“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Cross Predestined

[Completely unrelated note: Today is March 25, Tolkien Reading Day, and the day the one ring was destroyed! Go treat yourself to some Tolkien literature today.]

This distinction between God’s approval of a thing morally, or in and of itself, and God’s approval of a thing with respect to the difference it makes in the whole of reality is helpful for understanding verses in Scripture which describe God as ordaining or planning for evil events, and in particular the cross, to take place:

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself may be liberated from its bondage to decay.” – Romans 8:20-21

“Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” – Acts 4:27-28

Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” – Acts 2:23

It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.” – Isaiah 53:10

“No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” – Jesus, John 10:18

“…you were redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world.” – 1 Peter 1:18-20
These and other verses show together that God had foreknown and planned evil events (Genesis 50:20, Revelation 17:17, Job 2:10, Amos 3:6, Lamentations 3:37-38) and especially the cross (Revelation 13:8, 2 Timothy 1:9, Matthew 21:42, 27:9-10; John 13:18, 15:25, 19:34-37) from the beginning of time.* Many of these verses point to the cross as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, which were, of course, designed ultimately by God. As a man, Jesus also knew the purpose for which he came to earth (Matthew 12:40, 16:21, 17:23, 20:17-19,28, 26:61; Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34; Luke 9:22, 18:33; John 2:19). Throughout all of redemptive history, God had foreseen and ordained what was to come – it was the central event in his grand plan. “God saw the crucifixion in the act of creating the first nebula” (C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, ch. 6). It was the most horrible sin ever committed, but it was predestined for a redemption and a joy so unimaginably great that it would make even the cross of Christ worth it – preferable, in Edwards’ words, “with respect to the universality of things.”

*I have been assuming and implying (maybe even saying) this all along, but I (re)state here explicitly God’s sovereignty over history in accomplishing his purposes, without which one could not argue, as I do, that this is the best of all possible realities.

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