Per Omnia Saecula Saeculorum

By the way, for some thoughts on Easter, see Some Easter Thoughts.

I remember as a small child going to the big St. Paul Cathedral in St. Paul, Minnesota, with my grandmother. This was definitely in the “old days” when it was in Latin and you pretty much sat there and listened. But there were a few times when the priest would turn to the congregation and say something in Latin and we were expected to answer in Latin. The one I remember hearing first was “Dominus vobiscum,” to which the response sounded to me like “et cum spiri 2-2-0.” I kept looking in the missal for those numbers, but I couldn’t find them. Of course in English it is “The Lord be with you,” followed by “and also with you” or “and with your spirit,” the Latin being “et cum spirtu tuo.” So no numbers at all.

During a High Mass the priest would sing (chant, actually) some of the words, and the congregation would sing back. One expression I remember that the priest sang was “Per omnia saecula saeculorum,” to which the congregation would reply “Amen.” Later, when the Mass was set in the English vernacular, this became “for ever and ever, amen.” It is a Latin idiom that translates as “unto the ages of the ages” but simply means “for ever and ever.”

Which brings me to what I was thinking about. In John chapter three, Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, one of the teachers in Israel. At one point Jesus says:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 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. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:14-17)

Why are there two different expressions, “eternal life” in verse 15 and “everlasting life” in verse 16? Are two different thoughts being expressed? Well it turns out that in Greek they are the same word. But after doing a little more research there are some subtleties in the usage of the word. It can mean “without beginning or end”, “without end”, or “without beginning”.

An example of the last usage is in 2 Tim 1:9:

Who hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (2 Tim 1:9)

God’s purpose and grace existed without beginning, before the world was created. An example of something that never ends can be found in Hebrews:

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Heb 13:20-21)

Hey, there’s that “for ever and ever, amen!” Here we see that there is an everlasting covenant that will never end, which was sealed with the blood of Christ at Calvary. God Himself is, of course, an example of the other usage, having neither beginning nor ending. So is there a difference between “everlasting” and “eternal?” In the King James Version of the Bible it appears that the words are used interchangeably even though they sometimes have slightly different meanings. I thought of it this way: when everlasting life is being contrasted with perishing or death, it seems to have the meaning of “never-ending,” i.e., you won’t perish (end) but will live forever (everlasting). On the other hand, when it is mentioned in the context of the life of Christ, it seems to mean “no beginning or ending.” since Christ has no start or end. As an example of the first:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand. I and [my] Father are one. (John 10:27-30)

Once saved our life will never end, we will never perish, we will live forever. In contrast to that we have:

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; [and] he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:11-13)

Here we see that we have obtained an eternal life that in God’s Son, a life that is “eternal” in the sense that it has neither beginning nor end. So when God saved me, he gave me the life that is in His Son, not just to live forever, but having that eternal character that stretches into the infinite past and into the infinite future. This may seem like a difference without a distinction, but as a one-time math major I see a difference. I will live forever since God saved me. But I will always be able to tell exactly how long I have been saved (at least relative to time on Earth). Since I was saved on Feb 18, 1973, today on April 20, 2014, I have been saved 15,036 days (Excel is very useful). So even though the time ahead of me is infinite, my experience of that time always has a finite measurement. The last verse that is usually sung in the hymn “Amazing Grace” alludes to this:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

But we have more than that, we have the life that is in His Son, an eternal life without beginning or end, a truly infinite life:

And you [hath he quickened], who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:1-10)

On this Easter, know that God has raised Jesus from the dead, and through Him, His work on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead, God is able to save everyone.

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:4)

The choice is yours. Where will you be “for ever and ever?”

Advertisements

Some Easter Thoughts

Here are some thoughts about God’s character that you might consider during the Easter season.

Did you ever notice the first thing God did after He created Adam? Well, He rested:

Gen 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

But if you look further down in the passage, you find this:

Gen 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

After He made Adam, God planted a garden. God considered the effort of planting a garden not to be work, but part of his rest. I have known many people who didn’t think of gardening as work, but relaxation. As I have said elsewhere, my earliest memory is of a flower garden. God planted a garden and it was the perfect place for Adam and Eve to live, to grow, and to serve Him. So Adam became a gardener also, the first “job” in human history.

Gen 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

But when Adam and Eve sinned, God cast them out of the garden and death passed upon all men.

Gen 2:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Now, let’s look forward to the time of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is sharing His last Passover with His apostles (though they don’t know it), and Judas has left to betray Him. The meal is over and Jesus prays to His Father. These are the last words He spoke at the Last Supper:

John 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. 26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

They leave the upper room and go into the night. But where do they go?

John 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.

He went into a garden, the garden of Gesthemane. And here, leaving His disciples to sleep, He anticipates His final, perfect act of Redemption. While Jesus is in this agony, Judas, having collected his thirty pieces of silver, leads the mob to Jesus. But how does Judas know where He will be?

John 18:2 And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. 3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

Of course! Jesus must be in the garden, for He often went there with His disciples. It was a place that He loved to go, to rest, to pray. But this time He is taken by the soldiers, unjustly tried, mocked, scourged, and sent to Calvary, bearing His own cross. He is nailed to that cross and lifted up between heaven and earth (John 3:14-15). On the cross He enters into the darkness and completes the work of redemption, suffering the wrath of God that we deserved, so that we might be delivered from our sin and its consequences. But the darkness clears and the Savior remains! “Finished!” He cries. What happens next is fitting because in life the Lord Jesus had no place of His own, saying to the crowd at one point, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. (Matt 8:20)” But here at last He finds the only place to rest His head: His own breast.

John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

Jesus is dead. Where will He be buried?

John 19:41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. 42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

His body is laid in a new tomb which is, of course, in a garden.

Now we move ahead to Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, and the women come to the garden to anoint the body of their beloved Lord. They came early, and one can only assume that the men are still sleeping. Who is there first?

John 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. 2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

Peter and John run to the garden and enter the sepulchre, but they are baffled. They still do not understand that the Messiah, their crucified Lord, must rise from the dead. They leave, but Mary, completely distraught, remains behind.

John 20:10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. 11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, 12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Not recognizing the Lord through her tears, Mary nevertheless perceives someone asking her a question, and she assumes it is the gardener! God’s character has never changed since the days of creation and it never will.

The Song of Songs is the poem of the Bridegroom and the Bride. Our Bridegroom has ascended into glory. The daughters ask, “Where has He gone?”

Song 6:1 Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee. 2 My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. 3 I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.

I am my Beloved’s, and He is mine! He is in His heavenly garden, and for now we are away from Him. But we know He will return for us, our Savior, our Bridegroom, our Beloved, our Gardener. We will hear His voice and be caught up to meet Him, and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1Th 4:13-17).

Song 2:8 The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. 9 My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice. 10 My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. 11 For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; 12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle [dove] is heard in our land; 13 The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away!

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Rev 22:20