Church Under Attack

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When I read this I couldn’t help but notice the irony. Herod took it upon himself to attack the church. He killed James and when he saw that this pleased the Jews, he had Peter arrested and thrown into prison. Herod clearly didn’t know that the powers of darkness would not prevail against the powers of light. When Peter was in jail, chained and secured between two guards, God sent an angel to set him free. At first Peter thought it was a vision but once he was outside he realized that this was really happening, he said, “Now I certainly know that the Lord has sent His angel and delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

While he had been in prison, the other believers came together and prayed for him. God answered their prayers. After Peter went to the brethren and told them how the Lord had led him out of the prison, he went to Caesarea where he stayed. As for Herod, he was struck down by the Lord because he did not give Him the glory. The wicked ruler was dead but God’s Word spread and increased. The Word of the Lord could not be chained. “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:8, 9).

Today, many are trying to suppress the Word of God in countries where Christians are persecuted but God declared, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11). Until Jesus comes, we are to preach the Gospel even unto death. The saving of souls makes it all worthwhile.

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I Never Knew You

Matthew 7:21-23).

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It’s hard to believe but there are a lot of Christians who believe that the good works they are doing will get them into Heaven.  However, Jesus made it clear that this is not the case.  He specifically said that those who get into Heaven are those who do the Father’s will.  It doesn’t matter if you are ministering to the homeless, helping the poor, active in church or your community or distributing literature.  If you are not practising what the Bible teaches you are not right with God.  God wants people who are obedient and whose lives are in harmony with His Word.

Jesus said that those who claim to prophesy and cast out demons in His name also practice evil and that is why they will not enter the kingdom.  They are living in disobedience.  “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:9).  Anyone who practices evil or lawlessness does not have the Spirit of Christ in him or her, therefore the Spirit cannot testify to their spirit that they are children of God (Verse 16).  As long as we walk in the flesh, we will not please God.  It doesn’t matter how often we go to church, are involved in ministries or how well we know the Bible, if we are not keeping ourselves unspotted from the world or walking by the Spirit, we will have no part with Christ.

Everyone thought I was living a godly life based on how I was so passionate about serving the Lord in church and in ministry but they never suspected that I was having relations with another church member.  We were both single.  No one knew what we were doing – name withheld

If I hadn’t gotten pregnant, no one would have suspected anything – name withheld

Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve disciples.  He went out with the others and preached that people should repent, cast out many demons, and anointed many who were sick with oil and healed them.  However, he turned out to be a thief and would be the one who betray Jesus.  Following Jesus didn’t make Judas a true disciple just as being in church doesn’t make a person a true Christian.  We may be able to fool others but we can’t fool the Lord.  He sees what is on the inside.  He knew the real Judas (John 6:70, 71; 13:11, 21, 26, 27).

Just as Jesus places more importance on right living than on good works, God ranks obedience above sacrifice. When Saul went ahead and made an unauthorized sacrifice to God, Samuel chided him saying, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).  Today, we could ask a similar question.  “Has the Lord as great delight in prophesying, casting out demons and doing wonderful works?  As in turning away from evil and doing His will?  Behold, to obey is better than all of these things. ”

These people were trusting in their works.  They were asking, “Lord, didn’t we do all of these things in Your name?”  What is the point of doing all of these things and not living a godly life?  They are like wolves in sheep’s clothing.  They give the appearance of being Christians, doing good works but in reality they are living in sin.  They are not practising what the Bible teaches.  God would rather have them bear fruit worthy of repentance than bearing fruit to make themselves look good.

This reminds me of when the Israelites asked God, “Why have we fasted and You do not see?  Why have we humbled ourselves and You take no notice?”(Isaiah 58:3, MEV).  Their fasting did not please God.  Why?  It wasn’t the fast He had chosen for them.  “Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into your house, covering the naked when you see them, and not hiding from your own family?” (verse 7, CEB).

Did Jesus ask these people to do all of these things in His name?  Wouldn’t He have preferred if they stopped practising evil and repented?  Instead of serving the Lord, examine your life and see if there are any areas where you haven’t brought yourself completely under His control.  If there is any sin or lifestyle you are holding on to, let it go and let Jesus give you the victory.  Don’t gamble with your eternity. The most terrible words anyone could ever hear are, “Depart from Me.  I never knew you” when they had the opportunity to change.  Don’t let this happen to you.

