Christ: The Assault and Triumph Over the Continuity of Being
After the ‘re-creation’ of the earth through the Flood and the subsequent fall of man back into sin at Babel, it was apparent that an outward renewal of mankind through wrath would be ineffective to bring humanity back into full communion with God.1 Man’s very nature was hostile toward God, and no amount of outward conformity could change that. Man’s inward nature would have to be renewed as well.2
As time moved on, the promised ‘seed’ of Genesis 3:15 which would renew creation to its former state passed from the woman to Seth to Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and finally to David. After David’s kingly line becomes faithless and fails utterly in being God’s firstborn and chosen leader of His people (Psalm 89:27), Israel is sent off into captivity. Shortly prior to, during, and immediately after the two exiles, God renews His unconditional promise to David that his line would endure forever. In these prophecies, the renewed Davidic kingdom is always linked with the undoing of sin, the defeat of those forces opposed to God, and the renewal and redemption of humanity and creation. In Christ, this was fulfilled and will be fulfilled.3
The Incarnation of the Son of God
The Continuity of Being viewed everything on a sliding scale of being which one could ascend upward to the divine or downward toward chaos. One could be fully god and no part man, fully man but not divine, 2/3 god and 1/3 man4, etc. but never at two points on the scale at the same time. With the Incarnation of the Son of God came the greatest antithesis of the world-system of unbelief. Christ was both fully God and fully man, in one person, with two natures and two wills, all “without confusion”.5 The Incarnation of Christ has massive implications:
The Dignity of Man
By God taking on the human nature, God was proclaiming the inherent dignity and glory of the human race:
“For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying, ‘WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.’ For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.” (Hebrews 2:5-8)6
This was in contrast to pagan religions which viewed man as the low end of the chain of being, having no inherent dignity. The modern naturalistic/evolutionary view of man is no different from these mythical worldviews. With Christ, God re-affirmed that man was made in the image of God and given glory and dominion over creation (Genesis 1:26-30, Psalm 8:4-8).
In Genesis 28:12-17, we read of Jacob’s vision:
“He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”” (Genesis 28:12-17)
The ladder in this vision is not one with rungs on it but a stairway like on a ziggurat. The name of the place, “The Gate of Heaven”, confirms this since the name is similar to those of other ziggurats found throughout the Mesopotamian world. The stairway with angels ascending and descending on it was the path where man could reach God and plead for intercession. It was THE path of salvation and covenant blessing. Thus, we come to Christ’s words in John’s Gospel:
“And He said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’” (John 1:51)
Here, Christ, likening Himself to the ziggurat which leads to God, asserts Himself as the way of intercession and THE path by which to reach God. In contrast to the godless men building the ziggurat at Babel who sought to deify themselves, only through Christ can man be brought to God:
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” (John 14:6)
“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” (1 Timothy 2:5)
Man cannot ascend to glory his own way nor can he become his own autonomous god. Instead, the path of glorification involves being conformed to the image and likeness of Him who is both God and fully obedient to God as His covenant servant.7
With God revealing Himself in human flesh, God was revealing, in person (John 14:7-9), His standard of righteousness:
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:19-21)
Most of mankind doesn’t want an absolute standard of righteousness over them. Instead everyone wants to do “what [is] right in [their] own eyes” (Judges 17:6, 21:25). Now that Christ has come, man shall be held to a greater account for his deeds (John 15:22-24, 2 Peter 2:21).
The Resurrection and Judgment
Because He was both God and a righteous man, the man, Christ Jesus, could not be held in the grave:
“But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” (Acts 2:24)
Because He was the perfect man, all men would be judged by the standard of His righteous conduct. His resurrection was that sign that the judgment to come is inescapable:
“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31, also 10:40-42)
The Hatred of the Real Christ
Christ was the most powerful denial of the Continuity of Being, and herein lies the reason for the natural man’s hatred of the Incarnation. It is, at the same time, the impenetrable wall blocking man’s attempt at godhood as well as the rejection of the belief that man is of no higher importance than the animals. In essence, it is the denial that man, in his life-style, beliefs, and thought-processes, is autonomous. This is why all the unbelievers of this generation want to recreate Christ in their own image, to snatch the rule over their lives away from Him and take it for themselves. In the end, however, their imagination will give way to reality:
“Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’ ” Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Psalm 2)
The Church Age
With the coming of Christ came the beginning of the end (Matthew 3:2, 1 Peter 4:7). The Church age is the reversal of primeval history and, as a result, the reversal of sin and the curse. It is the antithesis:
Christ’s perfect life was the reversal of Adam’s disobedience (Matthew 4:1-11, Romans 5:12-21, Hebrews 4:15).
