What follows is not an excerpt but the entire book written by Walter Arcel, published in book form in 2005:
A COMPREHENSIVE TALK ON A MOST URGENT MATTER
Ransom Press, a division of
Grace and Sanity Ministries
A Simple Explanation
First Printing, 2005
Also from the same author: Faith 101
This edition is published by Ransom Press, a division of Grace and Sanity Ministries, a not-for-profit religious corporation, Inyokern, CA. Mailing address: P.O. Box 0879, Inyokern, CA 93527-0879.
Copyright 2002 by Walter Arcel. All rights reserved. Any part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise with the proper permission of the publisher, as provided by copyright law.
Printed in the United States of America. ISBN 0-9634540-5-6
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter One Hell
Heaven and Hell . A pardon without conditions. Pure, Holy and Undefiled. Make sure you can change a flat tire. A cornered rat. Rebellion. Guilt. Joseph Campbell, Carl Sagan, Clarence Darrow, Freud, Jung. Ignorant and afraid. Second generation Christians. Holiness. It's enough to gag a maggot.
Chapter Two Praise
We look God in the eye. I'm O.K., you're O.K.. Praise . Fear of God). David. Solomon's fault. Idolatry. Graven images. Born in the land. Moses and the Prophets. Grace exists only in the Law. That thorn in Paul's flesh. Confession. Holiness. Redemption. Repentance.
Chapter Three The World
The end of the world. Hatred the Arabs have for the Jews. The last days. Wickedness and violence of men. The wall of denial. Guilt and death, and punishment after death.
Chapter Four The Gospel
The Covenant. Election & Free Will. Does God keep control of the number of people born? Who are we talking to? Is praying for the dead a false hope? How about those who never heard? Sincerely wrong. Are we talking to the heathen? Pearls in front of the pigs. The Lost Sheep of Israel. Are some of the heathen saved?
Chapter Five Resisting & Free Will
Can one be chosen of God but still be able to resist him? Iniquity and Idolatry. Judas Iscariot. Rage of Satan. Beguiling Adam. Peter declares. The Lamb of the Passover. Pride is tough. Look at Solomon. My sheep will hear my voice.
Chapter Six Death & Life
What was your life for? Awareness of death, will to live. Creativity and Depression. Cravings and desires. Futility of life. The door of death.
Chapter Seven Faith
Good health, prosperity and peace. Attracted and repulsed. Feed my lambs. Faith. Assurance of salvation. Glorious mercy of God.
Chapter Eight Annihilation or Reincarnation?
The sheep must know how the heathen think. Hopes of the heathen. Life is a waste of time. Justice and fairness. Kill yourself while you're still good looking. Alternative professions. What if Hell does not exist?
Chapter Nine The Chosen
If he saves ten why not twenty? The Law is for the Israelites and for the stranger. Deist- Atheist. Are Election and Free Will mutually exclusive?
Chapter Ten The Resurrection
Why did the Romans not come up with a body? The Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. A strange silence. The resurrection was a hoax. The powerful Christians. Nobody can make them shut up. He was not really dead . He went into hiding. Lack of a body. Not enough skeptics.
Heaven and Hell . A pardon without conditions. Pure, Holy and Undefiled . Make sure you can change a flat tire. A cornered rat. Rebellion. Guilt. Joseph Campbell, Carl Sagan, Clarence Darrow, Freud, Jung. Ignorant and afraid. Second generation Christians. Holiness. It's enough to gag a maggot.
Heaven and Hell
If the explanation is simple enough anybody should understand it. Say it plainly, say it in a simple way and people should be able to get it. Things have gotten too complicated. Those who should know the subject well, preachers, theologians, teachers, don't tell it like it is. What many of them tell us is either irrelevant or unclear. This lack of relevance and clarity has taken away the peace, and the fear, we should have. Peace because he has guaranteed a result in our favour, and fear because of the consequence of rejecting what he has given us. There is urgency in this matter because the stakes are very high, nothing less than Heaven and Hell.
Simple does not mean limited. All possibilities must still be covered, and information continually refined. Only then can one be sure that everyone sees the situation clearly.
And, yet, I find that refining the information doesn't make a lot of difference. It doesn't seem to penetrate the thick wall that is out there. People close their eyes and stop their ears, they don't want to know. They don't appear to be at all concerned about their final destiny. They go on with their day to day business with absolutely no care for where they are going to end up. But, of course, they should care. Nobody can afford to go to Hell after they die.
A pardon without conditions
It is easy to understand that people don't want to consider a bad outcome. Hell is not something people want to think about. The possibility of Hell ahead is probably the main reason for avoiding the subject regarding our final destiny. We know we are unclean, and we know there is no way to avoid it. But, precisely because we know we are unclean, a free pass out of Hell should be highly desirable. If people knew for sure their sins have been paid for, if they knew for sure all their trespasses have been taken off the books, they would go for it. Or so one would think. People should jump at the offer of a pardon without conditions. But they don't. It must be that the situation is not completely clear.
Pure, Holy and Undefiled
This is how it is: God is Pure, Holy, and Undefiled. We are Impure, Unholy, and Defiled. The purity of God can not possibly tolerate our presence. There is a total lack of tolerance from purity towards impurity. This is so because if purity were to be exposed to impurity, purity would be contaminated and would no longer be pure. Purity would cease to exist if it were exposed to impurity. Our natural state is totally incompatible with God.
Those are the facts. By themselves these facts are not terribly important. What difference does it make if God tells me yes, you are bad, deceitful, wicked past measure, in all the secret places of your mind, beyond human help you are impure? Big deal. Why should I care? I've always known myself to be wicked and bad and impure so it was no big surprise to me when God pointed that out. The problem with purity versus impurity arises if Hell exists. Hell is the factor that makes the difference, the one possibility that cannot be ignored. The possible existence of a horrible place waiting for us after we die is what makes the difference in this purity versus impurity situation. The horror and suffering one might experience in Hell are too much. Nobody with any sense would consider it bearable.
Of course, some people think they are going to be all right, they are going to be able to handle it. We'll be in Hell where we can be totally carnal. That is such nonsense. Only a complete idiot would think he can handle it, or that it's going to be a long party with all his friends. It's hard to tell from here but it's probably not very smart to assume it's all going to be all right. There is no place to recoil to in Hell.
Make sure you can change a flat tire
"Hope for the best but prepare for the worst" is a good cliche. One should always take the worst possibility into account. Does it look like rain? Take your umbrella. Going for a ride in your car? Make sure you can change a flat tire. Caution should be the standard procedure.
Unless God is bluffing, and one would have to take that chance, Hell is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place of utter darkness, a place of burning and torment and unending desperation, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. Revelation 14:11, "And the smoke of their torment ascended for ever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night..." There is total consciousness and sensation of feelings; all these are felt, thirst, anguish, fear. There is the total awareness of having had the opportunity to go to Heaven but instead you let yourself slide into Hell.
And for what?, for nothing, totally for nothing. Just because your neck was too stiff to admit to God that you are unclean (like everybody else) and you didn't pay enough attention when it was being told you. You are going to Hell for nothing because you could have taken the free gift offered. You let yourself drift into this by inattention. And now there is no escape. And what is that burning and torment? Is it really a fire that burns but does not consume? Or is it rage at yourself because you let yourself get into this terrible situation? Or is it both?
There is thick darkness as in a cave, enveloping fear, complete helplessness, and, probably worst of all, the agony of wanting to end the suffering but not being able to.
A cornered rat
Those are some of the available descriptions we have of Hell. Hell happens to be, also, the final destination of anyone who is not Pure, Holy, and Undefiled. I know exactly the feeling of a cornered rat.
That is the situation as far as humans are concerned. There is no way to bridge the chasm and we have no control over our final destiny. There is no way we can ever be Pure, Holy and Undefiled. If for no other reason, because all the time we were in rebellion against God would contaminate whatever Purity, Holiness, and Undefiled-ness we could muster at any given, fleeting, moment. Our life is one continuum, there is no way to make dirty water clean by pouring clean water into it. If you pour clean water into dirty water, the dirty water is not going to become clean. The dirty water will become clean-er but it will not become clean.
By the time we acquire the consciousness of our own uncleanness the contamination has already taken place. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Our thoughts are evil from our youth. Our enemy foments rebellion in us long before we have any idea of the consequences of that rebellion. And it doesn't stop there. We continue to be corrupted even after we become saved. Every person within the sound of this voice, or every person who reads this, will confirm this corruption in themselves if they are truthful. The big change that accompanies salvation is that we no longer act on our basest impulses, but those basest impulses remain, and with that the need for grace all the time.
The problem we all face is death and its aftermath. People can believe what they want about that. But there are only two possibilities that stand out: Something will happen; or, nothing will happen. And if something happens, it can be either good or bad. If it's good it's O.K., but if it's bad....
What if nothing happens? Well, that's fine, you'll go to sleep like a rock, never again to wake up to suffering and distress. That your life was for nothing, that it was as the vapour that rises out of the dew when the sun hits it and it's gone in an instant, that's another story. Is that the end of everything and there is nothing after death? Will everything be O.K.? Personally, I wouldn't know. Is there a notary public somewhere, someone I can trust, someone who can give me a signed document guaranteeing everything it's going to be O.K. after I die?
But in spite of the reassurances of the blind, people know, deep in their gut people know that something could happen. And it can absolutely be good or bad. It could be a badness of major proportions. Even those who say this is all there is and when we die we just die and that's the end of it and nothing will happen, even they know that something could happen. At the very least they don't know if nothing will happen. They go past the graveyard whistling, trying to not be afraid. They scorn those ridiculous, antiquated, uneducated ideas about Hell and Punishment. By uniting their voices in agreement they will make Hell go away.
And yet there is this curious thing called guilt. One definition of guilt is "the awareness of deserving punishment."
When Cain killed Abel, God put a mark on Cain to make sure nobody would kill him to avenge the death of Abel. But Cain said in Genesis 4:13: "My punishment is greater than I can bear." Instead of being glad to escape vengeance from others (his own kin, of course), Cain despaired. The despair of Cain indicates that the weight of guilt is comparable to death, inescapable, relentless. It will hound you in the night.
What is this awareness of deserving punishment? Why do we have it at all? It tells us there is something we should do but are not doing; or, there is something we should have but do not have. But we don't know what it is we should do, or should have. People do good works because they guess that is what they should do. They need some credit for their life. Otherwise, what was their life for? One must be a good person, generous, compassionate, forgiving, loving. Surely that's what it is.
But something keeps nagging in the background. We still don't know what it is we are not doing, or do not have. There is an odd feeling about it, like being in a bind.
Why should we have this awareness of deserving punishment? What is it that we are failing to do or don't have? Where does guilt come from? Do we get it by osmosis? There is guilt in the collective unconscious and we get it from there, is that it? Or, perhaps, it is true that we got brainwashed as kids and a code of morals was stamped on the tabula rasa of our individual formation, and now we can't get rid of that imprint branded in our psyche.
Joseph Campbell, Carl Sagan, Clarence Darrow, Freud, Jung
I don't know about that. Anything that is learned can be unlearned, overridden. If there is better information today than what existed in the past we should be able to replace one set of beliefs with another. Some people thought the Earth was flat, at one time. Better information came along and people realized it wasn't so. If all the stuff about Judgment Day and Hell is false, and nothing will happen, and there is no God, why can't people just get rid of this thing, get rid of this awareness of deserving punishment, just brush it away? All you have to do is attend another seminar that will set you straight. Somebody smarter than you will tell you there is nothing to fear. Joseph Campbell thought there was nothing to fear from the God of the Bible. Carl Sagan the same way. Oh, yea, they knew everything. Clarence Darrow, Freud, Jung, they all mocked the Bible, they frothed at the mouth with hate toward the Bible and now they are all dead. And where are they now? Are they rejoicing or lamenting? Are they somewhere or are they nowhere? And if they are somewhere, is it good or bad? Tell me if you know.
Going back to guilt, is it possible that the reason we can't get rid of guilt is that there is something outside ourselves we cannot control? And this something is an invisible being who can make us feel this awareness of deserving punishment? An invisible being hugely bigger than us that we cannot control? That's a scary thought, isn't it?
The important thing we should do but are not doing, and that we should have but do not have, the important thing guilt points to, is that we must be sure to get the coin that can pay for our sins. We will need it on the last day of our lives.
Ignorant and afraid
A big part of the problem is that we are both ignorant and afraid of the Bible. It is because we are ignorant that we are afraid. We don't know how good God is. God is the only one who can eliminate this guilt, remove it from us. But to our own hurt we reject him. We are afraid of the Bible, we are afraid to be condemned by the Bible because we have heard lots of preaching against sin and we know we are sinners. Which takes us to respond to the Bible with defensiveness, hopelessness and helplessness. Who are you to tell me anything? You made me like this and now you ask me for a price I cannot pay? Did I make myself, or did you make me? The reaction at being in an impossible situation is anger, defiance, and rebellion; which, as far as I am concerned, is completely natural.
Second generation Christians
By the way, rebellion doesn't exist only among the heathen. It is alive and well in the Christian Church. It is a more subtle kind of rebellion, but it is rebellion nonetheless. Some of this can be seen in the movement of the day, "holiness," and the pursuit of it. It frequently happens among those who might be called "second generation" Christians, though they may be third, fourth, whatever generation. These are mostly sheltered people, safe within a church community. They have been in the Church since they were kids and don't really believe they are sinners. They were never in rebellion, they grew up in the church. They have always loved the Lord. They talk about holiness, living a clean life and being of service. They live mostly in denial, totally unaware of their urges, hormones, and resentments.
They are not grateful for salvation, salvation is a given, it's nothing to think about because they deserve it. They are going for holiness. If they are grateful for anything it is for being such good people, of great value to God, very worthy.
It's enough to gag a maggot
It's enough to gag a maggot. Worthy, indeed. Worthy of flogging, of torture and of death. People kid themselves if they think God needs them. God doesn't need anybody. He had a donkey talk to Balaam, he had ravens feeding Elijah. He can do without us. He doesn't need us to push the planets. The only reason he saves us is his pity for us.
The main problem some of these people face is that by not acknowledging their own depravity they have no defense against Satan. When they get into a situation they cannot control and end up doing something they should never have done, they don't know what happened, how they got into that. They went into it thinking: I'm safe, I can do this because "I'll resist the Devil and he will flee from me." That is so foolish. Putting oneself in the path of temptation with the confidence one can resist it is totally foolish. It's as if a recovering alcoholic were to buy a six-pack of beer and put it in the refrigerator to see how well he can resist the temptation to get drunk again. It's lame. Don't do that, it is better to flee from temptation than it is to test the strength of Satan. He has had a lot of time to study and know human nature.
The fall of a brother or a sister is a serious matter. People should be made aware of pits and snares, and how easy it is to slip when a person doesn't know his own depravity. We have well-known examples of high-profile Christians falling into adultery and fornication. Why? What happened? Well, they didn't know themselves, they didn't know they were capable of such things. They thought they were pure, holy, and incapable of being defiled. When you don't know you are a sinner you have no defense.
It can start in a very innocent way. Giving counsel to a friend of the opposite sex, for instance. It doesn't take very much to empathize with another person, their feelings and their troubles. There is a hug, there is a tear, an embrace, all sweet and innocent for a while. Giving comfort to another person can feel very good. But then, even adults married to others who had no intention of going astray start looking forward to these intimate sessions, and it doesn't take very long for them to do something they'll regret for the rest of their lives.
Of course, there are others who don't get into that sort of thing. Why take a chance with a disease when there is so much pornography available? The Internet is much more discreet, and as long as there is no actual fornication with another human being, what's the harm? If we are only accountable for what we do and not what we think there is no problem. Is there? I tell you, one look inside will make you cringe at your wickedness. I know that for a fact.
We look God in the eye. I'm O.K., you're O.K.. Praise . Fear of God). David. Solomon's fault. Idolatry. Graven images. Born in the land. Moses and the Prophets. Grace exists only in the Law. That thorn in Paul's flesh. Confession. Holiness. Redemption. Repentance.
In many Churches there is no longer an exclusive reliance on the Holy Spirit as the only purifying agent. Christianity has become just another belief system with its own set of rules like any other belief system. Clean up your act, give up a bad habit, recite certain words and you're there. There is no longer an acknowledgment of internal corruption.
We look God in the eye
Now we are casual with God. There's nothing to it. We pat him on the back and tell him, hey man, you're really cool, I praise you. We act as if we had equality with him. How could I really praise the exact work of a bricklayer unless I knew with expertise how to lay bricks? If I knew precisely what it takes to do a fancy job with bricks then I could praise someone who has done a good job. I could say, all right, that's really good, you've done a good job. I would have the authority, based on expertise, to praise someone. I may say the job is beautiful, while acknowledging that I don't know what it took to do. But, if I say, "you've done a good job" and I don't really know how it was done I would just be throwing a hollow word of praise in the air without real conviction.
I'm O.K., you're O.K.
Do I know the totality of God? This idea that I can praise God with such familiarity is ridiculous. Do I stand on a mound, look him in the eye, and tell him "I'm O.K. you're O.K.?" People have taken "What a friend we have in Jesus" to the extreme.
Besides, just saying "we praise you" is not in itself praise. Praise is to say: You are the biggest, the most powerful, the most intelligent, the most fierce, the most terrible, the most creative, the most compassionate, the most understanding, the most loving, the most forgiving, the most magnificent.
That is praise, or an example of praise. The other side of that coin of praise to God refers to me and says that I am small, weak, a moron, vengeful, a mocker, hateful, unforgiving by nature, dark.
If nothing else I can praise God by reason of my own unworthiness.
The reaction to encountering God in any fashion should be that of falling down on the ground face first, devoid of all strength. In your mind, at least. There is such misunderstanding of the majesty of God that many think because God made us in his image we are equal to him. What happens then? Well, once you look God in the eye it is only a short jump to saying: I can sanctify myself.
The heathen think exactly the same way. I can do this myself, I don't need a god to tell me what's right and what's wrong. I, too, can feed the poor and protect the needy.
There is so much pride among church members today that it's hard to see how anybody is saved at all. Most churchgoers are in one way or another trying to make better persons of themselves. Well, that's the message of the heathen world, to be a better person. What's the difference between the Church and the heathen? Not much, incredibly enough. As stated before, the work of the Holy Spirit as the only cleansing influence is much talked about but not trusted.
True humility in front of God doesn't exist in a lot of places. People don't realize that the one important thing they need, to be a real disciple, is to have the total awareness that God is watching their every move, and hearing their every thought. A Christian should be like a locust and be able to act without an apparent king.
The all-permeating and all-knowing presence of the Holy Spirit is not emphasized. Instead, the Church will appoint somebody over you to hold you accountable, to disciple you. Similar to a parole officer. God is near their mouth but far from their reins.
A most troubling aspect regarding this "second- generation" Christians is how many of them go astray from the God of the Bible. They are born in the church but they go into Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism. How can that be? According to the instructions most of their parents pay lip service to, children should be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. But admonition, of course, is instruction, rules, Law. However, if the Law is no longer operative as in those who like to say we're under grace and not under Law then there is really no room for admonition. What all this has become in reality is that this second generation is (or has been) brought up in the nurture of the Lord but not in his admonition. Only force, brute force, works in the spirit of men. I cannot be enticed by blessings, only the curses are persuasive to me.
Fear of God
My Bible does not say that the love of God is the beginning of wisdom. My Bible says it is the fear of God that is the beginning of wisdom. It is impossible to love God until one is aware of the terrible end that is avoided by running to his protection, a protection that came at enormous cost to him.
The consequence of the lack of fear of many second generation Christians, those who have been brought up in the Church, is that they will be lost. They will get into all the religions of the heathen, with the belief that the Bible is just a religion and that all religions are the same. But the Bible is not a religion. Religions have come from the Bible but the Bible itself is not a religion. The Bible is the self- revelation of God to a nation, Israel; the descendants of Isaac, Abraham, Shem, Noah, Adam.
David was a man after God's own heart. He was a force for good and inspiration to all Israel. There was idolatry all around him but he was unwavering in looking to God in the good and the bad of his life. David was a pillar for all Israel (he is a pillar for us even today, with his unmatched descriptions of the mercy of God), and God protected Israel while David was there. There are no better descriptions of the mercy of God than those given by David. No one has a better understanding of God than does David. David was an Israelite Jew, i.e., descendant of Judah, descendant of Israel. Not all the Israelites are Jews but all the Jews are Israelites.
David united the divisions that existed previously between Israel under Saul to the north and Judah to the south. David handed down this united kingdom to Solomon.
But this kingdom was split under Solomon's rule. The ruin of the united kingdom Solomon inherited from David was strictly Solomon's fault. For all the wisdom Solomon was supposed to have he sure fouled that one up. He went headlong into idolatry, he built temples for the gods of his heathen wives; he sacrificed to heathen gods of the nations round about, even to Molech and Chemosh to which children were sacrificed. This is rejection of the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, later called Israel.
The result of this rejection was that God rent the kingdom in two. This ripping apart of the ten tribes to the North, and Judah and Benjamin to the south, was decreed during Solomon's reign but put into effect after Solomon died. A Northern kingdom composed of ten tribes called "Israel" was given to Jeroboam, and a Southern kingdom called "Judah" comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were given to Rehoboam, a son of Solomon,.
But God did not split the Kingdom because the Northern Kingdom was any more righteous. The Northern Kingdom under Jeroboam did things that were at least as bad as what Solomon had done. Jeroboam made two golden calves, put them on altars at north and south ends of his territory and proclaimed that those calves were the gods that had brought Israel up out of Egypt. And Jeroboam was merely imitating what Aaron, the brother of Moses, had done a few hundred years earlier. Aaron made two golden calves even as Moses was in the mount receiving God's commandments. Unbelief and rebellion are the marks of humanity.
At any rate, the whole kingdom under Solomon earlier, Israel under Jeroboam and Judah under Rehoboam later, all went into the abomination that God hates the most: Idolatry.
It has been suggested that money or power can be idols, that these can be worshiped in such a way that it becomes idolatry. No, that's not the way it is. Idolatry is far more serious. Idolatry is to attribute the source of that money or that power to something other than the God of the Bible. Idolatry can also be to believe "I am the source, by my strength have I gotten this." Or, it is the presumption that with a ritualistic type of behaviour, one can tap into an unconscious force that will respond to our bidding. Idolatry is to attribute the power of God to that which is not God.
Graven images are representatives of deities. There is nothing that angers God more than attributing his power, his creation, his giving of life, to some phony figure that is at best a dumb graven image that can neither see nor hear, and it needs be borne because it cannot walk, representing gods that don't exist.
Golden calves are graven images, little Buddhas sitting in the corner are graven images, little figurines of bulls or lustful little demons signifying prosperity are graven images, cute statues of angels are graven images. Saints, icons, Jesus on the cross, are graven images. It is comforting to have a graven image because it is something one can look at, something one can bow down to, acknowledge in some sort of sacramental way when passing by it. I used to burn incense and have graven images. I didn't know they were "graven images," I thought they were just nice or cute. When I realized how incredibly offensive these things were to God I got rid of them as if they were burning my hands, which they were.
But I understand; it is comforting to have a graven image. Perhaps an invisible power can be reached through it. I am well acquainted with the desire to manipulate the invisible world to my advantage. Eventually, the occult must be explored, because some kind of power must be more actively pursued to be accessed. Satan says you can get what you want if you follow these (whatever) instructions, but he is the Master deceiver, liar above all.