Paul’s Testimony

Galatians 1:13-17

paul-king-agrippa_1219951_inlIn his letter to the Galatians, Paul shares how he became a Christian. It wasn’t something he ever dreamed would happen. He was a staunch believer in Judaism and its traditions. He was filled with a jealous zeal to protect his religion and was determined to stamp out any other religion he believed was contrary to God and His law. He was bent on destroying the church. He thought he was doing God a favor. In fact, I couldn’t help thinking of Paul when I read these words of Jesus, “They will put you out of the synagogues. Yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he is offering a service to God. They will do these things to you, because they have not known the Father nor Me.  I have told you these things, so that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you about them (John 16:2-4, MEV).

Paul was there when Stephen was stoned to death. He kept the clothes of those who stoned him. It was clear that he agreed with what was happening. The scripture stated, “And Saul was consenting to his death” (Acts 8:1). The stoning of Stephen seemed to add more fuel to his fight to destroy the church. It says that while devout men carried Stephen away to bury him and lamented over him, Saul ravaged the church, entering house by house and dragging out both men and women and committing them to prison (verses 2,3) .

Before his conversion, Paul was on fire. He was like a dragon, breathing out threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He was determined to stamp out what he perceived to be heresy so he went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any there of the Way, either men or women, he might arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1, 2). This was an attack on religious freedom. People were being persecuted and imprisoned for their faith. Satan, through Paul was impeding the work of the saints and the Lord had to intervene. His people had to be free to carry out His commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

So, on his way to Damascus, Saul encountered Jesus. This experience changed his life forever. Jesus got his attention in a big way. As Saul was nearing the city, a bright light shone from Heaven shone around him and he fell to the ground. Then, Jesus spoke to him. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” It doesn’t occur to people that when they persecute Christians, they are persecuting Jesus too. It’s the same as when we neglect to care for the needy. When we neglect doing good to others, it’s as if we are neglecting Jesus too. When the people rejected Jesus during His ministry, they were rejecting the Father who sent Him. When Saul asked Jesus who He was, Jesus said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” There was no room for doubt. Saul was persecuting Jesus when he persecuted the church, after all, Jesus is the Head of the church. Saul was attacking the body of Christ.

Can you imagine Saul, who a moment ago was breathing fire, ready to hunt down and throw Christians into prison or do worse, was now trembling like a leaf and in total shock? Probably sounding like a man who realized now that he was fighting a losing battle, he asked, “Lord, what will You have me do?” When Jesus points out something we are doing in our lives that needs to be changed, do we ask, “Lord, what will You have me do?”

Jesus said to him, “Rise up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” What a testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness. Saul had been wreaking so much havoc on His people yet Jesus did not condemn him. Instead, He reached out to him, opening his eyes to what he was doing—that instead of working for God, he was working against God. And Jesus was going to use him. The Lord always has use for us—He will by no means cast us aside once we humble ourselves before Him and are willing to do whatever He asks of us. Saul was willing to do whatever Jesus asked of him. So, now Jesus will find good use for him. We learn in Acts 26:16-18, that Jesus revealed His plan for Saul to him. “For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness both of what you have seen and of what I will yet reveal to you.  I will deliver you from your people and from the Gentiles to whom I now send you,  to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me’

All the time Saul was there on the road in the light, his eyes were closed but when he opened them, he couldn’t see anything. He was physically blind but could see spiritually. His sight was restored and he was baptized. And he began preaching. There was some skepticism of course as people remembered that this was the same man who had done many evil things to the believers at Jerusalem (verse 13). There are a lot of times when we are shocked to see certain people become Christians. We never saw that coming but we forget that with God all things are possible. If anyone could change people, He can and He does. Saul became Paul and his letters are what we have today to help us in our walk with the Lord. That day on the road to Damascus changed not only one life but many.

What is your testimony? How did Jesus reveal Himself to you? Are you willing to share your testimony with others as Paul did?

Appearances

Mark 11:12-14

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples – John 15:8

downloadI am sure a lot of us know Christians who go to church every week, know their Bibles inside out and say “Amen” and “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord” a lot during the sermons and can sing the hymns without looking at the open hymnals in their hands. Yet, how many of us would be surprised that these same Christians are like the fig tree that Jesus curses because it bore no fruit? They look good, sound good but that is all.

