Seven Great Mysteries – Part Two

God has revealed The Seven Great Mysteries of the World to His people. These are:

  1. The Mystery of the Gospel – the Good News of the incarnation of Christ (Eph 6:19; 1 Tim 3:16)
  2. The Mystery of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Col 1:27; 1 Cor 6:17 & 19)
  3. The Mystery of the Body of Christ – Jew and Gentile one in Christ (Eph 3:1-9; 5:32)
  4. The Mystery of the Rapture – the transformation of the saints (1 Cor 15:51-55; 1 Thess 4:15-17)
  5. The Mystery of the Restoration of Israel (Rom 11:25-29)
  6. The Mystery of Iniquity – the son of perdition revealed (2 Thess 2:7-9)
  7. Mystery, Babylon the Great (Rev 17:5)

In my last post I introduced the first Great Mystery and explained that it unlocks the next six Great Mysteries our Creator has revealed. The first Great Mystery is the Mystery of the Gospel (Eph 6:19) – the Good News of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

incarnation smallThe second Great Mystery revealed to the early church was that of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This mysterious blessing is freely available to all people everywhere when they repent of their rebellion towards their Creator and give their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. In a letter to the Colossian church Paul explained:

This mystery has been kept secret for ages and generations, but now it has been revealed to God’s people from all nations. To these people He chose to make known the riches and glory of this hidden mystery – and this is the mystery – Christ lives in you and thus gives you the hope of sharing in His glory. (Col 1:26-27)

John the baptistThe Old Testament prophets had alluded to this mystery (Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 12:10) when they mentioned an outpouring of God’s Spirit. In the New Testament John the Baptist was the first to announce the imminence of the outpouring of God’s Spirit when he told his listeners:

I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be His slave and carry His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Mat 3:11) NLT

Mark (1:8) and Luke (3:16) also give accounts of this speech John the Baptist made when proclaiming the arrival of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah.

A Voice From Heaven

Jesus then came to John to be baptized and all of the gospel writers (Mat 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32-33) give accounts of the Spirit coming upon Him after His baptism. Matthew, Mark and Luke also add that a voice from heaven testified that Jesus was God’s much beloved Son, while John’s record is a testimony from John the Baptist. John the apostle writes:

Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon Him. I didn’t know He was the One, but when God sent me to baptize with water, He told me, ‘The One on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that He is the Chosen One of God. ” (John 1:32-34) NLT

This event heralded the end of John the Baptist’s mission and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and journey to Calvary (Luke 3:23).

bread and wine
Because Jesus had not yet ascended, when He spoke of this Great Mystery, a complete understanding of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was yet to be revealed. However, when He announced that He was the Living Bread that had come down from heaven, He told His listeners that they needed to feed on Him (John 6:48-56); that is, be indwelt by His everlasting life (John 6:63). At the Last Supper Jesus returned to this metaphor when He introduced the remembrance ceremony of the bread and the wine, which He said were symbolic of His broken body and poured out blood (Luke 22:19-20).

The Comforter Will Come

Jesus teachingJesus further fleshed out this teaching when He told the disciples, near the very end of His earthly ministry, that He was going to send them a Comforter – the Holy Spirit – and that through the Spirit the Father and the Son would make their abode in God’s people (John 14:23). This is indeed a Great Mystery.

The very last instruction Jesus gave His disciples while He was on earth was that they should wait in Jerusalem until the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5, 8). After giving His followers this command He ascended to heaven to be with the Father (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9). Jesus had earlier explained to Nicodemus that:

….. no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:5-7) NLT

We are all born naturally of the amniotic waters; we were in our mothers’ wombs and our lives were totally dependent on our mothers’ bodies to nourish and accommodate us. But when people are born again, they are born of the Spirit of God; they are indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit and His very life gives them new life. It is because God lives in us that we are made fit to live eternally in God’s presence. After the ascension the disciples waited for the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit and Luke tells us:

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. (Act 2:1-4)

pentecostThis incident created quite a sensation as onlookers gathered around to see what was happening. They were amazed to hear the believers speaking in a number of different, recognisable languages.

The Christian Church Is Born

In the midst of the assembled crowd Peter stood up and told the gathering that this event had been foretold by the prophet Joel (Acts 2:16). Peter went on to remind them that God had raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2: 32), thus revealing Him to be the Lord and Messiah they had long been hoping for. This was the very same Jesus they had just crucified (Acts 2: 36). Peter’s words struck thousands of onlookers to the heart. As Luke records:

Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” (Act 2:37-39) NLT

Peters sermonAbout 3000 people believed Peter’s words that day and were baptized and joined the Body of Christ (Acts 2:41). This was the beginning of the Christian church. Following this event new believers were directed to repent of their rebellion against God, after which they were baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 8:15-18; 10:44-45, 47; 11:15-16; 19:2-6; 1 Cor 12:13: Titus 3:5).

There is some controversy over the meaning of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” in the church today. Many people believe certain gifts of the Spirit are evidence of the baptism of the Spirit, but Paul taught that there are many gifts and not all people have all gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Heb 2:4). Peter summarised this when he wrote:

God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God Himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to Him forever and ever! Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

The apostle Paul explained to the Galatians that we receive the Spirit by faith (Gal 3:14), when the Father sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts (Gal 4:6). He also instructed the Galatians to live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:25). It is only then that God’s people will produce spiritual fruit. Paul described this fruit when he wrote:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)

At the end of his instructions to the Galatians Paul wrote:

If you think you can fool God, you are only fooling yourselves. You will harvest what you plant. If you live to satisfy your sinful self, the harvest you will get from that will be eternal death. But if you live to please the Spirit, your harvest from the Spirit will be eternal life. We must not get tired of doing good. We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time. We must not give up. When we have the opportunity to do good to anyone, we should do it. But we should give special attention to those who are in the family of believers. (Gal 6:7-10) ERV

Paul also directed the Ephesians to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). He reminded them that the baptism of the Spirit enables believers to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which all have been called; and with humility, gentleness and patience, bear with one another in love, making sure to keep the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:1-3).

The Father Equips Us For His Service

Our Father poured out His Spirit upon us to equip us for the work of ministry and to build up the body of Christ (Eph 4:12). We should therefore be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom we are sealed for the day of redemption (Eph 4:30).

Paul was writing to believers in both of these epistles and it is a good reminder to all of us who are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. As our Lord said:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Mat 5:16)

candleGod has poured out His Spirit upon His people to bring glory to His name. May we each walk in a manner worthy of the high calling we have received from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is not so much an issue of assuring high moral standards in the unsaved (although these are very important to their wellbeing), it is an issue of us loving as He loved us. May our Father find us loving even our enemies, because He has given us His Holy Spirit to enable us to do just that. As the apostle John pointed out:

If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. (1Jn 4:20-21) GNB

Nothing else reveals the Mystery of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit so much as our ability to love. Our love for those we meet is the undeniable evidence of God in us and His work through us. God is Love ( 1 John 4:8) and as He indwells us by His Spirit we are made willing and able to express this most essential aspect of His nature to all those we encounter throughout our lives in this broken world.

Love is

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Strangers in a Strange Land

Christians truly are a strange lot. In a sense we’re a bit like Moses, who fled into the land of Midian, after killing an Egyptian slave-master. We are, as Moses then declared himself, strangers in a strange land (Exodus 2:22).moses kills egyptianWe don’t really fit snugly into the modern world, but then it’s understandable that Christians have always been out of step with the rest of the world. Even when the western world was nominally Christian, those who believed in Jesus and His message of loving their enemies (Mat 5:44) but hating sin, were never in the majority.

It may appear difficult to hold love and hate together harmoniously, but that’s what Jesus tells us is the hallmark of a Christian. Once we step over into belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and His biblical message, we are a people filled with contradictions. Yet everything makes perfect sense because our new life is in Christ. Jesus once said:

They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:16)

Christians understand these words of Jesus to mean, “We are in the world, but no longer of the world.” We live within our human communities on planet Earth, but now our focus is on the Greater Reality and the things of this world are no longer as they once were to us. Although we live in mortal bodies and dwell in a finite world, we now have an eternal perspective.

As Christians we have learned that it is wise to fear God (Psalm 111:10), but we are never afraid of Him. When we spend time with God we are in awe of His great majesty and blessed by His overwhelming reality. There is nowhere else we would rather be than in His presence.worshipOur first and greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ, even though we have never seen Him with our human eyes. And although we understand how spiritually poor and lowly we truly are, we can talk freely about the most insignificant details of our lives with the One who is King of all kings, Lord of all lords and Creator of heaven and Earth, without ever feeling any incongruity in doing so.

Christians believe that in Christ we died, yet we are more alive than ever before and fully expect to live forever (Romans 6:8). We base this belief on the sure and certain knowledge that, because we have accepted God’s free gift of eternal life, the second death will never touch us (Rev 2:11).

When we come into the presence of our holy God we are painfully conscious that in our sinful nature dwells no good thing (Romans 7:18) and yet we understand that we are cleansed from sin. We are at peace knowing He accepts us completely because we are now in Christ and covered by His righteousness. And so we live our new and wonder filled lives surrounded by contradictions. Paul told the Corinthians that as new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17):

We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. (2 Cor 6:10)

We have not been miraculously transformed into supernatural beings, yet we live our lives in the presence of the Heavenly Father and are filled with wonder at His awesome power and everlasting love. We understand that in our own right and our own strength we are undeserving and have nothing of any merit to offer, yet we know without question that we are the very apple of God’s eye (Deut 32:10) and that for each one of us the Eternal Son became flesh and died on the cross of Calvary.

© Carlos Lozano /Licenced from Dreamstime.com

© Carlos Lozano /Licensed from Dreamstime.com

When we look at that cross we are completely pessimistic, because we know that the same judgment that fell on the Lord of glory condemned in that one act all nature and all of humanity. We are heartbroken as we contemplate this truth, but we reject every human hope that is not centred on Christ, because we know that all of humanity’s noblest efforts are only dust building on dust.

Yet we are calmly, restfully optimistic. If the cross condemns the world, the glorious resurrection of Christ guarantees the ultimate triumph of good throughout the universe. Through Christ all will be well at last. Thus the Christian confidently awaits the consummation of all things through Jesus Christ who died and victoriously rose again. The great love and mercy of God will be manifest throughout all the world and He will ensure justice and mercy prevail. It is with absolute assurance that we watch and wait for His return.

© Marinv | Dreamstime.com

© Marinv | Dreamstime.com

When we think about what Jesus did for us on that cross we remember that, as Paul put it:

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. (1 Cor 1:18)

Paul goes on to explain:

As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters?

God makes the wisdom of this world look foolish because God, in His wisdom, saw to it that the world would never know Him through human wisdom and He has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven and it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews find it an offensive obstacle and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. (1 Cor 1:19-23)

School of Athens by Raphael

School of Athens by Raphael

God knew the spin the “philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters” would put on the knowledge of this world, but He ensured we could all have access to His Truth (John 14:6). And this Truth has nothing to do with the amassing of knowledge; it has nothing to do with having the IQ of a genius – this Truth is a Man like no other that has ever walked the Earth. But we are easily caught up in the wisdom of this world, it’s seductive.

However, in God’s universe it is His wisdom that is true wisdom. The wisdom of this world is a poor relation. Paul declared that:

….. if anyone thinks they know anything, they know nothing yet as it needs to be known. (1 Cor 8:2)

After reading some of Nietzsche’s works, he appears to me to be the epitome of a person who has become so enraptured by his own intelligence and the wisdom of this world, he is completely deaf to the things of God. The pure irony, and one would have to say the absolute tragedy of Nietzsche’s life, is that he lost his mind. His great treasure slipped away from him and he was reduced to insanity and died when he was only 56 (as I’m about to turn 65 this seems awfully young to me). All our greatest intellectual achievements cannot give us what we were truly destined to become – eternal people living in a loving relationship with our merciful Father.

