1.3.3 Life/Family: Relationship
Volume 1: Foundations—Chapter 3.3
So far, we have seen two facets of the self-portrait of God—Light, that which allows and facilitates perception, and the Word, enabling communication. We should not be too surprised, then, to find both of these things used to illuminate and communicate the third facet of Yahweh’s personality: the concept of Life itself. David writes, “For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:9) He’s reminding us that Yahweh is the source of life (something that’s by no means taken for granted any more in our world, though it’s obvious to anyone who’s seeing things by the light of God’s Word). Yahshua said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 6:27-28) Everlasting life and eternal security are enjoyed only by Yahshua’s “sheep,” those of us who know His voice and follow His leading. In other words, the Word of God, personified in Yahshua, is like the door to the “sheepfold” of heaven, and the light of His life is what allows us to find our way to this door.
This, of course, flies in the face of what passes for “science” in our world. We believers in Yahweh are patted on the head like idiot children by condescending cognoscenti who claim that the faith we place in Yahweh (a God they can’t see) is irrational, unwarranted, and foolish. But they doth protest too much, methinks. Is it really idiotic to embrace a hypothesis that the wisest men in human history have taken for granted—not because they thought it all out and came to a rational, fact-based conclusion, but because the God who created organic life told them He had? Today’s scientists may protest, “Well, God doesn’t speak to me. Really? He speaks to me, even before I open up His scriptures. In the previous section, we were reminded of something I’ve found to be true a thousand times over: the glory of God is blatantly evident in the works of His creation. Could it be that the reason these scientists don’t believe there’s a God who lives and creates is simply because they don’t want to? As Paul wrote, “They did not honor him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:21-22) Smart isn’t necessarily wise. I’m not saying all scientists are fools, but if the shoe fits….
In a nutshell, Yahweh declared that only life begets life. He says He created all life, man included, and He was able to do this because He has life within Himself. That is, He is eternally self-existent (not that we can really comprehend what that means). I’m the first to admit that He didn’t tell us everything—how He did it, what processes He used, or how long He took to do it. He used the broadest of brushstrokes and spoke in the most sweeping of generalities. And adding to our confusion, He used symbolic language designed not to teach us about biology or physics but rather about His plan for our redemption. So He describes creation with seemingly goofy statements like, “I made everything in six days, and on the seventh day, I rested.” In the light of what we can perceive of the age and nature of the universe, if we can’t see (or accept) that Yahweh was speaking metaphorically—that the “seven days” represent a spiritual truth and establish a spiritual paradigm concerning His plan for mankind—then maybe we deserve to wallow in ignorance. But if we’re willing to let Him teach us through His word and His creation, it all becomes clear—and startlingly beautiful.
So that’s Yahweh’s version. Unbelievable? I’ll answer that question with a question: Compared to what? My youngest son has recently been taking university-level biology courses, so I borrowed a couple of his hundred-dollar textbooks (one copyrighted 2006, the other 2008—in other words, reasonably up to date, as I’m writing this). Both textbooks, as well as Internet sources I consulted, are in basic agreement as to how they think life might have begun. All the sources I checked began with the Miller-Urey experiments of 1953 (building on the work of Oparin and Haldane in the 1920s), even though everyone now agrees that they started with some flawed assumptions. One author (Starr, in Biology: Concepts and Applications) writes, “Recent geologic evidence suggests that Earth’s early atmosphere was not quite like Miller’s mixture. But simulations that used other gasses have also yielded different organic compounds, including some types that can act as nucleotide precursors of nucleic acids.” No life, you understand, just relatively simple chemical compounds that could, under the perfect conditions, lead to something that might someday end up being a component of a living organism. It’s like saying, “I’ve got a bit of wire here, and a chunk of silicon, so I’m well on my way toward having my own computer!”
