Sound Gospel: The Goal of God

 

 

Indeed man wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible.  -St. Augustine

All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves. -Blaise Pascal

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence. -Aristotle

It should be no mystery that the one thing we as human beings have in common is the fact that we all seek after happiness or abundant life. From plants to animals to human beings, all of us strive in the direction of those things we believe will ultimately make our lives better. What, however, we may not know is that this is also the reason God created us and every other living thing. He created us to experience the happiness and blessings of abundant life! And we see the evidence of this good news from Genesis to Revelation.

Consider: 

a.    The Creation account   (Genesis 1:21-31)

Notice, every living creature from animal to man is considered by God not only to be “good” (Genesis 1:21, 25, 31), but “blessed” with abundant life (“be fruitful and multiply,” Genesis 1:22, 28). And in relation to man, those abundant life blessings extend also to the roles of global stewardship and kingship as God’s majestic image-bearers (Genesis 1:26-28).[1] So this, then, is where the Bible begins, with abundant life as God’s goal for His creation.

b.    The message to Abra(ha)m   (Genesis 12:1-3)

The Scriptures would be almost impossible to understand without considering the life of Abra(ha)m in the book of Genesis. So much of what God says in the rest of the Bible has some connection to the promises made to him and what we find in these verses.[2] What, however, is most germane at this point is simply acknowledging the connection between them and this biblical truth of abundant life. Four times God mentions His intentions to bless Abra(ha)m or others through him (Genesis 12:2-3). So extensive will be the blessings rendered to Abra(ha)m that through him “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Clearly then, the goal of God from Creation is still intact:  humanity experiencing blessing-or abundant life.

c.     The message to the Israelites   (Deuteronomy 28:3-8, 11-12, 30:9, 15, 19)

Over and over in the Old Testament, the Israelites are called “the people of God” (Exodus 3:10) and, as such, they possessed God’s greatest intentions and promises of: “blessing” (Deuteronomy 28:3-6, 8, 12, 30:19) and “prosperity” (Deuteronomy 28:11, 30:9). It was also in these things that God said He would “take delight” (Deuteronomy 30:9) because this was His goal with them: what He had “set before them” (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19).  It was the goal of abundant life, a goal that they were to choose for themselves as well (“choose life!” – Deuteronomy 30:19).

Based on what we have already seen, it must be concluded that at least in the Old Testament, God’s goal with humanity was abundant life. This was to be their motivation in living: a life filled with temporal blessing and reward. In the New Testament the goal is the same; indeed, it is developed! Though the temporal life blessings remain, there is now also an emphasis on those blessings that are eternal.  It is the promise of abundance now and in eternity![3]

Consider:

d.    The Gospel of John   (John 1:1-4, 2:1-11, 3:15-16, 36, 4:13-14, 5:1-29, 6:1-14, 22-35, 68, 7:37-38, 8:12, 9:1-7, 10:10, 11:25-26, 40-44, 14:1-6, 15:5-8, 17:1-2, 20:31)

The one thing all these verses have in common is the subject of life. The word itself is used over 30 times in the book of John[4] and is a key part of almost every message or action of Jesus’ public ministry.  For this reason John’s gospel could be considered “the gospel of life.” Jesus came preaching and possessing life (John 1:4, 3:15-16, 4:14, 5:21, 26, 6:27, 35, 68, 7:38, 8:12, 10:10, 11:25-26, 14:6, 15:5). He came performing acts which bring the blessings of life (John 2:7, 5:8, 6:11, 9:6, 11:43, 17:2). Abundant life was the goal of Jesus’ ministry and the goal of John in writing his gospel (John 10:10, 20:31). And, as was stated previously, its scope is more than just the present. It is abundant life now as well as for eternity (John 3:16).

e.     The Apostle’s message   (Acts 5:20, 14:17; Romans 6:4, 8:18-23; 2Timothy 1:8-10; 1Peter 3:9-12; 2Peter 1:3; 1John 1:1-4; 3John 1:2)

Whether it was Peter, Paul or John, all were commanded to preach a gospel of “life” (Acts 5:20).  This is what Christ sets us free to (Romans 6:4; 2Timothy 1:10; 1John 1:1-4), what we have been called to (1Peter 3:9-12), what creation groans to be a part of (Romans 8:22), and where God’s divine witness and promises point (Acts 14:17; 2Peter 1:3). Abundant life continues to be the goal of God.

f.      The message of Revelation   (Revelation 21:1-4; 22:1-5)

Where the Bible starts, so also it ends: with abundant life in the new heaven on earth (Revelation 21:1), with paradise in the Garden of Eden (Revelation 22:1-2). The goal of God will be fully realized and His people fully satisfied (Revelation 21:4, 22:3-5). This is the picture that God wants us to close our Bibles with: a picture which (as we now see) spans the entire breadth of its corpus. It is the picture of happiness and abundant life as God’s ultimate purpose with humanity and the rest of His creation.

 

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[1] Further consideration of these roles, along with what we are told in Genesis 2:15 as it relates to man’s responsibility to “work” (to cultivate, Genesis 2:5) and “keep” (to guard from evil, Psalm 121:7)  the paradise like garden of Eden, seems to confirm that God’s goal of abundant life was not limited nor intended only for the first man and his wife. Instead they were, through diligent development and defense, to expand the borders of their paradise existence across the planet as the means to providing the same “Edenic” abundant-life home for their multiplied progeny as they left the garden and filled the earth.  For additional study on this subject see: The Temple and the Church’s Mission, G.K. Beale, IVP Academic, 2004.

[2] Many theologians have understood the remainder of the Bible as simply the historical fulfillment of God’s prophetic words in Genesis chapters 12-17. This is not without biblical warrant. In the New Testament alone Abraham is cited 230 times with most functioning in this respect.

[3] This is not a denial of such eternal promises in the Old Testament.  They are, however, more implicit and infrequent (Daniel 12:2)

[4] This may not seem like much until one considers this is more than double the usage found in any other gospel and well beyond what we find in any other book of the New Testament.