People of The Living God

Matthew 28:1

 

Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size

May 2011



 

A LIGHT IN THE DARK

Curtis Dickinson

        A gross inconsistency becomes evident at this time every year.  Every city, shopping mall, retail store, and almost every house are illuminated with dazzling, throbbing and flashing lights.  Throngs brave the wind and weather to attend the annual “Festival of lights” at Texas Tech University, when thousands of lights are turned on to the strains of Christmas carols, presumable to honor Christ who claimed to be, and is indeed, the “light of the world” (John 8:12).

        But here is the contradiction: While outside, the electric lights gleam brilliantly, on the inside the darkness of humanistic atheism permeates the educational process.  In fact, it has become quite evident that, not only the educational system, but the media, the arts, the judicial system, and the public at large are willing to be guided by anything in the world except the light of truth which is found in Christ.

        The apostle Paul, in his brief survey of mankind’s deterioration, writes that “because that, knowing God, they glorified Him not as God; neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasoning and their senseless heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:21).

        The words of F. Godet of 100 years ago are well worth consideration: “Now man could not remain stationary.  Not walking forwards in the way of active religion, he could only stray into a false path, having neglected to set God before it as the supreme object of its activity; and understanding was reduced to work in vacuo, it was in some sort made futile; it peopled the universe with fictions and chimeras…The heart is, in the New Testament, as in the Old, the central seat of personal life, that inner power which determines at once the activity of the understanding and the direction of the will.  Destitute of its true object, through its refusal to be thankful to God as God, the heart of man is filled with inspirations of darkness; there are the guilty lusts inspired by the egoistic love of the creature and self.”

        This vanity of reasoning and darkness of the heart is the only explanation for the vile immorality that permeates society on all levels, from the highest and most honored offices to the back streets of the poorest slums.  But it also helps to explain the bitter hatred of Christ that is seen in the media and in higher education.  In the same chapter which Godet discusses, Paul goes on to explain that men, in their vain reasoning and darkened hearts, become “haters of God” (Rom. 1:21, 30).  To the Colossians he concisely declares that “men by their wicked works have become the enemies of God” (Col. 1:21).  As F. Godet writes, “Hating God is the highest manifestation of pride, which cannot brook the thought of this superior and judge.”

        God–fearing people are overwhelmed daily at the atrocities being committed throughout this supposedly civilized nation.  We often hear them say, “I do not believe a sane person could be so evil,” and the courts are ready to acquit the worst criminal on his claim of insanity.  What is even more amazing and unbelievable to many is the deep–seated hatred of Christ that is repeatedly expressed by people on television and in the press.

        One wonders, why should anyone hate Jesus?  Though Christians have faults, Jesus has none.  Christians make terrible mistakes, but Jesus performed perfectly and was completely “without sin.”  Why, then, in a nation founded upon faith in Jesus as the Son of God, as both Lord and Saviour, is there such a hatred for His teaching and commandments?

        It is generally thought that all people would like to end up in heaven in the delightful presence of God.  But not so.  The children of darkness despise the holiness and purity of God.  In the words of the Psalmist, they rage against Jehovah and His anointed, saying, “let us break their bonds asunder and cast their cords from us” (Ps. 2:3).  Such rage recently made the headlines when men like Pat Buchanan and Dan Quayle sought to bring into focus Christian issues of morality.  It is openly expressed wherever the effort is made to stem the tide of teenage pregnancy by teaching them the rules God has given.  They rise up in unison to denounce the Christian ethic and brand its proponents as ignorant bigots.  The people who uphold righteousness are labeled as the evil ones.

        The homosexual community, which practices the sin God describes as abominable, unites and not only campaigns for special rights, but openly recruits young people to become as vile as they and are supported by educators and government officials.  Prostitutes have now been baptized in this cesspool of evil by forming several organizations seeking to sanctify prostitution and have it accepted as an ordinary type of work.  Some of these are PUMA (Prostitute Union of Massachusetts Assoc.), ASP (Associated Seattle Prostitutes), HIRE (Hooking is Real Employment), and COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics).

        Such rebels are already under judgment, as Jesus explained: “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.  For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved” (John 3:19–20).  Truth is ever unwelcome to evil, and in the children of darkness there is an intense hatred of truth and good.

        It should not surprise us that those who walk in darkness should develop both a hatred of God and a hatred of all that is good.  Jesus warned, “If therefore the evil that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness” (Matt. 6:23)

        The broad scope of evil is seen when you consider that, in addition to those who engage in sexual perversion, there are vast numbers of people who defend them, such as the media, the politicians, the educators, and some 43% of the voters who chose the President, a man who promised to support them.

        Even more saddening are the many church leaders who have joined the dark forces and, rather than trying to stamp out the evil, are trying to justify it and extinguish the light of Christ’s truth.  I am reminded of what Jesus said to the religious officials when they arrested him: “This is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53).

        As Carl Henry wrote, “There is a new barbarism.  This barbarism has embraced a new mentality…not simply rejecting the legacy of the West, but embracing a new pagan mentality where there is no fixed truth.” (Emphasis added)  When one awakens and comes to the light, he may be shocked to find that he is living, indeed, in the midst of such barbarians.  It is only when one is enlightened by the fixed truth of Christ that he can see the depth of evil behind the veneer of respectability and affluence of those with whom he once found companionship.

        Jesus warned that men would avoid the penetrating light of truth which He revealed and that only those who “do the truth” would come to the light (John 3:21).  When one is first confronted with the stark truth which Christ reveals, he is like one awakening from sleep to the blazing light on the sun.  He would shut his eyes against its painful rays.  Yet, it is just this burning light of truth that is essential to bring about the intended change in our lives, and to the extent that we avoid the light, we also avoid developing the godly character which God desires in His children.

