Coming Soon To A Planet Near You – Part 3: The Mark

Let’s address a concern for many followers of Jesus, called The Christ.  What is the Mark of the Beast, the significance of the “666,” how will it be done, and what are the results of taking or refusing it?  If you are not a Christ-follower, I encourage you to read on, to discover what may happen in the near future.

2021-05-22 HellBoyFirst, the Mark of the Beast will not be called that, any more than the Beast will be called “The Beast.”  It will likely be couched in pleasant sounding euphemisms, e.g. The WISE Mark (Winning Implementation of Supply and Expense) or maybe the KIND Mark (Knowledge-based International Negotiation Dividends).  And The Beast will be called a Miracle Man, a Savior of Humankind, the Answer Man, the Peacemaker.  He will not be an evil-looking HellBoy, but rather a typical looking world leader.  But those who are aware of the Bible’s teaching will recognize him for who and what he really is: the devil incarnate, the Anti- or “Other” Christ.  Keep in mind these events will unfold as repercussions of the most mysterious disappearance in history of millions of people and all babies and little children!  The global chaos will be ripe for someone, anyone, who seems to know what to do.

“[The spokesman of the Beast] causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” (Revelation 13:16-18)

As for the significance of the mystery of the number, 666, this will remain a mystery until the time it is applied.  Do not let anyone fool you into thinking they have ‘discovered’ who the Beast is by matching a name to the numeric values of the Hebrew or Greek letters.  This was done with transliterations for Emperor Julian, Genghis Khan, Hitler, FDR, John Kennedy, George Bush, bin Laden, Khomeini and a host of others whose candidacy for being the Anti-Christ fell into varying degrees of believability.  We will not know who this “Man of Lawlessness” is until he is revealed.

How is the mark applied?  It is possible it could be a bio-metric identification or a chip implant, something the angel would only have noted as a “mark.”  It could be a nano-activated ink tattoo or simply a literal tattoo, maybe even 666, that would show the wearer was “cooperating” with the government to address the chaos of the missing Christ-followers.  “I’m a loyal (insert any nationality).  Put it big and bold right there on my forehead!”

In any case, it will not be secretly administered as some right-wing . . . umm, conservatives (note, I did not call them “nuts” 😉) surmised in recent months.  It will not be part of a vaccine or some obscure method that will fool people into getting something they do not want.  It will be an open and reasonable method of accounting for your personal income, expenses, assets and debts.  Everyone will be invited to participate as sensible and patriotic citizens of the world.  It will simply be the way the world is working, and if you want to buy or sell, whether stocks and bonds, real estate or groceries, you will need to have an account.

The results of accepting this Mark are explicitly laid out in Revelation 14: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”  So if it comes to the point that you are asked to take a Mark in order to buy or sell, just do not do that!

However, be aware that the results of refusing this Mark will be devastating as well.  One will not be able to do business in any form.  You will not be able to access your savings, your Social Security, your checking or any investments.  You will not be allowed to purchase anything at Walmart or Costco, and forget about Amazon or Apple.  The Kroger and Safeway will be out of your reach as will be any other thing that you want to buy or sell.  Starvation is a slow and difficult death; ostracization by the community may be radical and murderous.

But there is an assurance in the next verses in Revelation 14Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.  And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!'”

Do not believe me!  😉 That is, do not take my word for this information.  Read last week’s list of Bible chapters that address the End Times.  At least take a couple hours and read two very short books: The Gospel of John and The Revelation.  Each of these books should not take more than an hour or two to read in your heart language (the language in which you dream).  The links are to English Standard Version (ESV), but you can select any language in the “Version Button” by selecting All and scrolling down.

So when will these things occur? Again, as noted last week, no one knows the day or the hour!  So do not let anyone deceive you that they somehow have it figured out.  But there are interesting developments that make these scenarios more believable. 

