Follow by Email

Popular Posts

Friday, October 28, 2016

Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed


Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed

When the disciples asked Jesus why they could not heal a little boy who was demon possessed, Jesus answered: “Because of your lack of faith, for assuredly, I say to you, if you have the faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to a mountain, ‘Move, from here to there, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

  A mustard seed is a little seed, so Jesus seemed to be saying that just a little faith was all it would take to move mountains of evil and sicknesses and problems in God’s Name.  The disciples’ faith must not have been as big as a little mustard seed since they couldn’t heal the boy!

Must we have enough faith for our prayers to be answered and people be healed?  If we must have enough faith for our prayers to be answered, then how much faith is enough faith?  These questions and other similar ones have gone round and round Christian circles for ages.

 Some Christians insist that if a person isn’t healed when we pray that either the sick person or the persons praying did not have enough faith.  And other Christians insist that we can’t blame the person praying for not having enough faith when the person they are praying for isn’t healed.  Someone usually brings up the many instances when loved ones died even though faithful Christians were diligently praying for them believing that God would heal them.

First let’s read the story in the Bible about the boy the disciples couldn’t heal “…A man came up to Jesus and knelt before Him and said: ’Lord have mercy on my son, for he is demon possessed and suffers severely, for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.  I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.’ 

Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Oh faithless and perverse generation.  How long shall I be with you?  How long shall I bear with you?  Bring the boy here to Me.’ And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and the child was cured from that hour. 

Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Why could we not cast the demon out of the boy?’  And Jesus answered, ‘Because of your lack of faith: for assuredly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move: and nothing will be impossible for you.  However, this kind of demonic illness does not go out or leave except by prayer and fasting.”  (Matthew 17:14-17) 
Jesus was disappointed with his disciples in this story.  He had recently given his disciples the power to cast out demons (Matthew 10:1,8) and yet they failed.  Later they were successful in healing and casting out demons. (Luke 10:17)  It would seem that both the disciples and the people Jesus was ministering to both were still unbelieving and lacked faith.

When they couldn’t heal the little boy, Jesus not only rebuked the disciples but He also rebuked the people of that day and perhaps their religious leaders when He said: “Oh faithless and perverse generation!” (Matthew 17:17)   Bible scholars believe that Christ was saying that fewer healings can take place in an environment of general faithlessness and unbelief.  Scripture tells us that even Jesus could not do many miracles or healings in his hometown of Nazareth since the religious leaders and the townspeople of Nazareth were unbelieving.  (Matthew 13:58 and Mark 6:5,6) Scripture teaches us that unbelief stops God’s power.

Jesus asks the father to bring his sick boy to Him.  When all other helps fail, we are always welcome to come to Christ.  Jesus takes the little boy and “rebukes the devil.”  (Matthew 17:18)  Jesus Christ is the authority that breaks the power of Satan.  Satan cannot stand before the rebukes of Christ. The little boy was cured from that moment on.  It was an immediate cure, and a perfect one.

And we who belong to Jesus Christ can rebuke Satan in the Name of Jesus Christ.   His Spirit lives in us and through His Spirit we can pray for the sick.  Jesus takes this occasion when He healed the little boy to teach us more about the power of faith.  He said: “If you have the faith as big as a grain of mustard-seed, you shall do wonders.” (Matthew 17:20) He did mention however that the demon possessed child was a tough case that would require fasting along with believing prayer. 

Is this Bible story teaching us that if someone isn’t healed from their illness or problem when we pray, that either we or the person in need of prayer doesn’t have enough faith?  Many Christians believe that this is true.  We all know of dedicated Christians who have fasted and prayed for long periods of time with faith in Christ and still the person they are praying for has not been healed or the problem has not gone away.  We know that many prayers are not answered the way we think they will be answered.  Why does it seem like we sometimes do not move mountains when we pray with faith like Jesus said that we would?  I don’t have all of the answers.  But Scripture has a lot to say about the subjects of answered prayer and faith.  The simple answer is that if we pray believing (having faith in God) for something good that is in God’s will, we will receive it. The Bible says this about prideful unanswered prayer: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  (James 4:3) 

But still we know of many who have prayed for years with humility and faith for loved ones to be healed and it would seem that their prayers were not answered.  We want our answers right now but humility teaches us that the answer may be “yes” but we may have to wait.  Or the “yes” may come in a different form than we expect. God asks us to trust Him and to humble ourselves to wait for Him. Jesus’ promises stand and they are true in our lives when we believe, even if they are not answered until we get to heaven.

