Well this past week has been absolutely amazing. I have moved back into my dorm at Texas A&M(actually the same room as last year, have been spending just about every night with the freshmen from Impact, forging new friendships and encouraging them all to continue to grow in their relationship with Jesus. I have been encouraged by friends, but seeing over 10,000 aggies at Breakaway last night, and even by a guy in overalls and a ponytail at O'Reilly Autoparts. And most significantly, since Impact Retreat, I have been thinking about and praying about joining the prayer team for Impact this next year, and I feel that God has given me a definitive "yes." Needless to say, I love Aggieland, and God is doing amazing things here.
But today I just want to talk about something that God has shown me recently. It kind of goes along with the post from two weeks ago, in the sense that it deals with the faith of the Israelites in the time of Moses. This is a revelation that I came to know while reading "Red" by Ted Dekker. What I have come to find is that the concept of living eternally in Heaven with God once we leave this earth is largely absent from the Old Testament in its entirety. While Heaven is mentioned, it is talked about as the residence of God, and never really says anything about it being out future home as well.
So obviously, I really can't bring Scripture in to back up this statement other than just slapping down the entire Old Testament. However, I read several articles online that all supported this statement, and it gave me such an appreciation for the faith of the Israelites. They all followed God and kept His commands so as to be blessed in this world alone, not knowing what lay beyond. Deuteronomy 30:15-16 tells us "See I set before you life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess." And later in verses 19-20: "Now choose life so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
It is just interesting to me how they are told that God is life, just like Jesus says in John 14:6. And yet while Jesus goes on to say that he is the only way to get to God, Moses does not say this. As far as they know this life may very well be it, and they hope only to be blessed in this land. What's more, this was during the period of 40 years in the wilderness when the older generation of Israelites were punished for sin by not being allowed into the Promised Land, and so lived for the rest of their lives in tents until the last of them passed away. These people, knowing full well that they would not get to see the Promised Land, still decided to follow God and His commands. They lived out of pure devotion to God, striving to be pure and blameless just so as to please God in their time on earth. The lived lives completely by faith.
And this just makes me appreciate Hebrews 11 all the more. It is an incredible passage detailing exactly what faith is, "Confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." IT then goes on to talk about many of the figures of the Old Testament who lives lives by faith, and ends by saying that they "were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
So what does all this mean to us? Well remember how I talked previously about how God trusts us enough to not need laws and sacrifices of blood to make us pure and keep our hearts turned toward God? It turns out that one of the reasons God trusts us more may be the fact that we know what is promised to us for all eternity. Again and again in the New Testament we are promised an eternity with Christ if only we truly love him and follow his will for our life, living a life of faith as those in the Old Testament did. Romans 3:22 tells us, "This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." In verse 26 we see that "he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies whose who have faith in Jesus." and later in 4:16, "Therefore the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace..."
So in the end, I cannot really say why God did not make explicitly known his plans for the Israelites, other than that what is written in Romans above, that it demonstrates his righteousness that after so long his ultimate plan has finally been revealed for all to see. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to this earth in the flesh of a man, and died a sinner's death on the cross, rising from the grave on the third day having defeated the law of sin and death. He did this to bridge the infinite gap between man and God, so that we could once again be united with God. And one day Jesus will return to cull his followers and to condemn the nonbelievers, permanently separating God and his followers from Satan and his sinners. So yeah, the Israelites did not know that Jesus was coming back to bring us all into Heaven for all eternity with him, but they also didn't even know the name of our Savior, they only knew what was alluded to him in the prophecies they had at the time. So only by God revealing himself in the full glory of himself in the man named Jesus did God find it prudent to reveal his full plan, since His work on this earth is now nearly complete.