When I was a child, Bible-prophecy preachers would speak of a united Europe to mimic the ancient Roman Empire; skeptics said this was absurd, that nationalism and language difficulties would prevent this; Europe would never be united.  The preachers said money would be accessible only through a mark on your hand or forehead; again skeptics said we would never have computers powerful enough to regulate international commerce; check out Amazon’s latest development in September, 2019.  The preachers said cash would be obsolete; skeptics laughed as they wanted to know how you could do business without a reserve currency; laugh no more; digital currency will soon replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency!  It will be international, accessible anywhere in the world, and if it uses bio-metrics to access, perfectly (?) secure.

2021-05-22 LightningRecall that world events have at times occurred with the speed of a tsunami.  The start of WW1, the execution of the tsar of Russia, the Communist revolution in China, the fall of the Berlin wall, literal tsunamis and natural disasters around the world: all occurred with fire-bolt speed, and the next changes in currency, political fortunes and world government will occur even faster when the Church is removed from the world like a lightning flash!

This is why I appeal to you that if you do not know where you will go at the end of your life, you CAN know!  If you want to know how to escape the judgements of The God Who Is, He has made it very simple.  “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)  If you come face to face with the events herein described, recognize that any death from human hands is nothing compared to missing the gift of eternal life Jesus offers.  My prayer for each of you reading this is that you will take this warning to heart and Be Ready.

“At this also my heart trembles and leaps out of its place.
Keep listening to the thunder of His voice
    and the rumbling that comes from His mouth.
Under the whole heaven He lets it go,
    and His lightning to the corners of the earth.
After it His voice roars;
    He thunders with His majestic voice,
    and He does not restrain the lightnings when His voice is heard.
God thunders wondrously with His voice;
    He does great things that we cannot comprehend.”  Job 37:1-5

 

Prepare or Perish; I Cannot Be Quiet.

“Come, NOW is the time to worship.”

2021-03-27 House on FireI wish this could be more gently expressed, but like a man seeing the house of a friend on fire, I must SHOUT IT.  There is too little time to say, “Oh, maybe I will disturb him or interrupt his nice supper; I’ll call him later and tell him his house is on fire.”  What kind of friend would I be!?  That said, no one can force you out of a burning house if it is your choice to stay there.  But still, I have to warn that Jesus made it clear, we must Be Ready or we will perish.

We have examined the evidence of evil.  There are people who sell other people into the sex trades or some form of indentured servitude.  Just as bad, there are people who buy and use them.  There are people who will sell drugs to anyone with money to purchase, no matter how badly addicted their victims are; others who will turn a blind eye to crises because it is politically inconvenient or will cost them their job or make them look foolish to others; even more who simply shrug and say, “Well, I am not doing that.  It is not my problem.”  The mass of German citizens seemed shocked when they were paraded into POW camps after WW2 and said, “Oh, my, we didn’t know.”  But their complicity was in not listening to the warning sirens of Jews being “labeled” and marginalized; ignoring the buildup of power into a select few, all in the name of “purifying the race;” making life better for “all of you.”

We have looked at the Scriptures for what Jesus, the apostles, and Old Testament prophets taught about hell and its misery.  Gehenna (translated ‘hell’ or ‘fiery furnace’ or similar analogies) was the garbage dump outside Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”  This was His picture of hell; a place not intended for human habitation, but where those who cannot serve their purpose wind up; a place of disposal; strangely, a place “chosen” by those who will reside there because they refuse to trust the Creator and Jesus, in [whom] the whole fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily

Evil is evident.  Hell is authentic.  So how can one avoid it?  Jesus spent most of his parables telling about the Kingdom of God and how to get into it.  He gave several stern warnings, though, against being deceived.  In Matthew 24, four times He told His followers to beware.  He then conclude this teaching with a blessing and a severe warning (verses 45-51) .

 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.  Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.  But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

He then tells the story of ten women who went out to meet a bridegroom.  In that culture, the groom would come to his bride at an unannounced time after meeting with his friends.  Five were foolish and five were wise.  At the end of the story, this Jesus that everyone thinks would always be so kind and forgiving, excludes the foolish women from the groom’s banquet, and quite harshly!

