To Change The Time

“And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws…” Daniel 7:25 (KJV)

 

It has long been a method of the Enemy to change the timing of God’s truth, in the process turning truth into error. 

For example, some believe that both the righteous and wicked shall be permanently preserved through all eternity according to the false teaching of universal justification.  This false doctrine changes the timing of the truth that God temporarily allows both wicked and righteous to live today. 

Today, God "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45).  Yet, He “will make an utter end; affliction shall not rise up the second time” (Nahum 1:9).   

Also, the prophecies of Daniel have been pushed into the past (Preterism) or consigned to the coming time (Futurism), thus removing from view their historic and ongoing significance. 

Also, it is not the wicked who will burn forever for all time.   “…who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly…” (Isaiah 33:14-15).   

“And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet…” (Malachi 4:3).  The righteous will live forever with God, who is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24, Hebrews 12:29); the wicked will simply burn up.   Yet it is not only in these errors that God’s timing has been changed to create lies. 

Anti Godhead Ardor

Jesus’ status as the only begotten Son of God has also been altered because of a change in timing, and there is now a growing movement within the church that believes that Jesus’ existence began when He was begotten in ages past.  To them, Jesus – the literal Son of the Almighty – is begotten of the One True God yet eternal because He shares the Father’s divine substance.  This is akin to saying that my son, though he may consider himself only seven years old, actually shares my chronological age because he came from my physical substance.  The analogy falls flat on its face when expressed in human terms, and the explanation is unnecessary when one rightly understands the significance of Jesus as God’s only begotten Son.  In order to understand this significance, we must understand the ‘why’ before we can determine the ‘when’ of this truth.  

During my first year of training as a resident physician, I lived in California’s Central Valley.  I remember driving to the hospital one evening when the fog was so thick that I could only make out the tail lights of the car ahead of me when it was only a few car lengths away.  Still, I had to continue on, praying that not only would I reach the hospital in time to deliver a baby, but also that I would not get into an accident of my own, thus creating another medical emergency.  I drove slowly through the heavy fog, hoping that driving conditions would improve.  And as soon as I could see that the way was clear, off I went zooming down the highway at high speed.  This example demonstrates a “Clear and Cloudy” principle that also helps in understanding God’s Word.  One can move with confidence and run with a verse that is clear, but when a passage is cloudy, or hard to understand, one must tread carefully in its application.  By interpreting cloudy passages using the context of that which is clear, one can combine both clear and cloudy passages into a cohesive whole. 

Only Begotten

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  To understand Jesus’ status as ‘only begotten’ Son, we must look to other uses of monogenes, which is the Greek word translated in John 3:16 as ‘only begotten.’ Monogenes occurs nine times in the Bible.  Of these, it is translated as ‘only begotten’ six times, as ‘only’ twice, and as ‘only child’ once. 

Of the six occurrences of monogenes, five refer to Jesus as the only begotten Son of God.  The the sixth (Hebrews 11:17) refers to Abraham’s only begotten son, Isaac.  Isaac was not, of course, Abraham’s only son.  In addition to Isaac, the Bible records six other sons sired by Abraham through Keturah (1 Chronicles 1:32).  Abraham also fathered Ishmael, who was birthed by Hagar.  As the children’s song goes, “father Abraham has many sons…”

So, what about Isaac makes him Abraham’s “only begotten” son? Unlike the other seven known biological sons of Abraham, Isaac was the sole recipient of the promises of God.  Through Isaac, God showed how He could bring life from the dead (Hebrews 11:12).  In addition, Isaac prefigured Jesus not only through his miraculous birth, but also when he was offered for sacrifice on Mount Moriah.  Incidentally, Mount Moriah was the same mountain where Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 3:1), which was the same city where Jesus died on the Cross. 

The pattern is more visibly demonstrated when the other uses of monogenes are examined.  The two occurrences of monogenes translated as ‘only’ both occur in Luke.  The first refers to the widow of Nain’s only son (Luke 7:12), whom Jesus resurrected.  The second reference involves Jairus’ only daughter, a twelve-year-old girl also resurrected by Jesus.  The final use of monogenes, translated in Luke 9:38 as ‘only child,’ occurs in the account of Jesus’ healing of a demon-possessed boy who nearly died in water and in fire.  (The significance of this son’s near-death experiences by water and by fire will be explained later.) Clearly, each instance of monogenes not directly referencing Jesus is connected to a child rescued from or brought back from death.

