"ARISE" is a journal to be published on a quarterly basis. It's aim is to serve as a vehicle for the expression of the Body Of Christ as it relates to present truth. The articles provided are usually from those of us fellowshipping in the Tampa and Clearwater, FL area. "ARISE" also publishes pertinent articles of similar concern from those abroad consistent with our general purpose and calling. So now receive the word with all readiness of mind and examine the scriptures every day to see if it is really as we say.
This issue of "ARISE" features:
I. "The Free Gift" is by a wonderful brother and very good friend
Art Groesbeck. The article
reviews the Lord's way of freely giving compared to man's way of working and earning in
order to receive. Art resides in the Syracuse, New York area with his wife Becky and three
II. "What Is Truth?" provides good teaching on the subject of what
truth really is. Mike and
Ellie Needham of Irving, Texas, bring forth the idea that we have all viewed truth as a
"what" but in reality it is a "who", the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
III. "The Most High Reigns" continues to deal with the subject of
the sovereignty of God and how
it relates to the responsibility of man. The article is written by Brother Willie Hinn who over-
sees the Resurrection Life Center fellowship in Orlando, FL. He lives there with his wife
Teresa and four children.
IV. "Prisoners Of His Will" is provided by a close friend, Romeo
Corsini. His article begins to look
at God's creation from a perspective that is often overlooked by Christians today. Romeo, his
wife Christine and three beautiful little girls, live in the Tampa (Brandon), FL area.
V. "God's Love Towards All" continues our Christianity 101 teachings with a basic principle regard- ing the love of God and how it accounts for man's eternal security. Contrary to most doctrine taught today, we find that God's love is greater than man's tradition.
VI. "Just Between You And Me", Lori Renee Inge presents us with a beautiful expression of the Lord in the form of poetry. Lori ministers with her husband Michael Ray across the country. When not traveling, they reside in Ft. Myers, FL.
VII. "How Woman Got Ner Name", the art work on the back side of the journal is provided by a good friend and Brother in the Lord, Chuck Yex. The picture provides a refreshing breath of humor and should cause all to have a good laugh. Chuck and his "wooo-man" (oops....wife) Morida live in Orlando (St. Cloud), FL. They have a beautiful little girl named Moriah.
We now enter our second year of sharing the "good news" of Jesus Christ, our Lord. I pray these articles can be used to touch your life and encourage you to continue pressing towards the high calling of God. We do not seek a reputation nor do we preach ourselves, our desire is to serve His people in the way in which we've been called.
In His Service
Timothy D. Carroll
"ARISE" is free to all as God's way is "Freely you have received, freely give". The mailing address is listed on the front cover for those interested in receiving the journal on a regular basis. Additional copies are available upon request. Notification of change of address is appreciated.
The Free Gift
It is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32). The carnal mind cannot perceive anything as being free, so it's interpretation of scripture is always work oriented. To enter into the rest of God is a total impossibility for man because everything he has learned comes from his earthly experiences and earthly mentality. He cannot comprehend the higher thoughts of God nor his higher ways (Isa. 55:8). For as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: For the Spirit searchest all things, yea the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so, the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, (or of man), but the spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God (I Cor. 2: 9-12).
Two things stand out in these verses of scripture -- the one being my prior statement concerning carnal man's inability to rightly interpret scripture. The other is in verse 12, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Scripture states in Rom. 8:32, He that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things. Yes, man because of what he has come to know as truth through the fallen image of Adam cannot see it for the lie that it is.
He cannot comprehend anything as being free because for six days, or six thousand years in Adam, he has worked earning everything he has gotten. And rightfully so, for the Lord spoke in Exodus 20:8-10 remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work. Yes, six days shall a man work, but there is rest on the seventh. The six days were man's day, but the seventh is the Sabbath of God. Come on to me all ye who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28). The rest of God has entered into me and I am entering into Him. The Lord spoke in Isaiah 6:6 where is the place of my rest? For all these things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
Yes God has purposed a rest for his people, He is the Lord of the Sabbath. He is a day in himself, He is the Lord's day and I'm not talking about Sunday. For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people. To whom He said, this is the rest; and this is the refreshing: Yet they would not hear (Isa. 28:11-12). He is saying to us in this hour, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: And ye shall find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt. 11:29-30). Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The word that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me He doeth the works. This is why a yoke can be easy and a burden can be light because the Father in him was doing the works. The Lord of rest is in us and He doeth the works. We can of ourselves do nothing. We reckon ourselves dead. We have taken up our cross and only He lives. To God alone be the Glory.
When we were born from above, a new day entered into us and we since have been entering into a new day. As the lightening, (or sunrise) that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the son of man be in his day (Luke 17:24). Not as the sun of the six days which man can work in, but the night has come in which no man can work, (John 9:) and that is the beginning of the seventh day. You see, bible days start with evening and then morning. The sun of righteousness is truly rising with healing in his wings; and we shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall (Mal. 4:2). We truly are the children of the day and the children of the light. Yes, praise the Lord, a new day has dawned in the fullness of time when the sun was darkened at the cross of calvary signaling the end of natural light or understanding and the end of the six day reign of Adam. The seventh day sun has risen; it is surely a new day; the Sabbath rest of God and He is the Christ and we are one new man in Him.
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His (Heb. 4:1-10). The only thing that can keep us from entering this Sabbath rest of God is unbelief. The same reason Israel could not enter in. We cannot continue to eat the six day manna which was not to be left over until the seventh because it was corruptible and would bred worms and stink. The hidden manna is now what we are to be partakers of and will sustain us in the seventh day -- incorruptible (Rev. 2:17). This is the day when we must rest from our labors which we have known in Adam's six days even as God worked for six days and rested the seventh (Heb. 4:4).
To cease from our own works is a concept impossible for the carnal mind to comprehend and it is a concept that is very undesirable. For the ego that has been established in Adam and feeds on the works and reward principle. It does not really want anything that truly is free because it diminishes self. So it will always take the gift of God and the grace of God and turn it into a system of works which puts the focus on self and what it can do. The result is a carnal believer who only receives from God what is owed him as a result of his own efforts. This nullifies the grace of God and what God has intended to be, to the glory of His grace, and becomes man seeking his own glory (Eph. 1:6).
For six thousand years in Adam we have sought our own glory, but it shall not be so in the Sabbath. What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? I have seen the travail which God hath given to the sons of man to be exercised in it. He hath made everything beautiful in His time. Also He hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end (Ecl. 3:9-11). God has set the world in Adam's heart; He has exercised him in this realm of works until it is all he understands. He has learned in this earthly realm that everything has a price attached to it, and there was a price to be paid for the last thing purchased. Jesus paid the price in full for our salvation and I am no longer a debtor to the flesh. I have been delivered from the realm of works, praise God, where the wages of sin are death and have entered the realm where the gift of God is eternal life. Now I have been given a new heart in Christ and a new mind must be put on as I come to know Him and His higher thoughts and ways.
