People of The Living God

Matthew 24

 

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April 2015



 

 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

America’s Moral Decline

James Sanderson

        Recently, Franklin Graham, son of Evangelist Billy Graham, publicly stated, “Our nation is ridiculed abroad and morally crumbling within.  We are in trouble.  We have turned our back on God” (February 25, 2015).  He also contrasted present-day secular America with the America in which his father, Billy Graham, now 92 years old, grew up.  “When he was going to school, they had a Bible in school.  When he was going to school, they had the Ten Commandments on the wall.  When he was going to school, you could pray in school, and the teachers would lead in those prayers.”  The evidence is quite clear, our country is in a state of moral decay.  Those who speak out and stand for righteousness are often marked for ridicule by the media and shunned by politicians interested more in their political careers than the direction in which the country is headed.

        America is becoming increasingly hostile to the Christian faith.  A LifeWay Research poll taken in September, 2013, found that seven out of ten senior pastors of Protestant churches said that religious liberty is on the decline in America.  Six out of ten of those pastors also stated that Christians are losing the culture war.  Another LifeWay Research poll taken that same month found that 50% of American Christians believe that intolerance toward those who hold Biblical moral values is increasing.  “Short of spiritual renewal, as America scurries down its merry leftward path, Biblical Christians will become increasingly marginalized” (Bill Fox, Forbes, 11/20/2012).  The very Constitution that is supposed to protect religious expression and one's religious convictions is now being used to make it more difficult to live out one's religious values in an increasingly secular society.  One recent example is the case of an elderly Christian lady who was heavily fined simply because she refused to design a floral arrangement for a same-sex marriage.

        Certainly, the founding fathers of this great land did not envision the prevalent situation when they drafted the Constitution of the United States.  Those men were far from perfect, but the majority of them understood that a country will founder if it is loosed from its spiritual moorings.  Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Farmer Refuted, “Good and wise men in all ages…have supposed that the Deity…has constituted an eternal and immutable law which is indispensably obligatory upon all mankind prior to any human institution whatever.”  Noah Webster, in the preface of his dictionary, wrote, “The moral principles and precepts, contained in the Scriptures, ought to form the basis of all our constitutions and laws…All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”  James Madison wrote, “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it.  We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves by the Ten Commandments of God.”  In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams wrote, “Now I will avow, that I then believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”  Finally, John Quincy Adams said, “The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes…of universal application – laws essential to the existence of men in society.”

        That “eternal and immutable law” to which all of these men referred is God’s moral law, enshrined primarily in the Ten Commandments.  C.S. Lewis termed it the “Rule of Decent Behavior.”  These moral absolutes, etched by the very finger of the Almighty, are both reasonable and necessary in order to maintain a decent and orderly society.  They are considered to be one of the major foundation stones of Western civil law.  Imagine that our illustrious Supreme Court has declared it illegal to post a copy of this “eternal and immutable law” in the classrooms and courthouses of this country – rules upon which the very constitutional law of our land is based!

        One fundamental principle of Holy Writ is found in Psalm 111:10.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Much of society has lost the fear of God.  Moral compunction no longer governs the hearts of many.  As with ancient Israel, every man does that which is “right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).  God’s moral absolutes are viewed as being too restraining to the natural man.  There is another principle taught by the Word of God.  “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).  Both the Bible and secular history reveal that nations and empires that abandon their moral foundation eventually crumble and fall.

 

 

 

FROM THE MAILBAG

 

        More Questions:

        1. What about judgment day?  Where are the dead according to scriptures? 
          Are they in the grave or has judgment been passed already over them,
          and some are currently in Heaven or in Hell?

        2. Is Paradise Heaven?  Is it where God resides? 

        3. What immediately happens when a person dies?

 

Dear P.O.

        It’s good to hear from you again and I hope you are searching the scriptures daily to see if those things which you receive from us are according to scripture.  The Bible is God’s word and is the final authority on every topic, so you must always study to ascertain the truth and not merely accept someone’s opinion, even ours, for no one has all truth.  We are growing in knowledge and truth each day as we study God’s word.  But we do appreciate you trusting us to aid you in your search for truth.  You have asked several questions and the answer will be quite lengthy, but we will attempt to address each question and answer as we understand scripture teaches.  You will find that there are many opinions and theories about these topics and we must always love those who disagree with our understanding and not be contentious about teachings that are not in agreement with us.  The division caused by many doctrines which have no eternal consequence and, in many cases, are not essential to salvation, is a sad commentary on modern Christianity.  There are doctrines that will cause separation, but the state of the dead is not one of them.  So, as we present our views, please remember that we do not desire to cause division among God’s people.

Where are the dead according to scripture?

        Let’s begin with your second question:  “Where are the dead according to scripture?”  It seems this question is on the minds of many people, for we have this question asked frequently.  Scripture teaches that under the Old Covenant, when men died, their body was placed in the grave and their soul fell into a state of unconsciousness, which is generally referred to as soul sleep.  It was a state in which the soul was unconscious.  There it remained waiting for the resurrection.  Let’s consider a few verses of scripture that validate this statement.  Psalm 6:5, “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?”  Psalm 88:10-12, “Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee?  Selah.  Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?  Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?”  Eccl. 9:10, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

        To gain a better understanding of this state of unconsciousness or sleep, we need to consider Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden.  In Genesis 2:17, God told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and that in the day he ate thereof, he would surely die.  While Adam lived several hundred years after his transgression, he was cut off from the source of life, which is God.  His sin separated him from God and in that separation, his soul died. That very day Adam’s soul died and even though his body lived on for years, it too eventually succumbed to death.  Death is the result of and the curse of sin.  There are divine laws in God’s kingdom and these laws are absolute.  One of those laws is given in Ezekiel 18:4, “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”  That last phrase is repeated in verse 20 of the same chapter.  This is a divine law and is even more sure than the laws that govern our universe.  The law of gravity is a law that controls our world.  We cannot escape it.  Whenever men attempted to fly or send a rocket to the moon, they had to calculate into their plans the law of gravity.  Likewise, the laws of God’s kingdom are absolute, meaning that every soul who sins must face death.  With this basic foundation, we can precede to understand better the state of the dead.