As the story goes, Jesus was hungry. He saw a fig tree afar and it had leaves. So, He went to see if He could find fruit on it. He found nothing but leaves. It was not the season for figs but the tree gave the impression that it had figs. The leaves of the fig tree promised fruit. Apparently the figs come before the leaves. But for this particular tree, there were leaves but no figs. If it were not the season for figs, why then did it have leaves?

This fig tree is like the religious leaders that had the promise of fruit, the leaves (the outward appearance) but produced no fruit. They were the ones having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5).  Outwardly they appeared righteous but inside they were filled with hypocrisy.  They honoured God with their lips but not with their hearts (Matthew 15:8).

For all their rituals, Sabbath-keeping, knowledge of the scriptures, traditions, they were spiritually barren. Much like some Christians today. For all their perfect church attendance, knowledge of scriptures and church doctrines, Sabbath-keeping, they are spiritually barren. They are of no use to God. They are not producing any fruit.

If Jesus were to come to your church, what will He find? People having the appearance of fruitful Christians or Christians actually bearing fruit? Will He find only leaves or leaves and fruit? As the body of Christ, we are not to be ornaments and bench warmers but active in our communities, families, workplaces or wherever the harvest is. No more keeping up appearances. We may fool some people and ourselves but we can’t fool the Lord. We must be out in the field, bearing good fruit for the kingdom.

What can you do today to make sure you are bearing fruit for Jesus? You want that on closer inspection, He will see your fruit and reward you. Don’t be like those who are good for nothing and useless like salt which has lost its flavour. Barren trees and flavourless salt will be thrown out. Be fruitful so that when people see your fruit, they will glorify your Father in Heaven.

When Jesus comes looking for fruit, make sure He finds some.

Doing God’s Word

Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.”

But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:19-21).

Basically, you are a member of God’s family when you live in obedience to His Word.  It makes sense that if you want to be a child of God or if you already are, you would do what it says in His Word.  God has spelled out clearly what He requires of us.  Just look at Jesus’ teachings.  They are filled with how God wants us to live our lives.

We are told to forgive others if we expect God to forgive us.  Jesus told a wonderful story about a king who showed mercy to a servant who could not repay his debt and begged the king not to sell him.  The king forgave the servant his debt but that same servant refused to release another servant from the debt he owed him although it was far less than the debt the first servant owed the king.  Of course, the king was upset and that servant received a just punishment for his unforgiving attitude toward the other servant. 

joesph-and-his-brothersJoseph is a perfect example of someone who forgave his brothers although he could have easily justified holding on to his anger and bitterness.  After all they had planned to kill him and then decided that they would sell him instead.  He never saw his mother again and years passed before he was reunited with his father who thought he was dead.  He was falsely accused of and thrown into prison for attempted rape.  He spent years in prison before he was released.  In spite of all of these things, Joseph chose to forgive.  And he even saw the good which God achieved from the bad things that happened to him (Genesis 50:19-21).

We are told to love our enemies.  This is a tough one but Jesus said that we are to be like our Heavenly Father who “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”.  We are to be different from the rest of the world who loves those who love them and hate those who hate them.  We are called to love those who hate, spitefully use and persecute us.  

We are told not to judge.  Jesus used the example of a person looking at the speck in his brother’s eye when he has a plank in his own.  How could he possibly see that speck when he has a plank in his eye?  Why is it that we look at the sin of others and ignore the sin in our own lives?  Let us deal with our own sin problem.  It’s like the religious leaders.  They were judging the tax collectors and other people they considered outcasts when they were far from being righteous themselves.  They were envious, unmerciful, judgmental, self-righteous and hypocrites.  Are we guilty of judging others because they don’t measure up to our standards?  Do we think we are better than non-Christians?  We should always bear in mind the words of Paul, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We cannot judge people.  Only God can.  He knows the heart.

We are told to be persistent in prayer.  God is just waiting to give good things to those who ask Him.  All we have to do is ask, seek and knock.  We ask as often as it takes.  We ask in faith, never wavering.  And if it is God’s will, what we ask for we will receive.

We are told to enter the narrow way.  Don’t do what is popular or easier or less resistant.  Don’t follow the crowd if it is contrary to the Word or will of God.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego did not go along with the rest of the society in worshiping the idol image of Nebuchadnezzar even if it meant their deaths.  They stood apart from the crowd and make a strong stand for their faith in the one true God.  We are to enter the narrow way which leads to everlasting life and not the broad way which leads to destruction.

