Do you have an immortal soul? Is Lazarus in heaven this very moment waiting for you? Millions claim that you do and he is! Can you prove it from your Bible?
Millions of people turn to Luke 16, the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, to substantiate their belief that we have an immortal soul and that Lazarus is in heaven right now waiting for our arrival…unless, of course, you go to “the other place” where the rich man is.
It this true? Can you prove it from your own Bible? We should have a Bible reason for everything we believe, and take no man’s word for it, nor any church organization’s word for it—no matter how sincere and trusted they may be—until we have proven it for ourselves out of our own Bibles. Why is this? Are we to be paranoid and doubt everything we were taught? Could we be mistaken in some of our cherished beliefs? Just because a man or an organization is considered “holy” and sincere, does that make them right? Friends, you need to blow the dust off your Bible and check these things out for yourself. If you are correct, you have nothing to fear—but what if you are mistaken?
Prove All Things
The Bible itself admonishes us to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The implication here is that if something is not good—if you have been misled into believing a false doctrine—do not hold on to it. Cast it away in favor of sound biblical truth. Jesus Christ Himself warned repeatedly, “Take heed lest any man deceive you” (Matthew 24:4; Mark 13:5). We are warned in Jude 3–4: “[E]arnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This brings up the question, “Why would anyone want to deceive me?” Glad you asked. Turn over to Matthew 24:11 and read Christ’s own answer: “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” He goes on to say in verse 24, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” The apostle Paul warns, “Let no man deceive you by any means” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). The apostle John warns likewise, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). The apostle Peter said the same thing in different words: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). We are cautioned in 2 Corinthians 11:14–15: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers [yes, Satan has ministers!] also be transformed asthe ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” First John 4:1 warns, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Second John 10 goes so far as to warn, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house [i.e., do not allow him into you mind, either in person or by media, such as TV, radio, or the printed word], neither bid him God speed!” In other words, we do not even need to be “nice” to false ministers! Strong words, these! With all these warnings, why do we not heed them? Back in the book of Revelation, the church at Ephesus was commended for trying or testing certain teachers. “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Revelation 2:2–3).
How does one “try” Bible teachers? By comparing what they say with what the Bible says! Let no one intimidate or lay a “guilt trip” on you for doing what the Bible says! We are to make evaluations, judgments, and determinations of those things we are being taught. “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:3). “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Corinthians 6:2). Those who hide behind the passage, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1), may be trying to justify their own personal preferences, opinions, and prejudices, rather than having them exposed to the clear light of the Scriptures. Paul said, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8).
But what about this matter of Lazarus and the rich man? Could some be deceived into believing this account is saying something it does not say? Let us see what it plainly says…and does notsay.
Lazarus and the Rich Man
The story of Lazarus and the rich man is found in Luke 16:19–31. For your convenience, here it is in its entirety:
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” But Abraham said, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” Then he said, “I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” Abraham saith unto him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” And he said, “Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.” And he said unto him, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
A Parable or a Historic Event?
Many take hold upon this parable in Luke 16:19–31, claiming that it proves that we have an immortal soul that either goes up to heaven or down to hell immediately upon our death. But does it? Does it really? Or could some well-meaning but misinformed person be reading preconceived ideas into the text?
Some claim that the account of Lazarus and the rich man is not a parable at all, but an actual account of happenings then and there. Remember all the cautions stated above about deception. Know this: a text without a context is only a pretext. “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). Let us look more closely into this account…and believe your own Bible.
First, contextually, to whom was Jesus Christ speaking when He related this account of Lazarus and the rich man? If you have a red-letter Bible that displays the first-person sayings of Jesus in red, you will see that this account is one of a series of many parables given in a single hearing. Tracing it back to chapter fifteen, verse one, we read, “Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him.” Notice, all the publicans and sinner were there. Now moving on to Luke 16:1, we read, “And He said also unto His disciples….” The disciples were there also, among the others. Let us move on to verse 14: “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.” So we see that in His hearing were all the publicans, sinners, Pharisees, and His disciples, all together in a sizable group. Now turn quickly to Matthew 13:34: “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake He not unto them” Did you catch that? Christ did not speak to the public except in parables. This was done so that the sense and the very words of Psalm 78:2–3 might be fulfilled concerning Christ. See Christ’s own answer as to why He spoke in parables in Matthew 13:10–15. Beginning in verse 13, Christ says to His inner circle of disciples, “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall notperceive.” Why? “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:14–15). Here is another biblical statement that is diametrically the opposite of what most people have been taught! In other words, Christ deliberately clouded the meanings of the parables He gave to the public. The carnal-minded Pharisees, publicans, and sinners in His audience were not privileged to understand. Only His chosen, personal disciples received the later, fuller explanations of His parables. And yet many have been told that He spoke in parables to make the meaning clearer to all!
So we have established by your very own Bible that the account of Lazarus and the rich manmust be a parable!
What is a parable? A parable is an allegory, a short narrative making a moral or religious point by comparing it with natural things or a situation at hand. A parable is a story that illustrates a lesson. It is made to make one understand one thing by comparing it with another of the same nature. Simply put, it is a story with a moral pointing to a truth. It is a rule of Bible study that one should take the Bible literally where it is at all possible. If symbolic, figurative, or typical language is used—as in the case of parables—then look for the literal truth it intends to convey. (Be sure to send for our FREE booklet, How to Study Your Bible.)
What, then, is the truth the illustration of Lazarus and the rich man is trying to convey? Is it that man has an immortal soul that goes either to heaven or hell at death? Or is there a much deeper meaning? Let us not read our own ideas INTO the parable. We need to be honest with the Scriptures.
The Pharisees often ridiculed and made jest of Christ’s warnings against greed, hard-heartedness, and worldliness. The name “Lazarus” was a very common name and doubtless many of the hearers of this story supplied the name of the rich man in their own minds. Seeing that the Pharisees were present in the group He was speaking to, Jesus addressed a notable example of one of the traditions they had inherited originally from Babylon: the immortality of the soul.
Josephus provides the following information regarding the then-current view of the Pharisees in this regard: “They [the Pharisees] believe that the souls have the power to survive death and that there are rewards and punishments under the earth for those who have led lives of virtue or vice: eternal imprisonment is the lot of evil souls, while the good souls receive easy passage to a new life” (Jewish Antiquities, XVIII, 14, [i, 3]).
This tradition was diametrically contrary to what God’s Word said as to the state of the dead. Jesus told the story of a “certain rich man”—the same terminology He used in verse 1 of the same chapter—who lived a lavish lifestyle. His name is not given. “Dives,” sometimes said to be his name, is simply the Latin word for “rich man.” There was also a certain beggar named Lazarus who lay at his gate, desiring to be fed even the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Lazarus, a common Talmudic name from the Hebrew name Eleazar, was in such a deplorable state that the dogs that also gathered around the gate licked his sores. It is apparent that the rich man had no compassion upon him. It is stated that the beggar finally died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).
Was Lazarus Taken to Heaven?
Many claim that when the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom,it means he was taken immediately to heaven at death. What does this expression mean? Whatis a “bosom”? The dictionary definition of a bosom is the human chest, or breast, considered as an enclosure in embracing. This is a place comparable to that occupied by a person in ancient times when he reclined in front of another on the same couch during a meal. It is figurative language for heart-felt emotions of togetherness or endearment. But where is Abraham now?In heaven? Or in the grave awaiting a resurrection? In Hebrews 11, often called the faith chapter, we see Abraham’s name mentioned amongst many others (Hebrews 11:8). But we are told in verse 13, “These all died in faith, NOT having received the promises.” Again, for double emphasis, verse 39 repeats, “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received NOT the promise.” Why? “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40). This is telling us that those who died in faith before us will not inherit the promises until we join them in the resurrection at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Greek word anastasis literally means a “rising, or standing up.” Those who are resurrected will arise once again, from the dead.
There was nothing in the Greek culture to lead the new converts to believe in the resurrection (Acts 23:8). As a whole, they believed in the immortality of the soul, not the resurrection of the dead. Christ, in this parable, dispelled this notion.
Here is another astounding “Bible opposite” of what is commonly taught in contemporary “churchianity”! Millions, even today, firmly believe that the dead go immediately up to heaven or down to an ever-burning hell, and yet your Bible claims they remain in their graves until they are resurrected— made alive once again—by Jesus Christ. There will be a resurrection of the righteous dead at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and then another at the end of the Millennium, 1,000 years later (Compare 1 Corinthians 15:23 with Revelation 20:5).
John 3:16 is the most quoted and memorized verse in the entire Bible, and yet three verses earlier, in verse 13, is a first-person quotation from Jesus Christ Himself as to the state of the dead. “And NO man,” says Jesus Christ, “hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). How did Jesus know? Why, He just came down from there!
And what of David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22)? Surely David is in heaven, isn’t he? No, “For David is not ascended into the heavens” (Acts 2:34). In verse 29 we read, “David…is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day.” The resurrected David will reign and rule in the soon-coming Kingdom of God, but he is not in heaven now (see Ezekiel 34:23; 37:24–25).
But, many will ask, what of man’s immortal soul? Since the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35)—since the Bible does not contradict itself—how do these scriptures fit with the doctrine of the immortality of the soul? Let the Scriptures speak!
Does Man Have an “Immortal Soul”?
Once again, let us turn to the Scriptures—the only source of truth in these matters. Turn to 1 Timothy 6:16 and read what your Bible—not men—says about immortality. Speaking of God Himself, we read, “Who only [alone] hath immortality….” Read that again! Who alone has immortality? Men? No! GOD alone has immortality! Reading on, the verse continues, “dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.”
We read in Genesis 2:7 that “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.” Notice what this verse does not say. It does not say man had a living soul or that a soul was imparted to him. It says man became a living soul. That’s what man is! The Hebrew word rendered “soul” here isnephesh and means, properly, a living, breathing creature. The same Hebrew word, nephesh, is translated in Genesis as “creature” (Genesis 1:21,24; 2:19; 9:10,12). In other words, man has the same self-conscious life as the animals.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived next to Christ, stated in Ecclesiastes 3:19, “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” And then he asks, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” The obvious answer is: no one. Men only assume it. Your Bible goes on to say, “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5); and confirms, “[F]or there is no work, nor device, norknowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (verse 10).
What Is Death?
Death, to most, is a mystery. To some it is the cessation of life. Others believe it is the beginning of eternity. Some insist that only the fleshly body of man dies, but his immortal soul wafts up to heaven. But where is the Bible proof for such beliefs? Let us investigate what the Bible plainly says. The Bible is very clear as to what death is if we take it for what it consistently says and don’t cloud it with the ideas and traditions of men. Death may be defined in at least five different ways.
Death is a return
“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou [the whole, conscious man] returnunto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thoureturn” (Genesis 3:19).
“All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust” (Job 34:15). Notice it is the man, not part of the man, who returns to the dust.
“Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled: Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust” (Psalm 104:29).
“For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Ecclesiastes 3:19–20).
Death is the opposite of life
Death is the opposite of life, not the continuance of life in some other form or place.
“In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, ‘Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live’” (2 Kings 20:1).
“But thus do unto them, that they may live, and not die…” (Numbers 4:19).
“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5).
Death is the cessation of all thoughts and bodily functions
“For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?” (Psalm 6:5).
“The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence” (Psalm 115:17).
“His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalm 146:4).
“For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth” (Isaiah 38:18).
Death is a sleep
“Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” (Psalm 13:3).
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Death is an enemy
“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
“Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:12).
“What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah” (Psalm 89:48).
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
With these things firmly entrenched in mind, we see clearly that according to your Bible, Lazarus and the rich man do not have immortal souls, nor are they now in heaven. Let us now go on to Christ’s parable of Lazarus and the rich man to see what He had in mind.
From the foregoing, we see that Lazarus and the rich man both died and were buried (Luke 16:23). Then, in verse 22, we read that Lazarus the beggar was carried by the angels into “Abraham’s bosom.” When do the angels come down from heaven and carry off those who are resurrected? Turn to Matthew
24:31: “And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Read the entire context, beginning with verse 29: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” There! Did you catch it? The angels gather God’s elect AT THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST, not a minute sooner! Then, at that time, Lazarus will embrace righteous Abraham who will be resurrected at that same time.
The Rich Man’s Fate
Thus far, we have seen that the story of Lazarus and the rich man is a parable, and that they both died and will remain dead until they are resurrected sometime in the future. This parable shows that some, the righteous—and Lazarus was obviously counted as one of the righteous in this parable—will be in the Kingdom of God. Now let us see what happened to the rich man…and when.
Jesus said of the rich man, “The rich man also died, and was buried.” Jesus does not say that only the rich man’s body died while his immortal soul was taken immediately down to an ever-burning hell. He said, simply, “The rich man also died, and was buried.” To be buried means to be placed in the earth and covered with dirt. It never refers to the imaginary torturous hellfire depicted by Dante Alighieri and adopted by the Catholic Church, and later by most Protestants.
But then, according to Jesus’ parable, what happened? Let us read this account carefully so that we do not read into the account what is not there. We see in verse 22, “And in hell….”
Stop right there! Where was the rich man? “In hell,” it says. Where was that hell and what kindof hell was it? There are three Greek words translated “hell” in your Bible. The “hell” used here—where the rich man found himself—is translated from the Greek word hades, and is the equivalent of the Hebrew Old Testament word sheol. These words have the same meaning: the grave, or pit. The other common word translated “hell” is gehenna, meaning “the Valley of Hinnom,” which was another name for the city garbage dump of ancient Jerusalem—a type of the lake of fire that will be the agent for the destruction of the incorrigibly wicked. The third word translated “hell,” tartaroo, is used only once in the entire Bible, in 2 Peter 2:4, and means a condition of restraint for fallen angels or demons. The meanings of these three different Greek words have been confused because the one English word “hell” covers all three meanings. (For a more detailed study of “hell,” see the appendix at the end of this booklet. Also, be sure to send for our FREE booklet, Hell, You Say?)
“And in hell he lifted up his eyes….” Stop again! When do dead men lift up their eyes? Why, in a resurrection, of course, as we have seen above. So the rich man was in the pit, or grave, and, being brought back to physical life, he lifted up his eyes…and what he saw terrified him! He saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus safe in his bosom, or embrace, and realized that he was not. Jesus had warned that there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth “when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:28). This is that time. He also saw, off in the distance, a wall of flame coming his way. This was the gehenna fire that shall devour the wicked. He knew his doom was sealed. We read in Malachi 4, “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.”
Continuing in Luke 16:23, that seeing this, the rich man was “in torments.” Who wouldn’t be? He was facing divine execution! The Greek word for “torments” here is odunao, meaning to grieve, pain, sorrow, or distress. He was suffering mental anguish. Have you ever been badly frightened or terrified? If you have, you have probably found that your mouth is suddenly dry and parched, your tongue cleaving to the roof of your mouth. Seeing his doom, the rich man cries out for mercy when he sees Lazarus, someone he recognized, and asks that he might so much as dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue. This is a request comparable in the parable to when Lazarus desired to be fed with the crumbs off his table (Luke 16:21). If he had been already burning, he would have called for bucketsful of water to douse his entire body!
“But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented’” (Luke 16:25).
“And beside all this,” Abraham went on, “between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” What was this “great gulf”? Nothing less than immortality! Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the saints were now immortal—having been in the first resurrection at Christ’s Second Coming—and the rich man was later raised as he was: mortal, subject to death. And that flame was getting closer!
In desperation—perhaps a ploy to show that he was indeed merciful—the rich man cried out, “I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:27).
The rich man, having been dead, had no idea how much time had passed— thousands of years. We read in Psalm 146:4 that when a man dies “his breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.”
But Abraham answered, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). Moses and the prophets also pointed the way to salvation.
And the rich man said, “Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent” (Luke 16:30). Not realizing the passage of time and that his family was now long since dead, he obviously thought that if Lazarus—the poor beggar whom they knew had died—returned from the grave to warn them of their wicked ways—then they would repent and be spared the same death penalty that was awaiting him.
And Abraham answered, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Memorable words! Christ rose from the grave, yet how many believe His words today?
More Than One Resurrection!
Acts 24:15 tells us “that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.”
In John 5:25, Jesus warns, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead [not those living in heaven or hell] shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the gravesshall hear His voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
First Corinthians 15 is often referred to as “the Resurrection Chapter” because it gives more information about the resurrection in one place than any other chapter in the Bible. Turn to it in your own Bible and read the entire chapter. Notice in verses 22 and 23, where it says, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.” Christ— not Abraham, not Lazarus or the rich man—was the first to be resurrected to spirit life—an immortal God-being composed not of flesh, but of spirit. Afterwards those who have been true Christians down through history—those who have followed and are following God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32; Romans 8:9)—will be resurrected from death to spirit life at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. But when?
“But every man in his own order” (verse 23). Notice that not everyone is resurrected at the same time, but in a pre-selected order. Why is this? Because there are three categories of resurrected beings.
The first group consists of those who knew the truth and obeyed. These are the true Christians down through history and up to the Second Coming of Christ who remained true and faithful and endured to the end (Matthew 24:13). These will be resurrected to life as spirit-composed beings at the Second Coming of Christ. These will reign and rule with Christ as kings and priests (Revelation 5:10) during the Millennium—that one-thousand-year period of time between the first and second resurrections. This is called the first resurrection (Revelation 20:4–6).
There is a much larger group who never knew the truth, and consequently, did not and could not obey. These were never converted and have not committed the unpardonable sin of rejecting God’s way of life. This will include the vast majority of mankind who never knew, or even heard of, Jesus Christ, “the only name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). These will be resurrected to physical life at the end of the Millennium and, at that time, be given their first opportunity for salvation.
The last group to be resurrected will be those who knew the truth but would not obey. Thesehave committed the unpardonable sin and will be resurrected to physical life and be burned up in a lake of fire (Malachi 4:1–3). This is called “the second death” (Revelation 20:14–15). This is also called “the resurrection of damnation” in John 5:29. This is the death from which there will be no resurrection. Once burned up, they shall be as though they had never been. “Into smoke shall they consume away” (Psalm 37:20). This is the resurrection in which the rich man “lifted up his eyes.” (Be sure to send for our FREE booklet, What Is the Unpardonable Sin?for further clarification on this subject.)