If we don't perceive the Gift of God to be free, we become as the wicked servant (ref. Matt. 18) who after he had been forgiven of so great a debt went out and took his fellow servant by the throat and demanded payment owed to him. The mistake the first servant made was when he told his Lord "Have patience with me and I will pay thee all". If we think we have earned what we have received or that we can repay our debt, we will continue to require of our brother. We will continue to buy and sell him and merchandise him. We need to know that whom the Son sets free is free indeed and that if we continue in His word, then are we his disciples indeed; and we shall know the truth, and truth shall make us free (John 8:31-32).
As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Col. 2:6-8). Amen!
What Is Truth?
"Pilate therefore said unto Him, art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that heareth the truth heareth my voice." "Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all" (Jhn 18:37-38).
All of our lives we have been so conditioned to see truth as a thing or object; it is something you believe. Either you have it or you don't. People of various religious persuasions claim they have the truth, proselytizing the world over for their particular sect, denomination or non-denomination. All sorts of doctrines, teachings, beliefs, etc. are expounded as being the truth. All sorts of ideas are presented about Jesus Christ but amazingly enough, HE HIMSELF is never presented! We have come to realize that there is a tremendous difference between knowing about Him, knowing Him and knowing Him AS HE IS. W e might liken this to the difference between the Outer Court, the Inner Court, and the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle. Using another example, most every American knows about the President of the United States; they can read about him in the newspapers and magazines or see him speaking on television. Though they may know quite a bit about him, this knowledge is gathered from what other sources have to say about the President. Far less Americans really know the man in the White House, and such knowledge can only be based on spending time with the President over a number of years. But only a very, very small number of Americans truly know the President as he really is. This select group would indeed be the fewest in number of all Americans, yet they would possess the greatest knowledge of the President. Their knowledge of him would not be based on secondhand or even thirdhand information, but rather by an enduring intimate relationship where the President opens himself up to them and they know him as he really is.
We can see this type of relationship in the scriptures where Jesus had the seventy disciples He sent forth. Then there were twelve who were more like His inner circle and spent so much time learning from Him and getting to know Him. Yet within that group there was "the chosen few" of Peter, James and John. These three and these three alone accompanied Jesus to the mountain where He was transfigured before them. They truly saw Him as He was. They saw behind the earthly veil of flesh to behold Him as He really is. When His face shone as the sun and His raiment was white as the light (Mt. 17:2), these three believers indeed saw the "sole expression of the glory of God - the Light-being, the out-raying of the divine.....the perfect imprint and very image of [God's] nature" (Heb 1:3 Ampl). He was revealed to them: He was "uncovered". It is interesting to note that prior to the transfiguration, Jesus told His disciples that each must take up his cross and lose his life. When Jesus was put to death on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Mk 15:38). The way was opened from the Outer Court into the Holy of Holies. It is only in our dying that the way is made for us to enter in, even as we bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus so that His life will be manifested in our body (II Cor. 4:10).
When the chief priests and the elders of Jesus' day had Him brought before Pontius Pilate, the governor could find no fault in our Lord. In fact, Pilate's wife had a dream about Him and warned her husband not to have anything to do with "that just man" (Matt 27:19). It seemed the more innocent Jesus was in Pilate's eyes, the more the Jews agitated for His death. Sensing that a riot could be in the making, Pilate releases Jesus to be crucified. The religious leaders resorted to false witnesses to kill the very one who bore witness to the truth. It was no wonder that Stephen, finding himself in a similar situation replied, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye" (Acts 7:51). The Jews believed in a messiah, a savior, a king, but only on their own terms and according to their religious dogma. They refused to accept Jesus as He was, the way to the Father who had sent Him. The teachers of religion are repeating this today, describing the Lord in their own terms, calling it truth, but all the while they miss Him in their midst! If you dare to be like Stephen, having the heavens opened to you and being able to see the Son of man standing on the right hand of God, you will find false witnesses bringing you before their council, for they will not be able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which you bear witness to the truth.
From Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New testament we learn that "truth" refers to that which is not hidden or concealed. The Greek word apokalupsis is translated as "revelation" and means an uncovering or an unveiling. Suffice it to say, it takes a revelation to bring about truth; there must first be an uncovering in order to manifest that which is covered. Interestingly enough, the item being uncovered was there all along - it existed well before the cover was taken off - but only when it was uncovered was it made known to the one seeing it. We will never know the Lord as He is unless He reveals Himself to us. So many have been afraid of the word "revelation". They have cringed in terror at the horrible things well-known prophecy teachers have taught about the Book of Revelation. All sorts of nightmares about the beast, his mark, the false prophet, the plagues, etc. have been preached in gory detail, believing this is what the Book of Revelation is all about. But, the very first verse of this book tells us its purpose; it is the revelation of JESUS CHRIST. It is the revealing and uncovering of Him! The emphasis is on our Lord, not on the devil. Learning about Satan's supposed evil deeds is not prophecy as some would believe. Rather, the testimony (witness) of Jesus - the very one who bears witness to the truth is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10).
As wonderful as it is for the Lord to reveal Himself to us and impart His knowledge to us, we must not become satisfied where we are and stop at any place in our walk with Him. It is a progressive unfolding of the Lord that we see as we walk with Him. We must continue on our journey and not stop to build a city around us. We may have had a very real experience in the Lord, and the truth that such an experience is available to all believers should be preached. But if we stop there and go no further, we have only succeeded in creating a new religion, rather than continuing to follow Him. As another so wisely added to the above thought: when you stop at one particular experience in God, no matter how valid it is, then you drain the life out of that experience. It is a shame when believers get so hung up on one pet doctrine that they preach only that doctrine or revelation TO THE EXCLUSION OF ANYTHING ELSE; they become so focused on that one aspect of the truth that they fail to see the whole picture. The particular teaching may must assuredly be true or it may be very much in error, but the emphasis is placed so much on that teaching so that further knowledge of the Lord is never gained. In John 16:13 Jesus told His disciples that the Spirit of truth would guide them into ALL truth - not just one particular pet doctrine. What we believe may indeed by very true but we should not hold that word to the exclusion of all truth.
By the way of example, when an archaeologist wants to excavate an Indian campsite, he doesn't pick up his shovel and begin digging anywhere and everywhere. He first studies the culture of the tribe and notes where previous sites have been located. Even then he doesn't blindly begin digging where he thinks the site may be; he looks for evidence of the site, such as arrowheads and pot shreds. Then he begins his excavation and completely uncovers the site. It would be a shame and a great disservice to museum goers if only the arrowheads or pieces of pottery found on the surface were displayed. A complete knowledge of the campsite is gained only when large quantities of dirt are removed to reveal ALL of the site. The site was there all along; it needed to have the dirt removed so its existence could be revealed to everyone who wants to learn and benefit from it.
