Cycle 6: Jesus and His Church (Matthew 1 to Revelation 22)

So last week we looked at the story of King David and what happened to his kingdom after him. Because of Solomon’s idolatry, God allowed the kingdom to be split in two: north and south.

The northern kingdom rejected God completely, and so after three hundred years God brought judgement upon them. They were conquered and scattered among the nations. Destroyed, just as Cain’s descendants were destroyed in Noah’s flood.

The southern kingdom — David’s kingdom — tried to remain faithful to God, but…five hundred years after David God had to bring judgement upon them as well: they were conquered, and scattered among the Babylonian empire. However, God preserved some of David’s people in the midst of that judgement, just as he preserved some of Seth’s descendants by telling Noah to build a boat.

And so, after seventy years in slavery, David’s people — now known as the Jews — were brought back to Jerusalem. And by this point they had gotten the idea that if they could just obey God’s law perfectly, the Messiah would come, re-start David’s kingdom, set them free from Babylon, sit down on David’s throne and rule the world forever.

But we saw that it did not work. They were set free from Babylon…when they were conquered by Persia. And then they were set free from slavery to Persia…when they were conquered by Greece. And then they were set free from Greece…when they were conquered by the Romans.

And that is where we ended last week, at the end of Cycle number Five. The Jewish people are still in slavery. They have been paying attention to their own cycles of history — Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David — and they have figured out that their problem is idolatry and corruption.

However, they still think they can cure their idolatry and corruption by obeying God’s law.

So they’ve figured out the problem, but they are still wrong about the solution. And because they are wrong about the solution, at the beginning of the New Testament we find that the Jewish people are looking for the wrong kind of Messiah. They are looking for the wrong kind of deliverance. Because they think they can cure their own corruption through the law, they are only looking for a political Messiah who will save them from the Romans.

Now, through the Old Testament prophets, God kept promising a Messiah who would save them from their sinful corruption. But at the beginning of the New Testament, we find the leaders of the Jewish people saying, “No thanks, we’ve got the corruption thing fixed. What we need from you is a king to give these Romans two tight slaps.”

So we see that nothing, really, has changed from the beginning of Cycle Five: the people still want a king.

So God gives them a king: Cycle number Six.

As always, we start with Step One: the problem. The people are still in slavery to Babylon; its just that Babylon has changed management a few times.

But of course their real problem is not physical slavery to Babylon, it is spiritual slavery to the serpent, slavery to Adam’s corruption.

Step Two: God provides a hero.

But he doesn’t just choose a man like he did with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. This time he goes back to the beginning, to Cycle number One: he creates his own. In the very beginning, God took some dust and breathed his Spirit into it, and it became a man: Adam. Now, in Cycle number Six, God takes a young woman, Mary, and breathes his Spirit into her, and she produces a man: Jesus.

Why does he do it this way? Two reasons.

First, by breathing his Spirit into Mary — instead of into dust, like before — God made sure that Jesus was fully human. This is important because God promised his Messiah would be a Son of Eve, a human being. It was a human being who screwed up in the first place, so a human being was needed to fix it. That is the point we read just now in Hebrews 2:10-11, In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. [11] Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. Jesus had to be human, so he could be made perfect through what he suffered. In other words, Jesus had to prove himself faithful. And in order to do that, he had to be human.

However, he needed to be more than human. As we have seen, the Old Testament is full of human messiahs. They’ve been great! — but not good enough. So the second reason God breathed his Spirit directly into Mary — instead of letting a man make her pregnant naturally — was to make sure that Jesus was fully divine as well as human. This is important because God promised David that David’s Son would also be God’s Son.

This is important because the root problem with being human is having Adam as a father. Yes, Eve sinned also. But Adam was responsible! Therefore human corruption is passed down through Adam, through the father. Sorry, brothers, but according to scripture, it is males who carry the sin virus. It is we who infect the female with yet another fallen generation of humanity. So, by breathing his Spirit directly into Mary, God made sure Jesus would be born without Adam’s corruption.

So God provides a hero, a Messiah, the Son of Eve he promised way back at the beginning.

