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The Plan of Salvation
Part II
Lesson 6

Review

Our last lesson began by studying the question, “What must I do to be saved?”   In that study several important issues were addressed.   A review on each issue is provided:

God’s foreknowledge

Jesus is omniscient.  He knows everything about everything.  He knew sin would occur on earth before He created the world.  He knew Adam and Eve would sin.  He knew Cain would kill Abel.  He knew sin would cause His death!  But, Jesus has never used His foreknowledge to cause or change any outcome.  If Jesus used His foreknowledge to manipulate any outcome He could not be a God of love – for love offers the freedom of choice!

Jesus allows us to proceed in any direction we want to go even though he already knows the outcome.  God allows us to make any decision we want to make.  Jesus allowed Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree knowing the price He would have to pay.  Jesus gave Israel every possible blessing even though He knew they would reject Him.  This is divine love.  Not only did our Creator give His life for us, He gives us the choice to love or reject Him.  What love!

As studied in the previous lesson, the Father wrote the story of earth before the world was created.  He even included the names of all who would be saved.  Then He perfectly sealed up the book with seven seals.  No one in the universe can read the book until the final seal is broken at the end of earth’s drama.  Then the contents of the book will be revealed before the universe and every created being will clearly see that God never once used His omniscience to force or cause any outcome.  The universe will see that God is love because He allowed each person the power to choose what he or she wanted to do.  Thus Satan’s charge that God is not love because he manipulates His creatures will be forever proven false.  God is both omniscient and omnipotent.  Divine love might be thought of as the balance between two characteristics.

Sin brings death

Adam and Eve lost much and gained very little as a result of sin.  They lost the privilege of eating the fruit from the tree of life.  Therefore death overtook them.  They lost their beautiful Eden.  They lost the natural traits of God’s character and in exchange for these things; they gained the knowledge of evil, suffering and sorrow.  What a sad exchange!

Adam passed the tendency to sin to their children.  Their firstborn even became a murderer!  And sin has contaminated every descendant of Adam and Eve.  According to Paul,  “All have sinned and fell short of the glory of God!”  Romans 3:23 This is the fallen and unsaved nature of man.  We may be unsaved but we are wanted! God wants to redeem us back to himself.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23

The penalty for sin is everlasting death.  Jesus, our Creator, personally paid this penalty so that whosoever will believe in Him might be saved.  How does a person then receive salvation?

Basic law

In our last lesson we briefly discussed that God placed within each person a basic ability to distinguish right from wrong.  People living up to the fullness of their heart’s understanding of truth glorifies their Creator!  Those professing to live up to all they know (hypocrites) and those refusing to learn more truth are not candidates for salvation.

Some people don’t want to know the difference between right and wrong.  Why is this?  Paul says,  “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them…so that men are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another…Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” Romans 1:18-28

Down through the ages, billions of people have lived and died who never knew the particulars about salvation.  God foreknew the darkness of sin.  Consequently, the plan of salvation can save a person who doesn’t understand all the details.  This is somewhat like the law of gravity.  You don’t have to fully understand gravity to appreciate its operation.

But God is not content with basic law.  He desires to restore His image within man.  Therefore, man needs to know his Creator.  This calls for much more light or education on the subject of the plan of salvation.  Jesus wants a close relationship with His children, and a close relationship is only possible when each party knows the other well.

Stage set for faith

Now the stage for understanding salvation has been set.  Salvation has two parts:  first, to restore man to Eden and second, to restore within man the image of God.  The price for restoring man to Eden was paid at Calvary.  Through God’s grace or unmerited favor on the human race, the price was paid.  That God could love the human race and pay such an extreme price for our salvation is grace beyond comprehension.  Paul called this “the mystery of God.”  He wrote, “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the un searchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.”  Ephesians 3:8,9

The process of restoring man into the image of God is exciting, rewarding and excruciating – all at the same time.  Our natural inclination or tendency is to be hostile towards God.  Paul wrote, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; because the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s (basic) law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”  Romans 8:5-8

How can a person live in accordance with the Spirit and find life and peace?  Jesus told Nicodemus, “…I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  John 3: 3,5 What does being born of water and the Spirit mean?  Some people interpret “born of water” to mean, “unless you are baptized” you cannot go to heaven.

