People of The Living God

Psalms 149

 

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July 2017



 

 

 

 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

A BATTLE ON YOUR HANDS

Curtis Dickinson

        To hear it on some TV programs you would think that serving Christ is like being on one perpetual honeymoon-fantastic!

        It isn’t that way for me.  It wasn’t like that for Jesus, nor for Paul.  Early Christians could worship, preach, and practice their faith only under severe opposition from their foes.  Paul called the Christian life a warfare.

        It is hard to figure where we ever got the idea that we could settle down in a comfortable faith and coast into Glory to the cheers of all the world around us.

        It is true that Jesus gives peace which the world cannot give and manifests His goodness to His people in ways completely unexpected and unexplainable, but He still calls us to suffer by His side and sends us out as sheep in the midst of wolves to lose our lives for His sake.

        If we are in Christ, we must be in the same battle He fought.

        IT IS A MORAL BATTLE, like Jesus fought in the wilderness – temptation at the beginning of His work.  It starts at the beginning of our discipleship, when we are called to deny self and give up all sin, however attractive, desirable, and essential to life it appears to be.

        Modern Christians have been losing the moral battle.  Not that we don’t have enough organizations campaigning against drunk driving, abortion, drugs, child abuse and so on, but because we have all these efforts only as surface battles when the real enemy is still deep within, unrecognized and untouched.

        Churches have never been so full, and the Moral Majority is big enough to elect a president, but meanwhile divorce increases, prisons overflow, corruption is popular in high places, and pornography and immorality flourish as never before.

        Morals originate in the heart and mind.  Legislation and most organizations attack only the effects of evil.  A moral victory comes only as one is changed from the inside out.  It is not only when one no longer commits sin, but when he no longer wants to commit it.  It is the death of worldly desires and molding of life to the pattern God has given.  By contrast, popular preaching promotes comfort and security in the world, so that the Christian does not confront the world with a disciplined life, but conforms to it to gain its acceptance.

        Jesus prayed that His disciples be “kept from the evil one” and taught us to pray, “deliver us from evil.”  If we pray this prayer it may keep us from things we have come to love and even consider essential to the good life.  Do we want to be kept from evil, even if it means being kept from some great worldly achievement?  Even if it means being kept from something we have long desired?  Even if it means God must disrupt our lives?  Even if it means humiliation in the world?

        The battle for Christian morals begins with self.  Each Christian must realize that he has been salvaged “from the present evil world” to be a servant of God, to uphold the holy standards of Christ and be willing to lay down his life rather than surrender to those evils of the day which the world claims to be the normal acceptable path to success.

        IT IS A BATTLE FOR TRUTH.  The first step away from God was belief in Satan’s lie.  “Thou shalt not surely die.”  Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and stands not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own, for he is a liar and the father thereof” (John 8:44).  The Pharisees proved to be both murderers and liars.

        There is direct connection between truth and life and between lies and death.  We can know God only through the truth He has revealed.  He gives life only to such as believe that truth and follow it.  The world thrives on lies and death.  In praying for His disciples Jesus said, “I have given them thy word and the world hated them” (John 17:14).

        If we believe God, we also believe that we are sinners by His own definition, that we do not deserve to live but are worthy of death, and that the only means of life is to submit to Him and the redemption made by Christ’s death.

        This is devastating to our natural self-love.  It humbles us and makes us dependent upon God.  It removes the freedom to govern our actions according to our own whims, moods, and appetites.  No wonder the world hates the disciple who proclaims this truth, and seeks to defeat him with lies and deception.

        Not only does that world resist the truth, but the modern church has its own defense mechanism against any open examination of the truth.  People are comfortable with the traditions in which they grew up and are more firmly set in the traditions of their “Church Fathers” than they are in scripture.  Such traditions divide the church and obscure the truth by which believers may be brought to God. We cannot win the battle against lies of the world when the truth is hidden in the entangled web of human tradition.

        The weapons of our warfare, according to II Cor. 10:5,6, are “not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

        Imaginations and things exalted against the knowledge of God!

        This means that we are at war with the evolutionists, the humanists (which includes some elected officials), the media and scientists who seek to replace God with their own theories.  It is our task to set them straight about God, His moral order, His laws, and His eternal purpose.

        Every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ!  Not just the thoughts during devotions or on Sunday morning.  Daily conversation, business judgments, daily problems, entertainment – every thought is to be measured by the truth revealed in God’s word, not by popular opinion or the latest supreme court decision.

        We are disciples only if we abide in His word, not because we follow our feelings.  The latest fad in our nation’s pop culture may be tempting and popular, but if it is contrary to Christ’s truth, there is where we pitch battle to bring every thought into obedience to Him.

        Confusion, falsehood, and lax morals are the tools of Satan.  The mark of a Christian is love of truth and earnest effort to live by it.  If this is what you intend to do, expect to have a battle on your hands.

 

 

 

 

A PREACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

Harold Scullin

        There are two types of preachers exemplified in the Scriptures.  Both types preach from the same Bible, quote the same Scriptures, pray, and conduct religious services.

        However, these two types of preachers are as different from one another as night is different from day.  One is very popular; the other is not.

        In II Corinthians 3:6 we read of a minister “of the letter” which “killeth,” and a minister “of the Spirit” which “giveth life.”

        Ministers are the representatives of the many religious faiths which are in the land today.  If a religion is a pseudo-religion it must, of necessity, have pseudo-preachers.  The two are inseparable.

        Have you never read in the Word of God concerning such preachers?  They are spoken of as “blind leaders” (Matt. 15:14).  “Turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness…walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage” (Jude 4,16).  Peter speaks of them as “false teachers” who shall bring in heresies or sectarianism.  They have forsaken the right way and are gone astray; they allure through the lusts of the flesh and are the “servants of corruption” (II Peter 2:1,15,18,19).  They have “a form of godliness” but deny “the power thereof” (II Tim. 3:5).

        Such preachers have set themselves up as representatives of the Kingdom of God, when in reality they are not.  God has not called them; they are a mere pretense of what God wants in the earth.