        This death that Adam brought upon the world not only affected man’s body but also his soul as we have already seen in the verses quoted above.  It is the soul that is most important in our discussion, for it is the soul that will one day spend eternity with God or will be destroyed by everlasting fire.  God’s focus and interest is not so much in the bodies but in the souls of men.  However, there is another being who is also focused on and interested in the soul and that is Satan, the devil and adversary of God.  When Adam sinned, Satan laid claim to his body and soul because Adam had sinned.  Sin is not a part of God’s kingdom but of Satan’s.  Adam had carelessly and grievously removed himself from God’s kingdom and sold himself into the slavery of Satan’s dominion, where sin reigned over him.  Because of Adam’s actions, when he died he belonged to Satan.  Satan had right to his body and his soul.

        (Lest it seem as though Satan had won, let me interject that this was all part of God’s divine plan and is why Jesus told Nicodemus that a man must be born again in order to see or enter the kingdom of God, see John 3:3,7.  Keep reading as we look together and see God’s divine plan unfold.)

        Let’s consider now another portion of scripture that brings to light some amazing truths regarding the state of the dead before Jesus came.  I would suggest that you stop here and read I Samuel 28.  Saul was chosen by God to be the first king over Israel and the spirit of the Lord came upon him at the time of his anointing.  Over time and to his own demise, Saul became proud, for scripture states that the Spirit of the Lord left him and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him (I Samuel 16:14).  Years later when God would no longer speak to him and Samuel had died, Saul sought out a witch to receive information about the outcome of a battle he was facing.  In this encounter with the witch of Endor, the witch called up from the dead Samuel.  Let’s read exactly what took place in I Samuel 28:11-19, “Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.  And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.  And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou?  And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.  And he said unto her, What form is he of?  And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle.  And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.  And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?  And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.  Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?  And the Lord hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day.  Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the Lord also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.”

        There are some who believe it was a familiar spirit that this witch called up and not actually Samuel.  This is possible and I wouldn’t get into an argument over it, but I believe this was actually Samuel, not his physical body but his spirit.  The reasons are accented in bold print in the verses above.  First, Saul told the witch to bring up Samuel.  The Bible states, “when the woman saw Samuel”.  It says she saw Samuel and was afraid.  It doesn’t say she saw a familiar spirit but she saw Samuel.  Further on it states that “Saul perceived that it was Samuel”.  Not a familiar spirit but Samuel.  Then “Samuel said to Saul”.  Samuel, then gives a true prophesy that was fulfilled the very next day exactly as he prophesied (You read the fulfillment of the prophesy in I Samuel 29).  It seems clear that scripture states this was actually Samuel and not a familiar spirit.  If it were a familiar spirit, it seems scripture would have given some inclination that this was not actually Samuel, but it doesn’t.

        The point in this Biblical account relative to the state of the dead is this: Satan’s kingdom and that realm in which he operates is a realm of death, and he is the one who, before Jesus came, had the power of death.  Hebrews 2:14-15, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (Jesus) also himself likewise took part of the same that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.  And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”  The writer of Hebrews acknowledges that the devil had the power of death and, because of this power, men were throughout their lives subject to this bondage of death.  The important thing here is that we see it was Satan who had the power of death, and because of that power, those who died, even those who were faithful to God, such as Samuel, fell under his power of death.  This is very difficult for most Christians to believe but don’t quit reading yet, for we need to see why it is that men of God fell into this state of death.  The marvelous thing here is that it was through this very avenue of death that Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, was able to enter the grave and deal with Satan and strip all authority and power from him.

        In Matthew 17 and Mark 9, we have the account of the transfiguration where Jesus was transfigured in the presence of Peter, James and John.  In the transfiguration, there appeared with Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  Elijah we know from scripture did not see death, for he was taken up into heaven in a chariot.  Although Moses died, Jude informs us that Michael fought for Moses’ body.  Jude 9, “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”  With this scripture in mind, add to that thought Paul’s words in Rom. 5:12-14, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come).”  Paul is teaching about Adam’s sin and that the inclination to sin has been passed upon all men and consequently, death passed upon all.  He is teaching that even before the law was given, sin existed and death was the result.  By adding Jude’s input to our picture, seeing that Michael disputed with the devil over the body of Moses, let’s ask a couple of questions:  Did death end at Moses with the giving of the law?  Answer: Obviously not, because David understood that the dead are unaware of anything.  Had Moses ever sinned?  Yes, several times.  He killed an Egyptian.  He didn’t circumcise his son and the angel of the Lord stood ready to slay Moses or his son (Ex. 4:26, scripture is not clear as to whether God was going to slay Moses or his son).  Moses was also not allowed to go into Canaan because he had dishonored God before the people when he struck the rock rather than speaking to it as the Lord had instructed him.  So Moses had sinned and Satan had right to his body just as he had right to Samuel’s.  It was when Moses died that there was a break in the reign of death, for Michael fought for Moses’ body and we find him on the mount of transfiguration with Elijah and Jesus.  Death reigned or ruled uninterrupted, with no exceptions until the time of Moses.  Death’s reign was interrupted, for Michael fought for Moses.  From that time, death continued its unabated reign until Christ Jesus came and changed everything relative to the state of the dead.  This explains one reason why Moses was on the Mount of Transfiguration.

        In conclusion regarding the state of the dead under the Old Covenant, we find that all men, with the exception of Enoch, Moses, and Elijah, died and having sinned fell into death’s grip and consequently into Satan’s domain.  That means that Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Joshua, David, the prophets, and every godly man and woman fell into this state of death.  This is one reason that Hebrews 2:15 states, “And deliver them who through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage”.  Jesus came to destroy Satan’s power over death and deliver His faithful servants from death’s grip.

