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The Promise of the Seed

Is the Gospel a story or a promise? It is a promise that is unfolding in a story. It is the story of the manifesting promise.

I begin with the question and answer above because I believe that we need clarity as to what is the hope that we can cling to. A hope that can be touched through faith (Hebrews 11:1); a hope that is not just a blurry idea, but a clear promise. The Bible has a forward focus in its content and messaging, constantly looking to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Many of the authors of the books in the Bible were looking forward to the fulfillment of the promises that are clearly laid out in Scripture. Still today we are looking forward to the fulfillment of promises that God has made and that He will fulfill in His second coming. We are still awaiting the fulfillment of the Good News. We have had a wonderful deposit of good things to come (Ephesians 1:14, Hebrews 9:11) and yet we can know through the Scriptures that even greater realities of the Kingdom are in store to be manifested on the earth.

In this 3-part post we will take a step back and enjoy some of the unfolding story of the good news and how our King, Jesus, is bringing it to pass! We will take a look at: The first proclamation of the essence of the Gospel message, Salvation as Christ died and rose, and A look into the future through the Scriptures to the fulfillment of this wonderful promise.

The Promise of the Seed

The first recorded proclamation of the Gospel was pronounced as a curse against Satan in the hearing of Adam and Eve. As He did back then, Jesus continues to make known the manifold wisdom of God to principalities and powers in the heavenly places through His church (Ephesians 3:10). As the chains of slavery to fear, sin, and despair were falling onto the hands and feet of Adam and Eve (Romans 6:16; 8:15), our Redeemer walked into the scene and what to the serpent was a curse was a blessing to Adam and Eve.

“So the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:14-15

God promised that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent! Adam’s failure would be undone not by his seed but by the Seed of the woman, here we find the first indication that Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Adam’s failure would impact not just the human race but all of the creation that God had subjected to Man’s authority (Romans 8:19-21). For God gave Man dominion over the works of His hands (Psalm 8:6). The devastating results of man’s fall would be seen in the unfolding of time as the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in man, the fruit of man’s acquaintance with evil through rebellion, would mature.

Somehow through Adam’s agreement with the serpent to rebel against God, the dominion and authority entrusted to Adam was temporarily delivered to Satan. Death from then on would become the norm of the human experience; death of those things that are good and beautiful. Sickness, disease, corruption, etc. would dominate the experience of the created order. Satan in a moment went from being cast down to once again having power and influence. Paul described him as “the prince of the power of the air” as he wrote to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:2). The beauty and harmony that once existed in creation was disturbed by a filthy frequency in the air. “But God who is rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4) intervened in that moment with a sound of hope. The voice of God walked into the Garden of Eden.

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

Can you imagine a voice that walks? How can a voice walk? I believe that this is the same Voice that created the heavens and the earth. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-5, 14).

When all seemed lost, in man’s darkest hour a light shone with a promise that mankind could cling to. The pre-incarnate Son of God walked into the Garden as a voice of hope to fallen and guilty humanity when He promised that there would be a victory against the wicked power that had arisen on the earth. The power and authority that Satan had taken he would not be able to keep from the One who would crush his head. Jesus is the Light that was manifest to destroy the works of the evil one (1 John 3:8).

With sin in the mix humanity was separated from its loving creator and source of light. Lost in darkness, mankind was helpless but for God’s continual mercy that reached out to man, reminding man of the promise. Sinful man could not draw near to a Holy God, but God was at work among man to fulfill His promise! We can see His hand at work in Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Melchizedek, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Caleb and Joshua, the judges of Israel, Samuel, David, etc. God used each of these and many more in His redemptive plan to declare and bring about that promised Seed.

The promised Seed, promised to mankind, would bless the nations through the nation of Israel (Genesis 22:18). God chose Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his descendants to be the vehicle through which He would bless the nations; those who were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise” who had no hope and were without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). In His sovereignty God chose Israel as the people through which He would manifest His great promise, Jesus the Messiah!  God intends to bless the nations through Israel and even after much of the nation of Israel missed their promised Messiah in His first coming they will still be a blessing in the earth. “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15).

God continued to expound upon the initial promise He made against Satan and for humanity throughout the Tanak, that is, throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. Covenants and promises were made with the people of Israel starting with Abraham and passed along to Isaac and then to his son Jacob; promises through which Israel had a hope. These covenant promises included a blessing for all of mankind as God told Abraham that through his offspring all the nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). All the covenant promises find their ultimate fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. Through the Mosaic (Old) Covenant, sacrifices were established that could cleanse man from sin outwardly allowing for a level of nearness to God not given to any other people. These sacrifices however were powerless to take away sins and to cleanse their consciences (Hebrews 10:1-4).