Idolatry and rejection of Christ go together. I know that, too.
Graven images that depict God in any way, making him into any likeness of any thing that is in the earth or under the earth or in the water above or below, are forbidden.
Part of the reason God does not want anything representing him is because he is so different from anything we can possibly imagine, that it is an utter insult to think we can guess. Totally presumptuous. To what can God be compared?
The land of Israel and the Church are indeed types of the Kingdom of God. Fortunately, they are only types, not the real thing. There is no chance to be lost in Heaven.
But in those types God seems to be showing us that even when we are given every possible privilege, we could still be dumb enough to reject him and go into idolatry. That is, to attribute the power of God to that which is not God.
Eventually Israel, the ten tribes to the north of Judah, were taken out of the land. These ten tribes, later known as the "ten lost tribes," were taken out of the land altogether by the Assyrians around 722 B.C. The Assyrians took them to their country and brought down their own people to inhabit the vacated cities. Some Israelites were left in the land and there were also some who came back, particularly Levites to instruct the new tenants. This in itself is a peculiar story and so much a mirror image of us. The new tenants in the land were being attacked by beasts, so they sought help from the people who used to live there (the Israelites) to tell them the customs of the God of the land. At the end of that whole episode after instruction was given them regarding the Law of sacrifices, ordinances, commandments, etc., the Bible says in II Kings: 17, 32: "So they feared the LORD, and served their own gods..."
That's exactly what we do, we say we serve God but go our own way.
How is God served? God doesn't need breakfast. God is served when you put your attention solely on him. You fear him, you bow down to him, you seek help from him. When he talks about serving him that is what he means. He has definitely told us not to fear other gods, or bow down to them, or to seek help from them.
As a point of interest, the region these Assyrians took over was Samaria and eventually these people mingled, intermarried, with the remaining Israelites. Their descendants were, in the time of Jesus, the "Samaritans," a mixed breed despised by the Jews. Jesus himself was accused of being a Samaritan, such was the dislike for him in some quarters.
At any rate, Judah and Benjamin to the south did not fare much better than Israel to the north. It took a while longer but they were taken away by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to Babylon around 586 B.C. All this happened hundreds of years after entering the land. In both instances, to the north and to the south, a small remnant of Israelites and Jews were left but the vast majority were removed from the land.
Born in the land
The point of mentioning all these events is that they are terribly alarming. All these people to the north and to the south were born in the land!, several generations, but were nevertheless taken away. I'm astonished. Is it so easy to become lost? Is that a picture of going to Hell? They were born! in the promised land, just like those who are born in the church.
Why were they taken away? Well, God punished them, he punished them by withdrawing his protection and hiding from them. All God has to do to punish someone is to hide from them. He abandoned them to Satan, he took away his protection. Because they went into idolatry, they hedged their bets, they forsook God. They figured the gods of the heathen were just as good as the God who had brought them up out of Egypt, by signs and wonders. They never saw these kinds of signs done by the idols of the heathen, but adopted them anyway. After the death of Moses and the death of all the people who came out of Egypt with Moses, the new people no longer had direct experience of what had happened. Even though God tells the adults to be sure to tell their children what went on, those children ended up not believing that what Moses had written and their fathers had told them had actually happened.
Moses and the Prophets
In Luke 16 Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus after they are both dead, when Lazarus is in the bosom of Abraham and the rich man is in Hell, and they see one another across an abyss. The rich man begs Abraham to send him Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool his tongue, for he was tormented in the flame. Abraham responds that it is not possible to send Lazarus across the great gulf fixed separating them. So, the former rich man says, let Lazarus go back and testify unto my five brothers lest they also come into this place of torment.
And Jesus, who knew the story from the inside, quoted Abraham saying in Luke 16: 29,30, 31, "they have Moses and the prophets: Let them hear them."
"And he said, Nay, father Abraham, but if one went to them from the dead they will repent."
"And he said unto him, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
Of course, that is the case with Jesus. People are not persuaded even though he rose from the dead. It was true then and it is true now. If people don't believe Moses and the prophets they will not believe even if one comes back from the dead. The unbelief regarding the Pentateuch has been with us ever since the last person who came out of Egypt died. After that, it's been downhill all the way.
By the way, the attacks of Satan on the Pentateuch indicate how important the Pentateuch is.
So, are the people who were taken out of the land a picture of those who are born in the church but who rebel against God and will go to Hell? This is not God's fault, they take themselves away from God. Those born in the church go into idolatry even as those born in the land went into idolatry. They give credence and worship to the inventions of the heathen. And it's not God telling them to do that, they do it on their own.
Many in the churches will be lost because they are brought up in the nurture, in the abundance, in the blessings of the Lord, but not in the fear of the Lord. The love of God is shown in that he warns us of, and gives us the means to avoid, his terribleness.
The mortal sin of the unbeliever is his unbelief. God does not cause this kind of sin, or any other, for that matter. It is our adversary who is busy fomenting unbelief, which, of course, will most assuredly lead to Hell.
Whose fault is this problem of unbelief? Besides our own rebellion, I have no choice but to point the finger at the Church. They don't tell it straight. Beginning with the Catholic Church to all the iterations of the Protestant Church nobody told me how it really was. I was told that since Christ died for my sins I should now live for him and serve him. That he died for my sins so I owe him and should make a commitment to him.
What commitment? What choice is there? Where else is there to go? There is no place else. It's Christ or the lake of fire where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.
The problem with those statements of the Church is the lack of a threat. Nobody told me to be terrified.
Grace exists only in the Law
One of the biggest misconceptions regarding the Bible is that the Old Testament is merciless Law and the New Testament is total Grace (unmerited favour) that takes people out from under that merciless Law. Nothing can be further from the truth. Grace exists only in the Law. There is no grace apart from the Law. The Old Testament contains the grace that exists only in the Law. Only in the Law do we have a payment for sin, the blood sacrifice God has obligated himself to honour. There is no way to access Christ other than through the Law.
There is much confusion over some writings of Paul that declare we are not "under Law" but "under Grace." And also that "for by the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified." If at the time of Paul people thought that every item of the Law had to be fulfilled in order to be saved, that is not the fault of the Law. The Law doesn't say that. God expects us to sin, that's why he instituted payments for sin in the Law. The Law never says that if you fulfill the whole Law you will be saved. God instituted, mandated, sacrifices for sin right from the start.
Perhaps the effort to fulfill the Law was a consequence of having gone into captivity and those efforts became the traditions that ruled the day. But Paul, by his own experience, saw, and felt compelled to make clear, that it was impossible to fulfill the Law. That is because the Law is not just carnal, but also spiritual. And Paul not only does not do away with the Law but takes refuge in it by clinging to Jesus the payment for sin, which is spelled out in the Law.
The book of Leviticus is the most thorough catalog of all the different sacrifices for all the different sins. Grace is not an afterthought. God orders us to take the payment for our sins, he commands us to be saved. Everybody was commanded to participate in the Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. There is no way to be saved other than by the sacrifice made by God, there is no alternative to the lamb of God.
The New Testament, read without a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament, can be very harsh, more so than the Old Testament. That is because many of the sins pointed at in the New Testament are spiritual in nature and the spirit inside us is out of our reach. The bar we must jump is raised ever so high.
That thorn in Paul's flesh
But the bar has always been insurmountable. God says "Thou shall not covet." It is the very sin of coveting that Paul says slayed him (Romans 7:7). Paul says he would not have known lust except the Law had said: "Thou shall not covet." Did the Law cause Paul to have lust? Of course not. What the Law does is bring sin right to our face. It points right to it. If we are not under Law but under Grace, why was Paul so dismayed about being a sinner? Why did he say he was slain? Why was he as anguished as he was? Why did he plead with God to remove this thorn from his flesh, this concupiscence that tormented him? What is concupiscence? It is unlawful and irregular desire for sex. He was obsessed with sex, as the vast majority of men are.
Most Christian teachers avoid the subject of Paul's thorn in the flesh but Paul doesn't. I've heard people say that Paul's problem was that he was losing his sight and he cried out because of that. That is nonsense. Paul was as tough as they come. There is no way he would have complained due to a physical ailment. That diminishes Paul. He never complained. When he was thrown out of towns, punched, kicked, stoned almost to death, he never cried out to God "Oh, why do you let them do this to me?" But that thorn God left in Paul's flesh was not physical but spiritual and there was no way he could stop his sexual coveting.
God left that thorn in Paul's flesh so that Paul would not think himself better than anybody else, while at the same time reassuring Paul that his grace covered even him. Obviously, Paul saw himself under the Law but he also saw himself under the grace that exists only in the Law.
And now the real Lamb of God, the very grace of the atonement long promised but never before seen, had arrived. Paul was at once appalled and relieved. Appalled at his own wickedness and relieved at the arrival of Jesus.
Paul was honest enough to recognize that though he could go through all the rituals and be one hundred percent obedient to all the ordinances, he still had something deep inside himself he could not control. Coveting is not a physical sin, nobody can see it. It is a sin of the mind, a mental sin in an invisible realm. Nobody can tell that I'm sinning, I can think what I like and covet what I like.
What wickedness! Where are the knobs I can turn to change myself? Only the Spirit of God can reach into my spirit to change it.
The only way to feel grace all the time, is to feel pardoned all the time. But in order to feel pardoned all the time, one must know oneself to be a sinner all the time, to know that there is something to be pardoned for. In other words, grace can only be felt upon recognition of one's sinful tendencies, not necessarily sinful deeds but sinful spirit. Grace can only be felt when one becomes aware of the necessity of being pardoned, when we are able to recognize our utter corruption.
Grace is felt upon repentance, but repentance is hard to come by, because in order to repent we must see how despicable we are, and our quest for self-esteem won't let us do that.
It is interesting to note that many Christians who reject the Law of Moses, which God himself gave to him, have no trouble putting themselves under the laws of Paul. Whatever Moses said, forget about it. Whatever Paul said is the Law. They know more about Paul than they do about Moses, who shows us Jesus. There is no place in the world, other than in the Old Testament, where we can find out precisely, who is the Lamb of the Passover, the Kinsman Redeemer, the Scapegoat, the City of Refuge. For us he went through this?
If it were not dumb it would be comical. One place where people reject the Law of Moses is in the dietary laws. The say, oh, no, no, no, we don't have to follow the dietary laws because those laws were for National Israel (which, by the way, the words "National Israel" don't exist in the Bible) and those laws have nothing to do with us today because they were only symbols of the coming Messiah and all were fulfilled in Christ. "Let no man judge you in what you eat and drinků, etc.," therefore all that is not for us Christians.
Yea, sure, I've heard that before. Think what you want about it but, myself, I would like to know the difference in cancer rates or diseases of all kinds between the people who follow the kosher laws, and those who do not. I'm no Seventh Day Adventist or acolyte of any sect, and I am not following directions of some wacko. I do know that in the Middle Ages, when plagues ran rampant in Europe, many Jews were killed because people accused them of witchcraft. Apparently, the Jews didn't get sick in nearly the same numbers as did the rest of the population, and some thought it was by witchcraft that they avoided sickness.
My only reference is the Bible, I know what certain groups believe and it's fine, I'm not interested in futile arguments. But there can be only two reasons for God's commandment regarding the dietary laws: One, he is capricious, he is telling me what to do just to impose his will; or two, he is looking out for my health.
I can say this: If you know God like I know God, then, the only motive for his commandment has to be that he is looking out for my health. I have no doubt about it. What? Does God make any money if I don't eat pig? What difference does it make to him?
But tell me this, why is it that the same Christian who rejects the Law of Moses is so quick to embrace the Law of the Doctor? The doctor says, don't eat fat, don't eat juicy meat (that is, with the blood), avoid shell fish in certain seasons, even pork for the amount of fat and certain diseases pork are susceptible to, oh well, oh, my, oh my, I really have to take this seriously, this is something to be reckoned with. I need to pay attention to my diet.
Our faces get long, the doctor says our blood pressure is too high. Cholesterol, plaque, oh, boy, I better do what the doctor says. You know why the doctor tells you to keep away from certain things? Because as your physician he has a responsibility, a duty, an interest to tell you what is best for your health. That is what a good doctor should do, give you the best advice because he cares what happens to you. Is it possible then, that we might for a fleeting moment consider that perhaps God, as an afterthought even, might have something like that in mind? That he tells us what to do because he cares what happens to us?
People want to understand what Paul said without having a good working knowledge of what Paul knew. What Paul knew is what we today call the "Old Testament." Without a good foundation in the Old Testament it is not possible to properly benefit from the writings of Paul. And the moment Christianity departs in any way from the Law God gave to Moses, that is the moment when whatever Christianity says is completely invalid.
But the "holiness" movement remains big these days. To justify this quest for "holiness" (couched under "sanctification"), many point to passages that talk about being "born again," and becoming a "new man," the "old man" having died, being crucified with Christ and all that. There are many people who believe they are no longer sinners after they repeat these things over and over. They think human nature was one thing in the Old Testament but another in the New Testament. They learn to speak "christianese" lingo, they learn cliches without knowing what they mean, and delude themselves into believing they have attained a higher level of purity.
This is what this "holiness" is about, sinlessness is the object. Tell me about it. If you are one of those who entertain such thoughts, you are guaranteed disappointment. In time you will find out you are as prideful as ever, as covetous as ever, and as angry as ever, which, of course, are grievous sins.
But when you find this out about yourself, when you realize you haven't advanced one iota in your insides, that you are not only not better but instead you are worse, that you really are as despicable as you secretly thought you were, oh, you can be sure that from the other side comes our help. He comes out of a secret place, a place inaccessible to us. He is the ruler of the invisible world, he is the one who changes us. He is the one who pays for our sins, he is the one who reaches inside us and turns the knobs. He appears to humans in a position of always having existed, which goes even beyond the invisible world. He created the invisible world, he was there before everything, he is there forever more backwards. There is nothing to compare to him.
As far as our salvation from Hell, that is, the resolution of Purity versus Impurity, he solves the problem by imputing Purity to us when we claim the blood of Christ as the full payment for our sins. We need to say: Me, too! Me, too!, I too want to be part of that agreement! There is no other hope.
Long before we realize we have the need he is there with the means to fill that need, he is there with the means to heal the rift between us and him. Before we knew him he loved us. From him comes mine help, from God himself. He is my refuge, my shield, my strong tower, my rock, my defense, the horn of my salvation, he is the Lamb of the Passover, he is the City of Refuge, he is the Kinsman Redeemer, he is my exceeding great reward, he is the rich relative who buys me out of the slavery of death.
He is the only trustworthy one. All men are liars and only God can be trusted, from his side only comes our help. Where we were weak, he was strong; where we were powerless, he was able. He is able to any degree imaginable, and beyond to the unimaginable. His arm is not too short, nor his hand weak, nor his eye dim. We were powerless in our ability to reach up to him to grab hold of his coat. Our arm was too short, our hand weak, our eye dim. But he stooped down to us to save us. Is that a small thing?
This magnificent love, this assurance of salvation is what sanctifies the human heart. This is what cleanses, the love of God for us, not a made-up human effort.
Interestingly enough, the fact that he loved us before we knew him, is in itself quite amazing. When people come to know God, or start going to church, etc., they put on their best behaviour. They don't cuss, they don't spit on the floor, whatever. But God loved us before we knew him, before we knew he was watching he loved us. When we were at our worst in front of him, before we knew he was watching, he loved us. When we hated him, when we ranted and raved under our breath at him, at him.
When we cursed him, he loved us. How badly we behaved toward him! Yet he loved us. Before we knew he was watching, at our most unguarded worst, he loved us.
At this juncture, several words should be noted that oftentimes are not as clear as they should be: Confession, holiness, redemption and repentance. This is basic stuff, but sometimes obstacles are created for no good reason.
The word "confess" doesn't mean to tell God something he doesn't know. The word "confess" when it is broken down into "con"-"fess," means to say with, or, to say at the same time. We don't confess to him, we con-fess with him. You and he agree, say at the same time, that you are no good. He already knows you are no good, he knows your going out and your coming in. To confess is to admit to God something he already knows. Confession is for our benefit, not his.
Yes, we should be holy. Holiness or holy means to be designated, set apart. If you have a handful of nuts and bolts and set some of them aside for use, those separated ones are "holy." It is often advocated that, upon becoming a Christian, one should no longer hang out with former friends because they are of this world and we are not. Those former friends are still under the influence of Satan and we can no longer be yoked unequally with them. This is true. Deut. 22: 10 says, "Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together..." There is a practical reason for this. Oxen and asses walk at different paces, one trots, the other ambles. You can't plow that way, you'll go around in circles. So, yes, we should avoid some of the former acquaintances. But by personal experience I have found that when God sets you apart pretty soon your former friends begin to avoid you. You don't have to get rid of them, they'll get rid of you. Because when you are saved and know what you are saved from you can't shut up about it and your friends don't want to hear it. Your point of reference has changed and there is no way to bridge the gap with them anymore. When you become sweet incense to God you also become a sour smell to most of your former friends.
The word "redemption," too, should be properly explained. "Redeemed" is commonly applied to an individual who has recovered from a life of waste and is now a productive, responsible citizen. This bum was redeemed and he went from being a drunken janitor to owning the company. That's not what the Bible says. The expression "to redeem" always means "to buy back." When applied to babies, boys or girls, they had to be bought back from God. All the babies belong to God. To redeem your baby you went to the temple and paid money to buy back him or her. It is the same as when you go to the pawn shop to buy back your watch. When we talk about redemption and Christ, it means that he buys us back from the second death and Hell.
The word "repentance"is another word that is misused, and abused by many who think they have a corner on holiness. The word repentance (metanoia) means "change of mind." But this is not something like quitting drinking or smoking. The doctor has already told you these things are bad for you. You want to keep your health, then you quit doing certain things. I have worked on the waterfront in San Francisco, as a machinist on the shipyards, alongside highly skilled people, but also alongside drug addicts, drunks, and people just out of jail. I saw many of them totally recover. Lots of them quit their bad habits and ways and became better persons, better workers, responsible people, but without ever repenting to God. A person can quit drinking and doing drugs, become clean and sober all without repenting to God. But even clean and sober they will still go to Hell, if they don't avail themselves of the blood of Christ.
Metanoia is a major change of the mind, a trans-formation, an alteration of the mind. Repentance is a radical happening, it is an abrupt change of direction, one moment you are going one way and the next moment you are going the other way. This is not like the drunk who says, oh yes, I'm sorry about all those times I was passed out in the gutter but now that I found Jesus I don't do that anymore. No, it's not like that at all. Repentance involves taking your eyes off the world and putting them on God. Everything you despised before you worship now, and everything you worshipped before you despise now. It is a huge change. Your entire framework of how you assess the world changes. When before you saw the Bible as something to be laughed at and the views of the secular world as the truth to go by, now you see the views of the secular world as something to be laughed at, and the Bible as the truth to go by.
Repentance is something the likes of which not many people have truly experienced. It is a strange, transforming affair. There is a part of repentance, a cleansing of the soul, that only tears can accomplish. Repentance involves remorse, a sense of having done something wrong, unjust, undeserved, to someone. It is a sense of having been so very insensitive, hard hearted, toward someone who cared the most for you. Repentance is something that swells up inside you, a mixture of sorrow and gratitude. Sorrow for being so hard toward God and gratitude for being saved in spite of that.
God says in Ezekiel 20:43, "And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed."
Salvation precedes repentance, which precedes confession. Repentance happens as a consequence of salvation and not something one does to be saved. It is the mercy of God, the grace of God, that hands out these gifts to us.
The end of the world. Hatred the Arabs have for the Jews. The last days. Wickedness and violence of men. The wall of denial. Guilt and death, and punishment after death.
At any rate, without the blood of the Lamb on us our impurity remains on us and we are guaranteed to go to Hell after we die. Nevertheless, in spite of this dire situation we have vis-a-vis God, this fact we humans intuit, for the most part people seem totally unconcerned about what will happen, if anything, after they die. The word "seem" is used because there is concern but it's not readily picked up. The concern occurs at deep levels of the unconscious. It frequently causes anxiety, a sense of impending doom, but the anxiety is not focused on any particular thing. It is felt in a generalized way, we don't really know where it comes from or what causes it.
The end of the world
We blame events in the world or in our personal lives for this anxiety. And we can't get a handle on it, the anxiety that is, because the anxiety is about eternal destiny, not daily happenings. Satan is very successful at using events of the world to get people to focus their attention there, as if the dangers were there. He prevents people from seeing past their noses, past this life. He distracts them with the things of this world and of this life. He gets them worried about AIDS and about cancer, heart disease, or the atomic bomb, or the end of the world. We know terrorism now in our own flesh with the airplane crashes against the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. We are deeply involved in a world-wide war against terrorism. And it is heard constantly, there are wars and rumours of war, nation against nation everywhere. Madness in Africa, madness in Europe, madness in the Middle East, all the same places involved in many ancient wars are back in the news again. Regarding nasty weapons, biological and chemical, as it was in the beginning of the last century during the First World War, so it is now. But with a difference, what was bad then is much worse now. As quality has improved, the usage and reliance on bio-chemical weapons has made a big comeback among nations.
Experts call these weapons "the poor man's atomic bomb," because of their enormous powers of destruction and relatively cheap cost. We hear the descriptions of VX, one drop on your finger you'll die in an hour, and anthrax (of which now we have direct experience through some deadly mailings not long ago), one spore in your lungs will kill you in five days, and we shudder. New diseases have been unleashed from genetically altered viruses for which there is no cure. Also diseases transmitted from animals to humans, mass contaminations.
Is this the Book of Revelation coming to pass? Could these be the diseases, plagues and wars described therein? Could the present war on terrorism take us to global conflagration through small wars that expand increasingly, as the pangs of a woman in travail? Jesus says in Matthew 24: 7 and 8: "For nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows."
The United States is in deep mud in Iraq, there has been a tsunami in the Indian Ocean. In both cases, losses are staggering, long term commitment is unavoidable. The United States is already in debt, world economies will suffer.
These events are just the beginning? How bad is it going to get? What Jesus describes is not going to happen in some distant prophetic future. It is happening now.
Could all these things be the words of Jesus coming to pass? Could these be the beginning of things leading to the Great Tribulation (if we are not already there) and to the end of the world?
Yes, they could be..., but so what? What difference does it make to you?
One hears a lot of preaching on the return of Christ and of the end of the world and how one should repent before the end comes and there is no more time, be ready. I happen to agree with that, at least the part about being ready. Death can catch up with you at anytime without warning and readiness is a must. But there is such a focus on the end of the world that the urgency, the immediacy, of the need for salvation is neglected. The way some people make it sound is that you should be watching for all these signs so that you can discern the end of the world approaching. If the end of the world is near then Christ's return also must be near and then you can try to calculate how far you can go and party to the end, or just a little before the end. Then at the last second, you can quit your rebellion against God and jump on the bandwagon of salvation just before the end.
I don't know. It's a bet. The bet is that we can know exactly when future events will happen. The problem is that death can catch you in the middle of that planning. Did the bird know that on that day he would be caught in the net of the fowler? Even if all those disasters and wars were the signs indicating the proximity of the end of the world, what difference does that make to you? The end of the world is of no concern to you. If the end of the world comes tomorrow and you die tonight you will not see the end of the world. But you still have to deal with your final destination. You have to make provision for your final destination now, now, this very minute--not at the end of the world. Lots of people have died waiting for the end of the world. Do you know when your life is going to end? Even death row inmates can die before the day they are to be put to death. If you knew exactly when you're going to die you could wait to the last minute, go for the party to the end. But no one knows their appointed time. You can't wait for the end of the world. The end of your life will be the end of the world for you, and then, eternity.
