THY BROTHER WAS DEAD, AND IS ALIVE AGAIN
By John C. Carpenter
 
Publicans and sinners drew near to Jesus so they could hear what He was saying (Luke 15:1). Then the pharisees and scribes murmured against Christ, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them (Luke 15:2). In defense of His pursuit, reception, and interaction with sinners, Jesus first gave and explained to those near Him the parables of the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7) and the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10). Then the Lord gave and explained to those listening to Him a rather long parable, the parable of the prodigal son. The Lord said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet [appropriate] that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found (Luke 15:11-32). In the parable of the prodigal son, we can see five biblical phases that this younger son went through: his relationship to his father and family, his rebellion against his father, his repentance of his sin of rejecting his father, his restoration by his father back into the family, and his reward.
 
A CERTAIN MAN HAD TWO SONS
 
In the parable that the Lord gives us, we must first recognize that there was a relationship between the father and his two sons. The three were a family, probably living in the same house together. A mother and other children may have been a part of this family, but they are not necessary in this parable for the Lord to make His point; if they existed, they are not mentioned in the parable. As we know from scriptures, Jesus often used parables involving the natural, or physical, realm to make a spiritual point, and, again, this is what He did in this parable. Jesus begins His parable in verse 11 by referring to a certain man. Certain means some or any, man refers a fellow, husband, or sir, and sons refer to a child, foal, or son. In the natural realm, Jesus is simply referring to a man, a father, who had two sons. In the spiritual realm, the man represents, of course, God the Father, our spiritual and heavenly Father. God, as our heavenly and spiritual Father, is mentioned throughout the scriptures. For example, when teaching about anxiety, the Lord mentioned the provision of His heavenly Father: Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things (Mat 6:31-32). Writing the Ephesian church, Paul referred to our Father in heaven: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ (Eph 1:3). Paul also referred to his prayers for the Ephesians, That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him (Eph 1:17). To the believers in Rome, the apostle Paul also mentioned the heavenly Father when he wrote, Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even [specifically] the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 15:5-6). John referred to our relationship with God the Father when he wrote, That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3). In teaching His disciples to pray, the Lord, Himself, in fact specifically refers to Our Father which art in heaven... (Luke 11:2).
 
Spiritually speaking, sons refer to all individuals [sons and daughters] who have come to faith in Christ, who have a relationship with their heavenly Father, and who are the children of the most high God. John teaches us But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13), whereas Paul wrote, For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (Rom 8:14). God specifically spoke through Paul what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Cor 6:15-18). Christ, just prior to His crucifixion, prayed. Father, glorify thy name... (John 12:28). Scriptures clearly refer to believers as children of God the Father: And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams (Act 2:17). Paul wrote the christian church in Rome, we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son [Jesus Christ], that he [Jesus Christ] might be the firstborn among many brethren [spiritually born brothers and sisters] (Rom 8:28-29). Every individual who confesses with their mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and believes in their heart that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead (John 10:9) is saved and considered to be a son or daughter of God; and every son or daughter has a relationship with God the Father, just as the two sons did in our subject verses.
 
TOOK HIS JOURNEY INTO A FAR COUNTRY
 
Scriptures next tell us that the younger son rebelled against his father and the life he had known thus far: the younger [brother] of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion [section or part divided to me, my share] of goods [my inheritance] that falleth [belongs] to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all [his inheritance and worldly goods] together, and took his journey into a far [distant; i.e., very different] country [territory, land, location], and there wasted his substance with riotous living. Scriptures then tell us that the younger of the two brothers became unhappy with his current life, and decided to leave his father, older brother, and the home he had known. The word younger is translated from the Greek word neos, which means new, young, fresh, or regenerated. In our context, younger certainly refers to chronological age, although it may also refer to immaturity, naivete, innocence, and inexperience. When the younger brother left his father, he may not have known what he was leaving behind, nor, more so, what was ahead of him. He just knew he wanted something different. The younger, naive, inexperienced son decided to try to live his life on his own, doing his own thing the way he thought he wanted to, apart from the father, brother, and all he had known. He asked his father to give him now the inheritance that was his own, so that he could spend it now as he saw fit. Scriptures then instruct us that the father did give his younger son his inheritance, and that the son took his journey into a far land. The word far is translated from the Greek wordmakros, which means distant, which is probably a reference to not only an area of land some physical distance away, but probably to a land, country, or lifestyle that is very different from the one previously known. The younger brother probably did not know what he was getting into, and how hard and cruel the real world could be. He just wanted to leave home. We then learn that while on his journey into a far land, the younger son, not only spent, but wasted his inheritance on what is referred to as riotous living. The word wasted is translated from the Greek word diaskorpizo, which means to dissipate, disperse, strew, or squander, while the wordriotous, translated from the Greek word asotos, means dissolutely, profligate, extravagant, and self-indulgent. Well, this probably immature, naive, inexperienced, younger brother did in fact leave the life he had known, and traveled into a country or area very far and very different from the life he had previously known, where he completely squandered his inheritance in a prodigal fashion, that is in a self-indulgent, extravagant, and wasteful manner.
 