When we take our place in God’s eternal family we are no longer Earth bound, our values, our hopes and our beliefs are not those of this world, they came by revelation and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Our new life in Christ can be difficult to navigate at times, but we also know that when we are weak, then we are at our strongest, because Jesus said:

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

God created a universe filled with opposites and unredeemed humanity wants to reject this reality. It seems today people want a universe that is filled with 50 shades of grey. We don’t want anyone to tell us that something is wrong and something else is right. We demand the right to decide these things for ourselves. We don’t like the fact that God created life and death, light and darkness, good and evil, we want everything to be somehow naturally neutral.

shades of greyGod knew this would be the case. He knew we would want to be our own gods and decide our own destinies. And He has allowed us to do just that. We must each decide for ourselves whether we want to be part of God’s eternal family and take our place in His new universe after He destroys sin and death. No person is capable of creating an entirely new universe that will run along the lines they think God should have set in the first place. Instead, doubters have created a myth which pretends nature made this present creation without supernatural agency and people are therefore free to live their lives exactly as they choose.

Some people actually like to think that one day humanity will be able to control light and dark, good and evil and life and death. No matter how much people want to believe this they cannot change God’s program now and they never will be able to, because this is God’s universe and we are His creation. God designed the universe to run according to His laws and we must either accept His Way or forfeit our eternal destinies.Jesus preachingIn the gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus explained to His listeners that He is the bread of life that came down from heaven. He likens Himself to the miraculous manna that God gave to Moses and the Israelites to sustain them as they traveled through the wilderness.

For 40 years the children of Israel fed on the heavenly bread, or manna, in the dessert; it gave them life and strength for that day. Once they’d collected the manna they could not store it up, they had to gather it afresh every morning and it was sufficient for that day’s needs (Exodus 16). Christians are like the Jews following Moses and the signs God set before them around the Sinai Dessert. As each new day dawns for the followers of Christ we go to Him for our life and strength. He has directed us to “feed on Him” as we sojourn in this wilderness world.

mannaThis is the basis of the Christian otherworldliness and the reason our understanding of life, our worldview, is foolishness to those who reject Christ’s message. Our focus is on the Man who is like no other man. He was born into the human community, but He was unlike any other person who has ever lived.

  • He came from heaven,
  • lived a sinless life for 33 years on Earth,
  • preached a new commandment,
  • introduced a new covenant,
  • was judicially murdered,
  • rose to life after three days in the grave,
  • walk and talked throughout Israel for 40 days,
  • then ascended to heaven to take His place with the Father in a transformed human body.

Once a person knows, understands and accepts the message Jesus came to impart to humanity, an entirely new awareness of human destiny fills their being. It is as if a door opens up that shows us a different world. This other world sits alongside the natural world but it is a Greater Reality; it is the eternal world that can only be perceived and entered through the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father by the Holy Spirit. There is no way to comprehend this eternal world through the physical senses and human reason. God has limited access to this Greater Reality to those who have their eyes on His Son.

For the Christian, while we walk on this Earth, we are seated with Christ in heaven (Eph 2:6) and though we were born on Earth we find that since being born again we are no longer completely at home on this beautiful planet. We are indeed strangers in a strange land awaiting the return of our Lord.

©Review & Herald Publishing/ Licensed from GoodSalt.com

©Review & Herald Publishing/ Licensed from GoodSalt.com

He will come again and He will deal the final blow to death, pain and suffering, ultimately bringing about the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan and purpose for humanity. He is reaching out to each and every person born onto this benighted world (John 12:32; Romans 8:20-23), graciously offering each one a place in His new, eternal creation (Rev 21:1). Can you see Him? Can you hear Him? He’s calling you!

infinity1
The inspiration and some of the words in this post came from INCREDIBLE CHRISTIAN! by A.W. Tozer

Tinkering With Truth

Sojourner Truth was a woman one can only admire. The youngest of 12 children, Sojourner was born into slavery in 1797 in Ulster County, New York State and given the name Isabella Baumfree by her African-American parents. Like most of her siblings, Isabella was sold and separated from her family at the age of nine; then sold again and again, until, in 1826, she took her baby daughter and walked away from her life as a slave and into a life of challenging the status quo.

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth

Isabella, or Belle, appears to have had a questioning mind and not only did she question the establishment of her day, she spoke out boldly for truth and justice, matching her words with actions. Isabella was a woman with passion. She passionately believed in her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and she passionately believed He had made all people equal, no matter what colour they happened to be. When addressing a predominantly white crowd in Battle Creek, Michigan she once said:

Children, who made your skin white? Was it not God? Who made mine black? Was it not the same God? Am I to blame, therefore, because my skin is black? Does it not cast a reproach on our Maker to despise a part of His children, because He has been pleased to give them a black skin? Indeed, children, it does; and your teachers ought to tell you so, and root up, if possible, the great sin of prejudice against colour from your minds…..Does not God love coloured children as well as white children? And did not the same Saviour die to save the one as well as the other? (2)

In her narrative she recounts an experience that occurred in 1843, on the day of Pentecost, when she was called by the spirit, who instructed her to leave New York, a “second Sodom,” and travel east under the name Sojourner Truth. Sojourner based her new first name on the biblical verse:

We are here for only a moment, strangers and sojourners in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace. (1Ch 29:15)

In her narrative we also find:

Truth adamantly believed that all humans are sojourners waiting for the second-coming of the Lord who will welcome all into eternal life. She took her responsibility as a Christian disciple and prophet seriously, dedicating her life to spreading the word of the gospel alongside her messages of racial equality and women’s rights. The surname Truth is somewhat self-explanatory for a born-again Christian and street preacher, but Truth has published various accounts of how she chose her last name. (1)

One of these accounts is recorded in her narrative where she explains:

…… her surname had always been the name of her master. Now that she served only God, she served the Truth, and took that as her last name.” (1)

lecture poster

Under the name Sojourner Truth, Isabella set out to travel east of New York, through Connecticut and Massachusetts and as an itinerant preacher she determined to tell the truth and work against injustice. She saw her mission as teaching people “to embrace Jesus, and refrain from sin.” And she saw quite clearly that enslavement was a terrible sin. Selling fellow human beings as though they were nothing more than a flock of sheep was a sin against their Maker, who had created them in His own image.

Sojourner’s strong faith and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ gave her the power to rise “above the battlements of fear” as she stood against slave masters and other slaves who counselled her to accept her lot and submissively pray for good masters. She saw the inhumanity of slavery for what it was; an evil that followers of Jesus must work to eradicate. At the end of her narrative she takes great joy from hearing that one of her slave masters had also reached this conclusion.

Although Sojourner was illiterate, she had a clear and incisive mind and she often sat for hours discussing topics with fellow believers. As she could not explore ideas through her own reading, she took advantage of her time travelling and when she found groups who held differing views she would spend time discussing The Bible with them. Her narrative tells us she had:

….. no preference for one sect more than another, but being well satisfied with all who gave her evidence of having known or loved the Saviour.(1)

She also had people read to her from The Bible, but she preferred that children perform this task, as adults tended to add their own commentary. She said:

Children, as soon as they could read distinctly, would re-read the same sentence to her, as often as she wished, and without comment;—and in that way she was enabled to see what her own mind could make out of the record, and that, she said, was what she wanted, and not what others thought it to mean. She wished to compare the teachings of the Bible with the witness within her” (1)

Rather than submitting to the prevailing worldview of the people around her, Sojourner spoke out against racism and sexism with Jesus as her “soul-protecting fortress.” Although she spoke English as her second language, her first language being Dutch, she was able to hold the attention of English speaking audiences with her ability to cut to the point, her strong voice and her powerful songs.

lincoln and truth2It is remarkable to find that despite the fact that she was an illiterate, female slave, on October 29, 1864 she had an audience with President Abraham Lincoln at the White House and later met President Ulysses S. Grant. Even today this would be an amazing feat for any person of such humble origins. But Sojourner believed she had a mission and she gave her life to work for those things she felt the Lord had put on her heart to change. She lived her life working tirelessly for truth and justice and ended her life with the words “be a follower of the Lord Jesus.” She believed that this meant following Jesus’ teachings and I believe she would acknowledge that it was through His power and strength that she was able to accomplish all that she did.

If an illiterate slave woman of the 19th century could live out her faith and fight for truth and justice, despite the dreadful situation she found herself in, surely believers today who claim to follow the Lord Jesus Christ can do the same. However, I believe God’s people are hamstrung by one terrible doctrinal error. The prevailing opinion of Sojourner’s day amongst the ruling class was that slavery was acceptable and slaves were commodities. Even people who claimed to be Christians held to this age old idea. Sojourner refused to look at life in that way because she knew it was not God’s truth. The Bible taught that:

There cannot be Jew nor Greek, there is no slave nor freeman, there is no male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)

Sojourner could see no reason why this truth should not be acted upon. Even though Paul had taught caution to the slaves of his day (Eph 6:5), Sojourner understood that the inhuman slavery practiced in her time was not something her Lord would allow to continue. She once admitted to an audience that she had at one time hated white people, but she went on to say that when she met her final master, Jesus, she was filled with love for everyone. When slaves were finally emancipated she knew her prayers had been answered.

Today, there are many people who claim The Bible teaches the doctrine of eternal torment. These people look to tradition and suggest that those who see The Bible as teaching a different destiny for the unsaved are not following the clear teachings of the church. This horrific doctrine has never appeared to be biblical to me, no matter how long the church has held to this view. There are many theologians today who have also changed their minds on this issue after a closer look at God’s Word.

I believe we are tinkering with the truth when we refuse to look at the overall teachings of The Bible concerning this issue and we are also slandering our Father, who has declared He is Love (1 John 4:8). It is my contention that people who accept this doctrine have a warped understanding of the nature and character of our Creator. They believe Him to be vindictive, whereas He is working to save as many as possible from the destruction that will come on our present creation. This destruction will be the outpouring of God’s wrath on sin and its consequences, death, pain and suffering and its entire purpose will be to eliminate these corruptions of God’s original creation.way of god

Had Sojourner Truth and William Wilberforce simply accepted that one verse told the whole story (Eph 6:5), without taking the overall teachings of The Bible into consideration – as many people do with a particular understanding of Matthew 25:46 – the church might still be championing the cause of the slave holder. But we know better than to base our understanding of the nature of God on one word in The Bible. We have many verses in both the Old and New Testaments that declare the ultimate destiny of the unbeliever is that they will perish, or be eternally destroyed.

Many people claim Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians supports the case for eternal torment, but this verse tells us quite clearly that eternal destruction – which means a final, eternal separation from the Creator by this destruction – awaits those who refuse God’s rescue plan. Paul tells the Thessalonians not to worry about the people who are persecuting them. God is not going to allow people to inflict pain on other people forever, He will bring this world and all it’s pain and suffering to an end. Paul writes:

And to you that are troubled, be at ease like us, because when the Lord Jesus comes from heaven with the angels of power and with flaming fire, He will bring forth punishment on them that do not see God, and do not listen attentively to the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will themselves be punished with eternal destruction, and removed from the face of the Lord and from the worship of His might. (2 Th 1:7-9)

Indeed the punishment for those who refuse to listen to the gospel, and therefore cannot see God, will have dire eternal consequences. Unbelievers will be eternally removed from the Lord’s presence by the eternal destruction (or the eternal punishment mentioned in Mat 25:46) awaiting this present creation. The Father wants to save everyone from His final elimination of death, pain and suffering (2 Peter 3:9), but there will be those who have refused to listen to Him and accept His rescue plan. These will suffer the final punishment, which is the second death in the lake of fire (Rev 20:15).