Campbell and Reese (in the textbook Biology) add, “It is unclear whether the atmosphere of young Earth contained enough methane and ammonia to be reducing [i.e., electron-adding]. Growing evidence suggests that the early atmosphere was made up primarily of nitrogen and carbon dioxide and was neither reducing nor oxidizing (electron removing).” Having thus made a convincing case that life couldn’t and didn’t spontaneously arise in the earth’s atmosphere, Campbell and Reese irrationally persist: “Miller-Urey-type experiments demonstrate that the abiotic [i.e., nonliving] synthesis of organic molecules is possible.” It just had to happen somewhere else, that’s all—submerged volcanoes, or deep-sea vents, maybe. Or perhaps it didn’t happen here at all. Starr writes: “By another hypothesis, simple organic compounds formed in outer space. Researchers detect amino acids in interstellar clouds and in some of the carbon-rich meteorites that have landed on earth.”
Of course, having amino acids and “nucleotide precursors of nucleic acids” is light years away from having even one DNA molecule—the recognized building blocks of life—never mind having life itself. C&R write, “While Miller-Urey-type experiments have yielded some of the nitrogenous bases of DNA and RNA, they have not produced anything like nucleotides. If building blocks of nucleic acids were not part of the early organic soup, self-replicating molecules and a metabolism-like source of the building blocks must have appeared together.” How? “The necessary conditions may have been met by protobionts, collections of abiotically produced molecules surrounded by a membrane-like structure. Protobionts may exhibit some properties of life, including simple reproduction and metabolism, as well as the maintenance of an internal chemical environment different from that of their surroundings.” May have… Might have… Could have… Must have… Perhaps… Hypothetically. Basically, they’re asking us to believe that nonliving globs of matter act like they’re alive, and then somehow become living organisms, all quite by chance. Abiotic is simply another word for prebiotic, right? It’s biology by Murphy’s Law: whatever can happen, did happen. (And even if it can’t, it still must have.) But then they admit, “The presence of small organic molecules, such as amino acids, is not sufficient for the emergence of life as we know it. Every cell has a vast assortment of macromolecules, including enzymes and other proteins and the nucleic acids that are essential for self-replication.” Their problem is that the math simply doesn’t work. Multiple miracles are required, but no “god” is allowed to perform them.
How do the “scientists” bridge this unbridgeable chasm? They posit an “RNA World,” in which life arose not with the complicated DNA double helix, but through the relatively rudimentary RNA molecule. In The Search for Life on Other Planets, Bruce M. Jakosky writes, “We can imagine a simpler world than one in which both DNA and RNA are involved in the reproduction of cells. The RNA molecule is less complex than the DNA molecule, since it usually is a single rather than a double chain. One can imagine that RNA might have been the means of transferring genetic information from a cell to its offspring prior to the evolution of DNA….” The problem is, you’d have to imagine it: it doesn’t actually happen in real life. He admits: “The RNA molecule cannot reproduce itself without the catalytic activity of enzymes. The enzymes are composed of proteins that are produced by using the genetic information contained within the RNA molecule, and the RNA molecule cannot be created without the catalytic activity of the enzymes. We are faced with a ‘chicken or egg’ dilemma.” He goes on to note, “Even the simplest RNA molecule is very complex; it is unlikely that it would be created by the random combinations of organic molecules in a prebiotic soup.” “Unlikely?” Is that what they’re calling impossible now?
The “scientists” agree: the DNA upon which all life is based is obviously far too complex to have assembled itself by chance, so RNA, which “cannot reproduce itself” without a whole lot of impossibly fortuitous help, is recruited to save the day. Enough of this foolishness. Wake up, ladies and gentlemen. This is like insisting that although it is patently impossible for a tornado to sweep through a junkyard and assemble a Boeing 777 jet airliner, this same tornado could—and did—manage to cobble together a fully functioning Model T Ford, fueled, running, and licensed with the DMV. And they accuse me of having too much faith! They think I’m a fool for believing in a God I can’t see except through the evidence He’s left behind. Sorry, guys. I’m going to stick with what the scientists know to be true: what they’ve actually observed in nature—not what they merely wish to be true. Life comes from life. Period. I’ll put my money on Yahweh’s awesome intellect, unlimited resources, and passionate motivation, over dumb luck, blind chance, and serendipitous happenstance, any day of the week.