When some open the scriptures or think about God, all they ever see is financial prosperity for believers. Some only see Acts 2:4 and others like to add Acts 2:38. Some see Romans 8:19 and seem to stop there, while others forever stay at Mark 16:17&18. And still other believers expect to go any second in a rapture. What we have just said is certainly not meant to belittle anyone. We very much include ourselves when we emphasize going on in the Lord. We could never fault anyone for not believing something He has not yet revealed to them, but their heart is towards Him and they are willing to learn. Rather, we point out the danger in stopping at any place and developing a haughty "We have arrived" attitude. The Pharisees exhibited this spirit when Jesus healed a blind man and he testified of that truth (ref. Jhn chp 9). So no matter what, and even if a particular word of doctrine is true, it should never be held to the exclusion of THE Word, which was manifested in our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the eighth chapter of John, Jesus had many things to say to the scribes and Pharisees who resisted his teachings. he said they were of their father the devil who abode not in the truth because there is no truth in him (Jn 8:44). But unto those Jews who believed on Him He said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, the truth shall make you free" (Jn 8:31-32). The word for "continue" here is the same word as "abide" as in John 15:4 where Jesus instructed His disciples to abide in Him. The unbelievers were incensed at His mention of needing to be made free. They declared that they had never been in bondage to any man, yet they were the enslaved offspring of the devil, a liar (not one who bears witness to the truth) and a murderer from the beginning. True to fashion, these were the ones who would seek to kill Jesus because He taught against their religious traditions. They were in desperate need of freedom. Though well-versed in the scriptures, it can be said of them that they were "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (II Tim 3:7). If they had laid aside their dogma, creeds and assorted teachings, and began to live in His Word (which is truth), then they would have indeed known the truth and been made free from their bondage. Jesus was right there in their midst, yet they failed to recognize Him. His very name was Jesus, for He was sent to save His people from their sins (Matt 1:21), but their religious enslavement prevented their freedom. It has been the same way throughout church history and remains so today.
So much more could be said and written about truth, but we are sure our readers have seen the conclusion we wish to make. When Pilate asked the question that untold millions of people have asked down through time, "What is truth?", he really did not ask the question properly. We all have viewed truth as a "what" but in reality it is not a "what" but a WHO. Pilate should have asked, "Who is truth?". The "who" was standing right there in his midst!! It was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself!! He is the way, the TRUTH, and the life; no one can come to the Father but by Him (Jn 14:6). Simply put, the Father has not revealed truth as a thing but as a person, His Son, who is the 'brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person" (Heb. 1:3). We can never find truth in some sterile religious teaching or in some man-made organization, but rather in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This necessitates knowing Him as He is. It is important that we heed the words of the Apostle Paul in II Cor. 10:5, "casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ". The mind is indeed the battleground. We know all too well that to be carnally minded is death, but the captain of our Salvation has destroyed the one that had the power of death .
"In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye; for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here, for he is risen....."
After Jesus had been put to death on the cross, He was placed in a new tomb that was hewn out of rock, where no man had ever been laid. No man had ever gone this way before, the way of triumph over death. When the messenger of the Lord descended from heaven, the earth shook and the two guards shook also. They became as DEAD men when the messenger came to proclaim the victory of LIFE over death. The stone that had covered the door of the tomb hid the truth of Jesus' resurrection, but when that stone was rolled away it revealed an empty tomb, announcing to all creation that He had risen from the dead. At first Mary thought someone had carried off the body of the Lord but He revealed Himself to her; when He called her name, then she knew it was Him and that He was resurrected. She had a revelation of the truth, the risen Lord Himself!!!
Has your earth quaked? Have you become as dead when the word of the Lord has descended from heaven at the dawn of a new day in your life? Has the stone that sealed you in a tomb of death and despair been rolled away, revealing to you the glorious truth of the power of His resurrection? Has He called you by name and have you beheld this risen Lord? Now that we are risen with Him, let us abide in Him and he in us. We shall be made completely free in spirit, soul and body as He reveals the truth to us, revealing Himself in us.
...............Mike & Ellie Needham
The Most High Reigns - con't
Now beloved friend, while much more can be written along these lines, it is important at this point as we are emphasizing our God as absolutely Sovereign, that we also point out another very important truth. The sovereignty of God does not eliminate the responsibility of man. There is a realm in God wherein man must walk in obedience or reap the consequences of disobedience. God indeed has apportioned to each man a limited will for self expression. A limited will means that man has the desire without the total ability to accomplish that will. For example, he may desire to be holy yet with his own will sees all he can do is continue to sin. "The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Paul conceded to these same struggles in Romans chapter 7, as he wrote, "For I do not understand my own actions, I am baffled, bewildered. I do not practice to accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loath (which my moral instinct condemns). Then he goes on to say, "Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Surely, He is the only door to freedom. By the grace which have overflowed into our lives, the eyes of our understanding being enlightened, we are being quickened to comprehend that it is not a question of the free will of man, but rather it is a drawing of the Father to bring us into obedience, to draw us to unite our will with His through the Son, that we too might pray, "nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done." ONE in His will on this earth! Yes, if situations could arise, and all hell could break loose or all heaven pour down from above, if anything in fact can occur in God's creation apart from His plan, where and in whom is our confidence to be placed? May I venture to say, that everything that can be shaken, will be; including our confidence, especially if it has been placed in any other source. How vital it is then that we position our lives, our trust, our plans, our very being into the hands of our loving God, through Jesus Christ His Son, Who is the center and the core of God's plan of the ages, until He is not only our Savior, but also our Master, not only our Redeemer, but also our Lord and King. As we are ordained to be molded, fashioned into the image and likeness of this Almighty firstborn Son, let us resign ourselves to the melodrama of life with the hand of God holding the vessel as He brings forth His purpose in our land, even in the whole earth.
"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (tested) of the devil....beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happened unto you....and the Lord said, Simon behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, STRENGTHEN THY BRETHREN. (I Pet. 4:12, Luke 22:31-32). There is no doubt, God has purposed an opposing force THAT OUR FAITH MIGHT FAIL NOT. "The trial of your faith is much more precious than gold that perisheth." (I Pet. 1:7). To those who long after the heart of God, opposition, adversity, testings, trials, and afflictions are quickly seen as necessary ingredients for spiritual growth - in fact, not only are they purposed, but they are aimed that we might overcome. "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom. 12:21). "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. To Him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life...." (Rev. 2:7). When Paul recognized the truth of this necessity of God he wrote, "I have kept the faith". He rejoiced in this fact. He battled and won three main victories, he had "fought a good fight," he "kept the faith," and he "finished the course". In effect, he won the race, he gained the prize! He knew beyond all doubt, it would pay to lose all and win Christ. In fact, it was in tribulations that he gloried, knowing that tribulations worketh patience and that the sufferings he endured were not even worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed.