        The last plague sent by Jehovah upon the Egyptians before the night of death was darkness.  Their hearts were darkened until they could not perceive the power of God nor believe the message of Moses.  “And there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; they saw not one another, neither rose any one from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings (Ex. 10:22,23).  When they still refused to obey Jehovah, the final plague was upon them, the death of all the first–born, followed by the destruction of all the armed men.

        The light of Christ is the way of life – eternal life in the day of resurrection – but the darkened mind is destined for death, the final death at judgment.

        The truth about man’s sinful condition and the ultimate judgment of death is absolute agony to the darkened minds of this generation.  It is unbearable unless one is willing to subject himself to the operation of that light, to have his sins manifest, to thrust himself completely into the unquenchable flame of God’s truth and light of His love, and be cleansed of all sin through faith in Jesus and obedience to the gospel.

        It is in the face of just such darkness that the apostle Paul writes that we are to “become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:14–16).

        “Arise, shine; for thy light is come” (Isa. 60:1).

 

 

JUDGMENT

Randall Walton

        “Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place” (Isaiah 28:17).

        During the month of April 2011, we beheld the hand of God at work in judgment against all the wickedness that man has been able to produce in his fight against the wrath of the living God.  First, there was rain abundantly; this was followed by tornadoes which were almost constant in their delivery.  There was wind which blew hard enough to cause flooding in areas which were not normally given to flooding.  Bridges which were constructed to carry water to a dam were covered by the swelling currents as the water completely covered the bridges, making them impossible to cross.

        A fierce tornado struck parts of Alabama so furiously that it uprooted trees and plunged through a path 250 miles, on the ground, as it tore its way through houses, barns, schools, and buildings of every sort.  What was left was mostly trash.  There were over 200–300 souls lost to the raging wind as it tore through the dense underbelly of the vicious storm.

        It seems that the tornadoes were everywhere!  Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Arkansas were hit very strongly.  It is easy for us to say that all the turmoil caused by the storms of the month of April were acts of judgment on the part of God and His fierce anger at the attitude of the inhabitants of the land.  There must be a price to be paid for all of the wretched goings on of the fearful and afraid of the facts of life.

        Why have people been turned on (willingly) to a life of debauchery and sinfulness when there is a better way of life?  Why do the young and the oldsters insist that it is all right for them to live in a disastrous relationship and still go to church and practice religious activities?  Who is being deceived?  Why do people insist on being careless about their daily lives as if God is blind to their blatant and rebellious ways, as if God doesn’t really care about them personally?  Why?

        Is this all there is to the average man or woman who calls himself or herself a Christian?  Or do most of them forego their own natural, normal procedures for a clean, habit–pure, unviolated course of life?  Is it not the right way to go to please the living God and denounce the ways of the world system?  The Bible itself lays down the paths to a life of perpetual happiness in God, but according to His standards and His divine laws.  It is foolish to try to outdue God and His glorious way to life eternal, and, after all, that is the RIGHT way to live!

        God has made it so plain in the Scriptures.  He has the first and the last words of reconciliation, and He gives us the divine Scriptures as our guide and director all through life itself.  The precious words of the Master as He leads the way through the channels of living are not so drab and disconcerting; it is a fact that people spend so little of their own free time going through the plain words of the King of glory, so as to enlighten their understanding of the word of the living God.  Too many of these people settle down to view some idiotic scheme of adventure, or almost anything that will take their hearts and minds off the true values of living for God!

        We are living in perilous times!  According to Brother Paul in II Tim. 3:1–5, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”  “From such turn away.”  It seems that Bro. Paul has described this present generation to a fine point.  If that is true to life, then we don’t have to do much to “turn away” from the vanity and pride of that ilk.

        If we, as sincere, wholesome, and adventurous Christians, desire to really please God, all we need to do is (1) praise Him, (2) take His precious words, (3) enable our hearts to bless Him by obeying His words, (4) and totally live for Him, and Him alone.  If we so desire to please Him in everything we do, we will seize His words and abide in Him and His words, or phrases.  It is really quite simple.

        For example, He said in Luke 9:23: “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  This verse needs no interpretation nor final exposé.  It totally means what it states.  There is no other thing so important as taking up one’s cross daily and following Him!  This is so simple, yet it means what it says.

        A similar verse is found in Luke 14:33: “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”  Whosoever does not need to be advertised nor singled out as if it is irrelevant.  It means just exactly what it says.  In other words, Jesus taught His disciples to leave everything behind and follow Him and His purpose.

        In Luke 21:34–36, Jesus gave a simple, but understandable message to His words; “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.  For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.  Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”  The sum of all these things is to believe in the words of Jesus to the fullest part of His discourse, and to practice doing whatever He has commanded.

        It is only when one has done exactly as he promised that he will find great joy in giving up more and more of his own private possessions and drawing closer to the living God.  And that, in the end, is all that a person can really have in this life: “To Do His Will, Is All I Need.”

 

 

THE WRATH OF THE DRAGON

Harry R. Miller

        “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17).

        The “woman” of this verse and of the first verse of this same chapter represents the same “woman” referred to in Galatians where the apostle spoke of her as “the mother of us all” (4:26).

        He who wrote the book of Hebrews spoke of this “mother” in this way: “The general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven” (Heb. 12:23).

        Now we all know that “the church” of Christ consists of the members that are living on earth and many who will come forth in the resurrection.  However, in the 12th chapter of Revelation the woman, or church, who brings forth the man–child and then flees into the wilderness represents the main body of the living church members.