He then tells a story of a landowner who commits responsibilities to his servants while he is away.  The wise servants invest his loans to them, but a foolish one hides the money so he can give back only what he received.  He gets a tongue lashing that would make Bear Bryant blush, and the land owner orders the worthless servant [to be cast] into the outer darkness . . .  where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

He concludes a trilogy of parables with a story of sheep and goats being separated.  To the “goats on the left” Jesus will tell them, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels . . . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  Note, the eternal fire was never intended for humans.

The fearful thing for most people is that Heaven is not our default destination.  In our natural state, the way we are born, we are already condemned to hell!  John wrote in his Gospel, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already!John 3:16-18

That is why Jesus told the Pharisee that he needed to be “born again!”  Being born into this life was NOT enough!  As lovely or successful or rich or powerful or comfortable as one can be, we are all condemned to hell UNLESS we specifically and personally take a step of faith and “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” to be saved.

It would be “nice” if everyone would get into Heaven, but Jesus clearly teaches that many will NOT!  How can I invite you to read the Gospels, the Good News, so that you do not have to go to hell?  What can I do to persuade you that you were created for a better life than this?  Are there any words I can write that will convince you to trust Jesus for eternal life?  What can I show you of how much God, the Father, loves you beyond the fact that Jesus died in your place, in my place?

The promise is completely inclusive: ANYONE can come to Jesus, regardless of past sin, problems, ethnicity, success or failure; NOTHING excludes you!
But the promise is completely exclusive simultaneously: ONLY those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved.

Someday, at the name of Jesus every knee [WILL] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue [WILL] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” when He is fully revealed at the end of time.  But there is a special blessing and fellowship of the Holy Spirit and of other Christ-followers for those who bow their knees now, and confess now that Jesus Christ IS Lord.  Do not be deceived. 

Please, dear friends reading this blog, you to whom I have emailed this link, those of you just stopping by for a visit:
Pray to Jesus to be born again and to guide you by His Holy Spirit.
Begin reading the Bible, especially starting in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
Find someone near you who knows Jesus and start meeting regularly.

If you do not know of anyone in your hometown or country, email me at capost3k@gmail.com and I will help you find someone out of our international connections.  If you want to Zoom with me, just email me, but I encourage you to find someone locally who speaks your ‘heart language.’  Please, prepare or you will perish.

 

Hell Is Authentic


The result of living without Jesus is .  Not just a fantasy, not just a short-term separation from what is good.  It is a final loss, a final “mercy” of God to those who refuse any blessing.  He will not let an evil person go on hurting others into eternity, or even themselves; so He places them in outer darkness (Matthew 8:11-12), alone and apart from any source of light or life, because that is what they have chosen.  “All that are in hell choose it.  Without that self-choice, there could be no hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find; to those who knock it is opened.” (C.S.Lewis, The Great Divorce)

If they would choose to know The God Who Is Here, anyone can enter into His Life, Light, Joy, Peace and every other blessing that comes from living in consistency with “the universe.”  There is only one way to know The God Who Is Here, and that is by getting to know Jesus, the Messiah, aka Christ.  “Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)  There simply is no other way.  Father loves each one of us so much that if there was another way, He would inform us and provide us with the alternatives.  But THIS is the nature of the universe.  It is what He created and knowing Him is the only way. (Acts 4:10-12)

Like the Children of the Day sang, “Don’t try to drive the darkness out; You just turn on the light.”  Hell is the absence of light.  It is the absence of love.  It is the absence of community.  It is the absence of peace.  It is the absence of selfless joy.  It is the absence of life. 