 God promised Abraham and Sarah a son and they had faith in God that He would give them their promised son. But they had to wait many long years for their son and Sarah passed her time to be able to bear a child. Abraham was around one hundred years old and Sarah nearly ninety when Sarah finally gave birth to their son, Isaac.  Nothing is impossible with God!  No wonder when their baby was finally born they named him “Isaac” which means “laughter”.  All they could do was laugh after their very long wait.  If we believe God’s promises, we will be laughing too when our prayers are answered! 

Jesus had given his disciples the gift to cast out demons, but He may not have given you and me that gift.  All Christian believers are given gifts from the Holy Spirit to do jobs here on earth and fit in to the body of believers. Scripture says: “There are different gifts but the same Spirit.  There are different ministries but the same Lord.  … The gifts of the Spirit are given to each believer for the profit of all.  For to one is given the word of wisdom, through the Spirit, and to the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith, by the same Spirit, and to another the gifts of healing,…, to another the gift of miracles,..., to another the gift of prophecy,… But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”  (1 Corinthians 12:8-12)

We may not have been given the gift of healing but we have all been told to pray and our Father in heaven will answer. Jesus’ words are for all of us who believe when He promised: “If you have the faith the size of a mustard seed you will say to this mountain, ‘Move and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” All we need is faith the size of a mustard seed!
    




Sunday, October 23, 2016

Jesus' Story about the Vineyard Workers


Jesus’ Story about the Vineyard Workers

One of the many stories or parables that Jesus told was about an owner of a vineyard who went out to find workers for the day to help him pick the ripened grapes in his vineyard.  The vineyard owner went out early in the morning and hired workers who came to the vineyard and worked all day and into the evening.  Around noon the vineyard owner went out again and found more workers who agreed to work for the rest of the day.  Later in the afternoon the owner went out again and found more workers who joined the work crew and worked just a few hours and then even more men were brought in to work in the evening shortly before quitting time.  But at the end of the day the vineyard owner paid all his workers the same amount of money for their work whether they had worked all day or just for an hour!

My father read this Bible story and told me that he didn’t understand why the workers who worked longer hours didn’t receive more than the workers who worked fewer hours.  My father worked for a local newspaper where he was responsible for hiring and paying employees and this parable troubled him.  Let’s read the parable and see what we think.

‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.  He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day’s work and sent them into his vineyard.  About the third hour he went out again and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing.  He called to them, ’You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.  So they went.

The vineyard owner went out again about the sixth hour and again around the ninth hour and did the same thing.  About the eleventh hour he also went out and found still others standing around.  He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’  ‘Because no one has hired us.’ They answered.  He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’  The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius.  So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more.  But each one of them also received a denarius. When they all received their pay, they began to grumble against the vineyard owner.

These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’  But the owner of the vineyard answered them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you.  Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go.  I want to give the men who were hired last the same as I gave you.  Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?  Or are you envious because I am generous? ‘  So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  (Matthew 20:1-19)

Before he even begins his story, Jesus starts off by saying that the kingdom of heaven is like the story or parable he is about to tell.  I believe that He wants us to understand that He is giving us this parable to tell us something about the kingdom of heaven.  So what can we learn about the kingdom of heaven from His parable?  Maybe we can see that things are done differently in the kingdom of heaven then they are here on earth.  Also we can see that God, the owner of the vineyard, is debtor to no one.  God sees and judges and gives out rewards differently than we do.  Scripture says that “Humans look on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7) 

We judge God according to our faulty human standards.  We do know that God is holy and merciful and loving and good.  We know that He is all powerful and all-knowing and that He can do no wrong.  But we still try to fit Him into our little human boxes!