        “As it was in the days of Noah so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man” (Luke 17:26,27).  One thing stood out above all else in the days of Noah: his message.  He was a “preacher of righteousness” (II Peter 2:5).  Noah spoke the truth without fear or favor of men.  He fulfilled the words of the Lord in John 3:34: “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God.”

        The floodwaters washed away all of the false, the make-believe, the hypocrisy of the people.  They believed when they saw the waters piling up.  But their belief was too late.  It could not save them from destruction.  God had shut the door of the ark.

        Do you believe that these days we are living in are the last days?

        You say, “Yes.”

        Have you sought out a preacher of righteousness?

        First of all, the Holy Spirit will witness to you what is of God.  “But the anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him” (I John 2:27).

        Also, the man of God will tell you truth.  There will be no compromise in his message.  Every word that he proclaims will have the plain, direct statements of the Lord and of the apostles as a foundation.

        The crowds do not usually flock to hear the preacher of righteousness.  His message is one of sacrifice.  He wields the sword of the Lord, which divides, pierces, and separates a man from all that is not of God.

        Such a preacher is not very popular.

        And his services are not “for hire.” Quite often he is found “without the camp” (Heb. 13:13).

        The Spirit of God will be with him because God has called him and anointed him for service.

        My friend, you may have to search very carefully in order to find such preachers, but they can be found.  Sometimes they are discovered working for God in the hedges and by-ways.  Or they may be heard over the airwaves – perhaps “as the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”  You may even find them living, serving, in your very neighborhood.

        Measure everything you hear, and everything you read, by the Word of God.  Accept the witness of the Spirit of God within you as to what is truth.  Walk in truth, and in the time of flood it will sustain you.

 

 

 

 

THE POWER OF GOD

Charles F. Woodard

        The “Power of God” is the greatest power in the universe.  Much has been written, preached, and taught on this subject.  Jesus said: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18).

        Most Christians accept the truth that Jesus was the Son of God, Son of Man, the Word of God, God Himself in human flesh, and that He did have all power in heaven and earth.

        He had the power to heal physical sickness: “And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand.  And he did so, and his hand was restored whole as the other” (Luke 6:10).

        We have a record of many cases of physical healing.  When Jesus healed a boy, the Word tells us that even His own disciples were amazed: “And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God” (Luke 9:43).

        He had the power to raise the dead (Luke 8:49-56).  He had the power to multiply food.  He fed five thousand from five loaves and two fishes (Luke 9:13-17).  He had power to cast out devils (Luke 8:27-36).  He had the power to deliver those who were spiritually sick: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

        And wonder of wonders, Jesus had the ability to transmit this power to His followers: “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against (Greek, over) unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” (Matt. 10:1).

        And again: “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).

        Now, if we believe that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever, as the Scripture says (Heb. 13:8), and if we believe that He gave this power to men, why don’t we have this power?  We claim an Acts 1:8 experience but lack the confirmation!  Jesus gave two reasons for error: “And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?” (Mark 12:24)

        (1) They did not know the Scriptures, and (2) they did not know the power of God.  This “know” is more than reading or memorizing; it is knowing and understanding.

        The apostle Paul said: “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (I Cor. 2:4).

        Science had a formula for power: M x V = Power.

        God has a formula, too: F x L= P (Faith x Love = Power)

        “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6).

        Here is the key to spiritual power.  Faith which is motivated by love for the Lord Jesus Christ cannot help but result in power.

        It is God’s way – it is the only way!

The Power Manifested

        “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

        Where is the power in Christianity today?  Television evangelists fall, our young people go the way of the world and the devil, divorce and remarriage afflict both pulpit and pew!

        The Holy Ghost power was, and is, to make witnesses – witnesses who had not only been with Jesus, but in whom He had come to live in the person of His Holy Spirit.  These Spirit-filled witnesses would cast out devils, speak with new tongues, heal the sick (Mark 16:17,18), show forth the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12), but above this, they would have supernatural power to live holy, godly, righteous lives.  The power that Jesus promised was first and foremost to live a holy life!

        The Gifts of I Corinthians 12:1-10 are nullified in one’s life by an unholy life!  The command of Ephesians that we be filled with the Spirit is that we might not be a lackadaisical or lukewarm Christian (Eph. 5:18)!

        The power to live according to the precepts and commandments of the Bible, to resist the concepts and styles of the world, is the power manifested.  Holiness is still God’s standard.

        In a sex-crazed, drug-infested, immoral, and unholy world, a Christian’s greatest witness is a likeness to the One he claims lives within.

        A church or denomination may have correct doctrine, but be without a positive witness to the lost unless members, by the power of the Holy Spirit, live above sin.

        We can live above sin!  Jesus, in us, has become our sanctification: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (I Cor. 1:30).

        The Holy Bible and the Power of the Holy Spirit were given to keep us from sin: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not” (I John 2:1).

        THE TRUE POWER OF GOD WILL BE MANIFESTED IN SPIRIT-FILLED BELIEVERS WHO LIVE A HOLY, SEPARATED LIFE.

 

 

 

 

WORDS

Mary C. Woodard

        There’s an old secular song that goes like this: “You always hurt the one you love, The one you shouldn’t hurt at all”.

        This is so true.  We generally do not attack strangers, or even friends, with our words.  Usually it is those closest to us.  Words can sting and words can hurt.  Words can be abusive.  Mental abuse is a growing problem.  Hurts from those we love through the misuse of words can leave scars that affect us for years, and perhaps for a lifetime. Some are more sensitive than others in this area.  Children are tenderhearted and especially sensitive.  Words tear down walls of communication in families.  Words separate families.

        All of us are vulnerable in this area.  We need to be especially watchful.  We need to suffer in silence, if we feel we have been wronged, rather than “fight back” through the use of harsh words.  “Why do ye not rather take wrong?” (I Cor. 6:7)

        In addition to hurting others with angry words, we hurt ourselves.  We give the devil a stronghold in our lives.  “Neither give place to the devil” (Eph. 4:27).