        Let’s consider it from the perspective of the Old Testament believers.  We look back at history from a biblical point of view and we know that Jesus came and died on a cross and we know that we are born again because Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.  We have an assurance, or an unction that those before the cross did not possess.  They had to have faith that the promised Messiah would come.  They knew that no matter how many animal sacrifices they offered, the blood of bulls and goats could not take away their sins.  They had to offer those sacrifices in faith, trusting God’s promises to be true.  If those promises were not true, they would have lived their lives denying themselves, standing against the evils of their days, being ridiculed, persecuted and many of them martyred for their faith in God’s word.  They honored God in a way that is difficult for us under the New Covenant to comprehend.  They had to have a tremendous faith to live according to all the riggers and demands the laws of Moses required, knowing that when they died they would go into Satan’s realm to wait for the Messiah to come.  Their lot was very tough.  No matter how faithfully they served God and were obedient to the law, unless the Messiah came and became the sacrificial Lamb of God, which would take away the sin of the world, all their efforts were in vain.  These were truly men of faith.  We serve God under a better covenant established upon better promises (Heb. 8:6).

“Are they in the grave or has judgment been passed already over them, and some are currently in Heaven or in Hell?”

        People of the Living God holds a different view of the state of the dead under the New Covenant than most Sabbath keepers.  I hope to explain why we do not believe that under the New Covenant believers go to a state of sleep but hold the conviction that they go to paradise.  It is not our intention to cause division or to be argumentative but rather to bring to the table a different teaching that we feel honors Jesus and His great accomplishments when He came, died and was resurrected.  We feel the doctrine that teaches nothing changed relative to the state of the dead when Jesus died, discredits Him, His purpose and His triumphant resurrection.

        First we need to establish biblically the change that took place relative to the state of the dead at the cross.  In John 11, we have the account of Lazarus’ death.  His sisters had sent for Jesus to come with the hope that Jesus would heal him.  Jesus, however, procrastinated two days until Lazarus was dead before He went.  Even His disciples wondered why He waited.  When Jesus arrived at the home of Mary and Martha, they both told Him that they knew he would rise in the resurrection.  Jesus proclaimed very emphatically that He was the resurrection and the life.  Let’s read carefully what Jesus stated: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.  Believest thou this?”  (John 11:25-26)  Note the import of His words: “Whosoever liveth”, these are those who are born again.  “and believeth in me shall never die.”  It is obvious that Christians die physically, but they do not die spiritually; for they are like the thief on the cross who believed and was told by Jesus, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”  The soul no longer was sent to the grave, because the soul saved by God’s grace was wondrously delivered from Satan’s power of death.  The Apostle Paul also stated his desire to be absent from the body, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  Read these verses in II Cor. 5:6-8, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”  Let’s dissect Paul’s words.  While we are in the body, or living on this earth, we are absent from the Lord.  A question may arise here about Jesus’ promise to never leave us or forsake us.  Paul plainly addresses that question in verse 6.  While God is with us, it is not in the same capacity or relationship as it will be once we pass from this life.  Paul then states that when we die, we will be with God, not just through faith but in actual reality.

        The resurrection of Lazarus took place just prior to His trial and crucifixion and was timed to teach a very important truth.  That truth is that Jesus came to destroy the power of death over those who believe and are born again or born into the kingdom of God.  Those born into the kingdom of God cannot be claimed by Satan when they die, for that power was stripped from him.  They have been translated from the kingdom of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13).  This is just one of the many reasons Jesus shed His precious blood.  He died to deliver us from the power and fear of death.  Jesus’ resurrection was the proof and evidence that He had triumphed over death; death could not hold Him.

        Another event that took place when Jesus died and was resurrected and which confirms everything written in this letter is found in Matthew 27:50-53.  Let’s read it: “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”  It is not exactly clear the timing of when the graves were opened but it sounds as though it was at the time Jesus died.  However, verse 53 states it was after His resurrection that the bodies came out of the graves and were seen by many in the city of Jerusalem.  The exact timing is not important to our topic here, however these events reveal to us one of Christ’s great accomplishments and triumphs when He died and was in the grave three days and three nights.  It was while He was there that He bound the strong man and loosed the prisoners.  Who were the prisoners?  They were those who had been faithful under the Old Covenant but, because of sin, were held captive in this state of sleep.  These were “saints” which arose, not sinners.  This event clearly reveals Christ’s work as sufficient to bring in everlasting righteousness and deliver His people from the curse of sin.  The curse of sin is death and Jesus came to set His people free from this curse.

Has judgment been passed already over them?

        The question that you included, and arises often when this topic is discussed, is about judgment.  If believers go to paradise and sinners to a state of hell, is this not a judgment?  Scripture is clear that we will all be judged at the last day when all appear before the great white throne, before the judgment seat of Christ.  So let’s address this concern.  When a person dies, he is not judged by his works, for the judgment of our works is reserved for the last day.  However, he will be observed as to whether he is covered by the blood of Jesus or not.  If he is a believer and the blood of Jesus is covering him, he goes to paradise.  If he is a sinner, the blood of Jesus will not be covering his sins and he goes to a state of hell.  If this is call judgment, it is only like calling white, “white” and black, “black”.  There is not judgment but rather discerning.  It is a matter of fact.  One is covered by the blood or he is not.

Is Paradise Heaven? Is it where God resides?

        There are a lot of misconceptions regarding heaven.  The apostle Paul gives some information about heaven in II Cor. 12:2-4 in which he refers to the third heaven and in which he equates the third heaven to paradise.  “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.  And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”  This man of whom he speaks was caught up into paradise or the third heaven.  The third heaven and paradise are the same place.

