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“His laying down His life for us was an act of inconceivable love” by John Owen

“This love of Christ which we inquire after is the love of His person,—that is, which He in His own person acts in and by His distinct natures, according unto their distinct essential properties.

And the acts of love in these distinct natures are infinitely distinct and different; yet are they all acts of one and the same person.

So, then, whether that act of love in Christ which we would at any time consider, be an eternal act of the divine nature in the person of the Son of God; or whether it be an act of the human, performed in time by the gracious faculties and powers of that nature, it is still the love of one and the self-same person,– Christ Jesus.

It was an act of inexpressible love in Him, that He assumed our nature, (Heb. 2:14, 17). But it was an act in and of His divine nature only; for it was antecedent unto the existence of His human nature, which could not, therefore, concur therein.

His laying down His life for us was an act of inconceivable love, (1 John 3:16). Yet was it only an act of the human nature, wherein He offered Himself and died.

But both the one and the other were acts of His divine person; whence it is said that God laid down His life for us, and purchased the church with His own blood.

This is that love of Christ wherein He is glorious, and wherein we are by faith to behold His glory.

A great part of the blessedness of the saints in heaven, and their triumph therein, consists in their beholding of this glory of Christ,– in their thankful contemplation of the fruits of it. (See Rev. 5:9-10)

The illustrious brightness wherewith this glory shines in heaven, the all-satisfying sweetness which the view of it gives unto the souls of the saints there possessed of glory, are not by us conceivable, nor to be expressed.

Here, this love passeth knowledge,– there, we shall comprehend the dimensions of it.

Yet even here, if we are not slothful and carnal, we may have a refreshing prospect of it; and where comprehension fails, let admiration take place.

My present business is, to exhort others unto the contemplation of it, though it be but a little, a very little, a small portion of it, that I can conceive; and less than that very little that I can express.”

–John Owen, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 336–337.

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“The line of life and light which runs through the whole Old Testament” by John Owen

“It is said of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, ‘beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He declared unto His disciples in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself,’ (Luke 24:27).

It is therefore manifest that Moses, and the Prophets, and all the Scriptures, do give testimony unto Him and His glory.

This is the line of life and light which runs through the whole Old Testament, without the conduct whereof we can understand nothing aright therein: and the neglect hereof is that which makes many as blind in reading the books of it as are the Jews,—the veil being upon their minds. (2 Cor. 4:14-16)

It is faith alone, discovering the glory of Christ, that can remove that veil of darkness which covers the minds of men in reading the Old Testament, as the apostle declares, (2 Cor. 3:14–16). I shall, therefore, consider briefly some of those ways and means whereby the glory of Christ was represented unto believers under the Old Testament.

It was represented in the institution of the beautiful worship of the law, with all the means of it. Herein have they the advantage above all the splendid ceremonies that men can invent in the outward worship of God; they were designed and framed in divine wisdom to represent the glory of Christ, in His person and His office.

This nothing of human invention can do, or once pretend unto. Men cannot create mysteries, nor can give unto anything natural in itself a mystical signification.

But so it was in the old divine institutions.

What were the tabernacle and temple?

What was the holy place with the utensils of it?

What was the oracle, the ark, the cherubim, the mercy-seat, placed therein?

What was the high priest in all his vestments and administrations?

What were the sacrifices and annual sprinkling of blood in the most holy place?

What was the whole system of their religious worship?

Were they anything but representations of Christ in the glory of His person and His office?

They were a shadow, and the body represented by that shadow was Christ.

If any would see how the Lord Christ was in particular foresignified and represented in them, he may peruse our exposition on the 9th chapter of the Epistle unto the Hebrews, where it is handled so at large as that I shall not here again insist upon it.

The sum is, ‘Moses was faithful in all the house of God, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken afterward,’ (Heb. 3:5).

All that Moses did in the erection of the tabernacle, and the institution of all its services, was but to give an antecedent testimony by way of representation, unto the things of Christ that were afterward to be revealed.

And that also was the substance of the ministry of the prophets, (1 Pet. 1:11-12). The dark apprehensions of the glory of Christ, which by these means they obtained, were the life of the church of old.

Promises, prophecies, predictions, concerning His person, His coming, His office, His kingdom, and His glory in them all, with the wisdom, grace, and love of God to the church in Him, are the line of life, as was said, which runs through all the writings of the Old Testament, and takes up a great portion of them.

Those were the things which He expounded unto His disciples out of Moses and all the Prophets. Concerning these things He appealed to the Scriptures against all his adversaries: ‘Search the Scriptures; for they are they which testily of Me.’ (John 5:39)

And if we find them not, if we discern them not therein, it is because a veil of blindness is over our minds.

Nor can we read, study, or meditate on the writings of the Old Testament unto any advantage, unless we design to find out and behold the glory of Christ, declared and represented in them.

For want hereof they are a sealed book to many unto this day.”

–John Owen, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 348-351.

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“Whatsoever is in God is God” by Thomas Brooks

“Premise this with me, that God is essentially holy, and in this sense, none is holy but Himself. Now essential holiness is all one with God Himself.

