“Power to Become the Sons of God”

“But as many as received Him (Christ) to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12, KJV)

 

In the above-quoted Scripture verse the word “power” is rendered from the Greek dunamis, from which we derive the words “dynamo” and “dynamics.” A footnote in my KJV Bible gives the alternate rendering of the same Greek word as the right, or, privilege.”

The NKJV, in fact, renders the same word as “the right to become children of God.” The NIV renders the word as “the full rights of sons.

Right — or privilege?

In our present society, it is often said that, for instance, a driver’s license is not a right which a holder is entitled to unconditionally, but only a privilege which can be taken away on certain conditions, such as an infraction of a civil rule or ordinance.

A “right” implies what is commonly called an “entitlement” – something one can claim as one who is worthy of it.

When it comes to salvation – to receiving everlasting life in God’s kingdom – do we obtain it as a “privilege” – not a “right?”

As evangelicals [those who profess to proclaim the “evangel” or gospel [“good news”] of God’s salvation declare, one is saved by God’s grace [undeserved gift] and not through one’s works. They would readily quote Ephesians 2:8 – “For we are saved by grace through faith, not by works lest anyone should boast.”

Thus has arisen the issue of the “security” of our salvation.  Is our salvation a secure promise — sure and certain? That is, to put it simply, that once we have such a promise we cannot lose it by something we might do, or not do?

Evangelicals would point to Christ’s “finished work” at Calvary’s cross (John 19:20). By this is meant that, as beneficiaries of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, we cannot add anything to it — any work on our part — to make us “more forgiven” or “more acceptable.”

In that strict sense, this is true!  We cannot be justified from our sin – made clean, just and righteous – through anything we might do to cleanse ourselves from it.  Only Christ’s blood, shed on Calvary’s cross, can cleanse and pardon us of our sin.  [See:  Freed From Bondage, The Ransomed of the LORD, and Transgressions Under the First Covenant.]

After the cross — then what?

The apostle Paul, under inspiration by Christ’s Spirit, writes that  our justification does not begin and end at the cross of Christ:  “And if Christ is not risen [from the dead], your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17)!  Christ’s resurrection is vital in order to complete our justification from sin!  [See: Two Goats Together.]

Paul also wrote:  “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not!  How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism unto death; that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life” (Romans 61-4).

Further:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, all things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

At the start of His earthly ministry Jesus preached:  “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). He also twice declared:  “…unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). To repent means to change one’s attitude and behavior from living in sin to living a righteous and holy life.

Christ’s disciples preached the same message, and exhorted those whom they had baptized to “…repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20).  [See:  Christian Formation, Be Holy, for I Am Holy,” Saved for Good Works, and Being and Doing.]

The Bible consistently teaches that God looks for the “fruit” or result of His saving work in one who believes in Christ.  In the ultimate analysis, Christ will judge every single person on the basis of what he or she has done in their lifetime on this planet (John 5:27-30; Matthew 25:21-36; Acts 24:15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:12-13).

Power to do good

Despite his spiritual stature, Paul readily admitted that in himself, by his own human fleshly resources, he did not have the power to do good:  “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18).  In the next verses he explains his predicament – which, to be honest, we all face, too! –  and the only solution: Christ (Verses 24-25)!

Paul then proceeds to explain how Christ helps us out of our predicament – through the power of His Spirit (Romans 8).  [See:  God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the Spirit and Breaking Down our “Walls of Jericho.”]

Through the power of Christ’s Spirit which Jesus imparts to His true believers, they are thus given the assurance of the rights or entitlement as God’s very own children.  Galatians 4:4-5 (NKJV) assures:  “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons,”  from the Greek uihothesia [notice how the first part of the word sounds like the Spanish hijo, for “son”]. [See: Are We All God’s Children?]

Privilege can be taken away

Consistent with Christ’s judgment of our works or deeds – whether good or evil – we will be rewarded or penalized accordingly.  It is, after all, possible for anyone –including Christians – to commit the “unpardonable sin,” and thus miss out on God’s reward.  [See:  Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable? and The Value of the “Firstborn.”]

By hanging on to the power Christ gives, we assure ourselves of “walking worthy of our calling” (Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:11). As such, we will truly be known by Christ and welcomed into His glorious kingdom at His return. [See: I Never Knew You!”]

Such is my prayer for all of you, my dear readers, especially during this year’s Day of Pentecost (31 May)!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
16052020

Pandemic Pandemonium!

 

 

As year 2020 began, the whole world was racked by news that a new virus, originating from Wuhan City in the Hubei Province of the Republic of China, had broken out in late 2019 and shortly causing the death of the first victims. The virus was recently identified and named COVID-19 [for Corona Virus 2019] by the World Health Organization (WHO). People traveling to and from Wuhan [then called the “epicenter” of the epidemic] transmitted the virus through person-to-person contact, and COVID-19 has now spread to over 180 countries, and has thus become a “pandemic,” meaning an epidemic that has spread all over the world.

As of today (16042020), 1.2 million people worldwide have been infected with the virus. Now the U.S.A. has topped the list of countries with the highest number of COVID-19 cases, at 667,000, with deaths now at 2,073! [ See:
https://edition.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-pandemic-intl-04-16-20/index.html?4tm
.] Some 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment due to many business companies and trades closing shop in order to stem the spread of the dreaded disease by the now watchword “social distancing” – a euphemism for quarantining or isolation.

Never has the entire world experienced such dread and terror because of a pandemic as today, since the dreaded “black plague.” [See: https://www.history.com/topics/middle-ages/pandemics-timeline, article titled “Pandemics That Changed History.”]

In the midst of such pandemonium, meaning “demons all over,” brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Roman Catholic pontiff Pope Francis declared recently on worldwide television that this pandemic is not “God’s judgment” on mankind!

But what does the Bible say?

To a people who claim to be “called” by God’s name [Christians of whatever persuasion], here is what God says by way of promise: “‘If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought upon the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you’” (Exodus 15:26, NKJV, throughout).

Based on this Scripture promise, it is clear that it is God’s judgment that if the people of God do not do what is right in His sight, do not keep or obey His commandments and statutes, the diseases such as He placed upon the Egyptians will come on the people!

As anyone who knows about the Bible history of the children of Israel in the land of Egypt will recall, God sent ten plagues upon Egypt because Egypt’s king, the pharaoh, would not obey God’s command through Moses that the pharaoh let God’s people, the Israelites, go out of Egypt to worship the LORD in a place He would lead them to. The final plague, the mysterious death of Egypt’s firstborn of man and beast eventually pushed the pharaoh to let the people go. This plague caused such panic [pandemonium!] and dread on the Egyptians that they urged their pharaoh to let the children of Israel go, or else “We shall all be dead” (Exodus 12:33)! And that’s how the famous “exodus” from Egypt to the “land of promise” eventually took place.

God uses plagues to punish and cause others to fear

The Old Testament chronicles God’s judgment on the people of Israel for their disobedience to His commands. The following are some such instances.

Numbers 11:1-3 – A plague of fire destroyed a number of Israelites when they complained to God and thus displeased Him. The rest cried out to Moses; he prayed for them, and the plague stopped.

Numbers 11:4-6, 10, 15-3, 31-34 – The people of Israel complained about the “bread from heaven” (manna) which God had miraculously provided for their sustenance. They now wanted meat besides, and dared God if He could indeed provide them with it. But the Almighty could, and did, rain down quail from heaven. Because God was displeased with their complaint and lack of faith, He became angry and struck them with a “very great plague” that killed all who complained.

Numbers 13:1-3; 14:1-37 – Because of false reports brought to the people by some of the men sent out to scout the land God promised to Israel as their inheritance, God’s anger was aroused against their unbelief. The scouts died through a plague from God.

Numbers 16:1-49 – Some chief men from the tribes of Levi and Reuben complained that Moses and Aaron had been exalting themselves, as God’s priests, above the assembly of Israel. They wanted to have the same power (and prestige) for themselves as priests of God. This rebellion displeased God, and He destroyed those complaining leaders and their household by a kind of “sink hole” that swallowed them up with their household and belongings. The rest of the Israelites that survived, some 250, offered incense – a task God had reserved only for Aaron and his descendants – and a plague of fire destroyed them. At this, the rest of Israel complained about God’s retribution on these men. As a result, God sent a plague that killed 14,700 more of them.

Numbers 21:4-9 – The Israelites were in the outskirts of Edom when they complained about lack of food and water, and became angry with Moses and Aaron. Because of their unbelief in God’s ability to provide for them, God sent a plague of venomous snakes that bit the people, and many died.

Numbers 25:1-9 – The men of Israel committed harlotry with the women of Moab and thus worshipped their gods. God’s anger was aroused and had Moses kill these men. Verse 9 calls this “a plague,” because of which 24,000 died.

The apostle Paul taught that all of the afore-mentioned experiences of the Israelites in their wilderness journeys were “examples, to the intent that we [Christians] should not lust after evil as they also lusted… written for our admonition, upon whom the ends [purpose] of the ages have [has] come” (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

These plagues were all in the way of God’s judgments upon the sinning Israelites. After the children of Israel had settled in their assigned territories in the Promised Land, God promised them blessings for obedience to His commandments, as well as curses for disobedience (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28).

God consistent with His judgment and punishment

All through Israel’s history God sent prophets to remind the people of Israel about God’s promises. The message remained the same: for all of Israel’s sins God would send punishments [“plagues,” as we might call them], but in His abundant mercy and love for them and their “fathers” [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], as they repent and turn from their sins, God would bless them again as before.

That is the consistent message of both the “major” prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel) as well as the “minor” prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).

Also in our day!

God says, “I do not change” (Malachi 3:6-7). Today He commands us: “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” [Compare with James 4:8, and see: What Does God Mean – “I Do not Change?”]

I have watched on TV a number of special messages which encourage this. In fact, a summary of the prayer of Israel’s great king, Solomon (2 Chronicles 6:22-40), is often flashed on the screen: “If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and heal their land.”

But just what is “sin?”

Most people have some kind of perception or awareness of sin and wicked ways as something bad or harmful to others and to oneself. Most believe that murder is a sin, as is stealing, committing adultery, or telling a lie.

What most people fail to understand, however, is the connection between sin and God’s law or commandments. 1 John 3:4 (KJV) says: “Sin is the transgression of the law [of God].”

The apostle Paul declared: “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7).

Source of COVID-19

Setting aside conspiracy theories about germ- or bio-chemical warfare, we have been told about what the plain and direct source of the COVID-19 virus is. The “corona virus” came from the meat of infected bats and civet cats which some Chinese in Wuhan consumed as a delicacy. Scientific studies show that certain animals are “vectors” or transmitters of certain diseases.

From that “epicenter” the disease has spread to most nations through people traveling “to and fro,” the virus being transmitted through contact with infected persons. Nations have thus imposed varying degrees of quarantine measures to try to contain the spread of the virus, which is often referred to as an “unseen enemy.” So many things about the virus have yet to be studied, and the uncertainty is causing mass panic or hysteria in places!

Long ago, God had commanded His people not to eat, nor even touch the carcasses of what He calls “unclean” animals. Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 list the God-ordained categories of “clean” and “unclean” animals and meats. Bats and cats are clearly among the “unclean” animals that God forbids as food. [For more details, see: Did Christ Cleanse All Meats?]

So serious is God about this matter that Isaiah 66:16-17 prophesies about a dire judgment Christ will bring at His return to earth: “‘For behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with His chariots, like whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebukes with flames of fire. For by fire and His sword the LORD will judge all flesh [humanity]. And the slain of the LORD shall be many. Those who sanctify themselves, to go to the gardens after an idol in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination and the mouse shall be consumed [destroyed by fire] together, says the LORD.’”

The prayers God accepts

In these times of great distress because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are being urged to pray – and pray they do! On our TV screen I have often seen and heard the “oratio imperata” [prayer for all] to ask God to stop the pandemic and heal all the affected people.

But, will God hear these prayers?

Proverbs 28:9 declares: “One who turns away from hearing [obeying] the law, even his prayer is an abomination [a hateful thing to God].”

1 John 3:22 resonates this connection between obedience to God’s law and answered prayer: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him [God], because we keep His commandments and do those things which are pleasing in His sight.”

Unless people are taught about God’s law and obedience to it – as I do on this website – their prayers will be of no avail! James 5:18 assures: “The effective fervent prayers of a righteous man avails much.”

A righteous man is one who keeps God’s commandments and law, which Psalm 119:172 equates with righteousness. Luke 1:6 affirms that the parents of John the Baptist or the baptizer – the priest Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth – were “both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”

Same message for our time!

John the baptizer and Christ both taught about the imminent coming of God’s kingdom and admonished people to “repent” and do works befitting that repentance (Matthew 3:1-8; 4:17).

Jesus’ apostles and prophets have preached the same message of repentance, which is turning from sin or disobedience to God’s law and, instead, being obedient to it (Acts 3:17-26; 11:9-24).

As the chief Prophet, Jesus told Christians in Asia Minor to repent of their sin and moral failings (Revelation 2:5, 16, 21, 22; 3:3, 19). As that “Spirit,” Christ tells us today to hear – obey! —  what that Spirit says to the churches in that area and time.

Before Christ’s return to earth in glory, an angel of God will preach the “eternal gospel” to all the world. Like God’s “two witnesses” whose call to repentance [as symbolized by their attire of “sackcloth”], their message will be heard by all people worldwide (Revelation 14:6-7; 11:3-10) –no great wonder, what with our amazing electronic “social media” devices. The angel’s message: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

This message is a confirmation of the ancient words of the psalmist: “O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness, fear before Him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:9). Psalm 33:18-19 adds this promise: “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.” How we need this hope today, when death through viral infection threatens in our midst and quarantine measures affect our livelihood and supply of food!

God’s word abundantly teaches that the fear of God is to “depart from evil” and do what is good (Proverbs 3:7; 8:13; 16:6. [See: Can We Fear and Love God at the Same Time?]

When we love God by keeping His commandments (John 14:15, 21, 23; 1 John 5:2-3), we will be in such a close, intimate relationship with Him, and thus abide or dwell “in the secret place of the Most High and shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).