Note, by that I do not mean the end of existence.  It that were the case, “hell” would not be all that bad.  If when we died we simply vanished into nothingness, there would be no reason for warning and inviting people to Life.  However, God created each of us, created YOU, to enjoy Him forever.  There is no Infinity Stone that can simply snap away our existence.  The gift of existence is without do-overs. (Romans 11:29)  We were created for eternity and “He has put eternity into man’s heart.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

One of Job’s visitors described hell as the destiny of all those who do not know God, a dreadful place he calls the king of terrors.”  Hell will be a place of eternal death, because its inhabitants will be separated eternally from the Source of Life.  There, like the demons who believe and shudder (James 2:19), its occupants will hate God and the exposing light of his glory.  “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain)

Before Him “Every heart will melt, and all hands will be feeble; every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water” (Ezekiel 21:7).  Just as the kings of the earth will call to the mountains and rocks, “Hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne” (Revelation 6:16), in hell God will give them what they want, a place of complete eclipse, darker than anything we can imagine. (Matthew 22:13; 25:29-30

As we have noted before (see ), anyone who longs for joy can find it.  Moses said in Deuteronomy 4:29, “If you will seek Yahweh your God, you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” But this is not like trying to find Easter eggs, either in the yard under bushes, or a hidden message in a movie.  You do not have to scour the internet or decode mysterious anagrams or learn a particular language.  God is not hiding, making you wade through mazes or difficult terminology to find Him.  He makes Himself clear to anyone willing to see Him (Romans 1:19-22)  Further, He has revealed Himself throughout history via prophets, priests, church leaders and lastly through Jesus.

It would be nice if we could say those who go to hell will only stay there for a little while and then be granted entry into Heaven, kind of like an earthly prison sentence.  But remember those who go there go by their own choice because they do now want to live in God’s Kingdom; they refuse to live with someone else that is there; they object to His rulership.

So what awaits one who refuses to believe what God has revealed about Himself? 
“This is what Yahweh, the LORD, says:
“Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’
Therefore hear, O nations, and know what will happen to them.
Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people,
    the fruit of their devices,
because they have not paid attention to my words;
    and as for my law, they have rejected it.…
Therefore this is what Yahweh says:
‘Behold, I will lay before this people a stumbling block against which they shall stumble;
fathers and sons together, neighbor and friend shall perish.’”
(Jeremiah 6:16-21)

You have this opportunity while you live. (Hebrews 9:27-28)  There is no guidance on making this decision after you die, and why would anyone refuse the Lord of Life now while they can learn to know Him before that time?  The choice is yours to make.  we will look a little more at the choice.

Time heals all wounds . . . NOT!

Please forgive my use of an old idiom in the title, the “NOT.”   Then again, I have an excuse, so I prefer your understanding to forgiveness.  Recall last week I noted that when we have excuses, we only need understanding, not forgiveness.  Forgiveness only functions when the offender is without excuse, which is the main reason it is so very hard to forgive.  Besides, “time heals all wounds,” right?  We’ve heard this mantra for generations and it even shows up as a “word” in Merriam-Webster and in Dictionary.com!

Sophocles.jpgMost attribute “Time heals all wounds” to Chaucer in Troilus and Criseyde: “As tyme him hurt, a tyme doth him cure.”  But such imprecise quotations should take us back to Sophocles, the ancient Greek playwright (495-406 B.C.), who said, “Time eases all things” in Oedipus, the King.  However, as illustrated in the play, this proved false.  Time could not heal the problems in that family!  Even the deaths of the parents and Oedipus’ blinding did not heal the wounds, but only solved the problems in the nation.  The personal injuries followed . . . rather, chased . . . the individuals to their graves.

In the same way time will not heal the wounds in your family, or in your former friendships, or in your job, or in any relationship where you have been deeply injured.  Time does not have the power to heal.  Rather, we may forget some offenses over time, but if reminded of them, we will find the pain and the hurt of the offense is still there, even after 60 years or more!  Like peeling a scab off an old scar, fresh blood will flow again, and we will find the wound is still there.  In some cases, reminders of the impairment will keep it continually fresh even over years passing as if we were constantly picking at the scab, rehearsing every detail of the wrongdoing and sometimes even worsening the offense as we embellish with added “memories” of what happened.