Step Three: Jesus grows up, he is anointed king by a prophet — just like David was — and God makes a deal with him, just like he did with the others: you save my people from slavery. Create a safe space for them. And in return, I will live with you and all your people forever.

The difference, this time, is that Jesus is going to save God’s people from slavery to sin and corruption, not just from political enemies. That is what we read just now in Hebrews 2:14, Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— [15] and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

See, all the messiahs of the Old Testament were called to build physical safe spaces that pointed to spiritual salvation. That’s all they could do, because their were spiritually corrupted by Adam. But Jesus, because his spirit is not corrupt, is able to build a spiritual safe space that leads to a physical salvation.

So, Step Four: Jesus keeps his part of the deal. Just like King David, Jesus goes through a time of testing. Just like David, he basically has to win his own kingdom. He raises an army, he fights against Israel’s enemies — namely, Satan and his demons — he wins, and then just like David he conquers Jerusalem.

But, of course, we have to keep in mind that this whole war was a spiritual war, designed to build a spiritual safe space.

Okay, so: what’s the next step?

Five: the sacrifice.

Every messiah in the Old Testament — except Adam, who failed — made a sacrifice when he had completed his part of the deal. So it was necessary for Jesus to follow the same pattern. But what is he going to sacrifice? And what effect is it going to have?

Well, we know how it goes, don’t we? Jesus sacrifices himself.

If you are interested in the details of that story, you can listen to our sermon series on Luke, called “The Prince and the Dragon”. It is available on our website,

And as per the pattern, the sacrifice triggers Step Six: God makes an eternal covenant with his Messiah.

And this is where we find out that this New Covenant sums up and fulfills all the Old Testament covenants.

Here’s how:

Noah sacrificed animals, and God made a covenant with him: “I will save your children forever from judgement by water.” Now Jesus sacrifices himself, and God makes a covenant with him: “I will save your children forever from every kind of judgement!”

Jesus fulfills God’s covenant with Noah.

Abraham (almost) sacrificed his son Isaac, and God made a covenant with him: “I will provide another beloved first-born Son to sacrifice in exchange for your children.” Now Jesus sacrifices himself, and proves that he is the beloved first-born Son, given in exchange for all Abraham’s children!

Jesus fulfills God’s covenant with Abraham.

Moses sacrificed bulls and goats and baptized his people with the blood, and God made a covenant with him: “Your people are now my people, as long as they remain holy.” Now, Jesus sacrifices himself, and baptizes his people with his own blood, and God makes a covenant with him: “Your people are now my people, and I will keep them holy forever!” This is the part we read together just before this, in Hebrews 9:13, The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. That was Moses’ baptism. But, verse 14: How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

Jesus fulfills God’s covenant with Moses: he actually cures the corruption of every person who is sprinkled by his blood.

Now, some of you are wondering, “How do we get sprinkled with Jesus’ blood?”

Well…we will get to that in a minute.

And then, finally, we remember that David sacrificed thousands of bulls and calves when he brought God’s throne into Jerusalem, and God made a covenant with him: “One of your sons will rule as king beside me for all eternity.” And now Jesus the Son sacrifices himself, and in response his Father raises him up from the dead and raises him up into heaven, where he rules at his Father’s right hand.

Jesus fulfills God’s covenant with David.

So we are seeing that Jesus fulfills every covenant God made in the Old Testament. All five of the Old Covenant cycles find their completion in Christ, who is the head of the New Covenant. And that is exactly what we read together a little while ago from Hebrews 9:15, For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

This means that the Old Covenant has passed away. It has finished its work; through Christ it has been transformed into the New Covenant.

Here is another way to think about it: the Old Covenant was like a seed. It had all the right DNA to provide life, but it was not yet activated. Jesus activated it. Jesus planted it, and it grew in to a tree of life called the New Covenant. The same genetic code that was in the seed is in the tree also; and yet the tree looks nothing like the seed. The seed is still there, but it has become the root system of the tree. We should study the root system, the first five cycles, as we just have. But the tree is what produces the fruit that gives us life!

Now, how did this happen?

How did Jesus bring the Old Covenant to life and transform it into the living New Covenant that could actually cure Adam’s corruption?