The condensed promise of the Seed was unpacked through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets throughout the Old Testament. Even the wicked sorcerer Balaam had a share in prophesying about the magnificent Messiah who would deliver Israel from her enemies (Numbers chapters 23 & 24). These promises were literal for blessing and deliverance for the people of Israel. A King would rule over God’s people and over the nations of the earth with righteousness and justice (Isaiah 9:6-7)! Is this not the desire of the oppressed in the nations (Haggai 2:7)? The desire of the nations is to have a just and benevolent ruler, One who cares for the orphan and the widow, One who overturns injustice and gives recompense.

The promised Seed would crush the head of the serpent and take dominion over the earth, and we know that it is God’s desire that mankind would also rule with Christ. Therefore the task of world domination that Christ will fulfill, He will accomplish with the participation and engagement of men and women (Psalm 110:1-3). However with the defilement of sin mankind would not be fit to partner with a Holy God. In order to have His desired partner, God had to cleanse humanity from sin.

 

Sebastian Angulo, MAPS Leader

 

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Antioch: Where God Rewrites Stories

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Israel, Islam and the Harvest

God has a spectacular plan at the end of the age. We must understand the continuity in Jesus’ leadership over the earth and over the nations if we are to understand how these three global issues relate to and converge together at the end of the age: Israel, Islam, and the Harvest. God has intertwined the destiny of the Gentile church, the destiny of those in the Muslim world and the destiny of the Jewish people together in a spectacular narrative that is going to play out on the global stage in the days ahead.

So I ask, did they [Israel] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!… Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob” – Romans 11:11-12, 25-26 ESV

Israel bore the burden of the promises of God for thousands of years in order for God to bring salvation to all the nations of the earth. Now the church in the nations is bearing the burden of the promises of God for two thousand years that will bring bring salvation to Israel. Both of them will come to fullness in the generation of the Lord’s return.

This phrase “fullness of the Gentiles” is the greek word pleroma which can mean a few distinct things:

It can be used to describe the body of believers that is filled with the presence, power, riches of God and of Christ. It can also describe a container that is filled to the brim or a ship that has reached max capacity of passengers and personnel. Lastly, it can mean the completion of something or the fullness of time.

I think in Paul’s mind, all three of these meanings are applicable to this verse and dramatically shaped his Missiology. Our Eschatology must inform and fuel our Missiology. What did Paul understand in the plan of God for the earth that he would write “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of [Israel]. My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they would be saved” (Romans 9-10) and then just a few chapters later write, “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience–by word and deed, … and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.'” (Romans 15)

Paul endeavored to preach the gospel where Christ had not yet been named because he understood in the sovereign plan of God that his assignment to the Gentiles would lead to a global worship movement in all nations that would provoke his kinsmen according to flesh to jealousy. When Israel comes into her full restoration under the New Covenant, the whole earth will experience a restoration that Paul described as life from the dead

Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! … For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? – Romans 11:12, 15 ESV

When all the nations sing and when Israel receives her Messiah, “the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.” (Zechariah 14:9)

Where does the Muslim world come into play? Paul understood that part of the “fullness” that the Gentile church is going to experience is connected to Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24:14. There in a fullness that is yet incomplete in the nations. That deficit is a witness of the gospel in every ethno-linguistic people group.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations [ethnos], and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14 ESV

Again in Acts Chapter 1, when the disciples ask about the restoration of Israel, He does not rebuke them but instead redirects them to the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the pathway towards the restoration of Israel. 

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. – Acts 1:6-8

There are approx 16,500 identifiable people groups or ethnos in the earth today. Out of all the unreached people groups in the earth, almost half (3,573) of them are located in the Muslim world. The population of the Islamic world is 1,537,185,000. 80.4% of those 1.5+ billion people have yet to hear a witness of the Gospel and the church has yet to take root among them. To say it another way, 1,343,613,000 Muslims have yet to hear and experience the gospel of the kingdom.

Jesus prophesies that there is a last great harvest to come in before “then the end will come”.

God has reserved this last great scenario to show off his glory, sovereign leadership over human history and his great mercy. If Matthew 24:14 is true, that means that we are about to see a grace come upon the church that has never been seen before on the earth. We are about to see God release a fullness on the church that will produce the greatest apostolic missions thrust that has ever been witnessed in one generation that will lead to the fullness of the Great commission that will graft hundreds of millions of Muslims into the covenantal promises though salvation in Jesus. The harvest in the Muslim world will prophesy and provoke Israel to jealousy and God will magnify the worth of Jesus in all the earth by taking the two sons of Abraham and reconciling them through the gospel of Messiah.

This generation of prayer and missions will have a holy bullseye on the Muslim world and a holy burden for the Salvation of Israel.  They will witness the destiny of the church, the destiny of the Muslim world to exalt Jesus through day and night prayer and worship, and the destiny of Israel to receive their Messiah and usher in the King to Jerusalem.

 

R.A. Martinez, Director of MAPS Global