People of The Living God

Romans 10:9-10

 

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August 2014



 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT

Randall Walton

        “Yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (I Thess. 5:2).

        From the context of this and the preceding chapter we know that Paul was writing about the second coming of the Lord, or “the day of the Lord.”  It is a sad commentary on the “doctors of divinity” who have devised a secret catching away of the church based upon the theme of “a thief in the night.”  The idea of secrecy is not included in this phrase.

        The element which is plainly set forth here is surprise, not secrecy.  In verse 3, Paul says, “For they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them.”  This comes as a great shock, or surprise.  Peace and safety will have become the cry.  It will appear that calm and quietness have at last been acquired, then, suddenly, calamity strikes!

        This corresponds to the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:43: “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.  Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”  Surprise, surprise, surprise!!!

Watch

        Both Jesus and Paul admonished people to be watchful, awake, alert, to know and understand the signs that would herald His soon coming.  “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief” (verse 4).

        The people of God should not be surprised when the Lord makes His appearance.  They should be so in tune with the Lord that they fully anticipate and are ready for His glorious advent when He breaks through the clouds with His myriads of angels, not to set up His kingdom on earth, but to judge the world in righteousness and gather His family to Himself (Acts 17:31; Eph. 1:9,10; I Cor. 15:50-52).

        It is no secret that for many years people have been watching for a secret catching up of the church, in spite of the fact that Scriptures nowhere teach such a thing.  The classic passage of verses which are tenaciously clung to are found in I Thess. 4:16-18.  But most of the proponents of this gross error blindly pass over these words: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven WITH A SHOUT, with the VOICE OF THE ARCHANGEL, and with the TRUMP OF GOD: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.”  And this is done in secret??

        This doctrine has its basis in the imagination of a few folks from Scotland in the 19th century.  It is a fantastic fantasy which is being perpetuated by the means of illusory allegories, types and shadows, and interpolation.

        Over the past nearly 200 years, thousands of people have been misled by the so-called prophets of end-time events.  At different times, folds have been instructed to sell their homes and farms, quit their jobs, take the kids out of school, etc., because some master of the mystical had miraculously “discerned” the hour, the day, the month, and the year when the Lord would return and take them up in the air until the great tribulation had ceased.

        A popular, unscriptural slogan was adopted by the perpetrators of this massive scheme: “First He comes for His saints, then He comes with His saints.”  All we ask for is book, chapter, and verse.

Beware of Leaven

        Once a doctrine has been devised, it becomes necessary to back up that teaching with as much “proof” as possible.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much “wresting” of the Scriptures is necessary to bolster the ill-conceived idea; it seem the average person is geared to some glaring gullibility and will accept the teaching as true provided it has a smattering of Biblical sounding verbiage.

        Mrs. E.G. White did this with her 1844 doctrine of the cleansing of the sanctuary.  Charles Taze Russell accomplished his deception in the same manner with his millennial idea in 1914 and again in 1918.  Others have done similarly with all sorts of strange doctrines, all purporting to have had some divine revelation in their understanding of the Scriptures.

        A good example of how far these teachers will go in their mutilation of the word of God can be seen with John 5:28 and 29: “Marvel not at this: for THE HOUR is coming, IN THE WHICH ALL that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

        The modern “expositors” of the word have found it necessary to butcher and distort these verses beyond recognition by inserting a period of 1,000 years.  The HOUR Jesus spoke of, then, has a duration of a thousand years!  Jesus plainly and emphatically stated that ALL that are dead, both good and evil, will come forth in the same hour, at the same occasion.  The only separation which is made is by classification or kind, not a separation in time.

        Thus, in one small instance Jesus categorically refutes both the secret rapture theory and the great millennial myth, both doctrines of which depend upon two separate times for the resurrection of the good and the evil.

        Remember, leaven puffs up, builds, and expands.  It is dangerous and destructive and causes the eyes to become dim.  “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6), Jesus warned, for He was referring to their doctrines (verse 12).  Both of those groups of religionists rejected the teachings of Jesus in preference to their own.  In the same manner, Bible “experts” today are rejecting the plain teachings of Jesus in preference to their own contrived ideas which are leading multitudes of people down a pathway of apathy, disregard of the commands of Jesus, and a superficial profession of Christianity.

        No wonder His advent will come as a great surprise, or as a thief in the night.  The majority are looking for an easy-out, a highway paved with gold, a life of leisure, luxury, and laissez-faire.  The “way of the Cross” has been exchanged for the “way of self-glory”; the Sermon on the Mount has been traded for the litany from the pulpit; the faith once delivered unto the saints has been replaced with a universal health plan; and the voice of one crying in the wilderness has been made obsolete in deference to an entertainment committee.

        There are many things designated in the Scriptures which must come to pass before Jesus comes back.  If He were to return before these many things are fulfilled, then the Scriptures are not true, or else He would be guilty of abrogating His own words, both of which are impossibilities.  Yet, these purveyors of error are telling us that Jesus may come at any time, even before those many events are fulfilled.

        Whom shall we believe, these masters of deceit or the Master of glory?  We’ll take Jesus and His words anytime.  If you prefer the interpolations of man, do so at your own risk, for truth is found in Jesus alone.

        It’s high time to awaken out of sleep.  “They that sleep, sleep in the night,” and He will come as a thief in the night.

 

 

 

THE PERFECT LAW

Harry Miller

        “The LAW of the Lord is perfect” (Psa. 19:7).  What a contrast this is from the law of man!  Hampered by all of his limitations, man is unable to legislate or to enforce laws that will lead to perfection.

        The giving of commandments by no means constitutes the whole duty of a ruler.  With a commandment there must also be power to enforce a penalty upon any who break the law.  Herein lies the great failure of human government.

        With human government there is no possible way to inflict penal justice upon the hearts of plotters of iniquity.  Schemes and plans of the basest kind may be devised, and not until they are actually brought to light can the government of men do anything about it; but with the citizens of the kingdom of God things are quite different.  The very thoughts of evil are immediately dealt with by a conscience prodded by the Holy Spirit.  The misery of conviction takes hold upon the heart of the culprit, and long before the deed is ever brought to light the violator of God’s law is kneeling penitently before the throne of grace seeking pardon for useless thoughts.

        Think of the glory of a kingdom where every subject is in complete harmony and submission to its king.

        Consider the fact that in the kingdom of men governmental machinery and law enforcing units are legion and their upkeep is costly and a constant source of care and worry to the chief rulers.

        But not so in the kingdom of God.  In His kingdom the angels of the Lord and the Eternal Spirit bear the burden of all the chief functions of government.  Smoothly and silently the will of the great King is carried forth by the departments of justice which never have to change shifts, and servants who never grow weary or ever fail.