What Is the Real Lesson?
Finally, what is the real lesson—what was Jesus trying to convey by the parable of Lazarus and the rich man? What is the lesson for us today?
The context and the wording of this illustration by Jesus Christ show clearly that it is a parable and not an actual historical event. Poverty is not being praised; nor are riches being condemned. Rather, mercy, commiseration, and benevolence are being extolled. The principle is this: “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink” (Proverbs 25:21; Romans 12:20). The parable illustrates that the scribes and Pharisees had corrupted the law, not only in the commandment of loving our enemies, but even that of loving our brethren. This was not a new, but an old commandment. The lesson is, when you are in your comfort zone, take heed. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). The parable illustrates the warning given earlier: “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:28). The example here teaches the value of good works, final rewards, and a reversal in the spiritual status, or condition, of those who fall into the categories represented by Lazarus and the rich man.
The disclosure that the rich man’s brothers rejected Moses and the prophets also shows the illustration has a much deeper meaning and purpose than that of contrasting poverty and the possession of riches. Timothy was told, in 2 Timothy 3:15, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” What Scriptures had Timothy known from a child? Why, the part of the Bible we call today “the Old Testament”! The New Testament had not even been written yet! And the Scriptures he knew were able to do what? To make him wise unto salvation!
Christ came magnifying the law (Isaiah 42:1) and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14). He was showing that salvation—the resurrection into the Kingdom of God on this earth—is a free gift of God. We cannot “earn” it. But once we are saved—or converted by a metabolic change into a spirit being—we are rewarded according to our works (Matthew 16:27; Revelation 2:23).
Jesus here teaches us that if one refuses to hear Moses and the prophets— the Old Testament as well as the New—we are in imminent spiritual danger. The Scriptures—the entire Bible, not just part of it—are able to make us wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15).
Those who teach that God’s Ten Commandments are “done away” or “nailed to the cross” are teaching a false gospel. These are false ministers who are out to deceive you. Those who would have you believe the false doctrine of the immortality of the soul, reincarnation, of flitting off to heaven at death, or plunging down to the depths of a fiery hell are not God’s ministers, but Satan’s (2 Corinthians 11:13–15). Again, we are warned to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Some may reason that they do not fall into the category of either Lazarus or the rich man. “I try to lead a good, moral life. I believe in God. What more can I do?” Let us get down to the crux of the matter: Do Christians sin? Again, let the Bible answer: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8–10). (Be sure to send for our FREE booklet, What is a Real Christian? which explains this matter in depth.)
James, the Lord’s half-brother, tells us, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). Christ warned, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). This is New Testament teaching!
The difference between the heart, attitude, and behavior of Lazarus and that of the rich man is a matter of repentance. Repentance is not just “giving your heart to the Lord,” as some allege. There are those who redefine sin as “anything that displeases God” and leave it up to the individual to determine in his own conscience what sin is. But the Bible definition of sin is not vague at all. “Sin is”—here is the Bible definition, not man’s—“the transgression [breaking] of the law” (1 John 3:4). One cannot transgress a law that does not exist. The wages of sin—what you earn by sinning, or breaking God’s law—is DEATH (Romans 6:23) for all eternity, not eternal life in another place or condition. To repent means to feel such sorrow and regret for one’s sins as to reform—turn around and go the other way, away from sin and disobedience to God and towards obedience. Repentance is the acknowledgment of one’s own guilt and sinfulness and an appreciation of God’s mercy through Christ to the point of actual hatred of sin (Psalm 119:128; Job 42:5–6; 2 Corinthians 7:10). This is not difficult to understand! Repentance means a change of mind and attitude, turning from self and sin to God. It is a persistent effort to walk a holy walk with God in the way of His commandments.
Upon heartfelt repentance and baptism one receives God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Thereupon, the selfless sacrifice of Jesus Christ is applied to the repentant sinner and he is washed clean of his sins. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Hebrews 10:17 says simply, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Send for our FREE booklet, Ten Facts You Should Know About Repentance.)
In conclusion: where are Lazarus and the rich man? In heaven or in hell? No, they are in their graves awaiting a resurrection, along with all—sinners and saints alike—who have died.
Study your Bible—the entire Bible. Let no man deceive you. Send for the FREE literature listed at the end of this booklet. Prove all things. Hold fast that which is good.
And most of all, pray and take heed that you may share the eternal reward of Lazarus…and escape the punishment of the rich man.
APPENDIX 131, REPRINTED FROM E. W. BULLINGER’S COMPANION BIBLE
THE SYNONYMOUS WORDS FOR “HELL,” ETC.
“Hell” is the English rendering of two different Greek words in the N.T
The English word is from the Anglo-Saxon hel, Genitive Case helle = a hidden place, from the Anglo-Saxon helan = to hide.
It is in the N.T. used as the translation of two Greek words:
I. Gehenna. – Gr. geenna. This is the transliteration of the Heb. Gai’ Hinnom, i.e. the Valley of Hinnom or “the Valley” of [the sons of] Hinnom, where were the fires through which children were passed in the worship of Moloch.
In the O.T Tophet was the Heb. word used, because it was a place in this valley
In our Lord’s day the idolatry had ceased, but the fires were still continually burning there for the destruction of the refuse of Jerusalem. Hence, geenna was used for the fires of destruction associated with the judgment of God. Sometimes, “geenna of fire.” See 2 Kings 23.10. Isa. 30.33. Jer. 7.31, 32; 19.11–14.
Geenna occurs 12 times, and is always rendered “hell,” viz. Matt. 5.22, 29, 30; 10.28; 18.9; 23.15, 33. Mark 9. 43, 45, 47. Luke 12. 5. Jas. 3.6.
II. Hades. – Gr. hades. from a (privative) and idein, to see (Ap. 133. I. i); used by the Greeks for the unseen world.
The meaning which the Greeks put upon it does not concern us; nor have we anything to do with the imaginations of the heathen, or the traditions of Jews or Romanists, or the teachings of demons or evil spirits, or of any who still cling to them.
The Holy Spirit has used it as one of the “words pertaining to the earth,” and in so doing has “purified” it, “as silver tried in furnace” (see notes on Ps. 12.6). From this we learn that His own words “are pure,” but words belonging to this earth have to be “purified.”
The Old Testament is the fountain-head of the Hebrew language. It has no literature behind it. But the case is entirely different with the Greek language. The Hebrew Sheol is a word Divine in its origin and usage. The Greek Hades is human in its origin and comes down to us laden with centuries of development, in which it has acquired new senses, meanings, and usages.
Seeing that the Holy Spirit has used it in Acts 2.27, 31 as His own equivalent of Sheol in Psalm 16.10, He has settled, once for all, the sense in which we are to understand it. The meaning He has given to Sheol in Ps. 16.10 is the one meaning we are to give it wherever it occurs in the N.T, whether we transliterate it or translate it. We have no liberty to do otherwise, and must discard everything outside the Word of God.
The word occurs eleven times (Matt. 11.23; 16.18. Luke 10.15; 16.23. Acts 2.27, 31. 1 Cor. 15.55. Rev. 1.18; 6.8; 20.13, 14); and is rendered “hell” in every passage except one, where it is rendered “grave” (1 Cor. 15.55, marg. “hell”).
In the R.V. the word is always transliterated “Hades,” except in 1 Cor. 15.55 (where “death” is substituted because of the reading, in all the texts, of thanate for hade), and in the American R.V. also.
As Hades is the Divine Scriptural equivalent of Sheol, further light may be gained from Ap. 35, and a reference to the 65 passages there given. It may be well to note that while “Hades” is rendered “hell” in the N.T. (except once, where the rendering “the grave” could not be avoided), Sheol, its Hebrew equivalent, occurs 65 times, and is rendered “the grave” 31 times (or 54 percent); “hell” 31 times (4 times with margin “the grave,” reducing it to 41.5 percent); and “pit” only 3 times (or 4.5 percent) .
“The grave,” therefore, is obviously the best rendering, meaning the state of death (Germ.sterbend, for which we have no English equivalent); not the act of dying, as an examination of all the occurrences of both words will show.
- The rendering “pit” so evidently means “the grave” that it may at once be substituted for it (Num. 16.30, 33. Job 17.16).
- The rendering “the grave” (not “a grave,” which is Hebrew keber; or bor) exactly expresses the meaning of both Sheol and Hades. For, as to direction, it is always down: as to place, it is in the earth: as to relation, it is always in contrast with the state of the living (Deut. 32.22–25 and 1 Sam. 2.6–8); as to association, it is connected with mourning (Gen. 37.34, 35), sorrow Gen. 42.38. 2 Sam. 22.6. Ps. 18.5; 116.3), fright and terror (Num. 16.27, 34), mourning (Isa. 38.3, 10, 17, 18), silence (Ps. 6.5; 31.17. Ecc. 9.10), no knowledge (Ecc. 9.5, 6, 10), punishment (Num. 16.29, 34. 1 Kings 2.6, 9. Job 24.19. Ps. 9.17 (R.V. = re–turned)), corruption (Ps. 16.10. Acts 2.27, 31); as to duration, resurrection is the only exit from it (Ps. 16.11. Acts 2.27, 31; 13.33–37. 1 Cor. 15.55. Rev. 1.18; 20.5, 13, 14).
III. Tartaroo (occurs only in 2 Pet. 2.4) = to thrust down to Tartarus, Tartarus being a Greek word, not used elsewhere, or at all in the Sept. Homer describes it as subterranean (cp. Deut. 32.22, which may refer to this). The Homeric Tartarus is the prison of the Titans, or giants (cp. Heb. Rephaim, Ap. 25), who rebelled against Zeus.
All Scripture quotations were taken from the King James Version except as noted.
Copyright © 2002 The Church of God International, Tyler, Texas
All rights reserved. Text: Lloyd W. Cary
The NEXT MAJOR EVENT in God’s unfolding plan for humankind is the glorious SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST! The millennial reign—the “thousand years” of Revelation 20—will begin soon after Christ returns to this earth. But just WHAT is the Millennium? WHERE will it be? And what will it be like? Let’s turn to the SURE PROPHECIES of God’s Word for answers!
Copyright © 2010 The Church of God International, Tyler, Texas.
All rights reserved. Text: Lloyd W. Cary
The Feast of Trumpets and the Next Great Event in God’s Plan
God’s Word says, “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation”
(Leviticus 23:24). Why? What does the Feast of Trumpets mean to us—and to the rest of the world?
What is the next major event for God’s people—in fact, for the whole world? Quite simply, people do not know because they do not understand their Bibles. In Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, Christ details the general overall scenario for the world: religious deception, wars, famines, disease epidemics, earthquakes, and so forth. These have been going on in ever-increasing intensity from the beginning.
Christ said, however, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). Things were going to get worse! Much worse! Christ went on to warn that at the end of the age, “there shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21).
God’s holydays, as laid out in Leviticus 23, picture God’s plan of redemption—what God is doing on the earth—from the Sabbath and Passover on through to the Last Great Day. (If you have not already done so, please send for our FREE booklet, God’s Seasonal Plan, which explains each in great detail.) The first of these spring holy-days, Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost, have been fulfilled in history. The rest, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of
Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day, lie immediately ahead of us. And what awesome things they portend!
Many pray, Thy kingdom come, or have said, I can’t wait for the Day of the Lord to come, without realizing what the answer to this prayer will entail! Amos 5:18 declares, “Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! To what end is it for you? The day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.” Zephaniah 1:1–15 goes even further: “The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.
That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers” (Zephaniah 1:1).
The Feast of Trumpets—What it Means— What Will Happen Next
The Feast of Trumpets that we celebrate reminds us in advance of both the coming “trumpet plagues” (Revelation 8–11) that will be poured out in the terrifying “Day of the Lord,” and of our present job of lifting up our voice “like a trumpet” (Isaiah 58:1) to warn the nations of the soon-coming Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21). It will be a day of fear and trepidation for mankind, but a day of rejoicing for the saints!
The next blessed event in God’s redemptive plan is illustrated by the Feast of Trumpets. This is the time when Jesus Christ shall come again in clouds, riding upon a great white horse, descending with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God (1Thessalonians 4:14–17). This will be at the last trumpet, “for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52)!
What a day this will be! The saints of God will be resurrected to immortal life—changed into spirit beings, born into the very Family of God—the time of our “spiritual birthday,” if you will. At this time, those who will have received everlasting life will be given authority to rule and serve under Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:6; 2:6; 5:10; 20:6) for a thousand years.
The Second Coming of Christ is revealed in the book of Revelation as occurring in three sets of seven: the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven last plagues of God. In Revelation 5, we see a seven-sealed scroll or book that only Christ was deemed worthy to open. The seven seals cover the rest of the book. One by one, Christ strips opens the seals, as we see in chapter 6, verses 1 through 17. Note that these seven seals are an expanded visionary description of the same series of events Christ described earlier in Matthew 24. The Bible interprets its own symbols, and Christ here reveals what these seals mean in His own words! The seventh seal is and consists of—constitutes, is made up of—seven trumpets; and in turn, the seventh or last trumpet is and consists of—is composed of— the seven last plagues, culminating in Christ’s Second Coming.
In Revelation 8:1–2, the time of the opening of the “seventh seal” marks the beginning of the Day of the Lord, the prophesied time of God’s wrath. Notice John’s description of this momentous event: “And when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.”
Christ will begin to directly intervene in world affairs at the seventh or last trumpet (Revelation 11:15–19). A trumpet is symbolic of war. The seven trumpets symbolize a series of plagues that are to fall upon the hostile powers that oppose and oppress God’s people. The first four plagues are poured out on the land, the sea, the rivers, and the atmosphere—the basic components of man’s life support system!
When Christ came the first time, He came as the meek and lowly Lamb of God whose mission was to die for the sins of the world. But when He comes the second time, He is coming as a mighty conqueror— as King of kings, and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14; 19:16)—and He will wage war with the nations that oppose Him. But before worldwide reconstruction can commence, Christ must deal with His enemies—and they are many. He must “destroy them which destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18). The next holyday, the Day of Atonement, describes how our ultimate enemy, “the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:9).
In Revelation 19:13,16, we see Christ returning as a mighty conquering warrior king: “And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God… And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” He will then execute the supernatural seven last plagues, which will ultimately bring rebellious mankind to its knees.
We see here another Bible opposite. As shocking as it may seem to those who picture the Lord Jesus Christ as only a sweet, harmless, loving Lord Jesus who would never hurt anyone, the first thing He is going to do at His return is KILL multiple millions of people! Revelation 6:17 declares, “the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
John writes: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself. And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Revelation 19:11–15).
The Millennium Begins
“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). Once Christ, the Conquering King, destroys His enemies with the “brightness of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8), He will establish world headquarters at Jerusalem, and then proceed to gather the peoples of Israel and Judah into Palestine to repopulate the land (Hosea 1:10; Ezekiel 37:21,22)—thus, Israel will be restored as a nation; the people “shall dwell safely all of them” (Ezekiel 38:8); and “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls” (Zechariah 2:2–5). The Feast of Tabernacles will be reinstituted and enforced worldwide. Those nations who refuse to keep it will suffer the plague of no rain (Zechariah 14:16–19). At long last, all Israel—not just Judah—will be reconciled with God, and will become the model nation she was intended to be.
Christ will at that time restore true worship, peace, and harmony in the land. The long-awaited Millennium—the prophesied thousand years of utopian peace, harmony, and global reconstruction—will then begin. “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3).
The Last Great Day
And finally, after the Millennium, comes the Last Great Day, a totally separate feast day picturing the time when the rest of the dead (Revelation 20:5)—all those billions who never had the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior during their lifetimes—will be resurrected to physical life and have their first and only opportunity to enter into the kingdom of God.
In summary, clearly the Feast of Trumpets pictures the time of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in power and glory to begin His reign on the earth. Could any event in all history be more important, more pivotal, or more glorious than the return of Jesus Christ to rule the earth?
Now, let’s take a closer look at what God’s Word reveals about the wonderful world to come—the millennial reign of Jesus Christ..
The Millennium—What Will It Be Like?
Where will you spend eternity?” the huffing, puffing, perspiring evangelist bawled at his enthralled audience; “in heaven—or in hell?”
Heaven or hell! What an alternative! Yet, those are the two prospects placed before millions of Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. (For Catholics, there is also a place called “purgatory”—a temporary holding place en route to heaven—proclaimed as a dogma by the Council of Florence in A.D. 1439.) Heaven or hell—is this all we have to look forward to? Is this what is predicted in your Bible? What ultimately lies ahead for mankind? You may be surprised and, yes, SHOCKED as to what your Bible really says!
Few, even those in traditional Christianity, give any thought to what the Bible says—yes, prophesies—lies shortly ahead. Few understand what the Bible foretells about that period of time referred to as the Millennium, or “the thousand years” in Revelation 20:5–6.
What is the Millennium?
Millions have prayed the prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), but do they really know what they are asking? The good news is, that prayer will soon be answered in a magnificent way! Jesus Christ will soon return to put
down the present wicked system of things and replace it with the long-awaited Kingdom of God.
The word “Millennium” is derived from two Latin words: mille,meaning “thousand” and annus, meaning “year.” Millennium simply means “1,000 years.”
The Millennium is the promised Kingdom of God—those first thousand years of Christ’s world-ruling reign on earth at the time of His return. It is mentioned six times in Revelation 20:2–7 and is alternately referred to as the Kingdom of God (Luke 19:11), the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 6:10), the Kingdom of Christ (Revelation 11:15), the regeneration (Matthew 19:28), the times of refreshing (Acts 3:19), and the world to come (Hebrews 2:5). At this time, Christ will be the undisputed Lord of lords and King of kings along with His resurrected spirit- composed saints who will reign in positions of co-rulership with Him (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 19:16; Isaiah 61:6; Daniel 7:18, 22). This time is described in detail in Isaiah 2:2–4; chapters 11, 12, 35, and elsewhere.