God promises: “Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler [a type of Satan] and from the perilous pestilence [such as COVID-19!]. He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge [compare with Matthew 23:37]; His truth [Christ (John 14:6); His word (17:17); His law (Psalm 119:142)] shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD , who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling” (Psalm 91:3-10).

A special word to the English-speaking nations

As I mentioned earlier, God’s warning about plagues and pestilences originally applied and today especially applies to the English-speaking nations (the U.S.A., Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand).  An honest study of Scripture and history will prove that these and other northwestern European countries are descendants of the ancient nation of Israel, in addition to today’s “Israel” — the land of the Jews.  [See: God’s Kingdom and Israel.] As mentioned earlier, America leads the world in the total number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Britain and Australia are not far behind!

Revelation 6 through 18 details plagues that will yet come upon the whole world before Christ returns to earth.

“We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Already the whole world is so distraught that, as I update this article (02052020), the total number of COVID-19 cases worldwide has now topped over three million, and still rising!  But this is nothing to compare with Revelation 9:13-18, which shows that, as the”sixth angel” blows the sixth “trumpet” that brings various plagues, a third of all mankind will be killed!  If the earth’s total human population is now close to eight billion, a third would easily include some 2.6 billion people! As the seventh and last trumpet is sounded, multiple millions more will perish (Revelation 11:15-19:21).

Isaiah 24:6 sums up this scenario thus:  “Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.” Isaiah 6:11-13 intimates that only about a tenth of Israel will remain alive on earth.  As God judges Israel, so does He non-Israelites, or the “Gentiles” (Romans 2:8-9). Thus, out of today’s some eight billion human inhabitants of earth, only about 800 million will survive. These will serve as God’s human “seed to sow” to “replant” the earth with people all through the 1,000 years of Christ’s coming reign on earth as subjects and potential heirs of His kingdom.

The various plagues that God brings and will bring upon mankind are His judgments to lead people to repentance and salvation.

I trust that this article helps us to repent and prepare for that day, and how we can cope well with today’s pandemic. Above all, let’s make sure Christ will truly know us at His return. [See: “I Never Knew You!”]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
18042020

 

Christian Formation

 

“My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I have doubts about you” (Galatians 4:19-20, NKJV, throughout).

 

The apostle Paul wrote a very corrective letter to the Christians in the congregation at Galatia. He had labored hard and long [he compared his efforts to a woman laboring in giving birth to a child (see the above-quoted passage)] to teach them true doctrines as he had been taught directly by the risen Christ (1:11-12, etc.).

He had preached to them the gospel of salvation in Christ through faith and not through “works of the law” (2:16). He accused some “false brethren” who had come to them stealthily to sway them into believing a different “gospel” that brought the Galatian brethren into “bondage” (Verse 4). [For more on this subject, see: Freed From Bondage.]

Paul called the Galatian brethren “foolish” (3:1-3) for thus departing from what he had taught them. He then said that he was going again through “birth pangs,” as it were, until Christ was “formed” in them.

What “Christian formation” is about

“Christian formation” is about the work of making a person into a “new creature” in Christ (6:15; 2 Corinthians 5:17). It is the creation of the perfect image or likeness of Christ in a Christian believer (Romans 8:29).

Hebrews 1:3 declares that the Son [Jesus Christ] is the “express image” [from the Greek character, meaning the stamped exact copy of the original] of the person of God [the Father]. “Express” means the manifest – or, as we would say, the “out and out” image or likeness of God. Christ the Son and His Father are so alike that they are considered as “One.” [For more on this, see: The Trinity Doctrine Reconsidered.]

Thus, a person who is being formed or “recreated” in the likeness of Christ would also have the image or likeness of God the Father.

The Bible compares the work of Christian formation to the work of a “potter” with clay — to shape it into whatever object he likes or wishes (Romans 9:18-24). The prophet Isaiah also wrote: “But now, O LORD, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah 64:8; see also Jeremiah 18:4).

Some have also compared Christian formation to the work of a sculptor in wood or stone to shape the likeness of Christ. With his chisel and mallet the sculptor would chip away at wood or stone any part that doesn’t look like Christ.

Where Christ-likeness starts

Proverbs 23:7 declares, “For as he [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he.” The place to start in having Christ formed in us is in our mind and heart – our thoughts! Well did Paul exhort Christians at Philippi: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2: 5).

And where can we find Christ’s mind?

John 1:1 refers to Christ as the “Word” [from the Greek logos, meaning “Word’ or “spokesman”]. It was by His word that all things came into being (Verse 3), and also by the “word of His power” He upholds or maintains all things created (Hebrews 1:3).

Jesus was the “LORD” of the Old Testament who dealt with mankind before He became the human Jesus through a miraculous birth by God’s handmaid Mary. [See: The True Christ, Mary Worship, Peter Knew “The Holy One,” The Law of Christ, and Moses and Jesus – Are They Contraries?]

As the LORD who called out Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it was the same Christ who gave their descendants [the Israelites] His laws and commandments. It was also His Spirit hat moved the prophets to declare God’s word to them and to the rest of mankind (2 Peter 1:21; 1 Timothy 3:16-17).

Thus, as Isaiah 8:20 declares, the law of God and Bible prophecy [His “testimony” (compare with Revelation 19:10)] are the basis for knowing whether a thought or word [for thoughts or concepts are expressed in words] is of God, who is Light and Truth (John 1:4-8; 14:6) – or otherwise.

Struggle between God’s thoughts and man’s

The fact that man has to undergo formation or shaping into Christ’s likeness shows that mankind is unlike God in the spiritual sense. In the physical sense, yes, we human beings look like God – even as Jesus walked this earth in a human body, shape or form.

But in our thoughts we humans are far different from God. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD, ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Jesus declared that the common human heart is the source of all evil thoughts and works: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man” (Matthew 15:19-20).

Paul put it this way: “For the flesh [the carnal mind] lusts [Greek, epithumeo, meaning desires or sets the heart] against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:17). As a result, mankind has worked evil such as Paul enumerates, in Verses 19-20, which things keep us from inheriting God’s kingdom (Verse 21).

Paul also wrote: “Because the carnal [unspiritual] mind is enmity against [hostile to] God; it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8).

This being the case, God calls every human being, in His own time, to turn away from or forsake their own thoughts, and instead think God’s thoughts: “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Let him return to the LORD, for He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). [For a fuller understanding of God’s progressive plan to call all of mankind, see: The Divine Prerogatives, Predestination, This Is not the Only Day of Salvation, Are We All God’s Children?, and The Value of the “Firstborn.”]

Needed: God’s power

Once a person is called and chosen by God for salvation in Christ, he is expected by God to bear the “fruits of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). He is to strive against sin (Hebrews 12:1-5).

James 4:7-10 exhorts: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

It is a part of humility to admit that on our own we cannot obey the law of God and please Him (John 15:5-8). We need the power of His Spirit in order to accomplish that. [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the Spirit, and Breaking Down our “Walls of Jericho.”]

The final “product”

Any fine work of art comes out only after a lot of effort and work by the artisan on clay, wood, stone, canvas or paper. Precious metals like gold or silver are purged or purified of all impurities by fire (1 Peter1:7; Job 23:10). So does every person who is being formed in the spiritual likeness of Christ need to go through much trials and sufferings in order to perfect him (Hebrews 2:10; Acts 14:22). [See: The Flaming Sword East of Eden, Is There Ever Any Good in Man? and  Being and Doing.]

At His soon return, Jesus will recognize His own image in those who have Him formed in their own lives. He will know them as His own, and will welcome them into His glorious kingdom and everlasting life. [See: “I Never Knew You!”]

The choice is yours!

Christ’s invitation into His kingdom is likened to an invitation to a wedding banquet (Matthew 22:1-14). But, as Verse 5 shows, there will be those who have all sorts of excuses and will refuse [by choice!] to come and join the party. And if anyone does choose to come, let him make sure he has on the proper “wedding garment” lest he be turned away (Verses11-13).

That “garment” is as Revelation 19:8 describes it: “fine linen, clean and bright,” which is the “righteous acts of the saints.” Based on the Greek text, this phrase is better rendered as “the righteousnesses of the ‘Holy One’” – Christ! [See: Peter Knew “The Holy One,” and Two Goats Together, especially the section “Proper wedding attire.”]

God invites all who truly thirst for His righteousness and His kingdom (Matthew 5:6; 6:33) to “come to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1-10). But, for all to benefit from God’s “water” and “bread,” God tells them to “Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear [obey], and your soul shall live [You will have everlasting life] (Verse 3).

Jesus repeats the invitation, in Revelation 22:17 – “‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” The KJV renders the latter phrase as: “And whosoever will [from the Greek, thelo, meaning to “choose” or “prefer”] let him take the water of life freely.”

May you choose everlasting life by allowing Jesus Christ to be fully formed in you!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
20032020

Should Everyone Be Allowed to Be Who They Are?

Recently I heard on TV a preview of a CNN program hosted by C. Amanpour, where a colored lady declared confidently: “I think people should be allowed to be who they are.”

At first hearing, the statement sounded very liberating and reassuring – even empowering. But, taken as it is, the declaration led me to ask: what if a person is a confirmed serial-killer or a rapist? Should he be allowed to continue to be who he is? What about the safety and security of everyone else? Shouldn’t these latter also be allowed to have some peace of mind being assured they are safe from harm or violence by those who seek to kill or rape?

In fairness to the said lady, I must say that she did qualify her statement by applying it to herself as one whom she considered to have done nothing criminal.

The whole issue boils down to morality — is there a sure and absolute standard by which to judge whether an attitude – and the concomitant action or behavior — should be, or not be, allowed to take place and even proliferate in a sane and sound society? After all, what are the “powers that be” there for?

1 Peter 2:13-14 exhorts: “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of men for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by Him [God] for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.” [See: The Sin of Rebellion.]

All sound societies have their respective set of laws, regulations, statutes, and ordinances that define what is acceptable [legal or lawful – good, moral] conduct or behavior, and what is unacceptable [illegal, unlawful, criminal – evil, immoral]. Governments also prescribe and provide a system of rewards for those who abide by the law, and penalties or punishment for those who break the law. Depending on the severity of the crime, governments may impose monetary or material fines, imprisonment, or the death penalty, as the case may be. [See: The Great Wall, and Of Dungeons and Prisons.]

World leaders agree that for any society to remain stable and even flourish, the “rule of law” must be in effect and followed. A clear distinction between good and evil behavior must be recognized and followed or avoided accordingly. Without this clear guideline, a society is doomed to lawlessness and chaos! The above-mentioned lady’s statement, unqualified, betrays a naïve understanding of human nature as it has turned out from the start. [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” A Law-abiding Universe — But Man! Is There Ever Any Good in Man? “No Such Thing as Sin?” and Being and Doing.]

The question of “legality”

Nations have and follow their own set of laws as handed down to them by ancient custom or tradition, by the decree of a sovereign [king, queen, president, premier, or dictator] – or by a body of “law-makers” [legislators like congressmen and senators, council members, etc.]. Thus we find quite a variety of laws among nations. What may be legal in one country may be illegal in another. An example would be polygamy [marriage to more than one spouse] and the medical use of marijuana.

Because such laws are made by men who are subject to error and imperfection, some laws may actually prove advantageous to some, while being disadvantageous, oppressive or onerous to others in society. It all started when our first parents decided to ignore their Creator’s commandment in favor of the enticing but contrary words of Satan the Devil, who came in the guise of a wily serpent (Genesis 2-3). [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and Drunk With Strange Wine.]

Following in the steps of our ancestor Adam, all of mankind has rejected God’s commandments and laws. We have followed the “way that seems right” to us but actually “its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). As a result, men have passed and enforced laws that are often unjust and inequitable. [See: Devising Evil by Law and The Rainbow Connection.]

Thus, what men might consider “legal” may in reality be unlawful in God’s eyes – a sin, or transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4, KJV). That is why a person who thinks of doing something “legal” in the eyes of man’s law but sinful in God’s eyes would be allowed to perpetrate what he is contemplating, to the possible detriment to the person and to society. In the final judgment, God has ruled that “The wages [consequence] of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

In our time, the boundary between good and evil has become so blurred that God condemns some leaders of nations: “Woe [great suffering or punishment] to them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20)!

The result is that some countries have “criminalized” what is Godly and righteous – such as the proper instruction of one’s children in good behavior, which often requires discipline and admonition (Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 22:15; 23:13). Other countries have “legalized” what God considers sinful – such as same-sex marriages [see: The Rainbow Connection].

“Restorative justice”

Legislators, penologists, and humanitarians advocate that our justice system should not merely punish criminals but should also seek to restore them to such a “reformed” state as to make them useful and profitable to society. Thus bureaus of “prisons” are now called bureaus of “correction” – some kind of “reformatories.” [See: Of Dungeons and Prisons.]

But so is God’s primary desire for all of sinful mankind: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). To “repent” is to change from doing unlawful deeds (sinful or in transgression of God’s law] to obeying that law. There can be no better and more effective way to reforming one’s behavior than through thorough, deep-down and genuine repentance. Otherwise, Jesus warns more than once: “I tell you…unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 12:3, 5).

Such repentance is the result not simply of a person’s remorse over his crime or sin, although that is a good start. Acts 11:18 shows that repentance is something that God “grants” to a person or to persons. God does that by first giving His Spirit so that the person begins to understand the “goodness of God” (Romans 2:4). That knowledge should cause one to appreciate the righteousness, holiness, and goodness of God’s law (Romans 7:12) — that this law should be upheld and followed or observed by all. The knowledge and recognition of one’s falling short of God’s glory and perfection as revealed in God’s law, plus the realization of the dire consequence of sin not repented of (Romans 3:23; 6:23) should bring one to ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy through Christ’s shed blood, and the strength and power to obey God’s law from thereon.

I have published a number of articles on this website that discuss more about repentance and how God’s Spirit enables us to obey and thus please God. [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the Spirit,  and Breaking Down our “Walls of Jericho”.] Those who refuse to repent, despite God’s initiative, and will continue in wickedness will perish in the “lake of fire” or the “second death” (Revelation 21:8).

