Last month many of us availed ourselves of the opportunity to celebrate our loved ones with a traditional remembrance. As I did so, it occurred to me that this should be an appropriate time to remind ourselves that we are the recipients of the ultimate "valentine." It was written in blood on a wooden cross erected in Judea almost 2,000 years ago, the anniversary of which we'll celebrate next month. Yet it was interlaced throughout the history of mankind with a scarlet thread of promises.
The Scarlet Thread
It began with a declaration of war.1 A world war. A war of worlds, actually. When God Himself declared war on the ruler of this world: Satan. A cosmic conflict in which you and I are the prizes!
Unlike Allah the Unknowable, Allah the Capricious, this God makes and keeps His promises! He promised that mankind would be the beneficiary of an ultimate Champion... a Redeemer...in fact, a Kinsman-Redeemer. 2
A Detective Thriller
The appearance of this anticipated champion is the ultimate drama of all time. Where would this mysterious deliverer come from? The clues kept on coming.3
This cosmic puzzle continually gained clarity over the centuries. He would be a descendant of Adam. Thus, Satan's subsequent stratagem was an attempt to contaminate the human gene pool with ineligible hybrids - the Nephilim .4
But that plan was a total washout. Only nine were saved from the judgment of the Flood: Enoch was "raptured" out first; then Noah's family of eight were preserved through this global ordeal.5 When God revealed that His plan would focus on a descendant of Abraham, Satan had 400 years to lay down a mine field.6 Again we encounter some post-flood hybrids: the Rephaim, the Anakim, the Emim, the Zamzummim, et al.7
Then we discovered that He would be a descendant of David. Ominously, a chain of attacks ensued to wipe out His family. Again and again there were attempts to eliminate His heirs - but there was always an intervention that foiled the diabolical plots.8
Perhaps one of the most provocative plot problems occurred when God pronounced a blood curse on Jeconiah and the subsequent royal line. 9
The commitment was that the Promised One was to be of the royal house of David, and yet now there was a blood curse on that very royal line of ascension! An impossible mission, indeed!
However, when we begin to unravel the subtleties hidden behind the virgin birth, we not only find that it finesses the genealogical paradox, 10 but fulfills the pronouncements of Isaiah over seven centuries earlier11 and even echoes the strange hint in the early chapters of Genesis.12 It thus reveals that the entire program was predetermined in advance!
In accordance with His pre-announced mandate in Isaiah, 13 Jesus ministered for several years only to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies.
But even here, the mystery intensifies: although the plot was to not take this popular hero on a holiday, Christ Himself precipitates the timing by His announcement at, of all places, a Passover supper. 14 (Who's in charge here?) He is then subjected to six illegal trials, which climax with the sentence of execution. Then we encounter the Big Switch: "Give us Barabbas!"
This is irony at its ultimate extreme: here was one validly condemned under the law, and the other declared innocent by the personal representative of the ruler of the known world! Barabbas knew he had done nothing to merit going free while another took his place.
Barabbas and Christ changed places. Christ was for him a true substitute. The murderer's bonds, curse, disgrace, and mortal agony were transferred to the righteous Jesus; while the liberty, innocence, safety, and well-being of the immaculate Nazarene became the lot of the murderer.
Both mutually inherit each other's situation and possessions: the delinquent's guilt and cross become the lot of the Just One; and the civil rights and immunities of the latter become the property of the delinquent. The staggering reality is that you and I are presently in Barabbas ' shoes!
And as we stare in astonishment at that cross, what held Jesus to those grim timbers? It wasn't the nails ! "He was crucified on a cross of wood; yet He made the hill on which it stood."
The Creator of the Universe could have said at any time, "Enough is enough. I'm out of here!"15 It was His love for you and me. He is, indeed, the Ultimate Valentine.
No Corpus Delicti?
Now the big one: where's the body?16 When His enemies sought a special guard to watch over the tomb, Pilate cynically yielded, "Make it as sure as you can." That, indeed, was the mission impossible! I believe that Pilate suspected that even the grave couldn't hold Him!
If either the Roman or Hebrew authorities could have produced the body, their problems would have been solved. Instead, all subsequent history would be impacted by His emergence from that empty tomb.
Threshold of the Final Climax?
The most thrilling aspect to this gripping drama is that the final climax is next. He emphatically promised to return to complete His mission. 17 And there now appears to be increasing evidence that the final act is about to begin. Are you ready?
The most ancient traditions - among the ancient Hebrew authorities and those of the early church - have believed that the pattern of the Sabbath was fundamental. It was not only six days followed by a seventh day that was holy, six years the land was planted, with the seventh year a "Sabbath" for the land.18
There has been a traditional belief from Augustine to Nachmonides that after six thousand years of man's rule, there would be a climactic thousand years of God's direct rule. Traditional reckoning allows 2,000 years between Adam and Abraham; 2,000 years from Abraham to Christ; and we are now approaching 2,000 years since that cosmic cross. Are we soon to embark on a Seventh Millennium with the King of Kings?
The twentieth century was the most bloody of all human history. As 2004 unfolds it may yet prove to be one of the most turbulent of modern times. All the social, economic, and political paradigms are changing. The world desperately wishes that they had a society relieved from the encumbrances of these religious bigots called Christians. God may soon give them their wish.
As we face the challenges ahead, let us remember - and celebrate - that we are the beneficiaries of the Ultimate Valentine: A Hero of all heroes, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And He sealed your future destiny with His own blood.19
Baruch HaShem . Praise His Name.
* * *
The endnotes may help you personally review the "Scarlet Thread." They also highlight a few Briefing Packages to help you prepare for the Easter season and also for gift suggestions.