In the Garden of Eden, God’s plan was for Man and Woman to obey Him and live in the purity in which He had established and placed them. Genesis 2; 15-17, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree in the Garden you may eat freely; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Adam’s only specific jobs, to tend and keep the Garden, were simple: (1) generally to have dominion (Genesis 1: 26) over the the earth and all its creatures; and (2) to have lots of children (Genesis 1: 26) to fill the earth with people; and (3) to give names to the animals of the field and the birds of the air (Genesis 2: 19-20). The Garden of Eden was the first Promised Land and man broke the promise, resulting in negative consequences, including death, for the first man, Adam, and all men since then.
The second Promised Land was Canan. Apparently God thought the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would have learned God’s way during 400 years of slavery in Egypt and that those people, the Israelites, would be ready to serve Him. His instruction to Moses (Exodus 9: 1, for example), was for him to tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go, that they may serve Me.” With all God’s signs and wonders, and all His miracles in taking the Israelites out of Egypt, in traversing the Red Sea, the desert, and the Jordan River, as well as taking most of the Promised Land, His obvious intent was to put the people back in charge of a section of land and what was in it, that they may go and freely serve Jehovah God! Kings came and Kings went – some led well and some led sinfully – and the Israelite people were all over the place in the depth and tempo of their service of the Living God.
So there was the “Vacation in Babylon”, cynically speaking, during which for 70 years most of Israel went back into slavery. You would think that when they came out that they were ready to obey and serve the Living God.
Then Jesus came, saying (Mark 1: 34), “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus promised a new path to a promised land, eternal life, (John 3: 16), “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And, now, this for the Jew as well as the Gentile, as Isaiah had prophesied (Isaiah 42:6), and, when Jesus’ parents brought Him to the temple to present Him to the Lord, as the just and devout Simeon proclaimed while holding Jesus and blessing God, Luke 2: 30-32, “. . . for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.”
So, then, we have a pathway, through Jesus alone (John 14:6) to God the Father, and that pathway leads to everlasting life, a new Promised Land.
To attain our eternal life, we have to start by acknowledging that the Living God rules the earth and the universe. We must come to learn the lesson, with King Nebuchadnezzar, the lesson all sinners must learn: the Living God, the Most High, Heaven itself, is sovereign and rules. Look at the dream interpretation by Daniel for this King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 4:24-26, “. . . this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses. And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules.”
All of the great promises of God to man are empty and meaningless if God is not sovereign and omnipotent, if He is not the Most High, if He does not rule over the universe, the earth, the kingdoms of men, over men, and over evil and its leader, Satan, and his minions. There would be no Promised Land, no forgiveness of sin, no overcoming of death, no New Jerusalem, no everlasting life, if God is not who He says He is, and in part that is His total, complete, absolute power and sovereignty.
So, the foundation of our faith is to believe that God is omnipotent, that we can join the great multitude of voices proclaiming, Revelation 19: 6-7, “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of many thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’”
In the first Promised Land, Adam and Eve fought the deception of the enemy, that liar, Satan the serpent, the father of all lies (John 8: 44).
In the second Promised Land, Joshua, and the following kings, always had to fight the deception of the enemy but often also had to fight with sword and shield.
The path to the third Promised Land, the New Jerusalem and everlasting life for those who repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, has already been cleared for us by Jesus, the Savior. He cleared that path, Colossians 2:15, by “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” But what does this mean? Well, Satan’s principal weapon is the wages of sin – death (Romans 6: 23). So, Jesus disarmed Satan’s principalities and powers by God’s sovereignty in overcoming death, in Jesus’ resurrection, foreshadowed by Jesus’ restoration of life to Lazarus and others, in all assuring His promises to us. Thus, Satan was disarmed and thereby rendered powerless, as the weapon of death was taken away from him. Indeed, Hebrews 2: 14-15 assures us, “. . . then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of deat [read, fear of Satan] were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” But, even though the enemy has been disarmed by Jesus and God, in their sovereignty and omnipotence, we must still fight that which Adam and Eve fought in the Garden of Eden – the deception of the evil one, Satan. Satan continues to try to manipulate us into a fear of him and of death and to do so by deceiving us into believing that there will be no New Jerusalem, that God was never the Creator, that the whole Jesus story is a hoax, that, as Karl Marx argued, religion is just the opiate of the people, a drug we take to make us feel good about death. So yes, today, even though Jesus cleared the path to the final Promised Land, the New Jerusalem, we must not fall prey to the deceptions and lies of Satan. For today, Ephesians 6: 12, our battle remains, our wrestling must vigilantly continue, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers , against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The pathway to the New Jerusalem is sill cleared for us by Jesus have disarmed and rendered weak and impotent the evil one, Satan, but we must still walk there. Just like the Israelites had to wade into the Red Sea and into the Jordan, and cross the desert, and invade the Promised Land of Canan, so we must traverse the obstacles of our lives, and invade the Promised Land of the New Jerusalem. Indeed, we ask this question, “Why are we alive?” The answer is in two parts: (1) To choose whom we will serve; and (2) to serve whom we have chosen.
You will need wise counsel, and accountability, and grace and forgiveness – going and coming – for your tactical errors and oversights and the tactical errors and oversights of others. You will need help from the Holy Spirit and your traveling companions, your fellow warriors, to cover your blind spots, your deaf ears on occasion, yes. But, you are invading the Promised Land of the New Jerusalem along a path where the enemy has been disarmed. You have to be literate enough in the Bible, the Word of God, to let Jesus be Lord of your life as you wage this fight against deception. You must ignore the misleading and deceptive signs in the desert and near the waters that promise safety or pleasure – while assuring you of no bad consequences. You must remain humble and guard against pride and arrogance. You must know the difference between good and evil and choose good and deny evil. You must obey God’s commandments, and seek His Presence and His heart at all times. You must live your life like you will be crossing the bar in the hour – not maybe in a few decades, but soon. As Brother Gene Lanier said a few minutes ago, if you are not prepared to die, you are not prepared to live. You must live your life and war your way into the Promised Land of the New Jerusalem, even as you disciple others in the gospel of Christ. The yoke of this war is easy and the burden of this war is light (Matthew 11: 30), but that does not mean our heart attitudes and the choices we make should be lazy and blasé’. No, rather to the contrary, Matthew 11:12, as Jesus, warned and reminded and encouraged us, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” . “Harpazo” (Gr.), to take by force, to plunder. There is an energy, not a laziness, that we are called to in our invasion of the Promised Land. No army, not even a stealthy one, ever succeeded by malingering and lolly-gagging their way on their mission to their objective. No, it takes purpose, courage and strength – and good intelligence (information about the enemy) – to succeed. We have the good intelligence – we know the enemy is without his weapon of mass destruction, and we know that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
You know if you had free tickets to the Super Bowl, or to the best concert artist of our time, or to ride horses in the mountains of Wyoming, or to what ever you really love, wouldn’t you energetically seek to get there? The invasion of the Promised Land of the New Jerusalem is no different in its call on you heart. The days of our times are in God’s hands, but how we choose to live these times is, for the most part, is in our hands. Our sovereign, omnipotent God is watching and waiting – He wants to know, “Will you invade the Promised Land of the New Jerusalem, b y force as you fight your way through Satan’s deceptions to get there?” And, when we individually do this as the true church, then, as Sister Mary Eklund said earlier today, the church does its job, Ephesians 3: 10-12, of proclaiming the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers in high places!
The choice is yours – God is waiting. Get in the fight of and for you life!!
God bless you and amen+