The Climax of History!
The final week of Jesus' life in which he went from death by crucifixion to bodily resurrection in the space of three days, was literally the climax of human history. Many wrongfully think that the climax of history will occur at the Second Coming of Christ. But the Second Advent will result in the consummation of history. Thus, the first Advent of Christ is the most significant, far-reaching, God-glorifying, world-impacting event in history.
On the church calendar, this Sunday begins Holy Week by celebrating Palm Sunday, or the occasion of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Jesus enters into Jerusalem as David's true and prophesied Son, and the Ultimate King of Israel. The scriptural accounts reveal that he didn't enter Jerusalem with blatant hubris on a warhorse, but instead arrived on a donkey in baffling humility. He then heads straight for the Temple where as David's 'greater son' he goes to do a greater work than Solomon. Jesus had already subverted the Temple's sacrificial ritual and usurped the role of its priests by pronouncing God's forgiveness and pardon on the streets. His 'cleansing' of the Temple - a powerful prophetic parable - spells the end of the Temple and its replacement by the new Temple of his risen body where the concentrated holiness and glory of God could be encountered.
In parable after parable told during the final week of his life Jesus presses home the challenge. God is addressing the 'terminal generation' and calling in the accounts (cf. Lk. 11:50-51). The Jerusalem authorities are his reluctant audience and prime target. The story about two sons, expanded so memorably by Luke, contrasts an officially compliant, but inwardly rebellious Israel with 'prodigal Israel', which was now coming home from exile in the far country - the Israel which had been lost but now was being found, which was dead but was coming alive before their eyes (Mt. 21:28-32; Lk. 15:1; 11-32). The 'son' is finally sent to the tenant farmers, who have consistently eliminated the owner's agents, of the vineyard. They reject and kill him and refuse to yield up the stewardship they were meant to hold in trust, but 'when the vineyard owner comes' there is only judgment left (Mt. 21:33-46).
The parables about a returning master, a landlord looking for a return on his investment, or wedding virgins in varying states of readiness (or otherwise) for the arrival of the bridegroom must be seen in context as Jesus' sharp challenges to the Israel of his day. They are not primarily about his second coming but about his first coming and the return of God as king to claim his rightful rule in Israel.
The climax of God’s Big Story is played out on the stage of human history as Jesus fulfilled in His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and ongoing ever-presence in the person of the Holy Spirit, all the covenants of the Old Testament! Jesus is the true Son of Abraham (Mt. 1:1) and believing in Him makes us children of Abraham (Gals. 3:29); Jesus kept the whole law for us, including its curses (Gals 4:4-5); He is our law, our sacrifice, our temple priest, and prophet. He is the Son of David and the Son of God who now sits as the eternal king upon the throne of David (Mt.1:1; Acts 2:29-35). The full theological meaning of the O.T. can be grasped only by those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, that God’s covenant with the twelve tribes is fulfilled and completed in Christ’s covenant with His twelve apostles - not postponed. The Jewish nation of the old economy failed in many ways, but they didn’t fail in the main way, i.e., they brought forth the Messiah! The writers of the N.T. recognize Christ as the perfect fulfillment of God’s promises to the patriarchs and Israel: Acts 26:6-7, “And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me.” (NIV) Acts 13:32-33, "We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers, he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: "'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.'” Gal 3:29, “And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
When we talk about finding Jesus in the Old Testament, we aren’t referring to ferreting out a few so called Messianic texts. When Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that the death and resurrection of Jesus took place according to the Scriptures, he’s not pointing to one or two isolated or arbitrary passages or obvious Messianic passages, but is claiming the entire story of the Bible and the entire history of the world up to that moment was being directed towards these climatic events as captured in the gospel of God. History, both Biblical and secular, is not just purpose-driven, but Person-driven. All things are of Him, through Him and to Him! (Roms 11:36)
Christ fulfilled all that went before. For example, He is the Word through whom the Father spoke the world into existence. (Jn. 1:1-3) He is the light that shined into the darkness. He is the One who came walking in the glory cloud of the cool of the day to meet Adam and Eve in Eden in loving relationship and laboring partnership. He, the Lamb slain before the earth was created, sacrificed that first animal and clothed them with skins after they had sinned. He is the victorious seed that crushed the head of the old serpent, the devil, as promised to Adam and Eve after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Gens 3:15)
He is the New and Last Adam, who now rules over creation and promises to fill it with those re-gened (regenerated or born again) in his image. As the new Adam, he subdues his enemies and protects his bride, the church, making her big, fat and wide, yet mean (in the good sense) and lean so that she is comprised of persons from every people group, who learn to reign in life through Him. He is her Shield and Defender that protects her from attempts by the serpent to destroy her.