        If there is a third heaven, there must also be a first and second heaven.  I know nothing in scripture that speaks of the second heaven and don’t actually have any thoughts regarding it.  However, the first heaven is the heaven of heavens and is where God the Father resides.  Believers who die do not go to the first heaven.  They go to the third heaven or paradise.  So what is this paradise where Jesus told the thief on the cross He would see him?  Let’s go again to scripture to catch a glimpse of this state to which we will go when we pass from this life.  There are some clues given in the following verses that give insight to this wonderful place.  “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7).  What we find in this verse is that the tree of life is in the center of paradise.  This is a wonderful clue in our study because we find this tree of life mentioned a few other times in scripture.  The very first time it is mentioned is in Genesis 2:9, “And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”  The Garden of Eden where Adam was placed after creation is the place we find the tree of life.  If we combine these two portions of scripture, we find that paradise and the Garden of Eden is the same place.  Now let’s add another verse to these in order to discover more about this place.  Rev 22:2: “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”  Again we find the tree of life in the New Jerusalem.  How do we know this verse is referring to the New Jerusalem?  The preceding chapter, chapter 21, speaks of this city and various aspects of it.  Chapter 22 continues referring to the same city.  This is clearly shown in chapter 22, verse 14, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”  Note this verse speaks of entering in the gates of the city.  What city?  The New Jerusalem.  Most teachings regarding this city are not correct.  Once again the devil has been successful in distorting the truth, and from that comes false doctrines that lull Christians into a state of slumber and lethargy instead of alerting them to the need to go on to perfection and live in the power of God’s kingdom.

        So in conclusion, we believe that Paradise, The Garden of Eden and the New Jerusalem are one and the same.  This is where the tree of life is and, although its fruit was once forbidden because of sin and Cherubims were placed there to protect it with flaming swords, there comes a time when those who have been faithful to God will partake of that tree.  These are they who keep God’s commandments, and they gain the privilege to partake of the tree of life.

        I think I have covered each of the questions you asked and I pray God will grant you understanding of this wonderful truth.  It’s a great consolation to those who know that when they die they do not have to fear but are sure that they shall be transported into a better place where they will abide until Jesus comes again.  Some of the things presented in this letter revolve around other truths in scripture and we all must continue to seek for truth.  Truth is often given in parables, types and dark speech so that only by the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit can one come to a true understanding of God’s word.  It is so written that the trifler and curious will not hear the truth but only those who have ears to hear what the Spirit says.  May God enlighten you as you search His word and I pray some of the things included in this letter will aid you in your search for truth.

The Editor

 

 

 

RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF GOD

James Sanderson

        Every scientist who seeks to discover a particular aspect of truth about the physical world prepares a series of investigations that follow established guidelines.  Scientists have developed these sound rules of investigation in order to assure results that are valid and as accurate as possible.  Proper scientific experimentation demands meticulous adherence to these requirements.  When any new findings are published, other scientists carefully scrutinize the procedures to determine if there were any possible flaws in the investigative process.

        Like the scientist, every student of the word of God is in pursuit of truth.  Of course, the truths of Scripture are more far-reaching in their eternal consequence than any knowledge about this physical, temporal realm.  Many of these biblical truths affect an individual’s relationship with the Lord and his eternal destiny.  For these very reasons, shouldn’t every Christian be just as careful and diligent in his pursuit of Scriptural understanding as the investigative scientist?  The Apostle Paul admonishes every Christian: “Study to show thyself approved unto God…rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15).  The Greek verb for ‘rightly dividing” means literally “to cut straight,” that is, “to handle rightly, to teach correctly” (Berry’s Lexicon page 71).  “What is intended here is not dividing Scripture from Scripture, but teaching Scripture accurately” (Vine’s, page 329).  There is a right way to handle the word of God, and there is a wrong way.

        It is true that the Bible is not like other books.  Without a revelation of the Holy Spirit, one cannot fully comprehend many of the truths of God’s Word.  “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14).  Nevertheless, the need for spiritual discernment does not preclude the necessity of specific guidelines for handling the word of God.  God Himself is a reasonable, orderly Being.  The very Scriptures that He inspired set forth definite rules of biblical exposition.

Approaching The Word

        One must approach the Word of God with the right attitude and purpose in order to gain a proper understanding.  The one supreme requirement is a love for truth.  Those who love truth are willing to embrace truth no matter what the cost or price may be.  Be certain of this one thing: truth will cost.  The Bible says, “Buy the truth, and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23).  When the Holy Spirit reveals a truth from the Scripture, the individual becomes obligated to apply that truth to his life.  Without a love for truth, the individual becomes a prime candidate for “strong delusion” (II Thess. 2:10-110.)

        Another requirement is a humble spirit that is willing to learn.  The Bible calls this quality of character meekness.  “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word” (James 1:21).  God is not in the business of bolstering man’s ego.  Those who approach the Word in order to satisfy their own selfish purposes or with the idea of impressing the multitudes with their vast knowledge and wisdom will only reap deception.  This latter day has spawned many would-be prophets and Bible expositors who often make extravagant predictions from the Scriptures while they claim to be God’s mouthpiece for this final hour.  Jesus said, “Come…learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:28-29).  Only the individual that is humble and broken before the Lord will be receptive to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He speaks through the Scriptures.

        Finally, every student of the Word must sincerely desire to grow in God.  “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (I Peter 2:2).  The necessity of spiritual growth is a theme that one encounters throughout the Scriptures.  The Word of God provides the required nourishment for proper growth.

The Key To Biblical Truth

        Probably no other book in history has sparked such widespread controversy and difference of opinion as has the Bible.  Much of the confusion in the church world stems in part from a faulty methodology in handling the Word of God.  Christians must begin to realize that there are definite rules of biblical exegesis.  Man did not formulate these rules.  God Himself established these fundamental principles of biblical investigation.

        The first and by far the most important of all these rules is the key that will unlock many wonderful truths of the word of God.  Those who will know and apply this simple rule will also be able to discern many of the deceptions of the enemy.  All doctrine must have its foundation in the plain words of Jesus Christ.  That is, the student of the Word must find out first what Jesus has to say about a particular doctrinal issue.  There are many Scripture references that support this requirement.  “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11).  “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:10).  The Apostle Paul is even more emphatic when he declares, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words” (I Tim. 6:3-4).