What God wants everyone to be

If there’s something everyone should be allowed to be who they are, it is what God desires each one of us to become – His very own sons and daughters! Hebrews 2: 10 reveals that it is God’s purpose to bring “many sons [and daughters, too] to glory” — immortal life as God’s children. Romans 8:16-17 assures: “The Spirit [itself] bears with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”

Let’s make sure we are accounted worthy to be truly God’s children [see: Are We All God’s Children?]  As such, we have such a great potential as to cause even God Himself to marvel!.  [See:  “He Marveled.”]

Christ to rule with “a rod of iron” at His return

The good news or “gospel” of the Bible is about salvation in Christ and the establishment of God’s perfect kingdom here on earth. He will rule “with a rod of iron” (Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15) — where wicked people will be swiftly dealt with. No one will be allowed to destroy human life and the earth (Isaiah 11:9; Revelation 11:18). Most will willingly submit themselves to Christ’s rule. The result: World Peace – At Last! [See also: “The Next Chapter of History.”]

It behooves every one of us to not be content to remain as we are – in sin – but to seek first God’s kingdom and perfection (Matthew 6:23; 5:48). [See: “Be Holy for I Am Holy,” Saved for Good Works, “I Never Knew You!” and The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love.]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
28012020

Judgment in the Last Day — the Last?

 

Jesus said: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him –the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). The question is: Did Jesus mean that this judgment “in the last day” will also be the last Day of Judgment? Or will there be an extension of that Judgment Day?

The remark of Christ here has its background in His previous declaration, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God [Christ Himself] and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and He has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life [everlasting], and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:25-30).

I have raised the above question in light of the belief of those who espouse the doctrine of the universal salvation of all men [“universalism”], that God will save all and every single human being who has ever lived, because that is His express desire. For more details about this, see: The Universalism (“All Saved”) Issue and More on the “All Saved” Issue.]

In a word, proponents of universal salvation believe and teach that Jesus’ judgment in the “Last Day” is not really the last judgment, but that God will somehow extend that Day, in order to give the worst of sinners yet another chance to be saved, in order that – as they understand it – all human beings will ultimately be saved, not a single one lost, as God desires and purposes.

The first and last

The apostle Peter, under inspiration by God’s Spirit, wrote: “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God, and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God” (1Peter 4:17)?

Peter referred to the Christians who were members of God’s “house” or church, to whom he wrote this letter. As he began this letter, he addressed it: “To the pilgrims of the Dispersion [Greek, diaspora], elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1).

The New Testament refers abundantly to the Church of God as God’s “elect” in this present age. [See: “The Next Chapter of History,” Where Is God’s Church Today? and The Value of the “Firstborn.”] In contrast to those not elected, they are the ones who have “obeyed the gospel of God.”

In our finite human language, when we speak of a “first” or a “beginning,” we intimate or suggest a second, third, etc. to follow – and, finally, the last. Jesus Christ called Himself “the Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 1:8, 11; 21:6; 22:13) – “the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” Alpha is the first letter and Omega the last letter in the Greek alphabet.

As the “Alpha,” Jesus began or created all that there is in the universe (Hebrews 1:1-2; Colossians 1:15-16; John 1:1-3). As the “Omega,” He will also end all things and “make all things new” (2 Peter 3: 10-13; Revelation 21:4-5).

Three judgment periods

As the apostle Peter wrote, Christ’s judgment on all of humanity has begun – first on those who are now called to become a part of the “house of God” – the Church of God ( 1 Peter 4:17). They are being judged as to their faith and works in Christ, and will receive their just reward at His return. [See: “I Never Knew You!” Being and Doing, and Saved for Good Works.] We might well call this the “first” judgment period.

The rest of mankind who remain wicked and “unsaved” at Christ’s return will either: 1) be destroyed at Christ’s “appearance” (Isaiah 66:14-16; Revelation 11:17-18); or, 2) as Isaiah 6:13, however, indicates, a “tenth” of humanity will remain alive as mortal beings, like a tree cut down but its stump remaining, to grow back again into a new tree.

Thus, granting that today’s world population is about eight billion, some 800 million people will survive the ravages of the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21) and the plagues of God’s wrath upon the wicked (Revelation 6-19).

These sizeable human survivors will become the subjects of God’s kingdom, which Jesus will establish on earth upon His return. These human beings will have families, will multiply and will become the nations whom Jesus will judge (Isaiah 2:1-4). This will continue all through the 1,000 years [“millennium”] of Christ’s initial reign with His glorified saints (Revelation 20:6).

Those who will remain righteous and are judged by Christ to be ready for spiritual “harvest” will be changed from mortal to immortal, just like Christians who remain alive at His return (1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). Those who prove to be wicked and rebellious will be swiftly destroyed (Ezekiel 38-39). Hopefully they will have a future chance to be taught God’s way, repent, and be saved also. We might well call this the “second” judgment period.

Revelation 20:5 reveals that all the rest of the dead who have not been “saved” – from the time of Adam and Eve, right up to the return of Christ and during His millennial reign – will be resurrected, and will have their fair chance to be judged like the rest of humanity. Verses 11-12 describe this judgment period. We might well call this the “third” – and the last – judgment period: “Judgment in the last day” (John 12:48).

At the end of that period, all those whose names are “not found written in The Book of Life [were] cast into the lake of fire” (Verse 15). These are those who are judged to be unrepentant wicked people who, not being included in God’s Book of Life, will not inherit everlasting life in God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). They will suffer the “second death” (Revelation 21:8), from which there is no more hope of further life; whereas, the righteous—those who obey God’s commandments – will “have the right to [partake of] the tree of life [live forever (Genesis 3:22)] and may enter through the gates into the city [the ‘New Jerusalem’]” (Revelation 22:14).

Why “judgment in the last day” will be the last

At the risk of repeating myself, it must be told that those wicked who will perish in the “lake of fire,” or “the second death” will be like a tree that is burned by fire, leaving neither root nor branch (Malachi 4:1), to become mere “ashes under the soles” of the feet of those who fear God’s name [the righteous] (Verses 2-3). That means complete destruction!

As a practical horticulture exercise, a tree that has been cut down, with its stump and roots intact, will grow new branches, will flourish and become a new tree. So also the branch of some trees, like the fig or mulberry tree, can be stuck into soil and, with proper care, will take root, grow new branches and become a new tree.

But not so, the wicked! As the apostle Peter describes it, the judgment of intense fire [“fervent heat”] that will dissolve the elements of the heavens and the earth will also completely burn up wicked or “ungodly” men (2 Peter 3:7, 10-12).

Daniel 9:27 speaks about the “consummation” [from the Hebrew kalah, meaning “destruction altogether, utterly, riddance”], to be poured upon that which becomes desolate because of abominations or wickedness. Consummation is the complete fulfillment of a thing, such as God’s judgment on the wicked. It is the termination, the end, of the judgment – the last!

One last “straw”

A proponent of universal salvation grasped at Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3 as the “last straw” to try to prove that there is yet a time which God will give to wicked people who will be destroyed in the “lake of fire” or the “second death.” This passage says: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…A time to kill, and a time to heal.”

Since it is God’s express purpose to save all of mankind (1 Timothy 2:3-4; etc.), this proponent says that God will yet give time for all wicked men to repent, even if God will have destroyed them in the “lake of fire.” God will supposedly “heal” them to give them that time. This is an example of stretching Scripture to try to fit it into one’s idea or belief!

However, as I have explained here, God will give every single person his or her fair chance to receive God’s grace, repent, be forgiven and live a righteous life – if they would, or so choose.  Jesus will “heal” all those who have been “killed” by calling the dead from their graves at the time He has judged (John 5:28-29). [See: What Is This Thing Called “Will?”  Predestination, and This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.] After that last judgment period closes, then will Ecclesiastes 3:6 also take effect– “A time to keep [to save the righteous], and a time to throw away [to cast the unrepentant wicked into the ‘lake of fire’].” All in God’s own time!

What to do, then?

Ecclesiastes 12:13 concludes: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

Matthew 10:28 – “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him [God] who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Romans 11:20-22 – “Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches [Israel], He may not spare you [Gentile converts] either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness, Otherwise you will also be cut off.”

2 Corinthians 7:1 – “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Ephesians 2:12-13 – “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

Hebrews 12: 28 -29 — “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For God is a consuming fire.

1 Peter 1:15-17 –“ But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written: ‘Be Holy for I Am Holy.’ And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.” [See: Can We Fear and Love God at the Same Time?]

2 Peter 3:11, 14 – “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.”

Revelation 14:6-7 — “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the eternal gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth – to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people – saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’” [See: True Worship.]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
21012020

Whoever Loves God Is Known by Him

This past week I was blown away when I read 1 Corinthians 8:3 — “But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him” (NJKV). I don’t know about you, but I had read through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians several times before, and this verse never struck me as forcefully as this time around!

The reason is that I had written and published an article on this website [see: “I Never Knew You!”]. I had not noticed this particular scripture then in such a way as to have included it among my supporting Scripture verses. This article was based on a sermon, titled “Will Jesus Know You at His Return?,” which I preached to the Manila congregation of the United Church of God on 29 September 2011, which was the Feast of Trumpets, celebrating the return of Christ [see: God’s Feasts in the Book of Acts: Mere Time Markers – or to Be Observed?].

So, now is my opportunity to expound on this particular Scripture verse, for our spiritual edification.

What it means to love God

During this holiday season, when some preachers decry the fact that, in their mad frenzy of merry-making, many people have forgotten “the reason for the season” – the supposed birth of the God-man Jesus Christ of Nazareth – and the love of God for mankind in giving us His only begotten Son as our Savior from sin and destruction, and as the way to our salvation (John 3:16). Media hype trumpets this holiday as a season of “giving” and “love.” [Regarding the truth about the approximate date of Christ’s birth, see: Feast of John the Baptist.] Some preachers, however, bemoan the fact that most people give gifts to one another and forget to give the supposed birthday “celebrant” any gift at all!

Many who claim to be Christians sing about their “love” for Christ and God. A Protestant hymn proclaims:

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine –
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou:
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ‘tis now;

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow:
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.

[My thanks for the use of these lyrics from The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration; Waco Texas: Word Music, 1986, page 364. I believe this hymnal is now in the public domain.]

It is certainly right that we express our love for Jesus through songs and hymns of praise and thanksgiving. But God’s Word reveals that there’s more to loving Christ and God than mere words and feelings or emotion. As another hymn puts it:

I love Thee, I love Thee, my Lord;
I love Thee, my Savior,
I love Thee, my God;
I love Thee, I love Thee,
And that Thou dost know;
But how much I love Thee my actions will show.

[From the same Hymnal as above, page 362.]

That hymn, however, does not explain what actions show our love for Christ. Nor does the previous hymn explain what it  really means to love Christ by resigning “all the follies of sin.”

What it means to “love God”

So that there can be no mistake about it, Jesus Himself tells us how to love Him and God His Father: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).  And, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me” (Verse 21). The apostle John, who wrote down Jesus’ words in his gospel, also wrote: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). [See: Freed From Bondage and The Law of Christ.] 1 John 3: (KJV) declares: “Whosoever commits sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of  the law [of God].”

Furthermore, Jesus said: “And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love Him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21, letter half). Those who say that we cannot do anything to make God or Jesus love us more should think again! Jesus here implies that the more we love Jesus and the Father by keeping God’s commandments the more we will be loved by them, and the more we will know about Christ’s mind.

Not only that: Jesus also says: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him. And We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words, and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me” (Verses 23, 24). Here is Christ’s sure and wonderful promise that those who love Him will have both Jesus and the Father make their home with them – God will dwell with them.

How is this possible? Through the gift of the Spirit of God and of Christ. Acts 5:32 assures that God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey, and thus love, Him. [To understand more about how God imparts His Spirit to mankind, see: “I Never Knew You!” (the section “How then receive Christ’s Spirit?”) and The Higher Law of the Spirit.]

As the latter of the two above-mentioned website articles explains further, we human beings – with just our mere human strength, without Christ’s Spirit helping us – cannot possibly keep God’s commandments and thus please God (Romans 8:7). Verse 9 adds: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” – he does not belong to Christ. And 2 Timothy 2:19 assures: “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His.’ And ‘Let everyone who names [or bears] the name of Christ depart from iniquity [Greek, adikias, meaning “injustice” or “unrighteousness”]. Ephesians 1:13 declares that true Christians [those who are Christ’s] are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

It is that Spirit in genuine Christians that enables Christ to recognize them as His own and indeed known by Him. Without that Spirit, human beings would be unable to obey God’s righteous commandments and laws – as proof of their genuine love for Christ. At His return Jesus will not know them and will instead tell them: “Depart from Me [Go away!], you who practice lawlessness [Greek, anomian, meaning “without law” – not obeying God’s law]. They will be shut out of God’s kingdom and everlasting life at Christ’s return. If they have not committed the “unpardonable sin,” they will have their chance to receive salvation after Christ’s initial 1000-year reign on earth (Revelation 20:5). [See: Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable? The Divine Prerogatives, and This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.]

To love God means to love our brother also

The basic principle or essence of God’s law and commandments is to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40; Leviticus 19:18).

In Luke 10:25-37 we find Jesus explaining to a Jewish religious leader who our neighbor is. This is well known as the story or parable of “the good Samaritan,” which is the basis for the English idiom for a person who goes out of his way to help a needy fellow human being.

Jesus elsewhere zeroed in on a special kind of love: love for the “brethren” or the spiritual “brothers” of Christ.  He referred to His disciples as those whom He considered His fellow sons and daughters of God — His “brethren” (John 20:17; Matthew 12:49).  Jesus gave  a “new” commandment to His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Jesus “beloved disciple” John [known as the “evangelist,” having written the evangel or “gospel” bearing his name, as distinct from John the “baptist” or “baptizer”] wrote:  “He who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:21).  And “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen” (Verse 20)”?

At His return Jesus will judge people on the basis on whether or not they have done good works to His brethren (Matthew 25:32-46).  “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it [one of the things He mentioned in Verses 35-39] to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Verse  40).  Conversely He said: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of these [My brethren], you did not do it to Me” (Verse 45).

To the former people Jesus promises:  “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom [of God] prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Verse c33).  Whereas, to the latter people He promises:  “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (Verse 46).

