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It Is Finished

I am on the third-to-the-last day of what I would say is a very peculiar One-Year-Bible plan. I forgot where I downloaded it exactly, but the plan had somewhat of an oscillation between the Old and New Testament. It started with Genesis, then it went to Matthew, back to Exodus, Mark, and so forth. Some of the smaller books of the Bible, such as the minor prophets and the letters of John, were clustered together during this period, and the books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Lamentations seemed to be in their own category entirely. Towards the end the sequence, it ended up looking something like this:

I John ➡ Jeremiah ➡ Psalms 134-140 ➡ II John-Jude ➡ Lamentations ➡ Ezekiel ➡ Psalms 141-150 ➡ Daniel-Malachi ➡ Revelation.

The plan ends exactly on my birthday (so timely) with Revelation chapters 21-22. By following this reading plan, I am able to understand more the different perspectives of the different books as they were written in their context, and the clear message that each book brought to the table. This type of plan does tend to hit a dry spell towards the middle, as you might understand that there seems to be some repetitiveness that comes with reading psalm after psalm or prophet after prophet for several days in a row. Although I now see the value of reading the Bible in a year, I don’t think I would do it again for 2018 due to the dry spell, and I think I’m going to start with more topical Bible reading plans. Regardless, I do now appreciate the Bible a bit more as a whole.

All this is beside the point. What brought me to writing this entry is what I read in today’s reading, in Revelation 16. In verse 17, the last of seven angels pours out a bowl of God’s wrathful judgment over the world, which causes a terrible combo of storms and earthquakes throughout the earth, shattering buildings and cities into pieces and bringing forth God’s punishment upon Babylon and the rebellious nations of the world. This theme was touched upon again in again in the books of the prophets, both major and minor, so this was a familiar topic for me. But what caught my attention with this verse was a shout that came from the throne of the Temple of the Lord in heaven.

It is finished!”

It was from this same Temple that God sent his seven angels, with his seven bowls of wrath, to pour upon the nations in fury. This shout had a familiar ring to it, reminiscent of what Christ shouted when He had finished suffering on the cross on Golgotha, before giving up his spirit to the Father (see also Matthew 27:50 and Luke 23:46).

I was a nice blend of astounded, amazed, and terrified when I read this phrase once again in the book of Revelation. I was told that when Jesus died on the cross, He shouted this phrase to signify that He had finished atoning for the sins of the world, having received the suffering and the pain that we would justly receive for our sins.

We in the 21st century have a tendency to take for granted these phrases in the Bible, as we fail to appreciate the context of these phrases as they are read in the Scripture. Consequently, their meanings to us today is different by several steps from what was understood by the authors and readers of the time. This is one of the reasons that I believe attending Sunday worship as well as meeting with other believers is crucial in the life of a Christian. Fellowship, especially with those who are more versed in the Word, allows us to broaden our perspectives and understand the Bible deeper in its Hebrew and Greek context. Although it is vital for us to read the Bible on our own, we cannot neglect fellowship with others who are in Christ.

All this to say that only in attending Sunday service did I appreciate this phrase in its deeper meaning. It was not just something you would utter when you were finished with just anything, like a meal, or an exam, or an exercise routine. In Greek, the phrase that came Jesus’ lips was “Tetelestai,” which means “paid in full.” In Rome, when citizens committed a crime, they would be taken to prison to serve a sentence. And when their time was complete, a statement would be written over their record saying these exact words, to signify that their punishment had been received.


Now we can understand that when Jesus said this on the cross, it did not just mean that His shift was over, now ready to time out of the office and get some heavenly R&R. (Though God the Father did this in Creation!) His shout meant that the sins of the world were atoned for, over and done with, the punishment had been delivered, and God’s fiery anger had been quenched. See, all of us have sinned, all are impure, none could please God apart from the love of Christ for us. Contrary to what popular culture may tell you, we are all sinners at the core, and none of us was capable of making ourselves right with God. It was out of love that Christ died, for only He the perfect Son of God could atone for our sins by offering the perfect sacrifice.

So why then does He give this shout once more from the throne of His Temple? We recall that when He died for us, He was literally God forsaken. A scapegoat forgotten and thrown away from the presence of the Father. And yet, when He shouts this in Revelation, He is in a completely different form–so magnificent and terrifying! Why would he die for us, then punish us again… what gives?