Jesus parable also shows us that the first may be last and the last first.  God has work for all the age groups.  That some who come into the Christian faith late in life and go humbly about their Christian duties unnoticed, may grow in grace and love and faith more than some who were Christians all their lives and who held important positions in the church.  The rewards will be given to the saints in heaven, not according to the length of time they served God on earth, or to how important a job they might have had, but perhaps according to the measure of the fullness of Christ in their lives and to their faithfulness.  And to issues that we cannot understand and only God can see and measure. 

Bible scholars believe that the “day” the vineyard owner called the workers to work in his vineyard represents our time of life here on earth.  It isn’t a long time that we are called into service, just a day.  Life’s little day.  The human soul stands ready to be hired into some service or other.  We are created to work.  The gospel call is given to those who stand idly in the marketplace (the world) and we are called from our idleness in the marketplace to be laborers in God’s vineyard.  God does not turn away any that wish to be hired.  Some are called early and others later.  We must go by our Master’s clock.

In Jesus’ parable the Church is God’s vineyard.  It is of His planting, watering, and fencing or protecting.  We are all called upon to be laborers in His vineyard.  To dress it and keep it for Him.  And to bring in the harvest.  The harvest of souls.  And the wages are sufficient.  And at the end of the day when death calls us out of the vineyard to our rest we will also receive our reward. 

In Jesus’ parable the laborers who had worked longer quarrel with their master and find fault, not because they weren’t paid enough, but because others were made equal with them.  They were competitive and angry that they were not paid more than they had originally agreed to be paid.  Angry that they weren’t considered better than the other workers. 

Is Jesus showing us here in his story that in the kingdom of heaven God distributes His rewards by grace and sovereignty, and not because of debt?  In His kingdom, we are under grace, and not under law.  In the kingdom of heaven, we will put away competition and pride and envy and all those jealous status games.  No more jockeying to see which one of us is better but then we will serve each other joyfully with love and generosity and humility.

 We are not our own but we are bought with a Price.  We are in God’s Hand as clay in the hands of a Potter.  And it is not for us to prescribe to Him, or strive with Him.  In heaven, every vessel will be full, brimful, though every vessel is not alike large and showy.  In the Kingdom, the Road to Glory will be the road of humility.  Our Rest will be trusting God and obeying Him.  And at His right Hand are pleasures forevermore.  The first shall be last and the last shall be first. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016


What the Bible says about Heaven


What the Bible says about Heaven

Nearly all of us are curious about where we will end up after we die.  But how much do we really know about this place called heaven where we will spend eternity? Many Christians picture heaven as an unending church service.  A never ending sing-along in the sky!  An enthusiastic pastor once told us that we would spent all of eternity with our hands up in the air praising God.  His eyes were shinning with enthusiasm and he couldn’t wait, but I worried that my arms would get tired. We picture ourselves in heaven sitting on clouds in long white robes playing harps on and on!  And we wonder if we may get bored.

Part of the problem is that human language has many limitations and it is impossible to describe the indescribable. And basically heaven is indescribable.  Scripture says this about heaven.  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the imagination of humans, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  (I Corinthians 2:9) In other words, heaven is beyond our wildest imaginations.  We have never seen anything like it - so alive and so over the top beautiful and we have never heard of anything that is so good and glorious and uplifting.  

 There are many images of heaven recorded in the Bible. Several of these mentioned in Scripture are harps, crowns and gold.  Bible scholars believe that the mention of harps is just an image of music or a symbolic attempt to suggest that we will have praise and worship and ecstasy in heaven.  We will sing a new song.

In Scripture we read that we will be given crowns perhaps to illustrate that those who are in heaven will rule or reign with Christ.  The Bible tells us that: “If we endure, we will reign with Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:12) Scripture also says: “To him who overcomes and does My will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” (Revelation 2:26) And also: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on my throne,…”( Revelation 3:31)  We will have important work in heaven it seems! No time to get bored like we thought! And gold is also mentioned possibly to suggest the timelessness of heaven (gold never rusts) and the richness too.  We are only guessing.

