations over to his divine council to rule. And he decided to start again with a new human family, Abraham and Sarah.
This, too, was a failure of sorts, so the next phase in God’s plan was to bring the nation of Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land.
And Israel failed!
Eventually, God raised up King David, and then David’s son King Solomon. But after Solomon died, Israel followed other gods and the Israelites turned on each other. God had to expel them from the Promised Land in exile in Babylon.
Humans always fail.
The human story, apart from God’s presence, is a story of failure. Humanity has been lost since the fall. All humans are imperfect and estranged from God. No human leader could be trusted with starting and maintaining God’s kingdom because humans are fallible. By nature we resist allegiance to God. We go our own way. Humans always sin, always fail, and inevitably join the lord of the dead, God’s great enemy.
But, God’s vision of a new Eden couldn’t happen without humans. God is building a Kingdom for His glory and He chose to do so using sinful, broken people like you and me. So, the only way humans will ever be able to accomplish our part of God’s plan would be for us to fixed, restored to the image of God like Adam and Eve were in the beginning.
And to accomplish that, God had…
What God needed was a man who was more than a man—someone who could resist temptation, who would always obey, who was fit for kingship. Only a man like that could reverse the curse of death by taking the sins of the world upon himself, dying and then rising again by his own power. No mere man could do that…
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The reparation of humanity could happen in one way: God himself would have to become a man. — If you want something done right sometimes you have to do it yourself. — So, God fulfilled his own plan as a real man, for all humankind, in order to restore Eden on the earth.
But there’s a problem. This plan required that God Himself come to earth and be betrayed to death by the evil one. God’s plan to save humankind required that Satan bring Jesus to the cross. That was the plan. The plan was that Jesus would come to earth and die at the hands of his enemies and then rise again to new life.
And you can imagine that Satan would do anything to stop God’s plan. If the plan were discovered the forces of darkness wouldn’t fall for it. Why would they have killed Jesus if they knew that is what God wanted to happen? They wouldn’t. In fact, when Satan possessed Judas so that Judas would betray Jesus, Satan thought He was winning. He thought that if he could kill Jesus, the war in the heavens would be over and the earth would be His forever. But, that’s not how God’s plan worked. God was deceiving the deceiver so that Satan would betray Jesus.
That’s is exactly what the Apostle Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthian church:
1 Corinthians 2:7–8CSB
On the contrary, we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery, a wisdom God predestined before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, because if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
There, the term rulers, at least refers to the divine rulers of this age. Paul said that the death and resurrection of Jesus, although it was predestined before time even began, it was hidden wisdom. Jesus’s death and resurrection were a mystery, authored before the creation of the world, but hidden from the rulers of this age.
Who are the rulers?
Ruler is a favorite term of Pauls to describe the cosmic rulers, the powers of darkness. For example, Paul wrote to the Ephesians…
in which you previously lived according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient.
The rulers are the disobedient divine rulers, not earthly rulers.
So, why did Paul hide Jesus’s death and resurrection from divine rulers?
Because if they knew how God was going to save humanity, Paul said, “…they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.” And if Jesus wasn’t crucified, then you and I are still condemned in our sins. And that’s precisely what the devil wanted.
God’s enemies, human and divine, had to be kept in the dark. The Gospel had to be a mystery or it never could have played out. God’s entire plant for eternity depended on the death and resurrection of Jesus. So, in the Old Testament times, the death and resurrection were a mystery, a secret.
But how do you keep that…
And for thousands of years?
The God-man upon whom the restoration of Eden depended was, of course, the messiah, the anointed King—Jesus of Nazareth.
It may have surprised you that I suggested God’s plan to restore humankind was secret.
I mean, can’t we just read the Old Testament and see the whole plan? Didn’t the Jews know what was going to happen? Surely someone must have known!
In hindsight, we see shadows of the Messiah, the savior in the Old Testament. But, nowhere is it explicit.
In fact, there is no verse in the Old Testament that even uses the word messiah of a man who was actually God and who would die for the sins of humanity. Messiah means ‘anointed one.’ Even in the famous verse by the Prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 53:11, with its portrait of a suffering servant, the messiah is not present.
Elsewhere in Isaiah’s prophesy, the “servant” refers to the nation of Israel, not an individual savior. In the Old Testament, the word messiah almost always refers to King David or one of his descendants who reigned as king after him. And that’s actually why we use the word Messiah for Jesus, because Jesus was the King who came in the line of David. Messiah actually has little to do with being a savior and more to do with being God’s anointed King.