        She who has been fortunate enough to enter “her place” in the wilderness is safe from the wrath of the dragon.  We read that in this secluded place those who have escaped will be “nourished” during the days of terror.

        Numerous Scriptures inform us of this place of safety for God’s chosen during the time of tribulation.

        “There shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm” (Isa. 4:6).  This text has not been taken out of context; it definitely places these things in the day when the Almighty cleanses His called–out–ones with the spirit of judgment and burning.

        “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy door about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast” (Isa. 26:20).  Here again the place of refuge is for the day of trouble, and here it is called “thy chambers.”  Certainly a very earthly place.

        Another of the Old Testament prophets wrote of “the day of the Lord’s anger” in this fashion: “Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zeph. 2:3).  To be among those who are “hid” in that day is no mere accident.  Of course, the message is to “ALL the meek of the earth,” and take note that these are very devoted people: they “have wrought (or performed) His judgment.”  But even they cannot be absolutely certain of being HID: the prophet said if these will seek righteousness and meekness, “IT MAY BE” they will be hid!

        There should be no doubt in any person’s mind that in order to qualify for a right to the place of safety, it is going to require a lot of preparation by highly devoted people.

        In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1–13) the very theme of the parable is the need of preparation; and we must remember that ALL of these who waited for the Saviour’s return were virgins.  They all knew God, they all believed in His return, they all hurriedly tried to set their lamps in order at the midnight hour.  But, because of a lack of previous preparation, the “foolish virgins” were caught unprepared.  They were still virgins – but virgins OUTSIDE THE DOOR!

        Now, let us not lose sight of this most important fact: the people known as “foolish virgins” are not ungodly sinners – they are SAINTS!  “The remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17).  These good folks not only believe in the Lord Jesus, but they “keep the commandments of God.”  Yet they are among that great number who will not be HID in the day of the Lord’s anger – they will be caught outside the door.  Tragic, is it not?

        Few people seem to realize that to be privileged to hear the call of the Lord is a great honor; and to hesitate, or refuse to respond, is a serious offence.  “When he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately” (Luke 12:36).  To be ready to respond immediately to God’s call requires a lot of practice.  Humanity is so slow to hear (respond to) the still small voice.

        Not every one that is found upon “the housetop” in that day (Luke 17:31) will do exactly as he is told.  Some will attempt to salvage some of their stuff.  Then, too, how many who are in the field will feel it necessary to make a brief trip back to the house before their flight?

        It seems that those who are to be among the wise virgins must take a lesson from Lot and his family: “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).  All Mrs. Lot did was to turn her head momentarily and look back at the wrong time.

        There is no doubting that this is the day in which the “righteous” shall “scarcely be saved” (I Peter. 4:18).  Those who have practiced responding to the commands of their Lord will profit in these dark hours of earth’s history.

        The dragon will make WAR, and his wrath is turned specifically against those who still love God but who have been caught outside the places of refuge.

        “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations” (Rev. 13:7).  Making war is one thing, but the authority to overcome is quite another.  It appears that the dragon has Divine authority to turn all his diabolical forces against the tribulation saints.  Not only has he authority to harass, vex and torment the virgins, but he can go the limit, even overcoming them.  We have references in Daniel concerning the tribulation of the latter days: “I beheld, and the same horn (king) made war with the saints, and PREVAILED against them” (Dan. 7:21).

        The twenty–fifth verse of this same chapter gives us a clue to the methods used by this tyrannical despot: He (the dragon) “shall WEAR OUT the saints of the Most High.”  Endurance under the heel of a tyrant is a most heart–rending thing, especially when the only end is a martyr’s grave.  “And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (Rev. 13:15).

        Have you ever given this a thought: how long will the saints be able to hold out against absolute economic control?  “And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Rev. 13:17).

        What suffering there will be when the virgins can no more trade their labor for food.  Then, too, how will they pay taxes with no income?  What will happen when the utilities are turned off?  But the worst will come when the food supply runs out.  Will men be able to continue to stand faithful to the testimony of Christ as they see their children starve to death?

        Friends, the end is drawing near, and we appeal to all saints to “trim their lamps” (the Word of God is our “lamp”), and then prepare by DOING the Lord’s will.  Don’t think that a secure bomb shelter and a well–stocked cave full of supplies will take you through the tribulation.

        It is a law of the kingdom of Christ that “he who seeketh (by his own devices) to save his life shall lose it.”

        Many people are now preparing for the day of terror by putting into action all manner of human inventions.  To be saved from the horrors of the coming cataclysmic upheaval one must be dwelling in “the shadow of the Almighty.”

        Read the following and see the end of the bomb–shelter–builders who will try to save themselves: “And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.  In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth” (Isa. 2:19–21).

 

 

THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Randall Walton

        Modern Christian theology has so distorted the truth concerning Jesus’ resurrection that it is difficult to reconcile the Biblical account with present day practices and tradition.  It takes a good deal of effort to brush away the bunnies with their multicolored eggs, all of which are sexual symbols from a long gone pagan era.  The very word Easter should be enough to stir up a person’s curiosity concerning the origin of this great heathen holiday which is purported to be in honor of the Lord’s resurrection.

        The only positive part of the Easter celebration is the single fact that Jesus rose from the dead as He foretold He would.  The rest of it are vestiges of a religion which embraced the gods of the elements, the earth, the heavens, and mankind.  The goddess of sex and fertility – Ishtar, Ashtoreth, Easter – was symbolized by the rabbit because of its prolific reproduction, and the egg, of course, speaks of fertility.  One wonders how such sensuous symbols became a part of the Christian religion, and what they mean to us today.