The answer is that He doesn’t. Rather it is twice, that the sins of humanity as a whole are atoned for. But my God is not a redundant God, and thus these two atonements are for two different halves of humanity. The first time, Christ gave Himself up on the cross to pay (in completion!) for anyone who would confess their sins and believe that He was Lord. And the second time? It will paid for by everyone else–those who choose not to turn to God. Whether we accept His blood and His lordship is what determines whether we end up in category A or B.

It does not make sense for Christ to die for the sins of humanity, and again punish humanity once again for what He already died for. Christ’s sacrifice is complete, and it is only by His sacrifice that we can be made right with God. And other than through Him, we are cursed, forsaken vagabonds deserving of His wrath. Other than through Him, we cannot glorify the Father.

This only reinforces in me that there is no such thing as “coexist”. I stand firm knowing that my God is not the god of another religion by another name. My God is YAHWEH! It is only my God who would choose to become man for the sake of His children. Only my God would choose to bear my suffering in my place. It is only my God who will run to me when He sees me far off, limping my way home. Only my God says that not by my effort, but by His power, am I reunited with Him. Only my God can fulfill His promise, and finish what He started.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

Sacrifice of the Firstborn

There was a ritual in the Old Testament, the firstborn sons would be brought to the Tabernacle and sacrificed to the Lord, in a stark contrast to cultures of surrounding nations of the day. Other nations practiced the abomination of slaughtering their children in worship of their idols. On the flipside, the children of the Israelites would be presented to God, after being informed of how their nation was saved from slavery in Egypt, to then be substituted by the Levites who would then serve Yahweh in their place.

I am reminded of two discernible events in the Old Testament. The first was the Passover and the Exodus, which I already alluded to in the previous paragraph. Prior to the final plague of Egypt, the Israelites were to sacrifice a lamb, from which they would take blood to wipe on their doorposts. That night, all the firstborn were slaughtered throughout Egypt, and only those who had the blood of the lamb on their doorposts were spared. It was during this onslaught that the Hebrews established the feast of the Passover, as well as the dedication of the firstborn. When the Israelites were in their most sinful state, God still cared for them and remembered His covenant with his people for ages to come.

The other event I recall was Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac his son. At a time that Abraham was trusting God for a grand promise of being the father of an entire nation, God challenged Abraham by asking him to dedicate his own son as a sacrifice on the altar, in a way that mirrored evil pagan practices that Moses would warn against in the future. At this time, no such laws were present that would prevent Abraham from conducting such a sacrifice, but it was out of faith that he went on with obeying God’s command. As we all know, God stopped him at the last minute by sending an angel, and a ram to take the place of his son.

Myself being the firstborn, these verses touch my heart in such a way that I often wonder how I manage to live life from day to day. So much emotion, so much conflict and struggles, and yet I still manage to make it through. I often have to remind myself that my hope and my future are nothing that I have earned, and nothing I deserve.

I am a sinner, and I often stumble and fall. I deserve death, and nothing less. But having been born again as a son of God, I recognize how Christ gave himself up for me so I could be forgiven. And because he rose up, I have that chance to rise up again and again whenever I fall. So I have no reason to live a life of fear or mediocrity. Because of what Christ did for me, I am a new creation. And everyday is beautiful, each day a brand new chance to thank him.


I don’t live my life for just myself, because if I lived it just for myself, to what avail would that be? Living for myself to an end is vanity, as my life is only so small and so short relative to eternity. Life is only worth living if I lived it for God. If it means submitting to His will, then it is worth it to put my rights at the backseat.

I do not take fondly to being called a “millennial”, although it is a fact that I am one. “Millennial” is the label that has been plastered upon my generation, and every individual that has been born into it. This word itself brings cringes from the bundle of nerves in my sacrum. It describes a generation of people born within the last few decades and the first few years following the recent millennium, hence the name. The word annoys me because of the underlying notion of entitlement that comes with it.

Entitlement is a feeling that one is deserving of privileges, of rights, of being treated a certain way. If I were to be honest, I could not wash my hands to it. I can name (many) instances that I caught myself feeling entitled to something. Days when I was mad that I wasn’t being picked up on time, times that I felt that I didn’t have to do a certain task because I held a special position, when I felt that a teacher was being unfair because they weren’t teaching me a certain way or that I was being treated harshly. You name it, I’m probably guilty of it.

I don’t feel that anything is wrong with wanting something that is rightfully yours. There is merit in knowing what is due you and fighting for it. It can be expected, it is just, even the Bible supports it. What justice would there be if nobody asserted their rights? But I believe the problems arise when our goals, our vision, our purpose and God’s purpose for our lives, is dethroned by our ego fighting for what we so desperately believe we deserve.