And that’s actually the proof of what I’m saying. The Jews were looking for a Messiah who was a king. The profile of a divine savior who would die and rise again is hard to find in the Old Testament. And that’s clear in the writings of the New Testament as well. The New Testament characters were surprised by Jesus and they were surprised by the Apostle’s teaching about Jesus. They were not looking for a God-man who would die and rise again to life. They were looking for a human king who would take Israel from Rome and rule over God’s people.
Think of how Jesus’ disciples responded to Jesus when he told them he was going to Jerusalem to die. His words distressed the disciples. They didn’t understand why he was saying what he was saying. The disciple Matthew recorded,
As they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised up.” And they were deeply distressed.
They didn’t respond by saying, “Oh, right, I remember. We read that in the Scriptures in Torah class.” Peter even rebuked Jesus for saying he was going to die.
From then on Jesus began to point out to his disciples that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.”
The disciples had no sense that the plan of God might be for Jesus to die. They thought of Jesus only as the son of David and rightful heir to his throne, someone who performed miracles just as the Old Testament prophets did.
A king for Israel, maybe, but not a savior of the world who would unify the nations under a new Edenic Kingdom for God’s Glory.
The reality is, they were stuck thinking about national Israel, but God was doing something far bigger that would be for all people and far more eternal, for all time.
Even after Jesus rose from the dead the disciples had to have their minds supernaturally opened to see a suffering messiah. After Jesus had risen from the dead, he appeared to them and…
He told them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
You can’t miss that. There was a secret, a mystery of the scriptures. There were shadows of the Gospel of Christ in the Old Testament. And Jesus was able to open the minds of the disciples to see those shadows.
Jesus wasn’t just making this stuff up on the spot. It’s there in the Old Testament, but it was hidden beneath shadows so that only under the influence of the Holy Spirit of God could the disciples finally understand what had been written.
The Holy Spirit who inspired the scriptures makes the scriptures alive to us. That’s why the Apostle Paul said,
1 Corinthians 2:14ESV
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
The plan of God, that he would die and then rise from the dead to reverse the curse of the fall, isn’t at all evident in the Old Testament. Instead, clues are scattered throughout. Nowhere is it revealed, all in one place, but it is only clear in hindsight.
And even then you only see it if you already know what to look for and what to expect. And certainly, you are able to understand them without the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Now, the supernatural evil beings on the earth, of course, knew that the prophesied son of David had arrived. You can see an example of that in the story of the Legion of Demons.
When he had come to the other side, to the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him as they came out of the tombs. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, “What do you have to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”
The demon knew that Jesus was the Son of God. He knew some stuff. But nothing the demons ever say gives us the impression that they understood Jesus was come to earth to die and rise again, or that in so doing Jesus could reverse the curse caused by Satan in the Garden.
They just couldn’t have known that.
As Paul said, had they and Satan understood, they would never have moved people like Judas to betray Jesus to those who wanted him dead. They never would have crucified the Lord of glory. The Devil and those aligned with him are a lot of things, but they aren’t dumb. They were duped into killing Jesus, just as God had planned.
Here’s the real hook to the story. The evil rulers of the earth actually launched…
…that would lead to their own demise when they sent Jesus to the cross.
We can see the pieces of the puzzle with more clarity than the disciples could. There is no single verse that describes a divine messianic son of David dying and rising to reverse the curse, but those threads run throughout the Old Testament. Having already seen how the plan played out, you can look back through the Old Testament to find a thread and start following patterns.
You might ask, for instance, “Who is the son of God?”The answer in the Old Testament isn’t Jesus. In the beginning, Adam was God’s son—he was the first man. Later, Israel was called God’s son. The Prophet Hosea wrote,
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
Israel is God’s Son, but then also, the Israelite king of Psalm 2 is called God’s son. The Psalmist wrote of Israel’s King,
I will declare the Lord’s decree.
He said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.
Here’s where it get’s really cool. In the New Testament, Jesus is called numerous times, “the second Adam,” and the “Son of God.” Paul wrote that Jesus…
and was appointed to be the powerful Son of God according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead.
And Paul also wrote,
1 Corinthians 15:45CSB
So it is written, The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
In context, Paul is referring to Jesus as the last Adam.
Or you might ask, “Who is God’s servant?”Well, Adam served God.
The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.
Israel was also called God’s servant.
But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
descendant of Abraham, my friend—
David and other Israelite kings in his lineage were called God’s servant.
2 Samuel 3:18CSB
Now take action, because the Lord has spoken concerning David: ‘Through my servant David I will save my people Israel from the power of the Philistines and the power of all Israel’s enemies.’ ”
And Jesus was also the servant.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied before Pilate, though he had decided to release him.