He is the Greater Noah who takes his family onboard the ark of his church in order to save them from the flood of God’s wrath and lead them into a new world. He is the true Tower of Babel, connecting heaven and earth so that in Christ we can live “coram deo” – confidently and continuously before the face of God. He is the Greater Melchizedek, an eternal priest of God Most High, who feeds his people bread and wine and receives their tithes. He is the promised seed of Abraham, born of the “barren” womb of the virgin by the Spirit’s power. Like Isaac, he is sacrificed by his father, and received back from the dead. He is the Greater Jacob who claims his birthright and in brokenness is blessed with a great posterity. He is Jacob’s ladder, extending into the heavens, on which we ascend into God’s sanctuary. He is the Greater Joseph, who has been humiliated and left for dead by his own brothers, but is then vindicated and exalted. As world ruler, he saves the nations by offering bread and wine from his own table.
He is the prophet greater than Moses, who leads the exiled people in a greater exodus into a greater promised land. He is the New Joshua, who leads his people in a new conquest of the earth with the sword of the Spirit to make disciples of all nations. He is the Real Temple of which the OT Temple was a replica - the very presence of God dwelling with men. He is the final sacrifice, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the Passover Lamb who keeps away the Angel of Death and offers his own blood as the firstborn of Israel’s death and his flesh as their food. He is the final Judge, the One more shrewd than Ehud, stronger than Samson, and far superior to Gideon. He is Great David’s Greater Son, who is God’s anointed, who was divinely appointed and will not be disappointed. He defeats the giant goliath of Satan and finally ascends to the throne and takes possession of the kingdom. He is the one wiser than Solomon, who builds the Lord’s true house and delights the bride with his love, and is made unto us redemption and wisdom (1 Cors 1:30). He is the Suffering Servant promised by Isaiah, on whom the Lord laid the iniquity of us all. He is the one who inaugurates the New Covenant foretold by Jeremiah, and pours out his Spirit as prophesied by Ezekiel. Like Jeremiah, he is a weeping prophet, who announces judgment on Israel and the temple and yet promises and produces a new covenant which will never fail because it is made not with men but between Father and the One Man – the Son – and all those in Christ become covenant partners. Like Ezekiel, he is the Son of Man, who executes judgment on the temple and builds a temple not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
He is the stone cut without hands, seen by Daniel, whose kingdom grows to fill the earth. He is the Greater Ezra, building a better temple, and the Greater Nehemiah, building a city with heavenly foundations. He is the one who gives Sabbath rest so that as New Covenant believers we work from a position of rest symbolized by our gathering on resurrection day –every Sunday – the first day of the week and then go to work. Jesus is the Tree of Life, the Rock in the wilderness gushing with living water, the cornerstone on which unbelievers stumble and on which the house of God is erected. (I am indebted to Mark Horne for much of the above.)
The climax of God’s Big Story is played out on the stage of human history as God’s Son, the True Israel, the Greater Moses and David, brings about, by assuming our likeness, accepting our liabilities, and acquisition of our liberty. He then initiates a new exodus > a new covenant > a new kingship > and a new creation!
The climax of history is history and the unfolding drama of Christ's victorious work will continue to advance from victory unto victory until every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed! And that's GOOD NEWS!
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