        The importance to us of the resurrection of Jesus cannot be over–stressed.  While it is true that Jesus could not have risen from the tomb if He had not been killed, it is also true that had He not risen from the dead, His claim of victory over death (II Tim. 1:10) would have been questionable, if not invalid.

        Furthermore, the topic of His resurrection was upon the lips of the apostles and His disciples in a most prominent way.  In the Book of the Acts there are no less than 13 distinct instances where Jesus’ triumph over the grave are mentioned or discussed!

The Apostles’ Doctrine

        After Jesus’ ascension, and before Pentecost, Peter spoke to the saints assembled in the upper room, and said, “Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness of his resurrection.”  The fact that Jesus was crucified did not seem to be the rallying point for these people of God.  Rather, it was the miracle of His rising from the dead that seemed to grip their hearts.  Death was common to all men; resurrection was not.  It was, therefore, necessary that this message be declared everywhere: “Jesus Christ of Nazareth has risen from the grave.”

        Following is a listing of the many times these early saints witnessed of His resurrection:

        Peter, on the day of Pentecost, to the “men of Judea, and all that dwell at Jerusalem,” proclaimed that God raised up Jesus, “having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:14, 22–24).

        In Solomon’s porch, Peter declared to a crowd of people that “the Prince of life, whom God hath raised up; whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:11–15).  And in verse 26 of the same chapter, he reiterated this message.

        When Peter stood before the Sanhedrin, he testified concerning his healing of the lame man, that it was through Jesus Christ, “whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead.”  Peter did not leave Jesus crucified; he always acknowledged that He was risen from the dead (Acts 4:5–10).

        “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33).

        When Peter preached to the household of Cornelius, he included the resurrection as a major tenet of his message: “Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:38–41).

        Paul also preached concerning the resurrection; it seemed to be a vital part of his witness:

        At Antioch: Acts 13:29–37

        At Thessalonica: Acts 17:2,3

        At Athens: Acts 17:18

        At Athens: Acts 17:31

        Before Agrippa: Acts 26:22–23

        It is also worth noting that Paul mentions Jesus’ resurrection in all his letters except to Titus and Philemon.  And it is quite obvious that these men of God did not reserve their mention of His resurrection as a seasonal affair.  It was, and is, always appropriate to exalt Jesus Christ as our RISEN LORD.  In fact, we sing Robert Lowry’s well–known hymn, “Christ Arose” at any time throughout the year.  This is truth which needs telling and re–telling.

The Resurrection Completed His Earthly Mission

        Luke tells us that Jesus informed His disciples that, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets and in the Psalms, concerning me.  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:44–46).

        Does the Old Testament foretell the resurrection of Jesus?  Most assuredly!  Psalm 16:9–10 states: “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.  For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”

        Both Peter and Paul affirm that David in this Psalm was referring to the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:25–29; 13:34–37).  The very next action on His part was to ascend into the heavens, to be seated at the right hand of the Father where He will remain until all of His enemies are made His footstool (Acts 2:34,35; Heb. 10:12,13; Psalm 110:1; Matt. 22:44).

        Paul further emphasizes the present status of Jesus with these words: “It is Christ that died, YEA RATHER, THAT IS RISEN AGAIN, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34).

        So, His earthly ministry is finished.  We have “now received the atonement” (Rom. 5:11), and Jesus our reconciliator has risen to the exalted position of the King of glory, at the right hand of His Father.  Not until His enemies become His footstool, nor until the church is thoroughly cleansed of its spots, wrinkles, and blemishes (Eph. 5:25–27) will He return, this time to judge the world for its wickedness (Acts 17:31).

The Resurrection Was Proof Of His Authority And Power (Acts 1:3)

        “he shewed himself alive by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”  The single infallible proof of His Lordship was the fact that people saw Him ALIVE.  Many had witnessed His death by crucifixion, but the real proof of His authenticity was His visible presence.

It Was The Means By Which He Conquered Death

        “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24).

        “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him” (Rom. 6:9).

        “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1:18).  He who possesses the keys is in control!  He has authority to open or close.  “All power (authority) is given unto me,” Jesus said, “in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18).  His resurrection from the dead demonstrated that He had power over this bitter enemy, death.

It Was The Means By Which He Ascended The Throne Of David

        “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day.  Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption” (Acts 2:29–31).

        If this means what it says, then the resurrection of Jesus was a prelude to His sitting on “David’s throne.”  That being the case, then the term the “throne of David” is but a symbol of the real, or heavenly, throne upon which Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.  That old seat upon which David, the king of Israel, sat was just a shadow of the true throne.  Actually, the chair in and of itself is unimportant and irrelevant.  A throne, any throne, is indicative of the authority and power which the monarch possesses.  It is unnecessary to have a literal chair or throne in order for a king to rule.  His rule is not dependent upon a piece of furniture, but upon the actual authority by which he reigns and governs.

        Thus, Jesus is called the prince (or ruler) of the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:5).  Paul stated that when the Father raised Jesus from the dead, He set Him “at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:20–22).

        The power and authority of the King rests, not in a literal chair or seat, but in the King Himself.  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead provided that majestic moment of triumph over the forces who opposed Him.  Now it can be said: “rule thou in the midst of thine enemies” (Psa. 110:2).

It Was The Means Of Proof Of His Sonship

        “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness BY THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD” (Rom. 1:3,4).

        These are not idle words.  Paul affirms that the fact that Jesus rose from the grave is the substantiation, or proof of, His Sonship with power.  This also confirms His Lordship – Jesus Christ our Lord.  Too many people want Him as their savior, but not many want Him as their Lord.