        “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”  Not only does the law of the Lord restrain law breakers and hold violence in check, it even converts the wayward from the error of his way, thus making a useful citizen out of him.

        Through the power of the Holy Spirit many governmental laws and precepts have been given to men down through the ages; and as men have obeyed the laws of God, blessing and prosperity have been the result, many times even under great handicap.  Many of “the laws of Moses” are used even today in our courts, and judges and law makers put to use many of the principles of law given in the Scriptures.

        The laws of God, as a whole, have been rejected by men of this world, because they are basically designed to lead men back to God and into perfect harmony with the holy beings of heaven.  Therefore, in order to escape the conviction of true government, men have rejected most of the commandments of the great King.

        If every man and woman were dominated by the power of the Holy Spirit, and no man used his own reason relative to any action bearing upon the welfare of others, there would be no necessity for the “precept” of law.  The principle of law always was and always will be; but the precept has only been given in order to help stay the downward progress of man.

        As long as there are free moral agents, there must of necessity be law; and as long as there are two or more people with different mental capacities and ideas, there is the necessity for law.  To the lawless, the government and the law are enemies and are sorely despised (II Pet. 2:10; I Tim. 1:9).  Just suppose that the police forces of our nation were suddenly withdrawn from their work, and nowhere in the land would an officer perform his duty.  How long would you and your family be safe in your house, at your work, even in your church?

        And today, even with our great law machinery and officers, violence is barely kept within the bounds of official restraint.  Men of high estate as well as the commoners are swept on by greed and base fleshly desires.  Human government falls woefully short of perfection.

        Law can be classified under two different heads: moral law and physical law.

        Physical law is the law of force and the will of man.  It is like the law of gravity and other laws of nature.  In other words, certain conditions compel men to do certain things.  And the law of human government is based on compulsion.  This system has no control over the thought life; neither does the thought of obedience to it make any appeal to the finer things within a person.  Men obey mainly because they fear that they have to do so.

        Many people have dreamed of an earthly utopia of a thousand years when God would compel men to obey His government.  But such a thing is completely foreign to the plan of God, for a government of physical force could in no way honor the Almighty.  God could compel men to act like machines, and He could make every rebel walk the chalk line day and night, but would this honor God?  Would forcing men to act out a part bring glory to His name?

        Moral law is the law of Christ’s kingdom: the precept that appeals to the hearts of those who love God.  They obey His commandments because they want to please Him.  Here is a higher and far more honorable law for man, one that appeals to the most noble thing within his nature.  “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.”  “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (I John 5:3).  The compelling force of love is far more powerful than physical force in keeping law and order.

        “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3).  It was Jesus Christ who was seen upon the fiery mount of Sinai, and He it was who gave the law unto Moses.

        Many people think that God the Father was the giver of the law, and that Jesus came to nullify the rigid laws of the Father.  In other words, they believe that God the Father gave us laws which were hard to bear: cruel, cold and pitiless; therefore, Jesus came to do away with the law.  Such doctrine is a Satanic lie, for the Father did not give the law in the first place; and in the second place, Jesus did not “come to destroy the law,” he came to “magnify the law and make it honorable” (Isa. 42:21).

        The government is “upon His shoulders.”  “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end…to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice.”  Here is law, and here is penalty for broken law, and both given by the “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6,7).

        Christ showed His approval of the law of God by “fulfilling it” (Matt. 5:17-19).  Paul tells us “We establish the law” (Rom. 3:3).

        The Lord does more than merely request man to keep His laws; He demands that they be kept.  “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar” (I John 2:4).  Here is strong language, and it is from a New Testament writer.  Many religionists of today say that Christ fulfilled the law, thus doing away with it, but through such reasoning they make void His commandments, and permit the enemy to take full control.  Fulfilling a thing does not mean doing away with it.  Christ had no intention of doing away with all righteousness when He spoke of fulfilling that! (Matt. 3:15)

        Circumcision (a custom and part of the old covenant) now profits nothing, we are told, but “the keeping of the commandments of God” does (I Cor. 7:19).

        The laws “contained in ordinances” when Israel had a tabernacle, a temple, and a priesthood, and God-ordained political government, have all been done away with under the new covenant.  “Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace” (Eph. 2:15).

        Concerning meats and drinks, we are told: “let no man judge you” (Col. 2:16; I Tim. 4:1-7; Rom. 14:17).

        It seems that men are prone to swing like pendulums from one extreme to another.  The Jews multiplied the commandments and the laws until it became an impossibility for any man to keep them all.  As confusion came in, men began to despise the real commandments of God as well as the foolish additions.  Thus, they fell into the way of sin and soon failed their Lord.

        Today, most men ignore the laws of God and say that they are not under the law but are in the dispensation of grace, which means that there is no law and everything is “liberty.”  They say that sin is merely the thing that man thinks is sin.  They quote this, that “if any man be in Christ he cannot sin.”

        Lawlessness is the root of most trouble in our day.  Every man wants to do that which is “right in his own eyes;” and in the eyes of many, everything that they do is right.

        “Not every one that saith…Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom…but he that DOETH the will of My Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

        This confines salvation and kingdom blessings to the obedient.  No matter what a man’s religious affiliation is, he is not a son of God unless he walks in obedience.

 

 

 

KINGDOM BOUNDARIES

Alfred King

        I believe it was Ronald Reagan who made the statement that to remove the boundaries of any nation is to no longer have a nation.  The statement made me think of Christ’s kingdom and the boundaries of that kingdom.  If we consider that all nations must have boundaries or else they become merely a territory with no specific government, no rule, laws or authority to cultivate a specific society unique and distinct from all other societies.  It would be an area in which men live only by their own rules with no common laws and without law enforcement to maintain order.  Reagan’s statement is true, therefore there must be boundaries to the kingdom of God.  It might be beneficial to determine what some of those boundaries are.

        When Jesus came preaching the kingdom of heaven, He laid down specific criterion, which themselves make up the boundaries of His kingdom.  For one to attempt to put physical boundaries on God’s kingdom would show how lacking that person’s understanding of God is and the infinite vastness of His kingdom.  Scripture informs us that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (Ps. 24:1).  The cattle on a thousand hills belong to God (Ps. 50:50).  It teaches that heaven is his throne and the earth is his footstool (Isa. 66:1).  When David desired to build God a house, God told David the heaven of heavens cannot contain him.  And consider how wide David considered God’s kingdom to reach in Ps. 139:8, “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” God being omnipotent created all things and while He is not happy with everything that exists within His domain, He is still Lord and King over it all.  He is not pleased with the existence of hell and has determined that He will, in the end of this world cast hell into the lake of fire to be destroyed forever (Rev. 20:14).  God is not delighted with most events and activities of this world although they are within His domain.  John expresses God’s view of this world in his first epistle, chapter 2, verse 8.  “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”  Jesus is King and Lord over all for His kingdom is limitless.

