25 December 2022

Era of the Spirit


The gift of the Spirit is part of the New Covenant and the first fruits of the New Creation, the gathering of the nations, and the resurrection

The history of Israel includes national sins that caused her expulsion from the land. But God foresaw her failures and determined to institute a new covenant, one energized and characterized by His Spirit, and that includes the Gentiles. It will culminate in the New Creation, the true inheritance of His people.

With the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, a new era dawned - the messianic age - the time of fulfillment. And in him, all God’s covenant promises are, even now, being achieved.

As promised in the Hebrew scriptures, when Israel repents wholeheartedly, the God of Abraham will gather her “from among all the peoples where Yahweh your God has scattered you,” He will “multiply you beyond your fathers” and “circumcise your heart to love Him with all your heart and with all your soul that you may live” - (Deuteronomy 30:3-6).

Two things are noteworthy. First, God planned to “multiply Israel beyond her forebears.” “Multiply” translates the same Hebrew verb found in the call to Adam to be “fruitful and multiply,” and in God’s promise to multiply Abraham’s seed - (Genesis 1:28, 17:2).

Second, the restoration will occur when God “circumcises Israel’s heart” and inscribes His law on it, an internal change promised in the Hebrew scriptures and actualized by His Spirit under a “new covenant”- (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 11:19-20).

Thus, the promised restoration was far more expansive and glorious than anything the ancient nation ever knew, an act of sheer grace by which He enables His people to fulfill the covenant through the “new Spirit” given to them. In the end, it will be a new creative act that impacts all the nations of the earth - (Isaiah 65:17-18, Revelation 21:1-3).

IN JESUS


In the New Testament, His promises are fulfilled in Jesus as God implements His new covenant, and this includes the covenant promises to Abraham - the “circumcised heart” and the “new Spirit.”

Jesus came to fulfill the “Law and the Prophets.” The Jews who saw him experienced something “greater than Jonah,” “greater than Solomon,” “greater than David,” and greater than the Temple. In Christ, God’s kingdom was inaugurated and began to advance on the earth - (Matthew 5:17-21, 12:6, 12:28, 12:41-42).

Having established the “new covenant,” Jesus commenced building his community based on the “new covenant in my blood.” But in the new messianic era, his covenant community is formed around and centered on him, not the land of Canaan or the Temple in Jerusalem:

  • In him, “what things God had before declared through the mouth of all the prophets… the covenant that He covenanted with your fathers, saying to Abraham, in your seed shall be blessed all the families of the earth” - (Acts 3:24-26, Acts 10:42-43, 13:18-33).

Likewise, for the Apostle Paul, “all the promises of God find their ‘Yea’ and ‘Amen’ in Jesus.” He ascended on high “that he might fulfill all things.” The jurisdiction of the Torah was only for a limited time “until Christ came,” the true seed of Abraham, and in him, all those who have faith in the word of God as the Patriarch did become the “children of Abraham” - (2 Corinthians 1:20, Galatians 3:24, Romans 10:4).

THE GENTILES


Jesus became the Suffering Servant portrayed in the book of Isaiah who “confirms the promises to the fathers so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” Thus, the promised “blessing for the nations” given to Abraham is fulfilled in Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. He has expanded the covenant far beyond the limited boundaries of Ancient Israel - (Romans 15:8-9).

Prior to his death, the Gentiles were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” However, now, in Jesus, “those who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” The ancient promises to regather God’s people are fulfilled as both Jews and Gentiles respond in faith to the good news of the kingdom of God.

From the beginning, God’s purpose was “to sum up all things in Christ in the fullness of the times,” and that includes the redemption of the nations and the creation itself - (Ephesians 1:10, 2:11-13).

When referring to the promised land, the Hebrew Bible employs the terms “inheritance,” “inherit,” “heir,” and “promise.” In the New Testament, the same terms are applied to what God is accomplishing in Jesus, the gift of the Spirit, and the new covenant community founded by him. He is the true heir of Abraham and the heir of all things - (Matthew 21:38, 28:18, John 13:3, Colossians 1:12-13, 1 Peter 1:3-5).

The gift of the Spirit confirms the status of believers. They are the “children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” Anyone who has received the Spirit becomes part of his covenant community regardless of ethnicity, nationality, or gender. The salvation provided by Jesus is a universal offer of life for all men, women, and children.

HEIRS


Christ is Abraham’s true “seed,” and as partners with him, disciples also become “heirs according to promise.” Moreover, the Spirit is the “earnest of our inheritance for the redemption of the possession” - (Romans 8:16-17, Galatians 3:29, Ephesians 1:13-14).

  • He is “the mediator of the new covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the everlasting inheritance.”

He implemented the prophesied New Covenant by becoming the heir of Abraham. Consequently, all who are “in Christ” are coheirs with him and destined to receive the same inheritance - (Romans 8:1-23, Hebrews 8:6-13, 9:15).

The apostles are “ministers of the new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit,” another allusion to the New Covenant promised in the Hebrew scriptures in which God writes His laws by His Spirit in freshly circumcised hearts - (Deuteronomy 30:6, Jeremiah 31:34, Ezekiel 11:19-20, 2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

He became the “surety of a better covenant” and established the promised new one. And because Christ established the “new covenant,” logically, “he made the first one obsolete” - (Hebrews 7:22, 8:6-13, 9:15, 10:16).

RESURRECTION


The bodily resurrection of Jesus was an act of new creation.  God did not resuscitate a corpse but gave him a glorious new body that is no longer subject to death and decay.

And that means his resurrection inaugurated the New Creation, although there is an overlap between the existing age and the coming one:

  • Therefore, if any man is in Christ, a new creation, the old things are passed away, behold, they have become new” - (1 Corinthians 15:42-50, 2 Corinthians 5:17).

And the arrival of the new creation means the redefinition of the boundaries of the land promised to Abraham. As Paul wrote to the church in Rome, Abraham will “inherit the world,” and not just a tiny strip of land in the Middle East - (Romans 4:13).

Moreover, his disciples are his coheirs. Their final hope will be realized in the bodily resurrection and the New Creation. At present, the creation itself “sighs and travails in birth pangs” as it “ardently awaits the revelation of the sons of God.”

Both humanity and the entire universe are subject to decay and death due to Adam’s “transgression.” But God will reverse the curse when His sons receive the redemption of their bodies at the arrival of Jesus in glory. In the interim, his disciples have the Spirit as the “first fruits” of and the down payment on the final redemption - (Romans 8:17-23).

The New Creation is the ultimate inheritance of believers. According to his promise, “we look for the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwells righteousness,” and in it, “God will tabernacle with men, and they will be his people.” When that day arrives, He will wipe away every tear and death will cease forevermore - “Behold, I make all things new!” - (2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1-7).

Thus, the promised “New Covenant” and “New Creation” both began with the death and resurrection of Jesus, a process that is underway, one that will culminate in the resurrection and the “new heavens and the new earth” when Jesus returns.



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