Revelation 22:14 positively declares: “Blessed those who do His [God’s] commandments, [so] that they may have the right to [partake of] the tree of life.” They will receive everlasting life – live forever — something our first parents, Adam and Eve, failed to obtain because they sinned by disobeying God’s command (Genesis 3:22). [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]

On the other hand, all who are found to be practicing “lawlessness” such as “dogs [sodomites] and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters” will be cast out [excluded] from the Holy City [New Jerusalem] (Revelation 22:15) – and will be cast into the “lake of fire,” which is the “second death” (Revelation 21:8).

If we earnestly desire to receive salvation in Christ, it behooves us to truly love Him as I’ve shown from the Scriptures, so that He will truly know us as His own, and welcome us into His everlasting kingdom! [See: Saved for Good Works.]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
161220019

The Dynamics of Deception

Revelation 12:9 describes the Devil and Satan as “the great dragon [that] was cast out, that serpent of old…, who deceives the whole world.” 1 John 5:19 adds, “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” – Satan the Devil!

Someone said [if I remember correctly, it was the late pastor –general of the then Worldwide Church of God (WCG), Joseph W. Tkach, who said this] about Satan: “Destroyer is his name, and deception is his game.”

Indeed, Revelation 9:11 reveals that, as the fifth of seven prophesied trumpets is sounded before Christ’s return, a king who will lead a military power to torment and hurt men for five months is “the angel of [or more properly, ‘from’] the bottomless pit.” That angel’s Hebrew name is “Abaddon,” while his Greek name is “Apollyon” – both meaning “Destroyer.” The angel — referred to here as the “star fallen from heaven to the earth” (Verse 1) – is no other than the former archangel Lucifer, now fallen and renamed Satan, meaning “Adversary (enemy), of God. [See: Where Did the Devil Come From?]

“Star” is symbolic of angel, as Revelation 1:20 and 12:3-4, 7 clearly explain. Satan cannot be the angel to whom “the key to the bottomless pit” was given. Rather, it is more reasonable to assign this angel to the angel who sounds the fifth trumpet, as Revelation 9:1 begins. It is likely that this angel is the same angel “having the key to the bottomless pit” who will take hold of and bind the “Dragon” [Satan] to be locked up in that pit for a thousand years; at or towards the end of which period he will be released for a short time (Revelation 20:1-3) by this same angel.

It was Mr. Tkach [known, for short, by church members as JWT] who presided over the demolition of the very person who appointed him as the Worldwide Church of God’s [WCG’s] new pastor-general after that person, Herbert W. Armstrong [HWA] died in 1986 – and over the scattering of the WCG members, like some sheep gone astray without a clear shepherd!

In the early to the mid-1990s, JWT and his fellow leaders thereafter decided that the teachings which HWA had left the WCG with “cannot be fixed” – they have to be “dismantled brick by brick” – “demolished!” These men decided that WCG members had been so “blind” and so “theologically ignorant” as to have believed HWA. They judged HWA himself to have been a “heretic” and a “false prophet!” In a word, they deemed him to have been a great deceiver – and the WCG members who believed in his teachings to have been “deceived!”

In late 1994, JWT came out with new doctrines that all but completely overturned HWA’s teachings. These new doctrines were vaunted as “new covenant” teachings that were to proclaim “the Liberation of the Worldwide Church of God” – liberation from the supposed oppressive, autocratic, legalistic and deceptive “rule” of HWA.

As could be expected, the changes rocked the whole structure of the WCG, leaving in its wake the formerly fairly unified denomination now split up into a multiple number of splinter denominations, congregations, and various “defenders” of the old faith. As a result, some have lost faith in God and have turned agnostic or atheist. Others have “floated” around like some flotsam adrift in the sea, with nowhere to go. Most have either joined some “evangelical” [Protestant] church of their choice, or have remained in the “transformed” WCG – now a fully “evangelical” denomination, renamed Grace Communion International [GCI] and already a member of the World Evangelical Fellowship [WEF].

Why this article has to be written

Lately some people who disagree with what I have written so far on this website [at least most of the contents, anyway], have told me – and have warned others – that I have been publishing here “deceitful articles.”

That should bring every one and all to ask, just what is “deception,” anyway? How do we know, or how can we tell if someone or an organization is being “deceptive” or “deceitful?” How can we ensure that we are not “deceived” at all? Nothing could be more important to our salvation! And that is because, if we succumb to deception, we are bound for destruction. And Satan the Devil – the “arch-deceiver” – is behind all this!

The apostle Paul who, incidentally was also accused by some of being a “deceiver” (2 Corinthians 6:8) [in good company with Christ, who was similarly accused by the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 27:63)], shows by example that we should not be ignorant of Satan’s “devices” – lest Satan take advantage of us (2 Corinthians 2:11).

It behooves us, therefore, to clearly understand Satan’s “game” – the “devices” he employs to deceive us and destroy us – so we don’t fall prey to them and we won’t be destroyed. To help us in this vital exercise, let me dissect here the “anatomy” and analyze the “dynamics,” “mechanics,” “methodology” and workings of Satan’s deception. As Paul wrote: “Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise [those who do evil works, such as deception certainly is] cannot be hidden” (1Timothy 5:25). They have to be exposed!

“Deception 101”

The basic “principle” of Satan’s deception is revealed right in the first few pages of the Bible! Let’s turn to the familiar story in Genesis 2-3.

Step#1: In the world of advertising, in order to get the public’s attention, one has to have a “hook.” The more shocking and outlandish the hook is, the more likely people will pay attention to it and the message an advertisement may want to promote.

What was the “hook” used by Satan [in the guise of a wily serpent] on his “prey” – the first woman, Eve? Genesis 3:1 reveals Satan’s “hook”: “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree in the garden’?”

This got Eve’s attention immediately. Why? Because it was directly opposite to what God had told them. In Genesis 2:16 we read what God actually told Adam: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.” “Notice how Satan tweaked this to appear like a heartless total ban on eating the fruit of all trees in the garden!

It appears that Eve learned about God’s command from the first man, Adam, for when God said this, Eve had not been created yet (Verses 18-25). And, as often happens when a message is passed on second-hand, it somehow becomes garbled along the way. Notice how Eve “embellished” the message: “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die” (Genesis 3:2). The next part of the original command was: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it, you shall surely die.” God did not mention that the mere touching of the forbidden fruit would bring them sure death, only the eating of it!

Incidentally, perhaps here’s where the Bible concludes that, in some aspects, the woman is the “weaker vessel” than the man (1 Peter 3:7). Perhaps Satan somehow discerned this weakness in Eve, and so he went to Eve to cause her husband Adam to sin too. Ironically, Eve did not even ask for Adam’s “input” before she decided to eat the forbidden fruit! Adam himself, as head of his wife, should have warned her not to eat the forbidden fruit, but he failed to do so, and he went along with his wife in committing the same sin instead (Genesis 3:17)!

Because Adam failed to properly assert his appointed leadership over Eve, God placed on him the accountability for ushering in sin to all of subsequent mankind. 1 Corinthians 15:22 declares that “… in Adam [not in Eve] all die.”  As Paul explained:  “Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

The apostle Paul charged that a woman is not to teach, nor usurp authority over the man (1 Timothy 2:12). But this is a different matter we might write about later.

Step #2: Having gotten her attention, Satan then engages Eve in an argument. After having given a negative twist to God’s command, Satan then proceeds to present his “thesis,” which was directly opposite to what God said [“You shall surely die,”]; Satan told Eve: “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). [See:  What Happens to Man After Death?]

The very shocking claim must have really stirred Eve’s curiosity: “Why? How could this be?”

Step #3: Satan then offers the rationale of his claim – a claim based on the supposed “benefits” of eating the forbidden fruit. “For God knows [Satan presumed to know God’s mind!] that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Verse 5).

To Eve this must have seemed like an astonishing and “liberating” revelation: we are going to see things we’d never seen before; we will be just like God is, able to decide what’s good and what’s evil. And, on top of it, we’re not going to die, after all!  But all that Satan said was a big lie — the very opposite of what God had said.

Suddenly this created an “I want it!” reaction in Eve. What was previously a dangerous, deadly option now became overwhelmingly desirable: instead “…the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to make one wise” (Verse 6). Satan appealed to Eve’s sense of shape, color, and pride! In the next instant, Eve reached for the forbidden fruit, picked it, and ate it (same Verse). Then she gave some of the fruit to Adam, who must have stood by her and, probably smitten by her charm, he also went ahead to eat it, too [wittingly, suggests 1 Timothy 2:14]! [For more on this, see: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”]

Thus, God’s judgment on our first parents’ disobedience took effect. Adam and Eve eventually died (Genesis 3-4) – just as God had told them. Thankfully, they will await their chance to be saved in Christ and have everlasting life in their resurrection after the 1,000-year reign of Christ (Revelation 20:5). [See: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation and The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]

Satan’s ploy unchanged

Satan’s “methodology” hasn’t changed all through the past millennia of human history. In almost all cases, Satan starts off [as his “hook”] with some twist on what God has said [His Word]. Satan is adept at quoting Scripture! This is obvious in how he tempted the human Christ by using some twist on certain Bible passages. Both engaged in a battle about “It is written!” How very much like debates going on in the religious realm!

Matthew 4:1-11 details this crucial encounter. In the end, Jesus triumphed with His accurate, faithful use of Scripture. How could He have done otherwise? He is the very “Word” of God (John 1:1, etc). He knows exactly what each word in Scripture really means. And He inspires His chosen servants to teach that word as He would. [See: Looking to Men.]

The articles (now a total of 100+) which I have written on this website over the last six years are practically all in response to some twist on Bible passages, upon which men have based their common beliefs, opinions, and practices. I have aimed to show the plain Bible truth about these matters.

I have always maintained that each individual person has free moral choice. Though I may come across as “forceful,” I do not – and cannot – force anyone to believe what I have written. As someone said, a man whose mind is set will be unconvinced and will be of the same opinion still, regardless of arguments and reasoning against it. In the final analysis, one has to exercise one’s mind and, with the help of God’s Spirit, one then decides – of his or her own free will – whether to believe, or not believe, the word of God as explained, on this website or elsewhere. [See: What Is This Thing Called “Will?”]

It is a profound irony that the person who accused HWA of having been a “deceiver,” himself succumbed to the Destroyer’s “game!” We are each to answer for our own beliefs and deeds in the Day of Judgment (Matthew 12:36; Revelation 20:12-13). May God have mercy on us! [See: “Whoever Loves and Practices a Lie.”]

I hope and pray that God’s Spirit will guide all of us into all truth, as Jesus promised (John 14:26; 16:13). And then we can “all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God [Jesus Christ], to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature and the fullness of Christ, that we should no longer be children [spiritually immature], tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body [God’s Church (Colossians 1:18)], joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effectual working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16). [See: Where Is God’s Church Today? Leanings, and Abiding in the Truth.]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
23112019

Abiding in the Truth

Within the year or two, I have received messages from former members of the Worldwide Church of God [WCG] urging me to “move on” from the teachings we had been taught by the late founder and pastor-general of the WCG, Herbert W. Armstrong [often referred to as “HWA”] and had accepted as Bible truth – to something else different, in many cases the exact opposite of what HWA taught.

These people blame my failing to understand and accept their contrary beliefs on my not having “moved on” from HWA.

On behalf of those who have maintained respect and acceptance of what HWA had taught to be Bible truths, like I have, let me give the following assurance that we have been on the right track, and must not get off it or make some costly detour into spiritual error!

My Bible background

As I mention in my brief biography [see: About the Author and About Pool of Siloam], I grew up in a thoroughly Protestant family and had been much acquainted with the Holy Bible since youth. At least I knew most of the “Bible stories” – about the lives of the men and women of the Old and New Testaments. Like many church youth, I had committed to memory “the Ten Commandments,” the names of the “twelve tribes” of Israel and the “twelve apostles” of Christ, the titles of the “four gospels,” Psalm 23, and the “Lord’s Prayer.” I knew where to find, in my Bible, any verse mentioned in writing or in speech!

I also mention that I studied in a Protestant university, where I took up courses in A Survey of the Bible, The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ, and Christian Ethics and Moral Philosophy.

It was with this background that I encountered literature written by HWA [chiefly The PLAIN TRUTH Magazine] in the 1960s that my late father had been receiving. I had taken several copies of this magazine with me to my college lodging at the State University in Quezon City. After having read with astonishment HWA’s unconventional teachings, I was strongly challenged to prove him totally wrong! I had asked God to guide me with His Spirit in this pursuit.

At the end of my “investigation,” I concluded that HWA was right in his understanding of many Bible doctrines and truths, after all! I had to humbly admit that I had been wrong, and he had been right in his expositions of the Bible. In due time, I met with some WCG ministers and became baptized as a member, in 1966.

Fruit of my conversion

More important than mere accumulation of right Biblical knowledge, my fellowship with the WCG community over the years has resulted in a stable, mature Christian life. Whereas, before my conversion I had been in some deep emotional crisis that, at one point, drove me close to taking my own life, I have experienced spiritual healing and wellness in the WCG’s community of believers. God has worked enough Godly character in me as to enable me to marry a Christian wife, with whom I raised a beautiful and loving family of three lovely daughters. I also served diligently as an ordained minister and pastor in the WCG for many years, in addition to being a writer for the church.

What I may call perhaps my “crowning achievement” is being able to establish and maintain this present website – http://www.pool-of-siloam.com, launched in December 2013 — fully 19 years [or one time-cycle] since HWA’s successor proclaimed the “new covenant” changes in WCG beliefs and practices, in December 1994.

“Test/prove all things”

The one forceful challenge HWA posed to his readers and listeners was that commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NKJV) – “Test [KJV, “Prove”] all things, hold fast what is good.” HWA urged his readers to not simply believe what he or other preachers taught, but to prove it from the Bible, believe what one finds written there, and hold on to it!

I believe that I had not “blindly” followed HWA – as a former WCG evangelist accused church members of having been “blind” and “theologically ignorant” in following HWA.

In the mid-1990s, after HWA’s death in early 1986, a movement rolled that sought to reverse just about everything that HWA taught as something that “cannot be fixed” and must be “dismantled brick by brick” – “demolished!”

In December 1994, Joseph Tkach Sr., who took over as WCG pastor-general after HWA’S death in January 1986, declared what were to be known as “the new covenant” doctrines that the WCG has now come to believe, teach and practice.

