Ephesians 4:7-16; Christ’s descent (humiliation) and ascent (glorification), part 3.
length: 81:51 - taught on Sep, 26 2021
Sunday September 26,2021
Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven, 25 and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But his wife, from behind him, looked back; and she became a pillar of salt.
27 Now Abraham arose early in the morning and went to the place where he had stood before the Lord; 28 and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the valley, and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land ascended like the smoke of a furnace.
In a research paper published in Nature magazine this week, titled, "A Tunguska sized airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam a Middle Bronze Age city in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea," scientists concluded after 15 years of intensive study that a gigantic asteroid destroyed an ancient Middle Eastern city roughly 3,600 years ago.
That ancient Middle Eastern city is widely considered to be Sodom, one half of an infamous pair of cities mentioned in the Bible's opening book, Genesis, that earned judgment from God for their exorbitant sinfulness.
From the paper’s actual abstract:
We present evidence that in ~ 1650 BCE (~ 3600 years ago), a cosmic airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam, a Middle-Bronze-Age city in the southern Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea. The proposed airburst was larger than the 1908 explosion over Tunguska, Russia, where a ~ 50-m-wide bolide detonated with ~ 1000× more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. A city-wide ~ 1.5-m-thick carbon-and-ash-rich destruction layer contains peak concentrations of shocked quartz (~ 5-10 GPa); melted pottery and mudbricks; diamond-like carbon; soot; Fe- and Si-rich spherules; CaCO3 spherules from melted plaster; and melted platinum, iridium, nickel, gold, silver, zircon, chromite, and quartz. Heating experiments indicate temperatures exceeded 2000 °C. Amid city-side devastation, the airburst demolished 12+ m of the 4-to-5-story palace complex and the massive 4-m-thick mudbrick rampart, while causing extreme disarticulation and skeletal fragmentation in nearby humans. An airburst-related influx of salt (~ 4 wt.%) produced hypersalinity, inhibited agriculture, and caused a ~ 300-600-year-long abandonment of ~ 120 regional settlements within a > 25-km radius.
Here's how researchers described the cataclysmic event in a much more accessible summary article published by the Conversation:
Flashing through the atmosphere, the rock exploded in a massive fireball about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) above the ground. The blast was around 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The shocked city dwellers who stared at it were blinded instantly. Air temperatures rapidly rose above 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius). Clothing and wood immediately burst into flames. Swords, spears, mudbricks and pottery began to melt. Almost immediately, the entire city was on fire.
Some seconds later, a massive shockwave smashed into the city. Moving at about 740 mph (1,200 kph), it was more powerful than the worst tornado ever recorded. The deadly winds ripped through the city, demolishing every building. They sheared off the top 40 feet (12 m) of the 4-story palace and blew the jumbled debris into the next valley. None of the 8,000 people or any animals within the city survived - their bodies were torn apart and their bones blasted into small fragments.
The entire article in Nature magazine is here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-97778-3 It’s very long, but you can read any section that interests you, and some of the pictures are amazing.
Our current study is the descension and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have spent time investigating Joh 6 in which Jesus Himself speaks of it, and in doing so teaches the full reason for His coming from heaven to earth, which is to save man and give him life, and He also relates that it would be by His own death (His flesh) that it would be accomplished.
Jesus said that He would give the food that endures to eternal life (6:27), that He was the bread of life (6:35), that He came down out of heaven (6:41), and the bread He would give for the life of the world was His flesh (6:51).
They grumbled at Him and scoffed at His words thinking that they knew Him as He was, son of Joseph the carpenter and Mary, a man from a place of no repute, Nazareth. He heard this grumbling, but pressed the truth further. He would not recant what He said of His origin from heaven, nor who He was - the very Son of Man, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, who was the bread of life that was the only source of eternal life. In fact, not only would He not back off from the claims, but He would now put those claims into their own hands and give them responsibility composed of two options (really one): either you eat My flesh and drink My blood or you don’t.
Similarly, He removed all but one option after He taught the Sermon on the Mount.
MAT 7:24, 26
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, . . . and does not act upon them,”
What an option that was to them in Joh 6. He didn’t give them the option of gathering evidence, how could they? There was no possibility of accepting His miracle from yesterday and not accepting His words today. Either eat or don’t eat.
If they and/or we, ponder all His words we would find that eating His flesh and drinking His blood would be the same as believing Him, which is believing what He said. The eating and drinking are wonderful images of a blessing that none of us could have ever thought, that by His incredible sacrifice, the Son of God would Himself become a part of the very fabric of our beings.
Eating His flesh and drinking His blood - because of what He had done, faith in the gospel would make the Person of Christ become a part of the believer.
When Jesus said to eat His flesh and drink His blood, even the disciples were shocked at this. But still, Jesus isn’t finished. After He accomplishes the salvation of man, He is going to ascend to heaven.
Then He asks His shocked listeners, "What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending where He was before?"
Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this said, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life [Greek: zoopoieo (zoe: life, and poieo: to make); the flesh profits nothing [“that which is born of the flesh is flesh”]; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”
The entire teaching comes full circle. There is a bread which gives life, in fact eternal life. It comes from the Father in heaven. No, it is not manna. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life from heaven.” “No you’re not, you’re Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph and Mary.” Jesus said, “If you eat My flesh and blood you will live and I will abide in you and you in Me.” They stopped up their ears, even those who had been following Him, saying, “Who can listen to this?” Finally, Jesus says, “If this causes you to stumble, what will happen when you see Me ascend to heaven from where I came?”