The Bible describes a River and the Tree of Life in heaven. “On each side of the River stands the Tree of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.  And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”  (Revelations 22:2) It seems that we will eat the fruit from the Tree of Life.  In Scripture we also read about the Marriage Feast or Supper of the Lamb. (Revelations 19:9) We will enjoy eating and drinking in the kingdom of heaven and I imagine the food will be more delicious than anything we have ever tasted here on earth!

In the Bible we read that God will create a new heavens and a new earth.  “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.”  (Isaiah 65:17) God will create new heavens and a new earth because sin has entered and spoiled them.  The angels and Satan sinned and then we humans sinned with Adam and Eve first disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit.  Paradise was lost.  Scripture says that the earth has been broken by sin and creation groans to be made new.  And it will be.  It will be a new earth and heavens, redeemed and transfigured. 

And our bodies will also be made new when we die.  In Scripture we read: “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling. “(2 Corinthians 5:1)

 Scripture says: “What is mortal (a body that will die) will be swallowed up by life.” (1 Corinthians 5:5a) Our age old imagery of death is reversed.  When we die we will be swallowed up by life, not by death.  We are participating in the resurrection life of Jesus our Savior. Scripture says: “You (Christ) will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”  ((Psalm 16:11) Jesus says: “To him who is thirsty, I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” (Revelations 21:6b)

In heaven we are told in Scripture that there will be no more sorrow or crying or sickness or sin or death.   We read in Scripture: “God will wipe every tear from their eyes and there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  (Revelations 21:4)

In this new world “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox” (Isaiah 65:25) “And there will be no person or animal harming another or killing on my holy hill”.  (Isaiah 11:9) “The leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together, and a little child will lead them. “(Isaiah 11:6)  It will be a new world , that is for sure!   

And then when God brings down the final curtain of history there will be the judgment.  And the judge will be Christ. He is our Savior and our Judge.  Scripture says: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) 

But we need not be afraid.  Jesus himself said: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned: he has crossed over from death to life.”  (John 5:24)   It seems that we receive rewards “crowns” for the good we have done here on earth.  And again believing in Him is the most important thing that we can ever do. 

Many of the Scriptures and ideas from this blog were taken from “Heaven and the Afterlife” by James L. Garlow with Keith Wall



 
What the Bible say about Heaven

Nearly all of us are curious about where we will end up after we die.  But how much do we really know about this place called heaven where we will spend eternity? Many Christians picture heaven as an unending church service.  A never ending sing-along in the sky!  An enthusiastic pastor once told us that we would spent all of eternity with our hands up in the air praising God.  His eyes were shinning with enthusiasm and he couldn’t wait, but I worried that my arms would get tired. We picture ourselves in heaven sitting on clouds in long white robes playing harps on and on!  And we wonder if we may get bored.

Part of the problem is that human language has many limitations and it is impossible to describe the indescribable. And basically heaven is indescribable.  Scripture says this about heaven.  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the imagination of humans, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  (I Corinthians 2:9) In other words, heaven is beyond our wildest imaginations.  We have never seen anything like it - so alive and so over the top beautiful and we have never heard of anything that is so good and glorious and uplifting.  

 There are many images of heaven recorded in the Bible. Several of these mentioned in Scripture are harps, crowns and gold.  Bible scholars believe that the mention of harps is just an image of music or a symbolic attempt to suggest that we will have praise and worship and ecstasy in heaven.  We will sing a new song.

In Scripture we read that we will be given crowns perhaps to illustrate that those who are in heaven will rule or reign with Christ.  The Bible tells us that: “If we endure, we will reign with Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:12) Scripture also says: “To him who overcomes and does My will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” (Revelation 2:26) And also: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on my throne,…”( Revelation 3:31)  We will have important work in heaven it seems! No time to get bored like we thought! And gold is also mentioned possibly to suggest the timelessness of heaven (gold never rusts) and the richness too.  We are only guessing.