Begotten

In the interest of brevity, our study of the word ‘begotten’ will be limited to New Testament (the nine Old Testament uses of the word largely revolve around fathering children and not all are germane to this discussion; the one passage which is useful will be addressed later).  After excluding the previously-examined passages involving ‘only begotten,’ four uses of ‘begotten’ refer to Jesus. 

One of these four, which is found in Revelation 1:5, calls Jesus ‘the first begotten of the dead.’ The use of ‘first’ indicates that not only is Jesus begotten, but also that others would follow in like fashion, which can be seen in the other instances of ‘begotten.’

Believers are begotten through the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:15, Philemon 1:10) by belief in the resurrection of Jesus (1 Peter 1:3, 1 John 5:1), and those born of God in this manner will not continue in sin (1 John 5:18).  “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).  In these passages, the theme of God’s victory over death and His gift of new life continues.

The remaining three instances of begotten (Acts 13:33, Hebrews 1:5, Hebrews 5:5) all quote Psalm 2:7, “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” Before examining the three instances, let us look at the context of the second Psalm.  Psalm 2:7 employs the phrase, “Thou art my Son”, which recalls God’s declaration to David as recorded in 2 Samuel 7. 

In 2 Samuel 7:12-14, we read:

“And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.  I will be his father, and he shall be my son…”

Earlier in the same chapter, David’s proposal to build the temple had just been rejected by God.  Through Nathan the prophet, God indicated that responsibility for building the temple was to be given to Solomon.  God promised that after David’s passing, He would assume David’s role as Solomon’s father even as Solomon fulfilled his God-given task.  The father/son relationship was thus explained: Solomon was to labor in his sphere by building God’s house (the temple), while God labored in His own sphere by building up Solomon’s house – God was to establish the throne of Solomon’s kingdom.  Psalm 2:6-7 recapitulates this covenant father/son relationship.  By declaring Solomon as His begotten son, God affirmed His covenant to establish Solomon’s throne, and for Solomon to build the temple.  God’s covenant with Solomon was a type for which Jesus is the antitype.

Zechariah 6:12-13 gives a further affirmation of the covenant between Father (Lord) and Son (The Branch).  By substituting ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ for ‘Lord’ and ‘Branch’ respectively, we read,

“And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the [Father], saying, Behold the man whose name is the [Son]; and [the Son] shall grow up out of his place, and [the Son] shall build the temple of the [Father]: Even [the Son] shall build the temple of the [Father]; and [the Son] shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon[the Father’s] throne; and [the Son] shall be a priest upon [the Father’s] throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

Again, as typified by Solomon’s covenant, the Son was to build the temple, while the Father would share His eternal throne with the Son. 

Jesus Himself testifies to this shared throne in Revelation 3:21, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”

Let us now return to the three New Testament passages that quote Psalm 2:7.  Hebrews 1:5 applies Psalm 2:7 to show that Jesus is more exalted than the angels because of the inheritance He obtained by God’s decree – Jesus’ status as begotten Son makes Him worthy of angelic worship.  Hebrews 5:5, on the other hand, quotes Psalm 2:7 to show that Jesus did not glorify Himself to be made high priest – Jesus’ role as High Priest was given Him by the Father’s decree. 

The final New Testament quote of Psalm 2:7 is, perhaps, the one most germane to this discussion:

“But God raised him from the dead: And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.  And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.  And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David” (Acts 13:30-34).

The phrase, ‘The sure mercies of David,’ references Isaiah 55:3, “…I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” After Jesus’ crucifixion, God the Father raised up His Son, thus fulfilling the antitypical eternal covenant foreshadowed by Solomon.  Jesus was raised up to receive His kingdom, while at the same time assuming the responsibility of building a temple for the Father.  And what is the temple that Jesus raised up for the Father?  He “spake of the temple of his body” (John 2:21).  “And he is the head of the body, the church…” (Colossians 1:18).