This is reflected in reverse in the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13: “[Love] keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (13:5-6)  Think of this in contrast to the man who says, “I remember the twelve years ago like it was yesterday.  She had on those red shoes she used to wear.  It was a Saturday morning and was raining.  The neighbor was mowing his lawn in the rain when she knocked at the door, and she said …”  Love does not keep these records.  “Regret cannot change your past; worry cannot change your future.  Only forgiveness can change your past; only trust can change your future.” (Steve Elliott)

But, you may say, what about someone who keeps on offending!?  Must I forgive him/her continually?  Well, yes and no.  If an offender is genuinely repentant of their fault, we are called on by Jesus to continually forgive (Matthew 18:21-22).  The key here is the repentance.

Repentance means a turning away from a former way of doing things.  An alcoholic may repent of his drinking many times, but still fall prey to his weakness and lapse into a drinking binge.  He genuinely repents each time but can only succeed with significant outside help and guidance, e.g. AA or some other program that offers forgiveness as well as assistance to avoid the temptations.

John The BaptistHowever, there are times a prophetic caution should be given such as John the Baptist gave to his hearers when he was attracting big crowds: He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.’” (Luke 3:7-8)  Not exactly what one would expect from today’s seeker-friendly sermons, but led by the Holy Spirit, John addressed the “penitents’” problems.  They were looking for an easy fix that did not involve a real heart change!

James, the brother of Jesus, also understood this.  In his short letter to the dispersed Jews who had fled the persecution in Jerusalem, he repeatedly advised on his theme, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17)  A wise man once said, “We are saved by faith alone, but not faith that is alone!” (Dr. Ronald Wright)

So how do we know when a penitent is genuine?  How can we be sure when we forgive we will not get burned . . . again?  Unless the Holy Spirit reveals this to us, we cannot know.  We must proceed on the basis of our understanding and the love God puts in our hearts, sometimes a love intended to be wounded.  Just as Jesus knew He came to go to the cross, there may be people in your life who you must let crucify you.  As painful as that may be, there will be a joy set in front of you that will help you endure (Hebrews 12:2) and continue to forgive as our Lord prayed from his execution stance, “Father, forgive them because they do not realize what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

However, forgiveness, when it comes from your heart, is transformational!  First you will be transformed by your choice to forgive.  You will find the prisoner of your anger or bitterness was never the offender at all.  You were the one bound in the prison of your own acrimony.  Then, free from the bitterness, you will find your forgiveness may be transformational in the life of the offender you forgive, just as Jesus’ forgiveness has transformed you.  Of course, the power of your forgiveness to transform another is entirely dependent on his/her willingness to be forgiven.

As strange as it may seem in a discussion of forgiveness, there are those who will refuse forgiveness.  Either they will take offense at thinking that you think they need your forgiveness, or they will be too full of pride to admit that they know their need, unwilling to be humble and accept your forgiveness.

As strange as this may seem in such an academic exercise, in the “real world” experience of forgiving and being forgiven there are hard choices to make and some may prefer to wait and hope that time will heal the wounds.  Sadly, it will not.  As C.S.Lewis noted in The Great Divorce, All that are in hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

So if you are offended, forgive.  Time will not heal the wound.  Forgiveness will.

 

don’t take sin lightly

Gospel According to GodJohn MacArthur, the pastor from Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and radio personality of Grace To You, a syndicated Christian teaching program, offers some advice in his newest of 150 books, The Gospel According to God.  He remarks that there are some people who take sin lightly — it’s kind of a trendy thing today.  There are lots of churches and lots of churchgoers who are never really confronted by the wretchedness of their own hearts and the sinfulness of their own sin.