        This basic key to biblical research does not disregard the rest of the Scriptures nor does it imply that there are contradictions among the various writers of Holy Writ.  It merely exalts the Lord Jesus Christ and places the highest priority upon what He has to say.  Furthermore, there is safety in building one’s doctrinal foundation on the words of Jesus Christ.  Those who go first to Jesus Christ will not become subject to many of the deceptions that Jesus said would abound in these last days.

        Beware of any doctrine that distorts, negates, or postpones any of the words of Jesus Christ.  Many false doctrines have come forth to cast a shadow upon the value of the words of Jesus in the life of the believer.  The fact that Jesus was born “under the law” does not abolish any of His teachings.  Just prior to His ascension into heaven Jesus issued the Great Commission to His apostles.  The Great Commission entails far more than the commonly accepted idea of spreading the gospel of salvation to all nations.  “All power (authority) is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18-20).  The four gospels contain many direct and implied commandments of Jesus Christ.  The message in these books is just as fresh and applicable today as it was when Jesus walked the earth almost 2000 years ago.

Using The Key

        How does one apply this fundamental principle of biblical research to his own personal Bible study.  Lay aside all preconceived ideas or interpretations.  Go to the words of Jesus first.  Build a doctrinal foundation on what He plainly says about a particular subject.  Then proceed to examine the words of the apostles and prophets.  All too often, Bible expositors erect a doctrinal structure based on their interpretation of other portions of Scripture.  Then they either disregard what Jesus has to say or proceed to make the words of Jesus conform to their way of thinking.

        It might be well to examine some ways in which Bible expositors have flagrantly distorted the plain words of Jesus in order to support preconceived ideas.  The Scofield Reference Bible teaches that there will be two resurrections separated by 1000 years.  “Two resurrections are yet future, which are inclusive of ‘all that are in the graves’.  These are distinguished as ‘of life’ and ‘of judgment.’  They are separated by a period of one thousand years” (page 1228).  Of course, Scofield draws these conclusions from his own personal interpretation of Revelation 20.  Scofield does make the interesting observation that it is not until the reader arrives at Revelation 20 that he learns “for the first time what interval of time separates these two resurrections” (page 1350).

        Jesus made a simple direct plain statement regarding the resurrection of the dead.  This statement needs no interpretation.  “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” (John 5:28-29).  According to this portion of Scripture, ALL, both the good and the bad, will arise at the same definite HOUR when they hear His voice.  In order to have this Scripture conform to his interpretation, Scofield must make the hour equal 1000 years.

        Scofield also divides the resurrection of the good into two events: a resurrection before the tribulation and one after the tribulation.  “The ‘first resurrection,’ that ‘unto life’ will occur at the second coming of Christ, the saints of the Old Testament and church ages meeting Him in the air; while the martyrs of the tribulation, who also have part in the first resurrection, are raised at the end of the great tribulation’ (page 1228).

        Jesus made some plain statements that refute any possibility of three resurrections.  “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).  According to his verse all the good will be raised on the same day called 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).  Here one can readily see that the judgment of the bad occurs on THE LAST DAY also.  If Scofield’s scenario is correct, there will have to be three last days to provide for three resurrections.  The phrase THE LAST DAY clearly means there can be only one last day.  Jesus never said, “Of that 1000 year period knoweth no man.”  He said instead, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man” (Luke 24:36).  These and other plain statements of Jesus Christ leave no room for a millennial earthly kingdom.

        “IMMEDIATELY, after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and THEN shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven” (Matt. 24:29-30).  The word immediately means “at once” (Vine’s, page 407) and “shortly, soon” (Thayer, page 258).  It is quite obvious that the events recorded in Matt.  24:29-35 closely follow the great tribulation, not 1000 years later.  The Greek word for immediately occurs at least 67 times in the four gospels.  Not once does it mean “1000 years.”

        Those who believe in a millennial kingdom often claim to accept a literal interpretation of Scripture.  Unfortunately, they make an exception when it comes to the words of Jesus.  One can readily see that if Scofield accepted the plain words of Jesus literally without interjecting his own ideas, his whole doctrinal edifice would collapse.  There are many obscure passages throughout the Bible that need to be interpreted; however, the plain statements of Jesus Christ need no interpretation.  They mean exactly what they say.

Other Applications Of The Key

        This key to biblical investigation affords a wonderful opportunity to examine many contemporary doctrinal issues in the light of the life and message of Jesus Christ in order to establish a solid foundation in truth.  All other Scriptures that build on this foundation will conform to the message of Jesus contained in the four gospels.  The writings of the apostles or prophets will never contradict the words of Jesus.  Any contradictions that may arise will only be the result of a faulty interpretation of these other writers.  It might be well to find out what Jesus has to say about some of these doctrinal issues.

        To those who teach that the law has been abolished Jesus declares, “Think not that I am come to destroy (abolish) the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy (abolish), but to fulfill (to complete, to accomplish).  For verily I say unto you, TILL HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (come to pass)” (Matt. 5:17-18).  From this statement, it is evident that all of the Ten Commandments are still in force without the slightest alteration until heaven and earth pass away.

        To those who say that Christians are no longer obligated to observe the Sabbath Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).  Just days before His crucifixion, He commanded His followers who would be alive during the tribulation, “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day” (Matt. 24:20).  It is interesting to note, in passing, that Jesus strongly implied that the laws of sacrifice and the priesthood would be discontinued.  In this same discourse He told the apostles that not one stone of the temple would be left on the other.  Without the temple how could the priests offer sacrifices?  Nevertheless, in this passage He also upholds the Sabbath as still binding after His death and resurrection.  Jesus Himself was accustomed to observing the Sabbath day (Luke 4:16).  His followers certainly understood His instructions.  “They returned…and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56).  The four gospels never give the slightest hint that the fourth commandment has been abolished.

