IMAGE of God by John Stapleton

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
(Gen. 1:26-27)

1) God’s Image

What is the image of God? Whatever it is, it’s something mankind has that sets us apart from the rest of creation – the apex of all creatures. This question is important because it is a reality that Adam and Eve forgot when they were tempted in Genesis 3.

Satan’s lie was that they “will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). If you’re thinking, “But they already are like God,” you’re on the right track. What does it mean for them to be in God’s image?

This is what theologians call the imago dei – God’s image.

It means that they image him. God rules and so do they, God creates and so will they, God cultivates and so did they. Aside from what they were created to do, look at how they were created.

  • They have a soul – the full spectrum of emotions
  • The ability to communicate more intelligently than other creatures
  • Most importantly, the ability to relate to God as his very own children.

2) Mankind Rules

I’ve read over this phrase so many times, usually at the beginning of the year when I am determined to muscle through the new Bible reading plan. This year it jumped off the page.

God created mankind to rule!

Rule what though? In context, it sounds like God is telling them to be supreme zoo keepers, but this also implies the establishing of civilization.

People are supposed to start families, businesses, towns, cities, and countries. We should create art and build culture. Unlike what you may have thought, God actually loves big cities! Rather than hiding from the world, we need to influence the world.

3) God Created Mankind

This point brings us back to the basics. We already covered this last time: God created mankind. We are not a product of chance, not an after-thought, not a result of feuding deities – no! God loves us and created us for his enjoyment!

Now, I would be doing a disservice to the Bible and to you if I didn’t address gender. What I said last time was that God has rights over his creation since he is the Creator. So he has the right to define how life works.

A reality that we must accept is that “God created mankind in his own image… male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Yes, there are only two genders and they aren’t on a spectrum. I know this is offensive, so welcome to 2021 – we can’t get past the first chapter in the Bible without getting offended. But that’s ok. God is always right and we are often wrong, needing a change of perspective. When we first read the Bible, we don’t see things the way God sees them.

This is why the Christian life is marked every step of the way by repentance. Rather than embracing and celebrating the aspects of ourselves that are opposed to how God created us, we need to repent and accept reality.

Conclusion

The three points I want to leave you with is:

  • God created us in his image
  • He created us to rule
  • God has deliberately designed life to work the way he has architected it.

God is not like transcendentalists say – that he spun the world into orbit and then left. He isn’t like many of our fathers, cold and impersonal, distant and apathetic. He is loving and intentional.

That’s why the image of God should be a cherished doctrine to you personally.

Just like you can look in the mirror and see some of your mom and dad in you, God has put some of his “likeness” in you. To clarify, we are not God, but we are like him. This theme carries on in the New Testament when Paul talks about being like Jesus (Philippians 3:10).

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God the Creator by John Stapleton

There are many accounts that try to explain how we came to be. With so many different accounts competing for our belief in them, we can easily doubt what the Bible tells us. Today, I want to point out the differences between the pagan accounts and the biblical one.

Quotes Below Are From historyworld.net:

“In societies where many tribal groups have coalesced into a single civilization, each bringing their own gods, there tends to be a dramatic series of encounters between the contending deities – sometimes sexual, but more often murderous and even cannibalistic – before humans appear in the story. This is true of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and above all Greece. The mythology of Japan also provides a complex account of the early affairs of the gods, while hardly noticing the arrival of mankind. In the multi-faceted mind of India, several creation stories are able to co-exist.”

Obviously, there are too many accounts to spend a lot of time discussing, but we will examine 4 of them. First up,

Egypt

“There are several creation stories in Egypt, attached to rival gods. The most common one begins with Nun, the primeval ocean, from which Amen rises in splendour. He takes the name Re, thus in effect merging two rival deities. By an act of masturbation (described as such in the temple texts) he produces a divine son and daughter. These two breed a race of gods, while the tears of Amen-Re become mankind – appropriately enough, for man’s behaviour soon persuades the creator to withdraw from earthly affairs. He retires to the heavens, where he reigns as the sun.”

Mesopotamia

“The story begins with two watery tumultuous beings, one male and one female, Apsu (sweet water) and Tiamat (salt water). From their union there come forth a variety of sea monsters and gods. In the ensuing chaos Tiamat, the female creator, tries to take control. Her descendants unite against her, choosing one of their number – Marduk, the god of Babylon – to lead them.  Armed with a hurricane and riding a tempest drawn by four fiery steeds, Marduk meets Tiamat and her evil accomplice Kingu in battle. He kills them both. 