We sing very lovely and kind songs in worship and speak often of God’s immeasurable grace.  We share about what we believe about God and His plans for the world; we talk about the details of whether the word, “love” is agape, phileo or storge; we smile and pat each other on the back as we tell each other, “Oh, we’re all doing fine.”  This makes our times together in church very pleasant, but I wonder if we often sacrifice an important part of the Gospel message.

Our message seems to be primarily intellectual.  If you understand and believe you can be all right in God’s eyes.  However, try driving 70mph in a 35mph section of road and try explaining to the officer that you “believe” that the speed limit is 35!

In the past century (no, I’m not quite that old! 😉) the good news of salvation was often presented as a fire insurance policy.  Get saved or go to hell; not as an invective but simply as a statement of what would happen.  Most pulpit ministers never seemed to notice that Heaven and salvation are mentioned many more times in the Bible than hell or condemnation.  Taken in total, the Bible really is Good News!

But missing from the current trend of American churches is a call to repentance based on how terrible our sins are in God’s eyes.  I find it interesting how often the term “grace” appears associated to MacArthur’s name.  Yet he proposes in his latest book that there are limits to that grace, based on our understanding of what the “good news” for us cost Him.  In it he describes the literature of Isaiah 53 in detail, showing how this prophecy some 700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem described the life and purpose of Jesus coming to the world, to save sinners from the penalty of their sin.

There is this dichotomy in his thesis: God’s grace sent Jesus to die for our sins (the Gospel), but it is our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross (the reason God had to give us grace!).  He goes on to say we must not take sin lightly, because it was our sin that put Christ on the cross.  How can we treat lightly what he suffered?  To look at Jesus on the cross is to understand just what God thinks of our sin, and it is not pretty.

Passion of the Christ“He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised or crushed for our iniquities. The divine chastening, the wrath of God, was put on him for our well-being. All we, like sheep, have gone astray, but God has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6) How can that be a light thing?” MacArthur asks.  Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ attempted to depict the suffering of Jesus from just prior to His crucifixion all the way through to His death and resurrection.  Several details were historically incorrect, but one thing was clear:  Jesus suffered miserably and horribly at the hands of men for whom He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

As Protestants we usually hang empty crosses in our churches and sometimes I think we miss something the Roman Catholics understand when they have icons of Jesus still there.  They see a suffering savior who went through hell to give us Heaven.  Too often we gloss over the “hell” he went through and jump as fast as we can to “the joy that was set before Him.” (Hebrews 12:2)  We do not like to spend too much time on His “enduring the cross, scorning its shame,” because that is not the point of our lives.  True, He created us for Joy, not sorrow; He created us for Peace, not war; He created us for Love, not disinterest; He created us for Life, not death.

But He accomplished our re-creation by going through that hell, and sometimes He guides us through some of it so that we can identify with Him.
“Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death —
        even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

Otherwise, we might estimate His sacrifice, suffering and death were no big deal.  After all, we think, He is God and can handle it; it must not have been that bad for Him.  But Jesus was fully man as well, a mystery we cannot get our minds completely around, but a truth that the Bible teaches clearly.  And when you see Him on the cross, “His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and His form beyond that of the children of mankind” (Isaiah 52:14), you have to wonder how He could have endured such pain and torture.  Why would He go through all that if He could call 10,000 angels to set Himself free (Matthew 26:53)?

It was because of your sin.  It was because of my sinAll we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

“If you look at the cross, you will understand the sinfulness of sin.  You cannot make light of it when you see it in that fashion.” John MacArthur

Get Out Of Jail Free Card!

Consider this:  A guy cheats on a couple of exams in school, flirts with a woman who is married, and lies on his taxes one year so he could have some extra cash for his wife and kids for Christmas.  Now, is it fair, is it just, to send this guy into an eternity of torment and misery . . . billions of years just for starters, for these little faus pas?

Universalism says that God will never send anyone to an eternity in hell.  Sounds like pretty good news, you say?  Puts a whole new spin on the good news of the Gospel.  Maybe a few years for either rehab or punishment, but eternity?  Naahhh.