        “Be ye angry, and sin not” (Eph. 4:26).  How can one be angry and not sin?  The sin is not necessarily in becoming angry.  It becomes sin when we are overcome with that rage and lash out at others.

        If we do sin with our mouths, we must let the Holy Spirit lead us into confession and repentance before God.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

        “Jephthah uttered all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh” (Judges 11:11).  Our words are uttered before the Lord whether we are conscious of it or not.  “For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether” (Psalm 139:4).  If we would stop to realize that we are uttering our words before the Lord, we would watch our words more closely.

        If one is continually uttering hurtful or negative or condemnatory words, one needs to examine one’s heart, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34; Luke 6:45).  Perhaps one is lashing out at others because of hurts in one’s own life.  Let the Holy Spirit heal those hurts and give you gracious words, compassionate words, words of love.  “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29).

        The Holy Spirit utters gracious words, but one who utters hurtful words is speaking under the influence of the devil.  Under whose influence are you speaking?

        Recently I lashed out at someone close to me.  Afterwards, I knew I had given place to the devil and I began to feel remorse (a torturing sense of guilt) for my words.  I knew I could not let the sun go down upon my wrath (Eph. 4:26).

        I cried out to the Lord for forgiveness, and then I asked forgiveness of the one I had offended.  A relationship was restored.  Still, it would have been better if I had never uttered those words.  I vowed that by the grace of God I would never do it again.

        We cannot afford to harbor anger, bitterness, resentment, or anything akin to these in the heart. They will most surely open one up to the attacks of Satan in other areas, such as the mind and body, and most certainly will affect one’s words.

        If one has been cleansed of old habits and old ways through the blood of Jesus Christ, there must be a determination not to return to those old habits or old ways.  The Holy Spirit is there to help us if we will only call upon Him for help.

        Words can enhance or words can destroy one’s witness for the Lord.  Words can be hurtful or words can minister grace to the hearers.

        Which words will you choose?

 

 

 

 

LOVE AND OBEDIENCE

James Sanderson

        “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).  Here we observe the most supreme demonstration of love that the world has ever known.  The atonement had its origin in the Father’s benevolent love.  God came down, took upon Himself the form of man, and experienced a humiliating death on a rugged cross in order to deliver rebellious man from his headlong plunge into perdition.  For only divine love could reach the sin-laden heart of man.  “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us” (I John 3:16).  “God so loved the world that He gave” (John 3:16).  Love unbounded!  Love that passeth human knowledge!

        Such love has the right to expect love in return.  “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength (Mark 12:30).  “We love Him, because He first loved us” (I John 4:19).

        How does one manifest this love to God?  By obedience!  “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  The evidence of love is obedience.  The springboard of obedience is love.  The apostle John extended this concept by actually equating love with obedience to God.  “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3).

        Herein lies the essence of a walk with Jesus Christ.  He showed immeasurable love unto us; consequently, we desire to return that love by seeking to please Him in all that we say and do.  Commandment keeping is no longer viewed as a drudgery or burden since it issues from a fountain of love and devotion to Jesus Christ.

        The individual who truly loves God, also loves the words of Jesus.  “If a man love me, he will keep my words” (John 14:23).  Job, that man of patience and fortitude, declared, “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).  This is the kind of love that God wants.

        Beware of those who talk about the love of God but ignore the commands of our Lord.  Words are cheap!  Love cannot be divorced from obedience.  “[L]et us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.  And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him” (John 3:18-19).  When we say that we love God, let us show Him the evidence.

 

 

 

 

PARABLE OF THE SOWER

Alfred King

        Recently a young man who had been sent to Afghanistan told me of one experience he had while he was there.  Before he left the states, being saved and having been taught and convinced of the doctrine of eternal security, he felt he was in a right state with God.  Because of this teaching, when his battalion was under attack and he sat in the trench with bullets flying overhead and explosives threatening every member of his battalion, he was not afraid.  He sat there smoking a cigarette and cursing along with the rest of the soldiers.  He thoroughly believed he was saved and that if he were to die that day, he would then be with the Lord, consequently he had no fear.  But then he told me that he had been taught a false doctrine and now he realized that if he had died that day, he would not be with the Lord, but he would have found his soul in hell.  He was unprepared for death because, while he was saved, he was not walking in truth or in obedience to Jesus Christ.  His initial salvation did not assure him of a place in heaven.  He must also walk in a manner pleasing to God.

        I recently read a book by Jim Wallace entitled, Cold Case Christianity, a book defending Christianity from the perspective of a detective, particularly a detective who reviewed cold cases where the guilty party was never discovered or convicted.  He spent his time as a detective arresting murderers and thieves, many who claimed to be Christians, but having been raised an Atheist, he and other detectives would mock these deceived individuals.  It was in his examining Christianity from the perspective of a cold case, a case in which all the original eye-witnesses were long ago deceased, that he came to believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God.  He testified that if the case for Christianity were to be tried in a court with a jury, it could be proven to be authentic.  This brought Jim Wallace to become a believer.  In his book he told of several cases of men who were picked up for robbery or murder who believed that they would go to heaven.  Several expressed that even if they were killed during the robbery or a murder attempt, they would still go to heaven.  From these testimonies, it is easy to see how deceptive is the doctrine of “once saved always saved.”  In Mr. Wallace’s book one man said that he prayed before he would rob a place and ask God to forgive him for his sin so if he were killed during the crime he would be forgiven.  This manner of thinking seems so foreign to most Christians who know the scriptures, for the Bible clearly teaches that some will fall away.  “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (II Thess. 2:3).  To fall away, one must first have something from which to fall away.  To fall away from Christianity implies that one first became a Christian but then turned from it.