Today

As shown above, the Bible tells us that an eternal covenant was established by God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  The Son was to build the temple, and for the Father to establish forever the Son’s kingdom.  So when was this covenant established? Acts 13:33 and Psalm 2:7 supply the time frame in which it occurs: “this day have I begotten thee.” (Newer translations render this phrase as, “today I have begotten You.”) Either way, it is clear that there was a specific point in time – indicated by ‘today’ or ‘this day’ – when Jesus was begotten.  So, what is the ‘today’ of these verses? When did Jesus receive His throne and come into His kingdom? The answer lies in Jesus’ use of ‘today’ at Calvary.

At Calvary, the thief on the cross said, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42).  Here, we find the thief asking to be remembered at a specific time, which the thief indicated as "when thou comest into thy kingdom." The thief was not the first to make such a request. 

The mother of the sons of Zebedee (James and John) made a similar request in Matthew 20:20-23:

“Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.  And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.  But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask.  Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.  And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.”

Jesus' response is telling, for the mother of James and John did not realize that not only would Jesus come into His kingdom at Calvary, but that the first opportunity for anyone to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand meant being crucified alongside the Savior.  She thought that she was asking for high honors for her sons, but in actuality she was requesting their deaths.

Going back now to the cross and Jesus' response to the thief's request, we find further proof of when Jesus came into His kingdom: “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).[1] The thief wanted to be remembered at the time Jesus would come into His kingdom, and Jesus’ use of ‘today’ indicated that He was responding within the requested timeframe.  In other words, Jesus answered the thief in that manner because that day He was in the process of receiving His kingdom.  His crucifixion was the day of His true coronation.  To paraphrase Jesus' words, our Savior said, "even as I speak, I am receiving My kingdom while I hang on the cross, so I'm answering you right now ...  today ...  that you will be with Me in Paradise."

This idea is further substantiated by the writings of Ellen White:

The Saviour knew that His days of personal ministry on earth were nearly ended, and that few would receive Him as their Redeemer.  In travail and conflict of soul He prayed for His disciples.  They were to be grievously tried.  Their long-cherished hopes, based on a popular delusion, were to be disappointed in a most painful and humiliating manner.  In the place of His exaltation to the throne of David they were to witness His crucifixion.  This was to be indeed His true coronation.  (White, Desire of Ages, p.  379, emphasis supplied)

Christ's crucifixion was His true coronation.  He died on the cross and was raised from the dead to be begotten by the Father as indicated in Acts 13:33, "God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee."

However, Calvary was not the first time that Jesus died and was begotten by the Father; the cross was not the first time that God established Christ’s kingdom. 

In the Beginning

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).  How does God, a being with no beginning, have a beginning? “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived” (Desire of Ages, p. 530.3).  How can a being with original, unborrowed, and underived life be given life? A circle is a shape naturally without beginning or end.  The only way a circle can have a beginning is to introduce a break in the circle, creating a point distinct from the rest of the circle.  Jesus was likewise broken; His life was taken away and it was given back.

The Bible tells us that there was indeed a time in the past when Jesus died, for He is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).  (Calvary occurred after the foundation of the world, so ‘slain’ in this verse must refer to another event.)  In John 8:44, Jesus identifies the killer: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.  He was a murderer from the beginning..." (emphasis supplied). 

The Devil caused the Lamb to be “slain from the foundation of the world.” The method of Satan’s vile act is suggested in 1 John 3:15, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:15).  “Envy is the offspring of pride, and if it is entertained in the heart, it will lead to hatred, and eventually to revenge and murder” (White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 651.3).  “Satan in heaven had hated Christ for His position in the courts of God” (White, Desire of Ages, p. 49.1).  This hatred, which was born from envy, made Satan a murderer.

If Satan’s envy of Jesus in heaven caused the Son to be slain, then the Son should also have been raised up again – the Son should also have been begotten in response to Satan’s vile act.  Here is a view of the throne room in heaven at that time:

The King of the universe summoned the heavenly hosts before Him, that in their presence He might set forth the true position of His Son and show the relation He sustained to all created beings.  The Son of God shared the Father's throne, and the glory of the eternal, self-existent One encircled both.  About the throne gathered the holy angels, a vast, unnumbered throng—“ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11.), the most exalted angels, as ministers and subjects, rejoicing in the light that fell upon them from the presence of the Deity.  Before the assembled inhabitants of heaven, the King declared that none but Christ, the Only Begotten of God, could fully enter into His purposes, and to Him it was committed to execute the mighty counsels of His will.  The Son of God had wrought the Father's will in the creation of all the hosts of heaven; and to Him, as well as to God, their homage and allegiance were due.  Christ was still to exercise divine power, in the creation of the earth and its inhabitants.  But in all this He would not seek power or exaltation for Himself contrary to God's plan, but would exalt the Father's glory and execute His purposes of beneficence and love.  (White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p.  36, emphasis supplied)