This millennial period is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic, Davidic, and new covenants, and will be completely fulfilled when the New Jerusalem and God the Father come down out of heaven to dwell on the new earth (see Revelation 20:4; 21:1–3, 7, 10).
The Kingdom of God
This period of time—often referred to simply as “the Kingdom”— was a central part of Jesus Christ’s message and is thus a major and central theme of the Bible. We read, “From that time
Jesus began to preach, and to say, repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17, 23; 10:7; Mark 1:15; Luke 1:14; 4:43; 9:2; 19:11; John 18:36).
So why is this Bible truth so rarely understood, and why isn’t it commonly taught in most churches today? The early church fervently believed and taught Christ would return to rule over the literal nations on earth. They were sent out to preach this message (Luke 9:2, 60). Christians proclaimed this message faithfully. It was on their minds constantly. They believed it absolutely. They prayed for it fervently.
At one point during Christ’s ministry, the apostles asked Him, “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world [aion, age]” (Matthew 24:3)?
Again, just after Christ’s death and resurrection, and immediately before His ascension to heaven, they again wanted to know, “Lord, wilt thou at this time [now] restore again the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6)? Jesus told them it was not God’s intent that they should know exactly when this would happen; neither do we know today. He told them they should concern themselves with proclaiming His message to the world (Acts 1:7–8, Matthew 24:14). The churches of this world worship the Messenger but ignore His MESSAGE!
Christ told His disciples that He would die, but would be resurrected 72 hours later, and that He would go to prepare a place or position for them in His coming Kingdom (Matthew 16:21; Luke 22:28–30; John 14:2–3). Initially, the apostles did not fully understand, believing the Kingdom would appear within their own lifetimes (John 20:9; Acts 1:6, 7). Later, when they received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), they realized the Kingdom was to be yet future. To enter into that Kingdom they, too, would first die, then be resurrected as spirit beings, for flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s Kingdom (Philippians 3:20–21; 1 Corinthians 15:50).
Why Is So Little Preached About the Millennium?
You may rightly wonder, if these things be true, why so little is heard about the Millennium in the churches or religious circles of this world? Why, when, did mankind stop believing the message Jesus brought? Why is this, the central message of the Bible, no longer being preached? Instead, these Kingdom truths have been twisted, changed, and ignored. How unfortunate that most of mainstream Christendom’s churches have, by creeping incrementalism, substituted that glorious hope with the ideas, philosophies, and theologies of men about heaven, hell, and the immortality of the soul! Because of much false preaching, countless millions of good, sincere, but deceived, believers read their pagan notions of heaven and hell into the scriptures instead of taking Scripture for what it plainly says.
On the contrary, most religious denominations today hold that the Millennium is not a literal 1,000-year period during which Christ will rule on earth, but a nebulous, fuzzy description of heaven. (Be sure to read our free brochure, What Does the Bible Really Say About the Millennium?) Not knowing the Bible well enough, most people pass over these scriptures with little thought, leaving such “deep matters” to the paid professionals. These plain, but often ignored scriptures are usually “spiritualized away” because they do not fit in with their popularized belief of departed souls immediately wafting off to heaven or hell at death.
Some scholars teach that the Millennium is not an actual period of 1,000 years, but is only a long, indefinite period that may have started centuries ago and will continue to get better and better under man’s direction until we arrive at a virtual utopia. The New Catholic Encyclopedia reports that Augustine “advanced the theory that the Millennium had actually begun with Christ’s nativity” some 2,000 years ago and is still continuing.
The very highly respected and voluminous French Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique defines “millennialism” as the “False belief professed by those who were awaiting a temporal reign of the Messiah, the length of which was sometimes considered by them to be a thousand years. . . . Since the fifth century, millennialism has no longer been spoken of, or very rarely, by a few cranky sects.”
“A few cranky sects”? When we read the Bible itself, we see a completely different picture! Why such confusion? Just who or what are we to believe? Should we take stock of the commentaries, philosophies, and fantasies of men, or the inspired Word of God?
Kingdom Truths Twisted, Changed, Ignored
Over the years, after the death of Jesus’ apostles, these clear biblical truths about the Kingdom of God and the Millennium became clouded over with philosophy and the traditions of men who ascended to power in their churches. Indeed, during the first century, the apostles exercised a restraining influence that helped to keep Christian doctrine pure. After they died, a great apostasy set in (2 Thessalonians 2:3–8; 1 Timothy 4:1–4).
How did that happen? Let the apostle Paul explain: “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also, from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29–30, NKJV). He went on to say, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers [yes, Satan has ministers!] also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13–15).
Christ warned repeatedly that we should “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and [by this means; saying that Jesus is the Christ] shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:4–5, 11, 24; Mark 13:5–6, 22; Luke 21:8).
Many surviving second and third century writings show that a great false church arose—a church driven and inspired by Satan the devil—mixing paganism with the true doctrines of first century Christianity and by it led the whole world astray (Revelation 12:9). Among many other doctrinal changes, this also affected what was taught regarding the Kingdom of God, or the Millennium for “the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The good news is that Jesus Christ will soon return to put down the present wicked system of things and replace it with the Kingdom of God.
Here’s the Best News You’ve Ever Heard! What Will It Be Like in the World Tomorrow?
What will life be like on earth in God’s promised “brave new world”? The limited mind of man can scarcely fathom the glory and splendor of what life will be like for mankind during this time. For now, we see only in part, as through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12). This future thousand-year reign of Christ on earth—described in Isaiah 35 and elsewhere—will be a time of wonderful peace, joy, and blessing, the utopia man has hitherto only dreamed about!
One of the first things King Jesus will do is to put Satan and his demons out of commission—locked away in an abyss of inactivity for a thousand years. No longer will those evil, fallen angels be lurking behind the scenes, fomenting trouble, goading mankind into acts of disobedience to God (Revelation 20:1–3). What a relief!
During this time, the nations will become exceedingly prosperous. Undoubtedly, many advanced technologies will be discovered for the benefit of those who are on the earth.
The Millennium will be a time of perfect, beautiful weather, a veritable tropical paradise. There will no longer be extreme shifts in the weather—droughts, floods, storms, hurricanes, or tornados—to fear, for God will maintain proper climate control year round (Joel 2:23).
After centuries of pollution and war, the land will be healed, restored, and enjoy her sabbaths. God’s commandments will be strictly adhered to (Psalm 111:10; 119:44; Isaiah 2:3). God will once again bless the earth, returning it to its former glory of Eden. “For the LORD shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places; and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody” (Isaiah 51:3). The waters will come alive with every type of fish and become 100 percent pure for drinking, and the land will blossom with an abundant harvest. This will be a time of tremendous agricultural blessing. The earth literally will not be able to receive its bounty (Joel 2:24–26).
Millennial life will be active and productive (Isaiah 65:21–22). God will change the nature of man so that he will greatly enjoy his labors (Isaiah 65:21–23). No more will a man dread going to his livelihood on the first workday of each new week. He will be perfectly suited for the profession he has chosen, and will do it with joy.
Vibrant health will be the rule of the day. Life span will be increased. Those who are sick or afflicted will be miraculously healed (Isaiah 65:20). This great society will also be characterized by one universal language (Zephaniah 3:9).
The world will enjoy the absolute peace of God and be completely safe. Crimes such as murder, rape, and theft will be non-existent.
Thoughtfulness and consideration will be the norm and status quo. Vanity, jealousy, lust, and greed will be a thing of the past.
All war materials and weapons will be destroyed. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills. And all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in His paths [Imagine what it will be like being taught by Jesus Christ Himself!] for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:2–4). With Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords, no one will need worry about nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom, for He will be our sole protector. No longer will man study war, but will convert his weapons into instruments of farming.
Does this sound too good to be true? We need not speculate, because the Bible plainly tells us, and what it says is thrilling, almost beyond belief, to modern ears!
The Bible Challenge
We challenge you. Quick! Go get your Bible! Blow off the dust.
Now, casting all human reasonings, church creeds, and traditions aside, let us lay out in outline form, verse-by-verse, what the Bible actually says the Kingdom of God will be like. Then, don’t believe us—believe your own Bible!
Do not allow yourself to dismiss these scriptures simply because you are not familiar with them or have been brought up in a different belief system. Do not permit your minister, priest, or rabbi to use smooth words, shallow answers, or vague dismissals to reject or “spiritualize away” these PLAIN scriptures! Instead, diligently search out these scriptures in your own Bible and ask God for understanding.
Throw aside all preconceived ideas. Insist on Bible answers! Copy the Bereans who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Following, in briefest form, is an outline of forthcoming world events. This is your future. It is the best news you have ever heard!
For brevity’s sake, only the highlights are listed here. (Perhaps you might like to mark, color code, or chain reference these in your Bible for future quick reference.)
1. Christ’s Kingdom Is Received From God:
The Lord God shall give to Him the throne. Luke 1:32–33
There was given to Him dominion and a kingdom. Daniel 7:13–14
I will give thee the heathen. Psalm 2:8
The kingdom is the Lord’s; and He is the governor. Psalms 22:28
2. It Is to Be Established When Jesus Christ Returns to Earth:
In the regeneration, the Christ shall sit in the throne. Matthew 19:28
When the Son of man shall come in His glory. Matthew 25:31
A parable: Christ to receive the kingdom and return. Luke 19:12–27
Christ shall judge at His appearing and kingdom. 2 Timothy 4:1
He is coming on a white horse as King of kings. Rev. 19:11, 16
3. It Will Be Established in Power and Might:
He will smite the nations and rule with a rod of iron. Psalm 2:8–9 Rev. 19:15
He will smite the earth with the rod of His mouth. Isaiah 11:4 Job 4:9
The Stone [Christ] will smite and replace the image. Daniel 2:34–35, 2:44–45
He shall fight against those nations. Zech. 14:3–5
In flaming fire He will take vengeance on the disobedient. 2 Thess. 1:7–10
Christ will destroy the wicked with His brightness. 2 Thess. 2:8
The Lamb shall overcome those who make war. Rev. 17:13–14
4. Israel Will Be Regathered, Converted, Exalted:
Bring again people of Israel. Amos 9:14–15
Put a new spirit within you. Ezek. 11:17–20
Exalted above the Gentiles. Isaiah 61:4–6
Jerusalem will be the throne of the Lord. Jeremiah 3:17
5. Christ’s Kingdom Will Supercede and Replace All Earthly Kingdoms:
The kingdoms of this world will become Christ’s. Rev. 11:15
Christ will be King of kings and Lord of lords. Rev. 17:14; 19:1
Christ’s kingdom shall never be destroyed. Daniel 2:44
The kingdom given to the saints of the Most High. Dan. 7:18, 22, 27
6. The Worldwide Extent of Christ’s Kingdom:
Satan and his influences shall be put away. Rev. 20:1–3
Jesus Christ to be King over all the earth. Zechariah 14:9
All nations will keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Zechariah 14:16
Gentiles shall seek Him. Isaiah 11:10
Uttermost parts of the earth. Psalm 2:7–9
All nations shall serve Him. Psalm 72:8–9
The Stone Who will fill the whole earth. Daniel 2:35–44
All people, nations, languages shall serve Him. Daniel 7:14
All dominions to serve and obey Him. Daniel 7:27
Christ’s kingdom exalted above nations. Micah 4:1–3
Earth shall be full of glory. Isaiah 11:9
7. The Eternal Duration of Christ’s Kingdom:
The throne of His kingdom to be established forever. 2 Sam. 7:13, 16
There shall be no end to His peace and government. Isaiah 9:7
God’s kingdom shall stand forever. Daniel 2:44
His dominion is everlasting. Daniel 7:14
The saints to possess the kingdom forever and ever. Daniel 7:18
Of His kingdom there shall be no end. Luke 1:33
Christ’s kingdom to last forever. 2 Peter 1:11
The kingdoms of this world to be Christ’s forever and ever. Rev. 11:15
8. The Structure of Christ’s Kingdom—
Christ, King of Kings, Will Reign From Jerusalem:
Christ’s kingdom to be exalted above the nations. Micah 4:1–4
Israel’s returned and praised among all people. Zephaniah 3:20
The Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory. Matthew 25:31
Christ to sit upon the throne of David, forever. Luke 1:32–33
9. The Church Will Be Glorified With Him:
We shall be joint-heirs with Christ. Romans 8:17
We shall also appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:4
We will have power and sit with Him on His throne. Rev. 2:26; 3:21
As kings and priests, we shall reign on earth. Rev. 1:6; 5:10
We shall reign with Him a thousand years. Rev. 20:6
10. All Nations Left Will Serve the King of Kings:
All nations and kings shall serve Him. Psalm 72:8–11
Nations to go to Jerusalem to be taught of His ways. Isaiah 2:2–4
Those left of all nations will worship the King. Zech. 14:9, 16
11. The Temple Will Be Rebuilt:
The temple described in detail. Ezekiel 40—48
Animal sacrifices temporarily reinstated. Ezekiel 40:42–43; Ezekiel 44:11
Burnt, sin, meat, trespass, and peace offerings. Ezekiel 43:19–27 Ezekiel 45:17
12. The Character and Blessings of Christ’s Kingdom—
Christ will rule with righteousness and justice:
With righteousness. Psalm 72:8–10
With righteousness shall judge. Isaiah 11:3–5
Walk in His paths. Micah 4:2
In righteousness He doth judge. Rev. 19:11
13. God’s Laws, Sabbath, and Holydays to Be Strictly Enforced:
God’s law kept forever and ever. Psalm 119:44, 160
The Law shall go forth from Zion. Micah 4:2
All nations to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Zech. 14:16–19
All shall worship God from one Sabbath to another. Isaiah 66:23
14. There Will Be Worldwide Peace Among Nations:
There will be an abundance of peace forever. Psalm 72:3, 7
Israel will no longer be a prey to the heathen. Ezekiel 34:28
Men shall beat their swords into plowshares. Isaiah 2:4
No end to the increase of His government. Isaiah 9:7
The work of righteousness shall be peace forever. Isaiah 32:17
Men shall learn war no more. Micah 4:3
He shall cut off war & speak peace unto the heathen. Zechariah 9:10
15. No More Sickness:
Inhabitants shall not say, “I am sick.” Isaiah 33:24
The blind, deaf, lame, dumb, healed. Isaiah 35:5–6
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard. Isaiah 65:17–19
God shall wipe away all tears and pain. Rev. 7:17; 21:4
16. The Nature of Animals Changed:
A little child shall lead formerly fierce animals. Isaiah 11:6–9
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together. Isaiah 65:25
God will make a covenant with the wild beasts. Hosea 2:18
Christ will establish a covenant of peace with all. Ezekiel 34:25
17. The Fertility of Earth Will Be Restored:
The desert shall blossom as the rose. Isaiah 35:1–2, Isaiah 35:6–7
The wilderness shall be as a pool of water. Isaiah 41:18–19
Peace, singing, abound; no more thorns or thistles. Isaiah 55:12–13
Desolate lands rebuilt; earth as a Garden of Eden. Ezekiel 36:33–35
The plowman will overtake the reaper. Amos 9:13–14
There will be a restitution of all things. Acts 3:20–21
The creature shall be delivered from bondage. Romans 8:19–22
18. The Environment Will Be Made Friendly:
Protective covering cloud & flaming fire upon Zion. Isaiah 4:5–6
There shall be showers of blessing. Ezekiel 34:26
There shall be bountiful harvests. Ezekiel 34:27
The wilderness and solitary place shall be glad. Isaiah 35:1
19. Who Will Not Inherit the Kingdom:
Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom. 1 Cor. 15:50
The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom. 1 Cor. 6:9–11
Immoral persons shall not inherit the kingdom. Gal. 5:19–21
Unrepentant won’t inherit the kingdom. Rev. 21:8, 27 Rev. 22:15
20. The Whole Earth to Be Filled With the Glory of the Lord:
The whole earth shall be filled with His glory. Psalm 72:19
Earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. Isaiah 11:9
The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the
glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14
Amen! What a future! What a world! Now read this list over again! Let it really “soak in.” We need to “prove all things” by the infallible Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Down through the ages, men have endeavored unsuccessfully to bring peace and harmony to this world, but the Word of God declares, “And the way of peace have they not known” (Romans 3:17). It will require a supernatural force—the strong, but loving and merciful hand of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, to bring peace and harmony to this sin-sick world and release it from the curse of sin that has held it captive for thousands of years.
So we ask again, does the Bible really tell of immortal souls spending eternity in heaven, hell, or purgatory as the huffing-puffing preacher claimed at the beginning of this article? Or, instead, does it predict that God will bring a literal thousand years of peace and utopia TO THE EARTH? What a paradox! What an opposite set of beliefs! You be the judge. When people really READ THE BOOK, they find what the Bible says and what they are told the Bible says are often two very different things! Which do you choose to believe?
Let’s be honest! Are there really lions, lambs, bears, cows, and snakes in heaven? Will there be harvesting, plowing and reaping, deserts, rivers, rain, heathen, nations, and kings, in heaven? Christ Himself said, “And NO man hath ascended up to heaven” (John 3:13)!
Certainly no rational-thinking person can read these many pronouncements from the Eternal God—from the inspired sacred words of Scripture—and not be absolutely convinced and convicted that God’s Kingdom is going to RULE ON THIS EARTH!
The refurbished earth—not heaven—is the reward of the saved!
Continue reading in Zechariah 14:4! This plainly shows, “in that day” when Jesus Christ returns, His “feet shall stand on the mount of Olives [on the earth]”—and that He is coming back EXACTLY as the angelic messenger said He would in Acts 1:11, “in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven”!
When we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and the surrounding verses that those who are alive at the Second Coming of Christ will be “caught up together with them [the ones having just been resurrected] to meet the Lord in the air,” we know that, true to the prophecy of Matthew 24:31, the angels will gather the redeemed from around the world; we know that they will be collected together to MEET the returning, conquering Christ in the air (and the air is very much a part of this earth’s atmosphere), and continue down to the mount of Olives in that very same day (Zechariah 14:3–4, 9)!
It is here, on this earth, that Jesus Christ intends on cleaning house—solving the problems—ushering in an era of absolute joy!