        Brother Paul said that he had suffered the loss of all things “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection” (Phil. 3:7–10).  To know, or comprehend, the power of His resurrection is to understand the scope or the full dimensions of His Sonship as provided through the triumph of His being raised from the dead.  We can only know this tremendous power as we submit ourselves in obedience to His divine authority.

        Just as He stripped satan and the principalities and powers of their power and authority, so also are we to overcome every enemy, to trample them under our feet, to subdue them, and make them powerless until they have become His footstool.  Then we can say that we “know the power of his resurrection.”

        “We are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Rom. 4:6).  To understand the “glory of the Father” is to comprehend the “power of his resurrection.”  It is impossible to measure the depths, the heights, the lengths and breadths (Eph. 3:18) of the unimpeachable glory of the living God.  It is silly to even imagine that any existing power anywhere in the vast universe could so much as challenge God’s sovereignty and superiority.  That’s why Peter could so boldly declare that it was not possible that death could defeat Jesus Christ our Lord.  His Sonship was bound up in His ability to overcome death and the one who had had the power of death!

It Was The Means Of Establishing His Lordship

        “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Rom. 10:9).

        The word Lord means SUPREME COMMANDER, one who has authority and ability to order and command others.  This is a fit description of our Lord Jesus, the Christ.  His rising from the dead sealed His authority forevermore.

        Or, as Peter said in Acts 2:36, “God hath made this same Jesus both LORD and CHRIST.”  The proof of His Lordship lies in the miracle of His resurrection.

It Was The Means Of Demonstrating His Position In The Godhead

        “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD; that in all things he might have the preeminence.  For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell;” “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 1:18,19; 2:10).

        The word “firstborn” as used in this passage denotes His position, or priority over all creation, not in the sense of being the first to have been born.  It has to do with His exalted position with the heavenly Father. The traditional role of the literal firstborn in a family was one of special honor and distinction; Paul uses this tradition to describe the highly exalted place which Jesus holds with the Father based upon the premise of His resurrection: He was the first of the dead to have been raised to life!

        While it is true that others had been resurrected both in the Old Testament days and by Jesus during His 3½ year ministry, Jesus was the first to have been raised from the dead without benefit of an intermediary.  No prophet nor miracle worker brought Him back to life.  This was purely and wholly the work of the heavenly Father.

        Whatever His position was prior to His death and resurrection matters not.  Now, because He experienced and overcame death, He sits at the right hand of the Father and the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him.

        Jesus declared that His Father was greater than Himself (John 14:28); therefore, let us not think that Jesus is the Father or is as great as the Father (even though He is God).  But since He defeated death, the Father has exalted Him and has “given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9–11).

        Furthermore, “whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17).

It Was The Means Of Guaranteeing Resurrection For The Saints

        “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.  But very man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (I Cor. 15:19–23).

        Here, then, is our absolute guarantee of resurrection: because He lives again, we also shall live again.  Every saint who has walked the face of this earth will be brought forth from the grave when Jesus returns and will receive a new body, one which will be blessed with immortality and incorruptibility (I Cor. 15:51–53)!

His Resurrection Completed The Work Of Redemption

        “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection from the dead?  But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.  For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (I Cor. 15:12–18)!

        In this famous passage Paul declares that salvation is possible because Jesus rose from the dead!  Let us not suppose that this in any way detracts from the crucifixion and the shedding of His precious Blood.  Not so.  Paul is merely stating that the resurrection of Jesus is an integral and necessary part of the work of reconciliation (atonement) without which that work would have been incomplete.  The death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God were inseparable parts of a single monumental accomplishment for the sake and eternal welfare of mankind.

        The death of Jesus on the cross appeared to His disciples to have been a tragic defeat.  They had hoped that He was the one who should have restored Israel to her former glory (Luke 24:21), but His death dashed their hopes.  But their despair turned to joy when He revealed Himself alive even when they had assembled themselves together “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19).

        This, then, was the final blow to the powers of darkness.  This, once and for all, showed His triumph over sin, satan and death, and made salvation a reachable goal for all of mankind.

        “Who was delivered (or sacrificed) for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25).  Paul, here, says that our justification rests upon the resurrection of our Lord.  How can such a thing be?  Because He rose from the dead and now sits at the Father’s right hand, He intercedes our cause unceasingly (see Heb. 7:24,25; Rom. 8:34).

        “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if ye shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED” (Rom. 10:7,8).

        Paul says that salvation is dependent upon a person’s believing in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead!  We seldom hear this message presented to sinful men today.  The so–called “sinner’s prayer” omits this very important ingredient, yet it is easy to see why Paul places such emphasis upon Jesus’ resurrection.  Without this having taken place, man’s faith is vain, and he remains in his sins.  People need to be apprised of this important detail.

        Peter corroborates this theme in his first letter (I Peter 1:3,20,21).

His Resurrection Signifies How We Are To Live

        “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”  “For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God” (Rom. 6:4,10).

        There is a valuable comparison made here of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and our having risen from the dead – spiritually (see Eph. 2:1,5; John 5:25; Eph. 5:14; Col. 3:1).

        “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17).

        Resurrection means new life.  For the Christian, there is but one way to walk in new life, and that is to turn one’s back on the past life and “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, PRESS ON toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13–14).

        Jesus lived, He died, was buried, He rose from the dead and ascended up to glory that we should be set free from the bondage of sin, and walk a life of exulting victory because He won the victory for us.  Let us rejoice in His resurrection, not with pagan traditions, but with joy in our hearts, and a song of praise on our lips for this glorious salvation:

        “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57).