On, that we would grasp the vision, that we would be as loyal to Him Who is
Truth as Paul was....but after all, we would need Paul's calculator, we would
need his arithmetic. He counted differently than we do today. We count things
as gain that he would have counted as "loss". God knows us. "He
knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust." (Ps. 103:14). It is
this very "dust" (carnal nature) that God commanded the serpent to
feed upon. The very purposeful result will be that one day in the fullness of
time, Satan will come, and we will be able to stand and say, "the prince
of this world cometh and hath nothing in me." (Jhn 14:30). No more carnal
nature to feed upon because we have been "eating His flesh and drinking
His blood". The more we eat of CHRIST Who is our life, the less of this
carnal nature will Satan find to devour. As we partake of the Christ we are
nourished to grow up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
God is taking away the first (our Adamic nature) that He may establish the second
(Christ nature). (Heb. 10:11).
Rest assured beloved, He will not tempt us above that we are able to bear. To quote A.W. Pink, "It is natural to murmur when things go wrong, it is supernatural to hold our peace, it is natural to be disappointed when our plans miscarry, it is supernatural to bow to His Divine appointments. It is natural to want our own way, it is supernatural to say, "not my will, but thine be done." It is natural to rebel when a loved one is taken from us by death, it is supernatural to say from the heart, "The Lord giveth and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." As God is truly made our portion, we learn to revere and respect His omniscience for to do so is to know that He doeth all things well! "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (determination, purpose, decree). (Phil 2:13). Yes, a great sacred work of God is accomplished through trials, yet, "God's love never lets us go. The trials and tribulations we endure are not tokens of His displeasure. They are all tempered by His loving heart. A sense of His love hovering over us in the midst of our distresses is the most blessed of all balms..." (A.E. Knoch). The assurance of His unremitting love will enable us not only to endure afflictions, but inevitably embrace them. To paraphrase one of Jeanne Guyon's statements, "His crosses succeed where His caresses could not." It is little wonder that much testing quickly moves us from a place of self-confidence into total reliance upon God. Once again, as we scrutinize Paul's walk we find he learned this very same lesson as we read in II Cor. 1:9 "But we had the same sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God....Being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:6).
This same principle was operative even in Job's declaration. "What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10). Job by God's own proclamation was a "perfect" man...BUT he had not been "tried by fire." When Satan appeared before the Lord, it was GOD who asked Satan, "have you considered MY SERVANT Job?" It was God who provoked the discussion, it was God who removed the hedge! Upon searching the heart of God for purpose, God in His mercy enlightened Job's heart as to the wisdom of His way, and thus Job opened his mouth and declared, "He knoweth the way that I take; when HE hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." (Job 23:10). Job gave no credit (no place, no inward footing) to the devil for the multitude of calamities that touched his life. Indeed, on the contrary, he fell with his face to the ground and "BLESSED THE NAME OF THE LORD" saying, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now MINE EYE SEETH THEE! (Job 1:22, 42:5). How the endless frustrations in life need to be seen as instruments, weights to gain spiritual muscles, "this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith." (Eccl. 1:13). Exercised - necessary negatives, in which the glory of God Himself is so often revealed, for "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." (Rom 8:28).
We bless Him on the mountain top, and we bless Him in the valley: In all things we bless His Holy name. What else can we say? "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" (Rom. 9:20). We are the clay and He is the Potter. We are His handiwork, a calculated work of God, to whose completion the wisdom and power of God is perpetually devoted. Although at times this vein of thinking may baffle us, we must grasp the truth that as the Potter's wheel turns, our lives are in the hands of Him Who is ever wise, Whose Name is Righteous, Whose love is unending, and Whose grace and faithfulness never fails! "Once we know Him, we should not have it otherwise." (A.E. Knoch). "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure (purpose) they are and were created." (Rev. 4:11).
Concerning God, Francois Fenelon, once wrote, "He is infinite in all things; in wisdom, in power, and in love. It is the height of folly to wish to measure infinite love by limited knowledge." The same Father, "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all..." (Rom 8:32) is the same Father who loved us before the foundation of the world. As we catch a glimpse of His immutable love, we might then be a little closer to understanding the purpose of God and evil. "Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even OUR FATHER, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work." (II Thes 2:16,17). "And they that know Thy Name will put their trust in Thee." (Ps. 9:10). "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." (Ps. 24:1).
Prisoners Of His Will
Jesus said, "I was in prison and you did not visit me," or, "I was in prison and you did visit me," (Matt 25:36-40) but who was in prison? Usually it is criminals who go to prison. Usually, as far as this earth is concerned, people in prison are those who deserve to be in prison. I do not include in this the exceptional situations or mistakes, obviously. What exactly was Jesus talking about? If He declares that He was in prison, is He declaring Himself guilty? He continues by saying that whenever we do or do not visit the least of "these" we are doing it or not doing it to Him. If He meant that we were to visit only the righteous who are in prison, then we would have to make investigations before any visit to assure that we are visiting the righteous and not the unrighteous. That would slow down any move of God.
I give you the prison: "For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same..." (Rom. 8:20) A prisoner is one deserving of the consequences of sin. God created man and placed him on this planet of vanity and left him there. For what purpose? So that man could come up with revelation? Man cannot do that. It has to be God who gives revelation. He put man on this earth to grow, to learn how to receive from God, how to recognize God, how to know Him, how to anticipate Him, how to live according to His pleasure, to please God, according to God's pleasure. He was put on this earth with the full intention of being God's servant. Therefore, we have to realize that God fully intends on succeeding with the creation that He spoke into existence. He fully intends that it be the good thing that He called it; that it be completed, perfect, the way He envisioned it, the way He willed it. And He will not be subject to our frail judgment, to our inconsequential opinion, opinion of what is going on --- how can God..... this? how can God..... that? why would God allow this or that? etc. Our opinion is of no consequence. We are here to learn how to be God's offspring. It takes the power of God to do it and who has the power of God? God has the power of God......no one else. And it is up to God to share that power of His with each of his creations. No one else can give it to you. Only God can. They can lay their hands all they want on you. You are not going to get it if the will of God is not with God's timing for you.
