The Mystery of Man
By Larry White
To Understand Life…
Man is a mystery. Even though all life is mysterious, most of the living creatures on the earth do not seem to worry themselves about why they are here, but go about their allotted times and places and do what it seems they were born to do without thinking. We look at them and name their behavior instinct. What amazes us is their single minded drive to accomplish their task and the perfect ease and precise execution with which they fulfill their purpose. They have no doubt.
Man on the other hand doubts everything and wonders at his lack of knowledge of who and what he is and what he is suppose to do, for he arrives with little or no instinct. He must question everything, and must search and look and agonize over the most basic information about his own being. “A child crying in the night. A child crying for the light – with no language but a cry.” His world is in confusion. But after his despair, he finally realizes that the answers lie in the design of his own mind. He seeks meaning. He has questions. Therefore he must ask.
But whom shall he ask? No other being on earth is like him. He is a Person. He is moral and demands truth and justice. He sees purpose in everything in his environment and wonders at his ability to recognize and appreciate the design after the fact. Who is the designer and why is it that he himself can understand the mathematics that he discovers in nature that was here before him? He looks at the heavens and stands in awe of the infinite. What is man who longs after meaning and purpose, who can pursue the course of infinity and yet never attain it? If he is honest, he perceives in himself a being, not only of intellect, but also of love and joy, compassion and mercy. In his own consciousness he can perceive that he is something more – that there is someone more.
He finds that he can trust. Based upon all that he knows of his world and himself, he concludes that there must be a creator, a God. A creator worthy of the name, would not leave man to flounder in darkness. He would provide a light of truth and a way to find the answers. He would reveal himself.
We Must Understand Death
Not only is man’s life mysterious but so is his death. Why do men die? God has revealed that He created man and it was not so that man would die. God is “bringing many sons unto glory,” (Heb. 2:10). He wants man to live with him. But God is holy. Anyone who lives with God must also have holiness, “without which no one shall see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)
Man dies because we are the descendants of Adam, the first man – who died. This man sinned and was driven away from the tree of life. God said, “For dust you are,’ (you can die) ‘and unto dust you shall return,” (you will die). (Gen. 3:19) Man was going to die as a consequence or punishment for sin. We can conclude that since Adam was made of dust, death was always possible for Adam; possible, but not necessary – until after he had sinned, then it was necessary. Which begs the question: If Adam (or man) had not sinned, what would have been the outcome of his life?
There are a few things in the Bible that are not explained, but they are not hidden either. A true account of the scene is presented simply, and like a child viewing their parents’ actions, no explanation is requested or given. The prophets of old constantly wanted an explanation of what they had seen and in many instances it was allowed. But not always.
In the case of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the reason was that it was necessary to prevent man’s access to the tree of Life because he had sinned and also had “become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” (ver.22) So to prevent man from eating the tree of life and living forever in that state of estrangement, he was driven from the garden and not allowed to ever come back. What effect the fruit of the Tree of Life would have had on him is stated simply as “living forever.” Most people will assume that Adam and Eve would have continued indefinitely in their bodies of flesh and blood. But the Bible doesn’t say that. I cannot say that it would have been impossible, only that living forever in the flesh is not what God wanted for man, and therefore, not within His view or plan. Again, he’s “bringing many sons unto glory.” He wants man to be with him, he wants men to be his sons. That would necessitate a transcending of the flesh and living with God in the spirit.
It is probable then that the fruit of the Tree of Life effected a person's translation to the spiritual realm without actually dying.
It is possible therefore to conclude that the normal course of a man’s life would be a birth, a growth in maturity and spiritual understanding as a son of God and then a translation to the spiritual realm where God is. Simply going to be with God – no death involved; without sin – no death necessary.
Death then, is only because of sin and is not only the body going back to the dust, but also man’s spirit not going to be with God but going to a place of the dead (Hades) without having access to the Tree of Life and living with God. So, death is a separation from God. Because of sin, Man does not reach life. This is the Death that Jesus came to destroy.
God Became A Man...
There are many reasons why God would allow himself to become a man, and hence to experience life as a human. Destroying death is just one reason, but also the most important.
In Psalm 8:4-6, the writer, like us, wonders at the mystery of man and why God would bother with him at all.
“What is man that you are mindful of him,
Or the Son of Man that you take care of him?
You have made him a little lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And set him over the works of your hands.
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”
The writer of Hebrews, in chapter 2:8 quotes the passage in Psalms and points out however, that we do not yet see all things put in subjection beneath the feet of Man. But we do see Jesus to whom this verse also must apply because he, like we are, was a man.
9 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that he, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting for him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
11 For both he who sanctifies [makes holy] and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason he is not ashamed to call them brethren…”
“But we see Jesus.” Therein lies our key to the mystery. The son of God did not come to earth in a grand state like an angel from on high. He came as a man – at the right time in human history. He came to reveal who God is and tell us who we are. He came to show us our purpose. Like a Captain, to blaze the trail for us, he showed us the way. He came as a second Adam of a new creation. Hebrews 2 again:
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared in the same, that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,
15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Jesus was the Son of Man. "Son of" also carries the meaning "quality of". For example, the Hebrew prefix BAR in a personal name means "the son of". Hence, Barnabas means "son of consolation or encouragement". His personality was filled with that characteristic. So the term "Son of Man" is not simply to de-emphasize or hide his title of Son of God from the murderous Jewish rulers, but Jesus intended to define the relation in which he stands to humanity; man par excellence, the true man, the perfect realization of what man was to be in the mind of God. His life is the realization of the normal development of a man for which, in principle, every human being is designed. He is the only one, so far as we know, to have achieved it. He fulfilled what God had in mind for Man.
Jesus is the second Adam of a new race of men.
"And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit."
God is creating a second creation with a new man, and from him to produce a new humanity in a new age. God has created both the physical light and the spiritual light.
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.
For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
To Fulfill Man's Purpose
We get a glimpse of the mysterious purpose of man on the top of the mount of transfiguration.
Lk.9:28-31; (cf. Mt.17; Mk.9)
Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that he took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.
As he prayed, the appearance of his face was altered, and his robe became white and glistening.
And behold, two men talked with him, who were Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his decease which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
The word decease there, is the Greek word exodus. His exiting the world is under discussion and about how he was to accomplish it. Being the ideal of man as God intended a man to be, there was for Jesus two modes of departing this world.
1. Translation to glory - which was his right according to his holiness, or “agreeable to the Spirit of holiness”. This would be the normal and fitting end to an earthly life for the Son of Man. The meaning of the transfiguration on the mount could be, that if he had not planned to die for the sins of mankind, he would not have had to come back down from that mountain, but would have simply gone on to glory and stayed there with God. Being seen in glory, he would have remained in glory. This could be our one glimpse of the normal course of the life of Man. This is where Jesus diverges from a normal life.
2. The second way of exiting is the death on the cross, which was under discussion as he was standing there with Moses and Elijah on the mount. He came to this world to be the perfect, unblemished sacrificial victim for the sins of all of mankind; a representative man – in every way – both in life and in death.
So instead of being translated to glory from the mount, he instead walked back down that mountain and went to the cross to die. Like Adam before he sinned, death was possible for Jesus, but not necessary. He chose to obey his Father's command and give his life.
“Therefore my father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from my father.”
This view of the purpose for man lends us a very positive and hopeful answer to our mystery. Man was intended to live with God and sin got in the way. God dealt with the sin by the sacrifice of his own son so that we could be restored to our normal course on the way to everlasting life.
The way now is faith in Jesus.