God’s essential holiness is God’s conformity to Himself. Holiness in God is not a quality, but His essence. Quicquid est in Deo, est ipse Deus, Whatsoever is in God, is God.

Holiness in angels and saints is but a quality, but in God it is His essence. The fallen angels keep their natures, though they have lost their holiness; for that holiness in them was a quality, and not their essence.

Look, as created holiness is the conformity of the reasonable creature to the rule, so the uncreated holiness of God is God’s conformity unto Himself.

God’s holiness and His nature are not two things, they are but one.

God’s holiness is His nature, and God’s nature is His holiness. God is a pure act, and therefore, whatsoever is in God is God.

It is God’s prerogative royal to be essentially holy. The most glorious creatures in heaven, and the choicest souls on earth, are only holy by participation: ‘There is none holy as the Lord,’ (1 Sam. 2:2).

God’s holiness is so essential and co-natural to Him, that He can as soon cease to be, as cease to be holy. Holiness in God is a substance, but in angels and men it is only an accident, or a quality.

The essence of the creature may remain when the holiness of the creature is lost, as you may see in Adam, and the fallen angels; but God’s essence and His holiness are alwa

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“God is a gardener” by Andrew Wilson

“God is a gardener.

We know this from the second chapter of Scripture. “The LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east” (Gen. 2:8), and this garden is complete with trees, fruits, vegetables, flowers, rivers, minerals, onyx, gold, birds, animals, human beings, marriage, sex, life, and the presence of God himself (Gen. 2:9–25).

It is not just lush and idyllic—the Greek word for garden here, paradeisos, gives us our word paradise— but enormous as well, and probably mountainous, given that it serves as the source for four rivers.

It is more like a primeval Yosemite than a vegetable patch or a manicured lawn. By planting a garden, placing humanity in it, and walking alongside them in the cool of the day, God is showing us the connection between his creativity, his love, his abundance (every tree that was pleasant to the eye and good for food, every beast of the field, every living creature, and so on), and above all his presence.

Eden is a place of life, love, and harmony because God lives there. The first garden is a temple, and from now on all temples will be gardens.

That might sound like a stretch, until we study the designs of the tabernacle and the temple in detail (which, since they are lengthy and a bit repetitive, most of us don’t). They are full of garden imagery, pointing us to the verdant, lush, life-giving bounty of the gardener God who lives there.

Consider: the temple is made out of cedar trees, “carved in the form of gourds and open flowers,” and the floor is boarded with cypress (1 Kings 6:15–18).

Like Eden, it is guarded by cherubim, built on a mountain, entered from the east, and adorned with gold and onyx (1 Chron. 29:2). The doors of the sanctuary are made of olivewood, carved with palm trees and flowers in bloom (1 Kings 6:31–32).

The bronze pillars are festooned with hundreds of pomegranates, and “on the tops of the pillars was lily-work” (1 Kings 7:20–22).

The panels are set with livestock (oxen) and wild beasts (lions), and as you walk across the court, you find yourself surrounded by fresh water (1 Kings 7:23–29). There is a tree-shaped lampstand outside the Holy of Holies, and a further ten made of pure gold (1 Kings 7:49).

It would have felt like an orchard, a well-watered garden, a paradeisos. It spoke to Israel: the God of the garden lives here. Welcome.

So gardens are places of abundance and divine presence. But they are also places of romance and love. The first marriage and the first love song took place in a garden (Gen. 2:18–25), and this profound mystery is a picture of the love between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31–32).

Numerous biblical couples get together in garden-like places, under trees or at wells or both.

The Song of Solomon is full of plants, trees, flowers, orchards, fruits, fountains, and gardens, reinforcing the connection between our intimacy with God and our intimacy with one another.

This connection, interestingly, is still reflected today, every time a couple gets married surrounded by carnations, arbors, garlands, lilies, trellises, and petals of confetti.

We design our wedding venues like a garden of love, not least because we first knew love in a garden. Yet the garden is also a place of tragedy.

We do not just remember paradise; we remember paradise lost. Eden was not just the garden of love but the garden of love spurned.

Life was rejected in favor of the knowledge of good and evil, marriage was spoiled, and verdant abundance became thorns and thistles and pain in childbirth.

As human beings, we were meant to take the garden with us, filling the earth with the life and harmony we found there, but instead we were exiled from it, frog-marched out by the eastern exit, with cherubim on guard to prevent us from coming back.

From that day on, we lost our unrestricted access to the presence of God, both in the temple-like garden and in the garden-like temple. We have been pining for it ever since.

The human story has been a long and often disastrous series of attempts to get back to the garden.

It is fitting, then—as well as glorious beyond words—that our access back into the garden, with all the abundance and presence and love that goes with it, was secured in two gardens.

The first, which we know as the garden of Gethsemane, reversed the decision of Eden, replacing Adam’s “not your will but mine” with Christ’s “not my will but yours.”

The second, as Jesus stepped out of the tomb just a couple of days later, reversed the consequences of Eden.