Universalism thinks that after a while in a torture chamber, even the most hardened vicious criminal would look at Heaven and think, “Why am I suffering here if a loving God is willing to let me join Him and the redeemed over there in their free-wheeling banquets and parties?”  Pastors Philip Gulley and James Mulholland write that you can call over to this loving God and get His grace applied, even post-mortem, and that is Why God Will Save Every Person, the partial title of their book on this theme (not worth buying).  Given God’s limitless love and grace, you can pretty much do whatever you want in life, and at some point, He will figure you’ve paid your “debt to society” and give you a Get Out of Jail Free card.

The issue though is plainer than Gulley and Mulholland pretend it to be.  Theirs is an itemization of sins and their reasonable refusal to accept that a loving God would punish someone eternally for temporal malfeasance.  “Let the punishment fit the crime,” one might say.  Sounds fair to our western civilized minds, maybe even just, but we will not go into that detail of the differences between fairness and justice.

There are no errors in Gulley’s and Mulholland’s logic.  Begin with their premises and it is impossible to come rationally to a different conclusion than they have.  So let’s look at their premises, because if a logical progression is predicated on faulty assumptions, you will wind up at a wrong, however logical, conclusion.

The first premise is that the church, as a whole, has been judgmental and presented an angry God who will not tolerate sinful actions.  The second is that our experience with God will provide a clearer picture of what God is like than a dusty old book that is unreliable at best, and somewhat fantasy at worst.  The third is that if people see how wonderful Jesus is they will want Him and His grace.  The fourth is that anyone will choose what is best for themselves if someone shows them why it is best, and God is so persistent that He will never give up on you, ever.

The first premise actually holds water.  The church has been Angry Godjudgmental and made God look like an angry grandfather in the sky just looking for anyone having too much fun so He could zap them with lightning bolts and yell, “Stop that!”  Not just the “church,” that ethereal “they” on whom it is so easy to blame everything, but I have been judgmental and frightened people away from the grace that could save them.  The sin of the Pharisees was that they thought they could see clearly, and so their sin remained (John 9:41), even as they loaded people with burdens they would offer no help to bear (Luke 11:46).

This is not news. Jesus reserved His harshest comments, not for the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) nor for the cripple from the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-14), but for religiously serious.  It seems our human nature culls us into a lethargy, that once we have figured something out, anyone who has not advanced to “our level” is either stupid or evil.  And we judge without reference to the unseen issues of the heart: where one has come from, what has happened that has shaped him/her, what the hidden motivations and desires are.  We evaluate based on outward appearances while the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7b).

The other premises, though, show major fault lines that easily crack if examined at all.  The Bible is an infallible rule of faith and practice, presenting The God Who Is There as the I AM, a perfect balance of grace and truth, mercy and justice.  One’s experiences with God must be evaluated on the basis of what the Bible says, not what I wish it said, not from my very limited and shortsighted view.  There are “spiritual experiences” that one can have that have nothing to do with God, but “feel” right.  “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)  In our society, how we “feel” has taken preeminence over what the Bible teaches.

The third and fourth premises, that everyone will choose Jesus if they really see Him and that with God’s persistence, eventually everyone will see Him and how good He is.  I have addressed the heresy of the third premise before (July 19, 2015), so suffice it to say that the Pharisees and religiously serious got a front row seat to see and know Jesus . . . and they chose to crucify Him.  That choice was still forgivable while they were alive.  My sins were my choice to crucify Jesus; I put the nails in His hands just as forcibly as the Roman centurions on Golgotha, but I have been forgiven.