Yes, the saints will reign ON THE EARTH! This is the message the Messenger brought to earth!
What a wonderful, glorious future lies ahead for mankind! When the seventh trumpet sounds, will you be ready?
What is the real message concerning the gospel Jesus Christ brought and announced to mankind? There are so many Christian denominations today, all claiming that they have the real “gospel truth.” Yet, Jesus said there is only ONE gospel. So if they are all different, how can they all be right? Who has the real gospel—the GOOD NEWS—that Jesus Christ proclaimed? It’s time you knew what the gospel is REALLY all about!
The word “gospel” is not a contemporary word. It’s derived from an old English word,godspel. It simply means good news or glad tidings. Additionally, “evangelist” is translated from the Greek word evangelistes and means someone who is a presenter of the gospel, or good news. Many call themselves evangelists and assert they are presenting the good news. But of the many “evangelists,” or preachers of good news, who really understands and presents the complete meaning of Jesus Christ’s message?
Jesus said a time would come when many would claim that He, Jesus, was indeed the Christ, which means the “Anointed.” “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ (the Anointed); and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:4–5).
Notice that many (most) will be proclaiming Jesus is the Christ. Obviously, they will claim to represent Him as spokesmen for His good news. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising to see so many different denominations announcing Jesus is the Christ and profess they are His evangelists. But we’re still left with the question: Who really understands and is presenting the complete information concerning Jesus Christ’s good news? And besides, what is this good news?
The gospel Jesus commissioned His disciples to announce is a large subject. There are many aspects to this announcement of good news, or glad tidings. And furthermore, it contains multiple teachings, analogies, similes, parables, examples, instructions, and commandments for our edification.
This mission, in a very broad sense, was clarified at the conclusion of Christ’s earthly ministry: “Go ye therefore, and teach 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 whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18–20).
The teachings that Jesus was referring to can be found throughout the Old and New Testaments. He clearly instructed His followers to go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them. A follower reaches this decision as a result of repenting and believing the gospel. Baptism follows and is defined in Romans 6:3–9 as a serious decision, because it concerns one’s commitment to God, thereby resulting in entering into a covenant relationship, which includes committing to living the way Christ lived and abiding by His teachings. Therefore, it goes without saying, this is a major decision and shouldn’t be approached lightly.
It’s also a serious decision becomes the new way of life to which Christ calls His disciples sometimes requires sacrifices and even sufferings and hardships. Peter says, “For as much then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: … For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:1–6).
It was clearly demonstrated that the minds and hearts of the listeners, if they were to become disciples, needed to be persuaded and convinced by Jesus’ teachings to change. He had to connect with their minds and hearts, causing a change of life-style once they repented and were baptized. This initiated them into the spiritual body, the Church, commencing a lifelong process of modifying behaviors to mirror Christ’s example. This is called conversion (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6; Romans 12:1–2).
In order to further assure the success of His disciples (students), Christ promised He would help them by empowering them with His Holy Spirit. “And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up…” (Acts 1:7–9).
The Person of Christ, how He lived, and what He taught were central to the early New Testament Church. The apostles emphasized Jesus Christ and His example and teachings as the foundation for pleasing God. They taught that He, Jesus Christ, was the door to eternal life (John 10:7–18). Using the Old Testament, Paul publicly taught the Jews that Jesus was, in fact, the Christ (Acts 18:28, 31). This point was central to the gospel message because of what Jesus claimed about Himself and, in the course of His ministry, proved to be true.
However, there is a very important and specific point concerning this segment of the good news. We fmd it in an announcement made by an angel of the Lord who appears in a dream unto Mary’s husband Joseph. The angel’s proclamation discloses an important fact that underscores a major objective for Jesus Christ’s mission and has enormous meaning for humanity. Notice: “And she [Mary] shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). This is an extremely important point regarding the ministry of Jesus Christ and, specifically, a very essential benefit resulting from His ministry.
Keep in mind the very first announcement to the human race was the declaration that He, Jesus Christ, would be a Savior saving humans from (not in) their sins. This particular segment of Christ’s ministry is understood by many today within the traditional Christian community to varying degrees. But, unfortunately, this truth is so often exploited for the purpose ofmerchandising many well-meaning people who get caught up in the emotional pomp, flair, and ceremony of the varieties of charismatic and liturgical expressions found among these false teachers and within various denominations. Notice what Peter says: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious [wanton] ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned [fictitious] words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (2 Peter 2:1–3).
However, regardless of how abused this point of truth may be by the vast majority of the traditional Christian community, we cannot dismiss the poignancy of “Christ crucified” and the incredible benefit mankind has received through our Savior’s sacrificed life for us. Paul mentions, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Paul was not ashamed of this (or any) aspect of the gospel. Notice: “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of thegospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:14–15). Paul was adamant. He believed that in Christ resided the saving power of God, salvation of the soul and eternal life for mankind, as the angel of the Lord announced before Jesus was born.
Also, when Paul visited Antioch, he stood up in the synagogue and proceeded to expound upon the history of Israel. This presentation was an excellent encapsulation of Israel’s history commencing with the wanderings in the wilderness, up to and including Jesus Christ. Notice what Paul says about Christ as he begins to conclude: “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man [Jesus] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38–39).
Paul was excited, as were the other apostles, because Christ crucified meant that man could be saved from his sins and become empowered by God. “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians. 1:23–24). This was good news!
But why? Why was this so important and why were these men so convincing? What was behind this movement emboldening them with such energetic enthusiasm and providing such confidence and faith that they were willing to give up their lives if they had to?
Many of us today fail to recognize the significance how, over approximately fifty days, so many people literally saw Jesus Christ after His resurrection from being dead. The witnessing of this event was enormously persuasive. This took place between the time of His resurrection and the Day of Pentecost. Paul explains this when he writes; “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you… By which also you are saved, If ye keep in memory what I preached unto you… how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day [not a day and a half later] according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas [Peter] then of the twelve: After that he was seen of above [more than] five hundred brethren at once… After that, he was seen of James, then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time (1 Corinthians 15:1–8).
This was an astonishing event! A person coming back from the dead, physically embodied yet unrestrained by the molecular world, and seen by hundreds of people over a fifty-day period! This had never been witnessed before in the history of mankind! It was unique among any culture or civilization. Yet the prophecies throughout the Old Testament had foretold of the event and summarized it quite clearly in Isaiah 53. So it was no secret. Even Herod knew by the word of the prophet Micah, that a King was to be born in the city of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:3–6). This event had a tremendous life-changing effect on all who witnessed Jesus walking around, eating, and talking after they had watched His brutal beating and crucifixion, Without question, it was hard to believe and incredibly startling. Yet it happened!
So its quite understandable how these people in that early New Testament Church were so motivated and energized, willing to literally “turn the world upside down,” as they were accused of doing. Notice how much this event was talked about and how it influenced their testimony as they traveled throughout Asia Minor, Rome, and the regions beyond Palestine.
Peter says, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:22–24).
Peter continues, “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell [the grave], neither his flesh did see corruption” (Acts 2:29–31).
Paul proclaimed the same message. While in the city of Thessalonica, “Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them [in the synagogue], and three Sabbath days [not Sundays] reasoned with them out of the scripture, Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ” (Acts 17:2–3).
Paul, in his defense of himself before both Festus and Agrippa, emphasized the resurrection. Notice: “Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day” (Acts 24:21). “But [the Jews] had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive” (Acts 25:19). “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22–23).
The importance of Jesus’ death and resurrection for each repentant sinner was paramount in the teaching of the early apostles. These men were believed because they believed. They spoke powerfully and with conviction because of what they had seen! They were empowered with a sense of determination because they were commissioned by One who had broken the bonds of death, having put on immortality, thus proving He was the prophesied Messiah. Through His resurrection to immortality, He gave the disciples real evidence of their human potential, a potential so incredible they were willing to sacrifice everything they had to gain what Jesus offered them (2 Corinthians 3:15–18; Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:1–2).
You can imagine what an experience it must have been for the disciples when the risen Lord appeared to and spoke with them, telling them what He wanted them to do. Whether you read the commission as written by Matthew 28:18–20; Mark 16:15–20; Luke 24:44–49; or the details Luke outlines in the first chapter of Acts, you must admit it was an incredible life-changing experience. The results speak for themselves. These men left their businesses and careers, dedicating the remaining years of their lives “fishing for the men and women” God was calling.
However, though connecting the hearts and minds of human beings to God through repentance and baptism, and converting their behaviors by the renewing of their minds through God’s Holy Spirit is an important aspect of the gospel, it is by no means the only aspect. There isadditional dimension to the real “gospel truth.” The gospel is multifaceted. It is a broad message that contains and covers the comprehensive plan of God’s program of salvation. That program includes additional information concerning the good news of HOW God intends to ultimately solve mankind’s problems and finally institute world peace.
Unfortunately, most traditional Christians today never hear this part of the “gospel truth.” The truth of HOW the living Jesus Christ is on a countdown from heaven, where He sits at the right hand of the Father, and WHAT SIGNIFICANCE that has for mankind and this earth are seldom explained. Sadly, it has been de-emphasized and diluted because of man-made traditions and Greco-Hellenistic influences. What is this missing dimension of the gospel?What impact will the living Jesus Christ have on this world’s nations, peoples, and cultures?
As we have said, most Christians today will recognize the portion of the gospel message thatpertains to the personage of Christ. The Christian community is well aware of the circumstances surrounding the good news of how Christ died and rose again that we might have eternal life. But, focusing on the Messenger, many Christians today are unaware of the portion pertaining to the message the Messenger brought, as one sent from His Father, whom He declared was greater than Himself.
The writer of Hebrews alludes to this fact when he mentions, “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1). This word “apostle” comes from the Greek word apostolos and refers to an ambassador of the gospel, messenger, or one who is sent. The writer is explaining that Jesus Christ was sent from God as an Apostle of God, a gospel Ambassador, and a Messenger, functioning as a High Priest. And we know part of His function as High Priest is to serve as an advocate for us on our behalf, taking on the role of propitiation due to His sacrifice resulting in the removal of sin and maintaining our condition of forgiveness (1 John 2:1–2; Romans 3:23–26; 2 Corinthians 5:17–21).
However, is there more to His role as a messenger and/or ambassador than what we have been traditionally led to believe? The answer to that question is an emphatic YES! Notice Isaiah 9:6–7: “For unto us a child [Jesus Christ] is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6–7). We must recognize there is additional dimension to Jesus Christ’s role and it does, indeed, include a message that goes beyond and yet is complementary to the personage of the Messenger. The scriptural evidence shows God’s plan of salvation and atonement includes a comprehensive SOLUTION that takes into account both spiritual matters and mankind’s material condition.
As mentioned previously, Matthew 1 supplies additional details on the events described in Luke account of the birth of Christ. For example, the text reveals the angel Gabriel is the one who visited Mary. Gabriel is depicted as materializing into our dimension of time and space startling Mary to the point that she became somewhat alarmed and frightened. But Gabriel assures her that God viewed her with favor, and he (Gabriel) was there only to inform her that God had chosen her to conceive and bring forth a Son whose name would be Jesus. Gabriel goes on to say, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob [Israel] for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32–33). Jesus Christ was born through the royal bloodline of King David and poised to inherit that throne, ultimately destined to become the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).
So as an additional part of His mission, He was sent to qualify for that position. And it wasn’t easy! From the time He was born trouble pursued him. Do you remember how Herod, upon learning from the Magi a King was born, had all the children two years old and younger killed? Jesus’ family had to flee and escape to Egypt. Then later, at the commencement of His ministry, Satan tempted Him forty days in the wilderness but failed to thwart Him in any way. Finally, at the end of His physical ministry, three and a half years later, Satan enters into Judas himself and causes the betrayal to occur leading to His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. Jesus Christ was a consistent target of ridicule, criticism, persecution, and betrayal throughout His life on earth. Yet He came through it as a victor, declaring that we should be of “good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Because of the success of His mission, He is entitled to reinstitute the government of God on this earth! Part of His mission was to announce His rightful claim as Ruler prophesied toadminister the government of God throughout the world upon all nations and people.
Notice what Mark says about the beginning of Christ’s ministry: “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14–15). Notice Matthew 4:23: “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom….”
The message of the Kingdom of God also played an important part of the gospel. It was especially viewed by many of His followers as very good news, but unfortunately, many misunderstood and thought He was going to initiate a revolt against the Romans, freeing the Jews of their brutal occupation. Sadly, this resulted in many following Him for the wrong reasons.
Even Peter had expectations that Jesus would make some move to bring about an immediate revolution. Many of those early disciples, if not all of them, were well aware of the fact that Jesus had been born a king, heralded by Gabriel, who had announced it to Mary personally prior to His human birth. In addition, they were well aware of the prophecies pertaining to the nation of Israel and the world ruling empire the Messiah would govern from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2; Jeremiah 23; Micah 4). So the expectations were high, and many believed He would deliver them from the occupation and atrocities of the Roman Empire at that time.
Several times they thought He was going to initiate the commencement of the revolt. The triumphant entry back into Jerusalem at the final Passover was one of those times. Thousands were laying palm fronds on His path as He rode in on the colt the disciples had retrieved. The crowd was yelling, chanting, and shouting with exuberant enthusiasm, “HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST!” The religious leaders were beside themselves with rage. They asked Jesus to stop the people from chanting. Jesus, somewhat amused, responded, “Even the rocks would cry out if these should hold their peace.”
In another episode, later in the day, Peter and the others were more encouraged as Jesus entered the temple again. Once more, as He had done a year or so earlier, He entered the temple and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, saying, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17). He was passionate during this event. No one challenged Him as He stormed through the temple’s outer court causing mayhem and confusion among those conducting business. Many thought this was it. The revolution has begun. But it was short lived and disappointing to some.
Many of His followers expected Him to be something He was not on this visitation. Without a doubt, He was born to rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but first He was to blaze the path for humankind’s redemption. That required Him to become the “Suffering Servant”FIRST. Read Isaiah 53. Here the prophet explains the coming Messiah and why he must come serving, first in the role of the sacrificial Lamb of God, and second as a qualified King of Kings.
Notice what the writer of Hebrews says about this first phase of Christ’s mission: “But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him [man] with glory and honour, and didst set him [man] over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him [man]. But we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels [He was human] for the suffering of death,crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man [FIRST]. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifyeth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me” (Hebrews 2:6–13).
Unfortunately, many of those first-century disciples didn’t understand this. The result of this disappointment was epitomized at the end of Christ’s physical life when, standing before Pilate, He was traded off for Barabbas who was a violent revolutionary and thief. Pilate said to the Jews while Christ was before him, “But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the Passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man [Jesus], but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber” (John 18:39–40).
Yes, many forsook Him only to return when finding out later, by many miraculous appearances, that He was in fact alive and, as He said, would raise the temple [His body] three days later (John 2:18–22). THE RESURRECTION, the greatest miracle in human history, had occurred! Jesus Christ arose bodily from the dead but was no longer restricted, as bodies normally are, by the laws of physics. Through His post-resurrection appearances, Jesus revealed the nature of immortality and the means by which it is obtained.
This resurrection was unique and extremely different from what those early followers had witnessed when the widow’s son at Nain or Jarius’ daughter was raised from the dead. They were brought back, but remained as physical flesh-and-blood human beings living out the rest of their natural lives as such. But the resurrected Jesus Christ was SOMETHING DIFFERENT! He was immortal; His body had been transformed. The risen Christ was able to go through doors without opening them. He could travel at the speed of thought and make Himself visible and invisible at will! As a matter of fact, the apostle John says this about what Jesus showed them. “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there arc also many other things which Jesus did [as a mortal and immortal], the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (John 21:24–25).
Now, back to the segment concerning the “gospel of the kingdom.” In the book of Daniel, we are told futuristic events that were revealed to this prophet that substantiate the messageChrist brought concerning this global government. These prophecies explain the magnitude and scope of how consuming His rule will be. It is the ultimate solution to all of man’s problems. Whether political, environmental, cultural, racial, or religious Christ is destined to return and reinstitute the government of God, establishing a global theocracy!
Notice how Daniel interprets king Nebuchadnczzar’s dream. This king of Babylon was told that there would be four world kingdoms following his (Daniel 2:36–43). However, the God of heaven would set up His kingdom in the days of the fourth empire. “And in the days of these kings [the fourth kingdom] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms and it shall stand forever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, [not from man, but from God] and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure’” (Daniel 2:44–45).
Some years later, after King Nebuchadnezzar died, Daniel had a dream. This time animals were used for the imagery instead of materials. Again we see a similar description of kingdoms used but this time described as animals. We are told that it’s a seven-headed, ten-homed beast that will eventually rule the whole earth (Daniel 7:23). However, in the days of this fourth kingdom, which is parallel to the fourth kingdom described in Daniel 2, the God of heaven will set up His kingdom.
Notice: “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever…And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him” (Daniel 7:17–18, 27).
And finally, we are told in Revelation 13 that this seven-headed, ten-homed beast speaks great blasphemies against God and will emerge onto the geopolitical scene to the wonderment of the whole world (Revelation 13:3). Nobody will challenge it because of its perceived international power and strength (Revelation 13:4). It shall make war with the saints and overcome them for a time. This is the prophesied martyrdom and is described in Revelation 6:9–11 as the “fifth seal.” It is during the time of this empire’s domination that Jesus Christ will return and save mankind from itself. This message that He brought, the message of His return and the setting up of God’s government on this earth, was the announcement of His ultimate destiny. It also plays an enormous role in WHAT He was commissioned for on His first visitation, which required taking on human flesh—described in Hebrews 2:16—as the seed of Abraham.
His teachings were filled with references of this kingdom that would ultimately fill the earth and become the utopian environment that would finally provide mankind world peace. He was constantly making mention of it throughout His ministry.
Notice how He explains the Kingdom of God in Matthew 13:31–32: “The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.” He also said, in Matthew 13:33, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal until the whole was leavened.” And then in Matthew 13:44, He says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” In all these instances He portrays the kingdom of God as a progressive, all-encompassing, all-consuming empire that is without end, as also described in Isaiah 9:7.