The Bible describes a River and the Tree of Life in heaven. “On each side of the River stands the Tree of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.  And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”  (Revelations 22:2) It seems that we will eat the fruit from the Tree of Life.  In Scripture we also read about the Marriage Feast or Supper of the Lamb. (Revelations 19:9) We will enjoy eating and drinking in the kingdom of heaven and I imagine the food will be more delicious than anything we have ever tasted here on earth!

In the Bible we read that God will create a new heavens and a new earth.  “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.”  (Isaiah 65:17) God will create new heavens and a new earth because sin has entered and spoiled them.  The angels and Satan sinned and then we humans sinned with Adam and Eve first disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit.  Paradise was lost.  Scripture says that the earth has been broken by sin and creation groans to be made new.  And it will be.  It will be a new earth and heavens, redeemed and transfigured. 

And our bodies will also be made new when we die.  In Scripture we read: “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling. “(2 Corinthians 5:1)

 Scripture says: “What is mortal (a body that will die) will be swallowed up by life.” (1 Corinthians 5:5a) Our age old imagery of death is reversed.  When we die we will be swallowed up by life, not by death.  We are participating in the resurrection life of Jesus our Savior. Scripture says: “You (Christ) will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”  ((Psalm 16:11) Jesus says: “To him who is thirsty, I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” (Revelations 21:6b)

In heaven we are told in Scripture that there will be no more sorrow or crying or sickness or sin or death.   We read in Scripture: “God will wipe every tear from their eyes and there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  (Revelations 21:4)

In this new world “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox” (Isaiah 65:25) “And there will be no person or animal harming another or killing on my holy hill”.  (Isaiah 11:9) “The leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together, and a little child will lead them. “(Isaiah 11:6)  It will be a new world , that is for sure!   

And then when God brings down the final curtain of history there will be the judgment.  And the judge will be Christ. He is our Savior and our Judge.  Scripture says: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) 

But we need not be afraid.  Jesus himself said: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned: he has crossed over from death to life.”  (John 5:24)   It seems that we receive rewards “crowns” for the good we have done here on earth.  And again believing in Him is the most important thing that we can ever do. 

Many of the Scriptures and ideas from this blog were taken from “Heaven and the Afterlife” by James L. Garlow with Keith Wall



 
What the Bible say about Heaven

Nearly all of us are curious about where we will end up after we die.  But how much do we really know about this place called heaven where we will spend eternity? Many Christians picture heaven as an unending church service.  A never ending sing-along in the sky!  An enthusiastic pastor once told us that we would spent all of eternity with our hands up in the air praising God.  His eyes were shinning with enthusiasm and he couldn’t wait, but I worried that my arms would get tired. We picture ourselves in heaven sitting on clouds in long white robes playing harps on and on!  And we wonder if we may get bored.

Part of the problem is that human language has many limitations and it is impossible to describe the indescribable. And basically heaven is indescribable.  Scripture says this about heaven.  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the imagination of humans, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  (I Corinthians 2:9) In other words, heaven is beyond our wildest imaginations.  We have never seen anything like it - so alive and so over the top beautiful and we have never heard of anything that is so good and glorious and uplifting.  

 There are many images of heaven recorded in the Bible. Several of these mentioned in Scripture are harps, crowns and gold.  Bible scholars believe that the mention of harps is just an image of music or a symbolic attempt to suggest that we will have praise and worship and ecstasy in heaven.  We will sing a new song.

In Scripture we read that we will be given crowns perhaps to illustrate that those who are in heaven will rule or reign with Christ.  The Bible tells us that: “If we endure, we will reign with Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:12) Scripture also says: “To him who overcomes and does My will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” (Revelation 2:26) And also: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on my throne,…”( Revelation 3:31)  We will have important work in heaven it seems! No time to get bored like we thought! And gold is also mentioned possibly to suggest the timelessness of heaven (gold never rusts) and the richness too.  We are only guessing.