(Note:  A controversy over baptism developed within the Christian church about the second century.  The issue was whether baptism was required for salvation.  The Christian Church finally decided baptism was compulsory.  Since the majority of infants died before reaching one year of age, the baptism of infants was implemented to insure that they met “mandatory” requirements of getting to heaven.)

Being born of water, though, meant something different to Nicodemus than it typically means to us today.  Being born of water was an expression that was associated with being a Jew.  If a Gentile (a Gentile is anyone not born of Jewish ancestry) wished to become a Jew, he or she had to submit to months of extended education on the rules and practices of Judaism.  After indoctrination, the candidate denounced his past life and then dunked beneath the water.  This symbolic act was known as being “born of water.”  The Jews thought the act of baptism overcame the tragedy of being born a Gentile.  As far as the convert was concerned, life began at baptism.  Nothing between birth and baptism was worth remembering.  Thus, being born of water was an expression of denouncing natural birth as a Gentile.

Nicodemus was acquainted with the baptism of John.  Remember, John the Baptist was baptizing at the Jordan River where there was plenty of water.  John 3:23 John was told to use the symbol of being “born of water” to call Israel to repentance.  John 1:33 God sent John to Israel pleading with them to forsake their evil past and put away their hard hearts so that they might recognize and receive Messiah! John’s baptism was an expression of denouncing the hardness of heart that belonged to Israel!  John the Baptist proclaimed, “I baptize you with water for repentance.  But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”  Matthew 3:11

So Jesus was saying, Nicodemus, you must be “born of water.”  You a respected leader of Israel need to start over!  You need a new heart, a new life.  You, Nicodemus, need to repent of your spiritual pride and religious self-exaltation.  You Nicodemus need to live a humble life, “born and led by the spirit”, for He will guide you into more truth and light!

The answer

So, the answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” begins with a simple and inclusive sentence.  Start right now:  humbly live up to what you know to be true, and seek more truth!  If you are willing to go where God sends you, willing to be what God asks you, willing to do what God asks you – then you’re living by faith and God grants salvation full and free to anyone willing to live by faith!  Remember go-be-do!

The biblical definition of faith means full surrender. Remember Noah?  He did all that God asked him to do.  Remember Abraham?  He did all that God asked him to do.  These worthy examples yielded their hearts to the will of God and freely received his righteousness!  If we allow Jesus to be the Lord of our life, we will want to obey him.  Jesus told his disciples,  “You are my friends if you do what I command…whosoever has my commands and obeys them, and he is the one who loves me.  He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” John 15:14

God reveals the future

Now that salvation has been looked at from the personal view, we must look at the corporate or global view how God implements the Plan of Salvation.  God’s purpose in choosing the descendants of Abraham as a special people was not to make the exclusive object of His love and special blessings.  Rather, He chooses them to be ambassadors of His love.  “…I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”  Isaiah 49:6 Israel was to be a channel through which the world would come to know and love the God of heaven, The Creator of the entire universe.  However, Satan thwarted that glorious plan by leading the Jews into total rebellion against Jesus.

For almost a 1,000 years after Israel was delivered from the bondage of Egypt, Jesus worked with Israel to make them the great nation He wanted them to be.  Each time Israel reached a plateau of physical comfort and wealth, they promptly forgot God and turned to idolatry.  The reason idolatry was so attractive to Israel is that pagan religious services were very different from the worship of Jesus.

True worship

The worship of Jesus is thoughtful and reflective.  The worship of Jesus causes soul searching and brings the sinner to a greater or daily realization of his need of a Savior.

True worship unmasks our deceitful hearts.  In short, the worship of Jesus is like going to the dentist for a checkup thinking that everything is OK and discovering there are hidden cavities!  The worship Of Jesus penetrates the soul and reveals hidden thoughts and motives that are impure.  This type of worship is obviously contrary to human nature and thus Israel sought other “more exciting” gods to worship.