Nevertheless, the threatening events that are supposed to appear before the great tribulation are all around and are very real. Many prophecies are coming to pass. Israel is back in the land, this generation (perhaps the generation that witnesses the comeback of Israel) shall not pass before the great tribulation gets going, the rebuilding of the temple is being planned, the rebuilding of the priesthood is going on, the red heifer has been procured (whose ashes are essential for the purification of the priests), and so on. These are current events in Israel. The preparations have continued apace, unnoticed. Everything seems to be on track for the rebuilding of the temple, a big sign of the end times.
Hatred the Arabs have for the Jews
But I tell you this, there is no way the rebuilding of the temple is going to happen without a major catastrophe. All the hatred the Arabs have for the Jews will cut loose if the Jews go ahead and try to build themselves a temple. No question about it. The Arabs will be adamant about this. They already consider Israel a cancer in the region. They call Israel "The Zionist Entity." What is "entity" if not a foreign body, an alien thing, a thing that should not be there? The amount of land Israel has is not the question. A look at the map shows that Israel has a sliver of land pinched in the middle, when one excludes the so-called West Bank. But even the West Bank, the land claimed by the "Palestinians," clearly belongs to the Jews. Where is Bethlehem? It is on the West Bank. Does anybody not know that Jesus was a Jew born in Bethlehem? How come all of a sudden Bethlehem belongs to the "Palestinians?" That doesn't count Jericho, Hebron, the Tomb of Rachel, the Tomb of Joseph, and on and on.
In the struggle for the land the present day Jews are at a great disadvantage in relation to the Arabs. The Jews don't hate the Arabs, but the Arabs hate the Jews. That means that the Arabs fight harder, they fight with another level of intensity. It is merely the fact that the Jews are there that drives the Arabs crazy.
As far as the Arabs are concerned all of Palestine belongs to them and Israel must be cut out, as one cuts out a malignant growth. The so-called moderate Arab states, like the Saudis (not so moderate when we consider they are the birthplace of a good number of our enemies), are only waiting for someone like the Syrians, or the Iranians, or someone else, to take action against Israel and then they will support them. Just because the "moderates" are sitting on the sidelines now and are not rallying against Israel does not mean they have accepted Israel's right to exist. They just don't want to look in that direction. Yeah, yeah, I know you are there, you exist... for now.
The whole issue in the Middle East is Israel's right to exist. There is no Palestinian problem, there is only the Israeli problem. The Arabs are using the Palestinians as a goad, as the tip of the spear against the Jews. The Arab nations have no sympathy for the Palestinians, they are just using them. Proof they have no sympathy for the Palestinians is that in most, if not all, Arab countries where Palestinians are born, they are not allowed to become citizens of that country. They are still Palestinian refugees. These are second, third, fourth and more generations, yet they are still strangers among their so-called "brother Arabs," without the rights of citizens.
The whole problem in the Middle East is not whether the so-called Palestinians are going to have a State of their own, but whether the Jews are going to have a State of their own. The Arabs have not recognized Israel's right to exist. The presence of the Jews in the land the Arabs consider theirs alone, is intolerable.
Before the Jews went back in 1948 the Arabs were O.K.. The English had taught the Arabs how to behave, they looked almost civilized for a time. Everything changed when Israel established their State. The Jews took advantage of the pacification of the Arabs by the British and figured they could go back. Before the Jews got there everything was relatively quiet in the Middle East. There were Jewish communities in many Arab countries but as long as there was not a State of Israel they were tolerable. The State of Israel is not tolerable, it is a repugnant odor in the nostrils of the Arabs.
The enemies of Israel are only biding their time before they launch another attack, better concerted this time, against Israel. Even though both Arabs and Jews are descendants of Abraham (the Israelites through Isaac and the Arabs through Ishmael), the descendants of Ishmael have never accepted the existence of the descendants of Isaac. Ishmael is envious and enraged because, even though he was the firstborn, the promise didn't go to him but went to Isaac instead. It is Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; not Abraham, Ishmael and the Arabs. The envy of Ishmael against Isaac remains even today. They have even falsified the account of the Bible where Abraham offers up Isaac as sacrifice and say that it was Ishmael whom Abraham was offering.
With that kind of animosity there is absolutely no way the Arabs are going to allow Israel to build themselves a temple anywhere in the land of Palestine, let alone on the Temple Mount next to, or in place of, the mosque of Omar. As far as the Arabs are concerned all the land where Israel sits now belongs to them and Israel totally does not belong there. Israel will never be accepted by the Arabs, period.
And with the rising antisemitism worldwide, all of Europe for sure under the guise of anti-Zionism (as if it were illegitimate for the Jews to want to go back to their ancestral lands), all the nations of the world appear to be lined up against Israel, just as the Bible says they will be at the end. Already a majority of Europeans are of the opinion that Israel is the greatest threat to world peace. Maybe they are right. If world peace is what everybody wants and Israel is the problem, then, for the sake of world peace, let's get rid of Israel. After all, if their claim to the land comes from the Bible and we know the Bible to be untrue (it's only fables, poetry and such), why don't we just let the Jews be overrun by the Arabs and be done with it? What claim do the Jews have to the land? If their claim comes from the Bible and the Bible is a myth, they have no claim, their claim comes from a myth.
Will there be a point when all the nations of the world attack Israel as the Bible says they will? Yes, that will happen. But first the nations of the world are going to let the Arabs have another go at the Jews. The Israelites, represented mostly by Jews today (lots of Levites let themselves be called "Jews," but that's another matter), will be attacked by the Arabs from every direction and with utter fury. Is this going to be the great showdown of the world? What's going to happen? If Israel is attacked by a great force they will retaliate with atomic weapons. What else can they do? They have no choice, they are too small.
What will happen next? Well, if any Arab nation survives with its ugly weapons intact (chemical/biological) it will launch them. That doesn't even include the atomic weapons some Arab countries may have soon.
One of the few countries in the region that could be commended for its lack of false pretense is Iran. At least they don't give you any double talk, they say straight out that if they get an atomic bomb they will vaporize Israel. Iran has declared openly that if they obtain a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it all the way to Israel they will do it. They don't make any bones about it, they just want to destroy Israel. There is big trouble brewing there, Israel may have to attack Iran to stop them. If there ever was a fuse waiting to be lit it is Israel attacking Iran before Iran can obtain nukes that can reach Israel. For its own self-preservation Israel must attack Iran before Iran is fully ready. It would be worldwide disaster.
All the Arabs will rise together if Israel attacks Iran. After all the Arabs, in will jump France, Germany, Russia. I hope England and the United States with their Christian populations (what's left of them) will side with Israel.
By the way, the only reason the Muslims hate the United States is because we defend the existence of Israel. The reasons given by many, that they hate us for our freedom and way of life, are nonsense. Generally, those are opinions given by people who have no idea of the reasons for the hatred of the Muslims toward us. Only in the Bible can the reasons be found. Only the Bible has the historical background to explain the situation in the Middle East. The envy and rage of Ishmael has not abated.
A Christian cannot not side with Israel, but who knows when that great showdown is going to happen and what the world situation will be at that time? Maybe Christianity will have been outlawed by then, which is already on its way to happening in several European countries. If it happens that Christianity is outlawed, and the United States abandons Israel, Israel will be alone in the world, and it will be the closest we will be to the end of the world.
Far or near, whatever it is, all the heavyweights will be drawn in. It will be a circular firing squad. It will be a free-for-all with enormous consequences for the whole planet. Millions of people all over the world will die from atomic radiation. The atmosphere will be altered, the total planetary environment will be changed. Water will be poisoned, food will be poisoned, great famines and chaos will reign. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, for sure.
The last days
Man, Christians are really up on that stuff, oh, yes, it's the book of Ezekiel, oh, yes, it's Gog and Magog, it's Russia coming down, it's the two million man Chinese army coming across the Euphrates, oh, it's the seventieth week of Daniel coming to pass, it's the ancient Roman Empire coming together in the European Union, it's the Beast of Revelation, no man can buy or sell without the mark of the beast, we'll need a mark on our foreheads to go buy groceries. Oh my, oh my, we are in the last days!
There is a big segment of our Christian population that eats that stuff up like bread. In a way, it's understandable. It is easy to become fascinated by current events, particularly when they seem to fit with prophecy. Satan doesn't mind that we study prophecies concerning the end times. We worry and that's what he wants, he wants us worried. He wants to make sure we don't look at the salvation of God and the importance of telling others about this vital gift. The whole issue is where we are going to spend eternity. He deceives people by focusing their attention on things that are on the immediate horizon, in this life. People jump from one place to another trying to avoid all these bad things, not realizing that what matters most is what is going to happen after this life.
These are the last days, all right. All things have an end. Even the science of the heathen tells us that the universe is going to expand until a point where it will stop. At that point, gravity will be too weak to reverse the expansion, which will make the universe go into a deep freeze; or, gravity will be strong enough to make the universe contract back into a horrendous chaos of colliding planets, galaxies and whatever else is out there, everything collapsing in with instant destruction to a tiny little planet like ours, back into that minuscule speck of something which started the Big Bang, which is the biggest imbecility ever devised by man to explain the origin of the universe. We are ready to believe anything except God.
Either way, this world will have an end even according to the heathen, so, no matter what, the expression "the last days" always applies as we continue through time to be every day one day closer to the end. However, that day could be very far away. The physical universe shows no imminent sign of those events. But our lives are much shorter than the number of years related to such matters, we have a different urgency related to the last days of our individual lives.
Whatever it is, this world is going to disappear one way or the other, but the next world will endure forever and every day we are one day closer to encountering that world. Every day there is someone who goes to work in the morning and never returns home for dinner.
To be sure, the signs given to us in the Bible regarding the state of the world just before the end do appear to be present. I say "appear" because there have been many times in history that it must have appeared that the end of the world was at hand. The time of the First and Second World Wars must have been a period like that, famines, war, disease, when surely many people all over the world must have thought it was the end when they saw such death and destruction worldwide.
Before that we have the wars and plagues of the Dark Ages. Before that we have some other bad thing. Bad things happen all the time, famines, wars, destruction, pain. These signs alone would not necessarily indicate the immediacy of the end of the world.
Wickedness and violence of men
However, if there is one sign one could point to as an indication that the end of the world may be near, that sign could probably be the increasing wickedness and violence of men. And I do mean men, the gender. Women have their own` wickedness, but not nearly in the same measure. Women do not steal children to rape, kill and dismember as men do. Women don't generally have the violence inside them that men have. Naturally, man, being the stronger, cannot be stopped. It is true that these crimes have existed for a long time, but not as widespread as they are today. World-wide children's pornography rings, sex tours where men go to some of the poorest countries in the world to have sex with children. Right here in the U.S. children are taken from neighbourhood parks, snatched from their front yards, taken from their very bedrooms. Predators and random violence are everywhere.
Jesus said the time of the end would be as it was in the times of Noah (Matthew 38:39), when people were buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage, and many other activities. It would be a time when the busy-ness of the world would be in full gear, everyone living their lives completely unaware of the impending demise. That's how it is right now. The stock market has everyone's attention. And the wickedness and violence of men is probably very close to what it was in the times of Noah. Genesis chapter 6, verses 5, and 11 to 13:
"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
"The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence."
"And God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth."
"And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth."
The present great wickedness of men certainly could be a sign of the end times. Man is no worse than he is only because the Holy Spirit has restrained him. But we know that in the last days the Holy Spirit will withdraw his restraint from the spirit of man and wickedness will really cut loose, which is what appears to be happening now.
But Satan plays more than just one game. On the one hand he makes people fret about the world and local events, on the other hand he gets them to relax with the suggestion they are going to have five minutes before they die to make sure everything is going to be O.K. with God. You call the priest and tell him you're sorry for all the bad things you've done, appeal to the mercy of God, have the violin music in the background, manipulate the best you can and hope you will not go to Hell.
But don't worry, you will have this little bit of time, somebody will blow a trumpet, there will be an announcement and you'll have your allotted five minutes to repent, just before death comes.
Did Princess Diana have five minutes? Did the foolish virgins have five minutes?
In general, however, Satan prefers to obscure the subject of death, and does so fairly well for the most part. Most people don't want to be reminded of the certainty of death, some trivialize death by making jokes about it, others present a face of resignation and say, oh, sure, I know, everybody dies, but I'm not going to worry about it because there's nothing I can do anyway. And, yet others, work really hard at preserving their health. Look at all the Christian programs dedicated exclusively to health related issues and how to live longer. They want to hang on to every little bit more time they can. Is it possible they don't believe Heaven is as good as advertised? Or is it because the rest of us need them so badly that they sacrifice themselves for us and that's the reason they want to stay on the Earth?
Or, maybe, if they live long enough the Rapture will happen and they'll be transformed in the twinkling of an eye and go to Heaven without having to die. Or, maybe, somebody will come up with something, invent a pill against death or something. Anything but to think that they themselves are going to die.
Death is not something that happens to just a few. It is an event awaiting every person alive now. The death penalty does not apply only to criminals. This is going to happen and there is no money to buy a fence to keep death out. Even those who appear to be making a choice of life or death by committing suicide are only accelerating what is going to happen to them regardless of what they do. And who can say that what appears to be their choice was not the time appointed for them to go, anyway?
The wall of denial
The wall of denial is nearly impenetrable. Of course, when one considers the horrible possibilities awaiting on the other side, the denial is justified. How can the possibility of going to a real Hell be faced? But being in denial means that we are fighting reality at a subconscious level. We don't want reality to come to the surface of consciousness because that reality would be intolerable. How can one seriously consider going to Hell? It would be a crazy maker. But that reality remains there, staring in silence, in the back rows of the mind.
The awareness of deserving punishment is an unresolved issue that does not go away. Denial and repression of this guilt cause health problems (mental and physical). The effects of this denial/repression show up in dreams, create much psychological distress and ailments, the most common being panic attacks, phobias, low "self-esteem."
Guilt and death, and punishment after death
Guilt and death, and punishment after death, occupy a large portion of the minds of the unsaved. And in fact, when a situation in life arises wherein we feel punished, in a very perverse way we may welcome the punishment as some kind of payment for our sins. If we get the sense that we are somehow paying for our sins ( see how I suffer?), that would go a long way toward alleviation of guilt.
So, we seek sympathy for our hard life, for all the work we do that goes unappreciated. If people around us would cooperate and notice our suffering that would certainly help. But most of the time nobody feels sorry for us. We try to show others how unfair our situation is but most of them absolutely don't care, they don't sympathize with us at all. They just want to talk about their problems. We don't even know if God is paying attention. Which can certainly leave us unsure of whether or not we are paying for our sins. If nobody notices, what good is my suffering?
Charity is another way frequently used in the attempt to alleviate guilt. My good works ought to count for something. Witness all the rich and famous people who have tried, or are trying, that approach. A useless life piles up a lot of guilt and they need to get rid of it. Doing good works becomes the thing to do.
When we sense death and the vultures circling above..., then, we become "spiritual." All this talk about "spirituality," particularly coming from the heathen, some of the most famous and creative of the heathen, this "spirituality" thing, is nothing less than an awareness, an awareness, faint but there, of death circling nearby. We want to be sure everything is going to be all right after we die. Donate an hour of your time, or a day, or a week, or a month. Give us your money to help the needy. Save the whales, save the redwoods, save the seals, save the children. Do something, whatever you can do for the betterment of mankind, please do.
It's all an unconscious effort to please God. We want to have a justification for our lives, feeding children or working to improve the environment or working for animal rights. Involvement in something like that gives us the privilege of saying, see my good deeds? I'm doing my bit, I'm worth something, all the time rolling our eyes and clasping our hands, in the hopeful but mistaken belief that the punishment or charity involvement, somehow, will make an installment payment for our sins.
For a while, at least, it seems to work. We do feel good about doing good things, and rightly so. The problem is that if we fool ourselves that this is what we need to do, we will never get to what we really need to do. We may pretend or hope that those good works are good toward something, that they will count in some way. But the subconscious is not fooled. The subconscious knows there is more to be paid. The good deeds we must perform are never enough. We have to keep making payments toward erasure of our sins but they are never enough, and never will be enough. No matter the number or importance of those good deeds, guilt will continue to crack the whip.
Part of the reason guilt will continue to crack the whip is that we also know someplace inside us that any work that is ultimately designed to pay for our sins is tainted from the beginning and thereby nullified.
The awareness of deserving punishment always returns, and the weight of the burden increases over time. We must be absolutely sure of our pardon to be free from this burden. Only someone who knows he or she is saved can do something for nothing. Only a Christian can do something for nothing. All others move from guilt.
The drawback of acting from guilt is that it never resolves the problem, which is the heading toward Hell. It does not deny the benefits of the actions taken, the good works done. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeding children or working to preserve the environment or working for animal rights. The problem (self-deception) occurs when we take these actions as valid points toward erasure of our sins. God has declared that all our works are filthy rags. There is not a thing we can do to contribute to our salvation, lest anyone should boast.
As far as the wall of denial is concerned, it is broken only when we realize we are saved. When we realize we are saved we can acknowledge to ourselves how corrupt we really are; and that will free us to do the good deeds with a song in our hearts, with jubilation and genuine love.
The Covenant. Election & Free Will. Does God keep control of the number of people born? Who are we talking to? Is praying for the dead a false hope? How about those who never heard?. Sincerely wrong. Are we talking to the heathen?. Pearls in front of the pigs. The Lost Sheep of Israel. Are some of the heathen saved?
The word "gospel" means "good news." The good news is that the death of Jesus is the payment for all our sins, past, present and future. This is as simply as it can be said. The payment for all our sins is a done deal, accomplished, finished, signed, sealed. There is nothing for us to bring to the table, the covenant is binding totally on God. He is the giver, we are the takers. He has cleared the way into Heaven for us.
One of the most clear expressions of this covenant is Leviticus 17:11, which says: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."
He has made a covenant with us with all the benefits going our way. He is the author of the covenant, and he is the fulfiller of the covenant. The price for sin is death and he provides the part of the covenant we cannot provide, the part that pays for sin. He has given us the blood of Christ, the death of Christ, upon the altar to make an atonement for our souls, for it is the blood of Christ that maketh an atonement for our souls. He has made us free and clear.
Everything was made by him and without him there was not anything made that was made. And the cross is included in all the things he made. He gave himself up for us. What a deal! A way out of Death and Hell? Let me have it. A person would have to be completely insane to let that go by. Yt insanity is the most prevalent condition in the world today, a fact proven by the rejection of Christ.
Election and free will
Here we go into the bottomless subject of election and free will. There is so much I don't know about it that, for the most part, I can only ask questions. I know there are people out there who know everything. There are experts out there who know exactly what God was thinking all along. Myself, I have to confess my ignorance. Part of my problem is that there are so many different opinions among experts, that I would need another expert to tell me which one of those experts is right. But, I've been around a while, and I'm still not convinced that anybody knows for sure the whole subject of election and free will. And really, why should that be surprising? Why should it be surprising that many of the things of God are past finding out? There is definitely election on the part of God, and there is definitely free will on the part of man. How and when election and free will interact, what is their connection, is very intriguing to me.
One of the most important of these questions is: Is everybody who is going to be saved, saved only from before the foundation of the world? Or, to put it another way, are there some people who were not elected at the time before the foundation of the world but who have a chance to be saved, anyway? And I don't want to argue about the fact that before the foundation of the world there was no time. Whether there was time or not, as we understand it now, there was a point when God existed and we did not. There was a point before the creation and before there was time, and at that point God was already there making certain choices about those who were going to be saved.
Does God keep track of the number of people born?
The question is: Does God keep track of the number of people born? Did God look into the future and know exactly how many people would be born for all time? Did he choose everyone who was ever going to be saved at that point? Is the number of people to be saved locked up for all time from the foundation of the world? Or did God choose not to keep tabs on how many people would be born therefore giving himself the opportunity to save people as the world goes along? After all, he has chosen to throw our sins behind his back and remember them no more. Obviously, it's not that he couldn't bring them back to mind if he wanted to. But he is choosing not to. He treats our sins as if they had never happened. Maybe he is choosing as well not to know the number of people born.
There is some precedent that shows numbers kept purposely unknown. One place where this happens is when David wants to number the people of Israel. He orders Joab his army commander, one of his cousins, to do it. Joab begs him not to count the people because it would be a sin. But David was the boss and Joab had to obey his orders.
It took over nine months for Joab to scour all Israel(which was many times bigger than it is today) and go into every nook and cranny of the kingdom to get a number. He gave the information to David and the Bible says in II Samuel 24: 10: "And David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done...,"
I'm not exactly sure why it was a sin to count the people but it was. Some people suggest that the sin of David was that he wanted to know how many people he had available to go to war, something that perhaps God didn't approve of. But that is not what the Bible says David wanted to know. He wanted to know the total number of people in his kingdom, not just those people who could go to war. David didn't ask for the number of warriors, though that is reported. He wanted to know the total number of the people.
The fact is that David never got the total number that was in the kingdom. Joab decided on his own not to count the tribes of Levi and Benjamin (I Chronicles, 21: 6). Also, by the time Joab got back to report to David, nine months and twenty days had elapsed from the time David sent him out. Plenty of time for an undetermined number of people to be born so that the actual number was never known.
Then we have in Revelation 7: 9, these words: "After this I beheld, and, lo a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, stood before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands." The point of interest for me is that it says that no man could number the multitude. Obviously, it cannot be that the number would be so large that one would run out of digits. There are anywhere from 5 to 7 billion people in the world today. If there were a million times that number at the end they could still be numbered. We can handle any number with the computers of today, so the multitude that no man can number cannot be a multitude so large that there is not a number to express it, it must refer to the fact that no one has been able to keep track of them.
So, maybe God is choosing not to know the whole number of the people who will be born. Though he can know how many hairs there are on a person's head, he can know that without keeping track of how many of us are here. Maybe there will be more people saved as the world goes along, I wouldn't know.
I can not be sure about these things, but that's what I want to believe. Otherwise it makes no sense to spread the gospel. What for? If God has already chosen all those who are going to be saved and this happened at the foundation of the world, what's the use of telling anything to anybody? If God has already made up his mind as to who is going to be saved and who is not, there is no need for us to be in the picture. If they were elected from the foundation of the world, they were saved before they were born. How are we going to make any difference?
God has promised he will lose none of his sheep, so, if he is going to save them no matter what, he'll figure out a way, there is no need to tell them anything. Those who are saved are saved and those who are lost are lost. The ones who were chosen to be saved will be saved so we don't have to tell them; and those who were not chosen to be saved will not be saved so we don't have to tell them, either.
That would be the logical conclusion if no one were going to be saved who was not chosen to be saved from the foundation of the world. If those are right who say it is completely a matter of election and once elected you could not get out of it, well then, God has made robots. Salvation is a charade. It's all an illusion and meaningless words.
But he didn't make robots. Though, perhaps, it would have been better, easier, to make robots from the beginning and avoid all this trouble of having people run off in every direction. Instead he gave us free will and a response. We have a very firm response to God. The response is that we reject him, push him away, despise his ways.