 

 

THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT

Rev. 20:15

 

Randall Walton

        There is a great deal of confusion regarding the judgment due to the promotion of dispensational error that has been prevalent for the past 100 or more years.  For example, Dr. C.I. Scofield has man’s days divided into seven separate and distinct eras, or dispensations.  He also has seven different judgments listed, each one serving a particular people or occasion.

        It was he who made a difference between the “great white throne” judgment of Rev. 20 and the judgment as set forth in Matthew 25:31–46.  In reality, there is but one day of judgment foretold in the Scriptures wherein the wicked will be brought forth to face the consequences of his wickedness, and that will occur upon the last day; not a last day, but the last day.

        “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).  This, then, places the time of the judgment at the last, final day.  But this poses a question for us: what about the saved, or the saints?  How do they come into this picture?  Jesus, of course, had the answer!

        “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39).

        “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54).

        It is proper, then, to state that both the saint and sinner will be present on that last great day when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (II Cor. 5:10).  It is also proper to state that both the living and the risen dead will be present on that day (as noted in the above verse, “every one”).

        The account in Rev. 20:12 speaks only of judgment for the dead, but we do not limit our research to any one verse of Scripture.  Consider, for example, the following passages:

        “the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the quick (living) and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom” (II Tim. 4:1).

        “For the son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then shall he reward every man according to his works” (Matt. 16:27).

        “for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:10–12).

        “Because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

        “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him (compare with Matt. 24:30,31), then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations (Nations = ethnos (ethnic), or races, people, tribes, etc.): and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:31,32).

        This is the same event which is pictured in Rev. 20:11 – the “great white throne.”  Two classes of people are mentioned here: the saved, the unsaved; the sheep, the goats; the holy, the unholy; the obedient, the disobedient.  The fact that only the wicked dead are mentioned in Rev. 20 does not detract from the many other Scriptures which we have shown above.  Notice that the term “judgment day” is always singular: God has appointed a day for the judgment, not days, nor different eras.

        On that last, great final day (also called “the end of the world”) there will occur several outstanding events:

  1. Jesus will return!
  2. All the dead shall be raised, both the saint and the sinner (John 5:28,29).
  3. All the people who have ever lived will be assembled in one of two separate groups.  (“Every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.  Even so, Amen.”)
  4. Mankind shall be rewarded according to his deeds/works while he lived upon the earth, a record of which has been kept in “books.”  The righteous will receive eternal life, immortality and incorruptibility (Matt. 25:46; I Cor. 15:51–52); the wicked will “go away into everlasting punishment,” which is “everlasting destruction” (Matt. 25:46; II Thess. 1:9).

The Judgment – Why?

        To the many outstanding qualities of divine character: love, mercy, patience, kindness, gentleness, etc., we must add the word “just.”  Jesus is referred to as the Just One (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14).  The judgment will be a demonstration of the supreme Justice of God the father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  Be aware that He has kept a record of man’s doings – “the books were opened” (Rev. 20:12), and on that great and final day when “every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus is LORD,” men will be given the opportunity to bear witness to their lives on the earth: “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.  The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold a greater than Solomon is here” (Matt. 12:41,42).

        The people of that generation, Jesus is affirming, are without excuse for their rejection of the great King who was in their very midst.  On that great judgment day the men of Nineveh and the queen of Sheba will be allowed to declare their testimony to the whole assembly of humankind.  And we assume from this that there will surely be others who will stand to show that God was not only merciful, He was impartial and just.  Thus, the judgment will be the vindication of God’s righteous dealings with all of humanity.

        The judgment will be a witness of the reliability of God’s word: it will be proof that God means what He says; He also says what He means.  He has declared that “the soul that sinneth shall die,” and that “the wages of sin is death” (Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 6:23).  The judgment will attest to the authenticity of those declarations.

        It will also be shown that every rational person who has ever lived will have been given opportunity at some point in his/her life to acknowledge God and turn from wickedness: “He “now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).  The fact that the majority of men do not repent does not alter the fact that they were given a chance.  Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).

        We cannot infer from this that all will be saved.  But all will have been drawn.  Since we are creatures of choice, however, not many apparently choose to submit themselves 100% to Jesus and His salvation.  God forces no one to accept or receive salvation: it is strictly a matter of choice.

        It will also be shown that God’s ways were superior to man’s, that He was always right, and that He never failed.  His choice of the methods to bring about His purposes have been fair, equitable, and right.  Decisions will not be a part of the judgment; decisions must be made during one’s lifetime.  “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).  The judgment will not be held to determine who goes where; that is known at the moment a person dies.

        On that last great day, the King/Judge will separate all of humanity into one of two categories according to their own choices.  You are determining now in your lifetime which of these two groups you will be a part of.  No one will be able to claim that he was a product of his culture or environment, or that his fate was determined by chance or the influence of circumstances and society.  “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).  “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

        All of which means that there are really no genuine atheists; disbelievers, yes: atheists, no!  No excuse means just that, no excuse.  All persons will have had the opportunity sometime, somewhere, somehow, to “call upon the Lord” and be saved; otherwise, they would have a legal and logical excuse.

        God is indomitable, omnipotent, loving, full of compassion and mercy, yet uncompromising.  “He will not always strive with man” (Gen. 6:3), but He will do whatever falls within the circle of impartiality to redeem, reclaim and rehabilitate man from his fallen condition.

        Are you ready for the judgment day?  Are you so at peace with God that if the judgment were tomorrow you would have no qualms nor fears?  It is possible to so live that if death came today you could rest in blessed assurance with the knowledge that the King would place you at His right hand with the rest of His sheep.  “behold, now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2).

 

 

 “LOVE FOR THE LAW”

Randall Walton

        “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.