We are to bear good fruit.  As Christians we are exhorted to bear good fruit.  Good fruit means we act in accordance to God’s word and will.  We bear fruit worthy of repentant and changed lives.  This means we are no longer living as we did before we came to Christ.  We practice what we preach.  We are Christians in deed and not in name only.  We follow Christ’s example and bear the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23).  This goes back to what Jesus said about not acting as the heathen do.  We love those who hate us; have joy even during tough times; experience the peace of Christ during the storms; are patient even when it’s hard; are kind and good to others whether or not they deserve it; stay faithful to God even when it seems like our prayers are not being answered; show gentleness even when people are unkind or inconsiderate toward us; we exercise self-control no matter what kind of situation we are dealing with.  Bearing the fruit of the Spirit is not easy as we know that the flesh and the Spirit are always warring against each other but those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh.  Christ living inside you enables you to walk in the Spirit.

We are to do the will of the Father.  None of us wants to hear Jesus say, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  Why would He say that?  There are professing Christians out there who believe that they will be saved because they have prophesied, cast out demons and done many wonders in Jesus’ name but Jesus will declare that He doesn’t know them.  These are Christians who, although they did all these things in His name, they did not do the will of the Father.  Only those who practice the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus said that not everyone who calls Him “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom.  If Jesus were truly Lord of their lives, they would not be practicing lawlessness.  They would be doing the Father’s will.  Their lives would bear fruit worthy of entering the kingdom.  Obviously, it is not enough to be active in church ministry, going to church, distributing tracts or feeding the poor.  If you are not doing something that God has revealed to you–that you need to change or renounce, you will not be among those of whom He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 

We are to build on the Rock.  What is your foundation?  Is it tradition or the teaching of the church?  In Jesus day, the religious leaders seemed to place the traditions and teachings of men above the commandments of God.  Jesus made it clear that our foundation should be on His word.  When we hear His teachings and we apply them to our lives, we will be like the wise man who built his house on the rock and when the rain, floods and wind threatened to sweep it away, it stood.  It did not fall.  It’s the same with us.  Once we are anchored in the Word of Jesus and we do what it says, when the enemy comes and tries to topple us over with temptations, opposition, persecution, etc. we will stand because we have built our lives on the Rock.

Jesus taught many other things that would help us in our Christian walk.  All we have to do is to decide today to be doers and not just hearers of His Word.

The First Lie

RH-EveTemptation“You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” – Genesis 3:4, 5

Eve, the first woman God created was not with her husband Adam when she was deceived by the serpent. At the time the serpent was the most cunning of the species. It was not surprising that Satan used it as his medium. How did the serpent deceive Eve?

We learn that in chapter 2 of Genesis, God gave Adam this commandment, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16, 17). Adam and Eve were allowed to eat freely from all the trees except one. That was not unreasonable. God explained why they could not eat from that particular tree. He said, “…in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” He didn’t say, “you may die” or “it may kill you.” He used the word surely. It is a certainty. If Adam or Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they will die. The word used is muwth which means to die, kill, have one executed. For them death will be their penalty for eating from this tree after God expressly commanded them not to. There is no question as to what would happen to them if they disobeyed His command. Death would be the result.

“Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” it asked her. This is what the enemy does. He questions or puts doubts in our minds about God’s word. The serpent was really asking Eve, “Did God really say that you can’t eat from every tree of the garden? Are you sure He said that? Notice the way he twisted God’s word. He said that God said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden.” God said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.” And the enemy left out the rest of what God said about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan likes to quote God’s word but always out of context or omitting the parts of scriptures that wouldn’t serve his purpose.

Eve’s response is interesting. Here is what she said. “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Now, God did not say anything about touching the tree. Eve added to what God said. We must never to do that. Eve said too much. Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips [is] wise.” As one Bible commentator puts it, “Much speech involves risk of sin; hence the wisdom of restraining the tongue”. Eve would have been better off not saying anything. She misquoted God and she referred to the tree as the “tree in the midst”.

One Bible commentary states that, “Some Jewish writers . . . state that as soon as the woman had asserted this, the serpent pushed her against the tree and said, ‘See, you have touched it, and are still alive; you may therefore safely eat of the fruit, for surely you shall not die.’” This is why it was dangerous for her to add to God’s words. Another thing to note is that she quoted God as saying, “lest you die” when in fact, He had said, “you shall surely die”.