        As limitless as His kingdom is, He has laid down precise requirements for one to be a citizen of His kingdom.  His kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness, holiness and perfection.  “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom” (Heb 1:8). 

        There are some who feel the kingdom of God is of little importance to us today because it is to exist in the future when Jesus returns.  It is at that time that Jesus will set up his kingdom on earth for a certain period of time.  This postpones the kingdom’s importance.  If the kingdom is only futuristic and is of little pertinence today, why then is the kingdom of God referred to so frequently in scripture?  Why did Jesus speak of it so often in the four gospels and why did God inspire the writers of scripture to include all the verses that refer to His kingdom?  The term “kingdom of God” is used fifty-four times in the four gospels, forty-five by Jesus Himself.  Mathew, who refers to the kingdom as the “kingdom of heaven”, uses this term thirty-two times.  It is also mentioned in most of the epistles and it is vividly clear that a topic mentioned so frequently in God’s word would not be considered unimportant by God.  It is important because God wants His people to understand what it is, what its function is in our present age, and how it should affect the lives of His people.  The kingdom of God is one of the major themes of scripture and its importance and relevance for today’s church surpasses all other biblical teachings and doctrines, for the kingdom of Jesus Christ encompasses all other true doctrine.  The kingdom Jesus proclaimed must not be underestimated or its importance diminished.  While there are some groups which teach strongly about the kingdom, even going door to door propagating their viewpoints of it, they have completely missed the kingdom that Jesus preached.

        The kingdom Jesus offers men does have boundaries.  They are spiritual boundaries, boundaries which are set to keep out all, except they come in legally.  God provides only one means of entrance and that means is Jesus Christ.  In John 3, Jesus told Nicodemus that one “must be born again” to enter this kingdom (Jn. 3:3).  He emphatically declared that “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:8).  In John 10:9, Jesus declared Himself to be the door and no man can enter any other way.  Again in John 14:6 Jesus stated that He was and is The Way: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  No man can enter this kingdom except by being saved and washed in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, having his sins cleansed and being made a new creature in Christ.  So we see that salvation is the avenue of entrance and this fact clearly barricades anyone from entering any other way.  The boundaries of this kingdom are securely protected and bar entrance except through Christ.  If one is not saved, he is outside God’s kingdom and can only enter through Jesus Christ.

        However, according to Jesus in His parable of the tares and wheat, we see tares among the wheat and they are in the kingdom.  Consider Matt 13:41, ”The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity”.  They entered His kingdom through salvation, but they were obviously not faithful in walking in kingdom light.  They walked as Israel of old, in the imaginations of their own hearts, in disobedience to the laws of God’s kingdom and they fell away.  Instead of bringing forth fruit, they bear thorns and briars.  A time is coming when those who refuse to live their lives according to the commands of Jesus Christ, will be cast out and there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

        There have been several men who have been condemned as traitors to the USA and have lost their citizenship.  One of the most infamous men was Benedict Arnold.  (Although the USA was not officially a nation at the time, the premise holds true.)  In the beginning when this new nation was struggling for its independence, Benedict Arnold was a very loyal general in the American cause, fighting for freedom alongside others seeking freedom from England’s rule.  He accomplished several important victories in battles with the English, but as the war wore on victory seemed more and more unlikely.  He made a fatal decision to betray his comrades and sided with those who were once his enemies.  It was at this point that Benedict Arnold sold his US citizenship and was no longer welcome or allowed to remain in this country.  The same is true in the kingdom of God, some will fall away from God. 

        Jesus clearly and emphatically told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world (Jn. 18:36).  Scripture repeatedly teaches that His kingdom is within the hearts of those who believe.  There are many verses of scripture that inform us that it is possible to be cast out of God’s kingdom.  Although a man may be born again, he can lose his citizenship, be deported and refused entrance again just as it can happen among nations in the material world.  I will list a few of many verses that warn of us to make our calling and election sure for the reader to examine for himself.  (Matt. 8:11 children of the kingdom cast out; Matt. 13:18-23 Parable of the Sower: some enter the kingdom but lose out in the end; Matt. 13:41-42,  Matt. 22:11-13 man without a wedding garment was cast out; Matt. 25:14-30 parable of the talents, one servant cast out; I Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:21, Eph. 5:5-6, these last three apply to all men whether they were once born again or not).

        In today’s world, it seems all stops have been pulled and the boundaries of moral decency that once were even respected by evil men have been completely discarded. While this is expected among the unregenerate, Christians must hold to God’s law and be obedient servants lest we be cast out of His glorious kingdom.  When I was a child and before my father was saved, he told me that though men may curse and use bad language around other men, no man with any decency would use bad language around women.  That’s certainly old fashioned by today’s standards.  How things have changed.  Today even children are bombarded with profanity of the most corrupt kind and they are subjected to the most ungodly passions of evil men, things to which no human should be exposed.  Even those who have been washed in the blood of Christ but who fall into sin and continue therein, refusing to confess and repent (turn from the known sin) will find themselves outside of God’s kingdom and will face an eternal hell.

        In the kingdom of God there are boundaries of righteousness and those who refuse to walk in righteousness will not remain in God’s kingdom.  “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.  He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.  For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:7-8)  Stay securely within God’s boundaries so you may hear those wonderful words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

 

 

 

GLORY ENOUGH

Curtis Dickinson

        Things are not always as they appear.  When Christ died on the cross it looked as though He had suffered a shameful defeat.

        Albert Sweitzer maintained that Jesus willed to die because the consummation of the kingdom of Israel had not taken place as He had expected.  He gave up because He had failed.  Satan had won.

        But the reverse was true.  Christ was destroying the works of Satan by bearing our sin, the sin which Satan introduced into the world to bring us down to death.

        This was the glorious work Christ came into the world to do.  Glorious from heaven’s viewpoint, not from the world view.

        That’s because the world has little concern for God’s purpose.  Men seek goals in time and space, in relation to temporal pleasures and material worth.  God has defined His goal – to have man in His own image – but man insists on setting his own goals, and the goals that get attention are strictly materialistic and temporal, glorifying man, not God.

        Christ’s mission was glorious in that it made it possible for man to (1) be cleansed from sin by His death and (2) be saved from the ultimate death, that (3) He might live forever with God, in His image.