Going back to the subject of spreading the gospel, the fact is that we do have standing orders. Mark 16:15, "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." We have direct orders from Jesus. That ends the discussion as far as doing the job is concerned. He told us to do it, so, we have to do it. The question is: Why do it if the outcome has been decided at the foundation of the world and there is no chance to alter that outcome? I know he doesn't waste words or orders so he must have a good reason for us to spread the good news. This brings up the next question: Who are we talking to?
Who are we talking to?
When we spread the gospel, who are we talking to? Are we talking to the whole world? Or are we talking only to his sheep, the ones who were chosen from the foundation of the world? Is there a possibility of salvation for those who were not chosen from the foundation of the world? Boy, that would certainly give me an incentive to continue pestering people. It would give me a reason to continue to warn the heathen. While I am compelled to feed the sheep and do it with gladness, I would love to see many heathen saved.
Yet, I know that no person can save another. Only God can replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh. Only God can put blood on the tip of someone's ear. But I experience excitement and a kind of exhilaration when somebody I'm talking to "gets it." It's joy, pure and simple. But I don't really believe I had just "saved" somebody. For that matter, I don't even believe I had "led them to the Lord." Nobody comes to the Lord unless the Father draws him. Nobody comes to Jesus unless the Father himself sends the Holy Spirit to catch them, to catch those who are running away.
Another possibility regarding salvation is that we all start out saved. We all start out written in the Book of Life. This would be the most fair of all possibilities. Otherwise it would mean that God would let people be born knowing they would go to Hell. Having chosen the number he wanted, he would allow millions and millions of people to be born just to go into suffering. That's not possible, it's not his way.
There are several references to the Book of Life in the Bible. Moses mentions it, David mentions it, the Book of Revelation mentions it. But when Moses and David refer to the Book of Life they talk about being "blotted out" of it, not "written in." The contrast between the expressions "blotting out" and "written in" the Book of Life would suggest we are all written in the Book of Life to begin with.
Revelation 20:15, "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."
Why were they not written in? Were they never written in from the start and God let them be born knowing that they would go to Hell? Or were they blotted out?
Personally, I think they were blotted out. Or else we go back to where God would be doing something against his character. God grieves for us. Why would he let people be born knowing they would go to Hell without any possibility of salvation? It is just not in his character. He is all goodness and compassion.
One by one, due entirely to the rebellion born of our free will, we work ourselves out from under his wing, and we get blotted out of the Book of Life. We get blotted out because we run away from him. He already bends over backwards to not kill us all. God cannot be blamed. We are made in his image, we are smart. He says his wellbeloved had a vineyard in a very fruitful hill, planted it with the choicest vine, fenced it, removed all the stones, built a tower and a winepress, and when he expected good grapes he got bad grapes. What else could he have done that he did not do? The only solution would have been to not have given us free will.
But when do people get blotted out? Is it immediately upon committing any transgression, or do they get blotted out at the end of their natural life? Surely they are blotted out at the end of their natural lives, because God calls people till their very end. And perhaps they get blotted out even at the last minute just before being thrown into Hell, beyond this natural life; that is, when the end of the world has occurred, the judgment has come and Hell begins to receive its share.
It is necessary here to add a word about those near to us who have died unsaved. With the Bible being the guide and not the traditions that rule most churches, we know that Hell is not yet open for business, because that will happen at the end of the world. We also know that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. We also know that we are made righteous by the blood of the Lamb, our Jesus. And we know, as well, that God listens to the requests of his children, those adopted into the family of God, those who belong to Christ. We are Pure, Holy and Undefiled with the blood of Christ on us. Therefore, we are allowed, authorized, to come into the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant is. With the blood of Christ on us we are allowed to come into the presence of God to make our request known. On top of the ark is the mercy seat where he meets with us. The mercy of God sits on top of the Law.
Is praying for the dead a false hope?
All those facts being so, there is nothing that explicitly stops us from asking God to save those dear to us who are gone and who may have died unsaved. We absolutely don't know that there will be an effect favorable to our request. But neither do we know the contrary. That is, perhaps God will listen to our request for salvation for those close to us who have died unsaved. At least, we don't know if praying for those gone from us will make any difference. But, since it's no skin off our noses to entreat for others, praying for salvation for them is a totally legitimate endeavour. It is better to err doing something we are not sure it will work than to do nothing because we think it will not work. Is praying for the dead a false hope? Maybe, but, notwithstanding the opinion of some experts, I don't know enough to know it is a false hope.
There is a curious effect caused by the praying for others. It changes you. It gives you a sense of depth. Life is a whole lot more that just getting up to go to work every day. There is an eternity ahead of us, and ahead of everybody else we know. Praying for salvation of friends, family members, and others, is the least we should do. Knowing what we know about Hell, even enemies cannot be such enemies that we would want them to go there.
Praying for your enemies, asking God that your enemies be saved, causes the most change. And I'm in no way suggesting that you have to like praying for someone who has done you wrong. Forget liking it. But little by little as you pray for someone with whom you have a grudge, your attitude begins to change, the grudge slowly disappears. Sanctification is sneaky.
Going back to the question of election and free will (which never seems to end), what does God mean when he says "return to me?" Is he saying that we have free will to return to him? And how can anyone return to him if they don't know who he is? But is that true? That people don't know who he is? I don't know about that. God has put in the heart of every human being the notion, the feeling, the certainty that we are in big trouble with him and have to do something to ensure that there will not be a horrible outcome at the end of our lives.
How about those who never heard?
How about those who never heard? Well, if God is going to save only (and all, of course), those he chose from before the foundation of the world, then, those who never heard are, or would be, all those whom God did not choose for salvation. It makes the question moot. Those who never heard were not chosen to be saved. If that were the case it wouldn't matter at all that there would be many who will not hear. By the way, not all those who hear will be saved, either.
But this question keeps coming up: When did God stop choosing people? At what point before the foundation of the world did God say I'm going to let a bunch of people be born now, none of whom will I choose to be saved? That sounds incredible to me. Why would he do that? It would be better not to be born than to be born and go to Hell. It would be better not to be born than to be born and go to Hell. And a problem with being born is that you're pretty much stuck. You are here now and have to deal with it. Suicide doesn't help because it only accelerates the process of going into death and whatever after.
At any rate, I am still on the subject of God's choosing and of the end of the world, all of which is utterly unfathomable to me but which I continue to want to understand better. If from before the foundation of the world God had chosen someone who will be born after we die, then, we who are alive today will not see the end of the world. Because the end of the world can only come after everybody whom he has chosen to be saved is saved.
Now, if on the other hand, the end of the world can only come after everybody in the whole world is made aware of the death of Christ as the payment for his or her sins and of his resurrection as proof that the payment for those sins was real, if everybody in the whole world on an individual basis had to be made aware of those facts before the end can come, then, surely, the end of the world would never come.
Actually, I don't really believe that everybody in the whole world on an individual basis has to hear. That is insane. Everybody in the whole world above the age of accountability would have to hear. And, obviously, people do have an age of accountability. Witness the situation at the time when the Israelites were about to go into the land. Those who were from twenty years old and upward when they first chickened out and refused to go into the land all died in the wilderness. Those twenty years old and under did not die in the wilderness. They were not held accountable even though they had the same rebellious nature as their parents. If individual notification is required for the end to come there would be no end. Every second there are thousands of people turning twenty and all would have to be notified. The end could only come if there were a period of time when nobody would be born. It's ridiculous. There would have to be a gap of time between those under the age of accountability and those above it.
Whatever it is, God has until now confounded everybody who has given a date for the end of the world. Human time doesn't mean a thing to God. He has plenty of time and does according to this own figuring. He's kind of independent that way. So, it may not be on an individual basis that everyone has to hear, but in a corporate sense. That is, that the gospel reach not necessarily every human being on the planet, but that it reach all countries of the world. If that is the case the end could come at any time. Because from the beginning Christians have reached the remotest areas in the world, and there is probably no country that has never had a chance to hear about Jesus. There are Christians today even in the most hostile countries. The majority of those hostile countries are Islamic. They have heard of Jesus, they know about Jesus. They consider Jesus as one of the Prophets. But they have, as the majority of the world has, rejected the claim that Jesus is the son of God, God himself, the payment for sin.
The Bible is not a religion. Religions have come from the Bible but the Bible itself is not a religion. Religions are born out of the necessity for men to reconcile themselves to God. We all know we are in trouble with God. Jews know they fall short regarding compliance with God's laws. Muslims also know the same. Hindus, Buddhists, Free Masons, Zoroastrians, Ba-Hai's and more, the followers of all these religions know they are unclean and have to remedy that condition. And they all have heard of Jesus, they all have heard the claim that he is the payment for sin, but they don't believe it, they shove it away and reject it.
Will they be saved who reject such great salvation? If God says all your works are filthy rags, so that nothing you do counts toward your salvation, and at the same time you reject the only thing that will save you out of the fire, what is the conclusion to draw? What more can God do, other than to present the facts?
Interestingly enough, many of those who ask the question: "How about those who never heard?," they themselves have heard. They are not really interested in those who never heard. They ask the question so they can point at the seeming unfairness of God, and mock the God of the Bible and the Gospel. They couldn't care less about those who never heard. They sit on the seat of the scornful and stick out their tongues at him without knowing who they are dealing with.
As far as those who never heard, what I do know is that God looks inside the hearts of people and there are many people in many religions who know they cannot meet the demands of those religions. They know that regardless of the exhortations to be good and do good, they, in their innermost parts, know they are no good. At some level, some will be humbled by dismay when they come to realize all their good works are corrupted with self-serving and they cannot make it into the Kingdom of Heaven. God has said that the truly humble he will not turn away.
How will God deal with those who are sincerely wrong? That's a huge question for me. If God is fair, and he is, how does he deal with those who are sincerely wrong? I would love to know, I would be very happy to have a sure answer. But I don't. I have no idea how God is going to deal with those who are sincerely wrong. But I know he has said that a broken and contrite heart he will not despise (Psalm 51:17), perhaps to them he will assign Christ. Isaiah 57:15, "For thus saith the lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
Will there be a second chance after death? Fairness demands payment for transgressions but a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye, does not set a precedent for vengeance, it sets the precedent that the punishment should not exceed the crime. The little accountant down the street who loved flowers and birds but who rejected Christ, could not receive the same punishment as Hitler who also rejected Christ but who murdered millions of innocent people. They would both go to Hell but their punishment cannot be the same. There would have to be variations as to intensity and/or length of punishment.
I tell you what I would like to see: That God would give those of other religions or moral codes a second chance after death. That he would line them up against the wall and say to them: "O.K., turkeys, what's it gonna be? This is it, this is the last of the last chances, it's either the blood of my Son giving you access to eternal life with me, or, let my judgement fall on you which will find you guilty and throw you into Hell. What's it gonna be?"
Will this happen? I don't know, but Jesus went and preached to the spirits who were in prison. Where were they? What prison was that? Were they in a holding pen somewhere, waiting? Is that still happening now, that those who die go to some kind of central station where Jesus tells them the Gospel? Or was that a one time thing?
It is amazing how much I don't know, but this much I know: Many people perished in the wilderness when serpents attacked them. Moses was told to make a serpent of brass and set it up high on a pole, high enough so everyone could see it (Numbers 21:6 through 9). All anybody had to do to live and be saved from the serpents was to look at the serpent Moses had made. That's all, just look. Yet, many people died. Why? Because many, many were so rebellious that even that small concession they would not give in to. I'm not going to look, I'm not going to look, and I'm not going to look. There will be those who even after death, if they are in any kind of state of consciousness, and if they are ever presented with that final choice, will say to themselves, bah, this is just a bad dream, curse God. There will be many, many who, even at that late time, will despise God and will not believe there is an impending disaster about to befall them. They would rather go to Hell than bend their necks. That's fine, they trust in their own strength, they'll see for themselves how well they fare.
It is a fact that God chooses to save people out of his own mercy. There is no other explanation for why God saves anybody. Nobody turns to God by themselves. He has to go get them. But does he choose to save them before they are born? Or does he catch them later? Does he just throw his lasso over the herd that's running away, or does he pick and choose? I don't know. But I do know that he chooses some beyond their ability to resist, and others he continues to call. He gives people plenty of opportunities to listen. So today, if you hear his voice, harden not your heart.
Anyway, in my own experience I cannot really refer to myself as an example of how one is saved because I don't know how I came to be saved. I didn't have any say about it. He got me to read the Bible on my own instead of relying on other people and he hooked me like a fish. By my reckoning it is one hundred percent election without any ability to resist. But is it always like that? Is everybody who is elected unable to resist? To be sure, I don't know. Even though now I believe that if a person were made aware of their terrible predicament where the life of any given individual at any time anywhere and at any age can be snuffed out without warning, if a person really becomes aware of the fragility of everyday life and also the possibility that Hell really exists, then, I think a person would not be able to resist when given a sure way out. But not everyone comes to that realization.
But even as I'm not a good example of how someone is saved because I was not consulted on that decision, I can put myself as an example of someone who despised him and bit his hands. I didn't even have a broken and contrite heart. And it wasn't because I hadn't heard. That was not the problem. The problem was I didn't believe he existed.
Whereas some verses indicate we have free will to return to him I can absolutely say I did not come to him out of my own free will. I didn't ask to be saved. He pulled me out of the fire on his own. I'm sure he held his nose with one hand as he picked me up with the other. But pick me up he did, out of the fire he did.
There is no possibility I could have been saved except by his grace, will and initiative. I wasn't looking for him, the God of the Bible, the only God that exists, when he found me. And to say that he found me is not altogether correct. He wasn't wandering around one day looking for me and then he nearly stepped on me and said "oops, well lookee here, look what I found, I've been looking all over for you, you little idiot." No, he didn't say that. He didn't find me by chance, he knew where I was all the time. I was lost. I wasn't lost to him, but I was lost. I had no idea what it was like to be lost so I didn't know I was lost. I didn't have enough sense to know the difference between being saved and being lost. I thought I was fine, I was a regular heathen pulled by every new carnal fad and every wind of doctrine. Whatever got me what I wanted, I pursued; whatever imbecilic idea there was about the invisible world, I considered. The Laws of Prosperity, the Laws of Healing, the Laws of Manifestation, the Laws of Love, I looked at everything that could supply me with another manipulative tool. It's all witchcraft. All the "new" techniques of the "New Age" are not really new, they are refinements, repackaging of old techniques that were used long ago by those who attempted to manipulate the invisible world. I had learned much of that stuff as a youngster in books of magic and witchcraft. There is always another curtain to lift, another door to open, another ritual to learn. It's all lies. No one has ever succeeded in turning lead into gold. No amount of wizardry or enchantment has ever produced a nickel out of nothing, out of the air, on my kitchen table
As an adult, I spent a lot of money on long weekend retreats listening to all sorts of different gurus. Demons, really. I was insane, I had no fear of God. Yet I was running, from what I don't know, but I was running when nobody was pursuing me. Leviticus 26: 17, told me: "...and ye shall flee when none pursueth you." When I first read that verse I knew that there was an invisible being that was watching me and knew me intimately. No man could have, or would have, ever written that. It doesn't make sense for a man to write that. God in his incomprehensible mercy stopped my running when he graciously put fear in my heart. I love him for that.
Are we talking to the heathen?
The question continues: Who are we talking to? Are we talking to the heathen or are we talking to the sheep? There are many sheep out there who don't yet know they belong to God. These are the most receptive to the Gospel. They need the information. The reason for the question is that the thrust of the message depends on the audience. Are we talking to the heathen? Are we supposed to tell the gospel to the heathen just so they can't say they never heard?
Pearls in front of the pigs
That's a hard question for me. Why would we tell the heathen if there is no chance for them to be saved? Why tell them if they are going to ignore it, anyway? If they are not saved they cannot possibly listen. Doesn't God know the end from the beginning? Wouldn't he know it's a waste of time? Didn't he tell us not to throw the pearls in front of the pigs? Nevertheless, God also tells us that if they ignore the gospel their blood will be on them, but if we don't tell them their blood will be on us. I don't think it's a matter of losing our salvation, but perhaps it is that if we don't have the urge to tell them it might be because we ourselves are not saved.
Still, I'm curious. Why tell the heathen? All I have to go by is the Bible. It alone is the word of God. My present understanding is that God has placed his sheep among the heathen in order that, as we feed his sheep, the heathen will hear as well. So, and it makes sense that it would be so, if he wants the heathen to hear him it must be that he will look with favour upon some of them and save some of them. I don't think that God would want the heathen to hear him just so he can say on the day of judgment: I told you so. He's just not that way. If he wanted to lay a trap for someone it would be impossible for that someone to detect the trap. God is infinitely powerful, infinitely smart, it would be absolutely no contest. If God wanted someone to be lost, they wouldn't have a chance. They would be lost simply because God would have decided that they would be lost He would just kill them before the information about salvation ever reached them. So it can't be that he wants us to tell the heathen just so he can mock them on the day of judgment. God is all goodness and not at all like that. If he wants us to tell them it must be that he has their salvation in mind.
The Lost sheep of Israel
At any rate, many of those he has chosen to be saved live among the heathen. These are the lost sheep who must be gathered back to him. They live with the heathen, identify with the heathen. We are told to go to the lost sheep of Israel. The lost sheep are those who have been chosen to be saved but don't yet know who God is. They have yet to find out that the God of the Bible is The God, the only God that exists.
The lost sheep are the Israelites, but everyone who is saved (and only Christians will be saved) becomes an Israelite. This is because, as mentioned earlier, the Law was given to the Israelites and to the ones who sojourned with the Israelites. The whole world is sojourning with the Israelites. In a way if you are a Jew (Israelite) and become a Christian, you really become more of a Jew (Israelite). All the rituals suddenly make sense. The authorization (and therefore the legitimacy) for Christ to be our lamb of sacrifice is mandated in the Law that God gave to Moses to give to the Israelites. The root of Christianity is the Law God gave to Moses. Christianity should not exist except as the most pure form of Judaism. The lamb of sacrifice of Israel is Jesus, who is given to us to make an atonement for our souls. The best way to know Christ is by becoming thoroughly acquainted with the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch given to Moses.
As stated before, Leviticus 17:11 says: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." Obviously, the Gospel didn't just appear in the time of Christ. The Gospel is ancient and not something new made up in the New Testament. Nothing has changed: Salvation that comes about when the payment for sin, the unblemished Lamb, is provided has been the same from the beginning. Nothing has changed and nothing can change. The reason why nothing can change is that if that were to happen, where would it stop? We could never be sure of anything. Could we some day, at the time of our death, receive a horrible surprise? Could we be in the position of not knowing that at the last minute something had changed concerning salvation and we didn't hear about it? And when we are sure we are going to Heaven, the guy at the door is going to say, "oh, you didn't hear the latest thing? You didn't catch what they said over the loudspeaker? Really. Well, I'm sorry, that's too bad, well, you go in that other door, yes, just move on, I'm busy."
I, for one, am glad he is the same yesterday, today and forever.
The promise of the one who would come to crush the head of the serpent goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3:15, God is talking to Satan (after Satan had succeeded in causing Adam to disobey) and tells him: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel." Adam and Eve were the first ones to benefit from this promise and it is evidenced by the covering they got after they became naked. God gave them coats of skins to cover their nakedness. Temporarily, until Jesus, some animal had to die to make those coats. Nakedness has to do with us being totally defenseless before a just and perfect Law.
The promise doesn't start with the Law given to Moses and it doesn't start with the New Testament. Christ is the one who crushes the head of the serpent but is bruised in his heel, indicating the fierceness of the battle put up by our enemy.
Anyway, going back to the lost sheep, it is impossible to tell who these Israelites are, his sheep, but they are out there. We are told to feed these sheep. What kind of food are they to get? To say they must feed on the word of God is too vague. Or to say that they must feed on the meat of the word and no longer on the milk of the word, or to say that they must get the whole counsel of God, is simply using fuzzy cliches. What precisely do these things mean? And that's not to say these sayings are not true. But how do they appear in reality? What Christian programming there is on radio, or television, or print, never gets much farther than stringing a bunch of these fuzzy cliches together, which nobody really understands but pretend they do. Lots of preachers preach insipid sermons already laid out in some book, and the best they can do is to preach against sin, the decay of society and that because Christ died for our sins we must now do good. By far, the majority of churches are like that.
Altogether, the representatives of modern Christianity, no matter what forum they use, appear to be incredibly ignorant of the fundamentals of salvation and damnation, of Heaven and Hell. So, here it is, if you never heard it before: Your sins are completely covered by the blood of Christ. Take it or leave it. This is the meat, this is the whole counsel of God: It's eternal life with him, or skidding into Hell you go.
Our eternal life with God is altogether bundled in the death of Jesus being the payment for our sins. He is the guarantee that we will not go to Hell after we die. The blood of Jesus is precious in God's eyes. With the blood of Jesus on us we are precious in God's eyes.
Looking back I can say maybe I really never was a heathen. If I was saved from the foundation of the world, I was born saved, regardless of whether I knew it or not. At some point God would reveal himself to me and complete the transaction. But if the total number of people to be saved is not limited only to those chosen from before the foundation of the world, perhaps I am one of the heathen who is being saved as the world goes along, if such thing could happen. However that was, I know that there is a degree of election where people have been chosen beyond their ability to resist. Jeremiah was chosen before he was formed in the womb. He had no choice in the matter. Also Cyrus of Babylon (?-B.C. 539) before he was born was named by God to send the Israelites (mostly Jews) from Babylon back to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. Isaiah was talking about Cyrus before Cyrus was born. Isaiah was describing what Cyrus was going to do one hundred and fifty years before Cyrus came into existence. It looks as if Cyrus didn't have much say in that decision, either.
It is obvious, then, that God is totally sovereign and chooses whom he will whenever for whatever. At certain times, when God makes up his mind to save somebody, that's it, he'll trip you, trap you, knock out a few teeth if necessary, but he'll get you, no one can deliver out of his hand and I'm glad. But, for my wilderness period, God put me on a long leash and sent me looking for him in all the places where he wasn't. My neck was too stiff, I had to see for myself. From a childhood period in the Catholic Church, into witchcraft until my early teens, to the Methodist Church and to the Mormon Church in my later teens, I slowly drifted back as an adult into witchcraft, Eastern religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, and their offshoots of the New Age. These were my mainstays for years. Basically, the Christian Church, in general, stood between me and God, so I looked elsewhere. That's why I lived with the heathen, identified with the heathen, did like the heathen. It was exactly as God had said I would do. I roamed with the heathen and worshipped their gods, wood and stone that neither see nor hear.
The world is inhabited only by believers and unbelievers. Christians are on one side and the heathen on the other. One is wheat, the other chaff; one is grain, the other tares; one will be harvested, the other thrown into the fire. Before Christ, from the time of Adam, the world was also divided in two. Those who believed there was an invisible God who knew what was going on, and those who thought that if there was a God he wasn't paying attention. Cain did not think God was paying attention. Otherwise he would not have come up with that lame excuse that he was not his brother's keeper when he had just murdered him. He figured God hadn't seen him and didn't know what was going on.
Later on, at another time in history, the same division continues. On one side the people who followed the Law that God gave to Moses, and on the other side, the heathen. Today we, the Christians, still follow the Law that God gave to Moses. We have to because it is only in the Law that we find Christ. Everyone who was saved in the so-called Old Testament was saved by the blood of Christ. The covenant of the shedding of blood for the remission of sin goes all the way from Adam forward to the time when it is codified in the Law God gave to Moses. Though bits and pieces of this Law had been circulating for a few hundred years before Moses, it is Moses who receives the final codification.