        To those who teach the earth will be inhabited forever, Jesus plainly states, “Heaven and earth shall pass away” (Matt. 24:35).

        To those who declare a doctrine of personal prosperity as a sign of God’s approval Jesus declares, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matt. 19:21).  This doctrine of individual poverty permeates the teachings of Jesus.  It seems that Jesus never placed much confidence in this world’s economic systems or its wealth.  “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal” (Matt. 6:19).  “But woe unto you that are rich!  for ye have received your consolation” (Luke 6:24).  “Sell that ye have (possessions), and give alms; provide yourselves bags (purses) which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth” (Luke 12:33).

        To those who emphasize tithing Jesus declares, “So likewise whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33).

        To those who look for a future material kingdom Jesus says, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).  “The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).  Jesus rejected the very idea of kingship that people are expecting in the future, an earthly throne.  These plain words of Jesus are in direct opposition to a 1000-year reign of Christ on the earth.

        To those who teach a secret rapture Jesus declares, “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the son of man be” (Matt. 24:27).  Throughout His ministry, Jesus warned about the suddenness of His coming.  Not once does He imply that His coming will be a secret.  The escape that Jesus offers is one of preparation, not a secret rapture.

        These few examples demonstrate that much of the doctrinal confusion in the religious world would disappear if the church would simply return to the life and message of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Those who search the words of Jesus and wholeheartedly apply His teachings to their lives will find an “anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.”  No longer will they be “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”  For they will gain an unshakeable stability that can weather any storm because their foundation will be established on the Rock, Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

THE KINGDOM – WHEN?

Kenneth Fountain

        “Except a man be born again (from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  Jesus baffled the earthly-minded Pharisee leader named Nicodemus with this statement.  The man was stymied by the physical impossibility of going into his mother’s womb again as an adult to be reborn.  Jesus then explained, “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).  On down through verse twelve, Jesus continues His explanation of this event being a spiritual transformation that ushers one into spiritual life in a spiritual realm called the kingdom of heaven.  Paul describes this physical life, then spiritual life in I Cor. 15:46-50 and proclaims “that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (verse 50).  “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.  Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9).  He also expressed it this way: “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5-6).  Also in Col. 1:13, “Who (Jesus) hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”  Quite plainly, when a person repents, confesses, and believes, his sins are forgiven, he is washed in the cleansing blood of Christ (spiritually), and he is born again receiving the salvation of his soul.  His spirit, having now received life, enters the heavenly, spiritual kingdom of God.  Whereas, when his spirit was dead (in sins), he was in the kingdom of darkness.  In John’s Revelation, he describes the points of this glorious transformation: “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night” (Rev. 12:10).  At the time of one’s salvation comes strength, power (John 1:12), and entrance into God’s spiritual, heavenly kingdom!

        Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, we find that the core of His teaching revolved around the imminent importance of the availability of the kingdom.  The physical and spiritual healing and deliverance He brought to so many during His ministry was a demonstration of the power and present reality of His kingdom.  He bluntly told them, “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11:20).  He further stated, “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” (Luke 16:16).  “And when He (Jesus) was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).  In other words, the kingdom Christ presented is not bound by geographic location or any other limitations common to human earthly existence.  Paul spoke of this as a mystery “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).  A Christian then has Christ within him and he is in Christ’s heavenly kingdom.  “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6).

        Jesus heralded the advent of His heavenly kingdom’s availability to fallen man.  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand (within reach): repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  When He sent the disciples out to minister in the power of the kingdom, He told them to also proclaim the same message (Matt. 10:7; Luke 10:9,11).  “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20).  Even after His resurrection, the focus of His teaching was about the kingdom (see Acts 1:3).  This central theme was echoed throughout the Acts of the Apostles.  Philip spoke of it in Acts 8:12, and Paul was still teaching its importance until the end of his ministry. (Acts 19:8; 20:25; 28:23&31).

        Jesus reprimanded the stubborn, skeptical leaders of the Jews in Matt. 23:13, “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”  How could the scribes, Pharisees, or the others mentioned here go into the kingdom if it were not then accessible?  He said that they needed to humble themselves and believe His words to them as trusting children in order to enter His spiritual kingdom (Matt. 18:3; Mark 1:15).  Jesus even told Pilate that His kingdom was (and still is) not of this world (John 18:36).  Paul expressed the spiritual nature of the heavenly kingdom this way: “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).  We are blessed “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3).  These are present, current facts of a spiritual realm beyond our physical existence.  Even as Christ stated that He was not of this world, and prayed that His followers be kept from the world, He was physically in the world even as we are now in the world, but are not to be partakers of the world.  We are to reside and partake of the spiritual, glorious, heavenly world into which our spirit has been born again, even while our physical bodies travel through life on this spinning orb known as Earth.  Our physical body is merely the vehicle of expression for the activities of the spirit man incarcerated within.  Hebrews 12:28 reads, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Strong’s: to receive near, take unto, a familiar, intimate association).  This expresses a kingdom now present, during this life wherein we are to serve God acceptably, not during a thousand year utopian state many predict.  This ties in with Peter’s admonition to acquire Christ-like attributes, walking above sin, “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:11).

        Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, lives and reigns today over His spiritual kingdom of which born-again Christians are citizens.  We have specific, legitimate rights, privileges and responsibilities as citizens, subjects and saints of our King.  We have been adopted into His royal family.  We are currently “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16,17).  Jesus stated in Matt. 16:19, “And I will give (#1325, Strong’s: commit, deliver; Thayer’s: to give to one asking) unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  Furthermore, in John 14:12-14, He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If ye shall ask any thing in My name, I will do it.”  In Luke 10, Jesus appointed seventy followers to heal the sick and tell them that the kingdom of God is come.  These seventy later returned exclaiming that even devils were subject to them through Jesus’ name.  This is divine power and authority given to human heirs of God.  The early church exercised these rights and privileges, but few since that time have believed Jesus' words to the extent of using this authority to glorify Him upon the earth.  His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and we, His people, are in it! (Psalm 145:13; Dan. 4:3; 7:27; II Peter 1:11)  Paul prayed, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.  Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen” (Eph. 3:17-21).