Here is evidence that the Father (the King of the universe) declared Christ's Kingship – the Father established the Son’s kingdom – in response to Christ’s creation of all the hosts of heaven (i.e. building the temple).  “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).  Together, by the God’s own declaration, Father and Son jointly shared one throne.  The time of this declaration was the ‘today’ when Jesus was first begotten in keeping with the coronation psalm, where to be begotten is equated to being declared King:

“Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.  I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee” (Psalm 2:6-7).

"Before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Father and the Son had united in a covenant to redeem man if he should be overcome by Satan.  They had clasped Their hands in a solemn pledge that Christ should become the surety for the human race" (White, The Desire of Ages, p.  834).  Of note, the covenant made between Father and Son was made after the existence of Satan, and Jesus was begotten after He created the angels.

Conclusion

It is not contradictory for Jesus to be begotten after He already existed if being begotten is connected to resurrection.   After all, Solomon lived before he was begotten by God and sinners live before they plunge into the waters of baptism.

Just as my son does not share my age because he came from my physical substance, neither is Jesus divine solely because He was begotten by the Father.   Jesus was divine before He was begotten!  In the beginning of sin, Jesus already existed; He was with the Father, and He already was God (John 1:1).   Jesus is the I AM (Exodus 3:14).   He has existed from all eternity past, He continues to exist through the time of the Great Controversy, and He will exist eternally.  His two deaths respectively mark the beginning of and the solution to the problem of sin.   

Jesus was slain at "the beginning" by the Devil and died again at the Cross; He had a first death and a second death.  He was raised up – begotten – once at the onset of sin in Heaven and again at Calvary, and all parallels of the first and second death point us back to Him.   Our Savior once healed a boy whom demons tried to kill first in water and later in fire (Mark 9:22).  Is it any wonder that God cleansed this world once by water in the Flood and will cleanse it again by fire at the end of the controversy?

As Christians, we are to undergo a similar experience of two deaths.  We experience our first death, burial, and resurrection through baptism by immersion in water.  Then, we undergo a second baptism by fire through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).  The body of Christ, the church, likewise goes through two baptisms, the early rain and the latter rain.  The early rain fell upon those in the upper room at Pentecost (Acts 2:;1-4), and before the latter rain, "The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall." The church will look like it is about to die, but rather than dying it will be revived when the Holy Spirit will be poured out without measure.

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 In summary, Jesus existed eternally before the foundation of the world, yet was slain by Satan and then begotten by the Father.  The relationship between God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, is the result of an everlasting covenant first ratified in heaven and affirmed again at Calvary.  Jesus is the literal Son of the Father because God’s decree – His spoken Word – shapes reality.  Jesus died twice: He first died at Satan’s hand in Heaven and again when He offered up Himself (Hebrews 7:27).  The events in Heaven foreshadowed Calvary, where Jesus took Satan’s vile act and turned it into a beautiful sacrifice.  Twice He died, twice He was raised, and twice He has received His kingdom. 

You and I, Dear Reader, are called to this dual death experience.  Will you make your choice for Him today?

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[1] Chapter divisions, verse divisions, and punctuation are not inspired and did not occur in the original Greek text, which was written in all capital letters.  These were supplied later when the Bible was translated into other languages in order to facilitate the reading of the text.  Unfortunately, this opens the door to errors of mistranslation, which can be corrected by studying the context of a particular passage.  Without moving any characters, GODISNOWHERE can be rewritten two different ways simply by altering the spacing between letters: ‘God is now here,’ and ‘God is nowhere.’ The comma that occurs before ‘Today’ in Luke 23:43 rightly occurs afterwards.

[2] It should be noted that there may be some who will die more than two times.  For example, Lazarus died the first death and was raised by Jesus.  He died again and now rests in the grave.  If he is raised up at Christ’s Second Coming, then he died the first death twice.