In other words: “How do we get sprinkled with Jesus’ blood?”

Well, in the Old Testament, Moses sprinkled animal blood on his people, and this action officially turned them into God’s people.

Now, in the New Testament, ten days after Jesus sat down to rule at his Father’s right hand, he pours out the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, and this action actually turned them into the Church, God’s people.

The pouring out of the Holy Spirit is the sprinkling of Jesus’ blood on the church, the Spirit that cleanses our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

And — this is another cool part — this pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the Church is the covenant sign for Cycle number Six. Every covenant cycle since Noah has come with a covenant sign. And as we have seen, in the Old Testament, the covenant signs were all physical, outward signs of what was supposed to be an internal reality — but the signs could not create the internal reality.

But this covenant sign, the Holy Spirit, is the internal reality!

So just as Jesus’ New Covenant sacrifice completed and fulfilled all the Old Testament sacrifices, now the Holy Spirit’s New Covenant sign completes and fulfills all the human-performed Old Testament covenant signs.

Abraham’s circumcision pointed forward to the day when God would circumcise the hearts of his people. Now the Holy Spirit is the one who actually circumcises our hearts.

Moses’ Sabbath Day pointed forward to the day when God would give his people rest from sin and slavery. Now the Holy Spirit is the one who actually gives us that rest.

David’s throne pointed forward to the day when God’s people would be ruled by God’s Son. Now the Holy Spirit is the one who actually connects us directly to our king.

And what those first Christians began to realize is that, just as the Old Testament seed was activated and transformed by the Spirit, all the Old Testament signs were also activated and transformed. Circumcision and blood baptism — which symbolized internal transformation — became water baptism, which is the sign and seal of actual internal transformation. The Passover — which symbolized God’s promised covenant of salvation — became our Lord’s Supper, which is the sign and seal of God’s completed covenant of salvation.

And Adam’s garden, Noah’s boat, Abraham’s family, Moses’ tent (the tabernacle), David’s city — all those safe spaces that symbolized God’s presence with his people — they all became the Church, which actually is the place where God actually lives with his people. God lives with us, through his Holy Spirit, in a way that no one in any of the previous five cycles enjoyed.

The Church is the safe space that Jesus was sent to create. The Church is the fulfillment of all those Old Testament safe spaces. Those were all just shadows; through the Holy Spirit, the Church is the living reality.

And this makes all the difference…for Step number Seven of our cycle.

Because, by this point, we know what happens in Step Seven of every cycle, right? The sons who reject God’s covenant quickly get worse and worse, more and more corrupt and violent. The sons who accept God’s covenant do well for a while…but then, eventually, they fall apart and compromise with the other side.

But our Step Seven is different. Because of the Holy Spirit, because of the living Church, the cycle of corruption has been broken.


Well, let’s look back at the other five cycles. What went wrong those times?

God provided a garden for Adam and his children. But they left.

God provided a boat for Noah and his children. But they left — they had to, in order to continue with life.

God provided a promised land for Abraham and his children. But they left, they moved to Egypt.

God provided a tent for Moses and his children, so he could travel with his people. But they neglected it, and even lost God’s sofa.

God provided a city and a temple for David and his children, so he could live with them and rule them forever. But they neglected it, and lost it, and ended up scattered among the nations.

But God has provided us with the Church, a safe space brought to life by the living Spirit of God. Which means that wherever we go, whatever we do, the Spirit of God is with us, restraining us from the worst kinds of evil, rescuing us — and the world — from the eternal consequences of our sins.

The children of Seth fell out of God’s protection. The children of Shem fell out of God’s protection. The children of Abraham fell out of God’s protection. But the children of Jesus will never fall out of God’s protection, because we are bound into his Church by an eternal covenant: completed by Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit.

So here we are in that chart in our worship guides: the very last box at the end of the very last cycle. We are safe from our own corruption, safe from the judgement of God. We cannot fall into slavery to other nations in the same way that God’s people in the Old Testament did. Jesus broke that cycle. He has redeemed us from corruption and slavery. We are spiritually safe from Satan and his followers.