        Jesus gave a parable, found in Matt. 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8, in which He spoke of four types of ground.  It is called, “The Parable of the Sower.”  In this parable Jesus presents four types of ground, or types of men’s hearts upon which seed in sown.  Jesus informs us that the seed is the word of God.  All four types of hearts hear the word of God.  They hear the Gospel in some way.  The second type of ground in the parable is represented by the stony ground.  These individuals “hear,” “receive” and “for a while believe” but eventually fall away.  There is such a thing as a “falling away.”  Some will question whether these on stony ground believed unto salvation or just believed with a head knowledge, so with this in mind, let’s consider Jesus’ interpretation of each of these types of ground.  Let’s read Luke’s account, verse 12, “Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.”  Jesus equates “believe” with being saved.  If we carry this thought into the next verse, those on the stony ground were saved because they heard the word, received the word, and believed the word and, therefore, were saved.  If this is not the case: What is the difference between these on the stony ground and those on wayside soil?  If the word accomplished nothing towards salvation, there is no difference between these two types of ground.  Jesus, however, is presenting four types of ground, or four types of men’s hearts.  It is obvious then from this parable that some people will be saved and walk with God for a season, but after a period of time, fall away.  Mark’s account verse 17 reads, “And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.”  They do endure but only for a time.  They believe and are saved and begin to grow only to later fall away because they are unwilling to pay the price required for discipleship.  Jesus admonishes all those who hear the Gospel to count the cost.

        Continuing to the third type of soil we find thorny ground.  This ground (or heart) hears the word and receive it with gladness (Mark 4:16). We conclude again that this person is born again.  Consider again Mark’s account of this parable.  Mark 4:19: “And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”  To become unfruitful strongly implies that it had a good start in bearing fruit; however, thorns overtook it and choked out the fruit.  In order to bear any acceptable fruit for God, one must be grafted into the Vine, which is Jesus Christ.  Jesus speaks of this in John 15 in which He represents Himself as the Vine and believers as the branches.  He states emphatically in John 15 verse 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.”  To take away means this branch, once attached to the Vine, for some reason ceased to bear fruit and, therefore, Jesus takes it away.  Later He says those branches that were “taken away” were to be cast into the fire and burned.

        In John 15:4 Jesus makes a very important, yet shocking statement, “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”  The only fruit that is acceptable to God is that produced by those who have and retain an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).

        This moves us to the fourth type of soil, the good ground.  This ground represents the heart which Jesus says is “an honest and good heart.”  Referring this time to Luke’s account, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).  These are they who not only hear the word and believe it, but continue therein and bring forth fruit for the glory of God by abiding in the Vine.  They love Jesus Christ and apply His word to their lives in obedience, walking in holiness and righteousness before Him.

        In summary: The wayside soil represents the heart which is hard and will not even consider what God’s word says.  They are determined to live their lives the way they desire, and refuse to hear anything that might disturb their personal ambitions.  They like and enjoy their sin and refuse anything that might change their course in life.

        The stony heart is one who hears, receives and believes, so is saved but will not deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus Christ.  Therefore, when difficulties arise which demand sacrifice, they wither and fall away.

        Those who are represented as thorny soil are those that have hearts which allow thorns to grow.  Becoming overly entangled in the cares of life and allowing riches and pleasures to captivate their hearts they cease to bear good fruit.  The thorns strangle their spiritual life and as their heart strives for worldly and carnal things, the precious fruit which can only grow as one is in a strong personal relationship with Christ withers.  They eventually are overtaken and become unfruitful.  They too become dried, dead and fruitless branches which are destined to be cut off.

        The good ground are those who hear God’s word, believe it, receive it and bear fruit.  They love God and maintain a close relationship with Him and, therefore, bring forth good fruit through obedience to God’s word.

        This parable and its interpretation show very clearly that in order to be acceptable to God, one must not only be saved but continue in obedience to God’s word.  It also warns us that we, too, are to be on guard so that we do not allow our hearts to become too attached to the things of the world.  To do so could cause us also to wither and be cut off and cast into the fire.

 

 

 

 

IS JESUS GOD?

Randall Walton

        From the testimony of the Scriptures we wonder why this is a question in many people’s minds.  But it is true that multitudes of “Christians”(?) doubt or deny the divinity of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

        Isaiah, the prophet of God, foretold the conception and nativity of Him whom we call Lord: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).

        Matthew quoted this verse in his relating of the birth of Jesus, in Matthew 1:22,23, but he adds to the name Emmanuel: “which being interpreted is, God with us.”

        This, of course, is not enough for some people to accept even though it seems quite obvious that if he were not God, it was inappropriate, if not deceptive, to call Him “God with us.”

        There is so much Scriptural evidence that Jesus was not only God, He was also the Creator of whom it is written, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).

        Consider also these passages:

        “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God, All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3,14).

        “For by him were all things created” (Col. 1:16).

        “who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:9).

        In addition to this, Paul lets us know that Jesus was the Almighty One who was preeminent throughout the Old Testament: “for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (I Cor. 10:4).

        “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents” (I Cor. 10:9).

The Father And The Son

        John tells us that “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18).  Here we have two separate, distinct beings, the Father and the Son, both of whom are divine, yet of the One it is stated that no man has ever seen Him.

        However, in the book of Exodus we read: “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel” (Ex. 24:9,10).  Verse 11 says “also they saw God, and did eat and drink.”

        Since no man has seen the Father, then the One that these men saw and communed with was none other than Jesus, and notice, He is called “the God of Israel.”

        Again, in Ex. 33:11, we are told that “the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.”  But in verse 20 of the same chapter we read, “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live”!  This sounds like rank contradiction.  However, we understand by these verses that Moses spoke to both the Father and the Son, but he did not see the Father.  He saw only the Son, Jesus.

        Further evidence may be found in the following references: Deut. 5:4; 34:10; Num. 12:8.

        Is Jesus God?  Of course He is!  He is the great I am of ancient times, for He boldly proclaimed: “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58)!  He is the blessed Emmanuel, God with us.