        There was little glory in it from the earthly side.  He was hated by the religious leaders who sought “glory one of another” and were not concerned with the purpose of God.

        He was mocked and treated shamefully by the crowd, people who were convinced that no one so unanimously despised could be of any real worth.

        Even Peter wavered and caved in when he had to choose whether to be despised as Christ’s follower or find some respect among his peers.

        Those who believe in Christ (and believe Christ) must admit that what Jesus did in dying was most glorious in the eyes of God, in spite of the disgust it generated in the minds of men.  For His perfect obedience and accomplishment in His death, God “highly exalted him, and gave Him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9).

        We know that without this work (of His death) there would be no hope; we would be hopelessly condemned for our sin with nothing awaiting us but the final execution of judgment.

        According to scripture, the death of Jesus was seen by the Father as the most essential and productive event in history.  Yet, except for a song, the solemn observance of the communion in remembrance of that death, and mention of it in the sermon – and all this at the specified hour of worship on Sunday – little more is made of it even by Christians.  The rest of the week, glory is sought in every way except in ways that imitate Christ.

        No one finds glory in turning the other cheek.

        To love your enemy and do good to them that harm you is the mark of stupidity in modern society.

                The glory of man is powerful bait, enough to lure many of the ablest preachers away from the simplicity of Christ’s message to popular prophetic speculations and doctrines rooted in tradition rather than in scripture.  Jesus asked the religious leaders, “How can you believe who receive glory one of another, and the glory that comes from the only God you seek not?” (John 5:44)

        Looking for glory in the wrong things may be one of the chief causes of depression, disappointment and pessimism among Christians.  People see things in the world deteriorating, with the constant increase in crime, emphasis on humanism, the prisons filling up, corruption in high places, and a general indifference to sin.  They see themselves defeated as Christians because, after all the effort to promote the Gospel and to live right and do right, it is still the adulterous movie star, the unbelieving celebrity, and the greedy athlete who get the glory.

        But whose glory do we seek?  God’s or men’s?

        Glory often focuses on the person who is able to catch the mood of the times and capitalize on it.  He attracts crowds because he meets a particular need.  A faith healer is exalted.  Having a body free of sickness and pain is something all of us would be happy to claim.  But Christ’s atoning death on the cross was not for our present physical well-being, but to rescue us from the final death and give us eternal well-being.  As for the crowds that flock to those who offer better health and greater wealth, they do not exalt Jesus but the one making the offer.

        And what value this glory of men?  Would you not rather face the Eternal in shoes of a Simon Peter than those of Clark Gable?  Yet, Peter knew no glory in his lifetime and Gable was a legend long before he died.

        The church – and this includes every Christian – is glorious only when it is doing the work of God, however weak or ordinary or foolish such work appears to the worldly eye.

        God works toward a purpose; not a multiplicity of purposes, but one grand goal which will not be realized until the harvest, when the seed sown in fertile soil has grown to produce the wheat He designed – man in His image.  Then it will be gathered for His eternal pleasures, and the rest will be destroyed by fire – not recycled (as reincarnation) or preserved (as in perpetual torture), but destroyed so as to leave the threshing floor clean forever (Matt. 3:12).

        Christ sows good seed.  Satan sows tares.  The weeds grow naturally and outnumber the seed manifold.  The glory that accrues to Satan’s followers is predominant due to their vast majority.  But no Christian seeks such glory.  “That which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

        The glory that we seek is not to be realized while we live as pilgrims and aliens in the world, but it will be forthcoming at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  “For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the revealing of the Sons of God” (Rom. 8:19).  The Apostle Paul writes of the whole creation suffering and travailing at the present time, waiting for the glory that is to be revealed.  This will be the revealing “of the glory of the children of God,” including “the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:21 and 23).

        The basic appeal of Christ throughout His ministry was just this: life on the order designed by the Creator.  His preaching repeatedly pointed up this message “that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

        “He that believes on the Son has eternal life but he that obeys not the Son shall not see life” (John 3:36).

        “You will not come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:40).

        The glory of that life is to be realized only in eternity: “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).  “Then (after the judgment) shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43).

        “For our light affliction, which is for a moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Cor. 4:17,18).

        God is not dead.  The time for revealing His glorious sons is not yet, but He is working.

        His will is being accomplished.

        His purpose is inexorable.

        The burden of the world’s scorn will one day become a weight of glory for Christians.

        We look not at the things seen (the applause and honor of men) but at the things not seen (the pleasure of our Lord).

        The single purpose of God is still to have a people who are in fellowship with Him incorruptible and eternal, in the new earth wherein dwells righteousness and nothing else (II Peter 3:13).

        And that’s glory enough.

 

 

 

THE AMAZING POTTER

James Sanderson

        How amazing it is to watch a lowly potter working patiently at his wheel: pounding, kneading, molding, and shaping a clump of clay into a beautiful vase!  A chunk of nondescript mud becomes a lovely ornament worthy of a king's house.  No ordinary clay will do.  The potter chooses only soft, pliable material evenly moist to produce the many beautiful vessels for which he is known.  He discards the clay that is hard, dry, and resistant to his artistic hand.  As the potter works at his wheel, at times the clay is marred.  He patiently restarts the process –molding, shaping, smoothing out the rough places, streamlining the bulges, removing the occasional hard material (Jer.18:4).  When this process is complete, the potter sits back and gazes with satisfaction at the finished product.  As he gazes, the wise potter realizes that his vessel is not truly complete.  In its present state, although exquisite in form, his vase lacks resilience and durability.  It is still unusable.  He then places each clay vessel into a fiery kiln where it is baked with just the right amount of heat to solidify beauty that will last a lifetime.

        The Father in heaven is that Amazing Potter.  “We are his workmanship” (Eph. 2:10).  This world is His factory – a place where the earthy (clay) is being transformed to radiate the divine.  The prophet Isaiah cries out to God, “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Is 64:8).  Through the process of pounding, kneading, molding, and shaping, the Lord is producing vessels “unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim.2:21).  In His infinite wisdom, our Heavenly Father crafts each vessel to His specifications.  He knows just what is necessary to produce the finished product.  The Apostle John declared, “when he shall appear, we shall be like him” (I John 3:2).  Each completed vessel will bear the nature and character of Jesus Christ.