Pagan worship

Pagan worship comes in a thousand forms and ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous.  Satan has devised a counterfeit worship for every type of lust.  Some forms of false worship appear very close to true worship while other forms are excuses for the most degrading acts.  Given the diverse range of false worship, the only general statement that can be made about false worship is that such neither glorifies our Creator nor brings the worshiper into harmony with His truth.  There is a psychological law that says, “By beholding, we become changed.”  This means that we become like the object of our worship!  In time, false worship leads men and women to behave like the father of sin while true worship leads men and women to become like their Creator!

False worship appeals to the carnal or fallen nature.  Those who worship in darkness hate truth because the light exposes their deeds!  Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you… No servant is greater than his master.  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”  John 15:18-20

In Israel’s day, pagan worship included entertainment of all kinds.  History tells us that everything from infant sacrifice to gross sexual practices was performed on or for the benefit of worshipers.  Worship in many ways became a spectator’s delight.  The interesting thing about such drama is that people can live out certain fantasies without actually doing the act.

Today, television, radio, magazines and novels fulfill many of the sensual desires that pagan worship services provided for ancient Israel.  Many of the Israelites would not actually commit the indecent acts they witnessed, but they enjoyed watching them nonetheless.  How does this compare with the multitude of evil acts committed on TV each day?  Are we becoming a more noble and God-like nation as a result of our reading and entertainment?

God’s wrath on Israel

By 600 B.C., the Jews had become so totally resistant to God’s plan and so degenerate in behavior that something drastic had to be done.  Therefore, God planned the destruction of Israel.  He would not destroy all of Israel.  He would save a remnant.  With this remnant He would start over and try one last time to achieve His objective.  So Jesus sent Babylonian monarch, King Nebuchadnezzar, to destroy Jerusalem.  After three sieges, Nebuchadnezzar completely destroyed Jerusalem and carried off a remnant of Israel into captivity.  Jesus did not destroy Jerusalem without warning.  He sent a number of prophets to Israel so they might know what He was going to do and why.  But Israel not only rejected the warning messages, they killed or destroyed most of the prophets who gave them!

Jeremiah was one such prophet.  Jesus speaking through Jeremiah said, “O house of Israel…I am bringing a distant nation against you – an ancient and enduring nation, a people whose language you do not know, whose speech you do not understand.  Their quivers are like an open grave; all of them are mighty warriors.  They will devour your harvests and food; devour your sons and daughters; they will devour your flocks and herds, devour your vines and fig trees.  With the sword they will destroy the fortified cities in which you trust.  Yet even in those days… I will not destroy you completely.

And when the people ask ‘Why has the Lord our God done all this to us?’ you will tell them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your own land, so now you will serve foreigners in a land not your own’…  This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, say:  ‘listen!  I am going to bring on this city and the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words’…  I will hand all Judah over to the king of Babylon, who will carry them away to Babylon or put them to the sword.”  Jeremiah 5:15-19, 19:15, 20:4

One of the remnants taken into captivity was a young man named Daniel.  This young man, unlike most young men of his time, loved the Lord with all his heart.  The story of his life is quite remarkable for God used this humble young man to reach the proud heart of King Nebuchadnezzar, the monarch of Babylon.

Jesus revealed to Daniel a great prophetic chart or outline describing the future of Israel, and of the rest of the world. The visions recorded in the book of Daniel not only provide a wealth of information about the plan of salvation but they tell us how God works.  We will now look at one of these apocalyptic visions.

Daniel 2 opens the future

Stop!  Before proceeding further in this lesson, please read all Daniel 2 in your Bible.

Four important issues will be gleaned from this chapter.