        He is omnipresent: Matt. 18:20; 28:20

        He is omnipotent: Matt. 28:18; Phil. 3:21; Eph. 1:18-21

        He is omniscient: John 16:30; John 6:64; Col. 1:17

        He is proclaimed God: Heb. 1:8.  Though the Father is greater than He is, He and the Father are in perfect harmony and agreement in all things! John 14:28; John 10:30

        “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Rev. 14:7).  Jesus, the Creator, is to be worshipped as is the Father, for He is very God!

 

 

 

 

OUR TONGUE

Donald Pugh

        Scripture reveals that mere mortal man has the awesome power of God available to him.  Some with total disregard for God’s will have abused this privilege, while others, with great care, have been instrumental in honoring God and bringing His blessing upon many.  Like any power or authority given to an individual, they must be prepared to assume that power.  We rear our children to become responsible adults so they can assume the responsibilities required.  Likewise, God is preparing His people to receive His power and authority and function in a way which will bring glory and honor to Him and His kingdom.  One very important preparatory works of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life is to gain control of his tongue.

        In Psalm 19:14, David petitioned God, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”  We would all be wise to follow his example rather than just teach, preach or exhort others to put this into daily practice.  Solomon stated that “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Prov. 25:11).  He also said, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Prov. 15:1).  James spoke the following words with care and gentleness to beloved brethren.  In James 1:19, 20 we read, “Wherefore my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.  For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”  We find that our little tongue carries tremendous power.  In chapter three of James we read, (verse 2) “For in many things we offend all.  If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.  (5) Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.  Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!  (6) And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.  (9, 10) Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”  Notice, with our tongue, we can offend!

        We all know what it feels like to have been the recipient of an offense; verbal or physical it matters not.  When we have received an offense, we must check our forgiveness level, because a lack of forgiveness in the life of a child of God will seriously hinder and grieve the Holy Spirit.  This will prompt God to lovingly intervene in your life with chastening and scourging (Heb. 12:6).

        Jesus teaches us that we are to be perfect even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48).  I confess that I have not mastered the application of David’s words in Psalm 91:14, but I am responsible for God’s truth as He reveals it to me.  We are to pursue perfection as Paul stated, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  Paul’s desire was to “be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3: 9).

        We are to admonish one another (Rom. 15:14), exhort one another daily (Heb. 3:13), strengthen and encourage each other (Isa. 35:3), promote each other unto love and good works (Heb. 10:24), and the list goes on.  This practice can and will only be accompanied by a lifestyle that consistently reflects the model of a rebuilt heart as demonstrated by the teachings of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3-16.

 

 

 

 

WHAT ABOUT THAT PRIDE?

Wesley Owen

        When the Lord quickens a passage from His word, there is a special understanding and depth in the meaning of the verse or verses He has quickened to us.  This can come suddenly or after many hours, days, or even years of studying the passage.  I am finding a comparable thing occurring when the Lord discloses an area I need to correct.  I become acutely aware of this condition.  In fact, I seem to run into it almost any direction I turn.  And the Lord in all His mercy continues to point out this condition.

        Allow me to share with you an area that the Lord is dealing with me about and some of my thoughts on this.  As an introduction to this topic, let’s begin with several scriptures that deal with this issue: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate” (Prov. 8:13).  “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).  “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit” (Prov. 29:23).  “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” (I John 2:16).

        Pride will definitely hinder the Spirit of the Lord working freely in any Christian’s life.  It is a tool that Satan uses very skillfully with far too many of us in varying degrees.  So many of us are taught as little tots to be proud of what we are and what we can do.  Pride is expected and even demanded in order to be successful in today’s world, especially when the term applies to dignity and self-respect.  (This is not to imply that dignity is wrong when it is used to keep or obtain a standard worthy of a Christian such as in his work and behavior.)  It is when we have become egotistical over a circumstance or matter we have done that is not approved behavior for a Christian.  “And he (Christ) said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23).

        Is it by chance that pride is grouped with such sin as blasphemy murders, fornications and so on?  One certainly could deduct from this that pride does bear a major importance in Christ’s standards.  The Greek word for pride used in this text includes haughtiness, arrogance, or the characteristic of one who, with a swollen estimate of his own powers or merits, looks down on others and even treats them with insolence and contempt (Thayer).  This is clearly a behavior that is not acceptable for a Christian.  Unfortunately, this can be seen all around us, but most important, to what degree does it rule in our lives?

        It is only through the Holy Spirit enlightening from within that one is able to work on, and even see, the ills of his or her pride.  The remedy is a step-by-step process that seems to be a never ending battle, a battle that persists within our inner being even though we are not wanting it to occur.  Why is this?  Paul describes this inner struggle well as it refers to our relationship to God’s law being our source of measurement: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.  Now, if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Rom. 7:14-21 NIV).  From this we would gather that there is an impulse inherent in our human nature that drives us toward sin even though we really don’t want to sin.  Praise God, there is help.  Let’s read a little farther.  “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord” (vs. 22-25).

        Our help lies in Jesus Christ, but for many this may seem to be an over-exploited answer, and, in truth, it possibly is an answer others may freely have suggested but are not fully cognizant of the difficulty in applying the suggestion.  It requires a total commitment to Him.  A commitment of a spirit and soul that is determined to be in obedience to Jesus Christ, willing to allow these inner battles to be fought and controlled by an obedience to the Spirit of God.  What happens to hinder this process?  One thing, our pride flares up when we are attempting to listen to the Spirit of the Lord.  The questioning whether a manifestation is of the Spirit is often our own pride: a concern of what others might think if it should not be of the Spirit.  This seems to become even more complicated should the Spirit require or lead us to behavior in a manner contrary to our own (or others’) normal, or should we say, carnal behavior.  Our pride too often causes us to slow down or completely stop the direction we are being led.  On the other end of the spectrum, there is a behavior that will take over and control as soon as it assumes the direction the Spirit might be leading, which is commonly called “being in the flesh,” and this behavior tries to force the Spirit to move as it thinks he should.