However, though His kingdom will ultimately become a worldwide kingdom, the parable of the wheat and tares describes the current condition of HOW He is conducting the method of determining WHO will be in it. His disciples said, “Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 13:36–43).
The point of this parable is, the righteous grow up with the unrighteous. Christ explains, “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:30).
God’s kingdom and its establishment on earth was a major portion of Christ’s teaching throughout His ministry. It was the goal He discussed and presented time after time, hoping His followers would catch the vision and want to aspire for entry into it. Jesus Christ is foundational to eternal life, but without a reason and/or purpose for aspiring to eternal life, it becomes pointless. The message of the Kingdom, His global empire, is the reason and gives purpose for wanting to please and serve God and achieve the resurrection.
To have the opportunity to help our Lord reinstitute His world-ruling government on earth, serving to help mankind enjoy world peace and prepare the world for ultimate salvation, is a joyous reason for desiring to have eternal life. The thought of living and working with God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ for all eternity is astounding, to say the least; yet, it is the ultimate destiny of man-the very purpose for which God put man on this planet.
Notice what David says: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that you visitest him? For thou hast made him [mankind] a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him [mankind] with glory and honour. Thou madest him [mankind] to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his [mankind’s] feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:4–9).
Did you notice it? God says He has put all things under man’s dominion. Many of us miss this magnificent truth that has been overlooked for so many years throughout the traditional Christian community. It has been hidden under a plethora of Babylonian and Hellenistic teachings and traditions that have clouded this wonderful truth of God’s ultimate promise for us to be co-heirs with Christ, positioned to inherit all that He has been given. Paul says, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then HEIRS: HEIRS of God, and JOINT-HEIRS with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:15–17).In Galatians 4:7, Paul says, “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son: and if a son, then an HEIR of God through Christ.” But what does this mean, HEIR OF GOD? Is there a deeper and richer meaning behind this statement that has been overlooked and de-emphasized due to traditional teachings concerning heaven as the reward of the saved? Has the concept of heaven clouded or distorted and/or misdirected our understanding of what God really has in reserve for us upon our resurrection and entry into this everlasting kingdom, ruled by Jesus Christ on this earth?
Over the course of Jesus’ three and a half year ministry many looked upon Him as somewhat of an enigma. Many believed on Him, but not in Him. His claims of deity were often considered blasphemous and offensive to the Jews and their religious leaders (John 10:31–42). However, for some, these alleged preposterous claims were quite curious. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, was one of these respectfully curious observers.
In John 3:1–21 is an exchange of dialogue between Jesus and this religious leader who, in the dark of night, clandestinely had a meeting. The two of them went back and forth in friendly discussion about details concerning “life after death” issues. Apparently, Nicodemus respected Jesus enough that he verbally admits he accepted Him as a man of God (John 3:2).
The conversation proceeds with Jesus challenging Nicodemus with the statement that he must be “born of God” if he indeed expects to enter into God’s Kingdom. They go back and forth, with Jesus explaining that what is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.And unless you are born of the spirit, Jesus declares, you cannot enter into God’s Kingdom. Nicodemus must have expressed some bewilderment over Jesus’ emphatic insistence about needing to be born again, because He (Jesus) mentions in the course of the dialogue not to be surprised. Jesus says, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). Remember, Nicodemus knows the context and literal meaning of the Greek word gennao that Jesus is using. We know this because in the beginning of the conversation Nicodemus expressed some confusion in his question, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4).
So it’s quite clear Nicodemus knows Jesus is talking literally. He (Jesus) is talking about the literal birthing, the physical process, not a religious experience dealing with repentance toward God. So it’s understandable that Nicodemus would become incredulous and blurt out, “How CAN THESE THINGS BE?” (John 3:9). Jesus chides him a little, but then goes on to tell him, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13).
What Jesus is attempting to explain is that unless you are changed into immortal material,which He called “spirit,” you cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That’s real plain and simple. He further described this “change” as being literally gennao, which in the Greek languagemeans to be literally, metabolically born again, or from above, or from God. This was astounding to this Jewish religious leader! He could hardly believe his ears—that one must beliterally born all over again, but this time of something other than flesh, something Jesus called “spirit.” It’s no wonder Nicodemus was so startled upon realizing this concept and, as mentioned before, excitedly blurts out, “How can these things be?” And regrettably, for most of us today, to think the “real gospel” is about a message that defines the ultimate conversion as a literal change from flesh and blood into an immortal spirit being is, to say the least, incredibly difficult to believe. Yet, that is exactly what Jesus described to Nicodemus that evening. Unfortunately, the Hellenistic teachings that have encroached upon the Christian faith over the centuries, promising heaven for the saved and hell for the damned and viewing man as an immortal soul temporarily trapped in a material body, have served only to cloud and hide this amazing “gospel truth.”
Notice what the apostle Paul says in 1Corinthians 15:44: “There is a natural body [flesh and blood], and there is a SPIRITUAL BODY.” He goes on to add, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God [that’s what Jesus told Nicodemus]; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [remain dead], but we shall all be changed [converted from flesh to spirit], In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump [at Jesus’ return, not upon death]: for the trump shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality [spirit life]” (1 Corinthians 15:50–53).
This is the REAL GOSPEL TRUTH! Christ is coming back to this earth as a qualified King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His rewards are with Him, and He has power over death. Upon His arrival He will call from the grave (not heaven) those who successfully accomplished the Christian way and have accepted Him as their personal Savior and High Priest, and will give them their just reward.
Notice: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). Jesus also said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves [not heaven or hell] shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28–29). Did you notice? The dead will be called from the dust of the earth and the graves, NOT HEAVEN. Remember, no man has ascended to heaven except the Son of Man (John 3:13), The dead are waiting for the resurrection that occurs at the last trump when Jesus returns to the earth (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17).
Those of us who have built our houses on the “Rock” (Jesus Christ) will be blessed to live eventually on into eternity (Matthew 7:22–27). However, this first resurrection, for those who qualify, will afford them to rule and reign with Christ for a thousand years initially (Revelation 20:4). We will be rewarded and serve our Lord, rebuilding the social structure of the earth, as kings and priests (Revelation 1:6; 5:10). Notice Jesus’ parable and how He characterizes the reward of those who successfully accomplish the Christian calling and who accepted Him as their Lord. He says, “And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money … Then came the first, saying Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds, And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant; Because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou AUTHORITY OVER TEN CITIES… And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities” (Luke 19:15–19).
This segment of the parable of pounds/talents is describing the rewards for those in the first resurrection that commences at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Paul portrays it for us when he says, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (l Thessalonians 4:16–17).
And where will He be? Where is He landing? He is returning to the Mount of Olives, in Jerusalem. Notice what the prophet Zechariah says, “Behold the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; …Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east. .. And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the LORD shall be king over ALL THE EARTH: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one (Zechariah 14:1–9).
As we can see, there is an enormous dimension of the REAL GOSPEL that, unfortunately, is grossly missed by many in the traditional Christian community. A great deal of the message Jesus Christ brought has been covered up by many of the Greco-Hellenistic/Roman teachings of philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Cato, and Aristotle. The teachings of going to heaven upon one’s death is nothing more than the extension and continued propagation of the original lie committed by Satan in the Garden of Eden when he told Eve, “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4).
Today literally tens of thousands of well-meaning traditional Christian people think they don’t die; because they’re taught to think they have an immortal soul that just goes on living in a different life form in a different dimensional location. They have been influenced and taught these Greco-Roman religious concepts down through the centuries, promoted by the Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical movements of the traditional Christian community, resulting in blinding so many from the much more powerful and incredible real gospel truths of their realhuman potential—that of being born of God, born into His kingdom, literally changed, converted into an immortal spirit being, ruling and reigning with Christ as an immortal co-heir with Him!
In the book of Acts, Peter presents his first sermon upon receiving empowerment from the Holy Spirit. You can read about what he spoke on in Acts 2:14–36. The result of this presentation was many wanted to know what they should do! Notice: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said…what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37–38).
It appears that approximately three thousand people were baptized that same day (Acts 2:41). This was a tremendous beginning for this embryonic Church movement. As people responded with such belief and excitement, a momentum developed resulting in additional people joining the movement (Acts 2:47).
Remember this took place about fifty days after Jesus had risen from the dead. The coming and manifestation of the Holy Spirit was further validation of Jesus’ credibility. The fact that He was seen by hundreds of people verified His own statements and those of the prophets. The disciples along with others talked, walked, and ate with Him during this time. And now He had just been taken up into the clouds, right before their eyes, and they were told by two angels that He would come back “in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9–12). THIS WAS IMMENSELY EXCITING! Many who were there and witnessed this astonishing event were left in awe and amazement. They knew what He had shown them over the last seven weeks, and how this incredible conversion to SPIRIT LIFE was their potential too. It resulted in thousands of people wanting to do whatever it took to attain that resurrection in like fashion.
Today we understand it’s not easy to believe the real gospel truth. It’s not a traditional message. It never was. That’s why some characterized it as a movement that “turns the world upside down.” Peter mentions that Christians could expect; “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:3–4). Yes, many have come and gone over the centuries. False prophets have announced exaggerated conditions and events that have never happened, all contributing to justify the disbelief of “the many” over the years. Even Jesus said, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; [many will preach Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, or “Anointed”] AND SHALL DECEIVE MANY.” This is exactly what is going on in traditional Christianity.
Sadly, in today’s Christian community there are many using Jesus Christ’s name to do a great deal of wonderful works, but the unfortunate truth is that “many” are not pleasing God our Father or Christ our Savior. Notice: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; … MANY will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity [lawlessness]” (Matthew 7:20–23). This is a very sobering statement when one realizes the ramifications. To think you are pleasing God, but then find out you have “missed the mark” (sinned), is an extremely upsetting realization.
Therefore, it’s incumbent on every Christian and individual aspiring to be a Christian that we pursue a relationship with God based on the right “Spirit and Truth.” Jesus said, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in SPIRIT and in TRUTH: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23). God is seeking people who will PRIORITIZE TRUTH in their life. Without it our faith will be ill conceived. Those of us who want to please God must have a faith based on the right spirit and truth. Any other kind of faith will not be pleasing to God. A faith built on anything less than truth will lead us to the wrong spiritual approach to the faith God expects and requires to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).
So it’s essential we realize that, first, the Christian way is a selfless approach toward living. Jesus consistently taught that it was more blessed to give than to receive. Better to serve than to be served. Leadership was not to be like that of the Gentiles who ruled over people. Christ taught that whoever would be the greatest among us would take on the role of a servant, ministering to those who are in need. The Christian way is best explained by Christ Himself when He said, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was…” (Matthew 25:31–46). Take some time to read and study this latter portion of Matthew 25. Because understanding this concept is core to what Jesus Christ expects from every one of us as Christians.
In addition, it is significant we understand there were critical doctrinal distinctions causing Paul to appeal to the Christians of his day to “stand fast, and hold the traditions,” as mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:15. He said, “Remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances [traditions], AS I DELIVERED THEM TO YOU” (1 Corinthians 11:2). And remember how Jude implores us to “contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). All of these comments indicate a “falling away” from the original truth. This early apostasy is well recognized by many church scholars and/or church historians. It’s a well-known fact of history that after the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as the state religion in the fourth century, the Christian church became inundated with unregenerate people and took on a profile much like the Roman Empire. It became evident that instead of the Christian church conquering Rome, Rome had, in fact, conquered the church!
So today, we should be contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, a faith that is based on the original apostolic spirit and truth. This is fundamental to every Christian sincerely desiring to be a TRUE WORSHIPER of the living God. Understanding this is to understand the real gospel truth. And furthermore, recognizing that which is central to God’s calling is critical to the positioning of your relationship with Him and your Savior.
This was the focus of the whole first-century church; it was a message about the Messengerand His message. It included the knowledge about His crucifixion and consequent sacrifice for us that we might have immortal life as a born spirit being. And it was also about the messageof a soon-coming world-ruling government that will have no end and commence here on earth, culminating with the Father ultimately tabernacling with mankind on this planet.
This new beginning is described by John when he wrote, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down [to earth] from God out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men [on earth], and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Revelation 21:1–3). John is describing God, the Father coming to earth to live with mankind commencing a kingdom without end. We are not going to heaven. It was never intended for us to go there because God the Father’s current location was always intended to be temporary. His original plan always included Him and our Savior making their abode with us here on earth, but as John describes a NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH! It will be, as has been mentioned, something other than material, or physical, as we know it. It will be of a spiritual compositionthat is eternal. Notice what Paul says: “For our citizenship [loyalties] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:20–21).
Paul goes on to remind us to keep this life in perspective because it is, by comparison to eternity, but a moment in time. Notice what he says: “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are TEMPORAL; but the things which are not seen are ETERNAL” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Along the same lines Peter, after explaining how the Lord will return and all that we see will eventually be burned up, says, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things [spiritual things], be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:13–14).
The promise to be part of this new heaven and new earth is ours! We have been promised to be co-heirs with Christ, destined to share in His inheritance. Paul assures us of this by saying, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16–17). And that glory is the resurrection into immortal life as a literally BORN IMMORTAL SPIRIT BEING! What a tremendouslyincredible human potential!
God has provided for those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and take on His life’s teachings (doctrines, commandments) and faith as their values, a reward of immortal spirit life and entrance into His universal kingdom upon Jesus’ return to this planet. We will, for a thousand years, rule with Christ on this earth as kings and priest—but that is just the beginning. Remember what the prophet Isaiah said: “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end” (Isaiah 9:7) And Daniel says, “But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom [the beast power in the end times], and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever” (Daniel 7:18, 27). What a fantastic future we have as Christians. The REAL GOSPEL TRUTH holds a dynamic future for those willing to give their lives to God as living sacrifices.
The choice is yours!
Copyright © 2008 The Church of God International, Tyler, Texas
All rights reserved Author: Bill Watson
There can be no doubt that Christ, His disciples, and the first-century Christians kept Saturday, the seventh-day Sabbath. Yet, today, most of the Christian professing world keeps Sunday, the first day of the week, calling it the Sabbath. Who made this change, and how did it occur?
No serious student of the Scriptures can deny that God instituted the Sabbath at creation and designated the seventh day to be kept holy. “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made” (Genesis 2:2–3). It was later codified as the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8–11).
The Word of God makes it expressly clear that Sabbath observance is a special sign or “mark” between God and His people. There is also no uncertainty that Christ, His disciples, and the first-century Christians kept the seventh-day Sabbath as commanded—the day we now call “Saturday” (Mark 2:28; Luke 4:16).
Is There Any Biblical Support for Sunday Observance?
There is absolutely no New Testament text stating that God, Jesus, or the apostles changed the Sabbath to Sunday—not a text, not a word, not even a hint or suggestion. If there were, those chapters and verses would be loudly heralded by Sabbath opposers. Had Paul or any other apostle taught a change from Sabbath to Sunday, the first day of the week, an absolute firestorm of protest would have arisen from conservative Jewish Christians. The Pharisees and scribes would have insisted that Paul or any other person even suggesting such a thing be stoned to death for the sin of Sabbath-breaking. This would have been a much larger issue than the controversy over circumcision!
The self-righteous Pharisees had already falsely accused Christ of breaking the Sabbath because He violated the added man-made rules and traditions they placed upon the Sabbath (Mark 2:24). The total absence of any such controversy over a change in the day of worship is one of the best evidences showing the apostles and other New Testament Christians did notchange the day. On the contrary, we have a record of many Sabbaths that Paul and his traveling companions kept long after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Read of them in your own Bible in Acts 13:14, 27, 42–44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; and 18:4. Acts 13:42–44 is especially significant in that Paul and Barnabas, when speaking at a Jewish synagogue, were invited to speak again the next Sabbath. This would have been Paul’s golden opportunity to tell the people to meet with him the next day rather than waiting a whole week for the Sabbath. But, “on the next Sabbath almost the whole city [Jews and Gentiles alike] gathered to hear the word of the Lord.”
Yet today, most of the Christian professing world keeps Sunday, the first day of the week, calling it the Sabbath. The question arises then, who changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and howdid it occur? The answer may amaze you!
The New Testament plainly shows we are to continue keeping the commandments (Mathew 5:17–18; 19:17; 28:20)—all ten of them. Where, then, do men get the “authority” to changethe Fourth Commandment by substituting Sunday for the original Sabbath Christ and the apostles kept?
The Bible prophesied many centuries earlier that the time would come when men would think to change times and laws (Daniel 7:25). Many Bible prophecies are “dual” in nature—that is, they have a type and antitype, an earlier and a later fulfillment. Though speaking specifically of the soon-coming antichrist, we can see the forerunner type documented in history.
The Watering Down of the Sabbath in the First 300 Years
The Christians during the apostolic era, from about 35 to 100 A.D., kept Sabbath on the designated seventh day of the week. For the first 300 years of Christian history, when the Roman emperors regarded themselves as gods, Christianity became an “illegal religion,” and God’s people were scattered abroad (Acts 8:1). Judaism, however, was regarded at that time as “legal,” as long as they obeyed Roman laws. Thus, during the apostolic era, Christians found it convenient to let the Roman authorities think of them as Jews, which gained them legitimacy with the Roman government. However, when the Jews rebelled against Rome, the Romans put down their rebellion by destroying Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and again in A.D. 135. Obviously, the Roman government’s suppression of the Jews made it increasingly uncomfortable for Christians to be thought of as Jewish. At that time, Sunday was the rest day of the Roman Empire, whose religion was Mithraism, a form of sun worship. Since Sabbath observance is visible to others, some Christians in the early second century sought to distance themselves from Judaism by observing a different day, thus “blending in” to the society around them.
During the Empire-wide Christian persecutions under Nero, Maximin, Diocletian, and Galerius, Sabbath-keeping Christians were hunted down, tortured, and, for sport, often used for entertainment in the Colisseum.
Constantine Made Sunday a Civil Rest Day
When Emperor Constantine I—a pagan sun-worshipper—came to power in A.D. 313, he legalized Christianity and made the first Sunday-keeping law. His infamous Sunday enforcement law of March 7, A.D. 321, reads as follows: “On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.” (Codex Justinianus 3.12.3, trans. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 5th ed. (New York, 1902), 3:380, note 1.)