And then, He gives the overarching reason for all that He has said. Life can only come from the Spirit; the flesh profits nothing. “Profits (nothing),” is a Greek word that means to be of service or to help. Jesus tells us that the flesh can help with nothing. Life is from the Spirit alone, and what He said (bread of life, come down from heaven, giving His flesh to give life, to be eaten and drunk which is faith in Him, and you will see Him ascend back to heaven), these words, were spirit and life.
Life is spirit (from heaven); the flesh profits for nothing. Eating the bread of life from heaven is spirit and life.
By revealing Himself and His mission to save us from our sin and its death through His own sacrifice, Jesus dispelled the false idea that many of His disciples had that He was a miracle worker who could become a political king and military commander, bringing bread for Israel from the heavens, and establish Israel as supreme over all nations, even the Roman Empire. Imagine to yourself that they were disappointed.
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.
Man often wants too little from God. When God gives eternal life, they walk away disappointed.
It is so often the way with mankind that they want too little from God, and when God offers Himself, what He desires for mankind, eternal life, man is disappointed and leaves.
His descent to the earth as a Man, the bread of life, is clearly revealed as well as His ascent and return to heaven as a Man. To further emphasize God’s purpose in sending His Son to earth, Jesus says (still likely speaking with Nicodemus).
“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.”
The term “saved” refers to a spiritual and eternal deliverance from hell, since in this passage the terms “perish” and “everlasting life” both occur in vs. 16.
He doesn’t use the phrase Paul uses in our passage, “lower parts of the earth.”
“lower parts of the earth” - does Paul have in mind: 1) earth in its baseness compared to heaven or, 2) Hades?
The added words by Paul, katotera mere, "lower parts" has caused some questions as to whether some special part of the earth is in Paul's mind, like Hades for instance.
However, if we take Paul's rendering along with the others in John, we avoid adding something to the text that might not have been its intent. Many expositors consider the phrase "lower parts of the earth" to mean "the earth below." Calvin wrote, "A comparison is drawn, not between one part of the earth and another, but between the whole earth and heaven; as if he said, 'From that lofty habitation He descended into our deep gulf.'"
I particularly like the simplicity. When the Son of God made the incredible leap downward to become a part of our creation and world, and willfully submitted to its suffering, and willfully became our substitute before the justice of God, He conquered all enemies and freed all prisoners, so that when He ascended, as a Man, He was above all things.
And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Beheld by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.
“godliness” - eusebeia = to be well devoted, to be well pleasing to God. The mystery of godliness is the Person and work of Christ.
“God is spirit,” said Christ to the Samaritan woman. God is incorporeal, but made Himself seen in the incarnation of the Son of God.
“Vindicated” is the word for justified. He was declared righteous within (deity in all respects) through all He did.
He was beheld by angels of heaven from His birth to His resurrection.
Proclaimed to the nations and believed upon, and then ascended to heaven in glory. “Taken up,” analambano, has a nuance of being received gladly rather than grudgingly. The success of our Lord’s mission resulted in Him being received with great joy into heaven.
As an exercise is textual criticism (analyzing the text itself for accurate translation and interpretation), let’s look at an extra-biblical creed that applies to the phrase “He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth.”
The Apostle’s Creed:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
Tradition stated that it was written by the twelve apostles, and it is similar to baptismal creeds used by the church of Rome in the third and fourth centuries. It reached its final form in France around the sixth or seventh century. Was it really written by the apostles?
One clue is that the line “He descended into Hell” did not appear in any versions before A.D. 390 and then it wasn’t seen again until 650 A.D. We’re pretty confident that it was not written by the apostles. Still, the teaching of Christ’s descending into Hades between His death and resurrection to preach the gospel to unbelievers as well as believers was held by Clement of Alexandria (155-220 AD), Eusebius of Caesarea (265-339 AD) and Origen (185-254 AD), to name a few. However, Origen used it to teach universal salvation since Christ would convert unbelievers in Hades. By the time of the Middle Ages, it was an entrenched view in the church until the Reformation. The Reformers rejected it because it was traditional and that it gave support to the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory. Hence, we can see Calvin’s view ("A comparison is drawn, not between one part of the earth and another, but between the whole earth and heaven; as if he said, 'From that lofty habitation He descended into our deep gulf.'") might be tainted by the Reformers’ fight with Catholics.
There is the passage in 1Pe 3:
in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah.
Because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades,
Nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.
I use this debate on the subject as a means of showing you textual criticism. There are some difficult passages in the Scripture, but before we tear our hair out, or another’s hair, we should soberly ask if the solution is all that essential. If Paul means Hades by “lower parts” or if he means simply the earth that is our “deep gulf” (Calvin), neither detracts from the bigger picture of the love of God that made a mind-boggling sacrifice so that we would be saved and gifted.
What is in Paul’s mind is not so much the descent and ascent in spatial terms, but rather the humiliation and exaltation that brought Christ to universal authority and power, “fill all things.”
(Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
Christ ascended to the right hand of God above all rule and authority.
He gives gifts to His bride after He had given her Himself.
“He gives out of the spoil of His war with evil - gives what He receives. Yet He gives not as He receives. Everything laid in His hands is changed by their touch. Publicans and Pharisees become apostles. Magdalenes are made queens and mothers in His Israel. From the dregs of our streets He raises up a host of sons to Abraham. From the ranks is skepticism and anti-Christian hate the Lord Christ wins new champions and captains for His cause. He coins earth’s basest metal into heaven’s fine gold. He takes weak things of the earth and foolish, to strike the mightiest blows of battle.” [G. G. Findlay