I’m not alone in my views, of course. Paul wrote of “…the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.” (Titus 1:1-2) Eternal life was promised by God before the ages began? Yes. I know it strains credulity, but Yahweh provided the remedy for our sin before we were even here. What’s more, He knew which of us would elect to receive His gift and who would not. During the coming dark days of the Great Tribulation, people will no longer sit on the fence, choosing neither Yahweh nor Satan. John prophesied that “All who dwell on earth will worship it [the “beast from the sea”—the Antichrist or the demon who inhabits him], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.” (Revelation 13:8) In other words, the identities of those who did, or will, choose to follow Yahweh have been known to Him since before the world even existed, and their eternal life has been guaranteed all this time. Life with Yahweh is not an afterthought.
Nor is eternal life merely an extension of the kind of biological life we share with dogs, cats, and garden slugs. This biological life, as marvelously improbable as it is, is temporary: we are all mortal; our bodies are all subject to death and decay. The Hebrew phrase used to describe this kind of life is chay nephesh—“living soul.” This “soul” is mentioned six times in the first two chapters of Genesis, referring to any living creature in the sea or on the land—including, but not restricted to, man. Man, however, was the only chay nephesh who received the “breath of life,” (literally, breath of lives—plural or abundant life) the neshamah chayim: “Then Yahweh, God, formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [neshamah chayim], and the man became a living creature [chay nephesh].” (Genesis 2:7) This neshamah is apparently what gives human beings the capacity to receive Yahweh’s Spirit—His Ruach. The word for “life” or “to live” (chay, chayim, hayah) is closely related to the verb “to be” (’eheyeh or chayay), as in “became” in the verse above. The point is: to be is to live. If we no longer have life, we are not—we don’t exist, even though our corpse may still be around stinking up the place. Note also that God’s self-proclaimed name, Yahweh, is based on the same linguistic root. He’s practically screaming that He is—His defining self-existence is the source of our life.
Life, then, resides not in the body, but in the soul, the nephesh. If the soul leaves the body, neither remains alive—unless the soul has in turn been made permanently alive by the indwelling of God’s eternal Spirit (His Ruach). That’s the function we read about above—the “breath of life” (the neshamah chayim) that was given to Adam (whose name means “man”). So Job’s friend Elihu muses, “Who gave Him [Yahweh] charge over the earth, and who laid on Him the whole world? If He should set His heart to it and gather to Himself His spirit [Ruach] and His breath [neshamah], all flesh would perish together, and man [adam] would return to dust.” (Job 34:13-15) Not only is Yahweh the source of all life, He is also its sustainer. But biological life (the kind of thing evolutionary scientists have such a tough time comprehending) is in reality only a symbol for the essential life—the eternal life—that is ours if Yahweh’s Spirit inhabits our souls. We, as chay nephesh—living souls—have the privilege of glimpsing what it really means to be “alive”—we can feel, think, express ourselves, and exercise our free will. But the biological life we experience as we spend our days on this Earth is only a suggestion, a mere hint, of the life that awaits us beyond our mortal existence if Yahweh’s Spirit inhabits us.
How can we appropriate this eternal, essential life? How does one transition from biological life to the immortal state? In I Corinthians 15, Paul explains how this transformation involves exchanging our mortal, corruptible bodies for immortal, incorruptible ones. We will have bodies in the eternal state; we won’t merely be disembodied souls flitting about—ghosts, so to speak. But they won’t be like the bodies we now inhabit, either. David tells us: “My heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let Your Holy One see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:9-11) The “Holy One,” of course, is the Messiah, Yahshua, as Peter pointed out on the Day of Pentecost (See Acts 2:31). But He is the Firstfruits offering, the firstborn of the dead. We who trust Him will follow Yahshua in this great adventure of bodily transformation and renewal: as He was resurrected, so shall we be also. Job points out this same truth: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold.” (Job 19:25-27)
So both Job and David linked our eternal hope to Yahweh’s set-apart Anointed One, the Redeemer, the Word. Because Yahshua is the Word made flesh, our eternal life is secured by belief in—a trusting reliance upon—the testimony of Yahweh. “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made Him [i.e., has called Him] a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning His Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I John 5:10-12) Lest this should seem so fundamental and obvious as to not require mention, allow me to remind you that the vast majority in this world believe either that eternal life is impossible—that there is nothing beyond the grave for any of us—or that “heaven” can be earned (at least partially) through good works, sacrifice, penance, obedience, alms, or martyrdom. So although children of Yahweh are comfortable with this concept, most people—even within the “Christian” religion—are not.