As a result, the WCG has turned fully into a Protestant or “evangelical” denomination or church. It has renamed itself “Grace Communion International” [GCI] and has become a member of the World Evangelical Fellowship [WEF]. Because of this change, some members have established or joined one of several splinter churches that seek to observe most of the old WCG doctrines. Others have felt free to join a Protestant or evangelical congregation of their choice. Still others have been, as the apostle Paul warned, “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:14). They have been designated, aptly, as “floating” members, like some flotsam, tossed about in the sea– totally confused! – not knowing where to turn to. Some have, in fact, thrown God’s word out the window and have become out-and-out atheists — frustrated by the squabbles many have engaged in over the understanding of certain Bible doctrines!

A good number of former WCG members, however, have chosen to remain in the CGI, and have felt free to explore any and every doctrine there is on the religious/theological table. What used to be called “dissident” [anti-HWA/anti-WCG] material is now fare game for anyone who wants to vent his contrary views!

Needed: a spiritual “compass!”

Anyone who finds himself somehow lost in the woods is more likely to work his way back to where he should be, with the use of a trusty compass, to tell him where he is at, and where he should be going – to base camp or home.

Now, what is our spiritual “compass” to tell us whether we are going in the right direction with God’s word? As Paul mentioned, there are, out there, varying “winds of doctrine” that blow here and there, and whichever way – all based on mere human “crafting” and “plotting” with “deceit” and “cunning.” These could so rock one’s “boat” of faith that it would lose its way, fall into some terrible eddy and be shipwrecked, as happened to some in the New Testament Church of God (1 Timothy 1:19).

If we are to take it from the Master and perfect Teacher, Jesus Christ, here is the sure “compass” to tell us whether we are on the right track in understanding God’s word [the Bible], which He said is “truth” (John 17:17). He promised His true disciples that when the Holy Spirit is sent by God the Father to them, that Spirit would teach [them] all things” (John 14:26). That same Spirit would, in fact, “guide [them] into all truth” (John 16:13).

Without God giving us His Spirit as a gift, it is impossible for us to understand the “things of God.” With just our natural, unaided minds and spirits, we can only understand the “things of man.” The apostle Paul explains this quite clearly in his letter to the Christians at Corinth (1 Corinthians 2:6-16). [See also: The Trinity Doctrine Reconsidered, especially the section on “The spirit in man.”]

It is the same Spirit of God that inspired every word of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1Peter 1: 10-13; 2 Peter 1: 21; 3:15-16). As the LORD of the Old Testament before His human birth, Jesus dealt with Israel and gave her God’s law in commandments, statutes, judgments and ordinances preserved in that Testament. [See: The True Christ, Peter Knew “The Holy One,” Moses and Jesus – Are They Contraries? and The Law of Christ.] During His earthly ministry Jesus taught many things that are now a part of the New Testament. He taught His apostles what they preached and wrote in letters or “epistles,” now included in that Testament.

The apostle Paul explained that, as Head of the Church of God, Jesus has given various gifts of His Spirit that enable or empower His servants to faithfully preach and teach the truth of God (1 Corinthians 12:27-28; Ephesians 4:11-16), for the strengthening, stability, and unity of the Church. Paul also said that …”the church of the living God, [is] the pillar and ground of the truth” (1Timothy 3:15). It is to the Church, and those faithfully serving in it, that we should look for guidance in properly understanding Scripture.

Paul also wrote: “For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). In Acts 4: 8-12 the apostle Peter said that “…there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” but Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Paul added: “How then shall they [all men] call on Him [Christ] in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent” [by God] (Romans 10:13-15)?

The vital importance of those “sent”

Jesus Himself said that the very essence of the “work of God” is to “believe in Him whom He [God] has sent” (John 6:29). Jesus was here referring to Himself. But while He walked this earth, Jesus taught and trained disciples whom He later sent out to teach the things He had taught them — “As the Father has sent Me. I also send you” (John 20:21).

The trouble is that today there are many who claim to have been “sent” by God to teach His Word, but they in reality have not been truly sent by God! Jesus prophesied that in these our “end times” many false prophets will arise to deceive many (Matthew 24:3-5, 11). Peter echoed this: “But there were also false prophets among the people [of Old Testament times], even as there will be false teachers among you [in New Testament times and today!], who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber” (2 Peter 2:1-3). [See: Beware of False Prophets, Fake News, Leanings, and Looking to Men.]

It is through the preaching of those truly sent by God that a person who is being called by God to salvation at this time is given His Spirit to understand and believe God’s truth. That person is then led to repentance over his sins, and being baptized for the remission or forgiveness of sin, and having the hands of the church ministry laid on him, the person receives the “gift” of the Holy Spirit (Romans 2:4; Acts 2:38-39). The person then becomes a member of the Church of God, there to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:15), towards a mature person in the same measure of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13), and heirs with Him to everlasting life (Romans 8:16-23; Galatians 3:31; Titus 3:4-7).

It is that Spirit given to a genuine member of God’s Church that assures the person that he or she is indeed a child of God (Romans 8:16). [See: Are We All God’s Children?]

Established, grounded, rooted in the truth

As the “great Shepherd” of His “flock” [the Church of God] (1 Peter 5:4), Jesus is concerned lest any of His flock [“sheep”] be devoured by Satan, who is likened to a roaring lion (Verse 8). Peter exhorts the brethren to resist Satan, and remain “steadfast in the faith,” trusting in Jesus to “perfect, establish, strengthen and settle” them (Verses 9-10).

Peter also reminded the brethren so they would “be established in the present truth” (2 Peter 1:12). To be “established” is to not be removed or led away from the truth! Rather, it means being grounded, rooted and built up in the truth and love (Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 2:7)!

Jesus said: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you [stay in – not depart from – you], you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you [compare with 1 John 3:22]. By this My Father is glorified that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:7-8). Earlier Jesus had said: “Abide in Me, and [let Me abide] in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine [the “trunk”], neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a [fruitless] branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

Here is a dire warning about not abiding in Jesus’ words, and instead listening to and following the voice of “strangers” [compare with John 10:1-14] – those who teach different things than what Jesus teaches!

Paul wrote that “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times [such as we are in today!] some will depart [move away] from – leave – the faith [as taught by Christ and His apostles, those truly “sent” be Christ], giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons [as taught by false teachers – those not sent by Christ], speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

Paul also warned …”the time will come [as it has now!] when they [God’s people and others] will not endure sound doctrine [again, as taught by Jesus’ ordained apostles], but according to their own desires [Paul also describes them as having “itching ears” – longing and more ready to hear the teachings of other, especially contrary teachers (Verse 3)], they will turn their ears away from [not remain or abide in] the truth, and be turned aside [led into] fables [untrue stories – lies!]” (Verse 4).

As I pointed out in my previous article The Universalism (“All Saved”) Issue, the sure and certain truth as declared by Christ is that not all human beings will be saved, but some – after having been given all the chance to accept the truth of God and live righteously – will willingly choose to remain in wickedness; as a result they will be destroyed forever in the “lake of fire” or the “second death” (Revelation 21:8).

Those, like the people described by Paul above, who reject Christ’s sure testimony [see the sequel article, More on the “All Saved” Issue and What Is This Thing Called “Will?”] have instead turned aside to a “fable” such as the made-up story [because not according to Christ’s prophecy in the Book of Revelation] that those wicked who are destroyed in the “lake of fire” would still be resurrected, in order that they would be given yet another chance to become righteous and thus be saved, and so that God’s desire and will that all men be saved (1 Timothy 2:4, etc.) will, supposedly, be fulfilled.

As mentioned above, Paul said that some members of God’s Church departedmoved away – from the true faith or belief and instead embraced “doctrines of demons.”

Someone accused me of writing “deceitful articles” on this website. On what basis did he throw this accusation at me? Was it because what I write happens to be contrary to his beliefs? How can declaring The Whole Counsel of God (Acts 20:27) on matters at issue, as I have done, be deceitful ?  [See:  The Dynamics of Deception.]

Jesus warned against judging others, for one will be judged also according to the measure or standard one uses in so judging others (Matthew 7:1-2). Jesus is the righteous and perfect Judge (2 Timothy 4:8).  He knows the intents and contents of every man’s heart and mind (Hebrews 4:12-13).  He knows who are His own, and who are serving Him faithfully (2 Timothy 2:19; Matthew 25:21, 23). He will reward people accordingly.

Heresies mentioned in the Bible

As the wise King Solomon observed, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). From the very beginning of human society, heresies [false teachings] have arisen and been passed on through generations of men.

What we might call the first-ever “heresy” passed on to mankind concerns the lies promoted by Satan the Devil, in the guise of a wily serpent, to our first parents, Adam and Eve. Satan subtly told them that, even if they disobeyed God, they would not die as God had warned them, but that their eyes would be opened. This has given rise to such heresies as the supposed “immortality” of the human soul, and man’s supposed freedom and wisdom to decide for himself what is good and what is evil [For details, see: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” The Divine Prerogatives, and What Happens to Man After Death?].

Satan has since engendered and engineered every other lie that mankind has swallowed. Jesus calls Satan the “father” of lies and murders, and his willing followers his “children” (John 8:42-47). [See: Are We All God’s Children?]

  • Noah’s preaching rejected. God saw the rampant wickedness, corruption, and violence of mankind all over the world in the first thousand years since Creation (Genesis 6). Only Noah found grace in God’s eyes, walked in His righteous ways, and obeyed His command and instructions to build an ark in order to save him, his family of eight persons, and specified animals, from a worldwide flood that would destroy all human and other air-breathing creatures (Verses 8-22).

Hebrews 11:7 reveals that, in obeying God’s commands, Noah thus “condemned” the world of their wickedness. He may have told them to repent and mend their ways, but in all likelihood they just jeered at him and his “crazy project” of building an ark in the middle of no water. They thought that God would not destroy them through a flood, as Noah believed and preached.

After Noah and his family and the animals were safely loaded on board the ark, its water-tight doors sealed, and the foretold rains began to fall, many of the people may have thought that Noah had been right all along, but it was too late for them to do anything to save themselves. They and all air-breathing animals together drowned to death in that flood (Genesis 7:1-24).

  • The Tower of Babel a challenge to God’s command. Shortly after that flood, mankind began to multiply again, around the area where the ark landed. God blessed the new generation of mankind and charged them to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1).

But the people rejected God’s charge to spread around the world and fill the earth. Under the apparent leadership of Nimrod, whose kingdom included Babel, the people agreed to build there a mighty tower that would reach heaven – apparently daring God to bring on another flood, contrary to His covenant (Genesis 9:8-17) – and so that they would not “be scattered abroad over the face of the earth” (Genesis 11:1-4), in apparent rebellion against God’s charge.

God stopped the project from getting anywhere by confounding their language, and they eventually scattered all over the earth (Verses 5-9). But that was not to be the end of their rejection of God’s ways.

Nimrod, “a mighty hunter before the LORD” (Genesis 10:8), was to expand his kingdom and sway over a good portion of mankind (Verse 11). Some have translated the Hebrew word here rendered as “before the LORD” to “in place of the LORD.” A number of scholars have studied into the religious system that Nimrod set up to glorify himself at the expense of the True Worship of God.

Notable among these scholars was the distinguished English Bishop Alexander Hisslop, who wrote the, to some, controversial book titled TheTwo Babylons . You may access this book through this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the book with that title, on the right hand margin of the link. [See also: Drunk With Strange Wine.]

The religion of Babylon has survived to this day, with its numerous heresies, which Herbert Armstrong confronted and countered in his writings. For example, on the same above-mentioned link, scroll down to HWA’S book titled Mystery of the Ages. [ See also: True Worship.]

  •  Israel and her often straying from God’s ways. The heresies that Israel fell into are too numerous to mention here. The bulk of the Old Testament writes about Israel’s often rebelling against God’s teachings while heeding their own inclinations and the suggestions of some of their leaders.

Perhaps we might mention here the “idea” of some in Israel that they too – not merely the descendants of Aaron, as God ordained (Exodus 28:1-4, 41; 29:8-9) – had the right to rule over the faith of Israel. Numbers 12 and 16 relate two similar stories of such rebellion, and how God dealt drastically with the people involved. [See: The Sin of Rebellion.]

We might also mention God’s condemnation of Israel’s priests who “have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from [have not acknowledged] My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.” Sadly, this has also happened to the leaders of the WCG after HWA’s death.

These are some of God’s “holy things” that Herbert Armstrong upheld, and which I have resonated on this website you are right now logged on to. [See: Did Christ Cleanse All Meats? What If the Sabbath Is Still Holy? God’s Feasts in the Book of Acts: Mere “Time-Markers” – or to Be Observed? and “Be Holy for I Am Holy”.]

  • New Testament heresies. Here, too, we find many mentions of heresies people – including Church of God members – succumbed to.

John 21:20-23 — Jesus told Peter in answer to his question about what was to happen the other disciple [apparently John the “evangelist” who wrote the gospel of John and his three epistles plus the Book of Revelation], “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” Verse 24 says that the brethren wrongly assumed that Christ meant that John would not die until Christ’s return. [Church tradition says that John did die a martyr – reportedly by boiling in a pot of oil.]

This heresy, often combined with a misunderstanding of Christ’s declaration that “…there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:26), has survived in the fable about a certain “Samuel Bilibeth” supposedly roaming this earth somewhere, since the time of Christ until His return.

Christ was here referring to His three closest disciples [Peter, James and John], who later did “see” – in a vision — Christ transfigured as He would look in His kingdom. This is described in Matthew 17:1-9, and parallel accounts in the “synoptic” gospels of Mark and Luke.

2 Timothy 2: 16-18. Here Paul warns against “profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.” He then cites the “cancer-like” message of Hymenaeus and Philetus, “who have strayed [‘moved on!’] from the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.” It is indeed a wild heresy to say that there is no more resurrection to look forward to at Christ’s return.

The Bible affirms that there will be the resurrection of all true Christians to immortality, at Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; etc.). Revelation 20:5 also declares that the “rest of the dead” – all those who have died not having been saved – will be resurrected to a physical life, for their time of judgment. [See: Predestination and This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.]

Colossians 2:20-22. Here Paul deals with a heresy based on “principles of the world… according to the commandments and doctrines of men” – not of God. This was the heresy that one could overcome the “indulgence of the flesh” through the ascetic practices of self-denial and “will worship.” [See: What Is This Thing Called “Will?”]