As Sojourner reminds us:

Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace. (1Ch 29:15)

Like so many other people who had not been subjected to traditional teachings, Sojourner rejected the concept of eternal torment, stating that:

I have found out and know that God’s brightness and goodness and glory is hot enough to scorch all the sinners in the world. (2)

God is probably not going to send an angel declaring the imminence of the destruction of this present creation until the very end (Rev 14:6), so people need to start listening now if they want to be part of His new creation. Have you taken the time to examine God’s message to you? He sent His only Son to proclaim the Good News. He is going to destroy death, pain and suffering, but to do that He will need to destroy all that is outside of His rule and reign. There is only one way to be part of the new creation He will bring into existence after the final destruction of this corrupted creation and that is to accept Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Redeemer.

truth to hate

(1) Truth, Sojourner (2004-07-01). The Narrative of Sojourner Truth [with Biographical Introduction] . Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.

(2)  http://www.sojournertruth.org/Library/Speeches/

Choice Is a Fine Thing

Our ability to make choices is a powerful part of what it is to be human. Every day each one of us makes numerous choices about a range of different issues, some are relatively trivial, while others can have far reaching ramifications. Raising children is an area in which we must make momentous choices, as the alternatives we examine and select, can – and often do – affect the sort of person they will become.

baby sleeping

Teaching children how to make wise choices for themselves is also a vital part of good parenting and part of this process is helping them to understand that it is always prudent to examine a range of alternative positions, so that they can have a full picture of just what they are choosing between.

The very concept of choice presupposes this process of analysis. Without examining alternative possibilities we are actually forfeiting our ability to choose. We are simply either selecting the dominant or most widely used choice in the culture surrounding us or defaulting to something that happens to take our fancy at the time, and admittedly, in many situations this is all that is needed.

Image from wed

Image from web

These less important choices might involve food, clothing, or even aesthetic taste and for these choices many of us would simply go with our gut feelings or individual predilections. Historically, for many people, availability of alternatives or the dominant culture of their geographical location dictated many of their personal choices for them. However, in today’s world, our dominant culture is shaped by new processes. We live in the era of the sound bite and the newspaper headline. Many people go no deeper in thinking about the more important choices they make than basing their beliefs on 30 seconds of on-line video or a half hour TV program that presents a neat, no-questions-needed package.

With the advent of world media and ease of travel, the formation of a dominant culture has taken a new direction. Instead of traditions and military might being the most powerful drivers of national culture, we now have new forces in play. We have international media empires and political parties, controlled by strong philosophical biases and economic theories, working to narrow our range of perceived choices to those that will benefit their own set of preferred options.

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Apart from all the choices we each must consider as we make day to day decisions, we also have one life-changing choice to take into account that will affect many of our other choices. This choice is not bound by personal preferences or national culture, it is something that is relevant to every human being on the planet and it is the most important choice any person will ever make. This is the only choice we will ever face that doesn’t just affect the time we have in this life. This choice will reach out beyond death and the grave; it will not only impinge upon how we live our lives in the here and now, it will also have a powerful influence on our eternal destiny.

The Creator had a plan and a purpose when He designed and produced the universe and all of the life-forms within it. One of His most powerful gifts to humanity was allowing us to choose whether we accept this truth, or whether we reject it and choose to believe the rather simplistic alternative, that is, that the universe created itself and it has no true purpose, it simply exists. This would mean that all of the intricate, clearly designed systems that make up our cosmos merely bear the appearance of detailed design and our brains are nothing more than the product of unplanned chemical reactions.

We know these brains are so incredibly complex that even after thousands of scientists have spent hundreds of thousands of hours working on designs to duplicate them, they have only managed to scratch the surface in creating a machine that can do what our brain does, let alone make one that can maintain and renew itself, while at times rerouting signals and neurological (digital) pathways when necessary. And our brain is only one component of a larger body that can, with the help of a uniquely designed sexually complementary partner, actually produce a new, but different version of itself.

Image from web

Image from web

Using this ingeniously designed organ, we might choose to believe the universe made itself. If this is the case, then we must also choose to believe that each and every minute detail of everything that exists came into existence, from nothing, by pure, blind chance. This process would entail literally billions of incidents of blind, random chance miraculously working together to create this mind-bogglingly interrelated, interactive, interdependent system, which functions with precise timing and perfect order.

Any scientist worth his or her salt would have to admit the universe is a superbly fine tuned system, with incredible interdependencies that could never function as individual, independent applications. As more evidence comes to hand some scientists have actually been forced to admit just that. However, over the years evolutionists have created an elaborate set of just-so stories to explain the series of random happenings they claim worked together to produce our universe and the life forms that inhabit it. But these stories are actually just that, elaborate stories carefully crafted by carefully crafted human brains.

To accept that these billions of random incidents happened at exactly the right time in exactly the right order, by chance, involves nothing more than blind faith, because this belief system is based entirely on incidents people choose to assume happened millions or billions of years in the past which means, naturally, that no one has ever observed a single one of these incidents as they occurred.

What we have observed in the world today are catastrophic geological events rapidly reshaping the surface of our planet. The Mt St Helen’s volcano, which erupted in 1980, produced 7.6 meters of finely layered sediment in a single afternoon. Thus we realise that deep layers of rock sediment do not need millions of years to form. We have also observed life forms adapting to new environments, but this is not evolution, this is part of God’s original design that enabled creatures to fill new environmental niches as they filled the Earth (Gen 8:17).

We are told evolution involves natural selection acting on random mutations that have added new genetic information to an existing life-form. What we actually observe, over and over again, are mutations that decrease genetic information within organisms and reduce genetic variability within populations. We also know that the vast majority of mutations cause harm to organisms and even though a handful have benefited populations, they have also been the product of information loss, not gain.

In other words, we have only ever observed a reduction in genetic information. Therefore this mechanism has never been observed or proven to do what evolutionists claim it can do. It is simply pure speculation that lies behind this powerful modern myth.

Many well educated people consider a far more reasonable faith is founded on belief in the God who has continuously revealed Himself to humanity throughout history – through His people, His Spirit and His Word. This alternative story was brought to its climax when Jesus Christ was born into the human community to deliver His Good News and save humanity from destruction. It is also scientifically reasonable to accept His account of God’s special creation as the most viable explanation for the origin of the universe.
nativityIt appears many people never consider looking objectively at the choices they make concerning why we are here, where we came from and where we are going; that is, the choices we make about the very meaning of our lives. Instead, they take the path of least resistance; they simply accept the dominant cultural paradigm as though they were selecting a new pair of shoes. The latest fashion is to accept the evolution story of origins. This is incredibly short sighted, when one considers how much time some people spend deciding what to eat or what they should wear.

It takes a determined effort to objectively examine the popular belief that our gloriously complex universe simply created itself out of nothing. In our postmodern culture, progressive thinking outside the dominant cultural paradigm risks ridicule on a grand scale, as we have taken pseudo-intellectual arrogance to new heights when it comes to evolution. Almost everyone with a TV has seen David Attenborough, Stephen Fry or Professor Brian Cox describe how life came into existence and changed over time. We are brainwashed with philosophical naturalism and educated into blind acceptance of a theory that has well concealed, but gaping holes in its credibility. And despite the fact that naturalist scientists boast about their field being founded on questioning and examining evidence, we are actively discouraged from questioning evolution or examining the evidence for creation. They prefer us to believe there is no choice when it comes to the question of origins.

no choiceAlthough many people have been convinced by 21st century popular culture that there is no choice when it comes to the question of origins, and social and cultural pressures often steer people away from examining the evidence for creation, The Bible tells us there is yet another very powerful reason why people choose to believe in this questionable theory. From the pages of God’s Word we learn that ever since The Fall (Gen 3) humanity has had an innate tendency to oppose the Creator’s rule over their lives. For me, Stephen Fry is the epitome of a person who has taken this reality to new heights, as he broadcasts his version of truth to the four corners of the world. As Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans:

God shows His abhorrence from heaven against all the ungodliness and wrong things that people do. Their unrighteous lives hide the truth God has revealed to them; they have been clearly shown what He is like by their own existence. Yes, God has made it clear to them that He is their Creator. Although there are things about God that people cannot see – His eternal power and all that makes Him God – they really have no excuse for ignoring Him, because ever since the beginning of the world, those things have been easy for people to see and understand. They have been made clear in what God has created. So people have no excuse for their unrighteous lives.

People know God, but they do not honour Him as God, and are not thankful towards Him. Their ideas are useless as they have left the path of wisdom. There is not one good thought left in their foolish minds. They claim to be wise, but they became fools. Instead of honouring the divine greatness of God, who lives forever, some of them traded it for the worship of idols – things made to look like humans, who get sick and die, or like birds, animals, and snakes. Some people wanted only to follow their own lusts so God left them and let them go their own sinful ways. And so they became completely immoral and used their bodies in shameful ways with each other. They traded the truth of God for a lie. They bowed down and worshiped the things God made instead of worshiping the God who made those things. He is the one who should be praised forever. Amen. (Rom 1:18-25)

Paul has put his finger on the reason people deny creation right here. The creation story reveals the reality of a Creator. People who deny God need to have an explanation, not only for the miracle of their own lives, but for the very existence of the universe. The explanation that it all made itself was just one of many ideas the Greek philosophers toyed with well before Jesus was born. The modern theory of evolution is just another version of this ancient myth.

Despite our innate tendency to reject God’s way, a growing number of people in the world today are realising we do have a choice when it comes to the scientific evidence for origins. There is a constantly expanding body of robust scientific evidence that can be examined and analysed, and once we strip away the philosophical naturalism and look objectively at the data, the evidence reveals a very strong case for special creation. And if creation is a reality, then the next choice we need to make is whether we want to listen to our Creator and follow His guidance. He has given us choice and He won’t take this gift away. It was because of this great gift that mortality and suffering entered our world, but He also tells us that they are not a permanent part of His great creation project. He has a plan to eliminate them.

Image from web

Image from web

God allowed death, pain and suffering to enter His creation at the very beginning of human history and we can only speculate on why He did so. Although one reason that has been put forward is that He did so for there to be the possibility of true love between the Creator and the people He made in His own image. Humankind was created with free will; God gave us the ability to make our own choices and He does not manipulate our choices, but He has prescribed the consequences of those choices.

We can actually reject God’s love, but this will mean we will never have a relationship with Him. True love is only possible if this is the case. Love that is not voluntary is not love at all and as God has determined that love will be the foundation of the relationship we have with Him now and throughout eternity, only those who choose to love Him and accept Him as their Creator and Redeemer are given the gift of eternal life and can be part of the new creation the Father has described in the final chapters of His great revelation to humanity.

God is constantly reaching out to those who have not as yet seen and understood His great love for them. People who open-mindedly take the time to think through the issues and examine the alternative choices fully, often choose to become part of God’s eternal family, but even when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem He warned His listeners that few were finding the path to life. He said:

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The road to destruction is broad, its gate is wide and many people are choosing that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few are finding it. (Mat 7:13-14)

The Father wants to pour out His Spirit into each human life (2 Peter 3:9) so that everyone might receive the gift of eternal life. However, unless we make the choice to accept His truth we will remain mortal and be destined for the final destruction that is coming upon this broken, fallen world. He has revealed to us that it is the simple minded who scorn His Word and choose the path to destruction. As Solomon said:

How long will you love simplicity, simple ones? And will scorners delight in their scorning? And will fools hate knowledge? Turn at my warning; behold, I will pour out my Spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. But I called and they refused; I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; instead they have despised all my advice and would have none of my warning. Therefore I also will sneer at their trouble and I will scorn their fear; when their fear comes as a wasting away and their ruin comes like a tempest, when trouble and pain come upon them, then they will call upon me and I will not answer; they will seek me early, but will not find me. They have hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. They would have none of my counsel; they despised all my correction, and so they will eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own desires. For the turning away of the simple kills them, and the prosperity of fools destroys them. But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil. (Pro 1:22-33)

This crucial choice is in our own hands and the Creator God has clearly explained what this choice involves. Will you be part of the new creation God is going to bring into existence when He destroys death, pain and suffering and the broken creation we now inhabit? It may not be tomorrow, it may not be in the next 100 years, but it will happen, and when it does, all those who have ever lived in this fallen world will have had the opportunity to be part of an eternal creation where there will be no more pain, suffering or death. God’s righteousness will reign supreme in this new creation (Rev 21).

