Christ’s Finished Work: Zion

This final portion of an e-book that I am writing has been a long time coming. With this final deposit, I have completed the first draft of my e-book titled: “A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I will need to edit and refine and knit them all together before publishing the book. 

Z could easily be “zest” or better still “zeal” both of which are certainly fruits of the finished work of Jesus Christ. However, what appeals to me more is “Zion”. 

No, we do not mean “Zionism” which is defined by Collins English Dictionary as “a political movement for the establishment and support of a national homeland for Jews in Palestine, now concerned chiefly with the development of the modern state of Israel”.

I am talking about Zion, a geographical location, an emotive symbol and spiritually significant motif. In the Old Testament, we first hear of Zion as the fortress of the Jebusites that David conquered and made into his capital, Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:6-7). Zion came to be synonymous with the city of Jerusalem, and and its inhabitants. Later, through its association with the Temple it took on spiritual significance as God’s dwelling place on earth with his people. During Israel’s captivity in Babylon, it became the pivot of their hope. Isaiah 65:17-19 states: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress”.

There will be a new Jerusalem at the heart the new creation at the end of this age. This is confirmed in Revelation 21: 1-3 where Isaiah’s vision will be finally fulfilled. “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God”. This end of the age fulfilment could not have come apart from Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead. This is the final purpose and ultimate vision of the Holy Trinity: to dwell with his beloved children in new Jerusalem, in eternal Zion.

The writer of Hebrews talks about Zion as “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb 11:10). It is the eternal city “for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come”(Heb 13:14). The writer sees Zion as a city in the afterlife, a physical reality, and part of the new heaven and new earth that God will create. 

Interestingly the writer also refers to Mount Zion as a existing spiritual reality too. His purpose was to dissuade Jewish converts to Christ from backsliding into Judaism because of the persecution and pressure they encountered. So in Hebrews 12:18-24 he compared the old and new covenant, the Mount Sinai and Mount Zion experience. On Mount Sinai what they experienced were tangible, terrifying and threatening so much so that even Moses feared for his life. 

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Heb 12:22-24)

The new covenant Mount Zion experience would be totally different because of the mediator Jesus Christ. Note that “you have come” is in present perfect tense, which refers to a past action that has continued into the present. While Revelations sees Mount Zion as a future hope, the writer of Hebrews present another dimension, the here and now, which followers of Christ have entered into.

Through Christ’s blood which speaks the better word of forgiveness rather than the blood of Abel crying out for revenge, we who are followers of Christ, have come to Mount Zion where God dwells. We are in fellowship with God the Judge, and Jesus the Mediator, and with angels though we do not see them, and with the universal church (including past Old Testament believers that are described as “the spirits of the righteous made perfect”). The writer of Hebrews is saying that under the new covenant, all followers of Christ are experiencing a foretaste of the new Jerusalem of Revelations 21. This is Mount Zion. There is much mystery here in this spiritual reality that we cannot fully grasp this side of eternity. But thankful we should be. Made possible by Christ’s finished work.

This is part of a planned series of writings on the topic, “The A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I am writing it alphabet by alphabet. Thus far the others that I have written can be found HERE.

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Christ’s Finished Work: Victory

Sometimes in Christian funerals, we hear mourners say, “He lost the battle to cancer (or whatever other disease or condition), but he fought bravely.” While this is a fact, the truth is more like, “Though he lost his life to cancer, he won the victory over death through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Victory, in the Old Testament, is the act of defeating an enemy or opponent in battle. It is the same in the New Testament except that the enemy is not flesh and blood as it often was in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the enemy defeated is death. 

Death visited humankind with the disobedience of Adam. God the Creator had told Adam and Eve, in effect, “The day you disobey, death will be part of your life experience”. Both physical death, and spiritual death, which is separation from a loving relationship with God. Death became the hated and feared enemy of man. God too treats death as an enemy to battle with. 

It was the death and resurrection of Jesus that was the decisive battle that defeated death. Jesus became the first to be raised from the dead to live forever. When Jesus returns, all who believe in Jesus will be raised to life, and believers living during his return, will have their bodies transformed into spiritual bodies(1 Cor 15:51-52), and be taken up to meet him in the air, to join thousands of other followers who had died in Christ before his return .

1 Cor 15:54, 55 states: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 

‘Death is swallowed up in victory. 

