Accessing God’s life through Baptism
Human history has been defined by various ages: The Prehistoric Age, Stone Age, Bronze Age, The Age of Reason, The Enlightenment, The Information Age to name but a few. The Jewish people in Jesus’ day believed the entire span of human history, past, present and future sat in one of two ages. They called these ages, “Olam Hazeh,” which means This Present Age and “Olam Habah”, The Age to Come. Jesus Himself held a two age worldview of human history:
Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.
Similarly the Apostle Paul had this same worldview:
… far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
There was a clear understanding by the Jews of the characteristics of each of these two ages. This Present Age was an age marred by the effects of sin, wickedness and rebellion against the will of God and was an age under the influence of the devil. The Age to Come on the other hand was an age characterized by peace, health, life and people relating perfectly to God and each other.
Between this Present Day and the Age to Come there was Day X. Day X was referred to by the Jewish people as the Day of the Lord.
“Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger” (Isaiah 13:9).
Christians know the Day of the Lord as Judgement Day.
Jesus pulled in a future day into day
Jesus literally bent space and time pulling in the future reality of the Age to Come into today. He called this time bending act of the ‘in-breaking’ of the Kingdom of God, “the Gospel”. eg.
– Miracles were a feature of the life of the Age to come. In Luke 11:20 Jesus says that when a demon is cast out of a person an experience of the Age to Come (the Kingdom of God) has come upon them.
– In John 11 Jesus tells Mary that John will be raised from the dead. Martha answers the common Jewish belief of the resurrection, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (11:24). Jesus fast forwards that experience and brings it into her day.
Jesus experienced Judgement Day in advance
There is another aspect to Jesus bending time that is often not seen by believers. When Jesus went to the Cross He experienced Judgement Day in advance.
“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” John 12:31
Jesus says that the Cross was in a mysterious way the Day of Judgement in advance.
This is why so many cosmic events pertaining to Judgement Day happened as Jesus hung on the Cross. The sky darkened, the earth shook and the sun when dark.
What this means for us is that Jesus got to the Day of Judgment ahead of us. He was punished for us and as us on the Cross. Everything that was meant to happen on Judgement Day Jesus lived through already. Between now and the future Day of Judgment Jesus presents us with an incredible offer. He says, “Let’s do an exchange. I’ll trade you out my perfect life for yours. Receive my death on the Cross as my gift for you so when the Day of Judgement comes round you get what I deserve which is affirmation, blessing, and eternal life.”
When Judgment Day for real shows up and the Spirit of God examines ever person there is only going to be one person that will make it through the fire unscathed, Jesus.
Jesus offers you a divine exchange. Receive my death on the Cross as my gift for you. And receive my perfect life for you. This means when you get to Judgement Day you won’t be judged. You cannot be judged twice for the same crime.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
What has Baptism got to do with this?
Baptism is a powerful enactment of this reality that has taken place. You act out this divine exchange.
It is a point of connection with Him. Jesus identified as us in His Baptism.
At the start of His ministry Jesus appeared on the shores of the river Jordon where John the Baptist was baptizing people As Jesus presented Himself for Baptism, John protested, “I need to be baptized for you.”
John the Baptist was in the midst of a spiritual revival in Israel. The teaching fo the day was that if all Israel would repent for just one day the Messiah, God’s special anointed one would come.
People were flocking to the River Jordon to be Baptized by John. They confessed their sins and received John’s baptism as a way of being reconnected to God. One day, amongst the sinners; the pimps, prostitutes, the drug addicts and demonized was the Pure, spotless One.
And John says to Him, “This is not right. I need to be baptized by You!”
The common belief of the day was that when the Messiah showed up God would call time and bring judgement down on all people. The Messiah would usher in the Day of the Lord – Judgement Day. But Jesus shows the true heart of God. His mission was not to bring God’s judgment on people. He came that through Him they might be saved.
In His baptism:
He stood with us amid our demons, our diseases and our unbelief… He stands with us in our pride, our jealousy, our sexual seductions, our violence, our religious exportations, our racism, our hypocrisy and our guilt and shame. He stands with us as we peer into the home in the soul, the ache deep within each of us.
When we get baptized we join Jesus on the bank of the River Jordon. In doing as we go down in the waters of Baptism we are acknowledging our sin, and acknowledge our need for forgiveness. We receive His death for us and accept that all punishment has happened to Jesus and will never happen again for us. We acknowledge that our sins have been paid for, past present and future and that our old nature has died once and for all time.
And as we are raised up out of the waters we acknowledge that Jesus has given us:
His perfect standing before God.
His perfect God orientated nature.
His complete access to the Kingdom.
And His mission.
In Jesus’ Baptism a voice spoke from heaven , “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
In ancient times when a child came of age when He was deemed responsible enough to do business on his father’s behalf, the father would take his son to the city gates. The city gates were the location where laws for a locality were decided and ratified. The elders of that vicinity would come to the gates of their city to make decisions on the Laws and decrees given to them by the ruler of the nation. The elders were the gatekeepers of their vicinity. When a father came to the city gates with his child and made this declaration, “This is my beloved son in whom I’m well pleased,” he was officiating him to do his business on his behalf. From then on, when the child conducted business, it would be like the father himself was doing that action.
When Jesus was baptized, the gateway between Heaven and earth opened and a voice spoke out from Heaven. It was the voice of the Father. He spoke over his son. “This is my beloved son in whom I’m well pleased.” The Father was officiating Jesus to do His business. He was telling the listening audience when you deal with the Son you are dealing with me.
When we get baptized we take on Jesus’ mission of seeing the Kingdom.
In the Early Church Baptism was so sacred an event that it was deemed the entry point into the early Church. You were not viewed a Christian without it.