Mere human effort cannot overcome sin. One needs the Holy Spirit in order to obey and please God. [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the Spirit, Saved For Good Works, Being and Doing, and “Be Holy, for I Am Holy.”]

1 Timothy 4:1-4. As quoted earlier, Paul here warned about some in God’s Church departing from the faith and heeding deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. Some such doctrines concern “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth [referring to vegetarianism or veganism, which considers it “sinful” to eat meat or flesh food, even the ones God set apart as “clean” meats], etc.” [See: Did Christ Cleanse All Meats?]

Those who practice non-marriage or “celibacy” as a religious vow, attribute their belief to Paul, who remained unmarried [probably after having been widowed, as some scholars suppose, from Verse 8]. He even suggested [not commanded!] that remaining as such was preferable to marriage (1 Corinthians 7:6-8, 29-34), given the condition of their time then [“present distress” (Verse 26)]. Paul, however, did not forbid marriage.

He clarified to the unmarried and widows: “It is good for them if they remain even as I am [(Verse 7) – unmarried or widowed]; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (Verses 8-9). In Verse 36 Paul said: “If any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his [betrothed] virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do as he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry.”

The Two Babylons, referred to above, reveals that the doctrine and practice of celibacy had been followed by the ancient Babylonian mystery religion. As this spiritual “Babylon” is Satan’s chief religious bastion in the world, its practices are based on “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1), not God’s truth.

1 John 4:1-3. Here the apostle John talks about “false prophets” denying that “Jesus has come in the flesh.” They believed and taught so by “the spirit of the Antichrist” already in the world then. [See: The True Christ and Peter Knew “the Holy One.”]

Here is an instructive insight into this Bible passage as found in a comment in the Life Application Study Bible [New King James Version, as well as KJV and NIV], titled “Heresies”:

       Most of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry had died by the time John composed this letter. Some of the second- or third-generation Christians began to have doubts about what they had been taught about Jesus. Some Christians with a Greek background had a hard time believing that Jesus was human as well as divine, because in Platonic thought [the teaching of the Greek philosopher Plato] the spirit was all-important. The body was only a prison from which one desired to escape. Heresies developed from a uniting of this kind of Platonic thought and Christianity.
      A particular widespread false teaching later called Docetism (from a Greek word meaning “to seem”), held that Jesus was actually a spirit who only appeared to have a body. In reality he cast no shadow and left no footprints; he was God, but not man. Another heretical teaching, related to Gnosticism (from a Greek word meaning “knowledge”), held that all physical matter was evil, the spirit was good, and only the intellectually enlightened could enjoy the benefits of religion. Both groups found it hard to believe in a Savior who was fully human.
      John answers these false teachers as an eyewitness to Jesus’ life on earth. He saw Jesus, talked with him, touched him – he knew that Jesus was more than a mere spirit. In the very first sentence of his letter, John establishes that Jesus had been alive before the world began and also lived as a man among men and women. In other words, he was both divine and human.
      Through the centuries, many heretics have denied that Jesus was both God and man. In John’s day people had trouble believing he was human; today more people have problems seeing him as God. But Jesus’ divine-human nature is the pivotal issue of Christianity. Before you accept what religious teachers say about any topic, listen carefully to what they believe about Jesus. To deny either his divinity or humanity is to consider him less than Christ, the Savior. [Emphases provided.]

“Gnosticism” was a kind of “mystery” religion, where “esoteric” knowledge was given to only a select few who were “initiated” to it by the spirit of the Greek gods, perhaps Hermes, the “god” of wisdom. [For more on this topic, see: https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-gnosticism–700683.] The word “hermeneutics” – the skill in interpreting profound precepts – is derived from Hermes.

Is it a mere coincidence that one of my detractors told me I could not fathom his understanding of universal salvation because I have not been “pre-chosen” [by whom?] to have this understanding and knowledge?

Jesus prophesied that in these our end-times many false prophets will arise who will teach deceits and lies (Matthew 24:4, 24). Both apostles Peter and Paul said that false teachers were already around in their time, and would continue in later times (1 Timothy 1:19; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 3:1-9, 13;’ Acts 20:29-30; 2 Peter 2:1-3, 12-19).

Jude 1:4 says that such purveyors of false teachings “long ago were marked out [Greek, prographo, meaning “previously written about;”  the KJV renders it “ordained” —  “pre-chosen?!”] for this condemnation, ungodly men who turn the grace of God into lewdness [licentiousness or lawlessness] and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

My God-given role

In the face of all the false teachings abounding among us today, God has not left us without a witness on behalf of His truth. Christ is forever alive and is fully in charge of His Church today, despite its troubles.

Christ has ordained servants who will faithfully teach His true word. He has graciously given them the spiritual gifts of “the word of wisdom… the word of knowledge”(1 Corinthians 12: 4-7), as well as the spiritual gifts of service as “first apostles, second prophets, third teachers…” (Verse 28; see also Ephesians 4:11-16).

I believe that God has given me one or more of such gifts. Hopefully God’s grace is evident in the contents of this website. I feel it a burden or task to “contend earnestly for [defend] the faith which was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Paul did an excellent job defending the faith of Christ through his letters and personal preaching. I strive, with Christ’s help, to follow Paul’s example.

That “faith once delivered” is not embodied in the writings of some modern day preacher or theologian, but the faith taught by the prophets and apostles of the Bible, on whom the Church of God is founded — Chief of whom is Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:19-22).

May my ministry through this website help bring God’s Church, now scattered like so much sheep without a shepherd, into the unity of the faith and knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).

John wrote: For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:3-4).

It is my great joy, as I am sure it is God’s joy also, to see all the children of God walking in truth, not away from the truth – but abiding in the truth!

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
12112019

More on the “All Saved” Issue

As I expected, after I had published on this website my article titled The Universalism (“All Saved”)Issue, I received a barrage of critical comments from staunch defenders of the doctrine of universal salvation. In this present article I will explain the seeming discrepancies between Scriptural affirmations about God’s desire or purpose that all mankind be saved, not a single one ever “lost,” and other positive Bible affirmations that, in the end, there will be some people who will not be saved, but will instead be destroyed in the “lake of fire” or the “second death.”

The most “telling” argument, in my view, against my previous article is that about God’s purpose, which will stand: “The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, ‘Surely, as I have thought, it shall come to pass, and as I have purposed, so it shall stand….For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?’” (Isaiah 14:24-27).

In context, though, the above-quoted verses concern God’s purpose to “break the Assyrian in My land [Israel], and on My mountains tread him underfoot, then his yoke shall be removed from them [God’s people Israel], and his burden removed from their shoulders” (Verse 25).

Indeed, as history attests, God allowed the Assyrians [as His “rod” to punish Israel for their sins (Isaiah 10:5, 24)] to carry the northern kingdom or house of Israel away into captivity in Assyria and other places, and later to free them from their captors – something that did happen to the ancient nation or kingdom of Israel, and will yet happen again to modern-day Israel. The late founder and pastor-general of the Worldwide Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong, warned about this powerfully in his book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy. You may access this book through this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the book with that title. This book details about how God will punish and later rescue His people from their modern-day Assyrian captors. [See also: God’s Kingdom and Israel.]

Isaiah 46:9-11 also affirms: “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure….Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass, I have purposed it; I will also do it.

Again, in context, God is here referring to His purpose to call “a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country” (Verse 11). Honest students of Bible prophecy understand that this particular prophecy [also proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:12-14; 29:10)] pertained to, and was fulfilled by, King Cyrus of Persia, as Ezra 1:1-11 details. God used Cyrus as His instrument or servant to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple there that had been destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

Defenders of universal salvation assert that these particular Scripture passages also apply to God’s purpose or desire that all of mankind be saved. But, as I have just pointed out, their assertion uses Bible passages apart from their specific contexts! Considering the context of Scripture passages is a basic principle in the proper understanding of Bible doctrine.

Did God bind Himself to an “oath” to save all of mankind — not a single one lost?

If, indeed God has bound Himself to an “oath” that He cannot break, to save all of mankind, and even all creation [including Satan and his demons!], so that His “will,” “desire,” “purpose,” or “pleasure” will be accomplished fully, then we have a gigantic problem harmonizing this with Jesus’ sure and true testimony about some people not being saved but destroyed in the “second death” (Revelation 21:8).

We would then have to conclude that God contradicts Himself!  That He says one thing, and does another! That He has broken His own word, and He thus turns out to be a liar — that He can’t be trusted! But Jesus assures that God’s word cannot be broken (John 10:35), by any alleged contradiction or other. Titus 1:2 also assures that God cannot lie!

Rather than accusing God falsely of lying — indeed a very serious charge and blasphemous! – let us examine ourselves lest we be reading something into God’s word that He never intended. We should rather admit God to be true, and all of us human beings liars (Romans 3:4). And we will then need to revise our understanding of God’s promise, in light of The Whole Counsel of God.]

A review of God’s “oaths”

A review of God’s “oaths” in the Bible is in order.

In order of time, we might say that God’s purpose for man, from the beginning, was that man would be made not only in the physical image of man, but also in His perfect spiritual image or likeness. God made mankind out of dust – weak — with the possibility of sinning, and indeed man chose to sin, and did sin! [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”] Knowing this, God had prepared, even “from the foundation of the world” [our human society], His “Spokesman” [Greek, Logos, meaning “Word,” as John 1:1-14 explains of Christ] to be the “Lamb [of God] that was to be slain (Revelation 13:8), for the forgiveness of mankind’s sins so that man can be saved (John 1:29; 3:16). [See: The Ransomed of the LORD.]

God superintended everything in order that His Sovereign purpose for Christ would be fulfilled. Thus, from the super-normal human birth of Jesus, to His earthly ministry, His death and resurrection, His assumption to heaven (where He ever intercedes for His people) God has fulfilled His purpose; Jesus’ return to earth to establish God’s kingdom here, on up to the “Last Judgment” and the coming down of the “New Jerusalem” as the eternal home of all the saved – all this God will fulfill according to His word or oath.

God gave an oath [“swore” or promised unconditionally] to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through Him and his “Seed” – Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16, 29). God’s promise is to “all nations” – not to every single individual regardless of one’s having the same faith of Abraham or not. [See: The Children of Abraham.]

From the Garden of Eden, we come to the “age” of Noah. Almost everybody knows the Bible story of the worldwide flood in Noah’s day that destroyed all of the human race except for the eight people [“souls”] comprised of Noah and his family of three sons and their wives (Genesis 6-9), according to a covenant which God established [we might say, with an “oath” or promise] with Noah to save them from the flood (Genesis 6:17-21). On his part, Noah agreed to do all as God commanded him, and he did (Verse 22).

After that flood had subsided, and the human race began to proliferate again, God promised [we might say He made an “oath”] to Noah and his descendants that He would never again send down a worldwide flood to destroy evil mankind and all flesh. God created the rainbow as a sure sign of that covenant or oath (Genesis 9:8-17).

Several generations after Noah, God called out Abraham’s descendants, the nation of Israel, that had to sojourn in Egypt in order to survive a seven-year famine in their area of the Middle East. The familiar Bible story is told in Genesis 37-50. In fulfillment of His promise or oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 22:15-18), God heard the cries of the oppressed children of Israel under the hands of their Egyptian taskmasters (Exodus 1-2). God called out and sent Moses to lead the children of Israel out of their Egyptian bondage and on their way to the land God had promised to their fathers. The dramatic story of Israel’s exodus into the “Promised Land” is recorded in Exodus 3-40, the books of Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua. [See: God’s Kingdom and Israel.]

While on their sojourn in the wilderness, a number of Israelites did not believe God but rebelled against Him. Because of this, God swore in His wrath: “They shall not enter My rest” (Hebrews 4:3; Psalm 95:7, 8, 11). Thus that generation perished in the wilderness and didn’t enter God’s “rest” – His Promised Land (Numbers 14:26-38; 16:1-50).

Even Moses himself disobeyed God’s command regarding the “Rock” – to speak to it, not strike it (Numbers 20:2-11). Because of this Moses died and failed to enter the Promised Land, as God told him (Deuteronomy 32:48-52; 34:4-8).

Another “oath” God made was with Israel’s King David. Because of his loyalty and obedience to God, David was promised by God with an oath or covenant that David’s throne or dynasty will last forever (2 Samuel 7:10-17; Ezekiel 37:21-25).

Another “oath” that God declared was about Christ becoming God’s High Priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:5, 6, 10; 7:17, 20, 21). [See: The Mystery of Melchizedek Unlocked!]

Understanding God’s purpose — and “method”

Unless we consider God’s “method” or “way” of salvation (Acts 16:17; 18:25, 26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22), our understanding of God’s will, desire or pleasure will go askew!

At the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus proclaimed: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). The disciples, whom He taught personally for some three and a half years, also preached: “Repent” (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 26:20)!

Acts 5:31; 11:18 affirms that God “gives” or “grants” repentance to both Jew and Gentile. But what is God’s “method” or way to do this?

The apostle Paul, who was personally taught by Christ (Galatians 1:11), explains that “the goodness of God leads [not forces or coerces] you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). One cannot understand the “goodness” of God unless God grants His Spirit to comprehend one of these “things of God” not perceived by the mere, unaided human mind (1 Corinthians 2:10-12).

Seeing the perfection and holiness of God should lead one to recognize one’s sinfulness and evil ways and so decide to turn from a sinful life to one that pleases God, according to His will and ways. Paul preached that all should “repent, turn to God and do works befitting [worthy of] repentance” (Acts 26:20).

That part of “repentance” where one turns away from doing evil works and instead turning to God and doing works worthy of one’s professed repentance – doing things God’s way, according to His word and lawcalls for the exercise of one’s will and volition. We have to repent for ourselves; God will not “repent” on our behalf, nor does He “coerce” us into repentance, although Jesus warns us “Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). A healthy “fear” of God is, in fact, taught by the Bible –something one should choose. [See: Can we Fear and Love God at the Same Time?]

Paul wrote: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body [by choice or exercise of one’s will], whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 26:27). “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).