It seems like a no brainer to me, but I know many extremely intelligent and compassionate people who appear to believe they have made the right choice in rejecting God’s Way to eternal life. What I always wonder is whether they have actually made any choice at all, or whether they have simply accepted the dominant cultural paradigm and gone with the popular notion of reality, instead of taking the time to examine the alternative, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and He wants to give eternal life to each and every person on His planet. He died to make this possible but He has left it in our own hands to choose which road we take.

Wilful Ignorance Is No Excuse

In our postmodern world, many non-Christian people view Christianity as a religion that is obsessed with sin. Numerous modern media presentations have depicted the Christian faith as a cold, kill-joy, moralising institution, while the church is regularly referred to as the haunt of hypocrites, who prey on the vulnerable, as they preach moral standards that are no longer considered necessary by large portions of contemporary society. It is not unusual to find Christian leaders caricatured as twisted or corrupt characters in modern dramas on television or in books and movies. But perhaps believers have nurtured this understanding. The reality of sin is frequently presented by institutional churches as simply the things we do that do not line up with a particular set of moral standards, and sadly, many people who claim to be followers of Jesus do anything but follow His teachings.

The prophet Isaiah summarised the reality of sin by telling us:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, each one to his own way; and Jehovah has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

© Marinv | Dreamstime.com

© Marinv | Dreamstime.com

From God’s perspective, sin is a momentous problem. I can say this with absolute authority, because God has revealed this truth in His Word. But what is sin? Isaiah spelled it out – sin is “each one” going his or her “own way”. This concept presupposes that there is a God and that He has revealed He has a particular way He wants us, His creatures, to live. And indeed this is the core of the Christian gospel.

The Christian faith is not an inherited set of ideas and ideals, it is a belief system based on God’s revelation of Himself through His Son and His Word by His Holy Spirit. The Creator has given us this revelation so that we can be informed about His Way and Truth. Through His Word God tells us that we have all inherited a tendency to do our own thing.

If God had not created this universe with specific intentions this might not be a problem, but the Father has revealed a very definite plan and purpose for His universe and it is incumbent upon us to make ourselves aware of His revelation to us. God gave us intelligence and He reaches out to us through His Son, His Spirit and His Word. Wilful ignorance will be no excuse when it comes to our eternal destiny.

When Jesus came into the world the Father had carefully prepared for His incarnation, He came with a message and a specific plan and purpose. God had called out a nation of people to live according to His way and it was into this nation that Jesus was born. Today we live in a world where His message has, for centuries, been broadcast, published and spoken out into towns, villages and cities all over the world. If we choose to ignore or ridicule this message we seal our own fate. As Jesus put it, we are condemned already, because we choose to do our own thing and reject God’s way by choosing not to believe in the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18), who is the Way (John 14:6).

The Father sent the Son into the world to save humankind from the condemnation we are each under because of sin. This condemnation will eventually result in the total destruction of this present creation, which is plagued by sin and its consequences – pain, suffering, death and decay. Christians call the time when Adam and Eve chose to do their own thing rather than follow God’s clear directions, The Fall. It was because of this historical event that humanity was set on a path to destruction.

Adam and Eve 2From the first human couple that God created we inherited our mortal condition (1 Corinthians 15:22) and a sinful nature (Romans 5:12). If we choose to ignore God’s message to us concerning these historic truths and turn away from His Word, we will not only miss our Creator’s clear communication to us, we will also find it increasingly difficult to discern His Truth.

Ever since The Fall pain, suffering and death have been part of the human condition and the universal presence of the hereditary sin nature meant that the entire human population would always fall short of God’s eternal, holy standards (Romans 3:23). Since the first humans made their devastating choice, the mutations that entered the human race have been inherited by all subsequent generations and every individual born of our race has been subject to death. The other dreadful consequence from that earth-shattering decision was that humanity gained a new master. Instead of submitting to God’s guidance, sin now masters us (Romans 6:13-18).

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In His Word God has revealed He has a rescue plan for humanity. He wants to save us from the final destruction that is coming upon His corrupted creation. He is going to create a new heaven and a new Earth filled with God’s righteousness (2 Peter 3:13), where there will be no sin, pain, suffering or death (Rev 21:1-4), but only those people who are prepared to accept God’s Way can be part of His new creation. We cannot be part of the eternal, holy family God is preparing without His Holy Spirit, and we cannot be filled with His Spirit without accepting Jesus Christ as our Master and Saviour. It is only then that we can receive the gift of eternal life and can live our lives according to God’s plan, rather than going our own way and doing what is right in our own eyes (Prov 21:2-3).

The reality of sin is all around us, but sin is our problem, not God’s. The Creator could simply wipe out all that He created if He chose to do so. He had the power and ability to bring the universe into being from nothing and He could reduce it to nothing in an instant.

Image from Smithsonian

Image from Smithsonian

Thankfully, He has revealed to us that this is not His intention. Human history is interwoven with God’s merciful outworking of His rescue plan. From the moment after Adam and Eve rejected God’s way He set that plan in motion and at the right time He came to Earth to deal with the problem humanity had created, the problem of sin. He did this by taking upon Himself the penalty for the sin of all humanity (1 John 2:2; 1 Tim 2:6; Heb 2:9).

God is holy and He sees sin for what it is, it is a corruption of His way and it leads to pain, suffering and death. Sin must attract a severe penalty to truly indicate just how destructive it really is. To dismiss it lightly would be to trivialise its consequences.

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God decreed that death was the just penalty for sin (Gen 2:17; Romans 6:23). And as soon as Adam and Eve chose to do their own thing rather than obey God, corruption and death entered the world. In a very real sense this was a merciful act on God’s part. For a human being to live eternally with a corrupted nature would be unendurable.

The Father also made it possible for our penalty to be passed on to His Son (Romans 3:24-26). Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we each have an opportunity to be saved from the just penalty we would otherwise rightly incur. When we have been redeemed by the only Saviour the world will ever know, we can be part of the new creation God will make after He destroys this present fallen one.

Giving our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and accepting Him as our Saviour is only the beginning of the journey. We all know that Christian people are not perfect. Christians still sin. Until God changes us from mortal to immortal and from corruptible into incorruptible beings (1 Cor 15:53), we are still susceptible to our sinful tendencies rising up and overwhelming God’s Spirit within us. At times we still want to do our own thing rather than God’s. Christians can allow hate and revenge to take hold of them rather than love and forgiveness. As The Bible puts it, they can walk in the flesh rather than in the Spirit (Rom 7:5; 8:4-14). Many Christians get stuck on a particular doctrine or follow a particular church’s beliefs, refusing to budge from their position, even though The Bible clearly teaches a different way. Christians can still choose to be blind and do their own thing rather than submit to the authority of God’s Word.

However, those who are true followers of Jesus will be making every effort to walk in God’s Spirit and not follow their old ways (Romans 8:1; 13; Eph 4:24; Col 3:8-15). Jesus’ message is revolutionary, He commands us to love even those who hate us (Matt 5:44). He also expects us to live holy lives so that we might be fit to be God’s people in His new creation. Although we are still part of this fallen creation God has given us His Holy Spirit to empower us and His Word to guide and direct us, and His followers should make every effort to understand and walk in God’s way.

God fully intends to deal with the problem of sin and its consequences – pain, suffering and death – but to do this He has revealed He is going to start again (Rev 21). This is the message our Creator has clearly given to humanity. Why would anyone choose to remain ignorant of the message Jesus came to unveil? Our eternal destiny is in our own hands, but we must act, we must take the time to be properly informed and then we must make a choice. We must choose whether we want to be part of God’s eternal creation or perish along with the old one that will most definitely pass away.

The Bible is filled with passages about the finite nature of this present creation. The apostle Peter wrote:

Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of His command, and He brought the Earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then He used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and Earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the Day of Judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the Day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the Earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, He will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new Earth He has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in His sight. And remember, the Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. (2 Peter 3:3-15a)

God is patient, but He won’t wait forever. The day is fast approaching. He has given us all the information we need to make a wise choice. We each have a personal philosophy on which we base our lives. Wilfully choosing to be ignorant of God’s clear message to us is a very bad choice, as is remaining blind to the fact that even those people who choose to reject the notion of God have their own set of biases, beliefs and base assumptions. Surprisingly, these beliefs and assumptions are often unexamined and unconsidered; they have simply been taken on because they are part of the dominant cultural paradigm. Wilful ignorance is often simply blind faith in a naturalist philosophy.

God has given us intelligence and He expects us to use it to examine His revelation to us. Unless we are prepared to carefully examine the evidence for Jesus’ worldview, we cannot make a wise choice and we may well find ourselves amongst those who are destined to perish rather than benefit from God’s gracious gift of eternal life (John 3:16).

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Why Do We Need A Saviour?

When I first met Jesus I saw Him as my spiritual guide, or guru. It was over a year before He confronted me with the concept of salvation. I’m not sure if being told I was a sinner before then would have helped much in alerting me to my need of a Saviour. What I initially understood was that there is a God who sent His Son to Earth because He loves us and wanted to reach out to us. My view, until He opened my eyes to the reality of sin, was that the people of Earth were so lost, not only did they not recognise their Creator, they executed Him for no other reason than that He told them He was the one true God.

As I became more familiar with the teachings of Jesus through His Word, I began to understand the concept of sin and our need for salvation. In The Bible I was introduced to words such as atonement and redemption, justification and sanctification. Each one of these words is packed full of significance and implications for the follower of Jesus Christ. They are all talking about a relationship that has been broken and needs mending. This is a primal relationship that was damaged almost as soon as it was forged. The human race was cut off from their Creator. This momentous event is known as the Fall.

Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)

Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)

The Creator could justifiably have abandoned His creation when Adam and Eve defied Him and sent His universe into a spiral of sin, pain, suffering and death. The One who brought it into being from nothing, could simply have reduced His universe to naught and started over again. Or He could have left His Earth to descend into a world that looked like nothing more than Sodom and Gomorrah from horizon to horizon – a world where brute power and savagery reigned as innocence and love were destroyed by lust, hate, greed and violence. Instead, at great cost to Himself, He set out to redeem those who choose to adhere to His original plan and purpose and live according to His guidelines, sending them out into the world as His ambassadors with the message of His love and holiness.

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God created a perfect universe, but He chose to allow the creatures He made to have dominion over His world – the people He created in His own image – to have individuality. He chose to create us with superior intelligence and free will. These unique gifts, which will make us fit to be His companions throughout eternity, were the very things that cost Him the life of His Son.To restore what was lost at the Fall, the Father sent His only Son to humanity with His message of salvation, knowing just what humanity would do in response. God did not orchestrate the crucifixion, but He foreknew it would happen and He worked through it, encompassing it into His great plan of salvation. He sent His Son into the path of evil and evil thought it would reduce God’s plan to rubble. But God victoriously raised His Son from death, as the First of His new, eternal creation. God would not only overcome evil with good, He would overcome death with eternal life. As Paul explained to the Corinthian church:

If our hope in Christ is only good for this life, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in the world. But Christ rose from death and became the First of those who are dead to be raised. Just as death came by means of a man, in the same way the rising from death comes by means of a Man. Indeed, all people die because of their union with Adam, likewise all those in Christ will be raised to life because of their union with Him. But all will be raised in the proper order: Christ is first of all, then, at the time of His coming, those who belong to Him will be raised like Him. Then the end will come. Christ will overcome all spiritual rulers, authorities, and powers, and will hand over the Kingdom to God the Father. For Christ must rule until God defeats all His enemies and puts them under His feet. The last enemy to be defeated will be death. (1 Cor 15:19-26)

The message Jesus Christ came to bring the world was not only about restoring our relationship with our Creator, it was also about God’s plan to eternally destroy evil and death. To do this He must destroy this present, fatally flawed creation. The weeds that have grown up in God’s beautiful garden overwhelm and strangle the fragile flowers. Hate, lust and greed; self-righteousness, idolatry and envy, all these tendencies left unchecked will strangle compassion and mercy; love and forgiveness. But one of the greatest problems for humanity is wilful arrogance. People cut off from their Creator imagine themselves capable of guiding humanity into a better future. Deceived by their own gifts and intellectual prowess, they believe their God given ability to think and reason will enable them to live apart from their Creator. This is the very idea that led Satan to rebel.