The serpent then proceeded to say to her, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He attacks God’s word. He opposes what God said. He contradicted Him. It is the same thing he did when Jesus told the disciples that He would suffer at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Peter rebuked him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” And Jesus turned and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:21-23). Again we see Satan speaking through Peter and contradicting the Lord’s words. Jesus saw right through that and rebuked him.

The enemy gave Eve the impression that God was being selfish in keeping her and Adam from the tree by telling them that they would die because He didn’t want them to be like Him, knowing good and evil. This was a terrible lie. God’s reason for commanding Adam and Eve from eating from the tree was to protect them. He had provided for them. He had made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food (Genesis 2:9). They could have eaten freely from all the trees in the garden except one. God gives us so much but the enemy tempts us into wanting more. Here Eve was tempted into taking fruit from the tree with the attractive offer that she would be just like God.

The serpent was right. Her eyes would be opened and with the knowledge of good and evil will come devastating results. Eve, believing the serpent, looked at the tree, saw that the fruit looked good, she wanted it and she took it. Then she gave some to Adam. As soon as she gave the fruit to him, both of their eyes were opened. They were aware of their nakedness and when they heard God coming into the garden, they hid. They experienced emotions that were once alien to them–shame, guilt, fear. Their relationship with God and each other was never the same. So, the serpent was right about their eyes being opened but they realized too late the horrible consequences of disobeying God.

The first lie, “you shall not surely die,” is what give way to the erroneous teaching of the immortality of man. Many Christians believe that people either go to heaven or hell when they die. But what does the Bible say? Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). Adam and Eve did not become immortal because of their disobedience. They would return to the dust from where they came (verse 19).

Paul teaches us that it is when Jesus comes the second time that the righteous dead and living will become immortal. ‘Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory”‘ (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). The bodies we have now are not the bodies we will have when we are taken to heaven. We will be changed like Jesus was before He ascended to heaven. Until then the dead will be resting in their graves and the living will be watching and waiting as they continue to serve the Lord.

The Bible says that David, the man after God’s own heart is not in heaven (Acts 13:22). “Men [and] brethren, let [me] speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” (Acts 2:29). Only God is immortal (1 Timothy 1:17).

The idea that people will burn in hell for eternity is the doctrine of demons. This is an attack on a loving and just God. How could we believe that God would have the devil in charge of a place where he is burning people? Does this sound like the same God described in Ezekiel 18:23? “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “[and] not that he should turn from his ways and live? And in order for these people to burn for eternity, it would mean that the devil would have to be immortal too, right? Well, what does the Bible say? “And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:9, 10).

Jesus also mentioned that there an everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Please note that forever and ever does not mean that they will be burning for eternity. Jude said, “as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Are those cities still burning? “…and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6). The fire which destroyed the two cities may have burned for a while but it went out. It’s the same with the fire that will destroy the devil, his angels and the wicked. It will burn for a while and then it will go out. All that will remain are ashes. Eternal fire means that its results are eternal. What is destroyed in the fire is gone forever.

Satan lied when he said that man would not die even though man disobeyed God–broke His law and brought sin into the world. He knowingly deceived Eve into thinking that nothing would happen to her if she ate from the tree and this is why Jesus called him a murderer (John 8). Thankfully, the devil did not get away with it. 1 John 3:8 states, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” Jesus swallowed up death, our enemy. And one day, sin, death, the grave, the devil, his angels, the wicked, pain, suffering, sorrow will be no more.

Body And Soul

man became a living soulAnd the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul – Genesis 2:7.

Many Christians believe that the body and soul are two separate things. What does the Bible say? In chapter two of Genesis we learn how God created the first human being. After God said, “Let Us make man in Our image,” He formed man from the dust. He breathed life into the man’s nostrils and the man came to life. Man became a living soul. The soul has no life apart from the body. The man’s body was lifeless until God breathed life into him.

Does the soul die? According to the Bible it does. ““Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). The word used for soul is nephesh, the same word used in Genesis 2:7. So, the soul is the living being–the person. It is who the person is. He is a living soul.

What happens when a person dies? King Solomon tells us. “All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust” (Ecclesiastes 3:20). “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The word used for “spirit” here is “ruwach”, the same word Job uses for “breath” when he said, “Who among all these does not know That the hand of the Lord has done this, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?” (Job 12:9, 10). Job also said, “The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4). He uses the word “nĕshamah” which was used in Genesis 2:7 for the “breath” of life. God gives us the breath of life and we become living souls. When we die, our bodies (souls or beings) return to dust. God said so Himself. “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

Psalm 146:4 tells us what happens to a person who dies. “His spirit (ruwach) departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish.” The person’s breath leaves his body and he goes to the grave where he has no consciousness.