The Sunday law was officially confirmed by the Roman Papacy. The Council of Laodicea in A.D. 364 decreed, “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honour, and, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ” (Strand, op. cit., citing Charles J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, 2 [Edinburgh, 1876] 316).
Cardinal Gibbons, in Faith of Our Fathers, 92nd ed., p. 89, freely admits, “You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we [the Catholic Church] never sanctify.”
Again, “The Catholic Church, … by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday” (The Catholic Mirror, official publication of James Cardinal Gibbons, Sept. 23, 1893).
“Protestants do not realize that by observing Sunday, they accept the authority of thespokesperson of the Church, the Pope” (Our Sunday Visitor, February 5, 1950).
“Of course the Catholic Church claims that the change [Saturday Sabbath to Sunday] was her act… And the act is a mark of her ecclesiastical authority in religious things” (H.F. Thomas, Chancellor of Cardinal Gibbons).
“Sunday is our mark of authority… the church is above the Bible, and this transference of Sabbath observance is proof of that fact” (Catholic Record of London, Ontario Sept 1, 1923).
What a shocking admission!
A Prophecy Come to Pass!
At this point we need to note an amazing prophecy. Daniel 7:25 foretold, “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws.” Quoting Daniel 7:25, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Biblesays:
“He shall speak great words against the Most High] Literally, Sermones quasi Deus loquetur; “He shall speak as if he were God.” So Jerome quotes from Symmachus. To none can this apply so well or so fully as to the popes of Rome. They have assumedinfallibility, which belongs only to God. They profess to forgive sins, which belongs only to God. They profess to open and shut heaven, which belongs only to God. They profess to be higher than all the kings of the earth, which belongs only to God. And they gobeyond God in pretending to loose whole nations from their oath of allegiance to their kings, when such kings do not please them! And they go against God when they give indulgences for sin. This is the worst of all blasphemies!
And shall wear out the saints] By wars, crusades, massacres, inquisitions, and persecutions of all kinds. What in this way have they not done against all those who have protested against their innovations, and refused to submit to their idolatrous worship?Witness the exterminating crusades published against the Waldenses and Albigenses. Witness John Huss, and Jerome of Prague. Witness the Smithfield fires in England! Witness God and man against this bloody, persecuting, ruthless, and impure Church!
And think to change times and laws] Appointing fasts and feasts; canonizing persons whom he chooses to call saints; granting pardons and indulgences for sins; instituting new modes of worship utterly unknown to the Christian Church; new articles of faith; new rules of practice; and reversing, with pleasure, the laws both of God and man.–Dodd” (Emphasis his; Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, Volume IV, p. 594).
Who Changed the Sabbath to Sunday?
Your Bible says, “But in vain [uselessness] they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7).
Further, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word [the Bible], it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).
“Prove to me from the Bible alone that I am bound to keep Sunday holy. There is no such law in the Bible. It is a law of the Catholic Church alone. The Catholic Church says, by my divine power I abolish the Sabbath day and command you to keep holy the first day of the week. And lo! The entire civilized world bows down in reverent obedience to the command of the Holy Catholic Church” (Thomas Enright, CSSR, President, Redemptorist College [Roman Catholic], Kansas City, MO, Feb. 18, 1884).
“The Pope has power to change times, to abrogate laws, and to dispense with all things, even the precepts of Christ. The Pope has authority and has often exercised it, to dispense with the command of Christ” (Decretal, de Tranlatic Episcop).
It is a matter of Biblical and secular history that God never changed His holy Sabbath or transferred its solemnity to Sunday. Who did?
Rome, in concert with the Roman Catholic Church, changed Sabbath to Sunday!
What will you believe? Whom will you follow? The God of your Bible—or the traditions of men?
The choice, dear reader, is yours.
Published by The Church of God International, PO Box 2525, Tyler, TX 75710.
Text: Lloyd W. Cary
Can a truly converted Christian ever lose his salvation? Many evangelical fundamentalists say it is impossible. A person can no more “work” his way out of salvation, they say, than he can “work” his way into salvation. But what does the Bible say?
While some who call themselves fundamentalists do not believe in the doctrine know as “eternal security” (commonly known as “once saved, always saved”), most apparently do. It seems that in the minds of many, the doctrine is one of the “essentials” of Protestant Christianity.
The idea is that since there is nothing a sinner can do to earn salvation, there is nothing a saved person can do to lose it. The moment a person “accepts Jesus,” they claim, his salvation is secured and he faces no risk of ever losing it.
Some fundamentalists claim that a saved person will not commit serious sins. They say that anyone who claims to be “saved” and yet commits serious sins never was truly saved.
But others claim that no mater what a saved person does, he can never lose his salvation. Salvation, they say, is not a matter of choice. Just as a person cannot “work” his way into it with righteous deeds, he cannot “work” his way out of it with unrighteous deeds!
Here’s the way Wilson Ewin puts it: “…the person who places his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Blood shed at Calvary is eternally secure. He can never lose his salvation. No personal breaking of God’s or man’s laws or commandments can nullify that status” (There Is Therefore Now No Condemnation).
Fundamentalists think that if personal sin can result in loss of salvation, then Christ’s redemptive work is not “all sufficient.” They apparently expand the word “all” to take in unrepented sins.
But does the Bible support such a view? Does freedom from condemnation mean that loss of salvation is impossible? If not—if a Christian can, through returning to a life of sin, lose his salvation—then the “once saved, always saved” doctrine is heretical to the very core!
Let’s see what the Bible really says on this matter.
Loss of Salvation Through Willful Sin
The writer of the book of Hebrews said, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26).
How do fundamentalists explain this passage? They claim that it is not speaking of truly converted Christians, but pertains to those unsaved persons who, after receiving the knowledge of the truth, still refuse to accept the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
However attractive, this interpretation does violence to the context. The “we” of verse 26 includes both the writer and the readers of the epistle.
Notice the preceding verses:
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. [The writer clearly does not have unconverted people in view! He is speaking to people who have already experienced baptism and spiritual cleansing.] Let us hold fast the profession of our faith [“hold fast” means to “hold onto,” not “receive for the first time”] without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as we see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:22-25).
The above admonition forms the context wherein verse 26 is set. The writer is clearly not speaking to non-Christians, or “unsaved” persons; he is urging truly converted members of God’s New Testament church to hold tenaciously to the Faith once delivered.
Notice the author’s use of “us” and related terms: “Let us draw near…Let us hold fast…let usconsider one another…Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves…” Then, after all this admonition, he says, “For if we sin willfully….there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Can there be any doubt that the writer is speaking to truly converted Christians? None whatsoever! The context will allow for no other conclusion.
And there’s more proof that the writer is saying that Christians can lose their salvation. Notice what he says in the verses immediately following his warning of “judgment and fiery indignation” for those who “sin willfully”.
“He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (verses 28,29).
The writer does not say “wherewith he could have been sanctified had he only accepted Jesus”; he says “wherewith he was [had been] sanctified [set apart, forgiven].” Clearly, he is saying that a Christian—a converted, Spirit-begotten, member of God’s true church—can lose his salvation by returning to a life of sin!
Some fundamentalists recognize the problems with trying to make this verse speak of non-Christian persons, so they have found another interpretation that enables them to hang on to their “once saved, always saved” doctrine. This interpretation depends on the word “if”: “For ifwe sin wilfully…there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” The writer is merely presenting a hypothesis, they say, and does not mean that any true Christian would ever turn again to a life of sin.
Nonsense! What’s the point of saying it if it is nothing more than a hypotheses? Again the passage should be understood in light of its context, not in light of Protestant evangelical tradition.
The author is not trying to say, “Now this is what would happen to a Christian if it were possible for him to sin wilfully….” No, he is exhorting God’s people to stay close to their High Priest, to hold tenaciously to the Faith, and to encourage each other so that they can avoid the temptations that could lead them into sinfulness and result in loss of salvation.
A few chapters earlier, the writer states unequivocally that loss of salvation is a very real possibility. He writes:
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew the again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6).
Incredibly, this passage is just not clear enough to prove to some Protestant fundamentalists that loss of salvation is possible! They get around the obvious by claiming that Judas Iscariot experienced all the good things mentioned in this passage, but was never converted.
True, Judas was never truly converted, but to claim that he had been at once unconverted anda “partaker of the Holy Spirit” requires that several important scriptures be twisted beyond recognition! And to say that becoming a partaker of the Holy Spirit and experiencing spiritual enlightenment and divine revelation does not indicate true conversion is simply untenable.
Some are shocked to learn that the apostles were not “partakers of the Holy spirit” until afterthe death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ! During the final hours of His life as a mortal human being, Jesus promised His disciples that God would send the Holy Spirit, and that the spirit would lead them into “all truth” and show them “things to come” (see John 14:16,17; 15:26; 16:13). This indicates that the apostles had at that time yet to be “partakers of the Holy Spirit,” and had yet to be “enlightened” or to taste of the “heavenly gift…the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come.”
Jesus told the apostles that the Spirit “dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17). After His resurrection but before the Day of Pentecost, He “commanded them [the disciples] that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). He said to them, “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence” (verse 5), and added, “But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you…” (verse 8).
The Bible reveals that some few throughout Israel’s history had received the Holy Spirit, but the availability of the Spirit was greatly limited before the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). On that day, thousands received it, and in the ensuing decades, many more became “partakers of the Holy Spirit.” These facts destroy the idea that Hebrews 6:4-6 speaks of unconverted people.
Further, the expressions “fall away” and “renew them again unto repentance” show that the writer does not have non-Christians in view. He would not have spoken of the impossibility of being renewed (or restored) “again unto repentance” had the people he had in mind not previously experienced repentance. Nor would he have spoken of “falling away” from something that had never been experienced.
While the truly converted Christian should have a sense of assurance about his salvation, he should also recognize the fact that salvation can be lost!
The Goodness and Severity of God
Paul encouraged the churches to rejoice in the assurance of salvation. He wrote: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39).
Yet, he also warned of the possibility of loss of salvation. Speaking of converted Gentiles, Paul said: “Be not high-minded, but fear [i.e., the people of Israel who rejected Christ], take heed lest He also spare not thee.
“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they [unbelieving Israelites] also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again” (Romans 11:20-23).
Paul was not speaking of merited “rewards”; he was speaking of unbelievers becoming believers and believers becoming unbelievers! He acknowledged the possibility of loss of salvation!
He also warned the Galatians of this very real possibility: “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised [for the purpose obtaining salvation], Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:2-4).
Some fundamentalists strain the passage to say that “fallen from grace” is not to be taken as anactual fall from grace, but as merely a departure, on the part of the believer, of dependence on grace as the basis of the Christian’s relationship with God.
What utter nonsense! If Paul intended to say, “You no longer depend on grace,” then why didn’t he? Why did he instead insist upon such powerful phrases as “Christ shall profit you nothing,” “Christ is become of no effect unto you,” “ye are fallen from grace,” and “be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage”? Why did he insist that “as many as are of the works of the law [i.e., depend upon works of the law for justification] are under the curse” (Galatians 3:10)?
If Paul thought loss of salvation an impossibility, why did he write, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27)? Does becoming a “castaway” have to do only with loss of “rewards,” but not loss of eternal life?
Notice that Paul said, “lest that by any means, when I have preached to others…” What did Paul preach to others? He preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of salvation, did he not? Then what was he speaking of when he said “lest…I myself should be a castaway”? Obviously, he was speaking of the possibility of losing out on the very salvation he had so vigorously preached!
The fundamentalists’ doctrine of “irresistible grace” is clearly foreign to the revelation of God’s Word. Man was endowed with the power of free choice. If a person, once called and converted, gives in to his fleshly lusts, turns away from the way of life to which he was called, and wilfully returns to a life of sinful behavior, there remains only a “fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”
Of course, it must be said that God is not willing that any should perish, and that any time a “backslider” chooses to cooperate with the Spirit of grace, repent, and return to God through the mediatorship of Jesus Christ, he can!
However, be warned! The Bible admonishes, “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). This indicates that there will be a time when God cannot be found—a time when there will be no more opportunity to repent.
In spite of the evidence that loss of salvation is possible, fundamentalists still have ways of reasoning their way around the truth. They resort to a limited interpretation of favorite “proof texts.” Let’s examine several of them.
The Father Wills That Christ “Should Lose Nothing”
Jesus Christ said: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:37-39).
Fundamentalists force at least two assumptions into this passage to make it fit their “once saved, always saved” doctrine. First, they assume that Christ’s statement, “I will in no wise cast [him] out,” is unconditional. Second, they assume that “the Father’s will” is God’s unconditional decree, rather than simply His desire
Notice that Jesus describes His followers as “all which He [the Father] hath given me.” The same description is found in Jesus’ prayer on the night of His betrayal.
Notice: “And now I am no more in the world, but these [His disciples] are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name:those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost…” (John 17:11,12).
Now, if we stop right there, after the phrase “none of them is lost,” and apply the fundamentalists’ ay of reasoning to this passage, we would conclude that all Christ’s disciples, having been kept in the Father’s name, were to be everlastingly one in spirit and purpose, and none would ever be lost. However, the remaining words of verse 12 leave no room for such an interpretation:
“…and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition [Judas]; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”
Clearly, Judas had been one of those the Father had given to Christ; yet, he was “lost.” He did not go on to become one of the foundational “stones” of the New Testament church; did not become an apostle who, like Peter, John, Paul, and others, went out and preached the Gospel powerfully, calling on thousands to “Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins!”
Christ’s statements as recorded in John 6:37-39 are clearly conditional. He will not in any wise cast out those who come to Him. On the contrary, He will nurture them, protect them, give them strength enough to resist any adversary that would lead them astray. But if they choose to disobey God, choose to reject the grace by which they were called, choose the way of the Devil and the world over the way of God, then Christ will not force them into submission. He will always be there for them, ready to hear their cries of repentance, ready to intercede on their behalf if and when they turn from their wicked ways and seek to return to God, but He will not take away their power of will or freedom of choice.
The “Father’s will” is that all His children abide in His will. But He wants each of His children to willingly submit to His will. He refuses to create androids that can only do whatever they are programmed to do. God doesn’t want mindless automatons; He wants thoughtful, lovingchildren!
It may be a father’s will that his son go to college, study hard, and become a doctor. But the father’s will does not overpower the son’s ability to choose his own road in life. The same is true of the Heavenly Father’s will. He “wills” that all His children obey Him, but He does not take away their power of choice, does not force His will upon them.
Fundamentalists are inconsistent in the way they handle the Scriptures. They point to the above passage as “proof” that saved persons cannot lose their salvation. Yet, other texts wherein God’s will is stated are interpreted differently.
Take, for instance, 1 Timothy 2:3,4: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved….”
Fundamentalists rightly point out that this passage simply means that God desires that all accept His offer of salvation, but does not mean that all will be saved. If they would apply the same mode of understanding to John 6:39, they would be able to see the “Father’s will” is not God’s determinate decree, but is simply His purposeful desire.
Can Christians be “Plucked” From Christ’s Hand?
Another scripture fundamentalists often quote as “proof” of indefectibility is John 10:27-29:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”
Does this passage say that it is impossible for a “sheep” to lose his place in the Good Shepherd’s fold? No, it does not! It simply says that the Father and the Son are stronger than any one who might attempt to “pluck” the believer from the Father’s (or Son’s) hand. But we should not read this scripture as an unconditional promise.
A passage such as this should not be the basis on which a doctrine is developed, but should be understood in the light of other, clearer, texts. Hebrews 10:26-29, for instance, is clear. It tells us that there is “no more sacrifice for sins,” but only “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation,” for those members of God’s church who deliberately, of their own free will and volition, return to a life of sinful activity.
Now, in light of this clear scripture, how are we to understand John 10:27-29? Let’s take it verse by verse:
Verse 37: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” This was said to a group of unbelieving Jews who obviously were not His “sheep.” Jesus did not need to state the fact that it is possible for a sheep who follows Him to turn away from the lead of the Shepherd and stray from the flock.
Verse 28: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Jesus was looking beyond this life to the eternal state (“they shall never perish”), and was expressing the ideal outcome for all those God calls to eternal life. God is infinitely stronger than any sheep stealer, whether human or angelic. A Christian who returns to sinful living, perhaps through the influence of others, should realize that his “fall from grace” was not due to God’s inability to protect him.
Verse 29: “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” Again, the point is that God is greater than any would-be sheep thief. No Christian returns to a life of sin because God was too weak to sustain and protect him. People return to sinful living because they are enticed by their own lusts that war in their members.
James wrote: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lusts, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:13-15).
James was writing to converted, Spirit-filled members of God’s true church! This passage proves that a true Christian is capable of giving-in to his own lusts and returning to sin, which, if unrepented, will result in the “second death” in Gehenna fire! (See Revelation 20:14-15).
Matthew 10:28 throws more light on the words of Jesus (as recorded in John 10:27-29).
Jesus said: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him [God] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna].”
Jesus simply meant that men can kill the body, but are unable to take away God’s gift of eternal life. Don’t fear them, Jesus said, but fear the One who can destroy both!
Just as men cannot take away God’s gift of eternal life, cannot destroy the spiritual “embryo”—the “new creature in Christ”—that is forming and developing within every Spirit-begotten member of God’s church, men cannot “pluck” the true follower of Jesus Christ from the Father’s hand.
Remember, Jesus was speaking to His disciples, those who would become converted on the Day of Pentecost, and who would become part of the foundation of the New Testament church. He plainly told them to fear Him who has the power to destroy them in a lake of fire!
To “fear” God is to stand in absolute awe of Him, with deepest respect, trembling at His Word! If loss of salvation were impossible, why would Jesus tell His disciples to fear the One who has power to take it away?
What About “Predestination”?
The doctrine of “irresistible grace” states that human will cannot resist the will of God; therefore, when God draws an individual to Himself, the individual will submit. Those who hold this belief say that all the saved, from the time of Adam to the end of the age, were “predestined” to salvation before the world began. Those not chosen for salvation before the foundation of the world cannot be saved, no matter how diligently they seek it. But the predestined, those chosen of God from the beginning, cannot escape salvation. Their eternal destiny was secured eons before they were born.