We were created for the tremendous purpose of communing with our Creator. We cannot function to our full potential in any other capacity. If we break away from God we break away from our only eternal hope. We will ultimately be nothing more than the flowers of the field, beautiful for a short season, but destined to fade away to nothing (James 1:11). The tragedy of people rejecting their eternal destiny is beyond contemplation. My heart aches for the lost, while our post-modern culture moves rapidly away from any real understanding of our individual, personal need for salvation. Our Father has given us this season to repent and turn to Him. He has ensured His message reaches every corner of His magnificent planet and He came Himself to confirm the Truth of this message.

When Jesus was born He brought Good News for the lost, God has promised there will be an eternal Kingdom free from sin, pain, suffering and death, but we must be born again of His Spirit to take our part in His eternal Kingdom. As John records the words of Jesus:

Jesus responded, “I tell you the truth, unless a person is born again, it is impossible for them to see the Kingdom of God.” And Nicodemus said, “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and of the Spirit. Mortal humans can reproduce only mortal human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to eternal spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say you must be born again.” (John 3:3-7)

Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, which was called the Sanhedrin. He came to Jesus at night to discuss His teachings and he appears to be one of the few Jewish leaders who actually recognised their Messiah at that time. Jesus revealed to Nicodemus the great plan God was working out for humanity through His incarnation. In John’s record of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, the Lord unveils the mystery of the ages to one of Israel’s leaders. God had become Man so that humanity might come back into relationship with God. Thus, individuals can be saved from perishing, when this present universe is destroyed by fire before the new heaven and the new Earth are created where God will dwell with His eternal people. The first heaven and the first Earth will pass away (Rev 21:1), but those people who have been born again will realise their eternal destiny in the new heaven and the new Earth.

© Samuel Micut | Dreamstime.com

© Samuel Micut | Dreamstime.com

Jesus explained to Nicodemus that to be part of this new creation, people must be born again of His Spirit. They must believe and put their trust in Him. After explaining that He is the only Son of God, who came down from heaven with a mission no other person throughout human history could accomplish, Jesus asserted:

Whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His only Son into the world to condemn the world, but rather, that the world through Him might be saved. He that believes in Him is not condemned: but he that does not believe is condemned already, because he does not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that Light came into the world, and men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil or not inspired by God. For every one who spends their time on wicked or unimportant matters hates the Light and is not drawn to the Light, thus avoiding their deeds revealing their own self-centredness. But whoever acts in truth comes to the Light, that their deeds may be made manifest and it will be obvious to all that they are inspired by God. (John 3:15-21)

Jesus was pointing out that the default position for humanity is to perish as a mortal creature. When the Father finally draws this universe to its predicted end, those who have not accepted God’s gift of eternal life will perish. We can spend our time and energy on our own pursuits, these may be literally evil, or they may simply be things we think are useful or make us feel good, but unless they are centred in Truth they lead nowhere. We can spend our time pursuing pleasure, money or fame, or in conscientiously studying and gaining degrees and qualifications, but ultimately these will all pass away. Only those actions that promote eternal matters, that is, those activities that are in line with God’s guidance and Truth, will be of any eternal significance.

Jesus saves cut

© Enterlinedesign | Dreamstime.com

If we ignore the words of our Creator and turn our backs on Jesus’ assertions that we must believe in Him, accept His death on our behalf and be born again, then we are already condemned to perish. We can only be saved from this tragic end by placing our trust in Him and accepting that His version of God’s plan and purpose for His universe and our eternal existence is God’s Truth. We must be saved through grace by the only Saviour the world will ever know. The Lord Jesus Christ was born into the human race to offer us the gift of everlasting life and a place in His Eternal Kingdom; thus saving us from perishing (The Bible also calls this eternal destruction) along with this present, doomed creation, when the Father brings an end to sin, pain, suffering and death.

nativity

Halleluiah, Jesus Christ was born to give us eternal life. Praise God!

Who Am I?

Since social media sites hit cyberspace I have occasionally joined groups and contributed to discussions, but after a rather interesting participation in one particular group, I realised that people are often not what they claim to be. Although I use a pseudonym on this blog (for reasons that will become evident shortly), I’ve always been pretty open and mostly honest with people. When you believe, as I do, that a benevolent Father is watching over you, it is difficult to disappoint Him by telling blatant lies. However, it seems people who believe they are on their own, people who have no sense of a Greater Reality, can be capable of the most unbelievable deception.

One of the groups I joined was on facebook. The group was called Creationism and I thought it would be interesting to discuss scientific issues relating to the creation/evolution debate with other Christians who were interested in this topic. I chose not to join an evolution group, as I’m not really interested in conflict, but I do enjoy discussing topics from differing points of view. The first thing I noticed in this group was that most of the posts were very negative towards creation science. Posts placed by the administrator were all rather airy-fairy and didn’t ever address anything to do with Creationism or present any scientific information relating to creation science. They centred more on positive thinking and being thankful for the beauty of nature. That did rather surprise me, but then I thought that perhaps the administrator was not well educated on the subject, even though s/he was a believer in biblical creation.sunset

I decided I’d contribute by raising topics of interest to biblical creationists, after all, that is what the term Creationism is all about. The response was unbelievable. The crude, personal assaults from anti-creationists were so disgusting it took my breath away. At one stage someone called Randy posted a photo of a piece of human faeces in a glass with a caption stating that this was a photo of my brain. It was after this incident that I decided I would try to remain more anonymous in cyberspace. Gradually, I came to realise that no one else in the group ever contributed from the creation side of the debate, and eventually, I was barred.

It finally dawned on me. In reality, the person who set up the group was an evolutionist. This person knew nothing about biblical creation and precious little about the science behind the theory of evolution. I was the only person to post anything that supported creation science, so I guess that’s why I was barred, people who posted anything resembling scientific evidence for creation were inevitably barred. I am now totally convinced the administrator was not a Christian, but rather, a particularly dishonest mischief maker. The group’s whole aim was no doubt to falsely represent Christians who believe in biblical creation, whilst opening them up to ridicule and personal abuse.

I have since come to believe that another site I have contributed to (God of Evolution (GOE)), may also be run by a person whose claim to be a Christian is false. Like the facebook group, this site appears to be dedicated to attacking people who believe in biblical creation. The owner of this site claims he is a believer, but once again, I wonder whether his motives are what he claims them to be. He is very fond of making claims about the so called beliefs of what he terms “young earth creationists” (YECs), and then attacking those claims. He presents straw man arguments, and as his readers seem to be generally ignorant of the true arguments creation scientists make for biblical creation, he effectively attacks his straw men, thus creating the illusion of having completely refuted any biblical creationist propositions by completely misrepresenting his opponents.

Image from Pirate Times

Image from Pirate Times

This person never attacks well qualified and trained creation scientists, instead he chooses less informed creationists and lay people to quote, people who are far less capable of presenting information effectively. He also uses sweeping generalisations, lumping everyone who believes in biblical creation together under his YEC banner and if one sneezes, everyone has a cold. Whatever one person has been heard to say (he seems to particularly dislike Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis) he uses as part of his data bank of “things all YECs believe” and fuel for yet another attack article.

The interesting thing is he doesn’t appear to venture into any specific scientific issues. He links to a number of evolutionist sites that claim certain scientific evidence points to evolution as the most convincing theory for the origins of all that is, but virtually all of these claims have been robustly answered many times over by reputable scientists who believe in biblical creation, and these rebuttals never see the light of day on his site. In fact his site appears to be set up for the sole purpose of denigrating people who believe the biblical account of creation, while having very little to say about evolution, other than it happened – full stop.

I find it difficult to believe someone of faith would want to spend so much of their time vehemently attacking specific individuals just because their approach to The Bible is different. There is no attempt to examine issues, it is people who are being attacked. This is character assassination on a grand scale, with very little promotion of the gospel. This is not something I can imagine Jesus doing and therefore I doubt this person is actually a follower of Jesus. Jesus reserved this sort of personal attack for hypocrites. Perhaps this site’s owner believes all YECs are hypocrites. However, after my earlier experience with facebook, I suppose I’m actually less naive, one might even say more cynical. I have recently begun to wonder just who the owner of this site actually is. Is he who he claims to be – a follower of Jesus? Is he even a real person? He may in fact be nothing more than an avatar representing a non-Christian group who hate biblical creationists.

This leads me to the issue I wanted to discuss in this post. Who are we? Am I the person I think I am, or the person my family thinks I am? Am I simply someone who was born of English, Irish, Polish and German stock, in the middle of Sydney in the middle of the 20th century; only to have 80 or so years (if I’m lucky) of life experience? How can we know who we really are? We appear to spend a great deal of our lives trying to be someone, but is that someone who we are essentially?

This question began to distract me in my teens and for some time I entertained the idea that we may be reincarnated, that we may have lived on Earth many times before and have already had a number of different personalities. After someone pointed out the mathematical difficulties with this concept I was less inclined to see reincarnation as a possibility. It is likely that the present population of people on Earth is equal to, or perhaps even exceeds, the total number of people who have ever lived on the planet in the past. Also, believing in reincarnation didn’t actually address the big question I had – Who am I anyway?

Our friend over at the GOE site states that:

When I engage with other Christians who disagree with me on evolution, I have never sensed in them much of a longing for nonbelievers to experience the joy and salvation of knowing Jesus. I more often tend to encounter a deep animosity and mistrust, especially toward scientists.

Is that me? It certainly doesn’t seem to have anything to do with me or any other biblical creationists I’ve met, particularly as a number of them are PhD scientists. So are we what others tell us we are? Sadly this can sometimes be the case. As a primary school teacher I worked with children who were having difficulties with reading. A number of my pupils had been virtually told by adults that they would never learn to read, and some of them began to believe this assessment. Other children I encountered had been told they were “thick”. These kids often decided that if they couldn’t be good at school, they’d be good at disrupting school – and they often were. This is frequently referred to as fulfilling negative expectations. My approach to this problem was to try to remove the negative expectations and replace them with positive, achievable goals. Thankfully, this approach nearly always had positive outcomes.

After many years of thinking over the issue of just who we are, I came to the conclusion that we must be either one of two possibilities. Either we are an accident, or we are a part of a bigger plan. Naturally (sorry about the pun), the accident adherents follow the creed of evolution, that is, we are all the product of random, unplanned, haphazard chemical reactions. Our life journey is simply a combination of what nature gave us genetically at birth, the environment into which we happened to be born and what we do throughout life with the cards we were dealt. Our personalities are nothing more than chemical reactions in our brains, and we have nothing to look forward to beyond the grave, other than becoming compost.

I find this a very depressing outlook and have wondered if it might be at the root of a lot of the depression that so plagues our modern culture. Is it possible that some children, who were raised with this sort of concept, somehow, through lack of use, turn off certain neural pathways in their brains that lead to hope and optimism? After all, what is there to hope for under this scenario? It is no surprise that so many people are working their way through a bucket list. If we are not born with genius or beauty, under this scenario we are simply part of the herd, striving to make a life amidst the chaos and confusion of the modern world. Some people do a better job than others at enjoying themselves and loving life and those around them, but ultimately, surely we are more than this small life we each live. Deep inside each one of us is a sense of so much more.

