Famine Pony. War Pony. Pestilence Pony. And, most importantly, Death Pony. I’m teaching a class on Revelation 6 for my high school group on Sunday, which means I get to talk about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. So, I will almost certainly introduce the lesson with this fabulous little video. I’ve posted this before, but I thought it was worth reposting in honor of the upcoming lesson.
Make sure you catch Death Pony. That’s my favorite.
Not all sentences are created equal. Most sit quietly, not doing much to get your attention. Others reach out and slap you upside the head. This was one of those.
I’m on one knee. The ring, a family heirloom, gripped in my right hand. Face upturned, I’ve just asked the Question. All I need now is the Answer.
And then it comes. One of those sentences.
Without a hint of a smile, she looks down at me and says, “Are you kidding?”
Fortunately, I’d placed my left hand on the ground for stability, otherwise I may well have tipped over and fallen into the river. We’d been dating for five years! So, it’s not like this was a surprise. Here I am on one knee, at a romantic location, with a diamond ring in my hand, and she wants to know if I’m kidding? I’m usually pretty good with words, but at that moment…speechless.
Some sentences just have that effect on you.
At the very beginning of the Bible, we run into this kind of sentence. Unfortunately, many of us have heard it so many times that it no longer surprises us. It has lost its shock value. But still, it’s one of the most amazing statements in the entire Bible.
“In the beginning, God created.”
Wait, he did what?
Stop and think about that for a second. God created. First, there was just God. And then he decided to make stuff.
And, why was this so amazing? Because God didn’t need to create. God doesn’t need anything. He is the one who gives everything—life, breath, land, and even time itself (Acts 17:22-34). He’s so far beyond us that he holds the entire universe in one hand, like I might cup a puddle of water in my palm, its existence dependent on me keeping it from dribbling through my fingers into nothingness (Isaiah 40:12). What could he possibly need from creation?
But, if God doesn’t need anything, why create? God was perfect before creation and would have been perfect without creation. So, why bother?
I have a few rules that I use when I teach about God. One of them is that if someone asks me a question beginning with “Why did God…?” I am very likely to answer with “I don’t know.” That only seems fair. Unless God explicitly tells us why he’s done something, we should be very careful about guessing. We’re more likely to describe why we think God should have done something, than say anything about why he actually did it.
Nonetheless, even if we can’t say for sure why God created, we know one of the main things that he does through creation: he glorifies himself. Everything that God made “declares the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1). As the twenty-four elders in the Book of Revelation proclaim, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11). Creation brings glory to God.
At its most basic “glory” refers to how amazingly awesome someone or something is. Think, for example, of an Olympic runner taking a victory lap just after winning her event. Everyone has just witnessed how amazingly awesome she is—her speed, strength, and skill. She displayed her glory in her race, and she continues to display her glory as she runs around the track. Or, consider the glory of a flower. Although not as immediately awe-inspiring as a perfect Olympic performance, the flower has its own glory. Consider the delicacy of its petals, the contour of its stem, the subtle shading of its colors. Amazing. Glory.
Something has glory, then, in the very fact that it is amazing in some way. But, we can also talk about giving glory. That’s what the crowd does as it cheers for the athlete running her victory lap. The crowd does not make her glorious—she’s already displayed her glory in the race. But it recognizes and celebrates her glory by cheering as she takes her victory lap. And, my daughters do the same thing when they rush into the house and drag me into the backyard to witness the glory of the flower, rejoicing in its beauty and unique splendor.
That’s how God’s glory works. Consider God in all his incredible wonder—his love, strength, power, creativity, holiness, wisdom, justice, and so much more. Everything God does displays his glory.
In the end, I can’t explain why, though I intend to ask someday. For now it’s enough to know that by creating God displayed his own awesome glory so that all of creation could respond in worship.
[You can read the rest of the posts in this series on the Gospel book page.]
Who are you? If someone really wanted to get to know you and find out what kind of person you truly are, how should they go about doing that? They could talk to people who know you well: your spouse, friends, coworkers, children, or people at church. But, would that reveal the true you? They could find out how you spend your time, what you invest your money in, and what hobbies you have. All of these things would tell them something about you, but even then, would they really know you? What if they took a peek at your computer and checked out your browsing history? I’m sure that would be enlightening.
But, would it tell them everything?
What reveals who you truly are?
I don’t know what it is for me. You could look at my books, read my blog posts, even ask my wife and daughters, but I don’t think any of these things really tells the whole story about who I am.
I don’t know what could.
You’d think it would be even harder for God. After all, he’s God. How could we possibly know even a small fraction of what it means to be God – his glory, majesty, power, grace, goodness, wisdom, love, justice, and more. If I can’t think of a way to show people who I am, surely it must be that much harder for an infinite God.
But, God doesn’t have that problem. He knows exactly how to reveal himself to us. And, he has done just that.
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (Jn. 14:9)
What an amazing statement. No hesitation, no uncertainty, no doubt. Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father and without missing a beat, Jesus points to himself—I reveal the Father so perfectly that if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.
Take a moment and think about that.
Some guy—a regular person, a construction worker—tells you that he and God are so tight that if you just look at him, you will see the Father. How would you respond?
And, Paul agrees.
According to him, Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15; cf. 2 Cor. 4:4). Although we were all created to be God’s image bearers in the world, revealing God in creation, Paul sees Jesus as the only one who really gets it right. The only hope for the rest of us is to be re-shaped in the image of Jesus so that we can again image God the way we were supposed to (Rom 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:49).
Indeed, Jesus reveals God so perfectly, that the author of Hebrews says that “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3).
How can a human being reveal the infinite God? I don’t know. But, he did.
Immanuel…God with us.
From the very beginning of the story, God has been revealing himself to us, reaching out to us and calling us to know him. Although always failed to understand, God never gave up. Instead, he promised that one day he would send a true prophet who would come and tell us about God.
Once again, God has done more than we expected. He didn’t send just another prophet with words we could ignore.
He sent the Son himself.
God promised, Jesus came, true revelation.
[You can read the rest of the posts in this series on the Gospel book page.]
If you’re looking for good gift ideas for the little girl in your life, look no further. What little girl wouldn’t love to open her presents on Christmas morning and find, to her delight, the four “My Little Ponies of the Apocalypse”?
- Roger Olson argues that Arminianism is God-centered theology. From a rather different perspective, apparently over 20% of the readers over at Covenant of Love think Ariminiasm is a herey.
- Paul Helm discusses Thomas Aquinas on Divine Impassibility.
- Scot McKnight raises The Baptism Question.
- James McGrath had the students in his Revelation class evaluate a website and post their comments. He set up a blog for that purpose and is inviting everyone to check it out. I’ve only glanced at it so far, but it looks interesting.
- Dane Ortlund offers a thought from Richard Baukham on why the Gospel writers thought history was so important.
- The official Mormon “handbook” is now available online.