Because Yahweh is life—its first cause and sole source—the “Kingdom of God” spoken of throughout scripture is, in the end, tantamount to “the state of being alive.” I speak not of biological life, of course, but of having been made absolutely, permanently alive through the indwelling presence of Yahweh’s Spirit. We are citizens of “the Kingdom” only if we have Yahweh’s life—provided by Yahshua His “Son”—within us.
This concept was presented only in the most cryptic of terms in the Tanach, however. There is a familiar, and telling, account in John 3 that makes this fact all too clear. Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin and a respected “expert” in the scriptures, apparently didn’t have a clue as to what David and Job had been talking about: this life beyond sheol that we may experience in “flesh” that has been transformed by the Spirit of God. The story begins, “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews [Ioudious, Judeans]. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him….’” Nicodemus (whose name means “victor of the people,”) wasn’t ready to admit to his peers (or to himself) that he might not be the “winner” his name and status implied. He visited Yahshua under the cover of darkness, when he hoped nobody would notice that he was beginning to think outside the rabbinical box. But at least he came—it was something his peers wouldn’t have done in a million years. Nicodemus had seen something in Yahshua that he couldn’t explain: he had seen a life beyond that which he knew. It intrigued him. And I think it worried him a little.
Yahshua didn’t bother responding to Nick’s somewhat lame attempt at flattery. He merely addressed the question that He knew was really on his mind. “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [literally, “from above”] he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God….” Nicodemus was, of course, confusing biological life with essential life—an honest, almost universal mistake. Yahshua set him straight, informing him that there are two kinds of life, both of which must be entered into if one wishes to “see the kingdom of God.” Yes, one must be born physically as a human being—born of water (and be aware that in both Greek and Hebrew, the concept of such a "birth" begins at conception). But he must subsequently be born—by his own choice—into the Spirit of Yahweh.
The point is that man is capable of having two natures, biological and spiritual, each of them requiring its own “birth.” “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born [from above].’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit….’” Being “born of water” obviously presents evidence: the body you’re walking around in. Yahshua is pointing out here that being born of the Spirit (not coincidentally symbolized as breath or wind in both Greek and Hebrew) also leaves evidence behind. That evidence, as we saw above (I John 2:9-11) is love: the person born anew in Yahweh’s Spirit will love his brother.
“Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’” It wasn’t that Nicodemus couldn’t comprehend the idea of eternal life. After all, he was a Pharisee, and as such believed in the immortality of the soul (something Yahshua was actually saying wasn’t true in any universal sense), the resurrection of the body, and the existence of spirits. Pharisees believed that men are rewarded or punished in the future life, based on whether they had lived virtuously or wickedly in this one. (In other words, philosophically they weren’t all that different from many “religious Christians” today.) But virtue for them was defined by how strictly one outwardly kept the Law—something they characterized as consisting of both the Torah and the traditions of the elders (not comprehending that these things were often at cross purposes). So when Yahshua told him that entering the Kingdom of God depended not on his external adherence to the Law (however he defined it) but rather on being born from above in Yahweh’s Spirit, Nick’s whole belief system fell apart. “Jesus answered him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you [as a representative of the Pharisees] do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?’” Yahshua was telling him four things: first, the concept of being born anew in Yahweh’s Spirit was a fundamental and basic truth, one Nicodemus should have understood from studying the Tanach. Second, the Torah that Nicodemus was so ardently attempting to observe would be fulfilled in Yahshua Himself. That is, the Spirit of God into which one must be “born” in order to see and enter the Kingdom of God would indwell only those who relied and trusted in the sacrifice Yahshua had come to provide—the very sacrifice prophesied in the rites of the Torah. Third, “earthly things” are merely symbols, teaching aids, for the true reality of “heavenly things.” And fourth, Yahshua was no ordinary rabbi: He alone was in a position to speak of these “heavenly things” because He had “seen” them first hand. “No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man….”