When we choose to believe the Creator’s version of life this is only the beginning of the journey in the opposite direction. We are no longer striving to satisfy personal needs (even if these needs may have included altruism or philanthropy), our attention is directed towards our Creator and His plans and purposes. This path is nevertheless a steep learning curve. My friend over at GOE opens his site with the verse:

“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” 1 Cor 14:20 (ESV)

No doubt he is inferring that a mature Christian would follow his way of thinking and believe in evolution, accepting a rather confused hybrid between my two possibilities. He doesn’t make much of an attempt at convincing us or explaining why we should believe in evolution; he simply informs us that everyone who is even slightly intelligent, and all the people he respects, believe in evolution. When I was an infant Christian, evolution is exactly what I believed in, but it seems very clear to me today that once one starts to really look at the issues, examine the evidence, and read both sides of the argument thoroughly, it is far more in keeping with rational thought to believe The Bible’s straightforward account of creation. To me this is far more likely to be the product of mature thinking.

Being a biblical creationist is counter-cultural; this is the journey that is less directed by culture and more by the Word of God. It takes a certain sort of determination to question the dominant cultural paradigm, but the journey once begun is startling in its clarity.

The Bible’s version of who I am is also uplifting in its purity. Through His Word our Father has revealed that He wants us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 4:18; 5:7), He wants to have a deep spiritual and personal relationship with each one of us – He created us for this very purpose. God has a definite plan for each and every person born onto this very special planet.

Master_Universe_by_ANTIFAN_REAL

Master Universe by ANTIFAN REAL

To begin with, there is good evidence to demonstrate that our planet is at or very near the centre of the universe. We are not living on an obscure little blue blob lost in a vast array of cosmic bodies. When God stretched out the heavens (Is 45:12; Jer 10:12), creating time and space, He was opening a new chapter in His eternal existence. He is the “cause” of all that is (Rev 4:11) and the reason we exist (Col 1:16). Our Father chose to create a family for Himself and consequently He created a stunningly breathtaking environment for us to physically inhabit.

When He created Adam and Eve in His own image as two unique individuals, He knew every single person who would come from their genetic material, as humanity filled the Earth (Gen 1:26-28). Each and every one of us is known to our Creator and He has an individual plan for each of our lives. We are no accident! We are the intentional, miraculous creation of the eternal, omniscient, omnipotent God, who has made it possible for each one of us to become part of His eternal family.

Image from The Exponent

Image from The Exponent

Who we are can only be fully realised in the context of who we will become when we are given the gift of eternal life. When we accept this gift, which cost the Father the life of His Son, we embark on a journey of discovery that will go on into eternity. During this journey we will find our true selves and be given our true names (Rev 2:17). No longer will we be the person we were told we are, or the person we think we should be, we will discover who our loving Father created us to be as His unique, individual, immortal child. As our brother John pointed out:

See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know Him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is. (1John 3:1-2)

This must be one of the most hope filled, life giving promises in The Bible. Not only are we assured we are the much loved children of the Creator of the Universe, we also know that we will be like Christ – we will be immortal, we will be sinless, we will be the objects of unimaginable love – and that love will rise up in us and become our very own nature. We won’t be clones of Christ, anymore than we have been clones of Adam and Eve, but we will inherit His righteousness. The sin nature we inherited from our natural parents will be gone and because we have been born again of the Spirit we will no longer be subject to this fallen nature. Thus we will be fit for God’s eternal kingdom (John 3:3, 7). The apostle Peter tells us:

God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and His Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed Him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by His great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. (1Peter 1:2-6)

We can have great expectations because we are offered a priceless inheritance, and this inheritance is within reach of every person who has ever been born on this specially crafted planet. God is producing an eternal family and each one of us can be part of that family. That is what we can be, that is who we were designed to be. We can be immortal people living in a truly loving family with an omnipotent, omniscient, eternal Father who loves us and will care for us throughout eternity. He will enable us to realise our unique potential, and it is only through His Son that this is possible. To find out who we really are we must take hold of what we can be through the Lord Jesus Christ.

As Peter explains:

Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because He raised Christ from the dead and gave Him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. (1Pe 1:21-23)

Sincere love for brothers and sisters is not what I encounter when I go to the GOE site. This causes me to wonder whether the owner is the person he claims to be. He writes with such vehement animosity towards people he states are his brothers and sisters, people who happen to be biblical creationists, that I am forced to doubt him.

If he is a Christian I can only hope he takes the time to properly look at what he is attacking, not the people (we all have faults), but the substance of the scientific research. Then he might begin to understand why so many fellow believers have taken hold of creation science, having realised that the scientific evidence actually does point to biblical creation as the most convincing model for the origin of our universe. He too can join the Christian Counter Culture and stand against the great deception of evolution, with its naturalistic annihilation of human eternal potential. Perhaps then he will be a true follower of Jesus and express that deep love for his fellow believers Peter talked about. If he is what I suspect, another fabricator of elaborate lies, I can only pray he will find his hope in Christ, because then he too will discover his own personal, eternal potential and come to know who he truly is.

Knowing, Caring and Praying

I’ve been reading Amy Carmichael’s book Lotus Buds. In this book she tells the story of her work in India as a missionary and how she found herself rescuing young girls, sometimes babies, from being dedicated to the Hindu temples. The inevitable fate of these innocent little souls was to become temple prostitutes – their sexual services would earn a living for the priests.

8.7.14_amy-carmichael1From a western perspective, it’s difficult to understand how parents could believe this was a choice they could make for their little ones. But circumstances sometimes forced them to give up their babies and this was one of the most acceptable ways of ensuring they would be “looked after”. No doubt, for some, it also held the hope of favourable treatment from the gods. Temple prostitution was banned in India in 1948 and I have no doubt that it was through the work and prayers of people like Amy that this came about. To undermine such a deep, culturally accepted custom, it often takes someone from outside the culture to point out the injustice involved in an entrenched practice.

Amy was a great prayer warrior and she wrote:

…..we write for those who believe in prayer—not in the emasculated modern sense, but in the old Hebrew sense, deep as the other is shallow. We believe there is some connection between knowing and caring and praying, and what happens afterwards. Otherwise we should leave the darkness to cover the things that belong to the dark. We should be for ever dumb about them, if it were not that we know an evil covered up is not an evil conquered. So we do the thing from which we shrink with strong recoil; we stand on the edge of the pit, and look down and tell what we have seen, urged by the longing within us that the Christians of England should pray.
Carmichael, Amy (2011-03-24). Lotus Buds (Kindle Locations 924-929).Kindle Edition.

As Christians we need to take seriously the battle that is raging for the souls of people lost in other faiths. Some people feel it is wrong to go against the entrenched culture of a nation. When Amy went to India, part of the culture of that nation was to give baby girls to temples to become prostitutes. She had to fight long and hard to free the children she saved from this fate. We are not our cultures; we are far more than our cultures. We have each been created in God’s image and He has a great desire to bring us into His eternal kingdom, through His one and only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

photo from http://www.carigold.com

India 1900 photo from http://www.carigold.com

False religions are simply cultural – they have nothing to do with the Creator of the universe. They have grown out of humanity’s ideas about God. They stand opposed to God’s revelation of Himself. To say that all religions are basically the same is to admit ignorance of the truth. It is like saying all economic systems are the same, because they are all about economics. No one, who took the time to look, could believe that a command economy and a free market economy are the same. They might use similar terminology, but they are very different approaches to the same issue. We need to be prepared to speak the truth about the uniqueness of Christianity, it might use similar terminology to other religions, but it is not just another path, it is the only true path to an eternal relationship with our Creator Father.

I pray God will show us how to become prayer warriors like Amy Carmichael and that the Christians of the world today should also pray in that deep way she talked about. It breaks my heart to think of the way many Christians have accepted pluralism in the 21st century. But the reality is, The Bible teaches us that, like the Muslim faith, the Hindu religion is another stronghold of darkness. These are not alternative paths to God, they are terrible strongholds of darkness and deception. Amy did not go to India with any sense of cultural superiority, she loved India and its people. She wrote:

We think of the real India as we see it in the thinker—the seeker after the unknown God, with his wistful eyes. “The Lord beholding him loved him,” and we cannot help loving as we look….. We see the spirit of the old land there; and it wins us and holds us, and makes it a joy to be here to live for India.

The true India is sensitive and very gentle. There is a wisdom in its ways, none the less wise because it is not the wisdom of the West. This spirit which traffics in children is callous and fierce as a ravening beast; and its wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. . . . And this spirit, alien to the land, has settled upon it, and made itself at home in it, and so become a part of it that nothing but the touch of God will ever get it out. We want that touch of God: “Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.” That is why we write.
Carmichael, Amy (2011-03-24). Lotus Buds (Kindle Locations 919-924). Kindle Edition.

Amy understood that despite the fact that Jesus is the only Way, God was still able to work in the hearts of people who had never heard the name of Jesus. She wrote:

We form no hard, presumptuous creed as to how the God of all the earth will deal with these masses of mankind who have missed the knowledge of Him here; we know He will do right.
Carmichael, Amy (2011-03-24). Lotus Buds (Kindle Locations 585-586). . Kindle Edition.

But 100 years later it is almost impossible to “have missed the knowledge of Him.” There may be a few remote outposts of the world where the name of Jesus has not been heard, but the real battle today is to stand against a watering down of the words of Jesus. He said He is the only Way to enter the eternal kingdom, there is no other Way. To give in to pluralism is to give in to these false, cultural claims about God. God has clearly revealed His Truth and we need to lovingly bring people to an understanding of this Truth.

the way1

This brings me back to the need for prayer. When we realise “the connection between knowing and caring and praying, and what happens afterwards,” we can do nothing other than be moved to prayer. Amy reminded us that we “stand on the edge of the pit, and look down and tell what we have seen.” What we have seen is that there is only one Way to the Father, and this is through His Son. And so we must pray for the masses who are yet in darkness. As Amy put it, our prayer must be, “not in the emasculated modern sense, but in the old Hebrew sense, deep as the other is shallow.”

We know there are billions of people in the world today who have heard the name of Jesus, but have no understanding of His Truth. These people are not only deceived by false “religions”, they are also deceived by materialism, atheism and pluralism. They may be known to us or unknown, well educated or uneducated, wealthy or poor. We may not be able to take ourselves to the mission fields, but every Christian alive today can pray. We don’t need to pray for revival, we need to pray for the lost, those who are at risk of losing their eternal destiny in the Lake of Fire.

We don’t need entertaining, we don’t need formulas and steps to follow, we just need to get down on our knees and lift our hearts to our Father and pray. Pray for the billions of souls who may forfeit their eternal destiny because we were too busy, or too tired, or too troubled. Start with the people you know, all those people in your life who don’t, as yet, know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Make sure you pray for them every day. God will lead and God will guide, but we must make ourselves available. Brothers and sister let us all give ourselves to prayer for the teaming masses of lost souls who share our planet this very day. Do it now and do it often – pray.

For the terrible day is almost here—the day of the LORD! It is a day of clouds and gloom, a day of despair for the nations. (Eze 30:3)

Photo from Lotus Buds by Amy Carmichael

Photo from Lotus Buds by Amy Carmichael

Who Is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? The answer to this question has occupied academics for centuries, as historian and author John Dickson asserts:

It is a conceit of every age to suppose that it has discovered the most important questions—and answers. The quest for the historical Jesus really began as soon as he left the scene in AD 30. Even the author of one of the four New Testament Gospels shows an interest in searching out the facts rather than opinions about the man from Nazareth.

Whether we believe Jesus of Nazareth is an historical figure may depend entirely upon our own pre-existing bias towards the concepts conveyed by His name. Despite the sceptics, there is very sound evidence to support the claim that Jesus was indeed a real person who lived in the Middle East 2000 years ago. Dickson suggests Luke, the physician and gospel writer was:

….. someone committed to weighing earlier sources, gathering (eyewitness) testimony, researching thoroughly and then providing an orderly account of the most reliable data.