I HAVE SINNED AGAINST HEAVEN, AND BEFORE THEE
 
Scriptures then reveal to us what happened next to this younger brother who rejected and sinned against his father: And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. We are told that after the younger son spent all of the inheritance that he had requested and that his father had given him, he began to be in want. The word want is translated from the Greek word hustereo, which means to later be inferior to what was previously had, to fall short, be destitute, suffer need, or be worse off. The younger brother realized that he was now worse off than he had been in the past; his need was very great, and immediate. Because of his great need, he befriended a citizen of the town or area he was in, who sent him into his fields to feed his swine. No one offered to help him in any way and save him from his circumstances. The son was just about starving to death. Scriptures tell us that he was so hungry, that he even lusted after the husks that the swine were eating. We then see that he came to himself, which means that he finally realized how dire his circumstances were, and how desperate he truly was. After becoming concerned that he might die from his hunger, he remembered and realized that even his father's hired servants had more to eat that he did. So, the younger brother came to his senses; he knew what he had to do. So, he decided he would go to his father, and say to him, I was wrong and I have sinned against and before you, father, and am no longer worthy to be called thy son. This younger son not only knew that he had to return home to his father and family, but that he had to confess his sin of rebellion to his father, and ask for forgiveness. This the younger son did, but how did the Father react?
 
BRING FORTH THE BEST ROBE, AND PUT IT ON HIM
 
The father reacted by restoring the relationship with his son. Holy scriptures tell us plainly the father's reaction to his son's return and confession of sin: But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry. The father was ecstatic at the return of the son; the father instructed his servants to bring the best robe, and put it on his son. The word best is translated from the Greek word protos, which means the foremost, or best, in looks and quality, but can also refer to the first worn, or a former, robe. The robe that was considered the best robe was physically not only the most attractive robe available, but had a spiritual meaning as well. This robe was the robe which the son had previously worn during his first relationship with his father prior to leaving home. This best robe is also a type of the robe of fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is [symbolic of] the righteousness of saints (Rev 19:8), those who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14). These washed, white robes will be worn by the saints in the Kingdom. In the new testament, a ring is specifically symbolic of honor and dignity, as well as holiness, perfection, peace, love, friendship, and faithfulness. By placing a ring on his son's finger, the father was signifying that the honor and dignity that the son previously had with his father had been restored following the son's rebellion, repentance, confession, and return unto the father. After placing the ring on the son's hand, the father asked that shoes be placed on the son's feet. In the new testament, shoes represent possession and the right of ownership. When the father placed shoes on his prodigal son, he was signifying that the son had been returned as a possession of [and had a relationship with] the father, was again a part of the father's family, and was therefore entitled to all that the father had and owned. In addition to the robe, ring, and shoes, the father instructed the servants to kill the fatted calf. To earlier Hebrews, the fatted calf represented the choicest of food, usually associated with a particular sacrifice or festival [celebration]. When the father offered and killed the choicest calf, the father was signifying to all that the return of the son was cause for great celebration at the return of his son. To summarize his feeling about the return of the son, the father said let us eat and be merry. In this, the father was saying, let us be in a good frame of mind, let us rejoice and be glad, let us celebrate this great event, the return of my son, with a full heart. In essence, there was no greater joy available to the father than the return of his son, and this was reflected in the giving of the robe, the ring, and the shoes, and the killing and eating of the fatted calf. There was cause for celebration; but what was the reason for the celebration and joy, and what was the son's reward for returning to his father?
 
MY SON WAS DEAD, AND IS ALIVE AGAIN
 
During the celebration, the father tells us the reasons for the celebration, as well as the son's reward: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry (Luke 15:24). In verse 24, the word dead is translated from the Greek word nekros, which means a corpse, or to be dead literally or figuratively, while the words alive again is translated from the Greek word anazao, which means to recover life, to live again, or to revive. The son's reward was life and joy in the presence of his father. The son's reward was not just a restored relationship with his father, but he had found true life in the presence of his father, again.
 
In our subject parable, the scriptures give us a parable occurring in the natural, or physical, world. A certain son had a good relationship with his father, but decided to forsake that relationship with his father and go his own way. The son decided to pursue a new, self-centered, and wasteful life apart from his father, and of his own choosing, a life very different from the one he had previously known. Yet, when the son came to his senses and was in great need, he realized that it was essential to repent of the error he had made by leaving his father, humble himself, return to his father and family, and ask the father for forgiveness. As we know from the scriptures, the father not only forgave the son and restored him into the family, but the father was so full of joy that he gave a great feast to publicly celebrate the return of his wayward son.
 