“For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6).

The Bible does not teach that the body and soul are separate entities. The soul does not depart when a person dies. The breath of life is the only thing that leaves a person at the moment of death. The soul is the person. Without the breath of God it has no life.

But what about the texts which seem to imply that the soul is separate from the body? Genesis 35:18 says: “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.” The word used for soul is nephesh. It means life. So, when you substitute the word soul with life, the verse reads, “And it came to pass, as her life was departing or as she was dying, she called his name…

The other text is Matthew 10:28 where Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The word used for soul is psychē which means breath, life. In the preceding verses Jesus was telling the disciples about the persecutions they would face. Luke mentions this in his gospel. Luke 12:4, 5 state: “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”

Jesus was teaching them about the fear of God. He was saying that rather than fear those who kill the body they ought to fear God who has the power to cast the unsaved into hell (“Gehenna” or “Gehenna of fire”). This was the place where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned. While men can kill and take away the physical life God has the power to give eternal life.

Hell is not a place where the wicked will burn for eternity.  This teaching maligns the character of God who cares for everyone, including the wicked.  It is not His will that anyone should perish.  Jesus mentioned that hellfire which is what will come down from Heaven was meant for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).  According to Malachi 4:3, the wicked will become ashes.  This means those whose names are not written in the Book of the Life will not burn forever and ever but will be consumed by the fire of judgment until they are no more.  Revelation 21:8 confirms this: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”  This is the second death.  This means that they will die and will not be resurrected ever again.  So, their death is final.  They will not be tormented forever and ever but will perish in this fire.

Jude said that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered the vengeance of eternal fire but Peter said that God turned “the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned [them] to destruction, making [them] an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;(Jude 1:7, 2 Peter 2:6).  So, the fire which consumed Sodom and Gomorrah burned the cities to ashes.  It may have burned for a long time but it eventually went out.  It is the same with the fire which will consume the devil, the beast and the false prophet and the unsaved.  It may burn for a long time but it will eventually go out.

We should have reverential fear for God who has the power over eternal life and eternal death.  “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid
Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?” (Isaiah 51:12).  Why should we fear man who will perish like we will?  Why should we fear those who persecute us for our Lord’s sake?  They can’t do more than kill us.  They may snuff out our lives but when Jesus returns with the angels, those of us who died in Him will be raised to everlasting life.  Don’t fear what man can do to you but live your life in obedience and in a way that is pleasing to God so that you may be counted worthy of His kingdom, for which you suffer (2 Thessalonians 1:5).

Let these words of Paul encourage you, “it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you,  and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:6:10).

In Our Image

adam-eve_019Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness – Genesis 1:26

There are many people who deny that there are three Persons in the Godhead. They don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. What does the Word of God say?

In the first book of the Bible, God is speaking to others when He says, “Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness.” Who is He talking to? The angels? Psalm 104:4 says “Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire.” Angels are created beings. Would God create us in the image of other created beings even though we were made lower than them (Psalm 8:5)? Remember what the angel said when the apostle John fell down at his feet in worship? “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Revelation 22:9). Twice John fell at the angel’s feet to worship him and twice he told him not to do that. They were both servants. Only God is to be worshipped.

He was talking to the other members of the Godhead who were present at creation. The Son was present. The apostle John confirms this in the first chapter of his Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:1-5).

The Holy Spirit was present at creation. Genesis 1:2 states, And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. All were present at Jesus’ baptism. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

When Jesus gave the great commission to His disciples, He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Though commonly known as the “Trinity”, the term “Godhead” is actually in the Bible. It is used by Paul in Romans 1:20 and in Colossians 2:9. He uses the Greek words theiotēs and theotēs. Both of which refer to the state of being God. The Godhead is one God, three persons. Paul refers to these three Persons in his letter to the Christians in Corinth. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). The author of Hebrews writes, “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Many use these words of Moses to dispute the teaching of the Godhead. What they need to remember is that the Israelites had come from Egypt which had many gods and the other nations at that time were also polytheistic. The golden calf Aaron made was the Egyptian god, Apis.