Where Adam brought death to everyone in a garden and then went to hide, Christ brought life to everyone in a garden and then made himself as visible as possible.

This connection may be what John is hinting at when he says that Mary thought Jesus was the gardener (John 20:15). In more ways than one, he was.

The result, as Jesus had said while being crucified, is that those who trust him can be brought back to God. “Today you will be with me in [paradeisos]” (Luke 23:43).

We are welcomed into the abundance and vitality of a new and better Eden.

The cherubim blocking your way have been stood down.

The serpent has been crushed.

The garden of love is open, and the Gardener has been preparing a place for you.

When we finally see it, in the final two chapters of Scripture, we get the most delightful sense of déjà vu—there is a river and a tree and leaves and fruit and gold and onyx and a wedding.

And in the midst of it all is God himself, so bright that there is no need for the sun, and so present that there is no need for a temple (Rev. 21:22–23).

Welcome home.”

–Andrew Wilson, God of All Things: Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021), 81-84.

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“Christ is the sun; the individual words of God are His rays” by Herman Bavinck

“Finally the designation ‘word of God’ is used for Christ Himself. He is the Logos in an utterly unique sense: Revealer and revelation at the same time.

All the revelations and words of God, in nature and history, in creation and re-creation, both in the Old and the New Testament, have their ground, unity, and center in Him.

He is the sun; the individual words of God are His rays.

The word of God in nature, in Israel, in the NT, in Scripture may never even for a moment be separated and abstracted from him. God’s revelation exists only because He is the Logos.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; vol. 1; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 1: 402.

[HT: Nick Gardner]

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“The joy of the saints in heaven shall be a lasting joy, an uninterrupted joy” by Thomas Brooks

“The joy of the saints in heaven shall be a lasting joy, an uninterrupted joy. Here their joy is quickly turned into sorrow, their singing into sighing, their dancing into mourning.

Our joy here is like the husbandman’s joy in harvest, which is soon over, and then we must sow again in tears, before we can reap in joy.

Surely there is no believer but finds that sometimes sin interrupts his joy.

Sometimes Satan disturbs his joy. Sometimes afflictions and sometimes desertions eclipse his joy.

Sometimes the cares of the world, and sometimes the snares of the world, and sometimes the fears of the world, mars our joy.

Sometimes great crosses, sometimes near losses, and sometimes unexpected changes, turns a Christian’s harping into mourning, and his organ into the voice of them that weep.

Surely there is hardly one day in the year, yea, I had almost said one hour in the day, wherein something or other doth not fall in to interrupt a Christian’s joy.

But now in heaven the joy of the saints shall be constant; there shall nothing fall in to disturb or to interrupt their joy: Ps. 16:11, ‘In thy presence is fulness of joy, and at thy right hand is pleasures for ever more.’

Mark, for quality, there are pleasures; for quantity, fulness; for dignity, at God’s right hand; for eternity, for evermore. And millions of years multiplied by millions, make not up one minute to this eternity of joy that the saints shall have in heaven.

In heaven there shall be no sin to take away your joy, nor no devil to take away your joy, nor no man to take away your joy: John 16:22, ‘Your joy no man taketh from you.’

The joy of the saints in heaven is never ebbing, but always flowing to all contentment. The joys of heaven never fade, never wither, never die, nor never are lessened nor interrupted.

The joy of the saints in heaven is a constant joy, an everlasting joy, in the root and in the cause, and in the matter of it and in the objects of it. Æterna erit exultatio, quœ bono lœtatur œterno, their joy lasts for ever whose objects remains for ever.

Isa. 35:10, ‘And the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joys upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall fly away.’

In this world not only the joy of hypocrites and the joy of profane persons, but also the joy of the upright, is oftentimes ‘as the crackling of thorns under a pot,’ (Eccles. 7:6) now all on a flame, and as suddenly out again.

But the joy of believers in heaven shall be like the fire on the altar that never went out. (Lev. 6:13)

So when your hearts are sad and sorrowful, oh! then think of these everlasting joys that you shall have in heaven.”

–Thomas Brooks, “The Best Things Reserved Till Last,” The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, Ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2001), 1: 425–426.

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“What we sow on earth is harvested in eternity” by Herman Bavinck

“The final rest of God’s children is not to be conceived as inaction; His children remain His servants, who joyfully and in diverse ways serve Him night and day.

What we sow on earth is harvested in eternity; diversity is not destroyed in eternity but cleansed from sin and made serviceable to fellowship with God and others. Scripture even teaches degrees of glory in the future kingdom, commensurate with one’s works.

The blessedness of salvation is the same for all, but there are distinctions in glory. This distinction is not merited by good works but comes through a sovereign, free, and gracious covenantal disposition of God—a given right to believers merited by Christ.

God thus crowns His own work in order that in such active diversity the glory of His own attributes shines out. All creatures will then live and move and have their being in God, who is all in all, who reflects all of His attributes in the mirror of His works and glorifies Himself in them.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; vol. 4; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 4: 715.

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