One of the chief proof texts used to support this doctrine is Romans 8:29,30:
“For whom He [God] did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.”
Does “foreknowledge” suggest that God determined thousands of years ago who would be saved and who would not? No! The term simply suggests that God knew us before we knew Him, that His knowing us was essential to our knowing Him.
John wrote, “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Paul asked, “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” (Romans 11:35, NIV). In his epistle to the Galatians, he said, “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God…” (4:9), meaning that a person can come to know God in a personal, intimate way only after God has known him.
The above passages show that God’s people came to know and love God because God first knew and loved them. Once we were “known of Him,” we had the opportunity to “know” Him as our Heavenly Father—hence, He “foreknew” us.
Those foreknown of Him were predestined to be “conformed to the image of His Son.” Does this mean that the eternal destiny of those chosen of God is sealed, and that the “predestined” person has no choice but to enter the Kingdom of God?
No, it does not! The term “predestination” simply suggests that God has predetermined the destiny of those He calls, but does not indicate that He has predetermined whether they will remain faithful to their calling. Our destiny is to be “conformed to the image of His Son.” But just as it is possible for an airplane “predestined” to land in a given place within a given time frame to crash and never reach its intended destination, so it is possible for those “predestined” to God’s Kingdom to “fall away” and never reach the destination God had established for them.
Much of the misunderstanding seems to stem from preconceived ideas about such terms as “foreknowledge” and “predestination.” Some modern English translators give clarity to the passage by replacing these terms with words more meaningful to the modern reader.
Notice how Williams translates Romans 8:29,30: “For those on whom He set His heart beforehand He marked off as His own to be made like His Son, that He might be the eldest of many brothers; and those whom He marked off as His own He also called; and those whom He calls He brings into right standing with Himself; those who He brings into right standing with Himself He also glorifies” (New Testament in the Language of the People).
This passage gives no support to the “irresistible grace” theory. Rather, it agrees perfectly with the many scriptures that speak of conditions believers must meet in order to continue in justification.
Conditions for Believers
Those who are saved by grace through faith cannot continue in the state of justification if they refuse to put away their old, sinful habits.
Jesus said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me [this is clearly not speaking of unbelievers!] that beareth not fruit [i.e., continues in his old way of life, making no changes, being unfaithful to his calling] He taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit…. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me…. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:1,2,4,6).
This passage clearly says that those who are in Christ can lose their salvation by refusing toabide in Him! This concurs with many scriptures. Notice the following:
I Corinthians 15:1,2: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory [or “hold fast”] what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” Notice the conditional “if.”
Colossians 1:21-23: “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in His sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel….” If one does not “continue in the faith,” can he expect to b presented “holy and unblamable and unreprovable”? Obviously not!
I John 2:24,25: “Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.” If “that which ye have heard” does not “remain in you,” then the promise of eternal life no longer applies.
If it is impossible for a saved person to fall from a right standing with God, then he need not be concerned about falling. Yet, Paul cautioned, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12); and Peter warned, “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (2 Peter 3:17).
The closing words of James’ epistle would make little sense if falling from grace were impossible. James wrote: “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, an shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19,20). James was speaking of Christians erring from the truth, and said that those who err are sinners. Can a Christian become a sinner in need of forgiveness? This passage says yes!
Peter also spoke of the possibility of erring from the truth: “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20-22).
Peter was not speaking of people who, though having a knowledge of salvation, had never actually become converted members of Gods true church. Had he had the unconverted (unsaved) in view, he would not have described them as people who “have escaped the pollutions of the world.” Further, if loss of salvation were not in view, it would have made no sense for Peter to say that “the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.”
If a person could not resist the power of grace drawing him to the Faith, then surely grace would not allow him to depart from the Faith once he arrived. Yet, Paul warned of apostasy: “Now the spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart form the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1).
Giving heed to evil spirits is one way to fall from grace. The love of money is another way. In the same epistle, Paul warned: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred [margin: “been seduced”] from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).
If Paul didn’t believe it was possible to fall from grace, it would have been pointless for him to exhort Timothy to “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (verse 12).
Of course, those who believe in the “once saved, always saved” doctrine have ways of “explaining” all the above scriptures. But anyone who simply reads the above passages, and realizes that the scriptural authors used ordinary language in order to convey the truth as clearly as possible, should have no difficulty in understanding the truth of this matter.
On the Positive Side
The fact that salvation can be lost may be troubling to some, especially those who have for years believed the opposite. But it shouldn’t be, for there are as man—if not more—words of assurance as there are words of warning. The believer is not left alone, with no real assurance of salvation. We lose out only when we choose to do so. But many passages of Scripture speak of God’s faithfulness, of His ability to keep and help us, of His promise to never forsake us.
Some of the most encouraging words of Scripture are found in Romans the eighth chapter. Paul wrote: “If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.
“Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long: we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
“Nay, in all these thing we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Romans 8:31-37).
If we have come to God through faith in Jesus Christ, we are not half-conquerors, nor are wejust conquerors; we are more than conquerors—so says your Bible! Not only have we been declared righteous on the basis of faith, but we have the assurance that God, Who loved us enough to send His son to this earth tot die an excruciatingly painful death in our stead, will not just give up on us.
When we err, He gives us every opportunity, nudges us with His Holy Spirit, chastens us that we may see the error of our way and repent. He assures us that there will never come a trial too great to endure, as long as we keep our eyes on Christ. And we can rest assured that He is always there, always willing to hear our confessions, forgive us our transgressions, help us through difficult times.
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Copyright © 2000 The Church of God International, Tyler, Texas
All rights reserved. Text: Vance A. Stinson
Life, for most of us, is filled with heartaches, disappointments, grief, and even intense pain. Even the person who “wins” in the game of life—the one who is born into a happy family, gets the best education available, lands the most rewarding job, marries the right person, has a happy marriage and wonderful children—must eventually face the reality of death. One is left wondering: Is this all life has to offer? Is it worth it?
Scripture quotations were taken from the New King James Version except as noted.
The cartoon was touchingly graphic, if somewhat tragic. A dejected, shabbily dressed and lanky gentleman enters his house with drooping shoulders amidst a ramshackle of a dwelling. Some malnourished kids are strewn on the floor. A melancholy, creased-faced wife stares with a blank look from the side of the room. “Honey, I heard some good news today,” he says, obviously at the end of a hard day. “We pass this way but once!”
Most men, a philosopher once said, “lead lives of quiet desperation.” And the well-known founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, once described the best efforts of his craft as “turning neuroses into common unhappiness.”
A somewhat crude bumper sticker puts it this way: “Life is hell. Then you die.”
What really is the purpose of life? Is there some transcendent meaning to existence? If God did create the world, what does He have in mind?
Was He simply lonely, so decided to create some beings who would just bow before Him every day in worship and adoration? Did God create man just for His own pleasure, even amusement? After a life of struggle, intense pain, frustration, repeated disappointments, sicknesses, and multiple disasters, what does man get at the end if he “wins”? And is it worth it? What will really compensate for the atrocities and hardships which he has had to endure for these millennia?
Is the best that human life has to offer really good enough? Think about it. You go to good schools and get the prestigious academic awards and degrees; land a prestigious, well-paying job that gives you the status and recognition that any person would crave. You get married, buy a posh home, possibly with some vacation homes in choice resorts. You buy the Mercedes or the Lincoln, even afford a yacht or a small airplane. You have some fine kids, who go on to make you proud. Life is absolutely terrific—until you are discovered with cancer or some rare disease. Your marriage falls apart; you are “re-engineered” out of your job and thrown onto the rubbish heap of unemployment.
What position would ever reach in life where you would feel totally secure, totally safe from harm? It is as if life is not designed to work. As one pop song says, “If it ain’t one thing it’s another.”
Even if you had a perfect life, you can’t keep it forever. You are going to die. All your achievements will one day mean nothing to you. Others might talk about them; but when you are in the grave, they will be of little use to you. What is life all about and what on earth is God doing?
In fact, look at the vastness and immensity of the universe. Does this little speck of a planet really matter, and is human life significant, after all?
Our universe contains fifty billion galaxies—not planets, but galaxies. Each one of these galaxies contains billions—yes billions—of stars like our sun. Our sun is in the Milky Way galaxy, which has 100 billion stars. Does God even know we are here?
No wonder the Psalmist asks, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:4).
It is easy to look at the immense size of the universe and say that man is really insignificant in the cosmos.
The Copernican Revolution radically shattered man’s self-importance by showing that the earth was not the center of the universe and that, in fact, the earth revolves around the sun, rather than the other way around. Our hagio-centric notions were crushed. Then Freud came along and showed that man was the unwitting captive of unconscious drives and psychological forces which render him, as the famed psychologist B. F. Skinner put it, “beyond freedom and dignity.”
Karl Marx came on the scene and told us that man was the victim of historical forces and was subject to the inevitability of history. Before Marx introduced his philosophy, Charles Darwin had convinced many that human existence itself came about through blind, random, evolutionary forces, and there was no cosmic design to our existence.
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries have not been particularly favoring to man’s sense of uniqueness. But the latest scientific discoveries are overturning some of the inferences from Copernicus.
It is now seen that rather than man being some insignificant part of a vast and majestic universe, the universe’s very design and creation had man in mind! The “Anthropic Principle,” developed by the brilliant astrophysicist and cosmologist Brandon Carter from Cambridge University, teaches plainly that all the seemingly arbitrary and unrelated constants in physics have one thing in common: they are precisely the values you need if you are to have a universe capable of producing life. In short, the laws of physics are fine-tuned to produce human life on earth. The Anthropic Principle derives from the Greek word anthropos, man. So man has regained a centrality which he lost five hundred years ago at the hands of Nicholas Copernicus.
The Anthropic Principle has gained a following from some of the most accomplished scientists of the latter twentieth century. The evidence for it is simply overwhelming.
There are four fundamental physical forces in the universe critical to the support of human life: gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force. Says the book, Is There a Creator Who Cares About You?:
“Elements vital for our life (particularly carbon, oxygen, and iron) could not exist were it not for the fine-tuning of the four forces evident in the universe. We already mentioned one force, gravity. Another is the electromagnetic force. If it were significantly weaker, electrons would not be held around the nucleus of an atom. “Would that be serious?” some might wonder. Yes, because atoms could not combine to form molecules. Conversely, if this force were much stronger, electrons would be trapped on the nucleus of an atom. There could be no chemical reactions between atoms—meaning no life. Even from this standpoint, it is clear that our existence and life depend on the fine-tuning of the electronic-magnetic force.”
Let’s take just a few more examples:
§ “Gravity is roughly 1039 times weaker than electron-magnetism. If gravity had been 1033 times weaker than electromagnetism, stars would be a billion times less massive and would burn a million times faster.
§ “The nuclear weak force is 1028 times the strength of gravity. Had the weak force been slightly weaker, all the hydrogen in the universe would have been turned to helium (making water impossible, for example).
§ “A stronger nuclear strong force (by as little as 2 percent) would have prevented the formation of protons—yielding a universe without atoms. Decreasing it by 5 percent would have given us a universe without stars.
§ “If the difference in mass between a proton and a neutron were not exactly as it is—roughly twice the mass of an electron—then all neutrons would have become protons or vice versa. Say good-bye to chemistry as we know it—and to life.
§ “The very nature of water—so vital to life—is something of a mystery (a point noticed by one of the forerunners of anthropic reasoning in the nineteenth century, Harvard biologist Lawrence Henderson). Unique among the molecules, water is lighter in its solid than liquid form: Ice floats. If it did not, the oceans would freeze from the bottom up and earth would now be covered with solid ice. This property in turn is traceable to unique properties of the hydrogen atom” (from Patrick Glynn’s God: The Evidence—The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason in a Postsecular World).
The intellectual force of the Anthropic Principle was one of the factors which convinced the former atheist, Dr. Patrick Glynn, who got his Ph.D. from the prestigious Harvard University, to reject atheism as intelligently untenable. In his book, God: The Evidence, Glynn says, “Ironically the picture of the universe bequeathed to us by the most advanced twentieth-century science is closer in spirit to the vision presented in the book of Genesis than anything offered since Copernicus.”
Glynn says, significantly—and this will be the thrust of this booklet—that the Anthropic Principle comes down to “the observation that the myriad laws of physics were fine-tuned from the very beginning of the universe for the creation of man—that the universe we inhabit appeared to be expressly designed for the emergence of human beings.”
Religion has not offered a rational explanation as to why this is so. What really does God have in mind? Just that man at the end will inherit immortality in human form? Is there something much bigger and grander in God’s design? Religion has not been able to come up with the correct answer.
What the Christian world is telling millions about that which God has in store for the saved is far inferior to what He really has in mind. Read on for the proof! Believe it or not, the Bible reveals that man’s awesome destiny is to be like God!
Could you please, at this point, stop reading and pray, for without the Spirit’s guidance we cannot come to truth. Truth might be aided by scholarship but does not come through scholarship. Conviction of truth comes through the Holy Spirit. There are many brilliant minds who do not and will not in this age understand God’s truth. Pray now for God’s divine guidance on this subject.
Let us make one significant concession at the outset: There is a sense in which the view that man will become God “as God is God” is clearly, demonstrably false. If essential to the very definition of God is eternity and self-existence—which it is—then man cannot, can never, become God, and any such view is patently absurd. Man is finite and contingent; God is eternal and necessary. So we could end the essay here by saying that this teaching is rank heresy and philosophical nonsense. But language must be understood in its context, and literary analysis has to—contrary to the deconstructionists—take into consideration the intent of the author.
What we have meant to convey is clearly captured in our famous phrase, “God is reproducing Himself,” and in our assertion that humans will become “God-beings.” We have not taught that humans, as God-beings, would take the supreme place of the Father, or knock Him off His throne. The Father and the Son will always be above deified beings. But we would be of the same species of being—for God is a species of being. The Father is right now over the Son quantitatively and hierarchically, but the Father and Son are equal in nature.
So let’s understand from the beginning: Man will not take the place of the Father and the Son and will never by any stretch of the imagination deserve the level of praise and honor as the Father and the Son. Deified humans will always owe all praise and honor to the two divine Persons who confer divinity on them. They will not be so arrogant as to want the same honor or homage. But they will be of the same nature, having the same divine magnificence.
So don’t resist this doctrine on the basis of fear that you would be taking away from God’s glory and praise. No, the Father and Son will stand out for all eternity for their indescribable love which made them decide to share power with pieces of clay.
Imagine this incredible love—this awesome, language-defying love and unselfishness. Here were two Persons existing alone for all eternity—and our minds can’t grasp eternity—and deciding at some point that rather than keeping all this power and magnificence to themselves they would create a race of beings, very low in status, just corruptible flesh and blood, and eventually, through a process of time and testing, bestow upon them their own divinity. This was a spirit quite the opposite of Satan’s. Satan wanted more power and honor than he had. He sought to get, not give. But Jesus, giving a clue to the divine nature, thought it not robbery to hold on to divinity but emptied Himself of it, veiled it while on the earth, and became a man in order that man might become God. This is love personified. If we reject this doctrine of deification, we shortchange the love of God!
Many times opponents of this truth of deification use semantics to override the truth of man’s real destiny. So we concede: Man obviously cannot be eternal and is not self-existent, so the incommunicable part of God’s nature cannot be conferred. However, this by no means disproves that God is reproducing Himself and that we will become exactly like God and Christ by nature and power.
To understand the truth about man’s destiny it is essential that we understand who Jesus really is. If Jesus is not God, then man can’t be God. John 17 clearly shows that Jesus preexisted His human birth and possessed deity. (For a booklet proving the essential truth that Jesus had always existed, write for Is Jesus Really God?)
In John 17:5 Jesus asks the Father for the glory which He had before the world was. Recall that Philippians 2:5–9 establishes that Jesus gave up something when He became man; He gave up His divine glory, or, to put it in more precise theological language, His divine prerogatives were veiled during His earthly existence. Thus He could be hungry, tired, express lack of knowledge, and die.
So Jesus gave up His divine glory, which was His deity. But note. He asks the Father to give back that glory after His resurrection. “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself [or “in Your own presence”] with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
Acts 3:13 shows that the Father honored Jesus’s request and glorified Him. “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus.”
It will be very important to define what we mean by the glory of Jesus Christ. Could it mean His divine transcendence and deity?
While it is true that there are a variety of meanings to the word glory (doxa in Greek), and that the Bible shows that man already has a form of glory, context demonstrates what particular meaning should be adopted. In the context of John 17, glory definitely means divinity and the powers associated with divinity, which Jesus gave up (Philippians 2).
Let’s turn to one of the most important evangelical scholarly sources today, the 933-pageDictionary of Jesus and the Gospels: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship. Under the heading “Glory,” the dictionary says that the Septuagint version of the Old Testament gives the technical meaning to glory (doxa) as “honor intended for God, or the majesty or eminence which radiated from God’s own being.” Keep that definition in mind.
While the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) develop the concept of glory eschatologically, John, who wrote to prove the full deity of Jesus Christ, uses it to prove his theological point. For example, in John 1:14 he says we have beheld His glory. “Like Peter, John saw that Jesus was not a mere man, but was God made flesh, though his Divine powers were veiled.”
The writer of the article on glory makes the interesting and noteworthy point that John’s view, linking Jesus’s glory with His divinity, is “consonant with the view offered elsewhere where the divinity of the Son of God is inseparable from His glory (1 Corinthians 2:8; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 3:16; Hebrews 1:3; James 2:1). When the NT writers reached the conclusion that Christ was eternally one with God, it was left to John to sketch these results into the Messiah’s earthly life.”
So note the connection between Christ’s glory and His divinity.
Now, if later we will see that this very glory of Christ is to be shared with His saints—His being “the firstborn among many brethren”—then what but prejudice or emotional and/or cultural reaction would make us resist the necessary and logical conclusion that resurrected believers will be divine beings, too? Who is imposing his presuppositions on the text, the person who follows the clear direction of the text or the person terrified by the thought that he might be taking something away from God’s honor? Hebrews 1:3 is very significant. It says Jesus is “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person.” So the glory of Christ is the glory of God, which is the divinity of the Father.