One is called to accounting by answering for, or taking responsibility or credit for what one decides and does — good or evil. God will not answer for anyone. Each of us must account for all that we do and say. God will mete out rewards or penalties accordingly. In this regard God has given every human being freedom of choice, and each must answer for their choices. This is God’s “method” that He will stand by forever, as He does not change. [See: What Does God Mean – “I Do Not Change?” and What Is This Thing called “Will?”]

What does God mean — “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked?”

God says: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way [of sin] and live” (Ezekiel 33:11). Is God saying here that, since He has no pleasure in seeing the wicked die or be destroyed, all the wicked will turn [repent] and be saved?

This is a case of reading into Scripture something God did not intend or mean!

Let’s take the case of God destroying all of humanity and all air-breathing animals in Noah’s day. God “saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thought of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). This grieved God in His heart (Verse 6). As the well-known story goes, God destroyed all of mankind and all air-breathing animals, except Noah and his family of eight people, and the animals on board the ark.

A grieving God did not have some perverse, sadistic “pleasure” in hearing the shrieks and seeing the death of all beings that took breath in the worldwide flood He sent. But it was too late for all the people to have repented and survived. They must have heard Noah preach a message of repentance and condemnation, but they continued in their evil deeds anyway (Hebrews 11:7), and God destroyed them.

So it will be when God will destroy wicked, evil mankind as He surely will. God will not laugh with sadistic delight and glee upon seeing them destroyed forever in the “lake of fire” (Revelation 21:8). It will have been too late for them to repent, after God will have given them their fair chance to know God, receive His Spirit, and be judged for righteousness .  [See: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation and Predestination.]

 

In that Day of Judgment every single human being who had not had a chance to know God and understand His purpose for mankind, will receive His Spirit (Joel 2:29). As I explain in the latter just-mentioned article, the 1,000-year earthly reign of Christ will produce millions more of Spirit-transformed Teachers to teach all the billions of unsaved mortals in the Judgment after the “Millennium.”

No one can rightly use the excuse, “I didn’t have a chance to learn and accept God’s truth, because there was no one to teach me!” Isaiah 30:20 assures that during the Millennium, and after that, God will provide sufficient Teachers for everyone – Teachers who “will not be moved into a corner anymore [not be unavailable], but your eyes shall see your teachers, Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” That is to say that the people will have a choice to walk in that way or not.

Despite all this, however, there will still be some mortal human beings who will choose to not walk in God’s way. Such are the hordes of people who, at or towards the end of the Millennium, will try – but fail! — to take over Christ’s government headquartered in Jerusalem (Revelation 20:7-9). [See: Two Goats Together, particularly the section titled “A possible scenario.”]

There will be some who, after they will have been taught God’s way during the Judgment after the Millennium, will prove that their works deserve them being cast into the “lake of fire,” their names removed from The Book of Life (Revelation 20: 15; 21:8). Could it perhaps be that they had  known “the depths of Satan” and, like Satan, could not repent (Revelation 2:24)?

That is the sure word of Christ’s prophecy!

The prophet Isaiah, inspired by the Spirit of Christ (2 Peter 1:21), wrote: “‘And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,’ says the LORD” (Isaiah 66:23). This not only proves that God’s holy Sabbath will be observed during Christ’s reign on earth [see: What if the Sabbath Is Still Holy?]. Here is a testimony about “all flesh” worshiping God. This should make proponents of universal salvation happy and confident they are correct in their understanding of Scripture.

But now notice what the next verse says: “And they [referring to “all flesh”] shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me” [as a matter of personal choice], etc. (Verse 24). These men will be burned in fire that will not be quenched [that is, not put out until all combustible matter is consumed], just as Christ prophesied (Mark 9:43-48). This affirms that there will be some who will choose the way of wickedness and will thus suffer death in hell-fire.

The whole weight of Bible prophecy tips in favor of God’s loving and compassionate desire to save all of mankind, if they would (Revelation 22:17), but also God’s perfect and holy judgment that will not countenance evil work and will destroy forever all such evil people (Revelation 21:8).

May we all indeed let God be true, and all men liars (Romans 3:4)!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
110919

The Universalism (“All Saved”) Issue

Gaining popularity, its proponents rather vigorously proclaiming the doctrine, is that about “universalism” – the belief that ALL [every single human being, male or female] will ultimately be saved by God, not a single one ever excluded from salvation.

This doctrine is directly contrary to the long-held belief of many in God’s judgment, where God rewards righteous people with life everlasting in His kingdom, whereas He forever destroys unrighteous or wicked people in a “lake of fire” (Revelation 21:8). Thus believers in this latter doctrine have been labeled as “annihilationists.”

Such a horrible and cruel-sounding label seems directly in contrast to the merciful and loving nature of God who, according to universalists, will eventually and ultimately save all of mankind, not a single one ever “lost.” Another “in” word associated with universalism is “inclusivity” — “all are included,” none ever excluded from God’s kingdom.

Bible “proofs” for universalism

Proponents of universalism will present 20-some Bible passages to prove their point. Let’s take up the major ones, and submit them to The Whole Counsel of God (Acts 20:27) in His Word, as the apostle Paul diligently did.

  •  1 Timothy 2:3-4; 4:10 – “ for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth….who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.”
  •  2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
  • John 21:29 – “The next day John saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’”
  •  John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
  • John 17:1-2 – “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.”

At first glance these and similar Bible verses seem to declare that all will be saved. But if we seriously consider the compelling testimony of other Bible verses, we will come to a different conclusion!

Jesus’ weighty testimony

If there is any testimony that we should believe in and accept as absolute truth, it is the testimony of Jesus! Why? Because He alone testified or declared and perfectly fulfilled the will of God the Father (John 4:34; 5:19-20; 6:37; 7:16, 13, 28). He was, and is, the “Prophet” whom God promised, through Moses, to send to the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Matthew 21:11; 13:57; John 6:14; 7:40; 9:17). And God commands: “Him you shall hear” (Verse 15). God repeats this command in Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35.

Jesus told the Roman governor Pilate: “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

To “hear” means to “heed,” “believe,” “follow,” and “obey.” It’s like when a mother tells his son, “Son, remember not to take your hands off the handles when you bike.” If the son goes ahead to bike “hands free” anyway, and then falls off his bike and loses a tooth and sustains bruises, often the mother would tell his son, “Son, You didn’t listen to me [as I told you] and now, look, you hurt yourself!” In the Filipino language [Tagalog] this would be, “Anak, Hindi ka kasi nakinig sa akin kaya – tingnan mo — nasaktan ka tuloy!”

In Isaiah 48: 18-19 God admonishes: “Oh, that you had heeded [obeyed] My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea [constant and powerful]; your descendants also would have been like the sand. And the offspring of your body like the grains of sand; His name would not have been cut off nor destroyed from before Me.”

This shows that there is a serious consequence to not heeding and not obeying God’s commandments and law, which Psalm 119:142 says is “truth.” A person who does this not only is deprived of peace, but even his descendants, because of his failure to teach and set the example of obeying God’s law and truth, will have their name cut off from The Book of Life and destroyed (Revelation 20:15; Psalm 9:5).

The apostle and gospel writer John, Christ’s “beloved disciple” (John 13:23; 21:20, 24), also wrote the last book of the New Testament and the Bible, the “Book of Revelation.” John opened the book by acknowledging that it was Jesus who revealed to him “things which must [or surely; or, KJV, “shortly”] take place” – “the testimony of Jesus Christ,” “words of this prophecy…for the time is near” (Revelation 1:1-3). In Revelation 19:10, John says, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

Since the writing of this book, early in the first century, over 2,000 years have elapsed, so how could John have written that the things prophesied were to be fulfilled “shortly” and that “the time is near?”

We need to realize that God looks at time differently from how we mortal, finite human beings do. 2 Peter 3:9 affirms that “…with the Lord …a thousand years [are] as one day.” Thus 2,000 years to God are but a mere two days in fulfillment!

Honest students of prophecy will admit that many of the prophecies in the Book of Revelation have been fulfilled, and other prophecies are yet to be fulfilled soon! That certainly includes the prophecy in Revelation 21:8.

The apostle Peter declares: “We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day star [Greek, phosphorus, meaning “light-bearing” or “morning star” – a reference to Christ (Revelation 22:16)] — arise in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19, KJV). Those who refuse to heed Jesus’ testimony are doomed to remain in spiritual darkness and ignorance!

From the beginning to the end of the Book of Revelation we have the testimony of Jesus. And His judgments that we read all over the book are “true and righteous” – “things which must [or “have got to”] shortly take place” (Revelation 19:2; 22:6, KJV)! These things are true because they are spoken by Jesus, who is “the AMEN, the faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3:14; 19:11).

Who has not heard of Jesus’ often-quoted saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)?

Therefore, Christ’s testimony in Revelation 21:8, about various wicked and unrighteous people having “their part in the lake of fire, which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death,” is absolutely true and will surely take place! So is His testimony, in Revelation 22:15, about various wicked people being shut out (“outside”) – excluded — from entering into “the city” [the “Holy City” or “New Jerusalem,” (Revelation 21:2, 10)].

A theological twist on Revelation 22:15

I was astounded that anyone would think that wicked people who are found “outside” the “city” (Revelation 22:15) [the “holy city” or the “New Jerusalem”] would be alive forever, excluded from God’s kingdom, but looking in to the immortal citizens in that city — forever tormented over missing out on God’s everlasting blessing on the righteous. I actually heard this opinion expressed by a theology professor while I was a student at a seminary.  He said that this punishment would vindicate God’s justice on evil, wicked men!

If this were to be the case, then we’d have to conclude that God is the Supreme and Sovereign Sadist!  In  the first place, the “reward” or “wages” of sin is death (Romans 6:23) — the very opposite of life! Everlasting life is God’s “gift” to righteous people, through Christ.

God’s punishment on the wicked will be swift and sure or permanent (Malachi 3:5-6, 4:1; Revelation 21:8|).  The fire [“fervent heat”] reserved for the dissolution of the present heavens and earth will also be for the “perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7).  “Perdition” means total loss — no more redemption!

Satan with his cohort demons, who are “fallen angels” (Revelation 12:9) but spirits that cannot die (Luke 20:36), “will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).  As tormentors and oppressors of men (Acts 10:38), Satan and his demon-angels will get their just desserts by being tormented forever and ever.  God will not punish wicked men in the same way He will Satan [God’s adversary or enemy] with his demon-angels.

In any case, God will involve His glorified saints in judging the ultimate fate of the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). Until then, we are not to judge anything (1 Corinthians 4:5).

The Book of Revelation concludes with a dire warning not to add to, nor to take away from, the words of prophecy of this book (Revelation 22:128-19).

Proponents of universalism, who don’t believe in the finality of God’s judgment on both the righteous and the wicked as detailed in the prophecy and testimony of this book, have resorted to “crafting” a different story about the fate of the wicked, just so they can “harmonize” it with their “simple” but skewed understanding of God’s desire that all be saved.

They will grasp at such Scripture as Malachi 4:1-6 to try to prove that the judgment on all those who do wickedly being burned up like stubble, leaving neither root nor branch but mere ashes under the soles of the feet of those who fear God’s name, is not final. Their “proof?” All this will take place during the days of the coming “Elijah,” who will prepare the way for Jesus’ soon return on “the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Verse 2; compare with 3:1-2) – not later, they claim.

What they fail to consider is that “the great and dreadful day of the LORD” extends right up to the burning up and dissolution of the present heavens and earth (2 Peter3:10-13) – just before God establishes “new heavens and a new earth” (Verse 13; compare with Revelation 21-22). That “dreadful” day will include the final destruction of the wicked (Revelation 21:8; 2 Peter 3:7).

The expression about the destruction of the wicked by fire as leaving them “neither root nor branch” (Malachi 4:1) shows that nothing of them will remain that can re-grow them or bring them back to life ever again!

From practical experience, we know that a tree cut down, but its stump and roots remaining intact, will grow new branches and thrive again.  [See an actual example of this with Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar, in Daniel  4:13-37.]  So will the branch of certain trees [like the fig, or mulberry, for example], stuck in the soil and tended properly, grow roots and branches for a new tree.

Such will not be the case with the wicked!

God’s desire His “wish”

The Scripture verses used by proponents of universalism to prove that God will save all, would make better sense when we look at God’s desire or even His will more in the sense of His “wish,” intent or “plan.”

Let’s take an example of God’s “wish,” and see where a skewed take on it can lead to a flawed understanding of God’s ways. This is that Bible verse used as their “banner” by proponents of the current “health-wealth /prosperity gospel”: 3 John 2 (KJV), “Beloved, I wish [Greek, euchomai, meaning to “pray,” “wish,” or “would”] above all things [notice that disputable word “all!”] that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” The NKJV renders this as: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”

Those who promote this “gospel” thus conclude that if you are not healthy or wealthy, you have somehow failed in your Christian calling and have frustrated God’s highest wish. If this were the litmus test or indicator of genuine Christianity, then we’d have to say that the apostle Paul failed the test!

Paul revealed that he had an affliction – given him as a “thorn in the flesh” by God through Satan’s messenger — in order to humble him and keep him from being over-exalted because of the abundance of revelations Jesus gave him (2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Galatians 1:11-12; Acts 26:16).

Some have suggested that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” could have been some serious eye condition. We get this sense from what Paul told the Galatian brethren: “For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked [gouged] out your eyes and given them to me” (Galatians 4:15). Later, in Galatians 6:11, Paul says, “See what large letters [“font-size,” as we’d say in today’s cyber-language] I have written to you with my own hand.” Again, this is an indication of his visual handicap.

Paul also revealed the many tribulations he suffered in his ministry. In 2 Corinthians 12:22-28, he lists among them sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, fasting often, cold and nakedness. Rather than feeling defeated by these, Paul gained spiritual strength and power through Christ (Verses 8-10).

Thus Paul could confidently conclude about his future: “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day [of Christ’s return], and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

That “crown” is also the “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10-11) – everlasting life – promised by Christ to all His faithful and righteous followers and servants, as Paul certainly was. Verse 11 clarifies this life as everlasting, because those who receive it “shall not be hurt by the second death.”

It will not be till God’s “Holy City” comes down to a renewed earth that, sickness, pain, poverty, and death will be no more for God’s glorified, immortal saints (Revelation 21:4).