God has a purpose for every creature that He created. Every one. Now it is beyond my comprehension what purpose had that little bird which I saw dead on the middle of the road just the other day (and since then it was run over by a truck) in its having lived. But as I am certain that God is perfect so am I certain that everything was done with perfect planning, with perfect purpose. There is nothing of waste here other than the imagination of vain things that man has a tendency toward. Man has this unique ability to imagine a vain thing; so he creates his vanity. He creates a system of need, a system of neglect, a system of dependency upon everything other than God his creator. This system of need, neglect and dependency is nothing more than a sign that a man is just on his own. He has no intent on relying on God or accepting God's help or allowing God to come into his life and be a part of it. Man thinks he is independent of God, which of course he is not, otherwise God does not love him. Because God loves him, God wants the best for the man. Therefore God has him in His hands. God will not let him, being His child, in his ignorance or lack of understanding, not knowing the ways of his Father, to play in the fire in the fireplace, touch the stove or put his hand in a light socket or walk near a cliff or swim unsupervised, especially when he does not know how to swim. Because He loves him he will do everything He can to teach him, to train him even though the child has no concept of what is the Father's intent. All the child knows is do's and don'ts. All he seems to see in his growing up in his Father's house is do's and don'ts and he either will rebel or he will accept. Many rebel saying, "I will not have it this way." In fact, the child is a rebel by nature. How many, especially teenagers, rebel against their parents saying, "I don't want to have anything to do with you, or to be identified with you" and yet continue to live in the parents' house. Here you are a rebel in a creation you had nothing to do with and you still live on it. By all rights, being a rebel, you should refuse to live on it, you should insist that you be somewhere else that has nothing to do with the realm under God's, or the Father's influence. Teenagers are no different. They rebel, not wanting to do anything their parents say, yet they continue to live there, eat their food, wear their clothes, go to their school, etc. A true intent is one that says, "I want none of it, absolutely none of it."
But even the prodigal son that Jesus described did that. He said, "I want none of it but I do want my share of the money. Let me be gone from here to live my way." In truth, though, he was not living on his own, he was living on his father's money, until he ran out of that too. But what was the sign, the demonstration, the ultimate reality? When he ran out of everything of his father's and he was strictly left on his own, with rags and nothing else...but pig food and mud. There was nothing for this young man to call his own or anything that he could be a part of. The natural end of that kind of rebelliousness is, "I want to go back to my father's house because the truth is that is where I belong." But it was not a scheme of the son or a sudden revelation that he came up with out of his own cleverness. It was a revelation that came to him as a result of his rebellion and a revelation that is natural to man because God placed it there to appear at a given time. That given time is the end of one's self. The end of the earth is the time when man reaches his realization and each of us has a different end time. We are in His hands, in His care without choice. Just as we were put on this earth without choice so are we in that same vein without choice in His care and in His love.
We began by being spoken into existence out of His eternal love. What eternal love? Where was God before man's idea of eternity? He just was. He just is. He just will be. He is. There is no time frame to God. He is truth. Truth just is. It does not change or fluctuate based on looks, on opinion, on any condition. No matter what comes against it or in its support, it is truth. It is not based on any emotional tangent at all. It is strictly truth and that is how God is. Unadulterated, pure, unblemished. And out of this being, this incomprehensible perfection, (words are limiting to describe Him), He has a desire to share. Perfection includes a willingness to share. He is so perfect that He is not selfish or greedy. He is not afraid. He is confident. Out of this abundance of purity, love, He declares His cup running over and it is without choice that you are, that you exist. Here we are! And the idea is to realize what a grand gesture that is, how magnificently wonderful it is for us to be. We have to come to that realization and we won't unless God reveals it to us. God has to reveal to us what a grand and stupendous marvel it is to have come out of His love to share in His glory and it should be enough to satisfy us.
And here we are in our choiceless existence, placed on a planet out of His word and into the garden of Eden, a garden that has a purpose. It was not just a whim on God's part to say, "Oh, I think I'll place him in a nice, cute little garden with begonias!" It was specifically designed to introduce into man's journey in God's plan the element of Godlikeness. To be like God is what God intended to put into man. And that cannot be except it be by resignation. Man had to resign himself to the fact that God is better. God's ways are better, God's life is better than anything he could choose apart from him. God's full intention was to create Himself. When a man and woman give birth they give birth to another man or woman. And when God gives birth, what does He give birth to? A man or a woman? No. He gives birth to another god. There is an equality with God because we are offspring of God. But a child is not equal to his father just because he is a human being too. He is not the father. Therefore he has his own place. We are equal in that we are of the same nature, of the same species, being. In this case I speak of Spirit because God is Spirit. But how can we look upon each other, the world, the earth the way it is and say it has anything in connection with God, that it has anything that is akin or similar to God? That is the problem....When we do that we are looking through judgment that comes out of your eyes, ears, heart and thought. What you should be focusing on is God's purpose. What is it? And all the other is really of no consequence. How bad can it be? As horrible as it might seem to us, what we have learned through scripture is that Christ paid for all the goings on and acts that have happened and are happening. I think, then, "Come on. How much could Christ have suffered? I can't possibly comprehend the issue of Christ's suffering: how much he suffered as opposed to what is being suffered. Can it be said for example that Christ suffered so much more than anybody else has suffered or is suffering in the physical that he paid for their sins?....I don't get into that subject because I can't. I will say that that is not the issue. The issue is that He in His perfection, having suffered at all, not being guilty, is the point. It can't get worse than that. To be accused and punished permanently for something you did not do at all in any way shape or form, when you were totally pure and innocent; yet still found guilty as if you did do it. That is incomprehensible, something that cannot be fathomed.
When I am accused of something I did not do, it is the trigger that makes me into an alien. I create such a ruckus (I do not promote such behaviour) because I feel at the time how dreadful it is to have the truth denied you. And my outbursts and reactions are for such silly things that it should all be in the shame category of characteristics because of how blessed we really are. And yet I take the time to make an issue out of something so minute and simple. But what about Christ who suffered to blood? To death. Permanent death. It was permanent because it was the sheer power of God that brought Him up from it. Death was death. But he was as innocent as innocent can be.
The creature was made subject to vanity not willingly but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope....that is to say with a purpose, the purpose being to become like God in order to share in God. He places us on this earth guiltless and attaches a guilt to us so that once paid for, it can never be held against us and therefore we remain innocent and are like God. Part of sin is the potential to sin; to decide. If we had never dealt with the issue then the potential is still there, it still exists. But now, with the decision finally made, in this case, by Christ, by man, on our behalf, man has said through Christ we recognize that God is the only choice to make. Experiencing the sin to learn how much better is God's way is is not worth leaving the Spirit of God for the space of a twinkling of an eye. We will remain perfect and we will crucify this thing and kill it, this sin, and it will not be held against us again. The potentiality itself has been crucified. The fact that Adam and Eve never sinned before they finally did was not what made them perfect. They were not perfect, in the sense that the potential was still there as they proved by falling. But then they were perfect because it was all part of God's plan anyway, and they were not there "willingly" to begin with. The potentiality needed to be dealt with. He could have left them there without temptation. He is God. He could have said, "Let me share my wonderful self with everybody". But He could not have shared Himself with everybody. He could have only shared grass, trees, lambs, birds, etc. But not himself with that potentiality still there. Through Christ, however, the potentiality is not there; therefore, it is settled. We are perfect. Now we must continue to develop. We cannot have this concept without responsibility. We cannot be perfect without the responsibility to grow and mature in Christ, with the intent of receiving from the Spirit of God the revelation required to understand. We cannot of our own ability determine what is good for us, because what is good for us is not the issue. We must remember that our opinion is worthless. What we think about religion or about God is not of any importance because you cannot on your own reasoning ability hope to determine God. Lean not on your own understanding. You always understand wrong. We don't have a true concept of truth.