One of the arguments against the Pentateuch being really a revelation from God to Moses, is precisely that Moses made up the Law by gathering bits and pieces of what already existed in other nearby cultures. Hammurabi had his Code where the "eye for an eye" concept is found. Also, blood sacrifices were present in his beliefs, and that is true as well in many religions. There may be other ideas from other heathen that appear in what we call today the Law of Moses. The heathen have the law written in their inward parts so it is not surprising that they would get some things right. But Hammurabi worshipped the sun and that's pretty dumb, as are all the religions of the heathen. Our present tolerance for other belief systems does not mean that those other belief systems are equal to Christianity. No one can avoid Hell without the protective mantle of Christ.
How was this knowledge lost? How is it that everybody is a descendant of Noah, yet the knowledge that this blood sacrifice of the lamb should be offered only to the invisible God who brought him through the flood was lost? It's the hardening of the heart, certainly. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes.
Are some of the heathen saved?
The question concerning the salvation of the heathen and election and free will continues. Are some of the heathen, those not chosen to be saved from the foundation of the world, saved? It seems like some, at least, would have to be. Otherwise, his statement that if one were to look for him earnestly one would surely find him would be superfluous. Because we know that the chosen will be given the desire to look for him earnestly and if they are the chosen it is guaranteed that they will find him. Another statement that would be meaningless, if the heathen had no chance of being saved, would be the statement by Jesus that he would not cast out any that came to him. If only the sheep come, and at least the sheep will come, he could not cast them out because they were chosen from the foundation of the world. If we are drawn by the Holy Spirit to Jesus it means that God in his most gracious aspect has already decided to present to us the plan of salvation and now puts in us the desire to seek him. If we seek him because he has put in us the desire to seek him, he could not cast us out. He is not going to put in us the desire to seek him and then push us away. However, even if some who were not chosen from the foundation of the world were to be saved, they would have to be saved by election first. God alone does the electing. It is the nature of this election that's intriguing. More and more, it looks like it is election to receive information and not necessarily election to be saved.
Of course, there are people who will say: Well, if I'm one of the elect God is going to save me. If I'm not one of the elect God is not going to save me, so, why should I bother either way? Why should I try to find out anything about God? I guess there is some logic to that thinking. But it always comes down to a proper understanding of the worst possibility. If you knew what could possibly await you if you are not saved there is no question you would quake with fear, and you would become very interested in reading your Bible and looking for assurances of salvation. One thing is for sure, if you reject what the Bible says concerning Christ as being the payment for our sins, you are not one of the elect, or if you are you have been elected to receive information but you are still in rebellion. That doesn't mean that a person who rejects Jesus now could never be saved in the future. If that were the case very few people would ever be saved because at one time or another most of us have been insane and have rejected him. But God can make anybody sane and make them see that their only salvation from Hell is to appropriate the death of Jesus as payment for their sins.
Resisting & Free Will
Can one be chosen of God but still be able to resist him? Iniquity and Idolatry. Judas Iscariot. Rage of Satan. Beguiling Adam. Peter declares. The Lamb of the Passover. Pride is tough. Look at Solomon. My sheep will hear my voice.
Can one be chosen of God but still be able to resist him?
The question arises: Is it possible to resist the election of God? Can one be chosen of God but still be able to resist him? Can the salvation of God be made clear to a person and yet this person would reject it? Can one resist the unmerited favour of a total pardon for one's sins? Can the infinitely merciful grace of God be resisted? I don't see how, from where I am now. But my reaction as a small child when being told in the Catholic Church that Jesus had paid for my sins and now I owed him, was: Who asked him? Who asked Jesus to pay for my sins? I didn't ask him, he can keep his favour, I don't owe him anything...Why should I care?
Iniquity and Idolatry
Ahhhh... how ignorant and arrogant I was! Of course I didn't count on Hell. How unaware I was...! How rebellious and stubborn I was even as a small child...! Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry, God says in Samuel I, 15:23. It doesn't get any worse than that. Iniquity and Idolatry? There are no sins that can top that. Iniquity and Idolatry entail forsaking God and attributing the powers of God to that which is not God. Luck, horoscopes, unseen powers that react to universal laws that we can manipulate, Tao, Karma, pseudo-deities that we know only as idols in some heathen temple, all these are idolatry. Idolatry takes a person out from under the protection of God. Rebellion and stubbornness are totally and absolutely the worst sins we can get into. We are dead just from that. Nobody can pass the test of the whole Law, but God doesn't test us with the Law, at first. He only tests our rebelliousness and stubbornness. And, boy, do we have plenty of both.
Why is God so merciful? All we are is corrupt...,why would he want to save anyone? There is no possibility of making it. The only hope in this sea of certain death is Christ.
I still want to know: Can the mercy of God be resisted? Can one be chosen of God but still be able to resist him? From this vantage point I don't see how. But Judas Iscariot apparently resisted. And he was one of the chosen of Jesus. You can't get around that. He was one of the chosen of Jesus. He was in the presence of the only human being who ever was on this Earth who was very man, a very man, and very God, a very God. God in human flesh. Jesus was not just made in the image of God like the rest of us. He was, is, God himself. Somehow Judas didn't get that. He resisted Jesus to the point of betrayal.
Jesus said that of all the sheep the Father gave him he lost none, except the son of perdition. He lost none, except? So, of all the sheep the Father gave him he lost the son of perdition? How did he lose him? If he is all- powerful, and he is, how is it that he lost him? Was Judas so willful that he yanked himself away from Jesus the God-Man? Is the will of man stronger than the election of God? Perhaps God allows it to be stronger, maybe the lasso he throws over the herd is made of a very soft substance, like fog, and it's easy to break away.
Perdition is lostness, it is to be lost forever. Why was Judas called the son of perdition? If Satan is perdition, and he most certainly is, Judas then represents Satan who also lost his place next to God. What happened to Satan? Why did he rebel? Satan rebelled because he was envious of the power of God, he thought himself equal with God, and saw no reason why God should be the supreme ruler. Satan wanted to enter a place that was not his to enter. He became corrupt by reason of his brightness. He was too smart for his own good. He said, I'm gonna build me a throne, I'm gonna go up on the sides of the north, I'm gonna do this and I'm gonna do that, I'm gonna be like the Most High. Well, he was all project and no lumber, all thunder and no rain, all hat and no cattle, he never got started building his throne, he never put together a couple of two-by-fours before he got kicked out.
Rage Of Satan
Then Satan, in total rage against God after being kicked out, set out to destroy God's creation. Satan figured out correctly, because he knows how the Law works, that by getting man to sin, the total creation of God, of which man is a part, would be instantly polluted. This tiny, tiny blemish would contaminate the whole creation and God would have to destroy it, simply because God is totally Pure, Holy and Undefiled. Nothing that is impure can stand in his presence because whatever it is that is impure would make him impure. With him being pure we don't stand a chance of ever being in his presence.
Satan knew he could accomplish this contamination by beguiling Adam to do something he shouldn't do. Satan duped those poor, innocent souls; how he must have laughed! He, then, knew for sure that everything God had built God himself would now have to destroy. He, Satan, would have his revenge. He was going to bring the whole place down with him. What Satan did not count on is how far above anyone and anything God is, and certainly Satan did not imagine to what lengths God would go to save his creation. Satan was simply no more determined than God is. God had contingency plans, and now he is buying back, redeeming as in a pawn shop, whom he can with the blood of Christ.
By the way, there are many today who rail against Adam and how terrible it was that he disobeyed God. I hear this all the time, Christians disparaging Adam and blaming him for their all their problems. They say: We are as bad as we are because we inherited our sin nature from him. It's all his fault that we are like this. As if they would have done any better. They should quit hiding behind Adam and Eve. Some people who presume to be teachers say that Adam's transgression is imputed to us, that we can't help being what we are because of him. That is just nonsense. God did not make us with a sin nature. He made us with great imagination and with free will. We imagine all sorts of wicked things in our minds because we don't think he knows what we are thinking.
So, I can tell you for sure, it is not Adam and Eve's fault that we are rotten sinners. Every man is Adam and every woman is Eve, we have our own disregard for God's instructions. We didn't inherit anything from Adam that we don't have on our own. We have the same free will Adam had. Sure, what Adam did was terrible in its consequence. But, the fact is that Adam didn't know any better, and neither would we have known any better. He was in the Garden, everything belonged to God and surely this talking serpent also must have belonged to God. Eve didn't drop dead when she ate the fruit of the tree, so he ate. Adam's actions don't seem to be open defiance and rebellion, it's more that he sort of drifted into it, didn't pay enough attention to God's instructions. All these people who think they would have been able to stave off Satan make me scoff. They would have been like cookies to our mortal enemy, the master deceiver.
But going back to Judas, was Judas filled with envy as Satan was? Did Judas think he was just as important as Christ but that Christ was getting all the attention? Or is Judas an example to us that though we may be chosen we could still resist God?
Well, only in utter ignorance is it possible to resist God. Only someone who has no idea of the consequence of the rejection can reject the God of the Bible. I was totally ignorant and unaware of the consequences at one time. But Judas was chosen in the flesh by Jesus himself, face to face. Was Judas ignorant of the consequence of the rejection of Jesus? Was Judas ignorant of the relationship between Jesus the God-Man and his Father the invisible God? He had to have been.
To make a distinction on the level of knowledge that Judas and Peter (for instance) had, in another place, where Jesus asked his disciples (Matthew 16:13) what it was that men said about him, whom did they say he was, everyone offered the different opinions they had heard from the crowds. So, the disciples said that some were saying that Jesus was John the Baptist who had come back from the dead. Herod had beheaded John the Baptist earlier. Others said Jesus was Elias (Elijah), and others Jeremias (Jeremiah), or one of the prophets. Then Jesus said, but who do you say that I am? And Peter jumped (I think he jumped) and said (Matthew 16:16), "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." This was a huge statement, an extremely important and accurate statement. I get the impression from the text that Jesus gave Peter a long look. You really know that, don't you? And somebody must have told you because there is no way you could have figured that out by yourself.
Matthew 16: 17: "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven."
Jesus called Peter "blessed" because God had revealed to Peter that Christ was the Son the Living God, meaning that Peter had been selected for a special revelation, a special reassurance. This declaration of Peter is what Jesus referred to as the rock upon which he was going to build his church and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. "Christ" is not a name per se. It is a title, it means the chosen one, the designated one. Jesus is the Christ, the designated one, the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the Son of the Living God, and against that fact the gates of Hell will not prevail. Those saved by the blood of the designated one can not and will not be contained by the gates of Hell.
Only God the Father, using the Holy Spirit as his messenger, could have revealed to Peter the relationship between Jesus and his Father, Jesus in the flesh and his Father, the invisible God. No human can make another human understand who Jesus is. A person can only disseminate information, but it is God the Father using the Holy Spirit as his messenger who reaches through an invisible dimension to give the certainty of Jesus' identity to those who are to be saved. The identity is that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the designated one, the one appointed to die for our sins from the foundation of the world.
So, did Judas have that kind of knowledge of Jesus? Did he know who Jesus was? It's a mystery to me. How could he not know who Jesus was, living with him daily as he was? Didn't the Holy Spirit reveal to Judas what he revealed to Peter? Or maybe the Holy Spirit did reveal this to Judas as well but Judas chose to ignore it, he hardened his heart. But didn't Judas see Jesus do miracles that absolutely set aside the laws of nature, the laws of thermodynamics as we know them today, when he produced something out of nothing? What did he think of that? Did Judas think that Jesus was just a fancy magician when he did the thing with the loaves and the fishes? Or when he healed a man of his withered hand or gave sight to a man born blind? Or when he raised Lazarus from the dead? Did Judas think that the miracles were just some kind of trickery and Jesus was just fooling everybody? And if he knew who Jesus was, how could he have resisted him to the point of betrayal?
Of course, even the knowledge of Peter did not become flint until after the resurrection. Before the resurrection, Peter also betrayed Jesus by denying he knew him. It was after the resurrection that nobody could make him shut up.
At any rate, Peter was saved but Judas was not. Why God chooses to save some and not others is a total mystery to me. But if those who have been chosen from the foundation of the world will be saved no matter what, then, it would mean that Judas was not chosen from the foundation of the world. Or else, it would have to mean that one who has been chosen could rebel to the point of losing his salvation. It is difficult to believe the latter, mainly because God is totally reliable and not a man to change his mind. He is the author and the finisher of our faith. But we do have free will and we can rebel and maybe the statement that God is totally faithful refers to his keeping up his end of the bargain, and a bargain it is, that the price for sin is death but that he has provided the payment for which we have no coin to pay; he has provided the blood of the only one who is Pure, Holy and Undefiled, my Jesus.
But aside from a select few whom he chooses as marks, I don't think that God forces people into salvation. For all the texts in the Bible that give explicit assurance of salvation to anyone who wants it, I cannot find where it says categorically that one who has been chosen to be saved could not rebel to the point of losing his salvation. I think that the call of God can be resisted, that one could work himself out from under the protection of God. More and more it seems to me that a person could be that stubborn as to loose himself away from God, to reject him and to spit on him, and to be proud of being a stiffnecked, rebellious rotten sinner.
What really is the source of sin? First and foremost the source of sin is unbelief. Sin begins at the saying: There is no God. I suppose everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but my Bible says in Psalm 14:1 that it is the fool who says in his heart: "There is no God," and fool means insane.
The Lamb of the Passover
The fact is that Judas was right there with the Lamb of the Passover and did not cover himself with his blood. Maybe he didn't figure he needed it.
But the failure to appropriate the blood of the Lamb of the Passover, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, was not, is not, exclusive to Judas. It's one of the big problems many people face today, to acknowledge that they are sinners.
Obviously, this happens outside the churches, but it also happens inside. These people are the flip side of those who are proud of being rotten sinners. They don't see themselves as sinners, oh, no, they are not sinners. You don't know who you're talking to. The very idea is galling to them. They say in their minds: What you looking at me for? Why do you call me a sinner? I'm not a sinner, I haven't done anything... I'm a pretty good person... I don't cheat on my taxes, I am faithful to my wife, I don't steal, I haven't killed anybody, I don't even smoke or drink... I go to church whether I like it or not, make sandwiches for the poor, what do you want from me? Why don't you go looking for sinners in skid row, what have I done? I even do a good deed every day just in case I might have done something wrong somewhere and owe something. I pay my dues. I don't need God, or your version of it, to tell me what's right and what's wrong, I know what to do. If I do something wrong and go over the line a bit for one reason or another, I make it up somehow. I go help somebody move, or stop on the highway for someone with a flat tire, or give a little more to charity, like buy extra cookies or something.
If there is a God in Heaven somewhere, well, he's going to have to let me in because I have lived a pretty good life, I'm doing what he demands. I treat others as I wish to be treated. If there's a Heaven on the other side, fine, I deserve to go there. I don't need anybody to pay for my sins.
Pride is tough
This is a common position nowadays and it is so completely wrong, to think we don't need anybody (least of all his blood) to pay for our sins. The idea that we are worse than worthless is difficult to acknowledge. Your secret wickedness is not what you want to be reminded of, your intimate uncleanness is not what you want to see. It is difficult to bend your neck. Pride is tough, hard to break. What many, many, don't get is that the worst sin they could ever commit is to reject the payment for sin, Jesus, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.
Nevertheless, I persist. It must be that some who were not originally chosen to be saved, will be saved. Otherwise, God would not command us to tell them.
One thing I know about the lost sheep: The sheep, even when they are not yet aware of what salvation is, cannot digest the food of the world. They strive mightily to get whatever is out there, riches, beauty, power, but after they get it they find out it's not quite enough. It is, of course, the same for the heathen. The world does not satisfy.
But the lure is always there. There are plenty of self-appointed experts out there hawking the wares of the world. There are a lot of false shepherds saying: Follow me. How to make more money, how to have better sex, how to manipulate people. How to acquire personal power, how to become a better person, how to give up guilt and live a better life. The things the barkers of the world offer are still the most coveted things in this life. The majority of churches are not far from similar schemes.
Somehow, the sheep cannot digest that food. Not for long, anyway. They will eat it for a while but eventually cannot stand it anymore. It tastes O.K. but it doesn't satisfy. Money, satisfaction of lust, intrigues, personal power, all disappear in front of death, everything becomes inconsequential in front of death. Everything, that is, except guilt. Deep in our gut we know, absolutely know, that in order to have any chance on the other side we cannot be just pretty good, we must be perfect, and we are not.
Look at Solomon
So, the advice of the world runs you around in circles. We have to get this, we have to get that. Every bit of that chase leads to disillusion. Look at Solomon. The richest, most powerful man in known history was Solomon. If you want to talk about sex, he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, one thousand women to feast on sexually. If you want to talk about power, he controlled the most important real estate of the time, (the most important of our times, as well). He sat atop some of the most important trade routes of the time, the passages from East to West. From Asia and Mesopotamia, to Africa and the lands that are now Europe, anybody who wanted to do business had to go by Solomon. The kingdom he inherited from David included big chunks of Egypt, most of what is now Jordan, part of modern Iraq and all the way into Damascus, Syria. Almost every trade route was controlled by Solomon.
If you want to talk about riches, there was tribute coming to him from surrounding countries year by year in gold, ivory, spices, precious stones, provisions, exotic woods, rare animals. Everybody wanted to buy favours from him. Solomon had all kinds of entertainment, all kinds of sex, all kinds of money, all kinds of power. Yet none of those things satisfied him when he looked at death right in the eye. The certainty of death sapped his strength. His conclusion toward the end of his life was: "All is vanity and vexation of spirit. There's nothing new under the sun." Your riches that took you so long to accumulate will be spent by some idiot who doesn't even know you. Nothing matters.
Even though at one point he saw that it was better to be wise than to be a fool, he also saw that the wisdom acquired was for nothing. Ecclesiastes chapter 2:14-15: "The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness; and I myself perceived that one event happeneth to them all." "Then said I in my heart, as it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart that this is also vanity." The wise man dies just like the fool. Why, then, is it better to be wise than to be a fool?
It is easy for a person who has never been rich and powerful (like me) to say that riches and power don't amount to very much. That kind of talk often hides envy under a patina of righteousness. But this disillusionment of riches and power comes from a man who had absolutely everything. There was nothing he did not have, or did not give himself the license to have. Yet, he came to the conclusion that his enormous riches and power were all vanity and vexation of spirit, and that death was the most miserable prospect ahead. The truth is that life is way too short. Just when you get the experience and begin to enjoy it, your body decays and you have to die.
My sheep will hear my voice
Jesus said: My sheep will hear my voice and follow me. If another shepherd calls them they will run away from him. That is so true. All the time I listened to teachers and gurus and the like I would eventually arrive at a point where a disagreement would appear. At some point, I would not follow anymore. Their teachings, ultimately, for one reason or another had no substance; or, more ominously, left something unresolved. But when I heard his voice I followed him, I was captivated. What happened? What made me do that? It was quite simple, he got me to read the Bible and brought me to the conclusion that he exists. So, when I heard his voice I went after him. There was a recognition factor that was amazingly well described by Jesus regarding the difference between his voice and the voices of the false shepherds. I would not follow them but I did follow him. He is in human flesh the all-powerful being that is the creator of matter and life. Where else can anyone go? I am much too stubborn and distrustful, but he is different, I can go after him.
The problem with the heathen is that they seem to be deaf to God. And, of course, they are. And, of course, only God can open their ears. Then, the question arises, why doesn't God open everybody's ears? Is salvation available to every human being? I would love to know. But, is it possible that even after God opens someone's ears, this person could stop his own ears and refuse to listen to him? I think that is possible. Look at Saul, the first King of the Israelites, he was: Chosen by God himself to be captain over his people (Samuel I, 9:16.); anointed by Samuel (Samuel I, 10:1.); he was turned into another man (Samuel I, 10:6.); was given a new heart (Samuel I, 10:9.); had the Spirit of God come upon him (Samuel I, 10:9.) That pretty much covers everything. At this point no one could say he was not saved. Yet, he wasn't saved, and we know that he wasn't saved because he consulted a witch, and nobody who is saved would consult a witch. How is it possible that he was chosen of God, given a new heart; was turned into another man, had the Spirit of God come upon him but lost his salvation? Was he never saved? Or was he saved but wrenched himself away?
Can the call of God be shut out? Can God be resisted? Could Lazarus have rebelled against Jesus after Jesus brought him back from the dead? Can the assurance of eternal life in a world that will be ruled by God where there will be no malice or wickedness of any sort, where we will live for ever in perfect health in a body of flesh and bone that will not decay or age, can that assurance be resisted or refused? I don't know. For myself, I don't think so. But some people do resist. It is totally unbelievable to me that a person to whom the gospel were to be explained properly would not take it. Where can something like this be obtained? A full payment for my sins? And yet, the stone casing around our hearts is so tough that unless God himself intervened no one would be saved. I know that first hand.
Death & Life
What was your life for? Awareness of death, will to live. Creativity and Depression. Cravings and desires. Futility of life. The door of death.
Death is what drives these questions, this whole matter of the existence of God, the existence of Hell, the existence of Heaven, all these questions are prodded by the existence of death and our inability to stop it. One cannot talk about life without talking about death. Death and life are together like the two sides of a coin.
The word "Death" means separation. The first death is separation of our spirit from our body. Up to that point, though we are separated from God as heathens, God is still available. The second death is separation of our spirit from God. The second death makes God no longer available. It is an eternal separation. What a terrible prospect! What hope is there for me if my first impulse is to covet?
The second death is to be feared above all, it is to be forever abandoned in the horrible place, in some kind of existence, in torment with absolutely no hope of access to God.
What was your life for?
Some people say: None of that is true, Hell does not exist, when you die you just die and you go to sleep like a rock. Maybe, maybe, let's assume that's true. But even if you were going to go to sleep like a rock, with absolutely no consequence, death is still abhorrent. What was your life for? Just chasing after nothing. Having tasted life and not having it forever is awful.
We don't have any control over this thing. What people believe about death doesn't make any difference, everybody dies. Whether they believe in God or not, everybody dies. It is interminable. One generation after another dies. The babies just born will not stay babies. They will grow up and die like everybody else. We die young, we die old, but we all die, even me, unbelievable as that is to me right this minute.
From the beginning of the world there is an endless parade of people marching toward death. If one were looking at the parade through a window one would see people appear on one side of the window and disappear on the other, on, and on, and on.
If it weren't for death, the total assurance of death, the question of our eternal destiny would be answered by us. Instead, we have this situation where the matter of our eternal destiny is not in our hands.
One reason why people don't want to be reminded of their impending demise is that the awareness of death paralyzes the will to live. If I'm going to die anyway, why do anything? Why study? Why work? Why try to learn anything? Why try to build anything? It's all for nothing.
But there is a paradox regarding this awareness. On the one hand, it can throw a person into deep depression and suicidal impulses. On the other hand, it can throw a person into creativity. The shortness of life compels one to think about either ending it quickly, or, pursuing one's art.
Awareness of death, will to live
Long ago, before God made himself known to me, there was a very intriguing question on my mind for which I had no answer. The question is: How can one acquire the awareness of death but retain the will to live?