“He splits the monstrous corpse of Tiamat into two parts. From half of her he creates the heaven, from the other half the earth. In heaven he constructs a dwelling place for his colleagues, the gods. Realizing that they will need a race of servants, he uses the blood of Kingu to create the first man. This is followed by other necessary tasks, such as the creation of rivers, plants and animals.”

India

“In an early story Purusha is a primal man sacrificed by the gods as the act of creation. The sky comes from his head, the earth from his feet, the sun from his eye and the moon from his mind. The four castes of Hindu society also derive from his body… the birds and animals come from the fat which drips from him during the sacrifice.”

China

“Of various creation stories which evolve in China, the most striking is that of P’an Ku. He is hatched from a cosmic egg. Half the shell is above him as the sky, the other half below him as the earth. He grows taller each day for 18,000 years, gradually pushing them apart until they reach their appointed places. 

“After all this effort P’an Ku falls to pieces. His limbs become the mountains, his blood the rivers, his breath the wind and his voice the thunder. His two eyes are the sun and the moon. The parasites on his body are mankind.”

The Alternative

Genesis 1:1-4 (NIV): In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.

1). God Created

The beginning signifies an introductory time period, not the first event. God has no beginning, but we are pointed to the creation as our reference for the beginning. God is revealed first as Creator. Before he is revealed as Father, Judge, etc. he is Creator. In particular, he created heaven and earth – everything. God created all the matter that we have used to create technology among other things. 

2). God Hovered

This implies the expectation of what’s going to happen next. 

3). God Said

God’s word has the power to create something from nothing. God brings order to chaos. And it’s brilliant that God separated the light from the darkness because that is going to be a major theme throughout the Bible (see the Gospel of John). 

God also comments that his creation is good. Unlike the other accounts, nothing was created by accident, as the result of violence, or as an after-thought. Mankind is hatched or reproduced from a prior life-form. We are created and God later calls humanity “very good.” 

Conclusion

God is the Creator. Since he created everything, he has rights to everything. He gets to be the Lord because he has designed life to operate a particular way. Don’t question why you aren’t in charge. Submit to the Lord since he is creator.

“Worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Rev 14:6, ESV).

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Revelation 14:1-7 | The Eternal Gospel

YouTuber John Stapleton shares his fourth teaching on the Advent Series.

The Eternal Gospel

Last time, we saw the rise of a demonically empowered government that is backed by a another false prophet who deceived people with miraculous signs and forcing everyone to receive the mark of the beast. It also killed the saints. It was a bleak picture without God. However, the point was that God works behind the scenes. That’s at the forefront today.

The scene opens up with “the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion” (Rev 14:1). The Lamb is the last animal mentioned left standing. He’s also on Mount Zion. Think of Zion as heaven on earth, the place where God is (Heb 12:22). He is surrounded by his Church (though some would argue that the 144,000 are only Israelites), and they are singing to the Lamb “a new song” (Rev 14:3) because God is doing a new thing.

The scene switches from earth to heaven as an angel proclaims “the eternal gospel” (Rev 14:6). The inhabitants of the earth are instructed to “fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Rev 14:7). God is both Creator and Judge. People are to worship God because as the Creator, he has sovereign rights over what he created. He created to life to work the way he alone has designed it. This is a gospel not only of salvation but judgment as well.

CONCLUSION: The Lamb is the last beast to stand. It’s intriguing that the singing comes before the proclamation of the gospel which preludes God’s wrath. Hang on to your joy and hope by singing.

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God In The Background (Rev. 13) by John Stapleton

YouTuber John Stapleton shares Part 3 of his Advent series. He opens up and unpacks Revelation 13:11-18 and The Mark Of The Beast. Bringing up topics of government, history, false miracles and deceptions.

1). The Satanic Government (Rev 13:1-4)

The first character that Revelation 13 introduces us to is the Sea Beast. This beast a an absolute parody of the Lion of Judah. It “was like a leopard… its mouth was like a lion’s mouth” (Rev 13:2).

It also mimics the Lamb in worship. The people, blinded by their zeal, ask, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” (Rev 13:4). This line of praise is stolen verbatim from the exodus story, after God rescued Israel from Egypt: “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11).

Thirdly, it mocks the Lamb by the appearance of power: “To it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority” (Rev 13:2). Again, a similar verse appears earlier in Revelation in reference to the Lamb: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev 5:12).