        A segment of pride that Satan so cleverly uses to trap Christians is that of self-condemnation.  Self-condemnation actually comes through playing the role of God, which Satan totally delights in seeing man do. When man plays God he condemns, punishes, rewards, and excuses himself for his behavior (what he does depends on whether he is a strict god with high expectations – a perfectionist, or a lenient god who tends to pamper and excuse himself).  When one condemns himself it is because he is disappointed that he did not perform as he or others think he should.  A person must remember, when he earnestly confesses to God and repents, he must believe that God does forgive.  It is unbelief that God does not forgive after we have taken the proper measures of repenting that breeds self-condemnation.  God wants, and even demands, to be God in every area of our life, and this includes the area of judgment and mercy.  God has standards for behavior, but when one fails to live up to that standard, God grants pardon to the repentant.  We as Christians are called to live by His standards, not our own nor the standards of the world, and we will be judged by those standards set by Him.  Man must judge himself in God’s light, not from receiving condemnation from self and Satan.  Christians may in humility receive forgiveness and cleansing from God, but he must believe that God does give this.

        Pride can hinder Christians granting forgiveness to others.  Because of the great forgiveness of God, the response of a Christian who has been forgiven should be that of forgiving others.  “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col. 3:13).

        We are taught by Christ to forgive one another, not just a few times, but many multiples of times.  It is appropriate to say that just as sin separates people from God, sin separates people from people.  When our pride hinders us from offering forgiveness, it is hindering us from being actively involved in loving our neighbor as self.  When our pride is dejected and forgiveness is given, we accept the pain of the offense and actually forgo the right to retaliation, bitterness, or resentment.  However, if a person continues to hold something against another, forgiveness has not been accomplished.  Many people live under condemnation and guilt because their pride has refused to forgive others.  Forgiveness is a shared act.  Jesus permits believers to forgive as they choose to forgive.  On the other hand, unwillingness to forgive is sin and does separate the unforgiving one from God.

        As we seek the Lord in honesty and openness He is faithful in hearing our cries.  He doesn’t always answer or work as we might expect Him to do, but He does hear and works the best for those who love Him.  I find it imperative that we keep ourselves in complete obedience to the best of our ability, taking a firm stand against any unbelief and rebellion against the Truths of God.  God in all of his faithfulness does guide and enlighten if we are patient and humble, which allows the Spirit to work within us.  Pride is one of those sins that continues to raise its ugly head, but we must be just as persistent in our fight against it.  “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.  A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.  Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.  Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me” (Psalm 101:3-6).

 

 

 

 

THE STATE OF THE DEAD

Randall Walton

        We have been asked by a number of people to explain our views concerning the “State of The Dead,” a subject which is extremely important to many people and which is not essential to salvation.  It is important to know truth, any truth, yet there are many abstract teachings which have no bearing upon people’s lives and serve no other purpose than to distinguish between people of different persuasions.  There are those who would find it difficult to fellowship with anyone who held to opposing opinions on certain doctrinal beliefs.  Such action is justifiable if those doctrines affect the personal lives of those individuals, or if they in any way disparage Jesus Christ and/or His message.

        We believe the teaching of the state of the dead falls into the category of not affecting people’s lives.  Whatever one believes about the dead will not cause that one to be more holy, nor to lose his way, even though it is good to know all the facts concerning the teachings of the Scriptures.  We, therefore, present the following, not as a means of separating God’s people into irreconcilable factions, but as an expression of truth which glorifies God and explores the depths and potentials of the Word of God.

Different Beliefs

        Beliefs concerning the State of the Dead are generally divided into two main classes:

        1.  Soul sleeping, i.e., when a person dies, all consciousness ceases, the body decomposes, the breath returns to God, and the resurrection will bring the body back into a state of consciousness to receive either eternal life or eternal damnation.

        Many Old Testament Scriptures uphold this view (Psalm 146:4; Eccl. 9:5).  Also, Jesus spoke of Mary’s brother, Lazarus, as having gone to “sleep” (John 11:11-14).  And in Matthew 9:18,24, Jesus spoke of a ruler’s daughter as “not dead, but sleepeth.”  These and other references are used in defense of the belief that those who die are in a state of “sleep.”

        2.  The righteous to heaven, the wicked to hell, view.  This teaching includes the erroneous doctrine of the present immortality of the soul, or that man possesses a soul which lives on forever after the body expires, and that soul either goes to heaven or hell at the moment of death, depending on the spiritual state of the person at the time of death.

        It is important to know that the Bible does not teach that the soul is immortal.  Saints (or saved persons) are promised the state of immortality at the time of the resurrection at the last day and when the last trumpet sounds (I Cor. 15:51,52), but none of the wicked, or unsaved persons, have or will receive immortality (a vivid term expressing eternal life in a state of sinlessness).

The Body Versus The Soul

        In Matthew 10:28 Jesus gave an explicit warning with these words: “And 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 soul and body in hell” (gehenna).

        Notice carefully that the cessation of life of the body does not mean cessation of existence of the soul.  Whatever the soul is, it cannot be killed by mankind.  However, it can be destroyed by God.  Notice, also, that the body and soul are separable, that is, the soul can exist without the body!

        Jesus gave further value to the soul when He stated, “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?”  (Not his body, but his own soul).  The soul, then, is more than mere breath or physical existence.  It is that vital living substance which a person can lose and for which there is nothing of equal value to trade or exchange!

        In Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica he included another element into the makeup of man.  “I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless” (II Thess. 5:23).  Do we infer from this that man is somehow a triune creation and that there are possibly separate and distinct functions for each of those different areas of consciousness?  The writer of the book of Hebrews mentions the “dividing asunder of soul and spirit” (Heb. 4:12).  There most certainly must be some significance to these various terms, and it is most likely that each of these, spirit, soul and body, is identifiable on an individual basis to every person.

Before Calvary

        There is every reason to believe that in the days before Jesus came, the dead experienced a state of unconsciousness.  The Scriptures are most plain concerning this.

        There was a very sound reason for that condition.  Satan was the instigator of death in that he successfully led the first parents into death through their disobedience to the voice of the Lord.  God said, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17).  Therefore, the moment they disobeyed God, they died; they were separated from the Life divine.  They were driven from the presence of the Lord and out of the garden of Eden into a state of death – spiritual death!  (Nine hundred years later Adam died physically.)