In The Great Divorce C.S.Lewis presents a more accurate description of why some people will wind up in a place that is separated from the life and joy and peace and everything good that God designed for all people.  I offer nor find any comfort in this warning, but the fact is that “Milton was right. The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words, ‘Better to reign in hell than to serve in Heaven.’  There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery.  There is always something they prefer to joy – that is, to reality . . . There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whoGeorge MacDonald.jpgm God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’  All that are in hell choose it.  Without that self-choice there could be no hell.  No soul that seriously desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find.  To those who knock it is opened.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StW6ZKHRCFo

Now there’s a Get Out Of Jail Free card, but there are constraints on when and how to use it.  Next week, , I will examine some of those.

I met a man in hell last week.

“At the end of things, the blessed will say, ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.’  And the lost will say, ‘We were always in Hell.’  And both will speak truly.” C.S. Lewis

I met a man in hell last week.  Note, I did not say he was from hell, nor did I say he was going there nor that I went to hell to meet him.  He is there, even while he is here in this world.  His life is very sad, and whenever he crosses my mind, I will say a prayer for him that maybe someone else will be able to help him see where he is.

From our first meeting, there was a quiet discomfort in working together on a house my company is building.  But he seemed knowledgeable and nice enough.  More importantly he said he had done the flat-work of concrete for the house next to ours, and I had seen that work was all right.  But there it was, in the back of my mind, like a kind of gnat flying around that I could not quite see quickly enough to smack, yet not so big or nasty of a bug to gain my full attention.  So I hired him to do our flat-work and he would come back after we got the walls poured.  If I had been wise, I should have asked the builder of the house next to ours whether he would recommend this man, as I found out later, he had never heard of him.

We finished pouring the walls on May 22, followed by removal of the braces that had supported the ICFs during the pour, and that was followed by the plumber getting the rough in plumbing done for the basement – the work that would need to be below the basement floor.

So by May 27 the plumber finished as we were ready for the pour of the basement floor.  But the flat-work guy would not be available till Monday, June 1, so we thought we could wait for the job to begin.

There were problems with this guy that almost made me delay the pour and hire someone else, but he appealed to me, and part of why I started my company was to help some of the tradesmen I would encounter.

But one thing after another went wrong on the job, and in our communication.  As patient as I was with him, nothing seemed to be right; no one seemed to do their part of the job correctly;  deceit seemed to be common for him, from claiming to be married to claiming to be at one site when he was not there, to claiming his “wife” was out of town when she was not.  I really felt badly for the guy, as nothing ever seemed to work right for him; everybody seemed out to take advantage of him; no one would look out for his interests.  He accused me of ordering the concrete late; not having my act together; not knowing what I wanted to do.

When we resolved matters of how much to pay him, after two days of argument over what equipment he had, what he had promised to do, etc, I asked if we could talk for a few minutes.  Per his standard operating procedure, he said he had too much to do and other places to be, lines I had heard repeatedly in our dealings.  As conciliatory as I tried to be, he left angry and frustrated, that he had again been taken advantage of, and I assure you he was not.

I felt very sad the rest of that day, as I remember being there about 30 years ago when I was not living right.  No one understands, no one cares, nothing is ever going to go right, I was always going to be on the losing end.  I was in hell back then until I found peace in Jesus Christ.   But the next day, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  His life in hell had been draining me and dragging me down.  Try as much as I could, I could not get through to the man, and help him to see how he could get out of the hell he is in.  It is scary to see someone going down a path I once was on, wishing he could find the way out.  Scariest is that I could still be on that path except for the grace of the God Who Is There.

C.S.Lewis from The Pilgrim’s Regress:

Nearly they stood who fall; themselves as they look back
See always in the track the one false step, where all
Even yet, by lightest swerve of foot not yet enslaved,
By smallest tremor of the smallest nerve, might have been saved.

Nearly they fell who stand, and with cold after fear
Look back to mark how near they grazed the Siren’s land,
Wondering that subtle fate, by threads so spidery fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great, should thus entwine.

Therefore oh, man, have fear lest oldest fears be true,
Lest thou too far pursue the road that seems so clear,
And step, secure, a hair-breadth boundary,
Which, being once crossed forever unawares, denies return.