Although Nicodemus had intuitively known that there was something different, something unique, about Yahshua, I’m not sure he was quite ready for this revelation. Interestingly, no more is recorded of what Nicodemus said this night. (I think I would have been struck speechless, too.) But he’s seen later (in John 7:50-52) trying to head off a witch hunt against Yahshua in the Sanhedrin, and later still (John 19:39) reverently anointing Yahshua’s crucified corpse. So what Yahshua said apparently had a life-changing impact upon him: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life….” This incident (recorded in Numbers 21:6-9) required the rebellious, snake-bitten Israelites to “look at” a bronze image of a serpent, placed upon a pole in their midst. This is but one example (among many) of “earthly things” pointing toward “heavenly things.” The operative verb in the people’s salvation was ra’ah: to see, look at, inspect, consider, perceive, and pay attention to the uplifted serpent. The same thing would be true of Yahshua’s execution upon Calvary’s pole: those who ignored it would die, while those who looked at it, considered it, and discovered through attentive observation what it meant, could live.
This life, however, wouldn’t be the sort we entered by being “born of water”—vulnerable, conditional, and temporary. It was, rather, the kind of life we commence when we’re born of the Spirit—perpetual, essential, absolute life, that sort of life of which mortal existence is but a shadow, a symbol, a preview. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned….” The word translated “believe” so many times in this passage is our old friend pisteuo: to think something to be true, to be persuaded of its veracity, and to place one’s confidence in it. Although James reminds us that even demons “believe” (pisteuo) that there is one God and therefore tremble, I am convinced that for beings endowed with free will, to “believe” implies an element of trust and reliance. Here’s what I mean: you may say you “believe” that the spindly rope bridge across the gorge will hold you. A demon may say the same thing. What’s the difference? If told by God to cross the gorge on the rickety bridge, the demon has no choice: he must obey. We, on the other hand, may refuse: the choice is ours. But by doing so, by acting in disobedience, we have effectively demonstrated our unbelief, no matter what we say with our lips. Our free will thus compels us to back up our belief with trust, and our trust with action. Our deeds, then, state quite eloquently what we really believe.
So let’s think this through. Is Yahshua saying that we must either believe in Him—trust and rely upon Him—or He will condemn us to hell? Although our knee-jerk logic might suggest this, He has gone out of His way here to refute that conclusion, stating flatly that such judgment is not His objective. Quite the opposite, in fact. He goes on to say: “But whoever does not believe [in Yahshua] is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:1-18) This is not a threat, just a statement of fact. It’s a revelation of the way things are, not a declaration of intent. The word translated “condemned” here is the Greek verb krino. While not technically incorrect, the tone of the word “condemned” is a bit misleading. Krino actually means to evaluate, to decide or choose, to separate based on preference, to come to a conclusion, or to judge one thing to be better than another. It’s the word used to describe making a legal decision—deciding an issue of innocence or guilt, right or wrong.
So what He’s really saying is this: You were born into a state of estrangement from God. Therefore, if you don’t proactively alter your existing spiritual status by choosing to trust and rely on My name (which literally means "Yahweh is Salvation"), you will remain as you began—separated from Me and cut off from the eternal life that results from being born in My Spirit. We begin our mortal lives as a blank slate: we have chosen nothing. If we choose to believe, trust, and rely upon Yahweh’s gift, eternal life is ours (for the simple reason that we now have His eternal Spirit dwelling within us, rendering our souls immortal in the process). If we choose nothing, however, our souls will perish when our bodies do, for there is no longer anything within us to keep them alive. That’s why Hezekiah declared, “In love You have delivered my life [nephesh—soul] from the pit of destruction, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back.” (Isaiah 38:17) The Hebrew word translated “destruction” here is beliy, which actually means nothingness—it is the word for negation, literally: “no, not, or without.” By placing our sins out of His sight, Yahweh has prevented our souls from becoming nothing, from dissipating into nonexistence.