In his orderly account (Luke 1:3) of the life and work of Jesus, Luke records Jesus posing this very question to His disciples. Luke writes:

He was praying alone, only the disciples were with Him, and He asked them, “Who do the multitudes say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist, but others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the old prophets has risen again.” And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:18-20)

I believe we must each ask ourselves this question: Who is Jesus? Or perhaps we should consider just what His life and claims about Himself have to do with us today? Like many other people, my interest in Jesus had waxed and waned throughout my life, but eventually I decided to pursue an answer to this question.

As a child I was sent to Sunday School, where I heard many stories from The Bible. Some of them were about the Baby Jesus, who, I was informed, was born a long time ago and a long way away. This baby grew up and became an Important Person, but He was killed by some soldiers, who nailed Him to a cross. Amazingly, He came back to life and spent some time with His disciples, before He rose up into the clouds and went back to heaven to be with God.

Growing up in an agnostic household, we didn’t talk about this story at home. My parents didn’t attend church but my sisters and I went to Sunday School, while Mum and Dad read the Sunday papers. Church was just something some people did, but it didn’t have any significant impact on our home life. Although I loved to read Bible stories in the books I won at Sunday School, I didn’t take them too seriously. meeIn my mind they were similar to the classical myths I read in our Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia, or the stories I devoured in my Fairy Tale collections and my book of Aesop’s Fables. I stopped going to Sunday School when I was about 11 and I don’t remember anyone talking about religion in our home after that.

Teenagers in the 50s and 60s were born not long after WWII and most of us hoped to live in a world that was free from the widespread violence and aggression our parents and grandparents had seen. Perhaps we thought the two horrific world wars that tore apart the very fabric of society in the first half of the century, were products of old thinking. hippies1As the past traditions had not prevented such human carnage, we were reaching for new ways. While the post war world began reconstruction, many people began to reconstruct their concepts of reality and a more progressive concept of Jesus began to emerge.

In my late teens I started to think about this person Jesus again and it was then that I came across the Theosophists’ concept of Maitreya, who was, they claimed:

….. an advanced spiritual entity and high-ranking member of a hidden Spiritual Hierarchy, the so-called Masters of the Ancient Wisdom. According to Theosophical doctrine, one of the Hierarchy’s functions is to oversee the evolution of humankind; in accord with this function the Maitreya is said to hold the so-called Office of the World Teacher. Theosophical texts posit that the purpose of this Office is to facilitate the transfer of knowledge about the true constitution and workings of Existence to humankind. Humanity is thereby assisted on its presumed cyclical, but ever progressive, evolutionary path. Reputedly, one way the knowledge transfer is accomplished is by Maitreya occasionally manifesting or incarnating in the physical realm; the manifested entity then assumes the role of World Teacher of Humankind.

From astrogems.com

From astrogems.com

Jesus as an incarnation of Maitreya seemed more appropriate for the end of the 20th century, particularly if humanity had evolved to a higher level of awareness and we were now ready for the masters to transfer information suitable to this higher plane. I found this teaching much more palatable than the ideas I remembered from the “religious” people who went to church.

From my perspective, church people appeared narrow minded and seemed to have little imagination; I perceived them as people who had simply swallowed ideas that had been passed down to them from repressive leaders, who used religion as a means of maintaining control of the masses.

This new version of Jesus was far more in line with psychedelic thinking. This Jesus had come to Earth to teach humanity a different way to the one the established church presented. Through New Age teachings I thought I could find a way to higher consciousness and enlightenment by emulating Jesus’ lifestyle and teachings. I decided Jesus was one of a number of examples we could model our own lives after, if we seek world peace and enlightenment.

It was during this time that I embarked on a quest for Truth. I had a rudimentary understand of truth being relative, and I toyed with this idea. However, I was beginning to encounter a range of “cosmic” teachings about higher consciousness and I felt it would be interesting to explore some of these ideas, which were becoming more prominent in the youth culture through the hippie movement and people like Timothy Leary. Perhaps there really was such a thing as Truth.timothy leary

I started reading books I bought at The Theosophical Society bookshop. The writers of these tomes presented Jesus as a very different person to the one I’d learned about at Sunday School. One of the books I purchased was The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, by Levi Dowling. This Jesus was portrayed as a well travelled sage, and from Dowling’s book I learned that:

By making himself, through desire, effort, ability and prayer, a fit vessel, Jesus enabled The Christ to dwell within him. Christ is therefore used as a term for the seemingly perfect human being that Jesus exemplified, a human being that has been “Christened” (anointed) and therefore made holy.

This idea struck a cord with me. I had discovered the concept of Christ Consciousness and read about the Cosmic Christ, who, along with other enlightened sages, would help guide humanity on its journey of spiritual evolution. I also discovered the concept of the ascended master. The followers of this idea believe ascended masters are:

….. individuals who have lived in physical bodies, acquired the Wisdom and Mastery needed to become Immortal and Free of the cycles of “re-embodiment” and karma, and have attained their “Ascension”. … According to the Ascended Master Teachings, gaining “mastery over matter planes” means learning to consciously use 100% of one’s Creative Power of thought, feeling, and spoken word to create greater perfection, joy, and love in the world, as opposed to using thoughts, feelings, and words to create greater limitations, bondage, and chaos in one’s own experience and in the world at large through carelessness and lack of awareness of the extent of one’s influence in the world.

In the course of my quest I left my job and went to live on a commune in the hinterland behind Cairns, far north Queensland. This property was owned by a fellow called Jan Daube, who had come to Australia from Germany, with the express purpose of setting up a community for people to come under the spiritual guidance of his Master. According to Jan, his Master had ascended from a community in Spain in the middle ages, and she was drawing people to the Cairns commune to learn from her through Jan.

We were to learn about living in such a way that we would elevate our cosmic vibrations, enabling us to more easily communicate with higher forms of consciousness. These were the gods of the universe, who would be our guides as we moved into the Aquarian Age. We lived on a strict gar shu vegan diet, which meant we avoided animal products that would lower our vibrations and anything that grew under the ground, away from the purifying rays of the sun. I spent many months learning from Jan about the Master’s teachings.

kurandaTowards the end of my time in this community I came to the conclusion that, rather than following Jan’s Master, I would adopt Jesus as my Ascended Master. Jesus became my guru and I began to speak with him throughout the day. My life took on a completely new shape. Where there had been a sense of emptiness and a longing for love and a place in the world, I found peace.

Jesus became my friend and companion and when I moved from the commune back to Sydney I decided to seek out other like minded people. However, most of my friends were into Indian gurus, they saw Jesus as western and not at all exotic, and of course, he represented the western culture against which they were rebelling. I didn’t mind, Jesus had brought something into my life nothing else had ever achieved.

Although I still believed in conservation and a counter culture philosophy, I found the whole hippie lifestyle very disappointing. People continued to be people, and many used and abused those around them, while chanting peace and love. I decided I needed to get out of the hustle and bustle of Sydney so I found a little shack I could live in and moved back to the country to pursue my “spiritual” studies through meditation and the library of books I had collected relating to spiritual growth. I still saw Jesus as one of the ascended masters, he was one of many who could help people on their way to self-actualisation and enlightenment, but he was my Master.

From astrogems.com

From astrogems.com

During hunts through second hand bookshops I discovered Brother Lawrence’s book The Practice of the Presence of God and also Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ. Then one day I found a book called The New Life by Andrew Murray. With the help of this battered old volume I began to read the little Bible I had carried with me through years of hitch-hiking up and down the east coast of Australia. It had been a present from my parents for my 10th birthday, but I never actually read it, I just liked the way it looked and felt. It was beautifully bound and it had rice paper pages with gold edging. What I discovered was that the words inside The Bible were more beautiful than I’d ever imagined.

In The Bible I read:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him; and without Him not a thing was brought into being that has been created. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can not overtake it. (John 1:1-5)

The Bible was telling me that my Master, Jesus, was actually the Creator of all that existed on both the physical and spiritual planes – He brought all things into being. He was also the Light carrier, who was far more powerful than any dark force. I also read:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. (1 John 4:7-9)

I had traveled thousands of miles wearing plastic sandals with Peace painted on the back of one and Love on the back of the other, but I had now found both at the feet of Jesus. He became not only my Master, guru and friend, but also my Lord. I began to understand that He is unique. He is not an ascended master, He is the only begotten Son of God and the only person who has ever been raised from the dead with an immortal body. The uniqueness of Jesus began to unfold before me as I read The Bible. I also read:

I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life: no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you know me, you know my Father also: from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. (John 14:6-7)

This is a momentous claim. Jesus is asserting He is totally unique, He is the only Way for us to know the omnipotent, omniscient God who created all things through Him. This God, who has revealed Himself through The Bible, His Son and the Holy Spirit, calls Himself our Father, and Jesus is the human embodiment of the Father. He is indeed God incarnate.

Until that time I had perceived God as an impersonal force; in a sense I saw Him as the collective consciousness of all lifeforms in the universe – He was therefore nothing more than a product of evolution, just as all living things were. We were a great cosmic accident that was unfolding and becoming. Now I discovered we were no accident. There was a God who was immortal, eternal and infinite and He had a very specific message for the people He had created in His own image. He said:

Truly, truly, I tell you, We speak about the things we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and you don’t believe our witness. If I tell you about earthly things and you refuse to believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? And no one has ascended into heaven, but He that descended out of heaven, the Son of man, who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whoever believes may have eternal life in Him. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:11-16)

I came to understand that the real Jesus is the Jesus revealed in the pages of His Bible, the written Word of God. The only way to know this Jesus, who is the only begotten Son of God, is through the teachings in His Word that are opened to His followers by His Holy Spirit. This Jesus came to Earth from heaven and went back to heaven, and He said quite clearly that He was the only one to do so. He assured His followers that those who believe in Him and His teachings will be given eternal life.

It took me some time to come to terms with just a few of the ideas I found Jesus preached through the pages of His Word. It became evident that His teachings were not only multifaceted, they were multilayered. I had started with the concept that God is Love and moved on to the uniqueness of Jesus and His claim to be the only Way. I did not begin to explore the concept of sin for a number of years after I started to follow Jesus, but when I did it enabled me to more fully understand why He went to the cross. From the book of Hebrews I read:

…..He has once for all, at the close of the ages, appeared to abolish sin by His sacrifice. And just as it is appointed for all people to die once, and after that face the judgment, even so it is that Christ, having been offered once to take upon Himself the burden of the sins of many – once for all – will appear a second time, not to carry any burden of sin nor to deal with sin, but to bring to full salvation those who are eagerly waiting for Him. (Heb 9:26-28)

There was so much to unpack in this passage. This teaching dealt the final blow to my ideas on reincarnation. If I was to follow the teachings of the biblical Jesus I must accept that people will die only once, and then face judgment. I was not a continually reborn person, I was uniquely me and the choices I make in this life will influence my eternal destiny.

This meant the Hindu understanding of karma was also out. We will not work our way to enlightenment by improving our behaviour over successive rebirths. We will indeed reap what we sow, but this law of consequences is something that tends to bear fruit in this present life. Although the life to come is also dependent on our deeds, the judgment that we must each face (Mat 12:36) is more dependent on whether we are prepared to accept our Creator’s Way.

As I read The Imitation of Christ, I realised that there is not a single person in the world who could stand up to the standards God has set for the holiness people need to possess to be part of His eternal family. Indeed Paul told the Romans that everyone has sinned (Rom 3:23). I had been deceived into thinking I could make the grade. I had believed that if I was prepared to give up the worldly things (thoughts, deeds and possessions) that held me back from enlightenment, I could ascend to the next plane of existence.