"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." (Isa. 9:2) Who dwells in the land of the shadow of death if it is not everything in creation? But when? If Christ had come fifty years ago the way many denominations think it, (that He will come to take His and leave the rest to rot and drop dead) what about me? I was not born back then? Where would you be? Would you have been saved? If Christ were to come tomorrow in that sense, what about the baby that will be born then or the one born today? What about their salvation? I see eternity to be however many it would be possible to keep creating, to keep adding on, to keep multiplying, however many in mathematics that can be conceived, which it cannot because it is an endless number. That's how many will be saved. The aspect of death with that idea changes and it becomes a process or a processing into Godlikeness.
Eventually death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire. It is interesting that the word Hades is used by John in Revelation. Hades in greek mythology was one of the twelve Olympian gods and his jurisdiction was the underworld where the dead went to be separated according to their worthiness. He was the god of the underworld. This underworld served the distinct purpose of separating the dead from the living but the dead did LIVE there. John writes in Rev. 20:14 that death and Hades, the concept of separation and what would hold from God's deliverance are thrown into the lake of fire. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." (I Cor 15:26) If death, then, is the last enemy, the lake of fire is not an enemy to God's creation. Although it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of God's judgment, (Heb 10:31) and I do not plan on it, I know God to be "a consuming fire" (Deut 4:24) and I would rather fall into his burning passion than fall victim to man's evil and ugly concept of hateful, vengeful, eternal persecution with torment. That is why my interest in being "written in the book of fire" is keen. (And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.) Rev 20:15. God's light shines so brightly and so intensely that John saw an expanse of fire. There is a place near Corinth, Greece, home of the ancient Corinthians, that is called the 'sea of olives' because when you stand high above it you look down upon an expanse of lush green that with the wind moves like waves of the sea. It is a wide space between two mountains and what you are looking at are the tops of the many olive trees closely growing together. In a vision, I would most surely think it to be a sea of olive green. I wonder how I would describe some of the visions that John had when God was revealing to him the Son of man and the Son of God?
To be continued.......... Romeo Corsini
These lessons are intended to be basic, elementary, entry level teachings to better understand the instruction of our Lord. It is with patience and comfort of the scriptures that we rightly discern between our soulish thoughts and our spiritual, confirming by holy script what the Lord has already spoken into our very hearts.
God's Love Towards All - con't
"Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord." Those were words spoken by the prophet Isaiah, yet they are worthy of consideration for today. Therefore, I ask you to reason with our Lord regarding His intent for creation. I beseech you to seek the Holy Spirit as to the character of our heavenly Father and Almighty God. Do His thoughts suggest endless suffering, torment and damnation for the vast majority of His creation? It is my deepest conviction and foremost desire that the truth be known, yea that it be shouted from the housetop. Countless thousands, even supposed educated Christians have not even heard such wonderful things. And what things are these you may ask? We answer with confidence, "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen 18:25). And if He shall, let the words of Job support our cause, "But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth." And His desire is that none should perish!
Many have been blinded by the doctrines and commandments of men. For too long, the blind have led the blind. However, we who have been graciously given the ability to understand now speak of the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. We openly share that He is the satisfaction for both our sins and the whole world, we gladly confess that God will have all men finally to be saved, we rejoice in the fact that He is the Saviour of all men, most of all for those now in belief. Yes, we are comforted with the loving and good truth that all shall be made alive in the Christ of God. We see that all things shall be subdued unto Him and put under His feet so that every knee would bow to the glory of God. Only such subjection can come from salvation! We see this in the words of David, "stilled (subjected) is my soul, for from Him is my salvation" (ref. I Jhn 2:2; I Tim 2:1-6; 4:10-11; I Cor 15:22-23).
Every now and again, not often, but sometimes, I am asked why I insist that this subject be so often shared. I am persuaded that it is not only vital that we seek truth and that the very same will make us free, but we must also come to know the true nature and character of our Father. As we observe Him, we shall be changed into His likeness, therefore we must come to behold Him as He Is. I am convinced that our very own concept of God and how we see His love determines the place we have of Him in our hearts, and consequently, we measure others with this same amount of love. I can say with a sure mind that the popular teaching of endless damnation will not be accepted by those who demand sound reasoning and clarity of scripture, yea it will not be once mentioned by those who will rule and reign with Christ.
The teaching of universal salvation has been often misunderstood as it relates to sin. Before we answer this charge, let us define what is sin. The scriptures shows us that "sin is lawlessness" (I Jhn 3:4 Williams). One person has written, "failure to conform to any standard is sin, whether it be the law of Moses or any other law, natural or revealed." He later states, "We are glad to turn to the fountain of all wisdom and find there a simple simile that presents a perfect picture of God's own apprehension of what is meant by sin." He continued to show using Judges 20:16 that the word sin and miss are identical in meaning. He adds, "Some months ago we had occasion to throw a stone over a certain branch of a tree. A cord was attached to the stone, for the object was to draw up an aerial for radio reception without climbing up to the perilous higher branches. We confess that we sinned many times before the task was accomplished. The cord would catch as the rock ascended; the rock went too high; it went to one side; it caught in the foliage. No matter what it did, each failure was a picturesque representation of God's definition of sin."- endquote.
God has given us a conscience to guide us as to right and wrong. David prayed, "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart....that I may discern between good and bad." (I Kgs 3:9). That sense of right and wrong is, I think, God's voice via the Holy Spirit speaking within us. When you know to do right and willfully sin or fail to obey, the opportunity has been lost and therefore you have missed or sinned. To this James agrees, "to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." When you miss or are in error, you are technically a sinner in that particular area or circumstance. If you were to shoot an arrow at a target and miss, you are a sinner as to your ability to master a bow and arrow. James says of fellow brethren that if we err from the truth, we are sinners. (ref. 5:19:20).
John says that "all unrighteousness is sin". Paul wrote, to those beloved of God and called saints in Rome, that "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Jesus said it was a sin (a miss), "because they believe not on me" (Jhn 16:9). Here I am reminded that belief must first stem from the heart, or "as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." And again, "if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart...". Only Christ can change the attitude of the heart and that is where the source of your motives stem, yea your very own character, own conduct, own state of being in spirit, soul and body. Certainly to not believe in Him is to be a fool and every foolish thought just plain misses the mark, which is Christ. (ref. Prov. 24:9).