        In this amazing process, the Father in heaven has only one requirement: complete cooperation on our part.  Like the potter, He wants clay that is soft, pliable, easily molded by His artistic hand.  The Apostle Paul stated it this way, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service; And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom 12:1-2).  That word present means yield.  The Father in heaven requires us to simply yield our lives to Him so that He can craft the vessel that He desires.  How often, like the children of Israel, have we chafed and complained when God attempted to perform the work of the potter in our lives!  How wonderful to know that we are in His hands and in His care!  The difficulties and trials of life are only His hands shaping and molding the clay producing divine character.

        How sad that at times the Father finds a chunk of clay hard, dry, and completely resistant to His artistic hand, clay that has to be discarded.  As Jesus stood over the city of Jerusalem before His crucifixion, He cried out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Mt.23:37-38).  The nation of Israel rejected the work of the Potter in their lives; therefore, in turn, He rejected them. 

        In the midst of the difficulties and cares of this life, it is very easy to lose sight of this wonderful call that God has placed before His people.  The Spirit of the Lord continues to ask His people, “cannot I do with you as this potter?  Saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand” (Jer.18:6).  Let us continue to praise and glorify our Heavenly Father for the marvelous work He is accomplishing in our lives.

 

 

 

LOVE

Alfred King

        There are many attributes and characteristics of God revealed to us in scripture in order that man might catch a slight glimpse of God and with that revelation there would be created within the heart of the believer the desire to be transformed into His likeness.  Not that man could ever be God in the sense that God is God, but that he would so yearn to obtain that purity and holiness where sin and evil could find no place, but rather a place of freedom which only one, made in the image of God can grasp or understand.  These attributes of God are revealed through the Lord Jesus Christ in His life as a man on the earth.  In Christ was the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9).  If we look closely at the characteristics of Christ Jesus, we see every attribute to which He calls us in the famed and well-known “Beatitudes” found in Matthew five.  This short list of the attributes of God to which He bids us seek include being poor in spirit, becoming those who mourn over sin in their own lives, obtaining a meek spirit which in the sight of God is of great price (I Pet. 3:4).  It is possible to be one in whose heart there is a constant longing, a lingering hunger and thirst for righteousness and a purity of heart, attached with mercy and a great desire to be a peacemaker, seeing souls make peace with God and reconciled through faith in Jesus Christ.  With all these attributes there is a rejoicing in persecution and tribulation for there is power given by God that strengthens the believer to endure under these difficulties.  Such is a short list of the many qualities which reveal God.

        There are many scriptures that clearly declare God’s divine attributes exposing much more than those mentioned in the Beatitudes, the most outstanding and one which has the greatest impact upon man is His love.  Thousands of hymns have been written over the centuries about the love of God, yet all of them combined cannot express nor define God’s love clearly or perfectly.  They always fall short.  However this love is something man can experience if he so desires for God reaches out in love to all humanity.  God’s love is devoid of any selfishness or self-interest, it is supernatural and supremely exquisite.  It is thoroughly divine, purely heavenly and available for any who will reach out to God in faith.  God’s love, when it reaches man’s heart, brings with it a peace beyond description, described in one song as, “as a forest kissed by rain.”  This love comes in like a river which overflows and cannot be contained.  God’s love obliterates every tormenting and discouraging device of hell.  When God’s love enters one’s heart, depression cannot stand, anger and hatred are shattered, Satan’s strongholds are broken and this man will never be the same.  Love is the most powerful force in the universe and God’s love is more powerful than any and all other loves experienced in this world.

        But as great as the love of God is, it is man who must allow God’s love to possess him and transform him.  He must allow God’s love to change him by putting on this love as a cloak or a covering and be controlled and dominated by it.  The man who desires to be conformed to the likeness of Christ must be wholly possessed by the love of God in all his actions, ways, words and thoughts.  In God’s letter to the Ephesian church recorded in Revelation two, He had something against that church.  He commends them on several points but then He expresses His one concern: they had lost their first love (Rev. 2:4).  As essential and profitable is our time spent going to church, listening to good sermons and inspiring music, hearing wonderful testimonies along with daily time spent in reading scripture through the week, if it does not motivate us to action in spiritual growth and maturity, we are merely religious and have not found that life which the Gospel is intended to produce.  If all these “good” things are not creating a desire to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, developing a hatred of sin and a grieving over our own failures and short-comings, we have slipped into the camp of mere religion and are Christian in name only.  If a yearning for the salvation of the lost is not burning in our hearts, our religion is passé and void of its power, grace, and spiritual life Jesus came to give.  Salvation coupled with an understanding of the Gospel should spur in every believer, first to be changed into the likeness of Christ and second, to share that life and glory with others.  Genuine grace and Holy Spirit empowerment will estrange one from the world and all that the world loves and seeks.  In the place of a heart that yearns for things of the world will be a heart that longs for God and seeks the fruits of the Spirit.  Paul said that his speech and preaching was not with enticing word of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power lest their faith should rest in man’s wisdom (being merely religious).  His desire was that their faith should rest in the power of God (I Cor. 2:4-5).  Religion and the power of God’s love are not necessarily the same.

        There are many today who are seeking the gifts of the Spirit, the power to heal, to prophesy, give a word of knowledge, perform miracles, etc., but if any of these gifts are exercised apart from the love of God they are a danger to the one through whom they operate.  Love is the “more excellent way” (I Cor. 12:31) and as important and essential as are faith and hope, love towers above them both in importance and Christlikeness.  Love is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:10).  Love is obedience (Jn. 14:23).  The bond created in one’s heart by Christ’s love is so permanent and powerful that nothing can separate him from Christ (Rom. 8:35-39).  The only man who can be fully entrusted with the power of the kingdom of God to which we have been called and saved to possess, is the man who is filled with the love of God.  If one reads through I Cor. 13 carefully he will see that this chapter describes Jesus Christ for He was and is the perfect expression of this chapter.

        One of the most memorized and popular verses in scripture is John 3:16, which states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Many look at this verse and only see salvation in the sense that Christ died a physical death, therefore procuring eternal life for all who take a step of faith by going to an altar and repeating a few words after the minister.  Most go away just as unsaved as they were when they went forward.  The love of God, revealed through the cross of Jesus for sinful man, is lost today in most of our modern theology.  It is not that Jesus was lashed with a Roman’s whip or the fact that He stumbled while carrying a cross that was too heavy for one who had been abused all night by hateful soldiers, that procured salvation for sinners.  It was not that He was falsely accused and condemned by Pilate and hung by nails on a Roman cross between two thieves.  As important to man’s salvation is the physical part of Christ’s sufferings, if we do not go beyond that and see what transpired in the spiritual realm, we miss the most important part of the cross of Christ.