It is important to acknowledge one thing about this parable which many do not see, or refuse to acknowledge: the words alive again. Initially, the son had a relationship with his father, made the decision to abandon that relationship, but eventually decided that it was necessary for him to return again to his father and restore the relationship with the father that he had previously had. In his original relationship with his father, look what the scriptures say: the son was considered alive. Then, when he separated from his father he was described as dead [absent from his father and therefore subject to the consequences of that absence]. Finally, the son, with brokenness and humility, returned to his father and was, therefore, described as alive again. Many in Christian circles believe in the doctrine of unconditional eternal security, that is once an individual is saved, he or she can never be considered dead and lost again, no matter what they do. However, this parable seems to teach otherwise. The scriptures teach that being in the presence of the father brings life, whereas absence from the father brings death.
 
Now, to the spiritual point of our subject parable of the prodigal son. I believe Christ was attempting to make this point: those who are in a spiritual relationship with their heavenly father [and are saved from God's wrath and destruction, and therefore considered to be alive], and who subsequently forsake for whatever reason that relationship with their heavenly Father [and are subject to God's wrath and destruction, and therefore considered dead], can be restored to relationship with their heavenly Father again [and again be saved from God's wrath and destruction, and therefore be considered to be alive, again]. Rejection of Christ, and therefore the heavenly Father, is considered sin punishable by death. However, look what Jesus Christ taught about forgiveness: Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven [unlimited times] (Mat 18:21-22). If Christ teaches us to forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven times [which means unlimited times], would He, Himself, not continually forgive we who forsake Him more than once, and then realize our need to return to Him. Look what the apostle John also taught about God the Father's forgiveness: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is [continually] faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). There is no indication in this verse that God the Father's forgiveness occurs only once. The prophet Micah teaches us about God the Father's eagerness to forgive: Who is a God like unto thee, that [eagerly] pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea (Mic 18-19). This word of the Lord came unto Joel: Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even [specifically] to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil (Joel 2:12-13). Isaiah also teaches us about God's forgiveness: I [God], even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins (Isa 43:25). When we sin, we must remember that The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy (Psa 145:8), and that we should not fear confessing our sins unto our Father in heaven, but come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:16). David encourages us to seek God's forgiveness when he prayed, Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy. Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee. Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily. Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For thou, Lord, art good, and ready [placable, tolerant, willing] to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee (Psa 86:1-5). The apostle John also explained our heavenly Father's attitude toward our confessed and repentant sin when he wrote, My little children [fellow believers in Christ], these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man [who is a believer commits a] sin, we [when we confess and repent of that sin] have an advocate [intercessor] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation [one who atones, an expiator] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:12). John later concludes,I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake (1 John 2:12). In the context of our subject verses, John is teaching that we are not to sin by leaving our heavenly Father, but if we do, and we return to our spiritual Father, confess and repent of that sin, we have an advocate with God the Father. The one who advocates, atones and expiates is Jesus Christ.
 
As with the prodigal son, who had his reward, the believer in Christ who has a relationship with his father in heaven, leaves his presence of his heavenly Father, and then returns to his heavenly Father, also has his reward. We are taught that the reward is magnificent:your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil (Luke 6:35), and we [shall] receive a full reward (2 John 1:8). We shall certainly receive a reward, a great reward, but what is that reward? Paul tells us: of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ (Col 3:24). Our inheritance is also fourfold; those who, through Christ, return unto the Father shall inherit the earth (Mat 5:5), the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Mat 25:34), and the promises [of God] (Heb 6:12), as well as everlasting life (Mat 19:29).
 
If you have believed on Jesus Christ [Acts 4:12), and have had a relationship with your heavenly Father [John 14:4], the God of heaven and earth, and have, for whatever reason, forsaken your relationship with your heavenly Father, you must know that if you return to your Father in Heaven and humbly confess your sin and rebellion, and ask for His forgiveness, He will assuredly forgive you and me. The apostle Paul addresses our sinful nature, and the solution, when he wrote For all have [left their father and his will and] sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified [judged righteous and thereby restored to a relationship with our heavenly Father] freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:23-24); then Paul later adds, Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace [a restored relationship] with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1). Paul further explains, That being justified [made right and returned to God] by his grace, we should be made heirs [placed into the family of God] according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7). Also, the prophet Isaiah prophesied that we all leave our heavenly Father, and can and should return to Him: All we like sheep have gone astray [again]; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him [Christ] the iniquity [of our rebellion and leaving our heavenly Father] of us all (Isa 53:6). Yet, even though we may stray, scriptures exhort us to approach God the Father without hesitation: For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:15-16). But look how our loving and forgiving God and Father will respond to our returning to Him: Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found...It was meet [appropriate] that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is foundAMEN.
 
 
THE CHRISTIAN HERALD
                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
 
"Let us therefore come boldly
unto the throne
of grace, that
we may obtain
mercy, and find
grace to help
in time of need"
(Heb 4:16)



 
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