So to sum up, sin is missing the mark or the target. We have a high and holy calling in which we press toward. We have a prize to attain and that is to win Christ! Anything short of Him, in our thinking, our saying or our doing , is missing the standard, it is failure. This should encourage, not discourage us, for we have a mark to shoot for! I don't know about you, but I welcome the idea that my character is constantly being improved upon. I relish the thought that I am becoming more in union with Him.
So back to the charge that we who teach the salvation of all mankind downplay sin. Just like anything else, I will admit that there are probably those who have the mental understanding of this doctrine yet would sin most every opportunity they have, but it is simply not so for many others! Paul said, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid." (Rms 6:1-2). It is a serious matter, yea a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. I urge you not to toy with His dealings, His divine cleansing, yea His divine fire of purification.
The great Origen, perhaps one of the wisest of all early church fathers, once stated, "The sacred scripture does, indeed, call 'our God a consuming fire', (Deut. 4:24) and says that 'rivers of fire go before his face', (Dan. 7:10) and that 'he shall come as a refiner's fire and as fuller's soap, and purify the people.' (Mal. 3:2). As therefore, God is a consuming fire, what is it that is to be consumed by him? We say it is wickedness, and whatever proceeds from it, such as is figuratively called wood, hay, and stubble. These are what God, in the character of fire, consumes. And as it is evidently the wicked works of man which are denoted by the terms wood, hay, and stubble, it is, consequently, easy to understand what is the nature of that fire by which they are to be consumed. Says the apostle, 'the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any one's work abide, which he hath built, he shall receive a reward. If any one's work be burned, he shall suffer loss.' (I Cor. 3:13-15). What else is here meant by the work which is to be burned, than whatever arises from iniquity? Our God is, accordingly, a consuming fire, in the sense I have mentioned. He shall come also as a refiner's fire, to purify rational nature from the alloy of wickedness, and from other impure matter which has adulterated, if I may so say, the intellectual gold and silver. Rivers of fire, likewise, said to go forth before the face of God, for the purpose of consuming whatever of evil is admixed in all the soul."
And again he states, "the word of the gospel in the present life, purifies the saints; whether Israelites or Gentiles, according to that expression of our Lord, 'now ye are clean through the word I have spoken unto you.' (Jhn 15:3). But he who shall have spurned the cleansing which is effected by the Gospel of God, will reserve himself for a dreadful and penal course of purification; for the fire of hell shall, by its torments, purify him whom neither the apostolic doctrine nor the evangelical word has cleansed: as it is written, 'I will thoroughly purify you with fire.' (Isa. 1:25). But how long, or for how many ages, sinners shall be tormented in this course of purification which is effected by the pain of fire, he only knows to whom the Father hath committed all judgment, and who so loved his creatures that for them he laid aside the form of God, took the form of a servant, and humbled himself unto death, that all men might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." - endquote.
Likewise, an earlier church father stated that God's "justice is, of itself, nothing but goodness; for it rewards the virtuous with blessings, and conduces to the improvement of the sinful. There are many evil affections which are to be cured only by suffering. Punishment is, in its operation, like medicine: it dissolves the hard heart, purges away the filth of uncleanness, and reduces the swellings of pride and haughtiness, thus restoring its subject to a sound and healthful state. It is not from hatred, therefore, that the Lord rebukes mankind." - endquote.
Similar are the wise words of Ray Prinzing, "Man has long viewed God's judgments as a vindictive action prompted by a motive for revenge and supported by a tumultuous wrath that must be pacified. NOT SO! Such is a gross caricature of our God! His mercy and grace are super-abundant, and though He finds it necessary to chasten, His wisdom and righteousness produces a just and pure chastisement conditioned to correct the situation, and thus bring forth a creature improved by the process. ALL OF GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE CORRECTIVE IN NATURE, motivated by His love, and used to work out a divine purpose, into our good, and His praise!" - endquote.
Indeed, God will deal accordingly with the soul which has been tainted with sin. Some of the disorders can be removed with His mercies and love, others require that more painful mode of cure, even to burning. For it may even come to be for some that it be impossible for them to turn their mind in repentance; having crucified and rejected our Lord time and time again. It is to them whose end is to be burned. (ref. Heb 6:1-8) Even Isaiah confirms that punishment is inflicted by fire, "When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. " (Isa. 4:4 YLT).
Indeed, both present and future punishments or corrections are purifications by their nature. Yet, I do not suggest that the fires are to be taken lightly nor can they within themselves turn one to Christ. It is only by the irresistible grace of our Lord that a person can call upon Jesus Christ. Yet, I see that it is all designed to let man be totally convinced within himself that nothing better satisfies than the Lord Himself. The fires of correction are not designed to preserve any in their sin and wickedness but rather to make them cease from it. Once again, this is not to imply that the fires of hell can redeem a person for only in Christ alone is there redemption.
J. Preston Eby penned these fine words, "Some argue that because we affirm that the judgments of God are not eternal, but corrective, we teach a 'hell redemption.' We are accused of believing that hell can accomplish in a man what the mercy and blood of Jesus could not accomplish. Many years ago Charles G. Finney (and we respect his ministry) opposed the teaching of the ultimate salvation of all by ridicule. Finney was a master of the invective. He said that those who were saved after this 'age of grace' ends would unceasingly sing, 'Thanks be to the hell that saved us by our own suffering!" Just how much weight is there to that criticism? It is a marvelous truth that CHRIST ALONE can save! There is no other way! How we rejoice that it is so! But there is one thing that must be dealt with before any man can come to Christ and be saved. MAN'S REBELLION MUST BE REMOVED. His pride and self-confidence and stubborness and trust in things and pleasures that damn and lead away from God must be broken. And this is where judgment comes in. Judgment destroys the power of the carnal mind which blinds, which is enmity against God - but judgment does not grant redemption. It only breaks rebellion! It breaks man's stubborn will! But redemption was purchased upon the cross." - endquote.
Indeed, sin is most hateful in the sight of God and in His infinite wisdom He designed the cure to remove it from His creation. Certainly, the complete extinction of sin must be the case for Paul to even suggest that God would be all in all. And if God is to be all in all, there will be no mixture of evil for "Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good" (Lam. 3:38). In fact, sin was so displeasing to our Holy and Almighty God that He sacrificed His very own Son to take it out of the world. Yet much of Christendom today would imply that His Son had failed His mission or missed His task. Missed, they say....why they suggest that He sinned! I will have you know that as long as sin strikes its terrible blow to the heart and mind of a single person, either in the now or hereafter, it has not been put totally under foot and has therefore retained it's sting of death!