O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?’”

1 Cor 15:57 states: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In the Old Testament death was pictured as a huge greedy mouth swallowing the dead but the picture St Paul conjured is of death itself being swallowed up by the victory of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Because God raised Christ, he will also in time, raise all who put their trust in Jesus Christ. Death is already defeated but the consummation of this victory awaits Jesus return. Death, the enemy most feared by the human race: both rich and poor, educated and illiterate, powerful and lowly, will finally be eradicated and destroyed once for all when Jesus returns. Death will be swallowed forever never to re-appear. Thanks be to God for the finished work of Christ.

This is part of a planned series of writings on the topic, “The A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I am writing it alphabet by alphabet. Thus far the others that I have written can be found HERE.

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Christ’s Finished Work: Unity

The world is experiencing great divisions, polarisation and tribalism. People are no longer listening to each other, not trying to understand each other’s position. They hold rigidly to whatever they believe in and they refuse to budge. The vocal ones are usually deeply entrenched in their opinions and beliefs. They are even willing to cancel out others who disagree with them. The need for unity in diversity is never greater than in today’s divided world.

The New testament church faced similar tensions in their congregations because both Jews and Gentiles have come to know Jesus Christ and find themselves in the same congregation. Their disagreements and disputes in theology, practices and expectations caused tension and disunity. 

St. Paul pointed to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the solution to divisions in the church. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were  far off (the Gentile believers) have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one (conflicting Jewish and Gentile converts) and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility”(Eph 2:13-16 ESV). The walls of hostility and division between believers of Jewish and Gentile backgrounds have been demolished by the power of the finished work of Christ. And so too all other divisions caused by differences in gender, status, beliefs, nationality, race or language. God wants to form a vast community of people in Christ who love each other with a love that covers the cracks of divisions.

Therefore we should be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”(Eph 4:3). This unity was purchased and founded on the reconciling death of Christ. Maintaining unity is hard work and all believers must strive to do their part. It is worth the effort because unity is highly valued by God. It was so valuable he gave his only Son so that the gift of unity, a unity that first resided in the triune God may be established in the Body of Christ.

This is part of a planned series of writings on the topic, “The A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I am writing it alphabet by alphabet. Thus far the others that I have written can be found HERE.

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Christ’s Finished Work: Triumph

What is triumph? A great victory or achievement. A second definition is “the processional entry of a victorious general into ancient Rome”. The latter definition was exactly what St Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Christ-followers in Colossae: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15 NIV). It was obvious that he was using an analogy that the first century recipients of the letter would have understood: the triumphant processional entry of a victorious Roman general into the city of Rome after a successful conquest over some faraway country. As he enters in triumph and grandeur with his legion, to the adulation of thousands of people, he would have in the procession the chained, disarmed and defeated generals and rulers of the defeated country. They would be openly shamed and humiliated, while the glory of Rome and the victorious general would be magnified and celebrated. 

What then, in Paul’s mind, were these “powers and authorities”? To him they were the spiritual enemies of God: Satan and his lieutenants. They had been defeated “by the cross”: by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Satan had been stripped of his most potent armament. He has been disarmed of lethal weapons. The kilotons of power (sin and death) that Satan had over human beings have been nullified by the megatons power of the cross. Now all he can do is to deceive and influence people (including Christians) to believe his lies instead of being freed by God’s truth. In the end, Christ triumph will be manifested for all to see, and every knee that has now bowed shall bow before him.

As followers of Christ we can share and participate in this triumph over the enemy. We no longer need to fear the two weapons of the spiritual forces of darkness. We declare by faith that sin’s power has been nullified. “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:18 NIV). The devil tempts us into sin like he did with Adam and Eve, but Jesus has disarmed him of this weapon through the forgiveness of sins, and through setting us free from the power of sin in our life. This is vital triumph.

His other weapon is death, and Jesus broke its power and freed all believers from the fear of death. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death- that is the devil” (Hebrews 2:14 NIV). The resurrection of Christ is both proof and promise that God will also raise all followers of Christ to a resurrection of life when Jesus returns. This is triumph – beautifully poetic, powerfully effective, complete and final. All because of the finished work of Christ! Praise God!

This is part of a planned series of writings on the topic, “The A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I am writing it alphabet by alphabet. Thus far the others that I have written can be found HERE.

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