        Satan has always worked to bring forth death.  He could exult over the demise of mankind because death entered through sin, and sin was the product of his own rebellion against the Almighty.

        However, a change was promised to man, a hope, an assurance that was to come which would deliver mankind from the fear of death (Heb. 2:14,15), for God declared that the “seed of the woman” would bruise the head of the serpent (Satan) (Gen. 3:15).

The Triumph of Jesus

        When Jesus began His ministry, one of His first acts was the miraculous healing of dreadful diseases, followed by the raising of the dead.  And when He sent His twelve disciples to minister, He commissioned them thus: “As ye go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:7,8).

        Jesus and the disciples demonstrated that the kingdom of God was superior to every force in the universe.  Devils could be cast out of those possessed; all manner of infirmities were subject to the power of the kingdom; even the work of Satan in death could be brought under the control of the Son of Man.

        The fact that He Himself rose from the dead was proof that “it was not possible that He could be holden of it” (Acts 2:24).  Paul testified that Jesus has “abolished” death (II Tim. 1:10)!  He also declared that Jesus “having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15).  “He also himself likewise took part of the same (flesh and blood), that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.”

        Here, then, is a description of the work which Jesus accomplished through His death on the cross.  The word “destroy” as used in Heb. 2:14, does not mean to annihilate or obliterate, but rather, “to render entirely idle” (Strong’s).  So far as death is concerned, the child of God has no fear, for he has been delivered from that fear.  Satan can no longer claim death as his own personal achievement and jurisdiction.

        Jesus’ body lay in the sepulcher for three days and three nights, but He Himself was not there!  He had a job to do, a mission to fulfill: He must bruise the head of Satan and spoil his house and his goods.

        He “descended into the lower parts of the earth” (Eph. 4:9,10), and there He preached to spirits in prison (I Peter 3:19).  He led forth a “multitude of captives” (Eph. 4:8, margin), “and the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection” (Matt. 27:52,53).

        Now it is stated of Him, Jesus, that He has the KEYS of HELL and of DEATH (Rev. 1:18).  It is certain that the possessor of the Keys is also the controller of the circumstances.

        Of course, this does not mean that saints do not still die.  They do, but death holds no power over them, neither do they fear leaving this inferior state of existence.

The Rich Man and The Beggar (Luke 16:19-31)

        Jesus gave an illustration of two men who lived and died, and He told of their “experiences” after cessation of life.

        Some say that this is a parable and does not mean what it says.  We agree that it may be a parable, but it must be remembered that a parable is a comparison of two events or objects which are existent and true to life.  Now, if the conditions which Jesus describes in Luke 16 do not exist, then this cannot be a parable.  It is merely a fable, or at the best, a myth.  It is inconceivable that Jesus needed to resort to a fable or a myth in order to teach a lesson.  A parable – yes; fables and myths – no!

        So, if Jesus is relating this account as a parable to teach another truth, we are forced to conclude that there is a place known as “Abraham’s bosom” where the souls (or spirits) of godly persons are escorted after they die; and there is a place called hell, or hades, where the unrighteous souls (or spirits) reside awaiting the day of judgment, otherwise this is not a parable, just a fictitious and foolish story.

        However, since it does appear to be a parable (or it could be fact), then there is consciousness beyond this physical life.  Lazarus, the beggar, did not go to heaven.  The traditional view that the dead saints go immediately to heaven is not correct.  Whatever is involved in “Abraham’s bosom,” it is not heaven.  In fact, there is not one Scripture anywhere which suggests that saints go to heaven when they die.

The Thief on The Cross

        As Jesus was dying on Calvary, one of the malefactors who was executed at the same time made a confession to Jesus and implored Him, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.  And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”  Notice, not heaven, but paradise (Luke 23:42,43).

        There have been many attempts made to circumvent the message which is set forth here, the most common one being the assertion that the comma after the word “thee” should be placed after “today” and the word today should not be capitalized.  Thus, the verse would read: “Verily I say unto thee today, Shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

        There are some very obvious flaws in this adjustment of the Words of Jesus.  1) It is incongruous to state, “I say to you today.”  It was obvious that the statement was made at that instant and would not add emphasis nor clarity to the message to state it in this manner.  2) Such an interpretation makes a very awkward phrase of Jesus’ reply: Is He asking a question or stating a fact?  If He is stating a fact, the order of the words must be altered for it to be grammatically correct.  If He is asking a question then it is untypical of Jesus, and there should be a question mark in the Greek text.

        According to George Berry’s Interlinear Greek-English New Testament the verse actually appears thus: “Verily I say to thee, Today with me thou shalt be in Paradise.”  The comma after the word “thee” does appear in the Greek Text.

        It is certain that Jesus visited paradise that very day, not in His physical body, of course, but in the sphere of spiritual reality.  His body was placed in the tomb where it remained for three days and nights (not one day and two nights as is commonly believed) but, as we stated earlier, He had a job to do.

Where Is Paradise?

        The Scriptures speak of paradise in a number of instances so that we can draw some very accurate conclusions about the place where Jesus said He would be going the same day He was crucified.

        “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).  We first read about the tree of life in Genesis 2:8,9, where the Lord describes the garden of God in Eden.  It is evident that this garden was not a geographical site upon this planet as we know it.  Remember that God did not destroy the garden when Adam and Eve rebelled against Him.  “He “drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Gen. 3:22-24).

        The tree of life, then, is in the garden of Eden, which is also known as Paradise!  Paul declared that he had visited this place of exquisite beauty and peace.  He said he was “caught up” (from a Greek word which means “to seize” or “grasp”).  He described a glorious spiritual experience which few people have been privileged to enjoy.  He said he heard some words there which were not possible to relate to others (KJV says “lawful.”  The actual rendering is “possible.”  There was no way to convey to the human mind the complexities of that glorious state).  He declared further that he could not tell whether he was in his body or out of his body (is it possible that he, Paul, could be out of his body?  For the answer to this, read again the section, “Body Versus The Soul.”)  He also referred to paradise as the third heaven – not the heaven of heavens where the Almighty abides, but the third heaven (II Cor. 12:1-4).