        Under the Old Covenant a lamb was sacrificed for a man’s sin or the lamb was slain in the man’s place.  It was not for the lamb’s sin that he was being killed but in place of the man who brought the unblemished lamb as a proxy or a substitute.  That lamb could not take away the man’s sin but the sacrifice was an act of faith in THE LAMB, Who would take away the sin of the world.  When Jesus came, He was THE LAMB, Who bore the sins of the world, which sins did place Him upon a Roman cross.  The heart of the crucifixion was that He became man’s substitute.  He hung on that cross in our place.  It was not for His sin that He died, for He never sinned, but it was for your sin and mine that He was impaled.  The heart of the crucifixion of Christ is that the judgment of God which was due man fell upon Him.  The wrath of God that was mine, that was focused on me was turned away and that wrath fell upon Him.  God’s wrath for the sin for which I was accountable, fell upon the Savior.  For a better understanding of this point let us consider some very clear and basic facts in scripture.  In Deuteronomy 27, Moses gives some blessings that would be Israel’s if they walked in obedience, and many curses that would fall upon them if they chose to serve other gods.  Israel was instructed that when they entered the land of Canaan, they were to travel through two mountains, Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal.  There is a passage at the foot of these two mountains (300 to 500 feet wide) through which the Israelites were to pass.  Six tribes were to stand on Mount Gerizim and were to read the blessings contained in the law given by God to Moses.  The other six tribes were to stand on Mount Ebal and were to read the curses God had warned would follow disobedience.  Some of those curses were: Cursed were those who made graven images and who served other gods.  Cursed were those who lead the blind out of the way.  Cursed were those who perverted judgment.  Cursed were murderers.  Cursed were those who committed fornication.  Cursed were those who taught against the observance of the law and the list goes on.  All these curses and more are ours though sin.  When we come to Christ in repentance and faith, every sin we ever committed is placed upon Him and the wrath of God for those sins turns from us and is poured upon Him.  God the Father cursed His only Son with the curses that should have been ours.  That’s how greatly God loved the world.  In the Sermon on the Mount, we have the Beatitudes and listed there are the blessings that are promised those who meet the conditions.  The kingdom of God is for those who are poor in spirit.  Those who are merciful will receive mercy.  Want to see God?  Be pure in heart.  Unfortunately, we have failed in all of these things that would bring blessing.  If the blessings are missed, then conversely the curse of neglect and failure fall upon us.  Jesus Christ bore the curse designed for those who are not merciful, pronounced on those who have not a pure heart, determined for those not poor in spirit, etc.  All we have fallen short of meeting the requirements to receive the blessings contained in the Beatitudes, therefore incurring the curse determined, but God placed upon Him the curse intended to be ours.  This love of God, so magnificent, so glorious, so indescribably divine, is also offered to fill the hearts of those who believe and will allow God’s Holy Spirit to work and produce this wonderful fruit of God.  We may doubt whether this love of God can ever be found in our lives, but Paul encourages the believers in Rome with these words found in Rom. 5:5, “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”  Let us not be weary in well-doing for we shall reap in due season if we faint not.

 

 

 

BLESSED ARE THE DEAD

(Which Die in the Lord) Rev. 14:13

Randall Walton

        One of the most confused doctrines in Christian circles concerns the condition of the dead – what happens to a person when she/he dies or is killed?  It is quite plain that, under normal circumstances, the corpse is placed in an underground grave or a crypt in a mausoleum, but there are also the cases where bodies are lost at sea or are consumed in a horrible fire, or they may be cremated, a practice which is gaining in popularity.

        The various views of this interesting topic involve several related issues and opinions, all of which affect the overall teaching much as dominoes in a child’s game: if one idea falls, the others follow suit.  It would be well for us to state the two major stands on this subject.

        I.   Unconscious state of the dead
        II.  Conscious state of the dead

        These two opposing views include so many divergent ideas that it is necessary for us to consider them separately so that we can analyze them in the light of the truth of the Scriptures.

I.  Unconscious state.

        This teaching holds that when any person expires, that is the total end of that person’s existence until the day of resurrection and the judgment.  Then all the physical bodies will come forth from the graves and will receive their eternal rewards.  Some say those who were saved then go to heaven, while others claim the saved will remain on the earth eternally.  Most of these teachers believe that the unsaved will be immediately destroyed after the judgment, while others teach that they will be tormented briefly before being destroyed.  Still others say that the wicked will burn forever, a sort of living death.

        Proof used for this teaching, (also known as “soul sleep”) is found in the Old Testament, mainly in the books of Job and Ecclesiastes.  This doctrine embraces the belief that the human condition is limited to the physical body and that the spirit of man is his breath.  Man is a soul, they say, who falls asleep upon death and remains in that state awaiting the resurrection.

        These people then hold to the belief that hell is merely the grave, that there is no awareness in the grave, or hell, and that it is not a place of torment or punishment.

        It is fairly easy to punch holes in this theory, because the Scriptures are not supportive of it.  It is true that several Old Testament texts say that the dead know nothing, and it is very true that the physical brain is totally inactivated when the body dies.  But, is the body the sum total of man’s existence?

II. Conscious state of the dead.

        This teaching assumes the position that man is a three part person, consisting of spirit, soul and body.  When a person passes from this life, his body decays but his soul and spirit go to a place where there is consciousness and he awaits for the resurrection when Jesus returns.  This is clearly portrayed by Jesus in His account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.  Jesus informs the unbiased hearer that there is consciousness after death, both for the saved and the unsaved.

        There is ample proof in the Bible that mankind is more than an animal or just a physical being.  If man is no more than a mere model of the dust of the earth, then we would concede that when the blood ceases coursing through his arteries and veins that would be the end of him until the resurrection.  But…

        “I pray God that your whole spirit, and soul and body be preserved blameless” (I Thess. 5:23).  SPIRIT, SOUL and BODY!

        Those who teach soul-sleeping tell us that spirit is merely the air we breathe since the Greek word for spirit is pneuma, or air.  But Jesus said, “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24).  Shall we conclude from this that God is merely air?  Do not the Scriptures tell us that He has all the faculties and qualities of Being?  God lives, He is.  He is not merely air.

The Spirit of Man

        Hebrews 4:12 informs us that the soul and spirit may be separated or divided, thus making a difference between the two.  Jesus said, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell (Gehenna)” (Matt. 10:28).

        Jesus makes a clear distinction between the physical body and the soul.  So, we have three elements which compose mortality and only one of these is visible, the body.  But this does not mean that the spirit and soul are not real just because they are invisible.  God Himself is invisible (Col. 1:15), but He is most certainly real!