Jesus is like Adam, but he’s the better Adam. He is also the greater servant. But, the Old Testament is actually full of images of Jesus. Jesus is the best prophet and the highest priest. And Jesus is also the King who sits eternally on David’s throne as the perfect King.
All these figures point to Jesus in some way, and he completes the patterns. Everything was in plain sight, yet undetectable without hindsight and that’s what makes the Gospel, the message of Jesus’s death and ressurection the mystery of God.
There are many things we can learn about God from the creation itself. And many who are not Christian have taken to reading the Bible to try to discern truths from it. And they walk away with many true things. But, they do not always walk away with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That requires intervention from the Holy Spirit.
If there is something you can take from this message, I think it’s this. Intelligent evil beings—Satan, demons, the lesser gods who rule the nations—do everything in their power to stop God from building His perfect Kingdom. They were willing to betray and kill Jesus to stop the progression of God’s purposes. What wouldn’t they do to stop people from believing today?
And we can be thankful that God is a sovereign God. Remember, God, designed this mystery before time even began. But, the mystery is no longer a mystery. It has been revealed and we can witness the revelation of the mystery in the New Testament and in the history of Christ’s Church. Look how the Apostle Paul wrote about the mystery.
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for his body, that is, the church. I have become its servant, according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.
He calls it a mystery hidden for ages. But, notice it is revealed to Jesus’s saints or Jesus’s holy ones. That is, not everyone understands this mystery. If you truly understand the Gospel, the grace of Jesus Christ, Paul says you have all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge at your disposal in Christ. He also wrote of us, his holy ones,
I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of complete understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
In other words, we know something that the supernatural beings only dreamed of knowing and that should be of great encouragement to us and it should be a point of unity among us.
We tend to presume that because the demons and other divine beings are supernatural that they are all-knowing, but that’s not true. The testimony of the scriptures is actually the opposite. There is only oneomniscient being and that is God. The other beings are waiting for the full revelation of God’s plan.
Because of the fall, Satan had a right to our souls. Because of Adam’s sin, “death spread to all.” The Serpent was cursed, cast down to rule over the realm of the dead. Because of the fall, everyone is destined to die and go to the realm of the dead—where the Devil reigns.
But, that all changed when Jesus came and fulfilled God’s plan of salvation by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. The first step to restoring Eden was to provide a means for humanity to escape the curse of death. All who believe, who are made members of God’s family and kingdom, are no longer hostage to the curse of death and the lord of the dead. Jesus knew his death and resurrection would pay the sinner’s debt, leaving Satan with no claim on our souls. There is a cosmic war that has been waging for your soul and the devil doesn’t win so you need to decide whose side you’re on.
We must, again, remember who we are—and where our identity comes from. Together we are called the body of Christ. And Jesus’ body was raised. And so will we rise because he has risen. Paul wrote,
1 Corinthians 15:20–23CSB
But as it is, Christ has 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 also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, at his coming, those who belong to Christ.
We all will rise. As John said,
But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name,
Satan has no claim on us, the children of God because in Christ we have legal claim to God’s Kingdom. And the Kingdom of the dead no longer has any claim over our souls.
As we go to the Lord’s Supper, I want to encourage you to consider what you believe. I believe that everyone understands the curse placed on this creation more than they realize. Everyone knows that this world is falling apart and so is every person in it. But, today we learned that Jesus came to overcome the powers of darkness in this world so that you can know God.
Jesus died on the cross, was buried in the grave, and then overcame death when he rose from the dead. And He ascended to the right hand of the Father where he now rules in glory. And that’s the same fate that awaits every one who follows Jesus. The Apostle Paul said,
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
In other words, if you confess that Jesus is you, Lord, that he rules your life, that you are His follower, and you believe the Gospel that Jesus died and he really rose to new life, then you will be saved from this cursed world. You can escape the curse of this world by giving your life to Jesus.
And then, just as Jesus died and came to life, you have a confidence that when you die, you will rise again to eternal life with Christ.
And that’s what we celebrate in the Lord’s Supper. We celebrate in the bread, Jesus’s body that was broken so that we can be healed of everything broken in us. And we celebrate in the cup Jesus’s blood that was spilled out for the forgiveness of our sins.
This celebration is for believers so that we will remember what Christ has done for us. It is a reminder to us, as we remain here on this cursed earth, that Jesus is returning for us.
But, I just want to encourage you, if you have never committed your life to Christ, you can do that today. If you believe in Jesus, that he rose from the dead, and you will today profess Christ as Lord, then I encourage you to partake in the Lord’s Supper with us.
We’re going to pass the elements in a moment and sing together. Please hold onto them and we will partake together in a few moments.