        We now have a list of names which are descriptive of a place/state to which the souls of the godly are transported once they have left this plane of existence.

                Paradise
                Garden of Eden
                Third heaven
                Abraham’s bosom

        All of these refer to the same condition or state of being, a place where there is consciousness, blessedness, and comfort.

        In the light of this understanding, then, we can better comprehend Paul’s claims “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” (II Cor. 5:6-8).  Paul here contrasts two distinct states of being, one of which is inferior to the other; the inferior state is that which we now are in.  In order to enjoy the superior state, to be present with the Lord, requires that we be absent from this body.  Notice that nothing is mentioned about going to heaven – it is to be with the Lord!

        When a child of God lays down his life, this earthly, inferior existence, he has the privilege of being carried by angels (Luke 16:22) to paradise, to the third heaven, God’s beautiful garden, there to await the day of resurrection and the judgment, when the final, everlasting rewards will be given to all mankind.

        Paul’s own desire was to go, to be there.  He said that to die was far better, for it meant to be with Jesus (Phil. 1:21-23), for Jesus is there (He is also at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, and He is also with us in our hearts (Col. 1:27).  We have a word which explains this great mystery: omnipresence).

        It is very true that no one has ascended up to heaven except Jesus (John 3:13), but it is also true that God has provided a place of rest for the weary travelers who are no longer at home in this mortal flesh.  He is the God of the living, not of the dead.

What About Hell?

        “the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:22,23).

        The word “hell” in the English is translated from three different and distinct Greek words:

        1. – Hades: the place (state) of departed souls.

        2. – Gehenna: used figuratively as a name for the place (state) of everlasting punishment.

        3. – Tartaros: the deepest abyss of Hades, the place where fallen angels are incarcerated.

        (The above is from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance)

        Hades, the place or state of internment of those wicked ones who die is mentioned most frequently in the New Testament.  The very fact that Jesus in His parable of the rich man and Lazarus related that the rich man knew his condition, had intelligence, and was able to communicate is ample proof that in hades there is awareness.  The torment this man experienced was the knowledge that he was cut off from the very source of life.  Remember, not his body, but his soul was in hades.  No literal flame could have any effect upon him whatever.  The realm of existence of the wicked dead is not his final state nor destination, but is to the ungodly what paradise is to the saint: it is there that they await the day of resurrection and judgment.

        David’s prophecy of the Messiah is translated in Acts 2:31 as: “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell (hades), neither his flesh did see corruption.”  Notice that his soul was in hades, but his flesh was in the tomb.  But His soul came forth from hades and his flesh left the tomb.

        There is one reference where hades has been translated grave, but the context indicates that the writer was not referring to a hole in the ground.  “O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, (hades-hell) where is thy victory?” (I Cor. 15:55).

        Hades, then, is more than the grave or a tomb, a place for the interment of deceased bodies.  It is a sphere or realm of existence where the ungodly are detained, not in punishment nor abject suffering, but in agony of soul in the knowledge that all hope of salvation for them is past.  There is nothing that can be done to retrieve or to restore them.  The next great moment awaits them when they come forth from hades to stand before the judgment bar of Jesus Christ to receive recompense for their rejection of Him.

        The second stage or degree of hell is that which in the Greek is rendered gehenna.  Outside the city of Jerusalem there was a valley area where refuse, trash and some dead bodies were disposed of.  Fires were constantly burning there, fed by the continual dumping of garbage and other debris.  That which was not consumed by the fire was devoured by the maggots and other worms which thrived upon the never-ending supply of decaying flesh and offal.

        Jesus used this abominable place as a type or figure of hell, or hellfire.  The valley of Ge-Hinnom as a literal place of consummation could have absolutely no effect whatever on man’s soul, yet Jesus said to the Pharisees of old, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell (gehenna)?” (Matt. 23:33)

        Were they literally serpents?  Of course not!  Were they actually a generation of poisonous snakes?  Absurd!  Was He really threatening them with being thrown into the fires of GE-HINNOM?  Nonsense!  The hell or gehenna which He was speaking about was the one where “both soul and body” can be destroyed.  The term “fire” is used to describe gehenna because of its nature – it consumes, destroys, obliterates, devours.  And this is the end result of this place/state called gehenna.

        Dante’s picture of the vast inferno with a pitch-forked satan shoveling coal into huge fires to keep the wicked suffering down through eternal eons is a false and completely misleading portrayal.  The wicked shall be consumed, not preserved.  Their punishment will be eternal, that is, final, without recall.  The “fire” will consume them as Jesus taught in Matthew 13:40-42: “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.  The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire.”

        James tells us that the tongue is set on fire of hell (gehenna) (James 3:6).  Almost no one would argue that fire from the valley of GE-HINNOM had “set the tongue on fire,” yet the use of this term is indicative of the nature of that which comes forth from the tongues of men.

        The word Tartaros is found but once in the Bible (II Peter 2:4) and speaks of that horrible place of incarceration where the fallen angels are bound in chains awaiting the great judgment day (See also Jude 6).

In Summary

        The evidence of the New Testament testimony is that beyond this plane of existence, there is a state of awareness or consciousness for both the righteous and the unrighteous who leave this life; Paradise, or Abraham’s bosom (the faithful children of the father of faith), is reserved as a resting place until the resurrection and judgment at the last day, and hades, a place of sorrow and anguish for the rejecters of Christ who are also awaiting the resurrection and judgment at the last day.

        Eternal LIFE and eternal DAMNATION will be dispensed on that great day.  Eternal life includes that state of immortality and incorruptibility spoken of by Paul in I Cor. 15:51,52, which no man has yet received.  Eternal damnation means total destruction, consummation, obliteration.

        “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13).