I would read about the lives of poets or painters or musicians or other artists and almost invariably when talking about their personal lives they would mention some event that had, usually in dramatic fashion, heightened their awareness of death. The death of a loved one or a personal experience of great danger, may have been the cause for this sudden shift. This new perception, in turn, had spurred them on to do the thing they really loved. This awareness of death hurried them and brought creativity to the fore.
Creativity and depression
But, this opening of the psyche that results in an appreciation of life at a deeper level and allows for creativity to increase, can also increase depression. The more you open up to the joy of life, the more you will increase the depths of your pain. Why? It's simple, really. The range of feelings is like a rainbow, it cannot be increased at only one end. When it increases at one end it also increases at the other end.
That is the whole problem with Eastern meditations, which I practiced for years. When you quiet your mind and there is a flat, faint, high pitched noise deep inside your ears, there is a sensation of floating in a sea of nothing, a sense of wonder, strangeness, sadness. What is this thinking and moving, seeing and eating, walking and breathing? The very strange thing that is life becomes overwhelming. At this point of being overwhelmed there is a stretching of one's range of feeling. While this is highly desirable from the point of view of one's creativity, the fact is that this sensitivity, or rawness, heightens every emotion. Joy and pain become much more intense. Joy will bring you very high, pain will take you very low. Aloneness and despair become part of our reality. For those who are trying to get rid of the ego, this deepening of feeling makes that task increasingly difficult.
Cravings and desires
And in fact, in order to get rid of the ego one must squelch absolutely every feeling. If one comes from the perspective that cravings and desires are the cause of all suffering, then no feeling can be allowed that would increase cravings and desires, particularly feelings of loss. Joy may be allowed as celebration of life, but pain must be kept out. The mask of acceptance and impassivity must be put on. But over the long run that mask doesn't hold. If the individual refuses to feel pain he will be unable to feel joy. If the joy of life is experienced, the opening to joy will increase the pain of the reality of death.
That is, if you're honest. If you're not honest you will simply join the ranks of plenty of other people who proclaim that death is an illusion. Butterflies dreaming they are people and all that. But if you observe them for a while, those who say this life is an illusion, you will see that none of them goes to play on the freeway. And the death of someone close to them really shakes them up. Eventually they might talk themselves into believing that those people are fine, the dead ones, but it really is an exercise in guessing. I will assume the best and that's all there is to it. Their Karma did not appear too bad, so, they have probably gone to the next level, a higher form of life, undoubtedly.
I know all the words. I have heard and listened to Satan for years. The masters and teachers and gurus I listened to, and gave my money to over the years while I was a heathen, were the mouthpiece of Satan. Without knowing it, of course. They thought they were doing the right thing. Satan doesn't tell you he is using you when he is using you. We are all duped into his service. Interestingly enough, all these gurus and masters, without exception, took care of their health very meticulously. It was obvious, no matter what their claims of illusion, that nobody wanted to die, they all wanted to live.
Going back to creativity, opening up to creativity allows the individual to experience life at a very deep level. This experience turns on the light on a floor of the internal building never seen before. But there are items in there that can be double-edged swords. Every actor who has ever portrayed a drama knows what it is to delve in the depths of the psyche. He or she has to open up fully to the demands of the character they are portraying. A good actor is not just a good actor. He or she has to become the fictional, or not fictional, person they are portraying. He or she must become another human being, whether they be a good guy or a bad guy. The problem for the actor, actress, or even athletes, is that they are stuck with that level of opening. Whatever depth of emotions they had to experience in order to portray their role accurately is now forever theirs. That is one of the reasons why there is so much depression among artists, and significant violence among athletes in their respective private lives.
Futility of life
When the play is over, when the book is finished, or when the season ends there is a black hole of despair. And there is a rage that smolders. There is despair at the futility of life. That opening of emotional levels hitherto unknown has provided glimpses of death, that inevitable termination. Why was I born just to die? It would have been better not to have been born than to be born and have to die. Everything is worthless. The resentment is deep. Why bother me? Who asked that I should be born? Why was I brought into life? Why let me taste life if I am going to die? Nobody consulted me as to whether I should be born. And now that I'm here, what? What is there to look forward to? There is nothing, only this death.
That is the conclusion when there is no hope. And there is absolutely no hope outside the God of the Bible. The only way one can acquire the awareness of death but retain the will to live is to have the assurance of eternal life. The most dismal situation that can possibly be imagined would be our lives without a rescuer, Christ, our City of Refuge. One can retain the will to live when one is assured of living again, in peace, eternally.
Oh, I'm clinging to the promises of God. My mind is totally closed about this. Where am I going to go? Only he has the words of life. There is nothing else to consider. I am totally expectant of eternal life with him.
The door of death
But just ahead is the door of death and I will have to go through it. To get to Heaven and eternal life I have to go through the door of death, and I'm not crazy about it. Somebody once said "everybody wants to go to Heaven but nobody wants to die." Count me in that number. I would sure like to have some kind of instant transformation right now while I'm still alive. Straight into the new Heaven and the new Earth without having to go through death. I suppose I can look at the Rapture as a possible means to get that instant transformation. But a lot of people have died waiting for the Rapture. Besides, all that matter is unclear and it is juxtaposed by the statement that it is appointed for a man once to die. All I know is that I want to have eternal life and that's why I look forward to it with great expectation. But the very thirst for life that makes me want to have eternal life absolutely abhors the prospect of death, which in turn makes me think of Jesus and his death, his horrible death. It was horrible not just because it was slow and painful, but because he was life himself. For him to enter the realm of death must have been totally repulsive. He went through the filth of death, he the King.
Yet, in as much as I feel, and certainly no more than a fraction of, his repugnance for death, I am glad he did it, otherwise I would be utterly without hope in the world.
Good health, prosperity and peace. Attracted and repulsed. Feed my lambs. Faith. Assurance of salvation. Glorious mercy of God.
Good health, prosperity and peace
There are at least three things people all over the world want, even the heathen. These things are: Good health, prosperity, and peace. Country of origin, race, gender, make no difference. Everybody wants those things. Instead, the reality we face ahead in our lives is not those things but the total opposite of them. What we are going to experience in this life is not good health, prosperity and peace. On the health issue, as age advances, there is more and more frailty and general health deteriorates. On prosperity, there are more health related expenses and less ability to earn. Concerning peace, the frailty coming on and the lack of sufficient earnings only makes us see uncertainty ahead. And, if you are rich and have plenty of money and don't have to worry about prosperity you will have all the more time to think about your death fast approaching. Which could also lead to deterioration of health, which could take away any sense of prosperity, which could do away with any sense of peace one might derive from an opulent economic situation.
Attracted and repulsed
It is impossible to minimize the consequences of your belief system. If you don't have it right who knows what your final destination will be. Whether or not Satan is behind it, people are all caught up in the things of this world, the snare that makes them forget about things of eternity. Work and relationships of every kind absorb all their attention. Money problems, bad bosses, bad spouses, bad news on the telly; all these combine in such a web of distractions that nothing else can be thought about. By far, most of the heathen respond with surprise when Heaven and Hell are mentioned. They are attracted and repulsed at the same time. They pull away the shoulder and say: What? Heaven, Hell? C'mon. I don't want to hear about it. Heaven and Hell are right here and it's what you make of life. I want to enjoy my life, I want to be happy. I'm just too busy staying afloat, raising a family, keeping a job. I can't think about that right now. I work hard all week and when I get home and on weekends all I want to do is kick back and relax. Don't tell me about that stuff.
They are shaken, they are troubled. They are hungry and thirsty but don't know they are hungry and thirsty. Before they can respond they need to be conscious of their hunger and thirst and most of them have no idea of their condition. They are restless, but don't know what they need, and it is frightening to think about questions of eternity. They bury their heads in work, in money deals, in passionate loves, in acquisition of things. In those cases, telling people that the blood of Jesus is available as the total and complete payment for their sins and that they will not go to Hell after they die but instead will go to Heaven to live forever with God, telling them that is to throw the pearls in front of the pigs. The pearls will be trampled and nothing will be accomplished. They will not reach for the free gift and will go to Hell.
Though everyone is hungry, we do know that the sheep are hungrier than the heathen. The heathen are satisfied for a while with the things of this world. But the sheep are not, with the sheep we can talk.
What about the lost sheep? How, specifically, are they lost? Are they lost as far as their salvation? Or are they lost in regards to knowing who God is? Well, certainly, God is absolutely faithful and salvation is guaranteed for those whom he chooses (where the question still hangs as to whether someone could work himself out from under his wing). If nothing else, God will let them know whatever it is they need to know for them to be saved in the last millisecond of their life. So, they must be lost only in the sense of knowing who God is. And, when the sheep don't know who God is they are absolutely miserable. They don't fit in the world and have no place to go. Jesus told us that if we love him we are to feed his sheep. If we love Jesus we alleviate the suffering of the sheep by revealing to them who God is.
Feed my lambs
In fact, to feed his sheep is the most important job Jesus left for us to do. This is shown in the last chapter of the Gospel of John. This episode between Jesus and Peter takes place after the resurrection, so, perhaps Peter was still remorseful for having denied Jesus prior to the crucifixion. Jesus asks Peter if Peter loves him. When Peter says, "yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee, Jesus answers, "feed my lambs." Jesus asks the question three times, "Peter, do you love me?" By the third time you can see Peter was beginning to get distraught. John 21:17, reads: "He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Lord thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, feed my sheep."
There is a clear note of hurt in Peter's voice. You know that I love you, why do you keep asking?, as if Jesus were putting in doubt Peter's love for him. But Jesus was not questioning the love of Peter. What Jesus was doing was impressing upon Peter, telling Peter, what was the proper use and focus of that love, namely, the feeding of his sheep.
The best thing one can do to please God, and anyone who loves God will want to please him, is to feed his sheep. That Jesus asks the question three consecutive times indicates the high priority of the task. The head shepherd wants his sheep to be fed because he cares for his sheep. The shepherd will not leave the sheep alone to fend for themselves. The shepherd tends to the sheep, guides them into good pastures, protects them and feeds them. Why? Well, basically, because he cares for his sheep. The other reason he hovers over us is not very flattering to us. Sheep are fairly stupid, and need a lot of care. It's a good thing he loves us, otherwise, we could not survive in the world. The times he's gotten us out of trouble are without number.
Those of us who have been given faith are the delegate shepherds. What is this food that the delegate shepherds are supposed to feed to the flock? I suppose that there are probably as many dishes as there are people who think they are doing the work of God. But, at the very least, those who have been entrusted with faith must pass it on. The delegate shepherds must feed and nourish the sheep with that which builds faith. This is what satisfies hunger and thirst, the certainty of salvation.
Faith is reliance on God. The sheep need to learn how to rely on God, how to ask of God, how to reach God. Faith is reliance on God. The delegate shepherds should be able to provide all the tools, or at least some of the tools, that build faith. The reason faith is necessary is because without faith it is impossible to please him. Think of it, one way you are sure to please him is by relying on him. That is doable, my perfection is not what he is after, all that is required to please him is to lean on him.
Faith is not something tenuous and mysterious that you are never quite sure of what it is, or whether or not you have it. You don't have to stand in front of the mirror and touch your face to see if you have it. Faith is not some kind of weird, blind belief. Faith is something concrete and attainable. There is no mystery or superstition involved in it. Faith, the word faith, means to trust, to rely on, to have confidence in, to lean on. Faith is clearly demonstrated in the motion or act of leaning on a staff, or a walking stick. Faith is what you exercise when you use the staff, stick it in the ground and pull yourself up a rise. Leaning with confidence on that staff describes precisely what faith is. When you shift your weight and lean on the staff you are exercising faith. You are completely trusting that the staff will not break. When you sit on a chair without thinking that the chair will collapse, that is faith. In the strict sense of salvation from Hell, faith is trusting on, relying on, having confidence in, leaning on the gift of the blood of Christ as the total payment for all your sins, past, present and future.
Assurance of salvation
The assurance of salvation results in growing hope, encouragement, and peace. Hope gives encouragement which results in peace. This peace is not like the momentary peace provided by the world's health and prosperity. This peace concerns another kind of health and prosperity even when living in this world. This is health and prosperity of the soul where events of the world don't rattle you, health and prosperity of the soul that awaits eternal life in a body that itself will have perfect health throughout eternity, and health and prosperity of the soul brought by guaranteed salvation from Hell. And there is no question that spiritual health translates into improvement of physical health at any level. In turn, the hope, encouragement, and peace that result from assurance of salvation also increase one's faith. How does faith increase? Faith increases in the same proportion that we know we are saved. Reliance on God grows from here, and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit that flow from faith grow from here, from the blessed assurance that Jesus is mine.
Glorious mercy of God
The assurance of salvation must filter all the way down into a person's dreams. Where is there more turmoil than in your dreams? Dreams of murder and fornication, or of being abandoned, at the mercy of demons without a rescuer. If I sin in my dreams, what hope is there for me other than Christ? In your very dreams, which is as close as you can get to your unconscious, you have to know that you are saved, rescued, protected, beyond a shadow of a doubt saved. In your very dreams you have to know you're saved. Not all your dreams will be like that but some will be. This is attainable, this is possible. As well as faith, peace comes in the same proportion that we know we are saved, saved, saved, without a doubt saved. From the fires of Hell we need to know we are saved. When this knowledge becomes rooted, the magnificent, glorious mercy of God toward us becomes more and more apparent.
Annihilation or Reincarnation?
The sheep must know how the heathen think. Hopes of the heathen. Life is a waste of time. Justice and fairness. Kill yourself while you're still good looking. Alternative professions. What if Hell does not exist?
So, we talk to the sheep. The heathen are within earshot. We have to take advantage of that, but we are still talking to the sheep. Is that preaching to the choir? It looks like it, but that's what we are told to do. Besides, it is not preaching as it's typically done in churches, i.e., flogging. It is proclaiming the safety there is in God. It is feeding the sheep.
What is the message of God to his sheep? The message is: Come back to me, where you belong. Quit running. You are going to Heaven with me. Your sins are paid for by the blood of my Son.
The sheep must know how the heathen think
Part of the protection of the sheep involves letting them know about the world, letting them know what there is out there in the world, and how the heathen think. The sheep must know how the heathen think because at the point they are lost the sheep think like the heathen. If you think like the heathen, you know how lost you are. The heathen think that the God of the Bible does not exist as he describes himself in the Bible.
Understanding what is at stake is all-important. One of the problems regarding Heaven and Hell is that there is no alternative between them. It's one or the other without a third choice. Here is where the importance of one's belief system is crucial. Let's say you don't believe there is a Heaven or a Hell, or you don't believe there is not a third choice, or many other choices. The wrong guess can land you in the ugly place. If you guess that reincarnation is what is going to happen and reincarnation doesn't happen you could be in a heap of trouble.
Hopes of the heathen
And reincarnation is one of the best hopes of the heathen. The other is annihilation. One of the two, either, cease to exist totally at the end of this life, go to sleep like a rock; or, come back in some other form, continue to exist in some way, hopefully in a pleasant environment. Those are some of the best hopes of the heathen: annihilation or reincarnation. Beyond that, another hope is that the punishment after death won't be too long, and either there will be total destruction at some point that will end the suffering; or, there will be an end to the suffering when it finally achieves its purpose of cleansing and then you get to go to the good place. Reincarnation offers many heavens and hells and you never really know where you're going to land. Much of the hope of the heathen, in order to avoid those hells, is based on good deeds surpassing bad deeds, the Law of Karma. But a good deed that is done in order to wipe out a bad deed is polluted from its inception. Because the good deed would not have been done with the sole purpose of benefitting the recipient of that good deed, but for our own benefit was it done. Still, in large strokes this is how the heathen think. There is a great deal riding on good deeds wiping out bad deeds. If you are counting on any of those vague hopes you know how much like the heathen you think. If you are counting on any of those, or variants thereof, you are a lost puppy in deep trouble.
Once again, let us consider the two major categories of what could happen after death. Something happens; or, nothing happens. If nothing happens there is nothing to worry about for those who reject the God of the Bible. Because if nothing happens it means that the God of the Bible does not exist and whatever threat emanates from there will not materialize. The "something happens" category can again be divided in two: If something happens it can be either good or bad. If it's good there is nothing to worry about. If it's bad...
Life is a waste of time
What if nothing happens? If nothing happens we go back again to where life is a waste of time. Work all your life for nothing and then die like a miserable dog. Suffer and struggle, for what? To buy a house? To raise a family? To build a company? Break your back working for your kids and they'll give you the boot when you are old and useless. In seventy, eighty, ninety years, or a handful more after that, you'll be dead, if you don't die younger. After you're dead, you'll be a memory only in photographs. And that just for a while. By the third, maybe fourth generation somebody will pull out the shoe box with the old photos and a new generation will look at the pictures and somebody will say, who is that?, referring to you, and another somebody will say, let me see, hmmm..., I don't know, I'm not sure, maybe it was a friend of the family. The picture will be thrown away and that's it. That was your whole life. Nobody is going to remember at all who you were. Even if you make a great contribution to civilization and are remembered for centuries, or belong to a family that keeps meticulous records of their ancestors, all they will remember is your name. There will be no connection with whom you really were, your dreams and aspirations, your triumphs and defeats, your highs and your lows. Even if you were remembered for hundreds of years, you would still have only a relatively small amount of time to spend on this Earth. And then you will die. What a terrible end to look forward to. When God is out of the picture there is nothing but dismay.
Justice and fairness
Also, if nothing happens after this life there is no justice at all in the world. This life is a joke. All the ideas of man about justice, equality, freedom, love, brotherhood, etc., would be utter nonsense. I have seen the wicked prosper and spread themselves like a green bay tree, buying properties, making the big money cheating and stealing, enjoying life and then dying full of years among their own... There is no punishment for the ruin they caused if this is it. On a different scale are the great criminals of history, dictators through the ages, despots who killed millions of people and caused suffering to many more millions. These despots died only one death. That certainly was not enough retribution for shedding so much innocent blood. They got away with it. If this life is all there is, there is no justice in any form, no punishment, no reward. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, the great murderers of history and Mother Theresa all would have gone to the grave together. Is this justice and fairness? Obviously, that's neither justice nor fairness.
Kill yourself while you're still good looking
Another aspect to be considered, if this life is all there is, is this: If it's true that life is hard and then you die, why not avoid the hard part? Kill yourself. Committing suicide seems the most reasonable thing to do. If you are going to die anyway, why not accelerate the process? All there is ahead before death, assuming you don't die young, is increased physical deterioration, lack of resources and no peace. Who's ready for that? Before death, suffering and slow decay. Forget that, going young at full speed is the thing to do. Somebody once said: Live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse. Kill yourself while you're still good looking and in the process you'll find out for sure whether or not anything happens. And don't kid yourself that you are a very special person because you thought or are thinking about suicide. Most people carry that ace up their sleeve. The reasoning is simple: If things get too tough in this life I'll bail out; if at some point I cannot stand it, I'll kill myself. If there is nothing after death and you have a chance of going to sleep like a rock or of being reincarnated and you are tired of this life it's hard to see why suicide would not be a viable, logical option.
Another aspect of the possibility that nothing happens after this life is that there is a whole field of alternative professions one might consider going into. If all we are is a better monkey, what difference does it make how you make a living? One could seek out a lucrative position as a hit man, for instance. Murdering for money can bring a good load of cash and there should be plenty of work, seeing how there are so many people thinking murderous thoughts about their friends and family. There is probably a good market for such a profession. I think I would make a good criminal. I pay attention to details, I am relatively smart, and wicked enough. If nothing happens after this life a career as a criminal would be within the available options. Don't tell me about morality. Why should I care if there is nothing after this life? If the wicked prosper, why shouldn't I?
What if something happens? Well, if something happens and it's good, that's fine. No problem. The whole problem, as I've said before, is if something bad happens. The thing to do is to make sure that whatever happens is good and not bad. This assurance resides one hundred percent in the appropriation of the death of Christ as the payment for our sins. No matter what anybody says, no matter how sophisticated the reasoning of critical theologians, psychologists, philosophers, or whoever, anybody who says that Hell does not exist is simply stating an opinion, not a fact. No one who says that Hell does not exist can know for sure. No one can be sure that Hell, as described in the Bible, does not exist. At the very least, they don't know. The most restrained, conservative, prudent, realistic assessment would have to include ignorance as to whether or not Hell really exists. I don't care what they say, I can't take a chance.
What if Hell does not exist?
What if Hell does not exist? What if there is an after- life but no Hell? Well, then, in that case, everything is fine. Just pretend I'm telling you a scary movie. You pays your money you takes your choice.
In the most basic level of survival, my choice is to assume that Hell exists. If I'm wrong, everything is fine. But if I assume that Hell does not exist and I'm wrong, then, everything will not be fine.
If he saves ten why not twenty? The Law is for the Israelites and for the stranger. Deist- Atheist. Are Election and Free Will mutually exclusive?
If he saves ten why not twenty?
I still don't know why God chooses to save some beyond their ability to resist and not others. For all the immense suffering he went through for us he should choose everybody. If he saves ten why not twenty?, and so on. He does set apart some people (makes them holy) to serve specific purposes, like the prophets who stood up to every bad leader Israel and Judah had. But it is also evident that he doesn't do that to everybody.
He reveals himself to many but not all of them get saved. Perhaps this is where free will comes in. He wants people to be curious, as Moses was with the burning bush. He wants people to be curious about a life after this one. This life doesn't make any sense. Why is anybody born if they are all going to die? He wants people to come in and have a chat, reason together so they can see the hopelessness of their situation. He wants people to surrender their free will to him much as one surrenders free will in an Army. He wants blind obedience.
That would be the other side of "election beyond ability to resist," where those not chosen to be saved from the foundation of the world were nevertheless saved in times past, and will be saved in the future. Those not on the list from the foundation of the world could get on the list during their lifetime. Those could be the heathen who did not receive the inheritance of revelation as did Israel but who heard of the God of Israel revealed in the Bible and went after him.
The Law is for the Israelites and for the stranger
From the very beginning of the establishment of the Law God makes it clear that the Law is for the Israelites and for the stranger (everyone else in the world) that sojourns with the Israelites. Exodus 12: 49, "One Law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you." This statement is repeated several times in the Law. The Israelites were the chosen ones but the stranger, though not chosen in the same manner as the Israelites, had, has, access to the salvation of God through the blood of his lamb. Nobody can take this away from me.
But the word "chosen" as applied to the Israelites (and to anyone else) does not necessarily mean "chosen to be saved." After the first Passover in Egypt many people who had been covered by the blood when they came out(and appeared to be saved at that point) still died unsaved. At the same time, dying in the wilderness is not necessarily a sign of being unsaved. If dying in the wilderness were a sign of being unsaved, then, we would have to conclude that Moses was not saved because he died in the wilderness. He did not enter the Promised Land. But we know for sure that Moses was saved because he appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.
The reverse of dying in the wilderness is entering the Promised Land. Entering the Promised Land is generally thought of as being saved. But there we also find that many people who entered the Promised Land were not saved. Entering the Promised Land was not a guarantee that they were saved or would be saved. There is much tradition these days that passes for Scripture. Not entering the Promised Land is generally taken as a sign of being lost, and entering the Promised Land is generally taken as a sign of being saved. Neither of those traditions is true.