But we are not necessarily physically safe. We are redeemed. But the earth itself is not yet redeemed. It is still a wilderness, just as it was in Adam’s time. Our churches are supposed to be like little gardens of Eden, safe spaces in the midst of a corrupted world. Like Adam was supposed to do, Jesus is working to expand our little gardens, gathering in all his lost people from every corner of the world.

But sometimes the corruption of the world out there breaks in here. Sometimes false teachers, false prophets sneak into the Church to deceive people, like the serpent did. And sometimes governments try to dominate the Church, just like Egypt and Babylon dominated Abraham’s children. We are safe, we are at rest, but still we remain on our guard while we wait for Christ to return.

See, the good news about our Step Seven is that we have been rescued from the cycle of slavery to sin and death and Satan.

The bad news about our Step Seven is that the sons of Cain, the sons of Ham, the sons of Babylon are still out there, and growing more corrupt by the minute. The bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is currently restraining their wickedness in order to give the Church time to complete her work of gathering in the full number of God’s lost children.

But as we get closer to the end, the bible says that the Holy Spirit is going to allow the children of Satan to have their own way more and more. The bible tells us that before Jesus returns the Church is going to enter a final time of testing and persecution. The book of Revelation tells us that near the end Babylon will rise up and try to its best to stamp out the Church, just as Egypt tried to wipe out Abraham’s children at the end of Cycle Three.

[To be clear: in the book of Revelation, “Babylon” is a metaphor. It stands for the corrupt world system that has rejected God. The author is not saying that the nation of Iraq is going to rise up and try to stamp out the Church.]

Anyway, here we are, in the last box of the last cycle. Our spirits are resurrected; but our physical world is not yet. So we live in this tension where we are perfectly safe, perfectly free! and at the same time still subject to grief, and decay, the earthly consequences of our sins and others’. And the Word of God warns us that it will get worse before it gets better.

So where is our hope, then, in light of this difficult prophecy?

Well, let us look back through the previous five cycles and ask: where was their hope?

Where was Abraham’s hope when God told him in advance that his children would be enslaved by Egypt for 400 years?

Where was Moses’ hope when God told him in advance that his people would fall into terrible slavery in Babylon?

They put their hope in God’s covenant promise. They put their hope in the Messiah to come.

Ours is the same hope.

The difference is that while we wait for our Messiah to return, we have the Church, we have the Holy Spirit, we have the living Word of God, we have the completed covenant to keep us safe.

Okay. So…what does this mean for us. What does our Father want us to believe and do because of all this?

There are too many things to mention, really.

But, to keep things simple: in many ways the application here is the same as in all the previous cycles. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot be perfectly righteous like the Messiah — but we can join the Messiah’s family.

So, if you are here today and you are still trying to figure out how to make yourself righteous, if you are still trying to figure out how to heal yourself from the sins handed down to you from your fathers…it is time to give up. Be baptised. Join Jesus’ safe space — the Church — and discover what it means to finally have the rest you have been looking for all your life.

Okay. But what about those of us who have already received the Holy Spirit and been joined to the Church? What does our Father want us to believe and do?

Believe this: God always sends his Messiah at exactly the right moment. He will send us his Messiah at exactly the right moment.

Now, I know it doesn’t always feel like that. We often feel like God waits until the very last second. But there are three things we should remember about this:

First, we have to remember that God actually steps in to rescue us early 99.9% percent of the time, before there is even a problem. So we don’t even notice. When your child is born healthy, when your salary arrives on time, when you don’t have to worry about how to find food tomorrow, or whatever, we are thankful to God of course, but we don’t often think about what could have happened if God had chosen to move differently in those areas. We don’t realize just how much blessing he pours out on us every day.

Second, we have to remember that .01% of the time God does choose to move more slowly…because he loves us. We are his children, adopted from the slums and slave-markets of Satan’s world. We learned a lot of bad habits while we were orphans. Our Father is in the business of healing us, breaking us of those self-destructive habits. The bible tells us that it is especially through our sufferings that our Father brings us deliverance from our habitual corruption.