Being in medical school has helped me to slowly realize this for myself. I am not perfect, and I still have so much leveling up to do as far as humility is concerned. But God has used medical school to teach me that my life is not about myself. If I want to live my life for him, I have to stop expecting good things to come my way, that I (most of the time) have to work hard if I want to get what I want, and that I am to put the interests of others before my own.

Myself being in my third year of medical school, I can attest that it has not been a smooth journey. Being consistently tested not just for knowledge but also for endurance, perseverance, and diligence tempts one to deviate from the ideals that one lives by. When a lecturer disrespects your class and imposes unfair standards, it is very easy to grumble, and to stray to an attitude of rebellion and discontent, rather than turn to acceptable methods of grievance. When things get tedious and monotonous, one is tempted to be disrespectful, give a halfhearted effort, and complain that the lecturers “do not know how to teach”. With this attitude, when one’s world comes crashing apart, one would ultimately resort to self-gratifying behaviors–food, alcohol, friends, video games, series, you name it–forgetting turn to God in prayer.

When you have an attitude of entitlement, God is no longer your god. Instead, you make yourself the captain of your own ship, sending yourself wherever you want to go. You become your own ‘god’, a scary place to go.

The title of ‘god’ comes with a very demanding job description. It means managing reality itself (or whatever it is you are the ‘god’ of) around the clock, 86,400 seconds a day, 365 days a year. It means upholding truth, and bestowing justice upon all your creation. I myself have a hard time managing my own schedule as a medical student, let alone the universe and everything in it. When I realize this, I remember that in all of history, there has only been ONE who has ever been able to fit the job description.

I don’t live my life for just myself, because if I lived it just for myself, to what avail would that be? Living for myself to an end is vanity, as my life is only so small and so short relative to eternity. Life is only worth living if I lived it for God. If it means submitting to His will, then it is worth it to put my rights at the backseat.

Because of who I am, I deserve nothing. But God, through His love and mercy, has given me all that I need. My purpose and destiny is secure in His purpose.

I deserve nothing, but He has given me everything.

Look to the Stars

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

– Philippians 2:3-8, NLT

Last Friday night, I was on my way to d-group when I found myself looking up at the vast evening sky. The night was dark, and quiet, and despite the usual pollution that masks the lights of Pasig City, I was able to catch a glimpse of the stars. I recall my grade school days, back when I was just a humble boy scout, pedantically looking at the stars and mapping them out (or trying my best to map them out) on a tiny sheet of paper.

It was here that I recalled the promise that God gave Abraham, when he took him out to gaze upon the evening sky.

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

– Genesis 15:5, NIV

In the old times, it was a great honor for a man to have a child. Abraham, though he was old and aged at the time of this promise, had no children of his own. Yet it was at this very moment that Abraham was being given such a grand promise, that his lineage would be in the multitudes.

The stars in the sky, we will never fully know the exact number. But based on what we know, there are estimated to be as many as 10 to the 24th power; at least that is what we can deduce from the observable universe. And yet, this many descendants was what was promised by God to Abraham.

Now Abraham could have thought two things, when he was told this. He could have either told himself, “God has promised me so much, it’s all for me!” Or he could have said, “Who am I, that You have all of this in store for me?”

It is so easy for us to get caught up in selfishness and think that we are the hero of the story, the center of the galaxy, the focus of the universe. We can go out of our way to receive what we think we deserve, to get the things we want, to turn the world into our footstool. It’s all about me!

It seems completely logical when we live our life, with our own ends in mind. We have to survive, we have to provide, we have to see to it that we can see to live tomorrow. But we can realize that living for ourselves is meaningless. There will soon come a day when we will eat the dust of death, and each of us will ultimately lose everything we accumulate on earth. Sooner or later. When life is about “living for me,” life is meaningless.

Look to the stars. Earth is just a speck in this solar system, which is just a smudge in this galaxy called the Milky Way. Just one of thousands of other galaxies in our night sky. Compared to the rest of our universe, you are insignificant.

And yet, compared to God, our universe is insignificant. He created everything from the biggest and brightest star to the smallest ant. But because of His love for us all, He has called for to be partners in His almighty plan. All the meaninglessness of life is ultimately lost when we respond to this call. When we choose to live day-by-day in accordance with His word.

It takes a special kind of humility to see that life is only worth living when you live it for God. And it brings a special kind of fulfillment to live it for God and God alone.