The default position, then, is mortality, destruction, separation from God—nothingness: “Whoever does not believe is condemned already.” But as bad as this sounds, there is something worse. Just as we may choose to receive Yahweh’s Spirit (being “born from above”), we may also choose to receive Satan’s (that would be “born from below,” although that phrase is never actually used), and some do. Since the devil was created as an immortal spirit, a human soul voluntarily hosting his spirit will become immortal as well—doomed to sharing Satan’s fate for eternity. This is what’s commonly known as hell—the eternal anguish of remorse, the constant, unrelenting awareness of everlasting separation from Yahweh—something so horrible, it was apparently never intended as a destination for the souls of man at all. Compared to this, mere destruction—nothingness—at the end of life would seem the most tender of mercies.
So simple failure to choose Yahweh will lead to death—exactly the same fate as any animal. Damnation—something entirely different and infinitely worse—need not be the destiny of any man. But God offers eternal life to all who want to be with Him. We have only to receive it. Yahshua said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment [krisis, the noun based on krino—judicial evaluation leading to separation], but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself.” (John 5:24-26) Life, as I said, comes only from life. Yahweh, being eternally self-existent, has life in Himself, a life He bestowed upon His “Son,” His human manifestation, Yahshua—who in turn bestows it upon us: “Yet a little while and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19) Note again that the first two facets of God’s personality have been brought to bear on the third: Those who “hear” and those who “see” will live.
A body that houses a chay nephesh—a living soul—is not designed to be eternal. Far from it. Neither men nor animals live forever (in biological terms). In 2007, a team of researchers from Bangor University in Wales dredged up a clam—an “ocean quahog”—in 250 foot deep waters north of Iceland. Only after they had cut open its shell and counted its growth rings did they realize that they’d just killed the oldest living animal on earth. It was (and I do mean was) between 405 and 410 years of age. Oops.
Before the flood of Noah, men routinely lived ten times as long as they do today. But even then, nobody was immortal. My point is simply this: life was meant to be passed on. God designed our (that is, all living creatures’) bodies to reproduce themselves. There is a dizzying array of reproduction modes among living things (one more thing to give evolutionists nightmares, if only they were astute enough to do the math on the utter improbability of such a thing). But no single individual endures forever. Whatever life it has must be transferred to the next generation.
In what appears to be highly figurative language, Yahweh described how the process began with neshamah-equipped humans, but more to the point, why the process was instituted: “Then Yahweh, God, said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him….’ So Yahweh, God, caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that Yahweh, God, had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.” Guys, can you imagine what a woman whom God made from scratch—one upon whom He was counting to jump-start the species—might have looked like? “Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man….’” Perhaps not the greatest pick-up line of all time, but cut him some slack: Adam was new at this. Or could it be that we have a grossly inadequate translation here? He actually said something more like this, if you track down what the Hebrew words really mean: “This one is the next step in my life: her substance and essence are like mine, and her body is good news to me. She shall be chosen as my wife; surely I will receive her and be a husband to her.” After having been tasked with naming the animals God brought to him, Adam knew that none of them was “like” him, comparable to him, or suited to him. But when Yahweh brought this wonderful “creature” to him, he got the picture: they were a matched set—made for each other, literally. Thank you, God!
Moses then records what we were supposed to observe from this arrangement: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:18, 21-24) Note three things. First, a man’s relationship with his parents—one of honor, duty, responsibility, and obedience—is fundamentally different from that which he shares with his wife: a bond of love, companionship, allegiance, and fruitfulness. Second, the marriage relationship was to supersede the parent-child bond. A man’s role as “son” would give way to that of husband, and then to father. And third, the reason this paradigm shift was to take place was that a new generation was to emerge from the marriage covenant. The love that connected man and wife symbolically as “one flesh” was to be manifested literally in their offspring: “one flesh” again resulting from their physical union—life derived from life in a matrix of love. I find it significant that the very first command in the entire Bible was to perpetuate this new life: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Genesis 1:27-28)
One could posit that mankind has obeyed God in this one regard—we have indeed “filled the earth” over the last six thousand years. But is the population boom of the past century what Yahweh had in mind? The issue of quality of life must be addressed along with “quantity of life.” Somehow, I get the feeling that poverty-stricken slums and overcrowded crime-infested ghettos aren’t exactly what Yahweh had in mind: “Blessed is everyone who reveres Yahweh, who walks in His ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who reveres Yahweh.” (Psalm 128:1-4) I can attest that this has certainly been true in my own life (at least, it was until my numerous children disobeyed my clear instructions to the contrary, and grew up—“leaving their father and their mother”). My wife and I have always revered Yahweh, and we have always been blessed: it always “went well” with us, even in the tough times.