 

 

 

“MY SERVANT JOB”

James Sanderson

        The Book of Job is an extraordinary account of a great patriarch who remained faithful to God in the face of a horrific tragedy and loss.  Down through the ages, this man’s courage in the midst of great adversity has been a source of inspiration to many.  “Behold, we count them happy which endure.  Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and full of tender mercy” (James 5:11).

        The Word of God states that Job was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1).  His character was blameless before the Almighty.  One fateful day, Satan appeared before the Lord along with other heavenly beings.  This adversary of the soul accusingly asked the Lord, “Doth Job fear God for nought?” (Job 1:9)  In other words, “The two of you have made a deal.  You bless Job; and, in return, Job serves you.  Take away his blessings, and you will see his true character.  ‘He will curse thee to thy face’” (Job 1:11).  God then allowed the Devil to afflict Job.  He lost his children, his wealth, and all his property.  The word of the Lord states, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:22).  He held “fast his integrity” (Job 2:3).

        Undeterred by this unexpected response, Satan again came before the Lord and declared, “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life” (Job 2:4).  The Lord now allowed the Devil to afflict Job’s physical body.  He sustained painful boils from his head to his feet.  To add misery to all his present difficulties, his reputation began to suffer.  Three of his friends who showed up to comfort him became more like accusers than consolers.  At one point in the dialog, Job protested, “Miserable comforters are ye all” (Job 16:2).  Throughout this ordeal, Job’s wife was not much help either.  Her advice?  “Curse God, and die,” (Job 2:9).  The Word of God again states, “In all this did not Job sin with his lips” (Job 2:10).

        Many a man would have buckled under the tragic train of events that Job endured.  History relates that during the Great Depression many people, having been reduced to poverty after losing their farms, homes, and livelihood, committed suicide.  Job’s response in the midst of all this difficulty?  “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).  What was the quality of trust that sustained this faithful servant of God?

God Is Worthy Of Trust

        First, Job found God to be worthy of trust.  He had profound confidence in the word of the Almighty.  “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).  Throughout his life, Job had personally experienced the faithfulness of God.  The Lord had always been true to His word.  “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Num. 23:19)  “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips” (Psalm 89:34).

        Moreover, Job had found the Lord to be just and righteous in all of His dealings.  “For I know that my redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25).  The Amplified Bible translates, “For I know that my Redeemer and Vindicator lives.”  Job rested in the fact that God was his Redeemer; that is, his Justifier, Deliverer, and Saviour.  “There is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour” (Isa. 45:21).  Because of his deep trust in God, he clung with steadfast assurance to the belief that the justice of the Lord would prevail in the end.

Trust Doesn't Depend On Circumstances

        Next, Job trusted God in the good times and in the difficult times.  The tragic events that occurred in Job’s life did not diminish his trust in the Lord.  Although his circumstances produced a certain level of anxiety, Job maintained a steadfast focus on the Lord.  “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).  “Having the reality of God’s presence is not dependent on our being in a particular circumstance or place, but is only dependent on our determination to keep the Lord before us continually” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest).  Job had his spiritual eyes fixed on God.

Trust Is Rooted In Love

        Finally, Job loved God unconditionally.  He trusted God because he loved God.  God was first in his life.  His relationship with the Lord was more important to him than family, friends, possessions, and his very own life (see Luke 14:25-27).  His patience and perseverance in the midst of tragedy proved to all heaven and hell that his service to God did not hinge on any material blessings that he might receive.  In essence, Job vindicated the righteous judgment of God (2 Thess. 1:9).  God was right; Satan was wrong.

        The testimony of Job stands as a shining example to each and every one of us as Christians.  In the light of Job’s experience, we might ponder how steadfast is our own trust in God.  The Lord has offered to us the opportunity to develop that same level of trust that sustained Job through all the trials that he faced.

 

 

 

PROBLEMS

Kenneth Fountain

        “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).  This is a piece of astounding insight and glorious comfort to any Christian who has ever had a difficulty to face.  Actually, every human being has difficulties that confront him from various sources and in varying degrees.  However, those not washed in the blood (unrepentant) do not have the blessed support like those who reside under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).  Those without God’s overshadowing either bear up to problems or buckle under them according to their own ability and resource.  Many resort to numerous escape mechanisms in order to cope with or ignore the challenges before them.

        From a Christian’s standpoint in Christ, the issues that may generate distress are actually tools that God uses to develop Christ-like character and attributes in order to cause him to draw closer to God.  Whatever category one’s problems may fall into – whether spiritual, physical, emotional, financial, circumstantial, environmental, or relationships with others – all are designed to benefit the follower of Christ.  Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).  He recognized the source of sustaining ability for any and all things.  He also related an interesting situation in his life in 2 Cor. 12:7-10: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  (8) For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  (9) And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  (10) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”  With the tremendous blessings of God upon and through Paul’s life and ministry, God also provided a problem to help Paul remain humble and dependent upon the Lord.  The vast majority of us would prefer to never have any difficulties in life.  Comfortable “smooth sailing” through the oceans of life would be greatly appreciated without ever needing a lifeboat of some sort on perilous seas with its meager survival rations and remote hope of rescue.  However, God in His boundless love and infinite wisdom brings things into our lives that will prompt us to trust in Him, developing our faith and love toward Him.