        Paul helps us to understand more concerning the spirit of man in I Cor. 2:11: “For what man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him?”  Again, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with OUR SPIRIT, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16).  Knowledge then, that is, knowledge of God and of things of a spiritual nature, is the province of our spirit.  We do not know God with our brains or physical minds, but with our spirit.  It is in our spirit that we have God-consciousness or awareness.

        It is in our spirit that we worship God.  We may raise our hands and voices to praise and magnify Him, but these are only outward physical expressions of that which we feel in our spirit.  “We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).

The Soul Of Man

        This word, soul, is used somewhat euphemistically to designate individual persons, e.g., “the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41b).  This common expression is used in such statements as “eight souls were saved by water”; “Let every soul be subject,” etc.

        However, Jesus plainly made a difference between the physical body and the soul.  While man may kill the body he cannot kill the soul.  This does not mean that the soul is immortal, however.  It merely means that the soul is untouchable so far as man is concerned.  But God can destroy the soul, as well as the body.

        What then is this thing called soul?  Soul-sleepers tell us that it is the breath of life, but this definition flies in the face of the Scriptural usage of the term:

        “My soul doth magnify the Lord” (Luke 1:46).
        “A sword shall pierce through thy own soul” (Luke 2:35).
        “I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much” (Luke 12:20).
        “Now is my soul troubled” (John 12:27).
        “every soul of man that doeth evil” (Rom. 2:9).

        These and other passages show that there is more to “soul” than mere breath or air.  This is the seat or source of the emotions and the human will.  It is here that we “make up our minds” or decide what to do.  In the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus faced the choice of His own will or the will of His Father, He exclaimed, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt. 26:38).  It is that which constitutes personality, or individuality, and is sometimes referred to as the “old man,” the “carnal nature,” the “flesh,” or self.

        The soul is that invisible, yet real, part of man which must be converted (Psa. 19:7).  It is not physical, but its expressions are seen in the physical body.  A murderer, for example, will use his body (a finger on a trigger, or a hand with a knife, etc.) to kill another person, but the cause for his vicious act lies in his soul, not his body.  The body is a mere vehicle for expressing that which is in his soul.

The Body Of Man

        The body of every rational person is a receptacle for the soul.  It acts and reacts to the messages sent to it by its owner or director, the soul, or the ego.  Many of the functions of the body are involuntary, but acts or actions and behavioral patterns are governed by the decision-maker, the soul.

        It is not the body which receives eternal life, for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50).  Likewise, it will not be the physical body which will take part in the resurrection, for, as Paul explains concerning the resurrection of the dead: “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.  There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:44).

        This helps to explain why the resurrection and the day of judgment are so important to mankind: “For 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).  For the saints, there will be a new body patterned after the glorious body of Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:21), and immortality and incorruptibility will then be administered to them (I Cor. 15:51,52).  In Romans 8:23, Paul refers to this as “the redemption of the body.”

        For the unsaved, there will be “weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth,” and “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (II Thess. 1:8-9).  Not everlasting torture and torment, but destruction.  But remember, this is not the body but the soul: “what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt 16:26)

What About Death?

        There are two kinds of death noted in the Scriptures: spiritual and physical.  Spiritual death is that state of the unregenerated person who does not know God.  Everyone is born spiritually dead and must experience spiritual resurrection in order to be saved (John 5:24,25; Eph. 2:1,2).  This is the same as the new birth or conversion.

        Physical death, of course, occurs at the cessation of physical life.  That means the end of a physical existence, or life, for the body.  Under normal conditions, the body begins a process of decomposition and it is gone.  But what of the soul and spirit?  Do they die also, or are they asleep?  What saith the Scriptures?

The Rich Man And the Beggar Luke 16:19-31

        Those who teach soul-sleeping tell us this is a parable, to which we agree.  However, they fail to recognize that a parable is a comparison of two existing realities.  But the soul-sleepers’ position on this parable is that it is really a myth, for they say there is no such thing as a hell where there is consciousness.  They, therefore, accuse Jesus of resorting to the use of myths in order to teach a truth!  This is an indefensible position to take for it is plain that Jesus never used myths (something contrary to fact) or tales to enlighten people to the truth.  Parables?  Yes!  Myths?  No! a thousand times No!

        There are three Greek words in the New Testament which are translated into English as “hell,” and they have different meanings: hades, gehenna, and tartarus.

1.  Tartarus is mentioned once in the New Testament (II Peter 2:4) as the place or region where the angels that sinned are incarcerated in chains of darkness awaiting judgment (see also Jude 6).

2.  Gehenna.  There existed a large valley near Jerusalem where all manner of refuse, including dead bodies of animals and criminals were thrown.  Fires were kept burning continuously in order to consume all the dead bodies and rubbish which were constantly being cast into the place.  In addition to the fires, there were maggots (worms) which fed on the rotting flesh, a horrible sight as well as a putrid odor.  This became a symbol of the destruction of the wicked because of its very nature.

          Jesus referred to gehenna in reference to judgment of unrighteous acts.  For example, the person who says to a brother, “Thou fool” will be in danger of “gehenna of fire” (Matt. 5:22).  He, then, said that it’s better to pluck out an eye or cut off one’s right hand than to have one’s whole body cast into “gehenna of fire.”  Honestly, now, was Jesus referring to that steaming, fiery, rotten valley in Palestine?  If so, who would cast the person into that inferno?  Jesus, the Sanhedrin, who?

        In Matthew 10:28, Jesus said to “fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in ‘gehenna of fire’.”  It is easy to understand that a body could be consumed in a fire, but a soul?  Who but God could destroy a soul?  Was Jesus saying that God could (and might) throw some souls and bodies into the valley of Hinnom?  How ridiculous!

        Literal fire is not the element by which God will destroy the wicked, although the term is used many times in connection with the judgment and eternal punishment:

        “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:41,42).

        “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).

        “These both were cast live into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Rev. 19:20b)

        “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).

        What better way to convey to us the finality of the wicked than the symbol of consuming fire?  This stage of hell (gehenna) is future and will come into play after the day of resurrection and the judgment.

3.  Hades.  This Greek word remains the great bone of contention in the subject of the state of the dead.  One time in the Scriptures it is translated grave (I Cor. 15:55).  All the other references appear as hell.  The BIG question is: Is there consciousness in hades?  Let us remind ourselves of the truth that mankind is a composite of body, soul, and spirit.  Needless to say, upon death the physical body is either buried or burned and is interred in some fashion.  But what of the soul and the spirit?

          Jesus said in His parable of the rich man and Lazarus that the rich man was in hades, was conscious, and was tormented.  He also mentioned “this flame.”  Remember, this is a parable!  What greater torment could there be than to have the full knowledge that one is lost without the slightest chance of reconciliation.  The flame is indicative of the heat of passionate desire to rectify the situation, to gain some help, to do something!  But he is helpless, hopeless, and without God and he knows it.