        “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:36–40).

        Contrary to popular opinion, these two important answers to the law and the prophets are the two most sacred and inspired answers to the question, “which is the great commandment in the law?”  It is most assuredly the most disobeyed question in the whole set of rules and regulations of the entire Book of the Lord.  People are religious and go to church regularly, but the question asked by that lawyer remains the same; “which is the great commandment in the law?”

        It is a well known fact that going to church, paying one’s tithes, giving sacrificially to the ministry of the church are all splendid articles of “the faith,” but how many of those who profess to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ are convinced that they are doing God’s will by being loyal to the church’s basic orders.  Jesus based His opinions of sacrifice upon love, love for God and one’s neighbors.

        Jesus said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”  He wasted no time on things that were irrelevant.  He preached a sacrificial message all throughout His public service.  True love, He insisted, ministered life to the godly and ungodly alike, because He loved to do for people what they could not do for themselves.  He healed the sick and cleansed the lepers; He raised the dead from their biers; He gave meat and vegetables to the hungry and weary ones; He manifested His wondrous glory to all who came to Him, or to whomsoever He met on the road.  He kept not back from the unbelieving souls, but ministered wherever He found a genuine need.  He based His behavior on the NEEDS of the people wherever He went.

        His love for people was given feely for any who came His way.  He ate with sinners and the ungodly.  He didn’t favor any certain group or groups, but He ministered faithfully and without any deceit or back–handed errors.  He always showed compassion and true love wherever He chose to go.  In His travels He met a woman who had had five husbands, and she was then living with another man who was not her husband.  This account took place in Samaria; He treated her kindly, but told her of her past and gave her hope for the future.  His ministry was for all who would listen to His words.

        His love for humanity was not wasted on trivial things.  Because of His basic goodness, He knew by the Holy Spirit the causes of marital misgivings, as well as the reasons why couples could not manage their own affairs.  He had an insight of feelings for the depressed, the lost, the disadvantaged.  He fed 4,000 men at one instance, then fed another 5,000 men (they didn’t include women and children), and took up several baskets full of leftovers!

        Miracle after miracle followed Him everywhere He was to go!  There was none too devastated to respond to His mercy and grace.  His total life was lived for others, and He gave of Himself so freely.  We have been told in the Scriptures that He left us an example, that we should follow His steps: “who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (I Peter 2:21,22).  His whole life was lived for us!  He was our example!

        This marks the present generation as if it doesn’t exist.  Where are those who minister for others as much as they minister to and for us?  Where are those who give of themselves freely as Jesus did for the people of His day?  Thank God for the marvelous example of belief in the truth, for whatever the cost to Himself in giving of Himself, unselfish, unalteration, unspeakable sacrifice of Himself.

        How does His life then appear to the unbelieving saint whose only hope is to offer Himself to God in an undeniable sacrifice whole–heartedly given to God in an unchained freely granted to the living God, a sacrifice completely and totally free from no take–backs along the way.  This is the only offer the Lord is willing to take, and He will take it if and when you are ready to give it all up.  This is the only hope you are ready and willing to grant to the King of kings and Lord of lords!

 

 

GOD’S CLEANSING FIRE

Curtis Dickinson

        It was reported in 1989 that of some 400 theologians who were meeting together that year, over half of them rejected the traditional doctrine of hell.  Since that time, many Christians have been trying to reconcile their church’s teaching on hell with what the Scripture says.  It isn’t always possible.

        Many of these theologians do not accept the Bible as God’s final word, so their doctrine is no standard for the rest of us who believe the Bible to be God’s revelation.  The problem still won’t go away.  Just whose doctrine of hell fits the biblical version?  C.H. Spurgeon, who is widely read by preachers today, once wrote: “When thou diest thy soul will be tormented alone; that will be a hell for it; but at the day of judgment thy body will join thy soul, and then thou wilt have twin hells…thy head tormented with pains; thine eyes starting from their sockets with sights of blood and woe; thine ears tormented with sullen moans and hollow groans, and shrieks of tortured ghosts…thy limbs crackling like the martyrs in fire, and yet unburnt; thyself put in a vessel of hot oil, pained, yet coming out undestroyed…every nerve a string on which the devil shall ever play his diabolical tune of hell’s unutterable lament…There is a real fire in hell, as truly as you have a real body; a fire exactly like that we have on earth in everything except this – that it will not consume, though it will torment you!”

        Spurgeon’s description is not found anywhere in the Bible, and contradicts it in several ways.  It has “souls” being cast into the fire before the day of judgment.  It places the punishment under the devil, whereas Scripture places judgment under the power of Jesus the Son.  Spurgeon says that the fire of hell will not “consume,” but according to Scripture that’s the purpose of it.

        Many have abandoned Spurgeon’s “real fire in hell” and re–imaged the punishment as mental and spiritual suffering, thus eliminating any meaning to the biblical reference to fire.

        But what does Scripture teach about the final fire?  There are a number of Scriptures to describe what will happen to the unsaved.

        Matthew 3:12 – John the Baptist compared judgment to harvest time, and said of Jesus, “He will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

        Matthew 13:24–43 – Jesus also compared judgment to the harvest in which the reapers are told to “gather first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them.”  Jesus explained that the harvest is the end of the world, and the tares are those who “do iniquity” who will be cast into the fire, obviously to be destroyed like the tares.

        John 15:6 – Jesus compares the wicked to a fruitless branch that is cut from the tree and thrown into the fire to be burned.

        II Peter 3:7 – Peter writes that the present heavens and earth “have been stored with fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

        Hebrews 6:8 compares the wicked to the thorns and thistles “whose end is to be burned.”