The Israelites were chosen in the sense that to them was the Law given, and chosen in that God said he was going to make them a showcase to the world. But in that context God also told them that he would do terrible things to them. They were chosen for the revelation of salvation, not necessarily salvation itself. The revelation of salvation shows us both a blessing and a curse, and that applies to everyone. The blessing and the curse are for all humanity. The blessing occurs when we run to him, the curse occurs when we run away from him. When we run away from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we fall into a curse of our own doing, we go right into the claws of Satan.
So, the Israelites were chosen to be recipients of the Law, but the Law of God was not then, and it is not now, the exclusive property of the Israelites. God himself instituted access to the stranger in the Law. This access is seen very early when God instructs the Israelites concerning the Passover. Not only the Israelites were told to partake of the safeguard provided by the sacrificial lamb, but the stranger, the Egyptians and anyone else who would listen, had the opportunity to be saved. All they needed to do was to paint the top post and side posts of their doors with the blood of the lamb (that they themselves would kill and eat) and the Angel of the Lord, when he saw the blood, would pass over them and spare the death of the firstborn in that family.
Several times throughout the Pentateuch the stranger is mentioned as having access, recourse, to the Law. The stranger was given as much right as the Israelite to avail himself of the salvation written in the Law. Of course, this doesn't mean that they are not chosen. But if we take the Israelites as the ones chosen from the foundation of the world, the stranger may perhaps represent those who were not chosen at that time but chosen later, as life in the world unfolds.
Another instance where it appears that some of the heathen might be saved, happens in Matthew 15: 22 to 28. A woman of Canaan pleads with Jesus to heal her daughter. At first, he doesn't even answer her. And, then, when he does answer, he is harsh, and says he came but to the lost sheep of Israel. She insists and says to him, "Lord, help me." But he answers by saying that the food of the children should not be given to the dogs. "And she said, truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: Be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour."
The common idea that Jesus was just testing the Canaanite woman is not in the Bible. Jesus actually appears surprised and moved. There was an unrelenting quality to the faith of the Canaanite woman. She was going to hang on to him no matter what. The fact that he called her a dog was not enough to deter her. She knew that he had the power to heal and he could heal her daughter by simply deciding to do so. It should be noted that the Canaanites had been the most ancient enemies of the Israelites. It was the land of Canaan that the Israelites went to posses after coming out of Egypt. That land was the inheritance of the Israelites, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But, in order to posses that land, they had to dispossess the Canaanites who were already there. This, of course, made the Canaanites mortal enemies of the Israelites. So, the coming of the Canaanite woman, a sworn enemy, to Jesus, hints at the possibility of salvation for some of the heathen. And it fits the character of God in that he has no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, which includes us.
But if I really believed that there is a Hell wouldn't I be grabbing people by their sleeves out in the streets to make them listen? Wouldn't I be crazy about this? Wouldn't I become desperate about it? Or is it that, ultimately, I really don't care if people go to Hell?
This is no joke. Sometimes I have the feeling that I don't care. If they go to Hell, so what? I answered the call of God, I'm safe. They could answer the same way, if they wanted to. If they don't want to hear about God, what can I do?
I've gone around and around with this one. Is it really that I don't care? It scares me to think that I may not care because I am supposed to care. But if God knows what I'm thinking, and he does, he would know whether or not I cared. I could not fool him by pretending I cared if I didn't. It's not possible to deceive him. We stand transparent in front of him.
But no, I don't think it is that I don't care. It's more like I become numb. When I think of family members, co-workers, friends, acquaintances and other people whom I like and respect, people of all kinds who will go to Hell, my response is to become numb. It is a simple defense mechanism that allows me to live without going crazy at the terrible future awaiting those who die in rebellion against God.
Yet, I know I have no lack of caring. I know I have no lack of caring because I highly rejoice when someone understands and appropriates the blood of Christ as payment for their sins. The exultation is out of proportion to my previous apparent non-caring. If I didn't care whether they got saved I wouldn't care when they get saved.
So, what is there to say to the heathen? To begin with, there
are at least two divisions among the heathen. One is a deist, the other atheist. Some believe in a deity or deities of some sort, spirits and the like; others do not believe in the existence of anything like God or an invisible world. There are many variants of these two but that's basically it.
In the first group one finds people who believe there is a God, somewhere. There must a be a God, a thing, a supreme being of some sort that created all of this, matter and the world, life. However, even though this God, this entity, may exist, he is not exclusive to one religion. Of course not. This God is definitely not the God of the Bible. This a popular thought nowadays. The God of the Bible is too narrow, they pipe. God, if there is one, is too big for one religion, so it cannot just be the God of the Bible. As long as you do a little bit of this and a little bit of that, you'll be O.K.. The Hindus have good things to say, and the Buddhists, and the Muslims, and many others. God has appeared to different peoples, at different times, in different parts of the world and all religions have good things in common. It's all the same God. So, if you behave in accordance to a common denominator, you will probably be just fine. Burn a little incense, be kind to people, light a candle, meditate, you know the shtick.
The second group says there is no God. This material world is all there is. Matter appeared somehow, out of nothing, all by itself. Life is the product of chance combination of matter, a few proteins, a little bit of carbon, a little bit of this, a little bit of that, a bolt of lightning and that's your first cell. From inorganic to organic in a jump. Just like that. Evolution of chaos into order. All the information for every possible life form contained in that first cell appeared all by itself. Or else, information started on its own in a primitive way and it is going upward instead of downward, and it is never lost in transmission. The universe was caused by the Big Bang and the Big Bang came out of nothing. Or nobody knows how it happened. The fact that something coming out of nothing violates the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics is not a problem. We'll decide that before the appearance of the universe the Laws of Thermodynamics did not apply. Yea, sure, why not? But right now, we can not ignore the fact that nothing can come out of nothing. We can say matter is eternal but what we observe is that everything in existence is decaying. If it is decaying it had a beginning and it is not eternal, therefore it was made at some point. By whom or how no one knows. Science tells us that we don't how it all happened but we know for certain it was not God.
The deist says there is not just one God. The atheist says there is no God. One is an idolater, the other self-righteous. Both are in rebellion and they are both going to Hell. How can they be stopped in their foolishness? They have no sense of danger, there is no consideration of the consequences of being wrong. The word to the heathen is: You'd better become a sheep before death catches up with you.
The fact is that by far most of the people in the world since creation have died unsaved, most of the people existing today will die unsaved, and future generations will mostly die unsaved. Even some members of our immediate families will die unsaved. The hopes that many Christians have today of worldwide revival will go unfulfilled. It is not going to happen. Only a remnant will be saved, the Bible says.
Man's rebellion has only increased, Satan's work is quite successful. Most of the Christian world is going faster and faster into apostasy, further and further away from God himself. Jesus says in Matthew 15:8: "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me."
Is there hope anywhere? Oh, yea. The hope is that the God of the Bible be a reality. The existence of the God of the Bible is our only hope. Because if he exists like that we have it made. He has obligated himself to save out of the fire all those who claim the blood of Christ as payment for their sins.
How can we know this is true? How do we know that God is going to catch us in our free fall after death?
The only way we can know for sure is by looking at history and reading the Bible. The Bible is a record of miracles, land purchases, contracts and historical facts. Specifically, the first five books, the Pentateuch written by Moses. Everything else after the Pentateuch is subordinate to the Pentateuch.
And the whole subject of the authenticity of the Pentateuch when it was written and by whom can be summed up quickly. Jesus did not cast doubt about who wrote it. He did not talk about "C," "D" and "P," he never said, "well, I'm not sure, there are so many different styles of writing ..., I just don't know." Only present day theologians have doubts about who wrote the Pentateuch. Present day theologians seem to know for sure that a person can not have different styles of writing. A salesman who writes receipts and reports could never write a novel. Go tell it to Tom Clancy.
The idea that Jesus had limited knowledge of who wrote the Pentateuch because he had divested himself of his glory is not believable. He obviously did not divest himself of his God-ness, proven by the fact that he could do miracles. Of course, the "C," "D" and "P" crowd would say that the miracles probably never really happened. These were just exaggerations or staged events. The loaves and fishes "miracle" could have been done by storing things in a cave beforehand. He could have known the location of the rocks he stepped on when he gave the impression of walking on water. Exaggerations, literary styles, wishful thinking, politics, tales many times retold. Who knows?
But apparently, in his day, the claims of Jesus and his deeds were taken very seriously. He said he saw the gladness of Abraham at his coming. When he was instantly challenged because of his age, they said to him: "You're thirty years old, and you saw Abraham?," he told them: "Before Abraham was, I am." I am? Only God can say "I am" and make it stick. He was claiming to be God. The Jewish clergy were incensed at his saying "I am." The seeds of Jesus crucifixion were sown by Jesus, because he knew what he had to do: He was the Lamb of the Passover, he was the dove slain in whose blood another dove was dipped and then set free. He was going to redeem his people with his blood. He did not at any time lose his consciousness of being God.
He said he saw Satan as lightning fall from Heaven. That's pretty far back, before the creation of man. Obviously, Jesus did not divest himself of all knowledge. I think he probably knew who wrote the Pentateuch and by whose clear instructions. I'm going to take my chances and trust Jesus over the theologians.
Going back to the Pentateuch and how to approach it, we must remember that the Holy Spirit is the revealer of all truth. And there is no mystery to this. There are no special qualities one must have to comprehend the words of the Bible. The Holy spirit reveals just as any teacher reveals, with repetition, examples and accumulation of facts.
The Holy Spirit is the one who takes the things of Christ and shows them to us. One must approach the Bible as a child and be awed. The Holy Spirit then has a chance to work. If God can do what he says he did in the Pentateuch, namely, the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, the creation of humans from clay (as is commonly known today it has been confirmed by science that we share all the chemical components with dirt); all the events leading up to the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt; the plagues; the death of the firstborn; the Exodus itself; the crossing of the Red Sea, if he can do all that, then, he is indeed the most we have heard with our ears. Also, if he can do all that, bringing Jesus back from the dead was relatively easy.
History is the test. What one finds in history is that the Exodus did happen. There may be disagreement regarding the exact date but the fact that it happened is not seriously in question. History says the Exodus happened, the Bible says the Exodus happened. If the Exodus happened, why did it happen? Why would the Egyptians let the Israelites go? The Egyptians were on a building binge, building cities, monuments, they had big projects and all these slaves as free labour. There was no incentive to allow them to leave.
The fact that the Israelites were growing too fast and could have posed a threat to Egypt is the reason given in the Bible as to why the Egyptians put them to work and enslaved them. Part of the building binge was both to keep the Israelites busy and possibly to defend against them in the future.
But if the Egyptians were really afraid that the Israelites would rise up against them all they had to do was to kill a bunch of them. That would intimidate the rest and quiet them down. They could have done that, it was in their power to do. It doesn't make sense that they would let the Israelites go. It cannot be explained.
Unless, of course, the horrendous day of the death of the firstborn in every family of Egypt really happened. There was a cry of horror in every household of Egypt, all the firstborn everywhere had died. The Egyptians were stunned and terrified at the Israelites in their midst. There was a power residing with the Israelites that was not with anybody else. They were more afraid than angry, that's why they expelled them. If the Egyptians had been more angry than afraid they would have killed the Israelites, instead of letting them go.
There have been programs on T.V. showing the wilderness where the Exodus supposedly happened and saying that the Exodus never really happened. It couldn't have happened simply because the terrain is completely inhospitable and without a doubt unable to sustain people, eight hundred thousand men armed for war, their wives, children and their cattle. I guess nobody told God it couldn't be done.
The Bible says God performed miracles. Miracles are events that take place in absolute opposition to Laws of nature that we know to be immutable. The claims of the Bible are that God has done things in the sight of men that cannot be done by human means. The Law of gravity is immutable. But if an iron ax head floats in water, that goes contrary to the Law of gravity. There are no human means that can cause that to happen. When God split apart the Red Sea, where there was a wall of water on the left and a wall of water on the right, God intervened in the natural world stopping unstoppable processes. The intervention of God in the natural world is what we call a miracle, something not possible by human means.
God performed the same kind of intervention when he raised Jesus from the dead. This time he reversed an irreversible process. And, in turn, if the resurrection did happen, everything else the Bible says is true. If Jesus came back from the dead he is indeed the Son of God, the Kinsman Redeemer, the payment for sin.
By extension, if the Bible's claim to be the word of God is true, there is nothing else in the world to read more important than the Bible. All the instruction is there, all the pillars to erect a temple of faith in your insides where God can permanently reside are there. The assurance of salvation is there. The love of God and the love for God are there.
But, let us be sure we understand, for Jesus, death was not "relatively easy." Jesus, God clothed in a tent of human flesh, gave himself up to something he had never known before. He gave himself up to death, the filth of death, no less. For God the eternal, the self existing one, to taste death... It is impossible to imagine how painful, disgusting, and repugnant that was for him.
People all over the world want spiritual peace. What they mean is that they want assurance that everything will be all right after they die. That they will not end up in some horrendous situation. People want complete assurance of salvation from the fires of Hell. How are you going to obtain that assurance? Well, the only place where such assurance exists is in the Bible. Even if all religions were equally valid as a way to reach God, Christianity is the only one which offers a free passage. Everyplace else you look is works. Your works will save you out of the fire. Go ahead, take a chance, see what happens to you.
The only way to attain assurance of salvation from the fires of Hell is by reading the Bible.
The problem is that all that may be well and good, but you have to want to do it, you have to want to read the Bible. Unfortunately, when you're an unbeliever that's the last thing you want to do. The Bible is to be shunned, scorned, put down, dismissed.
Are election and free will mutually exclusive?
So, here we go back to the question of election and free will. All this is profoundly intriguing. Is there a free will we exercise to come to God? Do we come to God of our own free will? If the only way we are saved is by sovereign election of God (and it is), where is the free will to accept the blood of the Lamb? Are election and free will mutually exclusive? No, I don't think so. But there is an order. Election comes first and then we move with free will. When God condescends to put fear in our hearts, then, there is a measure of free will that is exercised. It is the same free will that compels one to grab hold of a rope when drowning, or the free will exercised when jumping out of a burning building. Before that, the only thing free will is good for is rebellion.
Ultimately, rebellion is a function of ignorance. As long as one doesn't know with whom one is contending there can be rebellion. Even Satan was ignorant of the totality of God. Otherwise, he would not have done what he did.
The difference between us and God, in terms of power, cannot be adequately expressed. If nothing else, it cannot be expressed because the extent of the power of God is not known.
Which brings us to that if anyone had the certainty of the existence of the God of the Bible as he describes himself in the Bible, they would have no trouble bending to his will. Because it becomes a question of raw power, power to destroy and to kill and to make suffer, and power to build and to make alive and to give joy. If anyone knew for sure this God existed they would have to go to him. There would be nothing else that could be compared to this God.
And yet, can a person rebel against God to the point of preferring Hell rather than Heaven? Yes, I think so. But it's never a very conscious choice. It's more like not caring, it's like saying, "so what if I go to Hell? There's nothing I can do about it, anyway, and it's probably not so bad."
Disregard for the consequences speaks of profound ignorance. One of the reasons we don't read the Bible much, particularly the Old Testament, is that we are afraid. We'd rather not know. We are afraid we are going to be told we have to do this and we have to do that, and we would be instantly condemned because we are so stubborn and rebellious. We know that when somebody tells us to do any certain thing our immediate reaction is to do exactly the contrary. We are afraid of condemnation, that's why we don't want to know.
The question, then, should be: If I am ignorant of the law of God for whatever reason, can God hold me accountable? Oh, I have the answer to that: Yes, absolutely yes. The fact that in the Law there are sacrifices to pay for sins of ignorance means we are accountable even if we don't know we are committing a sin. God makes an excellent provision by giving us the opportunity to offer sacrifices for sins we don't know about, but for which we are still accountable. And we are particularly accountable if that ignorance is willful. I studied everything that came down the pike, except the Bible. I gave credence to every doctrine of false religions, including ancient and modern witchcraft, but rejected the God of the Bible. I was too smart for the Bible so I didn't need to read it. I walked in the counsel of the ungodly, and sat on the seat of the scornful. What little I knew about the Bible came from critics of the Bible, I fomented my own rebellion. That's willful ignorance. I didn't know because I didn't want to know. Why didn't I want to know? Well, I can say with a certain amount of certainty that Satan, the manipulator of this world, blinded my eyes. Unfortunately, the excuse doesn't wipe away the responsibility. The fact that the devil made me do it doesn't make any difference. I know I didn't want to know, of my own free will I didn't want to know. Why God bothered to catch me is still inscrutable to me.
The value of people in this world is measured in wealth or usefulness. Neither of those applies when God decides to save those whom he loves. God doesn't make any money when he saves us and he does not need assistance in the physical running of the universe. The proof of God's love is that we don't matter. If we were in any way needed by God, if we were vital to him, if he needed us to help him run the universe, he would have to save us. The fact that he saves us when he doesn't need us proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he loves us.
Why did the Romans not come up with a body? The Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. A strange silence. The resurrection was a hoax. The powerful Christians. Nobody can make them shut up. He was not really dead . He went into hiding. Lack of a body. Not enough skeptics.
So, let me switch gears at this point, to go from the esoteric to the exoteric, from what is hidden to what is out in the open, from the abstract to the concrete, from the complex to the simple. This is my stronghold, this is my trench. This is the place from which I cannot be moved.
There is a member of my internal committee who is in charge of disbelieving. That's his job. His job is to disbelieve. Whatever is presented to him he will disbelieve. For instance, this guy now totally does not believe that the Bible is not true. This member of my committee is the same guy who is not yet convinced that Hell does not exist.
Then, there is another member of that same committee who is in charge of wondering. When he gets something in his head that he cannot explain, he starts wondering about it and will not leave it alone. He is not content with just believing what someone told him. He has to go and look.
Why did the Romans not come up with a body?
My guy in charge of wondering has been wondering for a long time about this one thing, this very peculiar situation. Why did the Romans not come up with a body? It is incomprehensible to him why the Romans, faced with a situation spinning out of control, didn't produce a body.
It is a common tactic, for many of those who attack the Bible, to point to some passage that appears to contradict another and use that as a base to cast doubt on the veracity of the whole Bible. They say, "if there is a mistake here, how many other mistakes are there?"
A few verses in Mark that may or may not belong, all the different styles in the Pentateuch suggesting different writers at different periods of time all trying to invent a religion; an inability to reconcile numbers or dates, or how can it be that it says this over here, but when you come to this other place it says this other thing. Forget that. All those are minor points and I don't care to argue about minor points, particularly because I have seen that, for the most part, the arguments for doubt are based on misunderstanding or plain ignorance of what the whole Bible says.
The resurrection of Jesus the Christ
There is another point far more important than any
mistranslations, misconceptions or "contradictions." The whole argument, the whole fight, the whole bone of contention is the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. I am putting his full name and title right up there just so there is no confusion. I am talking about Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of the Bible, not some apparition in the Haight-Ashbury of San Francisco.
Every argument declaring the Bible to be true, as well as every argument declaring the Bible to be false, finally has to be decided on whether or not the resurrection of Christ is a fact. If Jesus came back from the dead the Bible is true. If Jesus did not come back from the dead the Bible is false.
Before the resurrection there was no real hope for mankind. But the resurrection brought a great light to all of us who lived under the shadow of death.
Before the resurrection, John 1:29: "Behold the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world;" or, Matthew 16: 16 "Thou are the Christ, the Son of the Living God ;" or, Leviticus 17: 11: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul," all those Bible verses were just promises.
The Covenant of God, the Kinsman Redeemer, the City of Refuge, the Passover Lamb, the Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant, the Mercy seat where he meets with us, all these were pie in the sky, in the sweet by' an' by'. Maybe yes, maybe no, nobody really knew.
But the resurrection of Christ makes everything different. What before was a promise has now come to pass. This is the stand, this is where the fight takes place, this is all I care to argue about. This is the linchpin of life itself. Can a person live again after he has died? After my eyes close in death, will I open them again? Will God make me live again? Will I experience life again after I have died? Will I have life again in a body of flesh and bone like I have now?
If Jesus came back from the dead, yes. If Jesus came back from the dead I will live again and everything the Bible says is true. God is whom David says he is. If Jesus did not come back from the dead the Bible is not true
Somebody once said: "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." The main thing is the Gospel, that is, the fact, the good news that Jesus has died for our sins. This fact transcends this life, has an effect after this life. We will not go to Hell after we die. The assurance provided by the resurrection cannot be overstated or overemphasized. What an escape he has made for us!
The proof that my sins are paid for is that Jesus came back from the dead. If he had not come back from the dead he would not have been the payment for sin. Humanity would still be in limbo and Jesus would have been just another person in history filled with self-aggrandizement. The assertion that Jesus is God would be false, the assertion that the Bible is actually the word of God would be false. There would be absolutely no credibility in anything the Bible says. It might as well be another idiotic book of the heathen.
This is the claim: A person who was dead, dead, stone cold dead came back to life on his own.
You don't have to be a forensic doctor to know this allegation is absurd. Nobody comes back from the dead.
All the promises of God, yea or nay, are altogether wrapped up in the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of Christ is what makes the promises of the God of the Bible real. It is the hinge of the history of mankind, the most supernatural event in the entire human existence. Nothing in the history of the world can be compared to this. The unassisted return to life of someone who was stone cold dead had not, and has not, ever been observed before. Was not seen before, nor has it since. There is no way to twist the language to make this claim other than what it is. This was not a ghost. My Bible says that his body was, is, flesh and bone.
A strange silence
This is the situation that has to be examined: From that period of time, when the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were written, we have: 1) The story of the resurrection; 2) A strange silence; and 3) The lack of a body that can be said it was the body of Jesus.
I want to know about this. Because if I take the position that the resurrection did not happen these events are unexplainable.
The silence is strange because there should have been a challenge to the story of the resurrection. The historians of the time are silent about it. It doesn't make sense. If the Christians were, and are, basing their whole reason for being on the resurrection, why would the historians of that period not challenge that? This should have been easy to challenge. It is the most preposterous claim, that someone would come back from the dead. Take away the resurrection and Christianity disappears.
Some religions talk about the world being sustained on the back of a huge man standing on a giant turtle somewhere out in space. Well, we know now there is no such thing. We have been out in space looking back and the man on the turtle doesn't exist.
The idea that certain rivers were formed by the tears flowing between the breasts of a giant woman is also dopey. But the people who went around screaming about Jesus coming back from the dead were totally serious. Somebody should have said: Hey, this is a lie! Somebody coming back from the dead is as absurd as anything the heathen might invent.
The resurrection was a hoax
There are people today who say the resurrection was a hoax. Or, that the story of the resurrection was added later to the writings of the Apostles. Since the oldest manuscripts we have of the New Testament are, or are presumed to be, from sometime early in the second century (125 A.D. or so), there was plenty of time to add to or change the story after the event, that is, after the death of Christ. The resurrection story was added during the second century but it never happened. It was put there to strengthen the faith of the believers.
The powerful Christians
There are many subscribers to that sort of thinking. These people must think that the rest of the world was paralyzed at that time or that the Christians had such power at their disposal that they were able to write history as they saw fit. That is one of the possible assumptions: The emerging Christians added these things to their writings at a later date, after the events, and nobody could contradict them once it was done. During the second century the Christians imposed their will on the existing world and subdued them into silence. And they must have burned all the books contradicting the resurrection. That would explain why there are no writings today coming from that period of time that say the resurrection didn't happen. The powerful Christians who controlled all the governments of the world burned all the books that said something contrary to their claims.