Christ’s death was the substitutionary punishment for all of our spiritual and physical sins including our sin in Adam8 (Romans 5:12-21, 6:3).
The Resurrection of Christ was the reversal of physical death (1 Corinthians 15:21, 54).
Pentecost was the reversal of the confusion of tongues at Babel (Acts 2:1-12).
The ingathering of the Church from all tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations was and is the reversal of the scattering of the nations after Babel (Revelation 5:9).
The gathering of all the nations under one head submissive to God’s will, Christ, is in contrast to the same action done by those against God’s will, Nimrod, the primeval antichrist, and the future antichrist.
The last three chapters of Revelation are almost a mirror image of the first three chapters of Genesis.
In fact, the whole of history centers around Christ, the very revelation of God in the flesh, and it has been what men have done with this knowledge of God (or lack of it) that has shaped history.
Conclusion: The Knowledge of God
The knowledge of God shall be the basis of divine judgment on the last day:
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
“For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8)
“And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)
What each man does with this knowledge is what separates believers from unbelievers, the Biblical worldview from that of unbelief, and it is to this topic which we will turn to next.
[All Scripture quotes are from the NASB, emphasis mine.]
1 Of course, God already knew this, but He did those actions to teach us that the way in which He saved us through Christ was necessary and that we might glorify Him more as a result (Romans 9:22-23, esp. Galatians 3:24-26).
2 The command to “circumcise your hearts” (Deuteronomy 10:16) was realized by man to be impossible, and so, God would have to circumcise man’s heart Himself (Deuteronomy 30:6, Isaiah 54:13-14, Jeremiah 31:33-34, Ezekiel 36:25-27).
3 This is called “inaugurated eschatology”, meaning that something has begun now and will be finished at a later time. The kingdom of God is here now (Matthew 12:28), but it is still yet to come (Acts 1:6-8).
4 This was the description given of Gilgamesh in the Gilgamesh Epic tablets found in archaeology digs in Mesopotamia.
5 The quote comes from the Definition of Chalcedon, a ‘creed’ that confessed the orthodox doctrine of Christ. All the Christological heresies of the early church were a return to the “sliding scale” concept of the Continuity of Being. The Gnostic Jesus was without a human nature and taught that man can be saved by ascending into the Fullness of Being through esoteric knowledge. The Arian Christ wasn’t of the same being as the Father who was seen as too transcendent to be in the world, and thus, reconciliation was through a hierarchy of beings. The Nestorian Christ was comprised of two “persons” in the one man, and thus, the death of Christ was seen as the death of the human person, not the divine, which limited propitiatory power of the atonement. It was no wonder that Nestorius himself was a friend of the Pelagians who believed that man was to save himself solely through his good works. In the Apollinarian Christ, the divine nature overtook and destroyed the human. With this Christology, how could Christ atone for humanity’s sins? The Monophysite Christ was similar in that Christ only had one nature, the divine. The Monothelite Christ had only one will, the divine, and with this Christology, how could Christ relate to our infirmities as our perfect High Priest (Hebrews 4:15-5:10)?
6 In context, the author of Hebrews applies this Old Testament quotation to Christ (since He is the perfect Adam, the one who had dominion over creation) even though Psalm 8:4-8 was originally applied to mankind in general. Christ was and is as mankind should have been.
7 Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are a combination of Christianity and pagan religious/philosophical thought and, as a result, represent a return to the Continuity of Being. Their belief in added mediators of priests, saints, angels, and Mary between man and Jesus brings back the chain of being concept. Their veneration of images and icons re-divinize the material world and end up confounding the Creator and the created-order (though they still profess analogy). Their sacramentalism is a soteriological system in which man’s progress toward the Divine is partly dependent upon his own actions.
8 I am here referring to the concept of ‘Federal Headship’, a concept common in the ancient world in which those tied to a leader could be punished or rewarded based on the actions of that leader. For example, the punishment for the evil deeds of a man could also be dealt out on his family or tribe (Joshua 7:16-26, 2 Samuel 12:9-10, 14, Matthew 27:24-25). An entire nation could be punished for the wrong actions of its king (1 Chronicles 21:1-3, 7). Often times, we feel that this is unjust, but this feeling comes from our Western individualistic mindset that has been influenced by Greek culture and philosophy. Here, the guilt and punishment for Adam’s sin is imputed to us because, as the progenitor of the whole human race, he is our federal head (Romans 5:12, Psalm 51:5). To reverse this, Christ is made the federal head to all who believe resulting in the imputation of our sins to Christ and His righteousness to us (Romans 5:16-19).