        Jude 7 reveals that Sodom and Gomorrah “are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire.”  The object of the fire was to destroy the cities, which were completely consumed.  The result of the fire will be eternal; hence, it is called “eternal fire.”

        Jesus, when speaking of the final destiny of the lost, used the term Gehenna, the fiery pit outside of Jerusalem where garbage was thrown to be consumed and destroyed, and which had become a symbol of the fate of the wicked (Matt. 5:22).  That He meant total extinction is made clear when He says we are not to fear those who can only kill the body, but rather to fear God “who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna” (Matt. 10:28).

        The Old Testament Scriptures also portray God’s use of fire in judgment.  Malachi warns: “all the proud, and all that work wickedness, shall be stubble; and the day that comes shall burn them up and shall leave them neither root nor branch” (Mal. 4:1).  David sang that “the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of Jehovah shall be as the fat of lambs; they shall consume; in smoke shall they consume away” (Psalms 37:20).

        Whether the fire of Judgment Day is what we know as fire, or is used symbolically, the message is clear, that the unredeemed are to be destroyed (not tortured), that sin might forever be eliminated from God’s creation.

        There are cases in Scripture where something, or someone, was subject to fire without being consumed.  Moses was confronted with a burning bush which was not consumed (Ex. 3:2).  The bush represented the power of the Creator, Who is said to be a consuming fire, but is able to save His people from destruction.

        It is a well–known story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men were thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s idols.  God protected the three faithful men from the fire, but it was so fierce that it slew the soldiers who were in charge (Dan. 3:19–27).  Here is an illustration of God using fire for the destruction of His enemies, while protecting the faithful.

        There is no record in the Bible of God ever having tortured His enemies.  It is hard to imagine that God, who loved sinners so much that He gave His precious Son to die for them, would have a torture chamber in the new creation where He would keep alive the vast majority of mankind (perhaps 5 billion) in order to torture them endlessly!

        Why, then, do so many believe in the perpetual torture of the lost?  Some say it comes from Christ’s words in Matthew 25:46: “These shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.”  However, the punishment for sin is death, and here Jesus speaks of that punishment (death) being eternal and irrevocable.  This is the opposite of life under torturous conditions.  The promise of immortality (everlasting existence, or eternal life) is made ONLY to true believers.

        If the doctrine of perpetual torture cannot be adequately supported by Scripture, where did it come from?  The historian Herodotus, born 484 B.C., wrote that “the Egyptians were the first to accept the belief that the soul of man is immortal.”  Plato, born in 429 B.C., studied their philosophy in Egypt and, upon his return to Greece, began to teach the immortality of the soul in Greek schools.  It was adopted by the Romans and brought into the church by Tertullian, Origen, and Augustine.  Eventually it was written into the creeds.  With the belief that the unredeemed are immortal and cannot die, it was necessary to invent the doctrine that they would live “in hell” forever.  This, in spite of Revelation 20:14 which states that being cast into the lake of fire is the “second death,” not a continuing life.

        The Bible does not teach that in eternity there will be a heaven and hell coexisting side by side!  Rather, it teaches that sin and its curse, along with its penalty of death, will be eliminated completely from God’s creation.  Being condemned to total and final death is a very grim prospect, but God, in mercy, offers a means of escape through faith in Jesus the Savior.  “The Lord preserves all them that love him; but all the wicked will he destroy” (Psalm 145:20).  All evil and unrighteousness will be utterly consumed at Christ’s return.  God’s people, those redeemed by His Son, will be protected from the cleansing fire, and transformed into His likeness (I John 3:2,3), fulfilling God’s eternal purpose.

        “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there was no more sea” (Rev. 21:2).

        “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness” (II Peter 3:13).  To God Be The Glory!

 

 

AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT

Randall Walton

        There are several allusions to the return of Jesus which are interpreted as indicating a secret, unforwarned snatching away of the elect before the time of trouble falls upon those who remain here.  One of those is that “the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night” (I Thess. 5:2).

        The argument goes something like this: just before the tribulation begins, Jesus is going to swoop down, as a thief, steal away His jewels while the rest of the world sleeps on.  Sounds good, but it’s not a true perception, for all the words of Jesus and the apostles deny that He will come secretly.

        The element of surprise is that which is set forth here.  He will come “in such an hour as ye think not” (Matt. 24:44); “when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh,” Paul warned about the coming of the day of the Lord. (I Thess. 4:3)

        Another supposed proof for the secret rapture is found in Paul’s message in II Thessalonians 2:7 where Paul speaks concerning the return of Jesus and the gathering together of the people of God.  He says, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”  These words “until he be taken out of the way” supposedly refers to the church being caught away just before the anti-Christ is released in fury upon the earth.

        But there are several errors in this interpolation of Paul’s message.

  1. The words letteth and let are better translated restrain or holding back.  It is a well known fact that the church is not now, nor has it ever, restrained or held back corruption, apostasy, anti-Christs, nor the forces of evil.  By and large the church has been a colossal failure.  It has not only joined the world, it has abetted the world and its conquests over the poor and destitute of the earth.

2.     The church is never referred to as “he.”  It is always called “she,” the bride of Christ, the body, the wife, but never “he.”  It is highly inconsistent with Scripture that, suddenly in one verse the bride should be called by a masculine pronoun!

It should be evident to all of us that the “he” who is holding back the terrors of trouble on a worldwide scale is the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  His work in the earth at present is universal, but there will come the day when the work of the harvest will be over and He will no longer restrain the powers of evil which will then sweep over the nations.  God’s people will still be here and “he,” the Holy Ghost, will overshadow the people of God to preserve and nourish them during that time.