        “The rich man also died, and was buried” (Luke 16:22).  His body was buried, but he (the soul) was not.  He went to hades to await the day of resurrection and the judgment.  There he yet waits with the full knowledge that he wasted a lifetime in luxury and splendor as a rich man.

        Jesus, in his description of the judgment, indicates that man will be given the opportunity to vindicate himself and plead his cause (Matt. 12:41,42).  But his fate is sealed at the moment he expires.  There is no purgatory, no intermediate state where his fate is negotiable.

And What About Lazarus?

        In the parable, it is stated that Lazarus “died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.”  The term “Abraham’s bosom” is certainly a symbolic statement.  The bosom is the area of the heart, indicating the affections and care of one for the other.  Abraham himself represents faith and faithfulness, a “friend of God” (James 2:23).  How appropriate to use such terminology when speaking of this lowly beggar who had at last found comfort in the bosom of father Abraham!

        We can gain a greater understanding of this place of comfort by referring to other passages of Scripture.  For example, Jesus promised a dying man that He would see him that day in Paradise.  Now, Paradise is not heaven.  It is a fact that no one goes to heaven at the time of death.  The body remains here on earth, but the soul and spirit of the righteous are taken to Paradise, there to await the day of resurrection and judgment when they will receive their final reward, eternal life – immortality and incorruptibility.

        The word Paradise is found in the Scriptures three times, once in Luke 23:43 (mentioned above), then in II Cor. 12:4, and in Rev. 2:7.

        Paul said he was caught up to Paradise and could not tell whether he had left his body or not!  While there, he heard some “unutterable sayings.”  Revelation 2:7 informs us that “the tree of life is in the midst of the paradise of God.”  We also read in Genesis 2:8,9 that the tree of life was in the garden of Eden.

        When Bro. Paul said, “We are…willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:6-8), he was not referring to heaven itself where the heavenly Father dwells, but to Paradise, which he called the third heaven.  That’s why he could state: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is GAIN” (Phil. 1:21).  “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:23).

        To occupy a hole in the ground is not far better.  Paul was talking about leaving his worn-out old body behind and entering into Paradise, that blessed state of comfort and joy to which every servant of God goes when he breathes his last physical breath.  This is not the final reward; it is only a resting place/state for the souls and spirits of God’s children until His work of harvest is finished.  “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father.  Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 13:43).

 

 

 

DOCTRINES OF DEVILS

Alda Scullin

        It is doubtful that there is any religion anywhere on earth as fragmented as the religion called ‘Christian.”  There are at least hundreds of varieties to choose from, and the invitation to “Join the church of your choice” is popular with the multitudes who want to soothe their conscience with the opiate of religion, but without the price of righteousness.  How has such a condition come about?  It is certain that God is not the author of such confusion.  Jesus stated, “I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE” (John 14:6).  He did not offer a choice of ways.

        If we look at history, we see that hardships, persecution, and even suffering death for Christ’s sake did not cause division or defection among the true people of God.  It actually drew them closer to God and one another.  Petty things of the flesh fall by the wayside under such circumstances.  Persecution has a cleansing effect upon the church because, for one thing, the pretenders evacuate.

        It seems that most human beings are not fully aware of the great contest for the souls of men in which the main factors are the influence of the Spirit of God versus the influence of evil spirits.  Every man, woman, and child who are free moral beings will make his own choice.  God has and does manifest His love.  He could, but does not, force anyone to walk His way, neither will He allow Satan to use force.

        Satan learned early on that the most effective way to combat God’s influence among mankind was to “join the church,” as it were.  Since it never pays to underestimate one’s adversary, be reminded that this arch-enemy of God and His people was once a mighty and wonderfully created heavenly being of great wisdom who was close to God: “the anointed cherub that covereth.  He was perfect in his ways until iniquity was found in him” (Ez. 28:12-15).  After being cast out into the earth, that which had been his wisdom, became cunning craftiness.

        Undoubtedly, Satan’s first line of attack is to bring into question the Word of God.  This deceiver and father of lies tries to use the Word of God as a battering ram against the truth.  Of course, he misuses, twists, misquotes, misconstrues, misinterprets, etc.  In the garden of Eden, he asked, “Hath God said?”  In the tempting of Jesus, he said, “IF thou be the Son of God.”  Eve was deceived by the subtlety; Jesus was not.

        The Apostle Paul admonished to put on the whole armour of God in order to withstand the wiles of the devil, and he defines the sword of the Spirit as “the Word of God.”  It was the weapon that Jesus used against Satan.  Furthermore, Brother Paul declared concerning this enemy, “We are not ignorant of his devices” (II Cor. 2:11).  This is true only of those who have a love of truth and seek to walk according to the Word, and in close communion with their Lord and King.  There are those who study the Bible, not to find truth, but to try to confirm their own beliefs that are not as demanding as the way Jesus taught.  By so doing they open their beings to great deception from Satan as well as from God Himself (II Thess. 2:10-12).  There is no tolerance for those who, like the Pharisees, close their eyes so they will not see.

        “Doctrines of devils” is a biblical term found in I Timothy 4:1, where some of these doctrines are enumerated.  This diabolical ruse of misusing scripture to bring forth confusion through new doctrines has been extremely successful.  Why?  The perverter of truth is successful because he understands man’s carnal desires and sinful nature better it seems, than man himself does.  He knows that the way of life taught by Jesus is not at all palatable to man’s natural desires, so he uses the tactic of distracting their minds from the important, practical teachings of Jesus, by entertaining them with tenets that do not apply directly to changing one’s life from worldliness to spirituality.  These satisfy their religious appetite but threaten their chance of eternal life.  Paul spoke of them as those who depart from the faith “giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (I Tim. 4:1).  So insidious is the guile of this evil fallen being that the unwary are well entangled in the webs of deceit before they are able to evaluate it as deception.

        There is no difficulty to find accomplices among men who will promulgate his nefarious teachings.  Religion can be a very lucrative vocation if the teachings do not disturb a person’s self-satisfying way of life.  In the second letter to the Corinthians, such teachers are described as “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.  And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works.”

        It is not necessary for anyone to be deceived.  It is necessary to have a love for the truth and to walk circumspectly according to His Word.  By His life and words, Jesus gave the pattern to follow.  The false apostles teach that Jesus’ words are not meant for our time and would be impossible to obey; therefore, they can be ignored.  To do so is spiritual suicide.  Every individual is responsible for his own final destiny.