The Bible describes a River and the Tree of Life in heaven. “On each side of the River stands the Tree of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.  And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”  (Revelations 22:2) It seems that we will eat the fruit from the Tree of Life.  In Scripture we also read about the Marriage Feast or Supper of the Lamb. (Revelations 19:9) We will enjoy eating and drinking in the kingdom of heaven and I imagine the food will be more delicious than anything we have ever tasted here on earth!

In the Bible we read that God will create a new heavens and a new earth.  “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.”  (Isaiah 65:17) God will create new heavens and a new earth because sin has entered and spoiled them.  The angels and Satan sinned and then we humans sinned with Adam and Eve first disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit.  Paradise was lost.  Scripture says that the earth has been broken by sin and creation groans to be made new.  And it will be.  It will be a new earth and heavens, redeemed and transfigured. 

And our bodies will also be made new when we die.  In Scripture we read: “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling. “(2 Corinthians 5:1)

 Scripture says: “What is mortal (a body that will die) will be swallowed up by life.” (1 Corinthians 5:5a) Our age old imagery of death is reversed.  When we die we will be swallowed up by life, not by death.  We are participating in the resurrection life of Jesus our Savior. Scripture says: “You (Christ) will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”  ((Psalm 16:11) Jesus says: “To him who is thirsty, I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” (Revelations 21:6b)

In heaven we are told in Scripture that there will be no more sorrow or crying or sickness or sin or death.   We read in Scripture: “God will wipe every tear from their eyes and there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  (Revelations 21:4)

In this new world “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox” (Isaiah 65:25) “And there will be no person or animal harming another or killing on my holy hill”.  (Isaiah 11:9) “The leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together, and a little child will lead them. “(Isaiah 11:6)  It will be a new world , that is for sure!   

And then when God brings down the final curtain of history there will be the judgment.  And the judge will be Christ. He is our Savior and our Judge.  Scripture says: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) 

But we need not be afraid.  Jesus himself said: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned: he has crossed over from death to life.”  (John 5:24)   It seems that we receive rewards “crowns” for the good we have done here on earth.  And again believing in Him is the most important thing that we can ever do. 

Many of the Scriptures and ideas from this blog were taken from “Heaven and the Afterlife” by James L. Garlow with Keith Wall





Friday, October 7, 2016

What About Hell?



What About Hell?

The Bible has much to say about hell.  But some church people today have given up the biblical belief in hell and hold to ideas of a cozy afterlife in some sort of heaven where everyone goes!  It isn’t fashionable to believe in hell anymore so our liberal theologians have searched for “acceptable alternatives” to hell.  Believing in the hell described in the Bible doesn’t fit with their “scientific” understanding so they call it a “myth”. Mainstream theologians who still believe that the Bible is inspired by God search for ways to explain hell away.   

The Bible describes God as a God of love.  But along with love He is also a God of justice and judgment.  We learn from the Bible that God is holy and righteous, the all-powerful God of creation and an authoritarian God who asks us to obey Him.  A God of purity who cannot sin or do evil acts. Some modern pastors and church leaders today redefine God’s justice by human standards. These church leaders mainly talk about God’s redeeming love and leave out His justice and authority. Human freedom and choice are elevated above God’s holiness.  

These church leaders re-make God into a god who can better fit their needs.  Some even talk of up-dating God and Scripture every five hundred years as these needs will change!  These church leaders talk of a god with more functionality – almost like God was a computer!  A modernized god who isn’t so bothered by our sin. Maybe a jovial easy going god with a long beard and white robe just wanting all of his children to always have a good time!  Certainly not the eternal God of the Bible.  But a god who loves and doesn’t judge or condemn is easier to sell!

And selling is all important!  A popular T.V. evangelist who has a church with 150,000 members insists that his sermons are never negative.  He never preaches about sin or the need to repent.   That’s one of the reasons he has so many followers he says. So we remake the eternal God of the Bible into a new improved god who goes along with our sinful lifestyle. We quote the Scripture verses that speak of God’s love and leave out the ones that deal with His holiness and His judgments.  And we certainly stop believing in a hell.   