2). Blasphemies Against God (Rev 13:5-8)

The next thing to notice is the blasphemy, the blatant disrespect, irreverence for God. In an intriguing cross-reference, Paul describes the man of lawlessness (also known as the antichrist) as one “who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess 2:4). Perhaps the blasphemy of the beast is claiming that he himself is god. The point is, that this beast is extremely sacrilegious; the repetition of blasphemy demonstrates the point that this beast hates anyone and everything that is affiliated with God.

3). A Call for the Saints (Rev 13:9-11)

Church and state will never get along. As long as a government does not worship Jesus, we will have trouble. The devil hates God and he hates us; it is not lost on me that even though God placed government over us, these governments often serve Satan, as he uses them to beat up and harass God’s Church. This historically leads to many Christians dying for their faith (like the story we find in Daniel 3).

This “is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (Rev 13:10). Faith is confident assurance that God rules and has victory and power over Satan. The idea behind endurance is courageously bearing up under suffering. The point is, death is how we conquer. Dying in faith is actually a victory!

4). The False Prophet (Rev 13:11-18)

The first beast represents godless governments. The second beast here represents the false prophet. Read this passage and you’ll see that he is quite the evangelist for Satan.

  • “It exercises all the authority of the first beast” (Rev 13:12).
  • It “makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast” (Rev 13:12).
  • “It performs great signs” (Rev 13:13).
  • “It deceives those who dwell on earth” (Rev 13:14).
  • “It was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast” (Rev 13:15).
  • It causes “those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain” (Rev 13:15).
  • “Also it causes all… to be marked… (with) the number of its name” (Rev 13:16-17).

Conclusion

Satan mimics everything God does. It looks like he is winning because of all the evil and because we don’t see God.

I challenge you to consider all the times the text today said that the beast was allowed to something. He was allowed to deceive, allowed to kill the saints, allowed to be powerful – allowed. Nothing, not even the most primal evil, happens apart from God’s permission. God is the only one with true and enduring power!

Advent Series Part 1

Advent Series Part 2

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The Cosmic War (Rev. 12:7-17) by John Stapleton

Is life hard? Do you feel opposed? Those are dumb questions – of course you can’t catch a break. Life is hard and you are opposed. That’s the big idea for today: Satan puts up a fight but he has lost.

Satan in Revelation 12:7-17

The first thing we see in Revelation 12:7-17, is that God has an enemy. John really wants us to know who this enemy is, so he goes by five names:

  • The Great Dragon
  • The Ancient Serpent
  • The Devil and Satan
  • The Deceiver
  • The Accuser

All these names basically communicate two things about the enemy: He deceives us and then he accuses us. He tempts us and then he tries to bad-mouth us to God, bringing up true ways we have sinned. Think of Job. God and the angels were having a meeting in heaven when Satan shows up. Then, he began to accuse Job of impure motives, saying that he only worshipped God because of what he did for Job (Job 1:9-11).

Following the story from last week, Jesus had already lived, died, and rose. He reigns now and since he rules, the accuser no longer has free access into the court of heaven to accuse the children of God. John says it like this in another place:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
(1 John 2:1 ESV)

Jesus paid it all! I’ve heard it said that when the devil accuses us before God, Jesus stretches his nail-scarred hands showing that he took our place. After studying this passage, I no don’t believe that is true because the accuser no longer has access to heaven. He may accuse us in our own self-demeaning thoughts about ourselves, but he cannot bring a case before God. I believe I agree with Paul when he said:

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:33-34 ESV)

Jesus intercedes for us as we pray and go about living our lives, but he doesn’t pay the devil the time of day. He’s got bigger fish to fry. I know this because the text here says that he’s also given us gifts. What gifts are you excited about? What do you expect to get? What’s at the top of your wish list? Have you thought about what God has given you? If you started, the list is endless (and I speak for everyone).

For today however, we see that God in Jesus has given us salvation. Another word for salvation is security. This isn’t the absence of conflict or a hard life, but a confidence that God will never fail. It’s not about the strength of your faith but the strength of the object of your faith. In short, I fail often, but God will never fail!

He has also have with us the power of God, the kingdom of God, and the authority of Christ. This power is active. If you wonder what God is doing, you can be sure that he is at work, regardless of if you see him or not. (In fact, next week is called God in the Background!) His kingdom mean God is sovereign – that he rules over everything (as we saw last week in Revelation 12:5). The authority of Christ is the same kind of language as sovereign. Despite the dragon’s attempt to take Jesus out, Jesus still rules.