In this regard, the Book of Job is instructive. This dramatic account shows Job’s “friends” accusing Job of some sin he was committing, or else he would not have been severely punished by God with a sore illness and loss of his children and property. At the end of the story Job is proven righteous after all, and he had his health and wealth given back to him.

In this life, this present evil age, God allows His children to suffer many trials and tests in order to perfect their faith (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-9). God allows “time and chance”(Ecclesiastes 9:11) to befall even His people. Many Christians get sick, figure in accidents, are persecuted, and die. But God promises that, at the very end, all things will work together for good to them (Romans 8:28). [See: The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]

Christ’s testimony that some will be destroyed in hell-fire and that not all will be saved is not a reflection of God lacking the power and ability to save all, according to His desire, wish or purpose. Rather, the failure should be blamed on the person who chooses the way of death instead of God’s way to life everlasting. Revelation 22:7 invites all to come to take of “the water of life freely.” Jesus spoke about “Living water” [symbolic of God’s Spirit] as giving everlasting life (John 7:37-38; 4:10-14). But one must “desire” to drink that water (Revelation 22:17, last part). To “desire” is to exercise one’s will to want, thirst, crave or hunger, as for God’s righteousness and everlasting life in God’s kingdom. Jesus promised that those who so hunger and thirst will not be disappointed (Matthew 5:6).

A “lifesaver” analogy

Someone sent me a post showing  a lifesaver, with a rope, floating on water. The sender obviously wanted to test what I was going to say in view of his belief that God will save all, without anyone doing anything, like grabbing the lifesaver, to save oneself. The possibility that the person may choose not to use the lifesaver and, if he is a non-swimmer,  may thus drown to death — according to  adherents of  universalism — would thus have to be prevented by God  from happening so that he will be saved somehow, because God’s will or desire is that no one should be lost.

Well, as I heard someone remark, you can’t prove anything by a mere analogy!

God’s saving work cannot be compared to a mere lifesaver. God has purposed and worked out the salvation of men through the death, and resurrection, of His Son, Jesus Christ! [I have written a “treatise” on this in my website article titled Two Goats Together, which I recommend that you read prayerfully. See also: The Ransomed of the LORD.]

I might, however, interject a personal experience of near-drowning that would illustrate God’s “method” in saving mankind from sin and death.

As a non-swimmer boy of about 6 or 7, I was with my family on a church beach outing. I was wading alone in waist-deep water near the shore, when a strong wave, on the return, swept me to a depth where my feet couldn’t touch the sandy bottom. In panic while gulping seawater, I uttered a silent cry, “God, save me!” In answer, no lifesaver [whether a person or a device] appeared. But in the next instant a strong wave roared and pushed me close to shore, whereupon I quickly clambered out to safety on the sandy shore. Otherwise,  with no other human being around to help, I could have drowned!

My experience, I believe, illustrates the truth that God saves those who call upon Him (Romans 10:13; compare with Psalm 50:15). “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God” (Psalm 10:4) — does not call on God. He is like the self-righteous Pharisees, who thought they were doing quite well and didn’t need God’s forgiveness and mercy (see Jesus’ parable about this in Luke 18:9-14). In contrast, the sinful publican [“tax-collector”] freely admitted to his being a big sinner, asked for God’s mercy, and came away justified. The Pharisees thought they had 20/20 spiritual vision and could “see” or understand God’s truth, but really didn’t. Thus they remained blind and in their sin (John 9:39-41).  Two blind men called out to Jesus to heal them, and they had their sight back (Matthew 20:29-34).

While salvation is by God’s grace, and Christ offered His life “once for all” (Hebrews 10:10) — His one-time sacrifice is able to cover the sins of all mankind — it can be availed only by those who believe and call on God (1 Timothy 4:10; John 3:16; Romans 10:13). God requires the willingness and humility of man to admit his need for God’s grace and help,  to repent, to be forgiven, and be empowered to do good.  [See: Saved for Good Works and Being and Doing.]

A part of believing and being saved is to “come out” of the death-trap of sin, as symbolized by this world’s “Babylon” (Revelation 18:2-5).  [See: Drunk With Strange Wine.] It’s like what I did, in my childhood experience, when I clambered out of the water on to safety of the  sandy shore.

The doctrine of universalism seeks to revise or revamp God’s whole system of justice and judgment, and God’s wise design of giving mankind free will or freedom of choice. [See: What Is This Thing Called “Will?” and The “Stupidity” of God.]

Proponents of universalism say that one has simply to take, at face value, God’s desire or plan to save all men. I dare say that this is simplistic thinking that does not reflect the true “simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). It is far simpler to take Jesus’ testimony as truth, than disregarding it and exchanging it with something that overturns the “system” God has set in place! Proponents of universal salvation have “crafted” or devised a different and complicated story other than what the Bible has testified about.

They have failed to follow God’s charge, through Paul: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until Jesus comes, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the heart” (1 Corinthians 4:5), and “…that you may learn not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other” (Verse 6).

God the Father has committed to His Son Jesus “all judgment” (John 5:22). And as the “Son of Man,” Jesus understands first-hand the mind of man, He has full empathy with men, the reason why God gave Him that authority (Verse 27). Thus His judgment on all mankind is perfect, righteous, and just, wholly in line with His Father’s will (Verse 30). Verses 28-29 clearly declare how Jesus will judge people as they come up to their respective resurrections: “ Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life [this has to be everlasting life or immortality, as 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 assuredly declares], and those who have done evil, to the resurrection to condemnation [Greek, krisis, meaning ‘judgment’].

The judgment period, at Christ’s return,  for those “who have done evil” – those who will not be in the “first resurrection” of the righteous or those “who have done good” — will take place after the 1,000-year reign of Christ with the glorified saints on earth (Revelation 20:5-6). This will be their chance to receive salvation, if they are willing. [See: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.] Verse 12 describes that judgment, after which those who choose to remain wicked and whose names are not found in The Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire, as Revelation 21:8 details.

I have noticed that some adherents of “universalism” have tended to look down upon those who cannot “get” or “fathom” their supposedly “special” knowledge. Well did Paul say that certain “Knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1)!

What about: “All Israel will be saved?”

Paul wrote: “And so all Israel will be saved,” and that “…God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all” (Romans 11:26, 32). Again and again we have here that disputable word “all!”

Harking back to Jesus’ testimony , which we should accept as truth instead of whatever story [“fable?”] some have put forth, let’s see what Jesus testified about Israel, especially those of His own race, the Jews. He cried out: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you are not willing” (Matthew 23:37)!

Although Jesus believed that it is God’s desire to save all Israel and all of mankind, He knew – and He knows, as God – what is in man (John 2:25). He knows what is in the heart and thoughts of all men [whether Israelite or not]. Israel’s great King David [ “a man after My own heart, as God judged (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22)] remarked in awe of God’s knowledge: “O LORD, You have searched me and known me, You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off, You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways, for there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether…. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:1-6).

This is not to say that God has determined or has “predestined” the fate of every person. What He has predestined is what we may call the “season of grace,” in which God will give the chance or opportunity for every human being to be saved. [See: Predestination and This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.]

As Jesus remarked in Matthew 23:37 [quoted above], He considers the willingness of people to come to Him or not. He knew the hearts of some people of Israel in such a way that He could foresee and testify or prophesy that they would not make it into God’s kingdom. Thus He declared to some unbelieving Jews, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13). Jesus made a similar judgment in Matthew 11:20-24; 12:39-42.

 

Did Judas and Peter have “no choice?”

An issue has been raised by some about Jesus’ disciples Judas and Peter. Did they have free moral agency or freedom of choice? Or did they do what they did — betray and deny their Master, respectively — because they had no choice, but to fulfill Jesus’ prediction [“prophecy”] about them?  The well-known stories are recorded in all four gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Jesus knew what was in Judas’ heart in such a way that He could predict that Judas would betray Him, as Old Testament prophecies indicated (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12).  Jesus had a run-in with Judas when a woman poured a flask of costly fragrant oil on Jesus’ head at dinner with one Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6-13).  After this, Matthew continues to relate that Judas then sought opportunity to betray Jesus (Verses 14-16; compare with Luke 22:3-5).

At Passover [often called by many “The Last Supper”] before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that one of them would betray Him to His enemies that very night (Matthew 26:20, 22; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:21; John 13:21).  Later He showed to John who it was [Judas] who would betray Him (John 13:25-26).

Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-53; Luke 22:47-53; and John 18:1-11 relate about the betrayal scene at the Garden of Gethsemane.

If Judas were but a helpless “instrument” in God’s hand to fulfill Bible prophecy, then God — and we,  for that matter — should thank Judas for his part in the salvation of mankind through Jesus’ death on the cross.  In fact, some have tried to make Judas out to be some kind of hero!

But what did Jesus say about Judas? He said: “The Son of Man indeed goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.  It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:23-24; Mark 14:21)! Judas’ horrible end is described in Matthew 27:3-10 and Acts 1:16-20.

True, it was Satan the devil who put it in Judas’ heart to betray his Master (Luke 22:3; John 13:2. 26-27).  But so also was the case with our first parents, Adam and Eve. They swallowed Satan’s lie and ended up choosing to disobey their Creator.  As a result they suffered the “woe” or curse of death as God had warned them about (Genesis 2 and 3).  [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]

In both cases, all received the due penalty for their bad choice. We cannot “blame” or put the accountability for their betrayal and fall on God!  In God’s scheme of things, every single one of us will be called, on the Day of Judgment, to account for everything we do and say (Romans 14:10, 12; Matthew 12:36-37).

The same thing may be said about Peter’s denying his Lord.  Jesus knew enough about Peter’s heart in such a way that He could, and did, predict [“prophesy”] that Peter would deny Him thrice before a cock or rooster crowed twice (Matthew 26:34; Mark 14:30; Luke 22:34; John 13:38). And indeed Peter denied Him (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 214:66-72; Luke 22:54-65; John 18:25-27).

When the rooster crowed, “the Lord turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:60-61) — perhaps with a knowing “I told you so!” look.  At this Peter remembered what Jesus had said, and what he had vowed to himself before Christ:  “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never stumble…. Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You” (Matthew 26:33, 35)!

Peter’s remorse over his denial of Jesus shows Peter’s owning his act, and he went out and wept bitterly (Luke 23:63). Peter had no right — nor do we — to say that he denied Jesus because He had “prophesied” that Peter would.

We can say the same thing about Christ’s prophecy about wicked people being destroyed in the “lake of fire” (Revelation 21:8). They will be destroyed not just because Jesus  has prophesied it, but because they did wickedly and didn’t repent of it, as their personal choice.

In His parable about “Lazarus and the Rich Man” (Luke 16: 19-31), Jesus shows that some rich people [especially those who trust in their riches and thus make them an idol and who disregard the needs of the poor (Mark 10:24-25), as the rich man in this parable did, will not feast with Abraham in God’s kingdom. Jesus mentions about a “great gulf fixed,” so that there is no possibility of crossing over from one side [hell-fire] to the other [God’s kingdom], and vice-versa (Verse 26, 24).

Those who propose that the wicked who are burned in the “lake of fire” will someday somehow [how?] cross over into God’s kingdom do not believe what Jesus says about that “great gulf!”

As for God’s “mercy on all,” this is conditioned on people also showing mercy to others – a personal choice one has to make, or will. James 2:13 unequivocally declares: “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.” This resonates what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:14 [“But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father (God) forgive your trespasses (sins)”] and in His parable about “The Unforgiving Servant” (Matthew 18:21-35). We know of some people who, by choice, will not or never forgive wrongs done them by others. And one whose sin remains unforgiven is doomed with those who have committed the “unpardonable sin.” [See: Forgiveness in the Bible and Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable? ]

As with Israel, so God will also deal in like manner with all other people (Romans 2:5-16; Revelation 21:8; 22:14-15). Proponents of universalism fail to follow God’s charge through the apostle Paul: “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God; on those [who by choice] fell, severity, but toward you, goodness, if you [also by choice] continue in His goodness” (Romans 11:22; 2:4-10).

It is being one-sided, and untruthful, to see and accept only the goodness of God and to fail to consider His severity just as weightily! [“Severity” is related to the word “sever” or to “cut off,” as used in this verse.] Paul continued in his letter to the Christians at Rome, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out” (Romans 11:22)!

It is a part of God’s unsearchable wisdom to sever, cut off, or destroy wicked people who will never accept nor obey God’s ways. Such people cannot and will never be happy living forever in God’s kingdom, where God’s perfect rule will be imposed “with a rod of iron” (Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). Instead of thus living forever in misery, they are better off put away from God’s kingdom, where all the righteous can, and will, forever feel safe, free from fear and oppression by evil, wicked men.  Paul said that both results of that Day of Judgment were according to his “gospel” or “good news” (Romans 2:16).  In the final analysis, it is out of His perfect love that God will do this. [For more on this, see: The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love.]

People who propose to reverse God’s final judgment on the wicked, presume to be God’s “counselor.” Paul pointedly asks:”For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor” (Romans 11:34; quoted from Isaiah 40:13)?

Lesson to learn

The lesson to come away with from all this is as the “everlasting gospel” proclaims: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Revelation 14:6-7). Jesus also said: “And do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Revelation 11:18 declares that God will “destroy those who destroy the earth.”[See: Can We Fear and Love God at the Same Time? and True Worship.]

In addition, we need to make sure that we maintain a repentant and believing attitude. It is those who truly believe in God and Christ who will be saved (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:10). Wicked men who refuse to repent and believe – the “unbelieving” — and continue in their evil deeds will have their part in the “lake of fire” (Luke 18:3, 5; Revelation 21:8).

The apostle Peter also charged: “Therefore, since all these things [in heaven and on earth] will be dissolved [with fervent heat], what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness… be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:10-14). [See: “Be Holy for I Am Holy.”]

Although we are justified [cleansed from sin and made just or righteous] by grace through faith in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary’s cross, in the end we will all be judged according to our works. We are saved not just for salvation’s sake but for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:11-14; 3:5). [See: Saved for Good Works, Freed From Bondage, Being and Doing, and “I Never Knew You!”]

May we all heed Christ’s voice now, so that in the resurrection when Jesus returns, we will also hear His voice call out to us and welcome us into His Father’s kingdom (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:21, 23)!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
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