Another assumption could be that all the historians of the world fell asleep for a couple of centuries and when they woke up the story of the resurrection was around and they had no choice but to go along with it. And of course, the Christians had unlimited amounts of power to force people into believing the lie; or, if not believing it at least having to acquiesce to it. The unlimited power of the Christians and the falling asleep of all the historians in the world are the reasons why today we have the story of the resurrection, and silence. That explains why there are no writings coming from that period of time challenging the resurrection. Those early Christians had enough power to rewrite history, insert the fable of the resurrection and coerce people into accepting what they said.
I don't know, the guy in my committee in charge of wondering is still wondering. For one thing, he knows that the rest of the world was not paralyzed, there were historians around recording events as they happened. And he knows that the early Christians had absolutely no power whatsoever, certainly not around 125 A.D. As is common knowledge, Christianity wasn't even legal until the fourth century.
When Jesus was crucified, the Romans were in charge of all secular and pagan activities, and the Jews were in charge of all activities concerning the Scriptures. Neither the Romans nor the Jews had much tolerance for the early Christians. The fledgling movement was assailed from every direction. Everywhere that mattered, in religion, in the social fabric, in the military realm, it was the haters of Christ who were in charge, not his friends.
The Jewish historians and/or scribes never disappeared from the face of the Earth. There are books like the Talmuds (two of them, the Palestinian Talmud, and later the Babylonian Talmud) completed much later than the New Testament. These books contain materials that were compiled over centuries (583 B.C. to the sixth century A.D.), showing that the Jewish historians and/or scribes were around, alive and well, before Christ, during Christ, and after Christ. They should have been screaming that the resurrection story was false. They had plenty of time to do it and the Romans might have even appreciated a theological refutation of this growing problem. If the resurrection had not happened those writers would have, and should have, been the first ones to jump on it. They would have come out of the woodwork, from every crack and interstice. And today we would have writings from them, from that time, denying the resurrection.
As far as the Romans are concerned they were in no position to allow this group to grow, as they could possibly threaten the existing order. The Romans tried to stamp this thing out. They were a fun-loving people and quite inventive in finding new ways of killing Christians. They would impale them on lances, cover them with pitch, and set them on fire to light up the roads. Tie their limbs to horses and rip them apart. Feed them to animals kept hungry, bears, lions, dogs. They were always coming up with something new. Such jolly good fellows.
And I know all the stories that deny the resurrection. That the disciples stole the body is an old one, actually the very first one. It is recorded in the Bible as one of the things the disciples of Jesus might do. That's when some of the Jewish clergy went to Pilate and demanded that he put guards at the tomb, otherwise the followers of that man were going to steal the body and then claim he had come back from the dead. So, Pilate complied. He could not figure out why the Jews had wanted to kill Jesus in the first place, but since he had already acceded to their demands to crucify Jesus, (against his better judgment, by the way) why not put some guards on duty? Give them what they want and they'll shut up. The Jews had been so determined to have Jesus killed that they were sure to make a big stink if the disciples stole the body. The last thing Pilate wanted was a report to Caesar that he could not handle Palestine, a source of constant trouble for the Roman Empire. So, he ordered guards to be stationed at the tomb, better safe than sorry. Nobody was going to steal that body.
Matthew 27:66, "So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch."
The story goes on from there to say that, after the sabbath was over (which I'm not clear whether it was the end of the Passover sabbath, or the regular Friday night to Saturday night sabbath, or both), Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre. Among other things, the women had brought spices. They wanted to put spices on the body of Jesus to mitigate the odor, because he was either stinking already or was going to be soon. Though when Joseph of Arimathaea claimed the body of Jesus, he was accompanied by Nicodemus who himself brought 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes to wrap in the linen clothes as the manner of the Jews was to bury (John 19:38,39).
The point of all this is that there was no expectation on the part of anybody that Jesus would come back from the dead. No expectation on the part of the women, no expectation by Joseph of Arimathaea or Nicodemus, no expectation from the rest of the other disciples who had been scattered by the death of their shepherd.
They could not imagine what had happened, that Jesus had shaken off the grave like an old garment. He had already descended into Hell and taken captivity captive, he had gone down into the pit and snatched the keys away from our murderous enemy.
The tomb was a cave with a great big stone in front of its opening. When the women got there, the stone had been rolled away. One of the concerns the women had was who was going to roll away the stone for them, so they could go inside the tomb to put the spices on the body of Jesus who was dead. The custom in those days, in order to prevent looting, was to seal the entrance of a tomb with a great big rock. This rock was rolled down a slope to the entrance of the tomb. To enter the tomb the stone had to be rolled up that same slope, a nearly impossible task even for several men. It was easy to seal a tomb, but it was not easy to open one. But this stone had been rolled away when the women got there.
The Bible says in Matthew 28:2 "...there was a great earthquake: For the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it."
Of course, I totally believe the Bible's version. But let's allow for the exaggeration and assume that there was no angel who rolled the stone, that it was the disciples who probably came earlier and rolled away the stone. However that was, the tomb was empty.
That the women went to the wrong tomb, is another theory. But that seems unlikely in view of Matthew 27: 61, "And there was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre;" Mark 15: 47, "And Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Joses beheld where he was laid;" Luke 24: 55, "And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid."
The women knew exactly the location of that tomb and they knew that Roman guards had been posted. The Roman guards were there, all right, but in total shock, as dead men.
Nobody can make them shut up
So, now, we have this problem. The followers of that man are going around saying that he came back from the dead and nobody can make them shut up. They stole the body or they went to the wrong tomb and now they are going around babbling that Jesus is alive.
I can explain that. It must have been some kind of collective hysteria. Those poor people, the disciples, were so dismayed at the turn of events, that the Romans had killed Jesus their leader that, probably for the most part, they stopped eating altogether. The fasting caused lightheadedness, and the grief, hysteria. The combination of lightheadedness and hysteria caused hallucinations in one or two people. They wanted to believe so hard that he had come back from the dead that they hallucinated; so, the others caught the infection and there they went running around with their eyes bugging out, wishing and hoping.
By stealing the body the disciples fed into that wish and were able to continue their movement. The people were convinced and wouldn't shut up about it.
I don't know, there is still something that bothers me. Why wouldn't they shut up? Both the Romans and the Jewish clergy tried to quiet them down but they couldn't. A red-hot iron would probably get rid of all kinds of hallucinations. The prospect of being thrown alive into a pit where ravenous wild beasts would fight each other over every piece of flesh they can tear off you, would certainly cure many lying tongues. Can I rely on the word of others that Jesus came back from the dead and be horribly tortured for something I don't really know to be true? What if the other guy is lying, or was telling me something he just imagined? I tell you, the first time I was threatened with torture by the Romans I would come right out and say "hey, wait a minute, I don't know, I'm not sure, somebody just told me, I'll shut up."
He was not really dead
Another story is that he was not really dead when he was brought down from the cross. You see, there is this period of his life, between twelve and thirty years of age, that we know nothing about. At least, we don't know from the official Bible. But, there are some writings indicating that during this period of his life he spent time in India and traveled through many lands to get there. This was a time when he could have learned to achieve different states of consciousness from different masters, even to approach a state of near death. Many forms of meditation focus on the rhythm of the heart and strive to slow it down.
It must be pointed out that Buddha had appeared on the scene long before Jesus, somewhere in the sixth century B.C. (568 or so). He lived a good many years and he died (and where is he now, by the way?). But he had many disciples who kept things going, and by the time Jesus came around, approximately five hundred years after Buddha's death, there were masters and gurus all over those regions that Jesus traveled in. It was on those trips that Buddha's disciples could have taught Jesus techniques on how to achieve a profound state of meditation where his heart rate and breathing could be brought to an almost total stop, a kind of trance where physical functions can go into a sort of deep hibernation.
That's what happened. When he was on the cross he was in this state of trance. When it was announced to Pilate that Jesus was dead, Pilate was surprised because people would generally take longer to die on their crosses. Depending perhaps on the level of abuse and torture before the actual crucifixion, some people were able to linger for a longer time than Jesus, before the Romans broke their legs and made them collapse to hasten their death. The collapsing made them suffocate in slow agony, as their lungs filled with fluid and they no longer had the strength to breathe.
The Romans were brutal beyond anything we can imagine today. Jesus was nailed, not tied, which probably makes a difference because of the loss of blood, but besides that we must remember he had received such a terrible beating before the crucifixion that he collapsed as he was made to carry the cross on which he was going to be crucified. The whips used for those beatings were made of several strands of leather with sharp pieces of bone or metal attached to their ends. The person to be beaten was placed bent over something that would stretch the body and expose the whole back. Wrists and ankles were secured and a Roman soldier on each side delivered the blows. The sharp tips at the ends of the whip would rip off the flesh to even expose internal organs. Not everyone survived a beating by the Romans.
Regardless, a Roman soldier was dispatched to break the legs of Jesus but when the soldier got there Jesus was already dead. Nevertheless the soldier, to make sure that Jesus was dead, took his lance and gave him a deep stab on his side which drew both blood and water, indicating that the lance had reached into Jesus's lungs.
However, Jesus was not really dead, he was in that trance-like condition. That state of being continued all the way through the pronouncement of his death, as he was taken down, and as he was deposited in the tomb. He remained in that situation for a time. Then, in the cool of the tomb he revived and when he came out, for all appearances, he had come back from the dead. Despite the fact that his wounds and loss of blood were severe, his excellent physical health and mental discipline brought him through. He was not really dead. But his followers saw him again after they believed he was dead and when they saw him alive they believed that Jesus had come back from the dead.
He went into hiding
Surely, he was not really dead. He went into hiding someplace among his followers to fully recover from his wounds, and neither the Jews nor the Romans could find him. Because Jesus did not appear (or could not be found) until he had recovered, that gave credence to the resurrection.
Or, maybe he was dead, remained dead and it is true that the story of the resurrection was added on much later. By then everything was stories magnified and exaggerated over time, enhanced memories, and specific agendas of the writers. There was a lot of competition, jealousies, and plain back-stabbing among the so-called Church Fathers. Who knows who invented the story of the resurrection and for what reason?
But this weird silence is a real problem. The guy in charge of wondering remains unsatisfied with all those answers. He says there is a loose end somewhere. Besides the unexplained silence and the lack of a challenge to the story, he still wants to know why the Romans did not produce a body. And I know how he is. You tell him everything, you reason with him, you explain to him (because he's not very bright), but if he remains unconvinced there is no way you can budge him. And nobody moves until he moves. You either convince him or he convinces you. I guess I have given in to him. I have come to see it the way he sees it. This silence is so... silent, and that body is so... absent.
Only the Gospels tell us of the resurrection. The great historian Ariel Durant covers that period of time when Jesus lived but does not mention the resurrection. Josephus, the Jewish historian who lived through the period of the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. knew about Jesus but doesn't say a word about the claims of the resurrection. That's odd. Why didn't either of these historians say anything? Was it because it didn't happen? Of course, if the story was added in 125 A.D., Josephus would never have heard of it because he died before that. But Ariel Durant did a lot of research and he never mentions a challenge to the resurrection by historians of the period. There were plenty of people who heard the outrageous claims.
Regardless, my guy in charge of wondering, cannot understand why nobody challenged the resurrection at the time when those claims were first made. Whether those claims were made in the first century or in the second century it doesn't matter. Somebody should have said something at some point.
We know the history of the Romans, before, during, and after the period when the resurrection supposedly took place. We know who was married to whom, we know what they ate, who their lovers were, their intrigues, who killed whom and for what reason, even how many stab wounds they gave each other as they killed one another. The Roman History is laid out in front of us with a great deal of detail for several hundred years. Jesus was born during the Roman occupation of Palestine, he grew up under the Roman occupation of Palestine, he was killed by the Romans, and the Roman occupation of Palestine continued right along after that killing. There is a continuous line of history and historians right through Jesus that overlaps him on both sides. There should have been a fervent heated debate about the resurrection. There should have been faithful and true reporters-historians to testify against the resurrection. But there is an unexplainable silence regarding Jesus, as if they (his contemporaries) didn't want to talk about it.
Of course, it is recorded by secular historians that the world in which Jesus was born and lived was filled with superstition. The Roman Empire, in taking over so many countries, had allowed the movement of peoples throughout the territories they controlled. That movement had brought all kinds of paganism to the land of the Jews. The Romans themselves were highly superstitious. Herod himself, when he first heard of Jesus, thought Jesus was John the Baptist (whom he had beheaded earlier) who had come back from the dead.
There were stories everywhere about people coming back from the dead. And, actually, there are stories in the Old Testament of people who were dead and were brought back to life. Both Elijah and Elisha brought people back from the dead. But all those stories happened within a culture, they were hidden from the rest of the world. For the sake of the study of the Bible one has to take them at face value without really knowing if they are true. Also, there are stories now that say there was a miraculous resurrection someplace in Tibet, or in Africa, always in some remote village that takes a long time to reach, hidden in the jungles or on a lost peak somewhere. I've heard a Christian preacher affirm with a straight face that he had witnessed a resurrection, someplace in Africa. There is always a story of something like that, somebody coming back from the dead somewhere. I don't believe a word of it.
But, the world of Jesus was ripe for a story such as the resurrection. The people wanted to believe, were primed to believe. That is, some of the people. The disciples themselves didn't believe it. When Jesus talked about being killed and rising again the third day they didn't know what he meant. And were afraid to ask him.
The Jewish clergy didn't believe it either, they were furious in their attempt to squelch the story. They beat up those early Christians, chased them out of town, stoned them to death. But they couldn't make them shut up. They couldn't make them shut up because the resurrection of Jesus was not like remote stories told by a friend of a cousin. This thing, the resurrection of Christ, did not happen in a corner. It didn't happen in a remote jungle village or on a lost peak somewhere. It was public and very public. This happened in Jerusalem, even today, the center of attention of the world. And Jerusalem was completely controlled by those who hated Christ and Christians. Even if one were to consider that the story of the resurrection might have been planted a couple of hundred years after the event, I find it astonishing that there is no challenge whatsoever coming even from that time. What I do know is that there were plenty of writers, historians, recorders of all sorts who could have (and should have) arisen to challenge the story of the resurrection. But what comes from that period of time, all that secular history tells us is that Jesus existed and that he was crucified by the Romans. As far as the story of the resurrection, they are silent. The Bible tells us of the resurrection, but the secular historians of the time and all the contrarians to Jesus are silent about it, strangely so.
At that time the Christians had no power. The Roman Empire remained pagan certainly contemporarily with the oldest documents we now have detailing the resurrection. They were pagan before the coming of Christ, they were pagan during the presence of Christ, and they remained pagan after the crucifixion of Christ. Christianity only became legal in 312 A.D. under Constantine the Great.
Lack of a body
A good study of the resurrection is what's needed to ascertain the truthfulness of the Bible. A good study of the resurrection should include this simple question: Why did the Romans not come up with a body? And I don't mean Jesus's body. Of course they could not come up with the body of Jesus. He had it. But what could possibly have prevented the Romans from producing somebody else's body? I am not making the argument of the empty tomb, of why there was an empty tomb. All I want to resolve is the silence and the lack of a body.
Herod (the father of the Herod who beheaded John the Baptist), at the time Jesus was born, had thousands of children killed because he feared that "The King of the Jews" had been born somewhere nearby, in his jurisdiction. Before that, before the killing of the innocents two years old and under, Papa Herod had killed the grandfather and brother of the woman (Mariamne) who became his second wife. But his mother and another wife convinced Herod that Mariamne was plotting to kill him, so he killed Mariamne and two of her children. Then, he found out that his mother and that other wife had lied to him so he killed them as well. Later on, he killed another son on suspicion of plotting against him. So he murdered his would-have-been grandfather and brother-in-law, two of his wives, three of his children and his own mother. Nobody can say he could not make an executive decision. He killed up and down in his own family. And this surviving son was just like him. It was this Herod Junior who ruled the region where Jesus was from.
Who was in charge in the jurisdiction of Jerusalem at the time of the killing of Jesus? Pilate, another ruthless killer on a par with Herod, totally self-serving and without scruples. These were the rulers at the time of Christ, these were the people in charge. Producing a body should have been a high priority and very easy to fulfill.
Survival and power is all that counted, that was paramount in the minds of these rulers. Did Pilate want to be blamed for the turmoil of the region under his charge? Did he want Caesar to turn his eye toward him in displeasure? Pilate should have done something right away, he should have produced a body immediately to stop the spreading rumour on the streets that Jesus had come back from the dead. The Roman rulers were always in turmoil, taking power away from someone and defending against anyone else who was trying to take power away from them. They had absolutely no qualms or scruples of any kind in snuffing out anyone who posed even a remote threat. They could block any road, enter any town, break any door, kill anybody. Why is it that we have no historian from that period who disputes the resurrection? Why is it that we have no historian from that period who says that the Romans had a body? Why is it that all that comes from that period of history is either the story of the resurrection or silence? The Jews and the Romans controlled everything. There was no power outside the Jews and the Romans at the time and place when and where Jesus was born. Why do we have only one story coming from that period? It should have been the easiest thing in the world for the Romans to produce a body. All they had to do was to drag someone off the streets, someone with the approximate size, height, weight, etc., as Jesus, kill the guy, mutilate him, make him unrecognizable, cut him in pieces, cut off his head and his hands, whatever, and when the voice was going around that Jesus had come back from the dead, they could have said, "no, no wait a minute, he did not come back from the dead, we have a body here. See this body?, this is the body of Jesus. He is dead, here are the pieces." And then, even though it would have been a false claim with the body presented being other than the body of Jesus, we would have two different stories today. One, Jesus came back from the dead; two, no, no, the Romans had a body.
That the women went to the wrong tomb, that the disciples stole the body, that he was not really dead, that the whole story was invented, none of those things explain why the Romans did not produce a body. They should have done that right away. There was nothing to stop them, some of the most brutal people to ever be in an Army were the Romans. They loved to kill and make money. Killing someone and using his body to counteract this blazing fire of the rumour of the resurrection should have been the easiest thing in the world. Why didn't that happen? I beat my head on this continually. They had opportunity and motive. It doesn't make any sense. There was nothing stopping anybody from producing a body at any time.
I'm sure it was not in the interest of the Romans, neither of the Jews for that matter, to have this story going around that this guy had come back from the dead. All their authority would be gone. If the Romans had produced a body, obviously not the body of Jesus, but just a body of some poor soul that they killed, we would have those two stories today. One, Jesus came back from the dead; the other, no, no wait a minute, the Romans had a body. I am not relying on the writings of the New Testament for my certainty of the resurrection. The reason for not relying on the New Testament to make the argument for the resurrection is that if one starts from the position that the Gospels are a fabrication they obviously cannot be trusted. To argue by citing the words of the New Testament would be futile. I am looking at secular history and finding that there is a clear continuity of power by those who hated Christ. Why did no one rise up to deny the resurrection? Today anybody can deny the resurrection, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing, coming from that period of time that says flat out that Jesus did not come back from the dead.
Clearly, as it is today so it was then. Haters of Christ were there then and are here now. Today, we have lots of writers, scholars, philosophers, theologians who deny the resurrection. But they don't really know, they can't be sure it didn't happen. Some say: "the disciples believed" Jesus had come back from the dead. To say you cannot prove a negative dodges the point. For every abstract there is a concrete. What is the concrete one can find in this equation? Well, the body the Romans should have produced.
Not enough skeptics
Regardless, all these smart people, by saying "the disciples believed," can distance themselves from the event and pretend they are being objective without admitting one way or the other. Others say it "probably" didn't happen. They have to use the word "probably" because they cannot say for sure it didn't happen. Whether they say "probably," or "the disciples believed," that is the most they can do to sow doubt. However, from that period of time, during that period of time, and centuries after that period of time, nobody denied the resurrection. You mean to tell me there were not enough skeptics, unbelievers, and haters of Christ around in the first, second, third, fourth century and thereafter until now? Is that the reason no challenge came forth? Obviously, that cannot be the reason, haters of Christ abounded then as surely as they do now.
Even if the story of the resurrection had been invented in the second century, all anybody had to do at that point was to produce a skeleton, any skeleton even at that time. It wouldn't have made any difference whose skeleton it was. With a skeleton in hand anybody would have been able to make a counter claim to the resurrection. All this should have happened during the period of history before Christianity was made legal. While Christians were persecuted left and right, the counterclaim to the resurrection should have been established, by a body with flesh on it, or by a skeleton later. If that had happened, today we would have the same two previous stories but with a slight variance: one, the resurrection took place as the Bible says; two, no, there was a skeleton. If that had happened, today we would have thousands and thousands of warehouses filled with thousands and thousands of books saying that the Romans had a body or a skeleton.
If I take the position that the resurrection did not happen I cannot explain this silence and no body. Try to disprove the resurrection and you will run into this strange wall of silence. Find me the books from that period and centuries later that absolutely declare the resurrection to be false.
The answer as to why neither the Jews nor the Romans produced a body, or even a skeleton later on, is very simple. They could not deny the fact of the resurrection. Too many people, including the Roman soldiers, saw Jesus crucified. Too many people, including the Roman soldiers, saw Jesus die on the cross. Too many people, including the Roman soldiers, knew where he had been buried after he was dead. And, too many people, including the Roman soldiers, saw him alive again after he had been dead and buried.
The resurrection is what prevented the Romans from producing a body. It was witnessed by too many and many of them from other lands, Jews and Israelites who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover from all over the Roman Empire.
The reason why the Romans could not produce a body to present as the body of Jesus is that the voice ran off that land like a scream. And it wasn't only the resurrection of Jesus that took place. The graves opened in the cemeteries and there were people coming out of their sepulchers walking around with graveclothes on. This thing got branded in the psyche of these people and they could not be made to deny it.
The resurrection of Jesus was not like other stories of resurrections that always happened in some remote location. This was Jerusalem at the time of the Passover, one of the busiest intersections in the world. Any Israelite, no matter how far they lived, would try to get to Jerusalem at the time of the Passover. They came from the remotest confines of the Roman Empire and beyond, from all over where they had been exiled or had migrated on their own. The very domination of the Romans had made it possible for peoples from different places to travel throughout the Empire. The place was teeming with people from many countries. That's why they couldn't make them shut up and that's why producing a body would have been of no use. They would not have been able to fool the people. Too many people saw him alive after he had been dead. And these people and the Roman soldiers went back to their own countries after having been eyewitnesses to the resurrection.
What is left to say about God? Words of love, of gratitude, of praise, of amazement. He moves, he thinks, he acts in ways we cannot possibly figure out, understand, or prevent, for that matter. God in human form came to dwell among us and his blood bought us back.
Jesus is the light of the world as shown in the resurrection, to him all who hope should flock. Jesus is the light of the world and our mortal enemy was not able to squeeze that light out of existence. The power of death was not enough against the light of the world. It is this Jesus who has opened the doors wide for us. By the will of the Father, Jesus has become the bridge for us.
My Lord, I come to you sprinkled with the blood of your son Jesus, the wonderful and unblemished Lamb whom you prepared and slayed for us.
Thank you, my Lord for your son Jesus Christ, without whom, I could never make it.
And thank you my Lord Jesus, for your willingness to suffer and to die.
And thank you Holy Spirit for your kindness and your love and for chasing me down to bring me back to see the things of Christ before I died.
Thank you all, and amen and amen.