In conclusion, we can rejoice with heaven this holiday season because our enemy has been defeated by heaven and has been conquered by the Church.

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The King Is Born by John Stapleton

The King Is Born- John Stapleton brings us into the Christmas season with a deep look into what it’s all about. The focus scripture is Revelation 12:1-6 with references to John, Micah and Daniel.

Notes are available below:

1 – The King Is Born

1) SIGN #1

#1) The Woman we are introduced to in this text is “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). Perhaps the simplest, most widely accepted interpretation is that the woman mirrors God (Ps 104:1-2). She was pregnant with the tribes of Israel, which is why the crown of twelve stars on her head are the 12 tribes of Israel. It’s also interesting to note that this woman stands in direct contrast to the prostitute in Rev 17 that symbolizes Rome.

2) SIGN

#2) A Great Red Dragon (Rev 12:3) Satan goes by many names in the Bible. Here, he appears as a dragon (similar to the “scarlet beast” in Rev 12:3). Other times, he is leviathan or a serpent (Is 27:1). But here, this text is cryptically referring to King Herod.

3) The Male Child

#3) Rev 12:4-5 summarizes the life of Jesus and King Herod is the “dragon” who tried to “devour” Jesus when he ordered the death of all boys 2 years old and under in Judea. However, Jesus was taken to Egypt where he was kept safe from Herod. Jesus was ultimately successful in his mission of destroying sin by dying on the cross; he then ascended to sit at God’s right hand of power. He is the true King from Ps 2 who is to rule all nations (see also Matt 2:6).

4) The Woman Is Nourished

#4) Rev 12:6 says that she will be nourished for 1,260 days (Rev 11:3 and 13:5, the number is 42 months, which is the same amount of time). The 42 is always used in context to the Gentiles and 1,260 in context to God’s people.

The big idea behind these numbers is that Israel will be nourished by the ministry of the Church, and by implication, the whole world.

THE GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY

Jesus successfully destroyed sin. After his triumph (Col 2:15) there was war in heaven (that’s next week). But for now, we can be confident that the devil can no longer appear before God and accuse us like he did with Job and Joshua (Job 1:6-12; Zech 3:1). He is a maimed foe whose judgment is pending.

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Social Justice is NOT Biblical by John Stapleton

Social Justice

The Bible doesn’t fit in today’s category of social justice. Last time, we talked about systemic oppression. Social justice is the natural outcome of thinking you are oppressed, which is what we are talking about today. There have been two reactions within the Church that have been disappointing.

One response is to “just preach the gospel.” Don’t get involved in all that social justice work. Don’t help people. Just preach at them. The problem is that the gospel we preach has results, you could call this indicatives and imperatives. The fact is that “through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). The implication is that “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (verse 19).

James illustrates this as he talks about what faith is. There’s no way to show your faith if it is never active. Its fair to assume that a Christian who never helps the needy has a dead faith (read James 2).

The other response is to assume that social justice is biblical justice. (That’s the mistake I made when I shot my first video on socialism.) To be clear, it’s always necessary to define our terms. Social justice is the story of Robbin Hood, where everyone who is rich is bad, ergo we need to reallocate the wealth to those who have less. That’s stealing. Biblical justice is restitution; pay back what you damaged or stole.

Just for fun, let’s look at some of these laws:

  • If a man has sex with a virgin, he must marry her (22:16-17)
  • Liars must die (22:19)
  • You must die if you have sex with an animal (22:19)
  • You must die if you sacrifice to another god (22:20)
  • Do not discriminate against a foreigner (22:21)
  • Don’t mistreat widows and orphans (22:22)
  • Don’t charge interest when you lend money (22:25)
  • Return the items you took in a pledge (22:26; c.f. Genesis 38)
  • Do not disrespect God or the person he appointed to govern you (22:28)
  • Don’t spread a false report or gang up on someone in court (23:1)
  • Don’t favor or bully the poor (23:3, 6)
  • Help your neighbor (23:4, 5)
  • Don’t kill the innocent or the righteous (23:7)

So, what’s the point behind all these laws? Love each other!

In the words of Paul:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

Let’s Talk About Black Forgiveness by John Stapleton

Let’s Talk About “Systemic Oppression” by John Stapleton

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