        Some view problems in life as a sign of God’s neglect, but actually it is just the opposite.  John expresses this truth in chapter 15:2, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (see also Heb. 12:6,11).  If we look at Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and the experiences of their next forty years, it should be obvious that God could have whisked them straight into the Promise Land much like He transported Philip from baptizing a eunuch in a desert to the town of Azotus (Acts 8:26-39).  After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites had much training to undergo in order to become empowered to conquer the Canaanites and claim their promised inheritance.  Throughout the history of God’s dealings with mankind, we find Him addressing the rationale of the carnal nature so common to man.  Guiding man through the natural realm into the realities of the spiritual realm is a dramatic undertaking.  Israel would never achieve victory without God’s divine help.  Time and again He brought them to situations where His intervention was a certain necessity.  From the ten plagues brought upon Egypt, to the parting of the Red Sea, bitter water, limited food, roving enemies, et cetera, man’s logic and God’s solutions were quite different.  God’s methods of dealing with problems many times seem absurd to carnal reasoning as well as being contrary to the laws of the natural realm.  For example, Moses extended his old shepherd’s staff and the Red Sea parted and the ground dried for easy passage; much later, trumpets and a shout brought down the massive walls of Jericho.  These are spiritual realities that we call miracles because they are supernatural by our standards, but commonplace by God’s standards.  All these impossible things were designed by God to give His people opportunity to call upon Him and trust Him.  These were to develop love and faith within His people and bring glory to His name.  The same is true today.

        Jesus said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”  (Matt. 18:3).  Little children have implicit confidence in their parents’ love and their ability to provide, care and protect them.  God desires this same attitude in His children.  Often, it is only when we confront something insurmountable in our lives that we will turn to Him in desperation for help.  We want to be independent; He wants us to be totally dependent upon Him.  In I John 4:18 we read, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment.  He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”  When we completely trust in His love (exercising faith), we present all our needs to Him knowing that He can and will lovingly provide the best solution for our good in accordance with His omniscient will.  When we realize that anything that befalls our path in life is in harmony with His plans, it is easy to rest in the peace of God that passes all understanding (Phil .4:7).  God is never surprised or taken unawares by an event in our life.  He has not gone on vacation, nor is He asleep, or too busy elsewhere.  He is always working to cultivate and produce His nature and attributes within us.  Therefore, as long as a person is endeavoring to walk pleasing before the Lord, He will always bring forth glorious good in our behalf.  We can have total confidence in Him, and then any problem we face is really not our problem to deal with, it is His.  He is merely testing our approach to the resolution: will we wrestle through it, or rest in Him allowing Him to resolve the issue?  Solomon proclaimed, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Prov.3:5-6)  The prophet Jeremiah said, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.  Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is” (Jer. 17:5,7).  Anytime we attempt to solve a problem in our own wisdom or ability, we deny ourselves the blessed opportunity of seeing God work on our behalf.  He is not interested in helping us glorify ourselves with self-sufficiency (I Cor. 1:29), but in developing faith-filled, obedient, trustworthy servants through which He can demonstrate His love and ability to meet all human needs.  Moses spent his first forty years of life in Egypt learning to be a somebody, and determined in his own ability and means to deliver Israel from bondage.  It was only after spending the next forty years in the wilderness learning to be a nobody for God, that Moses was pliable enough to be used by God for the mammoth task for which he had been called.  The daily problems he confronted raising sheep evidently taught him to trust God and rest in His care, which prepared him to lead the stubborn, wayward Israelites to their Promised Land.

        There are many examples of God using overwhelmingly hopeless situations against His people to demonstrate tremendous victories when faith was exercised and God’s mighty arm of help was requested.  In I Sam. 30:1-6, David and his men returned to their homes in Ziklag to find them burned, their families kidnapped and possessions stolen.  David “encouraged himself in the Lord his God” in spite of the gloomy picture, and God in His faithfulness restored all to them.  In II Kings 18, we read about King Hezekiah of Judah cleansing the land of idolatry, then Sennacherib, king of Assyria sent messengers criticizing Judah’s trust in God.  In II Kings 19:14-20, Hezekiah laid the threatening letter before the Lord, requesting God’s deliverance from the huge invading army surrounding him.  In verse thirty-four, God sent an angel in the night and killed 185,000 of the enemy.  The Apostle Paul recorded a lengthy list of problems he faced (II Cor. 11:23-28), yet acknowledged that God was always with him.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

        Let us learn from Paul who said, “but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed” (Rom. 5:3-5).  God is worthy of our confidence regardless of the trials that come our way.  Even the minutest details of our lives do not escape His attention, for even the very hairs of our heads are numbered (Matt. 10:29-31).  He is always in control and endeavors to bring us forth as gold tried in the fire to His glory (Mal. 3:3; I Peter 1:7).  Remember Paul’s admonition in I Cor. 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

 

 

 

REMEMBER THE LORD THY GOD

Charles Woodard

        “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is He that giveth thee the power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day” (Deut. 8:18).

        America as a whole does not remember the blessings that the Lord has bestowed on this people.  The immorality, the disorder and chaos of the USA is self-evident.  Many politicians and even church people do not realize what they say in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

        The Lord God will have His will done!  He did with rebellious Israel and He will with America!

        He gave good laws to our forefathers and a constitution that has stood the test of time.  Patrick Henry said something about a people that forget God:

        “It is when people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.  A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience are incompatible with freedom.”  Patrick Henry

        The Lord spoke to Israel in Divine commandments: “Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways, and to fear Him” (Deut. 8:6).

        Our nation has forgotten the Lord our God and His commandments.  We are in a civil war of ideas and values.  A nation that kills its babies, demoralizes its youth, promotes perversion of sodomites and destroys the family will be judged by God.

        Homosexual activists, liberal congressmen and the biased media have combined with compromising pastors not to remember the Lord thy God.

        Christians have only two choices: we will speak out against unequivocal sin or remain silent!

        Communism fell quickly, and our nation of America can fall just as fast.  Israel did not remember who delivered them and forgot God:

        “Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Deut. 8:14).

        This could be the near to the end of democracy!  Does this scare you?  Are you moved to action?  Can you who read this see the seriousness of the times?  Can you not see – as Russia forgot God, as Israel forgot God, as America has forgotten God – this immoral and decadent society will perish?

        “And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.  As the nations which the Lord destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the Lord your God” (Deut. 8:19-20).

GOD HAS SPOKEN!