The Godhead is comprised of three Persons with different roles but one purpose much like a family with more than one member with different roles. “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one” (1 John 5:7, 8). Here the Spirit refers to the Father, the water to the Holy Spirit and the blood to Jesus. They are one. Together they created us and together they devised the plan of salvation when our first parents, Adam and Eve sinned. Together they are working in and through us so that one day we will spend eternity with them on the new earth.

The Berean Way

bible and glassesOn the morning of February 25, 2013, my husband and I were talking about the encounter between Saul and whom he perceived to be the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 28. We recalled a broadcast of In Touch some time ago when Dr. Charles Stanley taught that it was God who spoke through “Samuel” whom the witch had seen coming up from the ground. Some commentators talk about how the woman seemed startled when she saw an old man with a mantle rising from the earth. Some intimate that she was a fraud and got a shock when a spirit actually came up. I wouldn’t speculate on why she was startled or how she found out that it was Saul in a disguise. What shocked me was that Dr. Stanley would preach that God would speak through the very means which He forbade His people from using. In Moses’ time mediums and those who consulted the dead were put to death (Leviticus 20:27).

God warned His people, “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards,to be defiled by them: I [am] the LORD your God.” Why then would God who is holy defile Himself by speaking through what Saul perceived as the spirit of Samuel? If God engaged in the very practice which He prohibited, He would be a hypocrite.

Most people believe that when a person dies, they go to heaven if they are righteous and to hell if they are wicked. Does it make sense then that Samuel would be coming up from the earth if he were supposed to be in heaven? And would why would he say to Saul, “And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me” (verse 19). Would wicked Saul really be where Samuel, a man of God was? And why is “Samuel” who died and was buried in the city Ramah show up in Endor?

Consider what “Samuel” said to Saul in verses 15-19 and then consider Samuel’s behavior when the Lord rejected Saul as king. 1 Samuel 15:11 and 35 state: “And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night. And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.” Does this Samuel sound like the one who spoke to Saul in Endor? Even the witch showed Saul more compassion (verses 21-25).

1 Chronicles 10:13-14 say: “So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But [he] did not inquire of the LORD; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” Saul sought the Lord but the Lord did not answer him in dreams or by Urim or the prophets (1 Samuel 28:6).

Saul’s heart was not in the right place. He had been disobedient to God for such a long time that the Lord’s Spirit had left him. And it proved that Saul’s heart was not in the right place because in his desperation, he sought the help of a witch. As one commentator rightly puts it, “He had done so in form ( 1 Sa 28:6 ), but not in the spirit of a humble penitent, nor with the believing confidence of a sincere worshipper. His enquiry was, in fact, a mere mockery, and his total want of all right religious impressions was manifested by his rushing from God to a wretched impostor in the service of the devil [ 1 Sa 28:7 ].”

The manner in which Saul sought the Lord explains why he received no answer. David knew how to approach the God of his fathers. ”The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart–These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). What Saul needed was a broken spirit and a contrite heart and God would have responded to him.

This sad chapter in Saul’s life demonstrates just how important it is to read the Word of God for ourselves instead of simply relying on pastors and ministers. We ought to be like the Bereans who after listening to the apostle Paul’s sermon and readily receiving it, still consulted the Scriptures to make sure that what they were heard was in harmony. Once they were satisfied that it was, they believed.

So many Christians are being led astray by pastors and ministers who believe in what they are teaching but whose teaching are contrary to what is in the Bible. We encourage Christians seek the Word of God and prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into God’s truth. Don’t be surprised if the truth that is revealed to you is different from what you have been taught.

It is so easy to misinterpret or misunderstand God’s Word but the Holy Spirit is there to guide us. Jesus used the Scriptures to teach His disciples and show them the way. The disciples encountered a lot of opposition from people who did not believe in the Gospel. They challenged their beliefs and teaching but the disciples stood their ground because they had the Word of God on their side. Jesus used the Word of God to defeat the enemy who was trying to tempt Him. The enemy quoted from scripture but used it in the wrong context. This goes to show you that a person may know the Bible and quote scores of scripture from it but it doesn’t mean that the person knows what he or she is talking about.

In his letter to the Christians in Galatia, Paul wrote, “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is important to search the Word diligently, prayerfully and without any preconceived notions. Be open to the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Don’t resist the truth because it is different from what you have believed for years. God once encouraged me to embrace the truth. Remember what Jesus said about the truth setting you free.

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” – Acts 17:11.

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