1.      First, we notice the omniscience of Jesus declared.  Daniel said, “…there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.  He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the days to come…” Daniel 2:28 After explaining the vision, Daniel said, “…The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future.  The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.”  Daniel 2:45

2.      Jesus revealed to the great monarch of Babylon that astrologers, magicians, enchanters and soothsayers are not connected to God, nor do they have the ability to “predict” the future.  Their works (then and now) are essentially a collection of clever lies.  Daniel 2:8-11

3.      Daniel 2 reveals the omnipotence of Jesus.  Omnipotence means,  “having all power.”  Daniel said, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.  He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them.  He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.  He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.”  Daniel 2:20-22 In a later vision Daniel again reminded the King, “…the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.”  Daniel 4:25

4.      The vision and interpretation given to King Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel contain a broad apocalyptic outline of the future.  Apocalyptic prophecy refers to prophecy that deals with a structured or sequential series of events.   Jesus revealed to Nebuchadnezzar that subsequent kingdoms would rise and fall until the time came for the God of Heaven to set up His kingdom on earth.

The kingdoms of man were appropriately represented to King Nebuchadnezzar by the symbol of the image made of different metals.  The head of gold represented Babylon and metals of lesser value represented kingdoms that followed.

King Nebuchadnezzar was told another kingdom would succeed Babylon.  The chest and arms of silver represented this kingdom.  Afterwards, another kingdom would arise represented by the thighs of brass.  The legs of iron represented the fourth kingdom.  The feet of iron and clay represented the fifth kingdom and the last kingdom was represented by the ten toes, which represented a brief reign of 10 kings (a global confederation) just before Jesus appears.

King Nebuchadnezzar was told that during the reign of these ten kings that, “In the time of those kings (the last ten kings), the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people.  It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.”  Daniel 2:44

So Nebuchadnezzar’s dream may be seen as a very broad explanation of the destiny of mankind beginning with his day.  Comparing prophecy with history, we discover the following progression of seven world empires:

  1. Babylon
  2. Med-Persia
  3. Greece
  4. Rome
  5. Many kings
  6. 10 last kings
  7. The kingdom of God

History and prophecy harmoniously combine so that we might understand the plans of God.  Just as Jesus predicted (remember) He is omniscient), all the kingdoms have come and gone.  As you can see from the outline below, we live in the time period of “many kings”.  Soon, we will see a brief confederation of 10 kings, and we will know that the return of Jesus is at the door!  More will be said about the brief reign of these ten kings when we study Revelation 17.  For now, it is important to recognize two things:

    1. When “The Rock Of Ages” sets up His kingdom, it fully and completely destroys the kingdoms of man.  Daniel told the king, “…a rock was cut out, but not by human hands.  It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them.  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on the threshing floor in the summer.  The wind swept them away without leaving a trace.  But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.”  Daniel 2:34,35 In other words, the kingdom of Jesus does not co-exist with the sinful kingdoms of man.
    2. Twenty-five hundred years ago Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar, “ The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future.  The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.”  Daniel 2:45 Today, we see the truthfulness of the dream.  In an earlier lesson the point was made that prophecy is history in advance and history is prophecy from the past.  From Nebuchadnezzar, it is clear that we are close to the end of the kingdoms of man.  Just how close are we: 1 year, 10 years or 100 years?

KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S DREAM

Salvation and prophecy work together

We have studied the plan of salvation and its two components.  First, the penalty of sin was paid in full by the death of Jesus on Calvary.  (Justification)  Secondly, our Creator wants to restore His image in those who choose salvation. (Sanctification)

Prophecy is the plan of salvation what the wedding date is to a couple planning for marriage.  The Bible often compares the second coming of Jesus to a marriage feast or a wedding.  “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come.”  Revelation 19:7

Those who have received salvation are anxious for the return of Jesus!  What would you say about a couple who were indifferent about the date of their wedding?  What would you say of Christians who are indifferent about the time of Christ’s coming?

Next lesson

The Bible often follows the process of repetition and enlargement.  This consists of presenting a point and then expanding the details about the point in subsequent visions. In our next lesson, we shall begin to study a dream given to Daniel that clearly shows our chronological position in prophetic time!

Quiz:

  1. Some people don’t want to know right from wrong.  Why?
  1. Paul said, “The sinful mind is _________ towards God.”
  1. Can a person be saved without baptism in water? What about the thief on the cross?
  1. What is the Biblical definition of faith?
  1. T or F Daniel 2 indicates we are living close to the end.
  1. T or F The kingdom of Jesus destroys all the other kingdoms when it is set up.

Memory Verse:  Romans 6:23

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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