Third, when it feels like God is delaying, we need to remember that this is not our fault. We must ask our Father to protect us from making the same mistake the Jews of Jesus’ time made. They thought God would send his Messiah to save them if they could be good enough. But that is never how our Father has worked! At each crisis point in Israel’s history, he sent each Messiah at exactly the right time, not because the people did anything right, but simply because he had promised to love them and rescue them and bring them home. The only thing God’s people have ever been called to do is repent and live by faith in God’s promise to provide a Messiah.

So, what does our Father want us to believe?

He wants us to believe that Jesus will return to earth at just the right moment of our crisis, not because we are being “good enough”, but simply because he has promised to love us and rescue us and bring us home.

Okay. Practically speaking, though: what does our Father want us to do because of this belief? How does this change our lives today? How does this help me face the crisis I have right now in my career, in my marriage, in my parenting, my health, whatever?

First of all, the gospel is more about what God does for us, not what we do for him. And one practical thing the gospel does for us is redefine our sufferings. It helps us see, through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, that these sufferings are actually part of God’s blessing in my life. And as we begin to recognize our Father’s smile even through the grief…we begin to redefine what deliverance means. And this teaches us how to pray — and give thanks — for a different kind of deliverance.

See, as long as we continue to believe that deliverance means just getting rid of the problems in our lives, we will continue to pray for the wrong kind of Messiah. If we keep on defining deliverance improperly, as the Jews of Jesus’ day did, then we will end up preaching the wrong kind of deliverance to ourselves and to one another.

For instance, if you have a Christian friend who is struggling with same-sex attraction, you cannot say, “Hey, just press on in the faith and I am confident that God will remove those sinful feelings from you!” We don’t know that! It could be our Father’s will for your friend to struggle with that sin all her life, and through that struggle to experience a depth of relationship with God that you will never know.

If you have a friend who is fifty years old and just been retrenched because his skills are now obsolete, you cannot say, “Hey, I am confident that God has a better career lined up for you!” That’s nice to say but you don’t know that! It could be our Father’s will for your friend to struggle financially for the rest of his life, and through this to experience a reliance and trust in God that you will never know.

Our Father’s gospel changes how we see our sufferings. And that changes how we define deliverance. Which changes how we pray for deliverance, and how we preach deliverance to one another.

Let me offer you a personal example:

All my life I have felt guilty about my lack of a prayer life, and I often prayed that our Father would teach me how to pray.

Well, two years ago he finally did it: he gave my wife a chronic illness, one that is likely to shorten her life by many years. Now, did we pray for immediate deliverance: physical healing? Of course we did! And still do. But through this grief, through these storms that have forced us to trust our Father to keep us afloat, we have discovered a different kind of deliverance. We have discovered contentment. Rest. A peace that is beyond our understanding. And this has changed how we pray, and how we comfort one another.

My wife often asks me, when another storm hits our family, “Ian, are we going to be okay?”

Now, what can I say? “Yes, I am confident that God is going to heal you. I am confident that all these medical bills are going to miraculously disappear. I am confident that our children will have a bright and prosperous future.” But I don’t know those things, so I can’t say them.

Fortunately, when my wife says, “Are going to be okay?” I know she is not asking for any of those things. What she is asking is this: “Ian, is our Father going to provide what we need for today? Is our Father going to give us the strength to endure? Is our Father going to carry us safely all the way home?”

So what is my answer? Yes. We are going to be okay. Whatever happens, whatever the future holds, we are going to be okay. But we don’t always know what okay looks like on this side of eternity. Sometimes it looks like peace and plenty. Sometimes it looks like suffering. God’s Word tells us that before the return of our king, it will mean severe global persecution for those of us who have the name of Christ.

But we are going to be okay.

So what does our Father want us to believe? He wants us to believe that his salvation always comes to his people in just the right way at just the right time, because he keeps his promises.

What does he want us to do? He wants us to see our sufferings differently, he wants us to understand deliverance differently, he wants us to pray differently.

And, just in case you’re thinking, “Oh, no, I don’t know how to do that!” — don’t worry. God is God. He will make sure this happens. Okay? The weight is not on us to make it happen. It will happen when God makes it happen, because — remember the gospel? He always gives us just what we need at just the right time.

So let us continue in faith as we look forward to the return of our king, the redemption of our bodies and this old earth.

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