When the apostle Paul described that “unknown god” to the philosophers at Mars Hill, it went like this:
“Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, ‘What does this babbler want to say?’
Others said, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,’ because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.
And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears.
‘Therefore we want to know what these things mean.’ For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.
Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:’”
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD
‘Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: ‘God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’
Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead’” (Acts 17:18-31).
It’s a rather long quote but the context is important to the point I want to emphasize—“For in Him we live and move and have our being”—which is included in the quote above. It is a concept that all are likely not able to get our minds wrapped around easily if at all. What I am pointing to is told in John 4:24 when Jesus told the woman at the well this:
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
We mortals are locked into this physical world that we know by the use of our five senses—see, hear, taste, smell and feel. So the ability to grasp what it means that God is spirit and is everywhere, and in Him we live and move and have our being is almost impossible to comprehend and believe. That is where, then, our sixth sense comes into the picture—faith. None of the other senses can contribute to that one in our understanding of God. Another applicable verse is Hebrews 11:6:
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
A quick summary that I have mentioned before of the long-term plan of God to reveal Himself to man seems to take place over four eras of increasing revelation of God. In that first period, man lived by his conscience for there was no law of God yet revealed. Next, God selected a man named Abram and created a race of people for His own purposes of increased revelation that now was made more precise with the law that was summed up in the Ten Commandments.
The next era or revelation strangely moves from that Spirit which is everywhere present and “in whom we live and move and have our being” to a resurrected God-man named Jesus Christ. We are told in Hebrews 1:1-3:
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
Any one of us would have been as astounded as Peter and John when they peered in the tomb to see empty grave clothes lying there in the wrapped condition they were around that body but now there was no body there. Just a husk-like empty cocoon was what they saw. Later, Jesus made sure they knew it was really the Jesus who had walked with them for those many months:
“Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.
“And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’
“When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’ So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb, and He took it and ate in their presence” (Luke 24:36-43).
Was this a condition of His existence that was only to be seen in physical form while He was with them on earth in order to convince them of His resurrection? Asked in another way, is He just like that in His position in heaven now? We don’t know if fish and chips or honeycomb are eaten in heaven, but here is what Stephen saw as he was dying after being stoned to death, as reported in Acts 7:55-56:
“But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’”
But that was just for Stephen, the first martyr, you say? No, but for all believers, as John tells us in 1 John 3:2-3:
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
While this third period of His increasing unveiling of Himself to mankind by becoming a man not of Adam’s origin, but of God Himself, it seems to be the one in which there has been the greatest involvement in the affairs of mankind:
He was born of a woman, born under the law;
He lived as other men did, tempted as them but not a victim of sinfulness;
He suffered all of the atrocities that man could throw at Him;
He submitted to a cruel death on a cross on which He carried in His body the sins of mankind to secure their redemption, for those who would believe;
He returned to heaven at the right hand of God, the father of glory but sent His Spirit to indwell redeemed mortal man as His ambassadors to a lost world.
That final period of revelation of Himself will be the thousand-year reign as the king of Kings on the throne of David in Jerusalem, where His visible presence will be known by all mortals on earth during that time. As with all of those increased periods of revelation of the God of creation, it will end with mankind again rejecting His lordship and joining, for the most part, with the short rebellion of Satan and thereby also receiving that final judgment (see Revelation 20).
Even so, we are still mystified as to why God would have planned before time began to bend down, so to speak, and identify Himself with us as one among those He had created. The Bible does have some answers, however. When He created man and woman, He created and initiated the concept of family, which is the foundational unit of society, and which is therefore a prime target of Satan in his attempt to overthrow God’s authority.
The long-term plan God has for His redeemed and the reason for it is shown in Romans 8:29:
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
And again, in Hebrews 2:11:
“For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
In a family there are brothers and sisters, both of course, and that concept carries over into our ultimate relationship with God in the person of Jesus Christ. God, the Father, remains the disembodied Spirit just as Stephen saw Jesus standing beside His glory. He moves upon the whole world and is a very present help in our times of trouble, as Psalm 46:1 and the context of Psalm 139 tell us.
This broad panorama moves from knowing God as spirit to knowing God as one like us in form yet perfect in His being, and who has redeemed us as a people for His name. According to His prayer in John 17, we will be one with Him as He is one with the Father. It is indeed a mystery, but beloved, we know that there will be no tears, no weeping or gnashing of teeth in outer darkness there, for we shall be with Him wherever He is!
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