We argue that God loves us so much that He would not send us to hell for refusing to confess the sin in our lives.  But we forget that Scripture tells us that God loves us so much that He wants to take us out of the sin in our lives. He loves us so much that He wants us to be with Him in heaven where there is no sin. He has prepared a place (Heaven) for us but we have to be a prepared people to fit in to that place. If we aren’t willing to renounce our sin then we will not fit in to a sinless paradise. And it seems that God respects our will and won’t force us to confess our sins. Scripture says that the whole earth and all of nature groans under the curse of sin. If we refuse to confess our sins then we may die in our sins. Perhaps that is hell, but I am just guessing.  Sin and hell are mysteries that are too deep and complicated for us to understand.  We are to believe them on faith. 

 We gloss over sin and argue that it isn’t so bad after all. Even though the Bible teaches that when sin came into the world it caused the earth to be cursed with the “fall” bringing death, disease, sorrow, scourges, etc. Sin is deadly and brings its own hell.  Only Jesus the Son of God can cleanse us from it.  Our part is believing in Christ and confessing our sin. Then He will forgive us and cover us with His righteousness. (1 John 1:9) Sin is serious enough for Jesus Christ to have to shed His blood and die to cleanse us from it. We should take it seriously!

 But confessing sin and obeying a holy God isn’t popular in some churches today.  Since some of us have done away with hell we think we don’t have to worry about our sins having any consequences after we die. But when we stop believing in hell, we unscrew, unsettle, and unpin everything in the Bible.  All of Scripture tells us of a God of justice and judgment.  A God who loves us too much to leave us dying in our sins.  A God who is holy and righteous and pure and who will judge the earth at the end of the age. 

Many of Jesus’ teachings were about hell.  One of Jesus’ stories or parables might have been told to warn us about hell.  It was the parable about the rich man and Lazarus.  Some of Jesus’ stories comfort us and draw us closer to Him, but some warn us to avoid evil and to fear going to hell.  We don’t repeat those stories as often do we?  Jesus’ story about the rich man and Lazarus is one of those stories. Here it is:

 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and hoping to be able to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.  Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The time came when Lazarus, the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.  The rich man also died and was buried.  In hell, where the rich man was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  The rich man called to him, ‘Father Abraham’, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire. 

But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things.  But now he is comforted here and you are in agony.  And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us. 

The rich man answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house for I have five brothers.  Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’  Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets: let them listen to them.’  ‘No father Abraham, the rich man said, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  Abraham replied to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”  (Luke 16:19-31) 

The Jews in Jesus time believed that riches are one of the marks of a good man and that the poor were poor because they did not live good lives.  Jesus’ story or parable shows that the rich can be wicked and the poor can be godly.  Jesus even gave the poor man in his story a name – Lazarus, but He failed to name the rich man. 

Evidently the sin of the rich man was that he ignored Lazarus in his hunger and misery.  Even the dogs may have done more for Lazarus than the rich man did. The rich man was perhaps only interested in his own pleasure and reputation. Scripture commands us again and again if we have the resources we are to do our part in helping the poor and sick. 

When he died Lazarus was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.  Abraham was called the “Father of the faithful.”  Scripture says that believers from all over the world will come to heaven and sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.  But the rich man went to a different place after death.  Jesus says that he went to hell and was miserable.  Jesus tells a scary story.  

In this earthly life there is no gulf fixed between a sinful person who has rejected God and God’s open door of salvation. While we live we may easily pass from sin to God.  But after death in the next life Jesus seems to tell a different story.  In His story Jesus describes a “great chasm fixed between heaven and hell so that no one can cross over on either side.”  (Luke 16:26)   Did Jesus tell this story to warn us about hell?

Some of the ideas in this blog were taken from James Garlow and Keith Wall’s book, “Heaven and the Afterlife.”