We should not be surprised to find this “leaving one’s parents” and “holding fast to one’s wife” principle being used by Yahweh as a symbol of His pattern for the relationship He wishes to share with us. In different ways, both the ekklesia and Israel are pictured in scripture as metaphors for God’s “wife” or Christ’s “bride.” Paul presents the picture this way: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church [the ekklesia—the “called out”], His body, and is Himself its Savior.” How did Yahshua become our Savior? He left his home in heaven in order to hold fast to us, His bride, so that we could become “one flesh,” just as in the Genesis 2 instruction. “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” Why? Because husbands are God’s metaphor for the Messiah, and their wives are symbolic of those whom He has called out of the world—the ekklesia, the church. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” As with our Messiah’s role in His relationship with us, the husband’s responsibilities in the family outweigh the wife’s. All we (as believers) have to do is “submit” to Christ—let Him call the shots in our lives. He, on the other hand, had to lay down His very life to save us. “…That He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:22-27)
This very thing—this presentation of the ekklesia to Yahshua in splendor and purity—was seen in John’s apocalyptic vision: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.’ It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” (Revelation 19:6-9) Remember back a few pages where Yahshua was explaining things to Nicodemus? “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) These are different ways of expressing an identical truth: being born anew in Yahweh’s Spirit, entering the Kingdom of God, and being “invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb,” are all exactly the same thing: eternal life. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36)
The wrath of God? Once again, our English translation creates the erroneous impression that Yahweh is some kind of vindictive bully who says, “Love me or I’ll torment you in hell.” But that’s not what this is saying. The word translated “wrath” is orge, which primarily indicates one’s natural disposition, one’s temper, in the face of rejection or opposition. A different Greek word, thumos, also translated “wrath,” comes closer, but even this doesn’t mean punishment or punitive judgment so much as it does passionate, heated anger. Orge is derived from a word that means “to covet after, to desire.” Aristotle characterized orge as “desire with grief,” the emotion expressed in Mark 3:5 where Yahshua was grieved (and not a little angry) at the hateful response of the Pharisees to His willingness to heal people on the Sabbath. Orge is the kind of anger with which God responds to sin: utter abhorrence tempered by longing and grief for those who live in it (Zodhaites). It’s movement or agitation of the soul, an impulse, desire, or violent emotion (Strong’s). I see it (having been there) as akin to the response of a loving but frustrated parent to the antics of a recalcitrant and rebellious teenager: for their own good, you have to ground them now and then. But the idea isn’t wrath—vindictively cutting off all hope of reconciliation, the imposition of permanent, irrevocable punishment. Quite the opposite: it’s an angry response calculated to inspire repentance. That’s the kind of indignation that remains upon the one who chooses not to believe in the Son of God. Oy! You’ve gotta watch the translators (and their agenda) like a hawk.
But I digress. We were talking about how Yahweh’s relationship with us is mirrored in the structure of the family: the husband and wife becoming “one flesh.” Because Yahweh has imbued us with free will, the process isn’t always as straightforward as He’d like. The life and writings of the prophet Hosea speak of God’s “marriage” relationship with Israel, but it’s not a pretty picture. Basically, He calls her a whore, and her children bastards: Lo-Ruhamah (No Mercy) and Lo-Ammi (Not My People). Yahweh, who hates divorce (see Malachi 2:16), is forced by Israel’s idolatries to divorce her, to strip her of her privileges, prosperity, and status as His wife. But at the same time, He promises that in the end, Israel will be restored. He even tells us when: “Come, let us return to Yahweh; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him.” (Hosea 6:1-2) Two “days” equals two thousand years, according to II Peter 3:8. Yahweh “struck Israel” in 33 A.D., when they crucified His Messiah. He will therefore restore them two thousand years later (you can do the math, can’t you?) and for the next thousand years (i.e., the “third day,” otherwise known as “the Millennium”—actually the seventh of seven millennia in God’s plan for man’s redemption) Israel will at last be restored, exalted, and will live in God’s presence.