The fact that man is not eternal and self-existent does not mean that man can never possess all the attributes of divinity by adoption. There is nothing logically impossible about this. It is only a philosophical presupposition about what constitutes the incommunicability of God, largely reflective of Platonic philosophy and Eastern mysticism, which would mitigate against this biblical truth.
Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus reflects the glory of God. The book of Hebrews was specifically written to an essentially Jewish audience to reinforce the divinity of Jesus and His superiority over the angels, Moses, and everything under the Old Covenant economy. In Hebrews 1, the writer establishes Jesus’s preeminence over the cosmos and the angels.
Again, we acknowledge that glory can have a variety of meanings but we must use context to determine precise meaning.
A most fascinating essay appears under the title “Glory” in The Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments. Commenting on Hebrews 1:3, which says Jesus reflects God’s glory, the scholar says, “The juxtaposition of doxa with hypostasis in the ontological characterization of Jesus clearly articulates Jesus’ status. Jesus is God’s glory, God’s very being. This hymn/confession formed part of the author’s strategy to distinguish between Jesus and the angels…Jesus is ontologically superior to any and all angelic agents; Jesus is equal with God; Jesus is God…The ritual of confessing ‘Jesus as the glory of Yahweh’ created and reinforced the boundary lines between Christianity and Judaism.”
In his summary, the author states: “In the later New Testament writings and apostolic fathers, glory language is what G. B. Caird called ‘bivocal’…That is, glory possesses both a subjective and an objective field of meaning. On the subjective side glory refers to the act of worship (i.e., ‘give glory to God’; ‘glorify God’). On the objective side glory denotes the object of worship (i.e., God’s presence). Glory in both its subjective and objective senses evidences the development of the church’s faith and practice. When glory began to be ascribed to Jesus within the church’s liturgy and when Jesus was identified with God’s glory in the church’s confession, Christianity was well on its way toward Nicea and Chalcedon. Glory language was an important vehicle for conveying the Christian redefinition of God.”
Nicea and Chalcedon unmistakably acknowledged the church’s creed that Jesus was God and glory language reinforced that. Now, what is the implication of that same glory language being applied to human beings? What except recalcitrant prejudice and theological bigotry could cause serious biblical scholars to resist the conclusion that if Jesus’s reflecting God’s glory is a way of attesting to His divinity, then man’s reflecting the glory of Jesus means just that, too?
Hebrews 2 shows that Jesus, like man, was made for a little while lower than the angels. This is the natural meaning of the text, which is to show Jesus’ present superiority to the angels. The angels were above Jesus while He was a human being on the earth, but now that He is glorified He is above them—which is exactly what will happen when true believers are resurrected! Glorified humans will be above angels, not lower than them or even equal to them.
In fact, the writer to the Hebrews, after showing Jesus’s likeness to the Father, goes on to establish the likeness of the resurrected saints with Jesus. If A equals B and B equals C, then how can we avoid the conclusion that A equal C?
Hebrews 2:10 says that “it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Jesus’ mission is to bring many sons to glory. This is the gospel! In what way is this glory distinguishable from the glory of Christ Himself, and why would we want to suppress this incredible truth? It is not a doctrine of devils, introduced by Lucifer in the Garden of Eden. It is not the mythical invention of some cult leader who founded his “true church” in the 1930s. It is the very revelation of God Almighty who loves you more than you could ever imagine and who has willed to share His divinity with you for all eternity!
Now turn to an even more startling and certainly indubitable text in 2 Thessalonians 2:14: “to which He called you by our gospel [this is vital to the gospel], for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now what is the glory of Jesus Christ? Whatever it is, it is exactly what we shall attain. The attempt to now limit what man will attain is disingenuous, if not dishonest! If you admit that the glory of Christ means His divinity; if you admit, as the two evangelical scholars (cited above) show that glory language is the language of divinity and it moved Christianity from a narrow monotheism, then why not accept the plain, logical conclusion that this divinity will be shared with mankind at the resurrection?
In 1 Peter 5:10 we have the unmistakable words from the pen of inspiration: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” What? It is the Father who has called us to His Glory—which, as Hebrews 1:3 says, is the same glory of Christ. This means that the saints—those called and truly converted in this age—will, in the resurrection, be no less divine than the Father and the Son! Let’s not engage in semantical gymnastics about our inability to attain “the incommunicable aspects of divinity”—His eternity and self-existence. The truth is, God is reproducing Himself! He is conferring divinity on pieces of clay!
Colossians 3:4 says, “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” This is future. Second Corinthians 3:18 says that we “are being transformed into his likeness with ever- increasing glory” (New International Version). Romans 8:17 says that we are heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ, which must mean that we have a stake in divinity.
Now there are some who say that our receiving the glory of Christ merely means that the character and righteousness which the first Adam failed to achieve because of sin will be restored in mankind at the resurrection. That is, we will finally achieve perfection of moral attributes—and this is what “glory” is intended to imply, not that man will become a God-being.
That sounds noble on the surface, but it is flawed, for Christ, despite His humanity, was perfect and had not a flaw in character. If the glory which He asked for was anything less than the divine power of His preexistence, then He would be asking the Father to give back something which He had in full measure and demonstration during his earthly existence, namely his moral perfection and sinlessness.
While His omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience were veiled on earth, His sinless character was not.
When Romans 8:29 says we are to be conformed to the image of His Son, some say this image is spiritual perfection and moral excellence—anything to dilute the full impact of the marvelous truth that God is reproducing Himself. How man resists God, even when God wants to do him good!
We shall have the moral perfection, yes, but more than that. The Bible reveals we will receive God’s glory, God’s image, and God’s body. Hebrews 1:3 shows that Christ is the express image of God. We do not limit the meaning of this description to moral qualities, so why would we place such limitations on the same term when it is used of humans? How else can we explain Romans 5:2? It states that through Jesus Christ “we have access by faith into his grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
What, in this context, restricts “glory of God” to something less than His very essence, His divinity? So why would we want to restrict it? Why not go with the plain sense of Scripture, unless there are indicators otherwise? Is this not a sound principle for understanding the meaning of any scriptural text?
Notice another point in 1 Corinthians 15:23: “But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” Have you ever noticed that Christ the firstfruits is not distinguished from the other fruits in the harvest? In the agricultural economy from which the analogy is taken, the firstruits were of the same kind as the other to follow. It was not a different sort—only the firstfruits.
Isn’t this analogy clearly suggestive and reinforcing of the point we have seen in Scripture that our gift of salvation is similar to the exaltation that Jesus received?
First John 3:2 says that when Jesus appears “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Again, why restrict the meaning of “we shall be like Him”? We already look like Jesus looked when He came to this earth the first time. We already bear the image of God in a limited sense. This text obviously means that the resurrected saints will be like Jesus in a far greater way than any of us have experienced in this life.
Notice that we shall “SEE Him.” This is not referring to His invisible moral qualities and His attributes, but what we can see as resurrected spirit-beings! It does not yet appear what we shall be for no one has ever achieved that status.
Philippians 3:21 says that Christ will “transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” What else could this mean? We are to have bodies like Jesus’s body! We are to have His glory. We are to have His image. We are to be like Him. He is God. He is glorified. He is Spirit. He is perfect and absolutely righteous. Yes, He is also eternal and self-existent, and we cannot be. But think about it! Our children are not the same age as we are and we begot them, yet are they any less our species of being because we have the age and reproductive supremacy over them?
Let us hold firmly to the powerful truth of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The Holy Spirit in us is the earnest of salvation, the guarantee that God is eventually going to bestow His divinity upon those who humbly submit to His will and accept His provisions for salvation! The Holy Spirit is just the earnest or down payment of this great salvation. We diminish God’s great salvation when we don’t proclaim this truth.
There are some common objections to the biblical truth that God is reproducing Himself. The most commonly repeated are found Isaiah 42–44.
Isaiah 42:8 says, “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another.” At first glance, this verse appears to contradict 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Peter 5:10; and other texts which clearly say that God will give His glory to others. But upon closer examination it becomes clear that Isaiah 40–45 is a polemic against the false gods of the surrounding Near Eastern nations, and warning to Israel not to worship or acknowledge them. Israel was exchanging the glory and honor of Yahweh for the false gods of the nations which, as Isaiah says, are really not gods, but are useless, powerless, so-called “gods,” creations of men’s hands, unlike the eternal, omnipresent God. The passages are brilliant pieces of polemic.
Read the full text in Isaiah 42:8: “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another; nor My praise to carved images.” The last words tell us clearly what is meant. God is addressing idolatry. He is saying that He will never share His glory with pagan idols and false gods. Romans 8:29 tells us plainly that He will share His glory with His human creatures.
Isaiah 43:10 says, “Before Me there was no god was formed, nor shall there be after Me.” This is a favorite among those who deny that man will eventually become God. But read the next three verses (and the entirety of Isaiah 42–45), and you will see clearly that this section is not discussing man’s destiny, but is condemning the use of false gods. God Almighty is saying that He is the only true God, and that the so-called “gods” of the heathen are nothing.
Incidentally, even the famed anti-cult expert Robert Bowman has stated clearly that there is a difference between polytheistic deification and monotheistic deification. The Mormon view that men can become gods is totally unbiblical and bears no resemblance to the view advocated in this booklet. Men will not become “gods” but, more properly, God-beings. It is not just a semantical difference, for while the Bible declares emphatically that God is one, it reveals that there is more than one member of the God-family (see again the booklet, Is Jesus Really God? for a thorough explanation). Humans will not evolve into “gods,” but will acquire divinity through the One who alone has the power to grant it.
So Isaiah is right—no “god” will be formed! But the one God, Yahweh, will reproduce Himself, adding many divine beings to His eternal family! There will be no “gods” forming independently.
These texts from Isaiah can in no way assail the undeniable biblical truth that God is reproducing Himself and will accomplish His purpose.
Another text frequently quoted and ripped out of context is Luke 20:36, which says that in the world of the future, saints will be like angels, neither marrying nor given in marriage. Now, no really serious biblical scholar could quote this passage to disprove the deification of man. If the doctrine is false, this text could never prove it.
What is the context of the discussion? It is about whether the sons of this age will marry in the next life (verses 27–34). Jesus, in saying no, compares resurrected saints with the angels, who are sexless beings, and says that in the future world glorified humans will be like angels in thatthey will be sexless beings. He does not say that the glorified saints will be like angels in everyway; nor does He say that the saints will be angels.
As we have seen, other texts show clearly that the glory God intends to share with man far exceeds the glory of the angels.
We of the Church of God movement have often given a less-than-adequate defense of this pivotal biblical doctrine. Some use texts like Revelation 3:9 and Psalm 82:6 to defend this doctrine. The Revelation text says people will come to worship at the feet of the saints. Ah, some have said, only God should be worshiped. In fact, the very book of Revelation has the writer, John, refusing to accept an angel’s worship before him; so if we see people worshiping or bowing before the saints’ feet after the resurrection, then they must be God-beings. Yes, that could be so, but it is an ambiguous text for the Greek word translated “worship” can mean simply to do obeisance or to show particular honor. Sometimes it does mean worship of a deity, but it is an ambiguous text and shouldn’t have been one of the major texts used to prove the doctrine.
Weaker yet is the use of Psalm 82:6 and Jesus’s citation of it as proof of the deification of man. The psalm, speaking to humans, states, “You are gods.” This is an example of poor exegesis, for a simple, common-sense interpretation should say that if humans in the present tense are said to be gods, and we are clearly limited beings, then how could that text prove future deification? Besides, the term is used of angels and even human judges and kings.
A stronger text, but not sufficient to prove our case is 2 Peter 1:4, which says we have been given great and precious promises “that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature.” An opponent could say that we have already become partakers of the divine nature—though not fully—through the Holy Spirit. Or, one could argue that the divine nature is simply godly character, which is comprised of love, patience, kindness, and so on.
Unfortunately, some have focused on these weak arguments and concluded that the doctrine of the deification of man is unscriptural and should be rejected. They fail to see that the real proof of this doctrine lies elsewhere in Scripture.
Others, however, resist the doctrine for different reasons.
Why the Resistance?
Some of the psychological factors influencing the resistance to the biblical truth that man will become God are understandable. There is a natural sense of awe and reverence for the uniqueness and majesty of God and the exclusivity of worship that is due to Him. That is right and proper.
At a time when New Age philosophy is strong, with the teaching that each of us is a “god” with the divine spark inside, it is necessary that biblical Christians raise their voices against this damnable heresy. Human beings are not inherently good and godlike. We are sinners in need of redemption and salvation from the clutches of sin. We receive goodness only through God, who is transcendent.
Besides, there are some charismatics with the equally damnable teaching that men are really “little gods,” misapplying the Psalm 82:6 text, “You are gods.” We are not little gods, and this carry-over from Gnosticism must be firmly resisted.
Also, traditional Christians are careful to maintain the distinction between the Creator and the creature.
“Evangelicals are determined to preserve the distinction between the Creator and the creation, particularly in light of Paul’s teaching in Romans 1:18–32 that the heart of idolatry and rebelling against God is to worship the creature rather than the Creator,” says Professor Craig Blomberg in his jointly authored 1997 work How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical In Conversation.
But if God’s own revelation shows that one day He will take the initiative to share His glory with mankind (Romans 5:2), then we will be more than mere creatures.
The point is, we must not impose our own ideas and philosophy on the biblical revelation, but must accept it for what it is.
A most gifted evangelical scholar, Professor Craig Blomberg, in his debate with the Mormon scholar Stephen Robinson (How Wide the Divide?) asserts, “We can come to share perfectly God’s communicable attributes, but can never usurp God’s unique role by becoming all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present.”
But notice the word “usurp,” thrown in to create an emotional distraction and resistance. If God in Scripture clearly states that He has called us to His eternal glory, where does the “usurping” come in? Satan wanted to “usurp,” but by God’s grace man will receive deification. And notice that not one text is given to show that God cannot make us all knowing, all-powerful, and all-present. It is simply stated as a given.
It is only philosophy, not the biblical text or inescapable logic, which decides which attributes are communicable and which are not. Platonic philosophy is more influential here than Scripture.
Why would it be impossible for God to make us omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient? Why? By what logical law? What in Aristotelian logic would be violated? Would the law of non-contradiction be violated? Didn’t Jesus change from humanity—full humanity—to being fully God?
There is a fierce theological and philosophical debate going on right now in evangelical theological circles about God, and many of the old assumptions are coming under sharp questioning. A lot of philosophical presuppositions have been imposed on Scripture and it is time that we put aside our traditions for the clear teaching of the Word of God. Paul says, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy.” As the brilliant evangelical philosopher Norman Geisler said in a Christianity Today article over twenty-two years ago, “You cannot beware philosophy unless you are first aware of philosophy.” When you study philosophy you realize that these neat categories, “communicable and incommunicable,” are man-made and not infallible. Why use them to judge Scripture, rather than the other way around?
Comparisons With Incarnation
The profound difficulty modern Christians have with the concept of deification is comparable to the problem the Jews and others had with the Incarnation in the first century.
The Incarnation was a problem to many who felt that the eternal, transcendent God could never stoop so low as to become man. Indeed, to this very day a key unitarian argument is that the unchangeable, eternal God could not become a man and die. God can’t die, God can’t change. Men impose certain categories on God and inhibit the biblical revelation. It is the same with the concept of deification.
The noted church father Athanasius put it well: “God became man in order that man might become God.” Exactly right!
The Incarnation was a signal as to the intention of God to deify man. In fact, in the very creation account, the fact that the animals were made after their own kind but man made after the image and likeness of God—the God-kind—allows us to catch a glimpse of God’s divine purpose.
The Incarnation of Jesus Christ was a further revelation, and at the Second Coming the full manifestation of God’s plan will be unveiled.
In a brilliantly argued article in the July, 1996 issue of Affirmation and Critique, Kerry Robichaux says, “It appears that many Christians wish to protect God’s integrity: yet in a sense the greater risk to God’s integrity was taken in His becoming a man.
“The New Testament speaks of the Incarnation as an emptying (Phil. 2:7) and Christ’s death as his humiliation (Acts 8:33). That man may become God is not merely the elevation of man to the eternal plan” but the glorification of God Himself in man.
“It serves to magnify God, not to minify Him…But if we ignore the full provisions of His salvation and fail to enjoy the full extent of His communicability, we risk insulting Him in His grace and His economy.”
While the Protestants like to talk glibly about salvation, they take away from the magnificence of God’s grace and the magnitude of His salvation. To take the text slightly out of its original context, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” The churches neglect “so great a salvation” by not teaching people what God really has in mind. The Church of God has this truth. Shouldn’t your efforts be fully behind a church that teaches people this wonderful truth?
Which biblical truth is more important than this and which one really exalts the great God more than this doctrine which shows the incredible extent of His love? How grateful we should be to come in contact with a church that has this precious knowledge!
Kerry Rubichaux, in the Affirmation and Critique article, writes, “Therefore, when we speak of God’s salvation we ought to view it more broadly than modern Protestant Christianity. While Protestantism typically sees salvation and redemption as virtually identical, and therefore focuses on the suffering and death of Christ, we are compelled to consider God’s salvation as something much fuller as that which consummates in man’s sharing of God’s life, nature, and expression to become His genuine sons and, in kind, like Him.”
The Incarnation was divinity brought into humanity and the deification at the Second Coming will be humanity brought into divinity.
The only barriers to accepting this doctrine are philosophical speculation (particularly Platonic philosophy) and Eastern mysticism, which posits the view that God is totally Other and inaccessible to man, dealing with us by intermediaries. Yes, the Scripture says God dwells in “unapproachable light,” but He will bring that light of His divinity to man who will then be one with Him.
The truths about the Sabbath, the holy days, the Kingdom of God ruling on the earth, the fulfillment of prophecy, the death of Christ, and His resurrection and ascension are all subsumed into what God really is doing in history and what really shows that “God is love.”
Thank God for this vital truth!
Author: Ian Boyne. Copyright ©1999. The Church of God International