Obviously, I support the notion that the fires of correction and hell are not literal or material but rather allegorical. Yet, I submit for your consideration that any correction, especially spiritual, can be most severe and is to be taken very seriously. To suffer loss, any loss, is always painful. So as the good physician might say, 'be wise and take your medicine now, even if it doesn't taste so good." Remember, it was never said that broad is the way that leadeth to life or that many are called and chosen? Nay, the scriptures say narrow is the way that leadeth to life and few there be that find it. Also, that many are called but few are chosen.
Let us now briefly turn our attention to words and phrases which have been poorly represented by religion and make it difficult to see God's Love Towards All. The remaining portion of this article will focus on the word 'hell' in the old testament. Future articles will rightly align the concepts of 'hell' in the new testament, damnation and stories such as that of Lazarus.
I am a firm believer that the usage of a word in the context of scripture should determine its meaning. I have also found that most people have much difficulty considering a viewpoint if it contradicts tradition and what they have long perceived as truth. The subject of hell, perhaps more than any other, carries an unusual and phantom type image in the minds of most today, including bible professing Christians. Yet I am amazed how little they have sought out whether their doctrine stands the authenticity of holy script. As such, I beg that you study and mediate without ceasing to know truth regarding the remaining portion of this article.
Popular teachings of today suggest that when death comes to the mortal body of a person, the person that is good or saved ends in a heavenly bliss while the bad or unbeliever goes to an endless hell of misery and torment. Let's now look closer at this concept of hell to learn its true meaning. The word 'hell' comes from an old English or Saxon word hel-an and meant to hide, cover or conceal. To hele over something was to hide it. It has been said that the "first translators of the bible used the word hell in the sense of a covered or unseen place, the grave, or perhaps the state of death." A nineteenth century English church scholar named Samuel Cox taught on this same saying, "In our early literature it is used to denote, not only any obscure place or dungeon, but also the dark hole into which a tailor flung his waste shreds, and even the retired spot to which, in a popular game, a lad led a lass to exact the forfeit of a kiss. But theology has long since discharged all gay and innocent meanings and associations from the word hell." - endquote. I recall that once upon a time I read that it was proper in old English to suggest that a potato would be found in the ground as in hell since it was unseen or covered by the earth. Imagine sitting at the dinner table and asking a fundamental church friend if they would care for a 'potato once in hell'. Or consider the idea of asking your spouse or fancy if they'd be interested in finding a place, namely hell (covered place), for a romantic kiss! (If this offends you, perhaps you misunderstand the true meaning sheol).
Many tradition bound teachers are quite descriptive of the blazing hell-fire which torments the soul for all of eternity while Jesus and His angels look on with just and dignified stares. Yet such men are only lost in their vain and carnal reasonings, speculating what they think is the truth of scripture. Simple reasoning tells us that God should love his enemies if we are called to love our enemies. The worst of man would probably save his own child from a natural fire rather than see them suffer for one minute, yet we are told that the Father of all spirits will torment his very own creation for not only one minute, or one hour, or one day, or one year, or one decade, or one century or one millennium but for all of eternity! O thou selfish seeking humanistic mind, who has bewitched you to believe such lies! I challenge any to this.
In reviewing the old testament, we find that the hebrew word sheol is used some 65 times, about 31 of them as 'hell', while the remaining 34 times as 'the grave' or 'the pit'. Strong's concordance defines sheol as hades, world of dead, grave, pit or hell. A comparative study of the occurrences in the old testament will clearly show that this word sheol, all throughout scripture, simply means the state of death or unseen. The first time we see this word used in the O.T is Genesis 37:35 when Jacob heard of his favorite son Joseph supposed dead having thought that a beast had devoured him, "And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him." In consideration of the meaning of sheol, Jacob leaves us with a few possibilities, either that it meant the state of being dead, the realm of the unseen or the grave itself. By process of elimination, further examinations will help us capture a more true definition. Obviously, we can rule out the ever-burning fire damnation concept of hell for the word sheol, for who could ever think that Jacob, one of the great heroes of faith, the one whom the Lord spoke, "yet I loved Jacob" (Mal. 1:2) and was "the apple of his eye" (Deut. 32:10) would have such a horrid place in store for his rest. And again, I don't think Job would have said "O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave (in sheol, in hell), that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!" if the meaning of it were what theologians would have us to believe today.
It is found of King David saying, "The sorrows of hell compassed about; the snares of death prevented me", and "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." And yet another, "O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit". Job said, "Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering." and "Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned." From these few statements we can learn more about this concept called sheol or hell. David said that it was the sorrows of sheol which compassed him and tied the idea closely with the snares of death. Job also relates the downside and ruin of hell with the idea of destruction. Interestingly enough, Job understands that even hell is visible or seen by God, which obviously becomes apparent that this realm is not naked or visible to man. It should be apparent that it is a realm of the unseen and certainly most often (but not always) in scripture suggests sorrow, pain and death. David said that his soul was in sheol or hell and the Lord brought it up and kept him alive. Jonah also cried out of the fish's belly which he called the belly of hell. This can be understood as he cried out of the realm of the unseen. (ref. II Sam. 22:6, Ps. 16:9-10, Ps. 30:3, Job 24:19, 26:6, Jonah 2:2) In fact, in the works of Josephus, he wrote regarding how Saul, upon God's not answering him concerning the fight with the Philistines, desired a necromantic woman to raise up the spirit of the prophet Samuel. Josephus said that she called forth the spirit of Samuel from hades or sheol. Now let me ask you, do you think that prophet of God, that servant of God, that man of God would end up in the hell that theology has painted for us?
To quote again that wonderful teacher, J. Preston Eby, "In the Old Testament we find the word sheol which according to our Hebrew dictionaries means 'the place of the dead.' The word always appears in the singular, never in its plural form. It is not the 'places' of the dead, not the individual graves where reside their respective bodies, but the realm of the dead, the abode of the dead, or the state of the dead. The word is derived from the root shael, which means, by implication, 'to request, to demand.' And this reminds us forcibly of the common and inevitable end of all flesh. There is a realm and a state beyond this life which inexorably beckons men onward through the fleeting years of earthly ambition and toil till at last it lays its demand upon them, drawing them into its inescapable embrace." - endquote.
I find that Sheol is never once used to denote the final estate of men and certainly does not imply the endless torments described by so many misguided preachers today. It is the abode or realm of the unseen, the domain of death, it is without life, without Christ! When relating to the souls of men in the departed, I see it is an intermediate place for the continued processing and inworking of the cross of Christ. In fact, I am bold to say that by an in-depth study, one may even find that the inspired ones of old, when having tasted of the realm of sin and death and its dreaded influence, were actually experiencing hell in themselves!!
To be continued.......T.D.C.