So Hosea reports Yahweh’s intentions: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope….” The valley of Achor (which literally means “trouble”) is where Israel came to terms with the sin among them after their ignominious defeat at the hands of Ai (on the heels of the great Jericho victory). It speaks of trouble leading to repentance and a willingness to admit one’s error—something Israel has been disinclined to do for the past two millennia now. I’m pretty sure the “wilderness” remark refers to the same Tribulation event prophesied in Revelation 12:6 (and instructed about in Matthew 24:15-21) in which Israel, having witnessed the power of Yahweh in destroying the armies of Gog (Ezekiel 38-39) is faced less than a year later with another challenge: fleeing from Satan’s false messiah and hiding out in the mountainous Jordanian wilderness for three and a half years.
“And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt….” This is when Israel had enthusiastically affirmed, “All that Yahweh has spoken, we will do.” (Exodus 19:8) The word translated “answer” (anah) is incredibly significant, for it is at the heart of the requirements for the Day of Atonement. It’s invariably translated (in that context) “to afflict one’s soul,” but the word also means to answer, to respond as a witness, testify, speak, shout, or even sing. What we’re seeing here is the ultimate fulfillment of the prophetic convocation of Yom Kippurim—the day when Israel will finally be reconciled to Yahweh, the day when she will at last recognize and respond to Yahshua as her Messiah. (See also, Zechariah 12:10.)
“And in that day, declares Yahweh, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’” There’s something significant here that’s largely lost in translation. “My Ba’al” (usually translated “my lord”) is Ba’ali, based on the name of the Canaanite deity Ba’al. But Ba’al not only means lord or master; it also means “husband.” The Israelites would eventually forsake the name Yahweh altogether and replace it with a title, Adonay—which, like Ba’al, means “lord,” thoroughly obfuscating the distinction between the eternal, self-existent Creator-deity and some moldy Canaanite wannabe god. Although Yahweh is the source of all authority, He apparently hates being called “Lord,” because it obscures the familial relationship He seeks to share with us. But at the same time, He kind of likes being thought of as our “Husband,” with all the imagery that symbol brings with it. So the word He’s chosen for “My Husband” here is not ba’ali, but ishi—a word that stresses not a husband’s authority, but his maleness, his humanity, and his subsequent relationship to his wife. Ishi, then, is a code word for the “husband” role of the Messiah. “For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.” (Hosea 2:14-17) In the end, Israel will no longer even remember her old “boyfriends.”
He concludes by pledging to renew the relationship that had been severed. “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know Yahweh.” (Hosea 2:19-20) The promise of restoration for Israel is the single most often-repeated prophecy in the entire Bible, stated scores of times in a wide variety of ways. This presents a logistics problem for Yahweh, however, for the Torah—His own instructions—state that “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife…then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before Yahweh.” (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) If God has “divorced” unfaithful Israel for her idolatries, how can He take her back again? How can He restore her as His wife? If she were really the “same old girl,” He couldn’t: His own law forbids it. But, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (II Corinthians 5:17) Restoration is in Yahweh’s nature, and the path to restoration is His Messiah. There is no other way.
So biological life, meant to be passed from one generation to the next, is a symbol of what Yahweh intended us to observe in the spiritual realm. And God’s metaphorical mechanism for this perpetuation of life is the family, in which Yahshua figuratively left His “Father” (Yahweh) and “Mother” (the Spirit of God) to be joined with us, His bride, in a blessed and fruitful union. Yahweh’s original “Go forth and multiply” commandment is echoed in Yahshua’s ultimate instructions to us: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) “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 1:8) Just as bearing children is the transmission of biological life from one generation to the next, “making disciples of all nations” is, for all intents and purposes, the passing along of spiritual life. And ideally, it’s achieved pretty much the same way: through intimate association, lifelong commitment, and above all, love. The only real difference is that in the creation of spiritual life, one’s parents never die.
(First published 2013)