Instead, I came to understand that Jesus is the only person who has ever lived a sinless life. God intends to dwell in the midst of sinless, eternal people, but to achieve this end He has allowed His perfect creation to be corrupted for a short time before He destroys it and remakes the heavens and Earth to be a home for people who have accepted the righteousness of the Jesus of The Bible (Rev 21:1-5). It will be His righteousness that makes us able to eternally coexist with the Holy Eternal Father.

The issue of sin began to make its way into my thoughts. The word sacrifice was something I had not really contemplated. I finally saw my own selfishness for what it was. I wanted enlightenment simply for my own peace and fulfillment. Despite this, the Father was offering me a place in His eternal kingdom through His Son. The wondrous truth is that Jesus is going to abolish sin. My sins, and the sins of every person who has ever lived, will be dealt with, and then abolished (John 1:29). This will be done with complete and perfect justice. Selfishness, greed, jealousy, envy, hate, malice, lust, hypocrisy, deceptiveness and all the other negative human traits that plague us will be gone.

I finally realised that I needed Jesus as my Saviour and Redeemer and the gracious provision the Father has made is that every person who repents of their sin and accepts Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf, can be freed from the penalty of that sin. This is because God has declared that the death of His one and only Son is the sacrifice He demanded from the very foundations of the world (Mat 13:35; 25:34; Eph 1:4; Heb 4:3; Rev 13:8). As Peter put it:

God chose Him as your ransom long before the world began, but He has now revealed Him to you in these last days. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because He raised Christ from the dead and gave Him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. (1 Peter 1:20-22)

After coming to an understanding of the world’s problem with sin, I also came to realise that Jesus is not the person we want Him to be, He is not an aesthetic, mystic, philosopher, sage, ascended master or great teacher, He is the man revealed in the pages of The Bible, the Saviour of the world. Any other man is not the Lord Jesus Christ of The Bible, and therefore is not God’s only begotten Son, who came into the world to deal with sin. I had followed the Cosmic Christ, the Mystic Christ and the Aquarian Christ, but the Christ revealed in The Bible is God’s only Son, He does not need repackaging for the modern world.

I was now a member of the Body of Christ, the church, the universal body of believers, and I had learned that we can look to God’s inerrant Word and know that the words in The Bible can be taken at face value. If this were not the case there would be no way to know who Jesus is and what He believed and taught. There would be no way to be a Christian. Jesus came to Earth from heaven and was born into history. He had painstakingly prepared a nation into which He would be born and He then thoroughly prepared His apostles to write the New Testament books of The Bible.

Jesus wisely and meticulously provided The Bible so that all Christians throughout history can come to the same set of core beliefs. One need only examine the writing of Christian authors from the beginning of the Church Age to find their work reflects the same core beliefs followers of Jesus hold today. OtsyThis is because they also recognised The Bible as the final authority for their doctrine. The real Jesus is the Jesus of The Bible and it is He who offers each and every person the gift of eternal life. This Jesus is not bound by denominations or traditions, He is the living embodiment of the invisible God. As Paul told the Colossians:

…The Father has given us a part in the heritage of the saints in light; He has made us free from the power of evil and given us a place in the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have our salvation and the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the image of the unseen God, He existed before anything was created and through Him all things were made, in heaven and on Earth – things seen and things unseen, authorities, lords, rulers, and powers – all things were made by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things have their being. And He is the head of the body, the church: the starting point of all things, the first to rise from the dead; so that in all things He might have the chief place. For God was pleased to be in Him in full measure. (Col 1:12-19)

An important piece of the picture that just wouldn’t fit was finally highlighted for me when I read passages like:

For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)

This led me to re-examine the concept of an immortal soul, which I had accepted as truth and simply carried over into my Christian walk from eastern mysticism. After reading The Bible for more than thirty years I finally decided to go against a teaching that had been introduced into Christian tradition in the 2nd century. It gradually became clear to me that The Bible does not teach that we have immortal souls or spirits. God warned Adam and Eve they would die if they chose to reject His clear guidance. He calls this rebellion against His rightful authority sin, and He told Adam and Eve that the penalty for this sin would be death (Gen 2:16-17). snakeSatan lied to Adam and Eve and assured them death would not be the outcome of their disobedience (Gen 3:4). It was! Death entered God’s perfect creation and people, plants and animals began to die.

From the very beginning of its pages The Bible teaches that immortality is no longer part of the human condition; we must each make a choice to give our lives into the hands of the immortal Father, through His Son, to be given the gift of eternal life. If we choose to reject this gift, then Jesus has warned us, we will perish (John 3:16).

Jesus, God’s only Son, accepted the role He must play in the Father’s rescue plan for humanity. From before He created the universe God had determined He would redeem those who were prepared to accept His Truth: He would give them the gift of eternal life. Jesus was, “In the beginning”, and as John explains, He is with God, and He is God. (John 1:1) It is only through Jesus that God is able to transform mortal humans into eternal beings and make us able to join Him in His eternal kingdom.

NLA photo collection

NLA photo collection

Surprisingly, Jesus made a bit of an impact on the youth culture when He became a Superstar, and Webber and Rice’s musical came to Australia in 1972. This didn’t have a noticeable impact on my hippie friends at the time, as the Jesus Movement was only just beginning in Australia and the distorted theology in the show was far from biblical. But eventually a number of people from the hippie scene started to look into Jesus and by the late 70s there were hundreds of Jesus Freaks in Australia who had discovered who Jesus is.

The musical has recently made a comeback but the real Jesus has always been here, reaching out to us through His Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and if He is not already, He can be your Lord, Saviour and Redeemer. But we must each listen to the teachings He has provided through His Word so that we can hear what it is He wants to say to our hearts. Why not find out for yourself the answer to the question, Who is Jesus?

Eternity

When I was young I lived and went to school in the city of Sydney. Many times during my early days I saw the message “Eternity” written in chalk in beautiful copperplate handwriting on the footpaths of our beautiful harbour city. I have no idea how much this one word effected me, but I do know that now it is one of the most important words in my life.

EternityHBWhen I consider this word my mind jumps in two directions, the first and most powerful is the thought of those people around me who will miss out on Eternity. It breaks my heart. I want to strap on a sandwich board and stand in the centre of the city alerting people to their need for repentance. But what would they understand if they heard the word “Repent”? I was saved and had committed to living my life for my Saviour some time before I really understood anything about repentance.

The man who wrote Eternity on the streets of Sydney during the 50s and 60s was called by God to do so. God called him and God enabled him; he could hardly write his own name, but when he wrote Eternity on the streets of Sydney it was beautifully executed. Arthur Stace, who came to be known as Mr Eternity, had lived a desperate, profligate life; mostly drunk from the age of 15. When he met Jesus his life changed completely and he understood just what Eternity was all about. He’d been to the depths of depravity and the light of Eternity was a beacon for his soul. How do we reach out to the people of the 21st century and alert them to God’s offer of Eternity?

arthur-stace1I think we need to be clear in our minds about the issues involved. A large portion of the population today have a sort of sentimental idea that they will be reunited in some other place, and live on in some other life, with departed loved ones. This is because many people, including some Christians, believe in an immortal soul.

I also have a number of friends who are atheists and they are very pragmatic; as far as they’re concerned the soul is nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain. Their catch-cry is, “When you’re dead, you’re dead”. To a certain extent I agree with this sentiment. It is far more biblically sound than the sentimental journey the after-lifers imagine awaits us. The difference between the atheists’ idea of death and that of The Bible is that before the final, second death we learn about in Revelation, there is a Day of Judgment. This is when those who have rejected God’s gift of Eternity will understand just what it is they will loose. They will meet their Creator and know without doubt that He loves them, but that He has a plan for the future that they can only be part of by being in Him (Romans 8:1).

We don’t really know much about life in Eternity, but those of us who know Jesus know we will be with Him, and that is more than enough to assure us that Eternity will be magnificent. This, of course, is the second thing that comes to my mind when I think of Eternity. It will be unbelievably wonderful. If we could make it clear to people that they have a choice between Eternity with a Father who loves them so much He was prepared to die for them, and the second, final, irreversible death, perhaps they would have a better understanding now of what this momentous choice is all about.

Jesus preachingUnfortunately, a large portion of the church has swallowed the Greek idea of an immortal soul, although Christians historically have referred to it as an immortal spirit. This is not a biblical concept (see What is the second death? for a more comprehensive discussion on this topic), this idea was imported into the church in the second century by converted Greek philosophers and perhaps originally came from Hindu teachings.

Adam and Eve 2This belief is a direct result of Satan’s first recorded lie to humanity, when he told Adam and Eve they would not die (Gen 2:16-17). Sadly, many people today have believed this lie. Demonic spirits use the idea to great advantage through spiritualism and mediums, and even those who refuse to believe in the God of The Bible can be heard to refer to some departed person “looking down on” or “watching over” them.

Christians carry this concept of an imagined afterlife into ideas about the fate of the unsaved. As Christians, we need to find doctrinal truth in The Bible, and not blindly accept church traditions, they can be wrong (Mat 15:6). The Bible teaches that after we die we are resurrected to face judgment. Christians will be judged before the Bema Seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10), where they will either receive their rewards or find themselves surrounded by cinders (1Cor 3:12-15), but all will go on into Eternity, because they have been given eternal life. Before receiving this gift we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Mat 8:22; Eph 2:1).

Unbelievers will not be resurrected until after the millennium, when they will stand before the Great White Throne of their Creator to be judged. John tells us in The Revelation:

And I saw a great white throne and the One sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from His presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. (Rev 20:11-21:1)

Thus we learn that the present creation will disappear just before this judgment, and a new heaven and a new earth will be created immediately after this judgment. Between the destruction of the old creation and the appearance of the new one the fate of the unbelieving dead is sealed. We are told that they are judged “according to what they had done”. I believe a valid interpretation of these verses is that some people, who had not consciously accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour before they died – perhaps because they had never come across the gospel during their lifetime, may indeed find their names recorded in the Book of Life. If their names are not in this book then logically they will have no life beyond the judgment, they will experience the second death.

We do not have eternal life unless we accept this great gift from the only One who can make it, the only One who has conquered death. Without the gift of eternal life we will have no Eternity. Nowhere in The Bible do we read that God gives eternal life to the unbelieving dead to go on in some unknown state forever. Those who have received the gift of eternal life and are part of the new creation will find:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Rev 21:4)

I believe this verse is telling us that even the second death is gone. All these things are gone forever, the Lake of Fire and everything in it will disappear, along with the old creation. Eternity is a place for the living, and only those who have accepted eternal life from the Lord of Life will go on into Eternity.

What an incredible opportunity we are missing by creating this unbiblical afterlife for the unbeliever. The idea that we can claim God is love, but then go on to insist He will send unbelievers to eternal torment, is not logical. This fact is not lost on the lost. We have created an unbiblical doctrine, presented it as Truth, and then told those who reject it that they are rejecting the love of God.

What many of these people have rejected is a contorted doctrine about a tyrannical God who knew He would be sending people to eternal torment and nevertheless went on with His plan. Although He is holy and just, the God of The Bible is indeed a God of love. He loves people so much, He will not force them to spend Eternity as sinful, fallen humans. It would be intolerable living eternally with our selfishness, greed, insecurities, arrogance, hate, malice, deceitfulness and all the other products of sin that plague unredeemed humanity.

God offers each one of us the opportunity to choose His alternative to the second death. We must be born again of God’s eternal spirit to live in Eternity. There is no other alternative. In John’s first letter he explains that eternal life is only found in Jesus and that those who are in Jesus can be assured they have eternal life:

And this is the witness, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in His Son. He that has the Son has life: he that has not the Son of God has not life. These things have I written to you that you may know that you have eternal life who believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:11-13)

God’s new creation will be without sin, pain, death and suffering, and only those who have been transformed by God’s Holy Spirit (John 3:5) will be fit for Eternity. We must each make a momentous choice. If you don’t already know you have eternal life, will you now choose Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Through Him you can be saved from the second death and go on into Eternity?

eternity pavementinfinity1